Iran’s proud but discreet Jews

Posted on BBC News September 22, 2006 Frances Harrison Reporting from Tehran Although Iran and Israel are bitter enemies, few know that Iran is home to the largest number of Jews anywhere in the Middle East outside Israel. About 25,000 Jews live in Iran and most are determined to remain no matter what the pressures - as proud of their Iranian culture as of their Jewish roots. It is dawn in the Yusufabad synagogue in Tehran and Iranian Jews bring out the Torah and read the ancient text before making their way to work. It is not a sight you would expect in a revolutionary Islamic state, but there are synagogues dotted all over Iran where Jews discreetly practise their religion. "Because of our long history here we are tolerated," says Jewish community leader Unees Hammami, who organised the prayers. He says the father of Iran's revolution, Imam Khomeini, recognised Jews as a religious minority that should be protected. As a result Jews have one representative in the Iranian parliament. "Imam Khomeini made a distinction between Jews and Zionists and he supported us," says Mr Hammami. 'Anti-Jewish feeling' In the Yusufabad synagogue the announcements are made in Persian - most Iranian Jews don't really speak Hebrew well. Jews have lived in Persia for nearly 3,000 years - the descendants of slaves from Babylon saved by Cyrus the Great. Over the centuries there have been sporadic purges, pogroms and forced conversions to Islam as well as periods of peaceful co-existence. These days anti-Jewish feeling is periodically stirred by the media. Mr Hammami says state-run television confuses Zionism and Judaism so that "ordinary people may think that whatever the Israelis do is supported by all Jews". During the fighting in Lebanon a hardline weekly newspaper, Yalesarat, published two photographs of synagogues on its front page full of people waving Israeli flags celebrating Israeli independence day. The paper falsely said the synagogues were in Iran - even describing one as the Yusufabad synagogue in Tehran and locating another in Shiraz. "This provoked a number of opportunists in Shiraz," explains Iran's Jewish MP, Maurice Mohtamed, "and there was an assault on two synagogues." Mr Mohtamed says the incident was defused by the Iranian security forces, who explained to people that the news was not true. And with the coming to power of an ultra-conservative like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, there has been increased concern internationally about the fate of Iranian Jews. 'Holocaust denial' Mr Ahmedinejad has repeatedly used rabid anti-Israeli rhetoric - slogans like "wipe Israel off the map" - and most controversially he has questioned the number killed in the Holocaust during World War II. Mr Mohtamed has been outspoken in his condemnation of the president's views - in itself a sign that there is some space for Jews in Iran to express themselves. President Ahmedinejad has repeatedly used anti-Israeli rhetoric "It's very regrettable to see a horrible tragedy so far reaching as the Holocaust being denied ... it was a very big insult to Jews all around the world," says Mr Mohtamed, who has also strongly condemned the exhibition of cartoons about the Holocaust organised by an Iranian newspaper owned by the Tehran municipality. Despite the offence Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has caused to Jews around the world, his office recently donated money for Tehran's Jewish hospital. It is one of only four Jewish charity hospitals worldwide and is funded with money from the Jewish diaspora - something remarkable in Iran where even local aid organisations have difficulty receiving funds from abroad for fear of being accused of being foreign agents. Most of the patients and staff are Muslim these days, but director Ciamak Morsathegh is Jewish. "Anti-Semitism is not an eastern phenomenon, it's not an Islamic or Iranian phenomenon - anti-Semitism is a European phenomenon," he says, arguing that Jews in Iran even in their worst days never suffered as much as they did in Europe. Israeli family ties But there are legal problems for Jews in Iran - if one member of a Jewish family converts to Islam he can inherit all the family's property. Jews cannot become army officers and the headmasters of the Jewish schools in Tehran are all Muslim, though there is no law that says this should be so. But their greatest vulnerability is their links to Israel - where many Jews have relatives. Seven years ago a group of Jews in the southern city of Shiraz was accused of spying for Israel - eventually they were all released. But today many Iranian Jews travel to and from Iran's enemy Israel. An anti-Israeli 'Holocaust cartoon contest' was held in Tehran In one of Tehran's six remaining kosher butcher's shops, everyone has relatives in Israel. In between chopping up meat, butcher Hersel Gabriel tells me how he expected problems when he came back from Israel, but in fact the immigration officer didn't say anything to him. "Whatever they say abroad is lies - we are comfortable in Iran - if you're not political and don't bother them then they won't bother you," he explains. His customer, middle-aged housewife Giti agrees, saying she can easily talk to her two sons in Tel Aviv on the telephone and visit them. "It's not a problem coming and going; I went to Israel once through Turkey and once through Cyprus and it was not problem at all," she says. Gone are the early days of the Iranian revolution when Jews - and many Muslims - found it hard to get passports to travel abroad. "In the last five years the government has allowed Iranian Jews to go to Israel freely, meet their families and when they come back they face no problems," says Mr Mohtamed. He says there is also a way for Iranian Jews who emigrated to Israel decades ago to return to Iran and see their families. "They can now go to the Iranian consul general in Istanbul and get Iranian identity documents and freely come to Iran," he says. The exodus of Jews from Iran seems to have slowed down - the first wave was in the 1950s and the second was in the wake of the Iranian Revolution. Those Jews who remain in Iran seem to have made a conscious decision to stay put. "We are Iranian and we have been living in Iran for more than 3,000 years," says the Jewish hospital director Ciamak Morsathegh. "I am not going to leave - I will stay in Iran under any conditions," he declares. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5367892.stm%A %B %e%q, %Y No Comments

BBC News September 22, 2006 Frances Harrison Reporting from Tehran Although Iran and Israel are bitter enemies, few know that Iran is home to the largest number of Jews anywhere in the Middle East outside Israel. About 25,000 Jews live in Iran and most are determined to remain no matter what the pressures – as […]

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Humanitarian Tragedy: Iran’s Beleaguered Jewish Community

Posted on Humanitarian Tragedy: Iran's Beleaguered Jewish Community What genuine apartheid looks like By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh Frontpage Magazine September 2, 2013 One of the crucial humanitarian tragedies- that the world and the mainstream media has failed to focus on- is the fate and current living situation of Jewish communities in the Muslim-dominated countries, particularly the Shiite-Islamist country of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Jewish community in the Islamic state of Iran has been subject to little scholarly work and research. Largely due to the fact that the Islamist theocratic regime of Iran has not granted access to scholars, journalists, and other researchers to deeply investigate the conditions of the Jewish community under Islamist rule in Iran. Although the Jewish community has long faced discrimination, inequality, and intolerance in Muslim communities such as Iran (for example in March 1839 many Jews in Iran were horrifically forced to convert to Islam in what is known as the Allahdad incident), the persecution of the Jewish people exponentially increased since the Shiite-Islamist and Sharia law-based ruling cleric came to power under the rule of the Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini. The Jewish community of Iran is a staple of the nation’s history though, as the Jews of Iran trace their history back 2,800 years, when communities of the tribes of Israel were taken into captivity by the Assyrian king and sent into exile. The Jewish community primarily settled in the Giliard region of Damavand, near Tehran. Read More%A %B %e%q, %Y No Comments

Humanitarian Tragedy: Iran’s Beleaguered Jewish Community What genuine apartheid looks like By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh Frontpage Magazine September 2, 2013 One of the crucial humanitarian tragedies- that the world and the mainstream media has failed to focus on- is the fate and current living situation of Jewish communities in the Muslim-dominated countries, particularly the Shiite-Islamist […]

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Why Iran’s Anti-Semitism Matters

Posted on Why Iran's Anti-Semitism Matters The Atlantic Jeffrey Goldberg August, 2015 A few days ago, I spoke with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry about the politics of the Iran deal (you can find the full interview here), and at one point in our conversation I put to Kerry what I thought was—to be honest—something of a gimme question: “Do you believe that Iranian leaders sincerely seek the elimination of the Jewish state?” Kerry responded provocatively—provocatively, that is, if you understand Iranian leaders, and in particular the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the way I understand them: as people theologically committed to the destruction of Israel. Quotes such as this one from Khamenei help lead me to this conclusion: “This barbaric, wolflike, and infanticidal regime of Israel which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated.” The supreme leader does not specialize in nuance. (Here is a long list of statements made by Iranian leaders concerning their desire to bring about an end to Jewish sovereignty in any part of the ancestral Jewish homeland.) Read More%A %B %e%q, %Y No Comments

Why Iran’s Anti-Semitism Matters The Atlantic Jeffrey Goldberg August, 2015 A few days ago, I spoke with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry about the politics of the Iran deal (you can find the full interview here), and at one point in our conversation I put to Kerry what I thought was—to be honest—something of […]

