Posted by Karmel Melamed
Los Angeles’ Israeli Consul-General Ehud Danoch made history on Sunday, Sept. 2, by becoming the first Israeli official in more than 25 years to directly address the people of Iran via live television.
Danoch appeared on “Roundtable With You,” a Persian-language call-in program that features interviews with newsmakers and personalities in the news. The show is broadcast by the Voice of America (VOA) in Washington, D.C. It airs nightly to an audience of about 20 million to 25 million viewers in Iran and worldwide.
“By having this interview with the Voice of America by satellite, which no one can stop, maybe the moderate people in Iran will understand that we extend our hand in peace to all of our neighbors and them in Iran,” Danoch said, in an interview. “I wanted to make it clear that we in Israel distinguish between the people of Iran and the regime’s leaders.”
The program featuring Danoch was also simulcast on VOA’s Persian-language satellite radio program and on its Web site through streaming video.
The VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news and educational programming every week to more than 115 million people worldwide in various languages. VOA broadcasts six hours of Persian television each day, and among international broadcasters, it has the largest combined radio and television audience.
“Roundtable” host Bijan Farhoodi said he was impressed with the tremendous response from Iranian viewers generated by Danoch’s appearance.
“I think Mr. Danoch came across very professionally, and his message of peace coming from an Israeli official really resonated with the viewers in Iran, who called and e-mailed in positive things about Israel,” said Farhoodi, a 27-year veteran journalist.
During the hourlong broadcast, Farhoodi covered a wide range of topics, including Iran’s support for the Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist groups, Holocaust denial statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as well as the Iranian government’s escalating calls for Israel’s destruction.
Several viewers’ e-mails read on the air expressed sympathy for Israelis, as well as concern over the Iranian government’s efforts to provoke Israel and the United States into war.
Danoch also fielded hostile questions, with one pro-Ahmadinejad caller asking why “Germany and Europe have not given land to the Jews for causing the Holocaust.”
“We make our show very objective and cover all sides of the issues, because our viewers in Iran really rely on us to give fair news, since the other Persian-language satellite programs in the U.S. are only spouting hate for the regime,” Farhoodi said. “You also have to realize that some people in Iran are terrified to openly speak in favor of Israel for fear of [what] the government might do to them.”
Danoch’s appearance on the VOA program is part of an ongoing strategy by the Israeli consulate to reach local and U.S.-based Iranian Muslim-owned, Persian-language news outlets that broadcast to Iran. The consulate’s goal is to help change the hearts and minds of average Iranians who are being indoctrinated with hate for Israel through anti-Israel propaganda put out by Iran’s fundamentalist Islamic regime, Danoch said.
“My message to the people of Iran was that we want to live in peace and prosperity with them,” he said. “I cannot comprehend how such good and talented people, such a civilization, is being held hostage by a regime which is completely the opposite of these people.”
The Israeli consulate has held a series of informational meetings and press conferences since August 2006 for local Persian-language media outlets to educate its journalists about Israel. The consulate is also hoping to learn more about the current sentiments of the Iranian people.
The L.A. consulate has not been alone in its efforts to win support for Israel among Iranians worldwide. In July, the Israeli Foreign Ministry officially launched its Persian-language Web site, Hamdami. The site provides news of Iranian government activities and educates Iranians about Israel.
In addition, the site allows for an interactive dialogue between average Iranians in Iran and Israeli officials, as well as information on the Shoah in response to Ahmadinejad’s repeated statements denying the Holocaust.
Last month, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman answered questions from listeners in Iran during a live broadcast by Israel Radio’s Persian-language news segment. The show has become a popular satellite radio program for Iranians living in Iran who seek more objective news.
While his term in Los Angeles ends next month, Danoch said his successor most likely will continue outreach to local Persian-language news outlets.
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September 3, 2007 | 3:54 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Yesterday the Iranian government announced plans to build a new 73,000 square foot cultural and sports complex for its Jewish minority in central Tehran. Mohammad Saidi-Kia, Iran’s Minister of Housing and Urban Development broke ground on the site of the project that is slated to cost more than $3 million and to be completed in two and half years.
The Iranian government is seeking to show this project done for the Jewish populace as proof of the supposed “freedoms” enjoyed by its religious minorities. Unfortunately the move reeks of an obviously public relations stunt by Iran’s fundamentalist regime. Iran’s government has no other way to bolster their image in the world and do damage control for the anti-Israel and Holocaust denial statements of their President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, than to put the Jews on display and show supposed “benevolence” to them. Sadly, this P.R. stunt is yet another example of how Iran’s government has used the presence of 10,000 to 20,000 Jews still living in the country as a major propaganda tool to try to show themselves in a positive light to the West. 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 and if the Jews step out of line, they face serious dangers. An example of this was in 2000 when 13 Jews from the city of Shiraz were randomly arrested on trumped up charges of being supposed spies for Israel and the U.S. If the Jews and religious minorities live in such supposed “freedom” in Iran, then why does the Iranian Constitution clearly indicate that all non-Muslims have inferior status to Muslims? Why do Iran’s laws require that all non-Muslims be humiliated and confined to prevent them from gaining any advantage over Muslims?
As an Iranian Jewish journalist living in the U.S. and covering the Iranian Jewish community worldwide, I am often attacked by various non-Jewish Iranians who claim that my statements about the lives of Iran’s Jews are false. My response to these critics is quite simple, if the Jews living in Iran are so free and living in tranquility, then why do Iranian American Jewish leaders repeatedly caution me about the potential negative repercussions that may befall the Jews of Iran because of my articles? The fact of the matter is that Iran’s Jews do not live in freedom and fear for their lives otherwise I wouldn’t be constantly reminded by community leaders in the U.S. about the potential danger they face!
We as Americans and American Jews must take whatever statements are made in the media by Jews in Iran with a grain of salt. These Jews in Iran are most likely making these supposed “positive” statements about Iran and the government because they are indirectly under duress. They know that they will face torture, imprisonment, and even death by execution at the hands of the regime’s thugs if they say anything that could even be construed as negative about the government in Iran. In the end the Iranian mullahs should be congratulated, they’ve finally done a great job of mastering the fine art of one-sided propaganda reminiscent of the old school propaganda put out by similar ruthless dictatorships in Nazi Germany, Cuba, the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea!