Contrary to mainstream media reports, momentum for peaceful relations with the State of Israel is building among the Iranian people.
“I think there are many Iranians who live for the day that Iran has diplomatic relations with Israel,” says Mahyar Shams Ahmadi, who was born in Tehran 28 years ago but now lives in Toronto. “In my view, if you just look at relations between Iran and Israel, it is clear that it is in fact the ruling regime in Iran that is preventing diplomatic relations.”
Ahmadi is inspired by the high-tech advances and Western-style democracy that Israeli society has achieved. “Israel is already serving as a model for Iran, and other countries, on how to treat women and minorities,” he says. “Much like Canada, Israel does not oppress its citizens and allows them to think freely without fear of being persecuted no matter what your religion or beliefs are.”
Ahmadi criticizes Iranian leadership’s view of Israel as “little Satan” to the US’ “big Satan.” He says he is embarrassed and saddened that the present Iranian government remains opposed to Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. “Even with a new president, it is evident that Iran’s government hasn’t changed at all, and it is no surprise that Iran still continues to fail to live up to their international obligations,” he said.
Other Iranians are a bit more optimistic. “I think that the prospect of Israeli-Iranian relations will look good within the near future, either through the collapse of the regime, or by reform of Iranian politics,” says Pedram, an Iranian presently living in Stockholm, Sweden. “The Iranian and Jewish people have thousands of years of cultural and historical connection with each other and it cannot be broken just because we have an oppressive regime at the moment. I can with strong confidence say that the overwhelming majority of Iranians, both inside and outside the country, strongly support not only peace with Israel but also better relations in general.”
Recently, Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf visited Israel as a guest of honor at the Jerusalem Film Festival. He received an award for his efforts to promote freedom and democracy in Iran and hosted a film screening of his recent film The Gardener, which was the first Iranian film to be filmed in Israel in decades. A number of his other films were also highlighted at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Crowds of Israelis honored him with standing ovations. Makhmalbaf was the first high-profile Iranian artist and former revolutionary to visit the Jewish state since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.
By defying the BDS Movement and pro-regime forces inside the Islamic Republic, who forced the Iranian Cinema Association to boycott Makhmalbaf’s films, the director risks a prison sentence if he returns to Iran.
Still, Makhmalbaf says he is “proud to have paved the way for Iranian cinema in Israel. Boycotting and writing statements does not solve anything. It only leads to war. We have to get to know each other through art, literature, and cinema, so we can become friends and end the hostility. That’s the reason I filmed my latest movie ‘The Gardener’ in Israel.” And, he adds, he hopes that someday soon, Israeli filmmakers will be able to shoot films in Iran.
Remarkably, more than 80 Iranian scholars, opposition group members, and human rights activists openly declared their support of his decision to come to Israel.
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