Netanyahu’s ‘Message of Friendship’ for Iranians Is Met with Derision
(Picture: Still image from Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's video message on Twitter.)
“We are your friend, not your enemy,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a video message addressed to the people of Iran, posted on Saturday to his bureau’s Persian Twitter account. Distinguishing between the Iranian ‘regime’ and people, he criticized what he called “theocratic tyranny” and “censorship” in Iran but expressed hope that “freedom and friendship” will win the day. Beginning his words with news that he was about to speak with US President Donald Trump “about how to counter the threat of the Iranian regime, which calls for Israel’s destruction”, he hailed Iran’s proud history and rich culture. Netanyahu went on to say he would never forget “images of brave young students hungry for change, gunned down in the streets of Tehran in 2009”, or that of “beautiful Neda (Agha) Soltan, gasping for her last breath,” in a direct reference to the post-election protests in 2009, known by its advocates as the Green Movement.
The response in Iranian Twitter space was far from positive reception. Few actually could care less. “The obnoxious Israeli PM should care for sufferings of people of Palestine, its oppressed martyrs, and oppressions of the Zionists instead of a message to Iranians,” wrote London-based Jamileh Kadivar, former MP and wife of former Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani.
Iranian users on Twitter also fired back at Bibi with the hashtag #ShutUpNetanyahu. Many naturally saw Netanyahu’s words of compassion against the foil of his regime’s oppressions in the Occupied Territories. Photos of the tragic death of the 12-year-old Palestinian Muhammad al-Durrah started circulating again with tweets stressing that Israel’s crimes couldn’t be forgotten. “Netanyahu said he won’t forget Neda Aghasoltan. I too won’t forget dear Neda, but also Muhammad al-Durrah who was victimized by fascists,” tweeted pro-reform journalist Amir Ebtehaj. Netanyahu’s mention of Neda Agha Soltan not only failed to divide users but sparked anger as a rude abuse: “If I had any doubts that Western intelligence services, especially Mossad, were involved in assassination of Neda Agha Soltan, I am now sure by Netanyahu’s message,” commented one Principlist user. Many urged Bibi to also keep in mind scores of children and youth killed under his administration in Palestine.
Other Iranians posted images of Iran’s missiles alongside the hashtag as a gift to Netanyahu. “If he has any sympathy for us, Netanyahu should destroy his country so that we don’t have to pay for its destruction,” wrote a user who seemed to be hinting at Iran’s financial support for the Resistance Axis at the same time. A group of Principlist sympathizers drew on a popular quotation by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei predicting that Israel would not exist to see the next 25 years. “You’re not supposed to exist in 25 years, to have any relations with us,” one tweet said.
Neither did Netanyahu’s message of friendship receive the warm welcome he probably expected from the Green Movement. Zahra Mousavi, daughter of Mirhossein Mousavi, presidential candidate who led post-election protests back in 2009 and has been under house arrest since early 2011, responded in a message she posted on her Facebook account, emphasizing the independence of the Green Movement from foreign influence. She recalled the time when Neda Agha Soltan’s mother attacked her daughter’s fiancé for his visit to Israel, calling it an abuse of her daughter’s reputation. “Although we wisely avoid adventurism and aggression, we will not give way to foreign opportunists, either. We have stood on our own feet and will continue to do so,” Mousavi added, calling Iran’s challenges one of domestic nature, not needing intervention by foreigners whose hands are blood-dirty and in control of a trove of weapons, nuclear warheads, and dreadful torture methods.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi also rebuffed the whole case, saying Netanyahu’s message was not worth responding. “Instead of talking about Iran and the Iranian nation, he had better prevent intense manslaughter of Palestinians,” he quipped.
Some also saw the message in the light of Donald Trump’s presidency, finding it an intimidating prospect for Iran. “Netanyahu issued a message to Iranians. All right. But why now, a day after Trump’s inauguration? Smells fishy,” wrote one user. Others like well-known journalist Hossein Derakhshan read between the lines of Netanyahu’s message, finding it a declaration of war to Iran. Another group found it a sign of his fear. “He has never been able to hide his fear, even behind intimidating words,” read one tweet.
A number of other Iranian tweeps found it an opportunity to humiliate or threaten Israel. “For now, buy your soldiers some diapers, so that they do not lose their face when hearing about our general,” joked a tweet probably in reference to the IRGC’s Quds Force Commander Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani, a major weight in the Axis of Resistance . “Netanyahu knows well that return of sanctions will probably spread hatred among [Iranian] people. He kind of likes to downplay Israel’s role,” another tweet read. Still another user said: “What an overdose of confidence he tells us we are your friends with that unrecognized country! A friend is a human, not a murderer!” Others took their criticism to a more personal level. “The theorist behind ‘Iranians would wear jeans if they were free’ is once again being smart!” read a tweet, ironically referring to one of Netanyahu’s previous controversial comments on social life restriction in Iran. Another tweet recalled Netanyahu’s showing a diagram on Iran’s alleged plan to make nuclear bombs during UN general summit in 2012 said: “He could have brought a painting to explain visually”. Vitriol abounded, with some calling Israeli PM a fool, psychopath, bloodsucker, beast, and dog barking for bone.
Few used a softer tone, giving the Israeli government advice in case it wanted better reception from Iranians. “Return to ’67 borders, recognize the Palestinian state, and end the siege. Then we may be able to take your message of friendship seriously,” wrote a user. “Try to be a good neighbor for Palestinians first, then consider friendship with us!” advised another.
Even the very idea of posting the message received its own portion of ridicule. “Did you know there has been 84 takes for the part Netanyahu said we are your friends? Both Netanyahu and the cameraman couldn’t stop laughing,” joked a tweet. “Mossad is now preparing a bulletin on the ‘deep impact’ of the message,” said another.
Against all odds, Ben Nitay’s Persian Twitter account tweeted hours later a message to thank the warm welcome the video message received among the Iranians.