Posted by Karmel Melamed
On July 12, 2008 26-year-old Iranian Jewish student Daniel Levian died in a tragic car accident while riding in a car that was driven by an Iranian Jewish young man who was under the influence of alcohol. This painful incident sent shockwaves through L.A.‘s tight-knit Iranian Jewish community which has never experienced such a significant loss through a drunk driving episode. Family members, friends and clergy were all pained by Levian’s loss and sought ways for healing—their answer came in the formation of the “Lev Foundation” in honor of Daniel Levian.
Late last month members and supporters of the Lev Foundation gathered at the Levian family home in Beverly Hills for the foundation’s first annual gala event. Those in attendance celebrated the young man’s life and honored his memory by announcing plans for their various youth educational programs, community services as well as promoting alternative transportation solutions for those who may be drinking alcohol at parties. At the event, I spoke with Joubin Hanaie, one of the Lev Foundation board members who gave some insights into the organization’s objectives. “What we are trying to do is empower young Jewish adults in our community with the attitude and mind set that they can have an impact on their friends and the larger society,” said Hanaie.
As a journalist who has covered Southern California’s Iranian Jewish community for a number of years, I’ve come across the highs and the lows that the community has encountered. Ever since this Levian tragedy occurred I’ve refrained from commenting on it as it has been indeed painful for everyone. However I now find some comfort in the fact that those involved with this young man’s life are taking this negative event and transforming into someone productive for others. My only hope is that members of the Iranian Jewish community never forget this tragedy and also educate their children in drug abuse awareness and the dangers of drunk driving.
The following are just some of the sights I captured from the Lev Foundation gala event…
More photos of the Lev Foundation’s 2009 gala can be found: here
11.9.13 at 1:24 pm | L.A. Mayor Garcetti remains silent as UANI and. . .
10.20.13 at 10:40 pm | Since the new Iranian president's inauguration in. . .
10.10.13 at 11:25 pm | Rabbi Mark Diamond, the Regional Director of AJC. . .
10.2.13 at 6:48 pm | Iranian president's latest use of Twitter is only. . .
8.18.13 at 11:10 pm | Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei spews his. . .
6.30.13 at 11:22 am | Young Iranian Jews are breaking old community. . .
1.28.08 at 9:30 pm | (105)
10.25.07 at 9:11 pm | (54)
4.3.08 at 7:12 pm | (42)
October 12, 2009 | 11:18 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
After attending the September 23rd protest outside the Federal Building in Westwood, a handful of local Iranian American human rights and community activists informed this journalist of their upcoming campaign to urge the Los Angeles City Council to officially name the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Street where the Federal Building is located, as “Neda Square”. The name will be in honor of the 27-year-old Iranian woman “Neda Agha-Soltan” whose murder by Iranian milita thugs was captured on video back in June and spread through the Internet via Youtube.com and Twitter. Local Iranian American activist have wanted to honor the slayen young woman by naming the street corner after since she has become a symbol of average Iranians struggle against the inhumanity of Iran’s current regime in the aftermath of this past summer’s sham elections in Iran.
On June 20, 2009, at around 6:30 p.m., Neda Agha-Soltan was sitting in her car in traffic in the city of Tehran. She was accompanied by her music teacher and close friend, Hamid Panahi, and two others. The four were on their way to participate in the protests against the outcome of the 2009 Iranian presidential election. The car’s air conditioner was not working well, so she stopped her car some distance from the main protests and got out on foot to escape the heat. She was standing and observing the sporadic protests in the area when she was shot in the chest by what witnesses said were government militia snipers who were randomly shooting at protesters from roof tops. As captured on amateur video, she collapsed to the ground and was tended to for several seconds. Someone in the crowd around her shouted, “She has been shot! Someone, come and take her!” Her last words were, “I’m burning, I’m burning!” En route to Tehran’s Shariati hospital, she died but video of her violent and bloody death at the hands of the Iranian government snipers spread like wildfire on the Internet and on international news television. The world and Iranians living every where outraged at the complete disregard for life and brutality of Iran’s totalitarian regime. Finally the international community saw the sad reality and hell Iranian citizens have been enduring in their homeland at the hands of heartless murderers running their nation. Agha-Soltan has since become a martyr for many Iranians living in Iran and outside the country who seek regime change in Iran and ultimately a new free democracy in their country.
Agha-Soltan was an aspiring, underground Persian popular singer and musician, who was studying her craft through private voice and music lessons. She had studied the violin and had an as-yet-undelivered piano on order at the time of her death. Music of course is officially prohibited in Iran today that follows a strict fundamentalist Shiite Islamic theology, so her involvement in this career was a big risk. Interestingly those who knew her maintain that Agha-Soltan had not previously been very political – she had not supported any particular candidate in the 2009 Iran elections. On sad note, Iran’s evil regime denied her family a proper funeral for the 27-year-old innocent girl and issued a ban on collective prayers in mosques for Agha-Soltan in the aftermath of the incident.
What’s interesting about the new proposed location of “Neda Sqaure” is the fact that the corner where the Federal Building is located is a place that for the last 30 years has always been a locale for L.A.‘s Iranian Americans to protest the evils of the Iranian government. Never in the past 30 years has there been any call to name the street corner after anyone associated with the community’s protest efforts against the regime in Iran until now. It seems as if Agha-Soltan’s cold blooded murder at the hands of the Iranian regime’s thugs has not only touched a nerve among average Iranian citizens in Iran, but also among those living right here in Southern California.
Now what I ask President Obama and members of his administration is whether they really want to negotiate with a ruthless regime in Iran that totally disregards human life like this and cuts down those yearning for basic freedoms? What kind of message is the Obama Administration sending to those courageous Iranian protesters who are voicing their outrage with their government on the streets when the current Administration is sitting down with Iran’s regime to negotiate? The President of the United States called for “change” and “new hope” for better living in the U.S. and in other countries worldwide. Now that the average Iranian is stepping up and demanding for the same change in their government, they wonder whether the President of the United States is really behind them or just giving them lip service!
October 9, 2009 | 11:18 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
For the last nine years I have come to know H. David Nahai from my experiences in reporting on the local Iranian Jewish community. When I learned that he was resigning as the head of the L.A. Department of Water and Power last Friday, I was not at all shocked as I’ve always known Nahai to be an open-minded person who has always sought to work in the public sector for the greater good of the community. Yet many members of the city’s Iranian Jewish community who have spoken with me since his resignation last week have said they were surprised to learn he was leaving his post.
From the New York Times article recently, it seems as if Nahai is moving onto greener pastures by joining the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) as a senior advisor. During the time I’ve known Nahai, in addition to his work in public sector in various capacities, he has also been a vocal among local Iranian Americans of various faiths in urging them to engaged in voting and civic life. Aside from Beverly Hills Councilmember Jimmy Delshad, Nahai has been the only other prominent Iranian American Jew in city government that really encouraged both young and old in our community to embrace the idea of participating in the public sector. Nahai has indeed inspired many young Iranian Americans to also consider running for local elected office.
I can recall Nahai appearing on local Persian language radio stations to urge local Iranians to vote for Al Gore in 2000, to vote for John Kerry in 2004and to first cast their votes for L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in 2005. In April 2005, about 80 prominent Iranian Jews joined Villaraigosa at the Beverly Hills home of Leon Farahnik, an Iranian Jewish businessman, for a campaign fundraiser that collected close to $40,000—Nahai was a part of the efforts to campaign hard for Villaraigosa in our community. Likewise Nahai personally debated former Mayor Hahn Chief of Staff Tim McOsker in April of 2005 at a Santa Monica event attended by both Jewish and non-Jewish Iranians. At that time when I interviewed Nahai about local Iranian Jewish involved in politics he said “I’ve always said that greater political participation was bound to happen and I think we’re seeing that evolution and development happen right now in our community.”
So considering his deep involvement in politics and real passion for environmental protection, its no wonder Nahai has moved onto a more notable post with CCI. I personally would not be surprised if Nahai ran for high elected office in the near future.
