Two weeks ago, the Associated Press reported that roughly two dozen Iranian Jews took part in a “pro-nuclear rally” at the United Nations office in Tehran. The report indicated that the Iranian Jews held Torahs in their arms and also signs in Hebrew and English proclaiming their support for the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions. While some individuals may wrongly believe that some of Iran’s Jews are supportive of the regime’s nuclear ambitions, Iranian journalists and community activists like myself who have long followed the Iranian regime know that this “rally” was nothing more than a propaganda charade put together by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence to improve its image among the international media. Sadly, this “rally” was just the latest in a long line of publicity stunts and propaganda moves by the Iranian regime to use or manipulate the Jews of Iran to deceive the world into believing it loves the Jews.
Toward the later years of World War II, the Nazi propaganda ministry created a propaganda film focused around the infamous Theresienstadt concentration camp, which was given the appearance of a “country club” for the Jews. Today, the Iranian regime’s propaganda machine carries on this shameful Nazi tradition by again marching forward different leaders of the Jewish community in Iran to sing the praises of the regime before the Western news media. Nowadays, the regime’s Jewish mouthpiece is Ciamak Moreh Sedgh, the only Jewish member of the Iranian parliament, who always claims that the Jews are living in “total freedom and face no danger while living in Iran.”
In October, with Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, visiting New York for his appearance before the United Nations, Moreh Sedgh was also brought along with the Iranian delegation to “praise the Iranian regime for their benevolence to the Jews” and at the same time condemn Israel before Western news media outlets. Sadly, the news media and some Americans are being duped by buying into Iran’s propaganda messages that Jews are supposedly living under the “benevolent” protection and freedom of Iran’s totalitarian Islamic regime. The truth of the matter is that the Iranian regime and its secret police of thugs have a tight grip on the activities of the Jewish community in Iran.
The latest episode of a pro-Iranian regime rally in Iran two weeks ago is proof that the Iranian regime loves to parade Jews in front of the international news cameras to attack Israel in any way possible because it knows these news outlets will carry stories about Jews “condemning Israel.” The Jewish member of the Iranian parliament in the past and present has always been spouting out “anti-Israel” statements to the international news media and on Iranian broadcast news to keep the Iranian regime’s dictatorship happy. Such was the case in 2009 during “Operation Cast Lead,” when Israeli forces invaded Hamas-controlled Gaza to destroy terrorist cells attacking Israel. During that operation, the Jewish community of Tehran was forced to march in the streets and condemn Israel for defending itself, and Moreh Sedgh condemned Israel for “crimes against the Palestinian people” before the Iranian parliament.
As a journalist, I have been following the Iranian regime’s shameful use of the Jews in Iran to advance its own public image for more than a decade. The only reason Jews in Iran even participated in the sham protests against Israel is because members of Iran’s secret police threaten their lives if they do not do what these radical Islamic thugs dictate.
There are various reasons why some 10,000 to 20,000 Jews still live in Iran, due to economic issues or family ties. Yet, the truth of the matter is that the Jews of Iran since the Babylonian exile have always had a great love of the land of Israel and a tremendous sense of Zionism. Zionist organizations were established in Iran as early as the 1920s among Jews in the country longing to return to their ancient homeland. Likewise, after the establishment of Israel in 1948, thousands of Jews left their homes in Iran and established new roots in Israel. Still more Jews immigrated to Israel after the 1979 Iranian revolution and live there today. Iranian Jews living in Israel, Europe, the United States and elsewhere in the free world still display a great love of Israel by giving to philanthropic causes in Israel, investing in Israeli companies and traveling there frequently.
Sadly, the Iranian regime has gone a step further and even used the country’s Jewish leadership to advance the regime’s efforts to remove U.S. and international sanctions on Iran. In October, Homayoun Sameyah Najaf Abady, a leader of the Jewish community in Iran, appeared before the BBC, denying that Jews in Iran live in a state of fear and also called on U.S. President Barack Obama to normalize relations with the Iranian regime.
Likewise, Moreh Sedgh, during his public relations tour with Rouhani last month, shamefully appeared on different U.S. news programs proclaiming everything was “fine for the Jews of Iran who enjoyed the same freedoms and equalities as Muslims.” Unfortunately, U.S. journalists interviewing Moreh Sedgh failed to ask him why Jews in Iran still have a second-class citizenship status under Iran’s constitution, or why the Iranian regime for the last 34 years forces Jews to keep their Jewish day schools open on the Sabbath.
If the Iranian regime “loves the Jews and grants them equality,” then why have more than a dozen Jews been randomly executed by the regime on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel and the United States during the last 34 years? And why, between 1994 and 1996, if life is great for Jews in Iran, were 12 Jews who were trying to flee Iran via Pakistan arrested by the Iranian secret police and not been heard from since? Likewise, if things are so happy and rosy for the Jews of Iran, why was Toobah Nehdaran, a 57-year-old married Jewish woman, brutally murdered and her body mutilated by radical Islamic thugs in the Iranian city of Isfahan in November 2012? Why have Nehdaran’s killers not been brought to justice yet by the Iranian authorities? On a regular basis, as a journalist covering Iranian Jewry, I am reminded by countless Iranian-American Jewish leaders to “watch” what I might be writing about the Iranian regime for fear that what I might report on may have negative repercussions on the Jews of Iran. So my question is: Why on earth are Iranian-American Jews so concerned about my words and the safety of their brethren in Iran if everything is supposedly so fine and dandy for Jews in Iran? These are unanswered questions that should leave serious doubts in the minds of all individuals about the Iranian regime’s supposed “love” for the Jews of Iran.
Those of us who live in the free world cannot allow the Iranian regime to win the public relations war that it wages to portray itself as a lover of the Jews or a granter of wide freedoms and equality to non-Muslims living in Iran. We must call out the Iranian regime’s propaganda and expose the truth about its brutality not only to Jews living in Iran but toward Baha’is, Christians, Zoroastrians, Sunni Muslims, Kurds, LGBT, women, labor movement leaders, journalists and others in Iran who have been randomly imprisoned, tortured and executed by the Iranian regime’s leadership for no reason at all. The words coming out of the mouths of Iran’s Jewish leadership carry zero credibility and must not only be ignored by Western news media outlets but also not given any validity by all freedom-loving individuals worldwide.
Karmel Melamed is an award-winning internationally published journalist and attorney based in Southern California. He authors the “Iranian American Jews” blog.