The Independent plays a willing part in the Ayatollahs’ Purim spiel

A guest post by Lyn Julius

With Purim just around the corner – the Jewish festival which celebrates the deliverance of the Jews of Persia from the wicked Haman –The independent’s feature on the Jews of Iran by Kim Sengupta, the paper’s defence and diplomatic correspondent, could not be more timely. But how accurate is it?

Regrettably, not very.

The article (Iran’s Jews on life inside Israel’s ‘enemy state’: We feel secure and happy, March 16th) opens with a propaganda lie : Iran has ‘the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside Israel.’ Turkey has a larger community; and the competition in the neighbourhood is not very fierce,  all communities  from Arab countries having been virtually driven to extinction. Sengupta fails to inform us that four-fifths of the Jewish community has fled since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979.

“Israel has portrayed Iran as an implacable enemy,” Sengupta writes.

Surely it is the reverse.

While relations were good between Israel and the Shah’s regime until the Iranian revolution – and the Independent  journalist, eager to show Israel in the worst possible light,  is careful to emphasise that the Jewish state propped up the repressive machinery of the Shah’s regime – Iran is the only state openly committed to the destruction of what it calls the Little Satan.

Even its freely proclaimed Holocaust denial proved too much for the cowed Jewish community, whose erstwhile leader Haroun Yashayaei felt compelled to remonstrate with President Ahmadinejad in 2006. Under the so-called ‘moderate’ President Rouhani, the regime has toned down its desire to exterminate Israel as a centrepiece of public diplomacy. But the regime still runs distasteful Holocaust cartoon contests aimed at proving that the Israelis are the new Nazis in their treatment of the Palestinians.

Sengupta overstates the ‘reformist’ nature of the present Iranian regime, which remains ideologically committed to spreading Islamist revolution. Great changes are about to happen in Iranian politics and history, Sengupta announces brightly: the nuclear deal (billed as a personal failure of Netanyahu’s campaign – never mind that Iran’s nuclear threat had Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states quaking in their boots) ushers in a new post-sanctions era of prosperity.

“Iran is a place where Jews feel secure and happy,” the article tells us.

Of course the Jewish community fares much better than the Baha’i,  not protected under sharia law, and the Assyrian Christians, whose church property has lately been sequestered. The Jews are allowed to practise their religion in freedom, as long as they eschew any connection with the Zionist entity, a crime punishable by death, and submit to discriminatory sharia law. Jews are left to run their businesses unmolested and are even looking forward to the economic bonanza which Iran will enjoy when sanctions are lifted.

The community’s mouthpiece, the one Jewish MP, Siamak Morsadegh, is more than happy to do the regime’s bidding. Sengupta would have almost certainly had a minder breathing down his neck – an experience which another journalist has described as ‘causing anxiety and fatigue’. Neither does Sengupta mention that secret service police infiltrate every communal gathering, and ‘phones in Jewish homes are bugged.

The lies and half-truths keep coming thick and fast. ‘There are not more Jewish MPs because they are not interested in politics’ (a lie – all minorities are limited to one MP). ‘Iranian Jews are free to leave’, Morsadegh tells us, omitting to mention that the rest of the family are kept as hostages. The small matter of unequal ‘blood money’ where the lives of Jews are worth less than Muslims, has hardly been solved – insurance companies have been made to pay the difference in traffic accidents!

The article also does not mention the inheritance laws that favour a convert to Islam over his Jewish siblings. These iniquitous rules continue to wreak havoc in families. 

The next lie Sengupta  serves up is that Iran’s Jewish population is growing. Last time I looked, the official census results had reported just over 8,7 00 Jews, a fall of 90 percent over the 1948 figure. The regime appears to be echoing President Putin’s call for Jews to come to Russia, a haven from western European antisemitism.

Unbelievably, the Ayatollahs’ regime is also trying to present itself as a haven for Jews in Europe (anti-Semitism in Europe is never caused, we are told, by Shia Muslims!). Enter Arik, an Iranian Jew in a shiny suit who wants to persuade his brother to come back  to Iran from France. Arik will be perfectly placed to reap the fruits of the post-sanctions era.  All the Jews Sengupta meets have returned to Iran from stints abroad.

