25,000 Jews live in Iran. It's the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside of Israel. Iranian Jews are not persecuted or abused by the state, in fact, they are protected under Iran's constitution. They are free to practice their religion and to vote in elections. They are not stopped and searched at checkpoints, they are not brutalized by an occupying army, and they are not herded into a densely-populated penal colony (Gaza) where they are deprived of the basic means of survival. Iranian Jews live in dignity and enjoy the benefits of citizenship.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is demonized in the western media. He is called an anti-Semite and the "new Hitler". But if those claims are true, then why did the majority of Iran's Jews vote for Ahmadinejad in recent presidential elections? Could it be that most of what we know about Ahmadinejad is just baseless rumor and propaganda?
This excerpt appeared in an article by the BBC:
"(Ahmadinejad's) 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 organizations have difficulty receiving funds from abroad for fear of being accused of being foreign agents."
When did Hitler ever donate money to Jewish hospitals? The Hitler analogy is a desperate attempt to brainwash Americans. It tells us nothing about what Ahmadinejad is really like.
The lies about Ahmadinejad are no different than the lies about Saddam Hussein or Hugo Chavez. The US and Israel are trying to create the justification for another war. That's why the media credits Ahmadinejad with saying things that he never really said. He never said that he wanted to "wipe Israel off the map". That's another fiction. Author Jonathan Cook explains what the Iranian president really said:
"This myth has been endlessly recycled since a translating error was made of a speech Ahmadinejad delivered nearly two years ago. Farsi experts have verified that the Iranian president, far from threatening to destroy Israel, was quoting from an earlier speech by the late Ayatollah Khomeini in which he reassured supporters of the Palestinians that "the Zionist regime in Jerusalem" would "vanish from the page of time."
He was not threatening to exterminate Jews or even Israel. He was comparing Israel's occupation of the Palestinians with other illegitimate systems of rule whose time had passed, including the Shahs who once ruled Iran, apartheid South Africa and the Soviet empire. Nonetheless, this erroneous translation has survived and prospered because Israel and its supporters have exploited it for their own crude propaganda purposes." ("Israel's Jewish problem in Tehran", Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada)
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This is from Wikipedia:
"The U.S. State Department has made claims of discrimination in Iran against Jews. According to its study, Jews may not occupy senior positions in government and are prevented from serving in the judiciary and security services and from becoming public school heads. The study says that Jewish citizens are permitted to obtain passports and to travel outside the country, but they often are denied the multiple-exit permits normally issued to other citizens. Allegations made by the U.S. State Department have been condemned by Iranian Jews. The Association of Tehrani Jews said in a statement, "We Iranian Jews condemn claims of the US State Department on Iranian religious minorities, announced that we are fully free to perform our religious duties and we feel no restriction on performing our religious rituals."
Who should we believe; the Jews who actually live Iran or the troublemaking US State Department?
There are 6 kosher butcher shops, 11 synagogues and numerous Hebrew schools in Tehran. Neither Ahmadinejad nor any other Iranian government official has made any attempt to close any these facilities down. Never. Iranian Jews are free to travel (or move) to Israel if they chose. They are not imprisoned by an occupying army. They are not deprived of food and medicine. Their children do not grow up with mental disorders brought on by the trauma of sporadic violence. Their families are not blown up by gunships lobbing rounds on the beaches. Their supporters are not crushed by bulldozers or shot in the head with rubber bullets. They are not gassed and beaten when they peacefully demonstrate for their civil liberties. Their leaders are not hunted down and killed in targeted assassinations.
Roger Cohen wrote a very thoughtful essay on the topic for the New York Times. He said:
"Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric. That may be because I’m a Jew and have seldom been treated with such consistent warmth as in Iran. Or perhaps I was impressed that the fury over Gaza, trumpeted on posters and Iranian TV, never spilled over into insults or violence toward Jews. Or perhaps it’s because I’m convinced the “Mad Mullah” caricature of Iran and likening of any compromise with it to Munich 1938 — a position popular in some American Jewish circles — is misleading and dangerous." ("What Iran's Jews Say", Roger Cohen, New York Times)
Things aren't perfect for Jews living in Iran, but they're better than they are for Palestinians living in Gaza. Much better.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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