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Iran: ‘This deal is not the last step’

Posted on Iran: ‘This deal is not the last step’ By Sharon Nazarian July 22, 2015 Jewish Journal I have three identities: I’m Iranian, I’m American, and I’m Israeli. Historically, what that has meant is that there are very few places in the world that I’ve found where all my identities have been welcome. Actually, through my extensive travels, including Afghanistan, North Korea, South Sudan and many other countries, the only place where all my sides were liked was Kurdistan, Northern Iraq. The Iraqi Kurds love the U.S. for granting them protection and semi-autonomy from Saddam; love Iran, because many who fled Saddam’s attempted genocide were welcomed into Iran and allowed to take refuge there; and quietly, they love Israel (maybe admire is a better word) because Israel secured a homeland that is now powerful and irrefutable. Read More%A %B %e%q, %Y No Comments

Iran: ‘This deal is not the last step’ By Sharon Nazarian July 22, 2015 Jewish Journal I have three identities: I’m Iranian, I’m American, and I’m Israeli. Historically, what that has meant is that there are very few places in the world that I’ve found where all my identities have been welcome. Actually, through my […]

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Local Iranian-Americans respond to nuclear deal

Posted on Local Iranian-Americans respond to nuclear deal by Karmel Melamed Jewish Journal After the announcement July 14 that the United States and other world powers had reached an agreement with Iran that calls for limits on Iran’s nuclear program, Los Angeles-area Iranian Americans of various faiths expressed pessimism at the outcome and disappointment with the negotiated deal. Many local Iranian-Jewish activists said they have long opposed the Obama administration’s efforts to normalize relations with the Iranian regime, and they see the current nuclear agreement as strengthening Iran’s ability to spread hostility in the Middle East. “This deal will legitimize a regime that is known to be deeply corrupt, is a world-leading state sponsor of terrorism, has been suppressing its own people and destabilizing its neighbors,” Sam Kermanian, an adviser to the Iranian American Jewish Federation, based in West Hollywood, said Tuesday. “It leaves the decision for developing nuclear arms entirely in the hands of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which will lead to [nuclear] proliferation, further instability and conflict.” Southern California is home to approximately half a million Iranian Americans and nearly 45,000 Iranian Jews, the majority of whom fled or emigrated from Iran after the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution. Not all Iranian Americans opposed the negotiations at their start, according to Sam Yebri, an attorney and co-founder of 30 Years After, an organization created to engage a younger generation of Jewish Iranian Americans. “Most Iranian Americans welcomed these negotiations at the outset as providing a glimmer of hope that Iran was willing to change its ways as the West was prepared to use its leverage as robustly as possible. Those of us who understand or lived under the Islamic Republic of Iran, we sensed an opportunity, an opening for change,” he said. Yet, “This deal closed the door on any opportunity to transform Iran for the better.” Yebri added, “The only beneficiaries of this deal will be Iran and its allies Hezbollah and [Syrian President Bashar] Assad and the Russians.” Many Iranian-Jewish leaders in Los Angeles have long been hesitant to criticize the current Iranian regime for fear of reprisals by the Iranian regime against the nearly 10,000 Jews still living in Iran. Nevertheless, some activists in the local Iranian Jewish community have been very vocal in their efforts to educate Americans about the dangerous nature of the Iranian regime. Some of those expressed concern that the community had not advocated strongly enough against any deal with the Iranians. “I, for one, blame us, as the Persian-Jewish community, for not being more vocal about these issues of Iran,” Simon Etehad, an Iranian-Jewish attorney and L.A.-area activist, said Tuesday. “We know the politics and goals of the Iranian regime, yet we put our heads in the sand and pretend that everything is fine and dandy — well, it is far from that.” Frank Nikbakht, a leader of the L.A.-based Committee for Minority Rights in Iran, said the current Iran nuclear deal will embolden the Iranian regime through newfound economic relief in the lifting of sanctions, despite the regime’s heinous human-rights record against the people of Iran. “Internally, with all the inequalities and atrocities remaining in place, this agreement enhances the regime’s legitimacy, wealth and dictatorial power over a people who will have to deal with an imminent inflationary economy, a higher degree of ruling-class arrogance and a financial corruption surpassing even today’s incredible levels,” Nikbakht said. David Nahai, an Iranian-American Jewish community member and former L.A. Department of Water and Power chief, said, “If there ever was a deal in history that required robust scrutiny because of the unimaginable consequences of getting things wrong, it is this one. For that reason, I commend the president for seeking congressional approval of this deal … because we can be looking at 100 pages of snakes in the grass here, and we owe it to posterity to have a thorough examination of all the repercussions that are being proposed. “Having said that,” Nahai added, “I do believe there is a time in every deal where even though one has not attained perfection, one has brought things to a sufficient level to ... go forward.” Among those criticizing the deal were many non-Jewish, Iranian-American political activists, some citing the negotiators’ failure to use this agreement to help the average people inside Iran who oppose the current regime. Read More http://www.jewishjournal.com/los_angeles/article/local_iranian_americans_respond_to_nuclear_deal%A %B %e%q, %Y No Comments

Local Iranian-Americans respond to nuclear deal by Karmel Melamed Jewish Journal After the announcement July 14 that the United States and other world powers had reached an agreement with Iran that calls for limits on Iran’s nuclear program, Los Angeles-area Iranian Americans of various faiths expressed pessimism at the outcome and disappointment with the negotiated […]

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IRAN’S ATTEMPTS TO HIDE ITS ANTI-SEMITIC PAST—AND PRESENT

Posted on April 27, 2015 | Shahrzad Elghanayan Mosaic Magazine In an interview with NBC last month, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif boasted that Iran has “a history of tolerance and cooperation and living together in coexistence with our own Jewish people, and with Jews everywhere in the world.” Shahrzad Elghanayan, whose grandfather, a prominent Iranian-Jewish businessman, was executed by the nascent Islamic Republic in 1979, begs to differ: In the 16th century, conservative Shiite scholars and clergy under the Safavid dynasty placed restrictions on all minorities, including Jews, to bar them from economic activity and to prevent them from passing their “ritual impurity” to Muslims: don’t open shops in the bazaar; don’t build attractive residences; don’t buy homes from Muslims; don’t give your children Muslim names; don’t use Muslim public baths; don’t leave your house when it rains or snows; don’t touch anything when entering Muslim shops. Jews weren’t protected by the legal criminal system, but they could convert on the spot to save their lives if attacked by Muslims. There were short periods of reprieve here and there but as a whole, life was pretty grim for the next several centuries. . . . After Reza Shah founded the Pahlavi dynasty in 1925, he started a modernizing spree in which Jews participated and prospered [until the 1979 revolution]. . . . [After seizing power, Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini’s government instituted measures ensuring that from the earliest days in school, children were programmed into the party line. Salman Sima, a self-described moderate Muslim [who spent his childhood in Iran], says that every morning, beginning in grade school, he had to chant “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” He says his religion teachers would say things like, “if you do something wrong, you will die a Jew.” . . . [Foreign Minister] Zarif points to what he says are Iran’s 20,000 Jews, who he says constitute the largest population of Jews in the Middle East outside Israel. (Iran’s latest census counted only 8,756 of them, and Turkey claims to have 20,000, as well.) What he omits is that . . . the Jewish population has plummeted from its estimated 80,000-100,000 in 1979. Read more on Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/04/22/iran-executed-my-grandfather-now-the-regime-is-trying-to-hide-the-way-it-has-treated-other-jews/%A %B %e%q, %Y No Comments

April 27, 2015 | Shahrzad Elghanayan Mosaic Magazine In an interview with NBC last month, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif boasted that Iran has “a history of tolerance and cooperation and living together in coexistence with our own Jewish people, and with Jews everywhere in the world.” Shahrzad Elghanayan, whose grandfather, a prominent Iranian-Jewish businessman, […]

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Report: Religious Persecution on the Rise in Iran

Posted on Wednesday, 13 May 2015 01:49 PM By Melanie Batley Newsmax Persecution of religious minorities has increased since the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani despite his promises to grant them more rights, a new report has found. According to the annual report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an increased number of religious minorities have been jailed under Rouhani. "The government of Iran continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused," the commission said in its report. "Since his June 2013 election, President Hassan Rouhani has not delivered on his campaign promises to strengthen civil liberties for religious minorities." Rouhani had declared that year that "all ethnicities, all religions, even religious minorities, must feel justice," the Washington Free Beacon reported, adding that the comments had left the impression that he would be a more moderate leader. Baha'is, Christian converts, Sunni Muslims, Jews, and Zoroastrians are among the groups suffering abuses in Iran. Some have faced the death sentence and execution for committing "enmity against God" in the Islamic Republic. Illinois GOP Sen. Mark Kirk, whose state hosts one of the only seven Baha'i temples in the world, introduced a bipartisan resolution condemning Iran for religious repression. Kirk has pushed for sanctions against the Iranian regime and lobbied the Obama administration to expand financial penalties against the country for human-rights abuses. "If the Obama administration wants to be serious about holding Iran accountable, it should be working with Congress to reinforce and expand sanctions that target Iran's ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom and human rights," Kirk recently told Fox News. "But it’s not." On the Senate side, Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio recently proposed an amendment to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act that would prevent the Obama administration from giving Iran relief on sanctions related to terrorism or human-rights abuses, but it failed to get added to the bill, the Free Beacon reported. Read Article%A %B %e%q, %Y No Comments

Wednesday, 13 May 2015 01:49 PM By Melanie Batley Newsmax Persecution of religious minorities has increased since the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani despite his promises to grant them more rights, a new report has found. According to the annual report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an increased number of religious […]

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The Iranian Regime on Israel’s Right to Exist

Posted on The foreign minister says his country is friendly to Jews. But his country seeks the elimination of the country in which nearly half the world's Jews live. The Atlantic By Jeffrey Goldberg March 9 2015 The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, wants Jews to know that he, and the country he represents, are their friends. In an interview with Ann Curry, he accused the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of intentionally misreading Jewish scripture in order to make the case that Iran is malevolently predisposed toward Jews: “If you read the Book of Esther, you will see that it was the Iranian king who saved the Jews," Zarif said. "If you read the Old Testament, you will see that it was an Iranian king who saved the Jews from Babylon. Esther has a town in Iran where our Jewish population, which is the largest in the Middle East, visits on a regular basis.” It is true that, at different times, and in different ways, Persia has been a friend of the Jews. Cyrus the Great (the Iranian king mentioned by Zarif in the interview) restored the Jews to their homeland in the Land of Israel after their Babylonian exile. President Harry Truman, who recognized the state of Israel in 1948, 11 minutes after it was reborn, later proclaimed proudly, "I am Cyrus." There is dark humor (or a lack of self-awareness) in Zarif's citation of Cyrus as proof of Iranian philo-Semitism, because today's Iranian leadership does not recognize Jewish sovereignty in Israel, as Cyrus once did, but instead seeks the annihilation of the Jewish state. I am in favor of a negotiated agreement that will keep Iran at least a year away from a nuclear weapon in part because, in the post-Holocaust era, it is crucially important to keep such weapons out of the hands of those who promise to do Jews real harm. As I've written, it is not likely that Iran would launch a preemptive nuclear attack on Israel, but it would almost certainly redouble, under the protection of a nuclear umbrella, its work toward Israel's eradication, with disastrous consequences. (We'll have the argument over whether the agreement now taking shape is the best possible deal in another post. Suffice it to say that the parameters of the current, still-unfinished deal are cause for some worry.) Netanyahu's deployment of the Holocaust to make his case against Iran (and against the current deal) is controversial. There are many aspects of Netanyahu's approach I find disagreeable and counterproductive (most, actually), but an Israeli prime minister who does not recognize that extinction-level threats directed at Jews have sometimes been more than aspirational is not fulfilling his responsibilities. (For a recent example of an argument about the putative dangers of casting the Holocaust in political, cautionary terms, please see this post from my colleague James Fallows, who quotes an unnamed history professor at at a university in the Southwest arguing, in essence, that the Holocaust was so terrible and enormous that we should resist the urge to learn from it: "The constant reiteration of this particular event achieves little more than dumbing down the discourse: it's the historical equivalent of hollering." The professor goes on to write, "To paraphrase Levi-Strauss, the Holocaust is not particularly good to think with. Its extremity serves as a bludgeon." This argument is unwise and unfair; just imagine the same argument in a specifically American historical context: Slavery was so terrible, and so extreme, that we shouldn't talk about it in the context of politics, because someone is bound to use it as a bludgeon. An absurd argument, of course.) I think it is possible to strike an appropriate balance in this debate, somewhere between, "The Jews should stop talking about the Holocaust so much," which is the subtext of this professor's complaint, and "The Nazis are coming" line of argument used periodically by Netanyahu and his allies. Read More %A %B %e%q, %Y No Comments

The foreign minister says his country is friendly to Jews. But his country seeks the elimination of the country in which nearly half the world’s Jews live. The Atlantic By Jeffrey Goldberg March 9 2015 The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, wants Jews to know that he, and the country he represents, are their […]

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Israel’s Iranian Jews worry about nuclear deal

Posted on Adam Taylor for Washington Post May 1st, 2015 ew nations have watched the talks over Iran’s nuclear programme more closely than Israel, which views the Islamic republic as an existential threat. And within Israel, among those especially unsettled by the idea of a final agreement are Iranian Jews. “We are the Persians,” Avi Hanassab, a cook in a Tel Aviv market where many Iranian Jews sell spices and dried fruit, said. “We know how to negotiate.” Hanassab, like many Israeli Jews with Iranian roots, said he still feels a deep bond with Iran, which his parents left in 1964. Yet, like others in the community, he said he feels his knowledge of Iran gives him reason to be fearful as an Israeli. “They sent their best negotiators to negotiate with the States and Europe,” he said. “The Persians are very smart.” Hanassab is among about 140,000 Jews of Iranian descent in Israel, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, a population that dwarfs the 30,000 or fewer Jews who remain in Iran. Iranian Jews are prominent in Israeli public life: Rita, one of the country’s most famous singers, was born in Iran, as was former Israeli president Moshe Katsav. Israeli officials have denounced the preliminary agreement recently reached between world powers and Iran; prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has called it a “dream deal for Iran and a nightmare deal for the world”. In interviews, some Iranian Jews echoed those sentiments, saying they felt that Iran couldn’t be trusted to keep its end of the bargain. Despite leading their lives in Israel, many families of Iranian origin speak Persian and celebrate Iranian holidays. While most cannot visit Iran anymore, they often keep in close contact with relatives who stayed behind with regular phone calls or, fearful of surveillance, by using messaging apps like WhatsApp or Facebook. “I don’t know a single person that hasn’t any relatives in Iran,” Soli Shahva, a Iranian-born professor at Haifa University, said of Iranian Jews in Israel. These ties don’t endear the Iranian regime to Iranian Jews living in Israel, however, many of whom fled the country before the Islamic revolution in 1979 and remain deeply wary of the country’s religious authorities. In fact, many said that it is precisely their deep ties to Iran that allow them to see the situation clearly. Shamshiri, the restaurant Hanassab runs with his mother in a dense Tel Aviv neighbourhood known as Levinsky Market, is praised by many Iranian Jews as the best Iranian eatery in the city. Over steaming bowls of soup and plates of Persian kebabs, the two explained why they had reservations about the prospect of a nuclear deal with Iran. “I am both excited and worried,” said his mother, Molouk Hanassab. Ari Hanassab, who was born in Israel, was more pessimistic. “What the Nazis have done, Iran are saying that they will do,” he said, referring to the comments some Iranian leaders have made calling for the elimination of the Jewish state. Analysts say such doubts are widespread. “I think it’s safe to assume that they are sceptical,” said Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli journalist and a professor of Iranian politics. Javedanfar, who was born in Iran, has criticised what he sees as an overreaction from Israeli politicians to the deal. Many Iranian Jews came from conservative religious communities in Iran, Javedanfar said, and they often remain politically or religiously conservative in Israel. Those political leanings probably made them natural supporters of Netanyahu’s hard stance on Iran, said Meir Litvak of Tel Aviv University’s Alliance Center for Iranian Studies. “Historically, most Iranian Jews have voted for the Likud in the past 30 years, so they are not likely to dispute Netanyahu’s position,” Litvak said, referring to the prime minister’s political party. At Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Market on a recent day, opposition to a nuclear deal with Iran was not hard to come by. “We are a very small country. They are a very strong country,” Aharon Davidi, who works as an accountant for many of the market’s traders, said of Iran. Some said they worried that even if Iran never develops a nuclear weapon, a deal that ends economic sanctions against the country would lead to other problems. “If they lift all the sanctions, the Iranian economy will bloom,” said Baruch Davidi, Aharon’s brother. “Then the money will go to Gaza and to Hezbollah,” he said, referring to the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas, and to Hezbollah. Both have attacked Israel, and both receive support from Iran. Some were critical of the United States’ leading role in the negotiations. “The Americans don’t understand this region,” said Reuven Haimpir, a fabric cutter. “That’s their main problem.” But amid all the opposition to the Iranian regime, no one seemed to fear the Iranian people themselves, the vast majority of whom are Shia Muslims. “I have family living in Iran now,” said Izhak Makani, a shop worker whose parents left for Israel before he was born. “They are friends with the Muslims. The Muslims over there, they like the Jewish. They don’t hate them.” These mixed feelings are not unusual, Shahva said. Many Iranian Jews in Israel left the country before the Islamic revolution in 1979 and have fond memories of their homeland, he said. Menashe Amir, a Persian-language radio host who moved to Israel in 1959, is one example. He has not been to Iran in decades, yet he said he loves both countries equally. “I was born in Iran, and Iran is like my mother,” he said. “I live in Israel, and I am a Jew. [Israel] is like my father. You cannot ask anybody if they like their father or mother more.” Some feel even stronger. “I consider myself more Iranian than Israeli,” Shahva said with a laugh. “My Israeli friends don’t like it when I say that.” In Shamshuri, where Avi Hanassab spends every day making Iranian meals for a largely Iranian clientele, the pull of the homeland wasn’t quite the same. “It’s not Israeli or Iranian,” Ari said. “I have a Jewish identity. No matter where I am, I’m a Jew.” That, he explained, was why he had to be worried about a nuclear deal. This article appeared in Guardian Weekly, which incorporates material from the Washington Post Read Article%A %B %e%q, %Y No Comments