The Independent journalist then furnishes us with a potted history of Iran’s Jews. Theirs is an ancient community dating back to the Babylonian exile in 586 BCE. But Sengupta fails to mention that the Persian king Cyrus the Great was the first Zionist: he permitted the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem. There is no mention that over the centuries Persian Jews suffered a dhimmistatus of impoverishment and degradation, were considered ‘unclean’ (najas) by Shia Islam, confined to ghettoes and subject to forced conversions, such as occurred in the 19th century to the Jews of Mashad.

It is an astonishing phenomenon that western journalists leave their critical faculties at the door when they write about the treatment of minorities by autocratic regimes.

Independent readers will remain blissfully ignorant that the Jews of Iran are both instruments of regime propaganda and  vulnerable hostages to the Israel-Palestine conflict . Gullible Western journalists are no better than puppets in a Purim spiel.  Here the spiel is the Iranian regime’s Public Relations campaign, paving the way for western tourism and trade.

13 replies »

  1. Under the current regime, the position of minorities, including the Jews, is far from safe. Jews in Iran have been hanged before this, allegedly for spying for Israel. The precariousness of minorities is best illustrated by the Baha’is, whom you rightly mention. Iranian Baha’is are indigenous as is their religion, which began in Iran in the mid-19th century, whose scriptures are mainly written in Persian, whose beliefs include recogntion of Muhammad as a prophet and the Qur’an as the Word of God, who are forbidden (across communities over the globe) to participate in politics (and are never a threat to the regime), and so on. But hundreds have been hanged, thousands have been (and still are) imprisoned, all whose holy places (which I myself have visited back in the 70s) have been demolished, whose cemeteries have been bulldozed, whose young people are banned from entering higher education, whose teachers taking part in their own institute for higher education have been imprisoned, whose businesses have been closed, whose elected leaders are currently in jail for long sentences – and on and on. A regime that can behave like that to its own citizens and has for many years defied every single UN, US, UK, Canadian and other resolution calling for an end to the persecution is not a government under whom anyone, Baha’i, Christian, Jew, Zoroastrian, even Sufi can feel safe for a moment.

    If you’d like to know more, here’s an article I published on the Gatestone Institute site last October:

  2. An excellent article on religious persecution, Denis, but the world’s silence about the plight of the Baha’is is deafening. As you rightly say, Israel is a model of religious tolerance yet the West bends over backwards to accommodate the Ayatollahs.

    • @Bataween –

      Re: “…Israel is a model of religious tolerance yet the West bends over backwards to accommodate the Ayatollahs.”

      Your uncritical echo of the question posed in the preamble to Denis MacEion’s article (@ ) takes no account of a total 37 years’ sanctions exercised against Iran, the last ten of those years being a very fierce tightening of the economic screw with particular reference to its nuclear programme.

      No account is taken either of US-led military support for Saddam Hussein during eight years of a horrendous Iraq-Iran war.

      If this is your (and MacEion’s) idea of Ayatollah-friendly “bending over backwards” by the west, it’s hard to imagine why periodic “condemnations” of Israel – unaccompanied by any actual sanctions, let alone military hostility – give you any cause for offence whatsoever.

      • I wish we had a President who would respond to the islamofascist “supreme ahole” khameni leading rallies calling for death to America, and call for

        Death to Fascist Iran.

        • ayatollah Miranda :sanctions on iran were justified, your small brain will get it in a few years when ww3 will be started by your friends. As to support for irak it was deserved too considering iran’s attitude. But…what has this to do with Israel? should Israel be blamed also because earth runs around the sun not vice versa? you have mud instead of a brain.

      • Miranda,
        I don’t think that when we sanctioned Iran, a nuclear program was the sort of thing we had in mind as a behavioral change to welcome that regime back into the community of nations. I’m sorry to see that gay-hanging, minority persecuting, terror supporting and terror perpetrating Iran is an object for your “progressive” sympathies. But there we have it !

  3. Miranda – when was the last time you heard the West criticise Iran’s policy of hanging gays from cranes, of persecuting Baha’is and other minorities and repressing dissent? I call that appeasement. And the nuclear deal does not make many demands that Iran cannot circumvent, and in all probablity has already begun to circumvent, with its missile tests. T be fair the West did not make too many demands of Saddam Hussein before going to war against him.

    • Fascist Iran already violated the terms of the deal.

      I hope the US will soon have a President who will stand up to the fascist ayatollahs and respond to their genocidal threats by calling for death to fascist Iran.

      I’d be happy if the Persian people rose up and hanged all the ayatollahs and their revolutionary gestapo.