War drums from Iran and Israel drown out rich past
The saber-rattling between Iran and Israel conjures fears of mass casualties and a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
Israel has threatened to attack Iran to stop it from obtaining nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and has threatened to strike first against enemies who threaten its national interests.
The tough talk makes it easy to forget that Israel and Iran have not always been enemies. The Jews of Israel and Persians of Iran have had a rich and nuanced relationship dating back thousands of years.
They have enjoyed an "overwhelmingly positive connection" for centuries, said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council and author of "Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States.” ….
... The Islamic republic supported anti-Israeli movements such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza -- groups that Israel and the United States classify as terrorist organizations. Iran also stirred anxiety in Israel by revving up its nuclear program.
Iran harbored ambitions to lead the Muslim world in the fight to liberate Palestinians and wrest Jerusalem, one of Islam's holy cities and Judaism's holiest city, from Israel, said Vali Nasr, professor at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and the author of the "Shia Revival."
Yet Iran maintained a pragmatic instinct, said Parsi, who cited a 2003 Iranian idea to lower the political temperatures and stave off Iran's isolation.
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