Adam Taylor for Washington Post May 1st, 2015 ew nations have watched the talks over Iran’s nuclear programme more closely than Israel, which views the Islamic republic as an existential threat. And within Israel, among those especially unsettled by the idea of a final agreement are Iranian Jews. “We are the Persians,” Avi Hanassab, a […]

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Iran promotes blood libel against the Jews

Posted on Opinion By BRIAN SCHRAUGER \ 05/10/2015 Jerusalem Post Throughout the 1930s Hitler groomed his culture and his continent for unspeakable savagery. He did this by glorifying his country’s collective ego, asserting the racial superiority of “Aryans” who were on the cusp of a millennium of global rule. He also did it by demonizing Jews as the primary obstacle to a golden age of Aryan oligarchy. Today Iran is doing the same thing. Asserting the imminent appearance of a Muslim messiah, the Islamic Republic is “clearing the way,” doing whatever it takes to remove all opposition to the Mahdi and his coming rule. The greatest of all obstacles for Iran? Israel. Preparing its people for “annihilation” of the Jewish state, the Islamic Republic has resurrected anti-Semitic blood libels against the Jews. Iran’s unabashed goal is a global caliphate under the rule of an Islamic messiah called the Mahdi. During his tenure as Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, evoked this goal, this dream, every time he spoke at the United Nations. In a speech that he delivered there just before ending his presidential term, Ahmadinejad articulated Iran’s conviction that its messiah is at hand. On September 26, 2012, he said, “Allah Almighty has promised us a man of kindness, a man who loves people and loves absolute justice, a man who is a perfect human being. [He] is named Imam al-Mahdi, a man who will come in the company of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) and the righteous. By using the inherent potential of all the worthy men and women of all nations and I repeat, the inherent potential of ‘all the worthy men and women of all nations,’ he will lead humanity into achieving its glorious and eternal ideals.” (italics added) What must be done in preparation for the appearance of this Mahdi who will “bring about an eternally bright future for mankind”? According to Ahmadinejad’s admonition, the world must “join hands and clear the way for his eventual arrival with empathy and cooperation, in harmony and unity.” (again, italics added) The key to his counsel is an admonition to “clear the way.” Unworthy men and women, and their ultimate expression of unworthiness, Israel, must be removed. Ahmadinejad’s assertion is a persistent message that continues to this day. Only two months ago, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei posted to his official Twitter account, “Once ppl in West #realize their problems stem from Zionist domination over govts, great social movements will give #birth to a new world.” A new world under the Mahdi, that is. For its part, even the US, Khamenei tweeted, is a “chained dog” of the “Zionist regime.” According to Khamenei, Israel is a “barbaric, wolflike & infanticidal regime” that “spares no crime.” Accordingly, he says, it “has no cure but to be annihilated.” Claiming justified hatred of the Jewish state, Khamenei thanks Allah that the world is waking up. “Global hatred of #Israel is a sign of divine help,” he tweeted. Joining Allah’s efforts to stimulate global hatred against Israel, Iranian media is promoting ancient blood libels against the Jewish people, and so by proxy the Jewish state. Last Saturday, May 2, the Persian news website Alef published a lengthy essay; it included lots of pictures. Titled, “Who Are Human History’s Most Bloodthirsty People?”, the article is illustrated with artwork and photos “proving” Jewish human sacrifice in worship of their God. Mehdi Khalaji, an Islamic theologian working for The Washington Institute, has analyzed the article. He writes, “Its anti-Semitic intentions are clear from the start.” Translating from Persian, Khalaji quotes the essay. “Blood shedding by