Building bridges: A conversation with Israel’s Persian spokesperson about Israeli-Persian relations

Benni Sabti, 52, was born in Tehran seven years before the 1979 Islamic revolution. He recalled the violent change the country underwent during his formative years. The revolution stripped away its secular character, which Sabti argued was never truly secular. He described how the regime stifled personal growth and pushed for blind loyalty.

At 15, Sabti and his family fled Iran due to persecution and rising antisemitism. He believes that the regime’s hostility towards Israel, demonstrated through chants of “death to Israel” and aggressive military programs, stem from deep-seated antisemitism. After a perilous journey, they arrived in Israel through Europe.

Joining the IDF’s Intelligence Corps, Sabti worked in the Iranian field for years. He later transitioned to academia and helped establish the IDF Spokesperson Unit’s Persian department. He emphasized the importance of engaging Iranians in their own language to foster understanding.

Now a researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Sabti serves as a government spokesperson in Persian. He believes that words can be more influential than weapons, urging dialogue and understanding between nations. Recognizing the power of media, he noted that many Iranians rely on expatriate channels for information.

Sabti highlighted the difference between military and government communication, noting that Iranians seek a deeper understanding of Israeli values and democracy. He shared successful initiatives, such as videos addressing Iranian concerns and hopes for a better future.

As attitudes in Tehran shift, Sabti noted a decline in antisemitism among Iranians. Many young Iranians, disillusioned with the regime, look towards Israel as a model of open society and democracy. He stressed the importance of supporting Iranian youth and standing firm against the oppressive regime.

Sabti emphasized the need for the West to challenge Iran’s aggressive actions and support the Iranian people in their quest for freedom. He urged vigilance against the regime’s violent tendencies and called for solidarity with the Iranian populace as Israel’s true allies in the region.