For the past four decades, on the last Friday of Ramadan, supporters of Iran’s government have marched to denounce Israel. They burn Israel’s flag. They mock effigies of the leaders of Israel and of its patron, the United States. They chant pledges to liberate Jerusalem, or Quds, as the city is known in Arabic.
But the coronavirus pandemic forced Iran to cancel its annual Quds Day parade on Friday. Instead, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, delivered a televised speech, compensating in rhetoric for the silence in the streets.
Mr. Khamenei, reading from a prepared script, compared Israel to a “cancerous tumor in the region” that must be removed and to the coronavirus as “a reality that all wise people consider it mandatory to fight.”
Officials in Israel, the United States and the European Union condemned the comments as anti-Semitic and a cause for concern.
“The State of Israel faces great challenges in a variety of arenas,” Israel’s defense minister, Benny Gantz, posted on Facebook. “Khamenei’s statement that Israel is a ‘cancerous growth’ demonstrates that better than anything.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on Twitter that the comments were “disgusting and hateful anti-Semitic remarks” that did not represent the general view of Iranians. Mr. Pompeo also sharply criticized a cartoon from the office of Mr. Khamenei that was circulating on social media, saying the leader was “echoing Hitler’s call for genocide.”
The cartoon depicted Jerusalem with the flags of Iran and the Palestinian state flying above the golden Dome of the Rock, a revered religious site in Islam, and invoking the phrase “final solution” which is associated with the Nazi campaign to eradicate Jews.
Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, called Mr. Khamenei’s comments “totally unacceptable” and said they “represent a deep source of concern.”
Mr. Khamenei denied that Iran’s stand toward Israel was anti-Semitic.
Since its inception in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s state policy has been to dispute Israel’s right to exist as an independent nation. It has funded, armed and cultivated close ties with armed Palestinian groups from the Palestine Liberation Organization and its former leader, Yasir Arafat, who died in 2004, to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and their leaders.
In his speech on Friday, Mr. Khamenei openly acknowledged, apparently for the first time, that Iran supported armed Palestinian groups fighting the Jewish state.
A common thread in Friday’s speeches, from Iran to Lebanon to Gaza, highlighted the importance of the most significant Iranian general, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, to the regional battle to defeat Israel. General Suleimani was commander of the Quds Force until he was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad in January.
The general’s official Twitter account released a video of Ziyad al-Nakhalah, the chief of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, in which he revealed that General Suleimani personally organized and supervised the delivery of weapons to the Gaza Strip. He said the general had traveled to several countries to secure the weapons for delivery to Palestinians.
Iran also organized an online Quds Day event through a website where participants waved flags of Palestine, held photos of General Suleimani and donned kaffiyehs, the checkered head scarf that is the hallmark of Palestinian fighters.
Frequently Asked Questions and Advice
Updated May 20, 2020
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?
Over 38 million people have filed for unemployment since March. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.
How can I protect myself while flying?
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
Is ‘Covid toe’ a symptom of the disease?
There is an uptick in people reporting symptoms of chilblains, which are painful red or purple lesions that typically appear in the winter on fingers or toes. The lesions are emerging as yet another symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. Chilblains are caused by inflammation in small blood vessels in reaction to cold or damp conditions, but they are usually common in the coldest winter months. Federal health officials do not include toe lesions in the list of coronavirus symptoms, but some dermatologists are pushing for a change, saying so-called Covid toe should be sufficient grounds for testing.
Can I go to the park?
Yes, but make sure you keep six feet of distance between you and people who don’t live in your home. Even if you just hang out in a park, rather than go for a jog or a walk, getting some fresh air, and hopefully sunshine, is a good idea.
How do I take my temperature?
Taking one’s temperature to look for signs of fever is not as easy as it sounds, as “normal” temperature numbers can vary, but generally, keep an eye out for a temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you don’t have a thermometer (they can be pricey these days), there are other ways to figure out if you have a fever, or are at risk of Covid-19 complications.
Should I wear a mask?
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
How do I get tested?
If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.
How can I help?
Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities.
Although bashing Israel is state policy in Iran, many ordinary Iranians don’t participate in the annual Quds rally and reject the government’s call to eradicate Israel from the region. On some occasions, through art and music, Iranians and Israeli people have shared messages of tolerance and peace with one another.
The Israeli pop diva Rita, for example, is popular and admired in Iran especially after she released an album in which she sings old Persian tunes in Farsi.
Quds Day fell this year on the same calendar day as the birth in 1997 of Iran’s reformist movement known by its date, “Dovom Khordad.”
Mehrnoosh Dozham, a doctoral student in Persian literature, tweeted that for some Iranians, Friday marked Quds Day and for others, Reformist Day. “But for me, today symbolizes the failure of all the Islamic Republic’s rhetorics.”
David M. Halbfinger contributed reporting.