Jews is not a new theme. By looking at what is happening in occupied territories, one can know the rapacious and savage spirit of this people. ...Killing foreigners is [justified] in Jewish wisdom and teachings, and there is no difference between them and animals. ...According to the Talmud, there are two bloody rituals that satisfy Jehovah: the feast of breads mixed with human blood [Passover] and the circumcision ritual for Jewish children. ...Research shows that following the falsified teachings of Judaism was the main factor behind all the miseries and misfortunes that Jews suffered from in their history. In the past, Jewish witches were using human blood in their conjurer ceremonies.” Without a call to action, the article in Alef is intended only to incite. Iran’s Supreme Leader has already made the call to action. Taking up the theme of “annihilation,” top leaders in Iran use the term to describe Israel’s future. Writing for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Michael Segal and Daniel Rubenstein have documented statements made by these leaders. “The Zionist regime will soon be destroyed, and this generation will be witness to its destruction,” says Hojatoleslam Ali Shirazi, Khamenei’s representative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Anticipating the need to plan Israel’s annihilation, Iran President Hassan Rouhani states that “the formula for this move must be discussed in [Iran’s] government.” “We will not abandon our [armed] struggle until the annihilation of Israel and until we will be able to pray in al-Aqsa mosque,” pledges Iran’s Brigadier General Mohammed Reza Naqdi. Making reference to Jerusalem’s self defense, Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani says, “The enemies are talking about the options [they have] on the table. They should know that the first option on our table is the annihilation of Israel.” In a thinly veiled reference to Tehran’s capability to construct a nuclear weapon in as little as a month, Iran’s Defense Ministry boasts, “If once the destruction and demise of occupying Israel was an impossible and unattainable dream, today thanks to the historic and intelligent actions of Imam Khomeini, it has become possible and is actually in the process of occurring.” Khamenei concurs. “Israel’s leaders sometimes threaten Iran,” he scoffs, then curses, “but they know that if they do a damn thing, the Islamic Republic will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground.” What is keeping Iran from attacking Israel today? From Iran’s statements, assaulting Israel is a question of when, not if. Anticipating a deluge of cash from sanctions relief, it sees near-term opportunities to strengthen its pincer movement against Israel via proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Gaza. And with relief from sanctions, it hopes to pick a time to build nuclear weapons that it will use, or threaten to use, in waging war against the Jewish state. Tehran knows that when it wages war with Israel, it will do so with necessary savagery to “annihilate” the state as it has pledged to do. The level of anticipated savagery is indicated by today’s demonization of Jews. Hoping to align with Allah’s “divine help” in stimulating both domestic and “global hatred of Israel,” Iran is preparing the way for its Mahdi. Whether in spirit or in flesh, all signs are that, in fact, that the Mahdi is on his way. Perhaps he is already here, waiting to announce himself. Accordingly, Iran is not standing by. Neither is Israel. Or its watchmen. For such a time as this. The author is Bureau Chief for USA Radio Network and Bridges For Peace News, where this first appeared www.bridgesforpeace. Click here for full article%A %B %e%q, %Y No Comments

Opinion By BRIAN SCHRAUGER \ 05/10/2015 Jerusalem Post Throughout the 1930s Hitler groomed his culture and his continent for unspeakable savagery. He did this by glorifying his country’s collective ego, asserting the racial superiority of “Aryans” who were on the cusp of a millennium of global rule. He also did it by demonizing Jews as […]

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