October 8, 2009 | 11:18 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Earlier this year the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has wisely been engaging in a campaign to outreach to the successful and emerging Iranian Jewish community which is estimated to be between 40,000 and 45,000 in Southern California. On February 19th, the Federation officially launched its new “Iranian Outreach Initiative” with an intimate parlor meeting attended by 30 members of the Iranian Jewish community. The purpose of this meeting was to share the Federation’s goals and mission and to invite and encourage this active Iranian Jewish community to engage in the Federation’s many programs.
According to sources close to this journalist, the Federation established its “Iranian Outreach Initiative” in order to help bring together the Iranian and broader Jewish communities around shared Jewish values and interests. The initiative focuses on social and professional networking, education, Israel advocacy and social service opportunities. It also exposes Iranian Jews to the myriad involvement opportunities already existing within the Federation, including legal, medical, entertainment, financial services divisions, and the robust Israel and Overseas department. Ultimately, the initiative aims to help unify the entire Jewish community, embracing both shared and unique traditions, and strengthening the community through collaboration.
Kudos to those powers that be at the Federation for having the vision to create this initiative and realizing the true potential of the local Iranian Jewish community. As I’ve said in the past many times, Iranian American Jews living in Southern California are in a very special position where they can interact with both the Jewish community and the larger non-Jewish Iranian community, ultimately acting as a bridge between both worlds. The Iranian Jewish participation in a whole host of local programs and projects could potentially transform the entire state as Iranian Jews have gained tremendous financial, social and educational influence since their arrival in Southern California 30 years ago.
October 7, 2009 | 11:18 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
This past summer with the student uprisings over the fraudulent elections in Iran, opposition groups and those protesting against the lack of true freedom in Iran were dealt a major blow when trying to coordinate their efforts via the Internet using telecommunications technology. Little did they know their government was spying on them with more sophisticated technology.
Thanks to a joint venture of Siemens AG, the German conglomerate, and Nokia Corp., the Finnish cell phone company—one of the world’s most sophisticated mechanisms for controlling and censoring the Internet was sold to Iran’s regime and enabled the regime’s thugs to examine the content of individual online communications on a massive scale in the country. The end result of using this multi-million dollar technology were beatings, murders and imprisonments by the Iranian government against innocent young Iranians demanding greater freedoms and human rights in their homeland. Sadly not only are Siemens and Nokia facilitating the regime’s repressive practices by providing this technology to the Iranian government, but these companies are also providing the last support for the faltering Iranian economy and facilitating the regime’s diversion of funds to its illicit nuclear program by doing business with Iran.
A June 2009 article in Wall Street Journal reported that the Iranian government’s monitoring of Internet information goes well beyond blocking access to Web sites or severing Internet connections. In fact the regime has been engaged in what is known in the tech world as “deep packet inspection” that allows authorities to not only block communication but to monitor it to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for disinformation purposes. Not surprisingly during this past July’s election protests in Iran, the regime was altering information student groups were sending to each other via e-mail and through social networking websites in order to cause confusion among protestors and trap them before they could organize protests.
Nokia and Siemens’ selling of such equipment to Iran and other regimes considered repressive is not only morally reprehensible because the technology is used to crack down on dissent, but it is one of the clearest examples of multi-national corporations profiting from countries engaged in human rights abuses. For the executives at Nokia and Siemens to claim that they were unaware of the Iranian government’s use of their technology to crack down on peaceful protestors is ridiculous for anyone to believe considering the Iranian regime’s long history of censorship and reign of terror on dissidents in the country. One can’t help drawing parallel’s between Nokia and Siemens and hundreds of private corporations in Europe who during World War II benefited financially from providing technology the Nazis used to spy on dissents and ultimately eliminate their “enemies” in the concentration camps.
Shame on Nokia and Siemens for lacking the moral integrity and still selling their technology for what they clearly knew would be used against innocent people seeking greater freedoms in Iran! Both of these companies must be barred in the U.S. and elsewhere in the free world from obtaining substantial government contracts. Why should any of our tax dollars go to any company that does not have an ounce of decency when it comes to human rights violations? Thankfully the Los Angeles City government recently dealt Siemens a major blow when it decided not to grant the German company a lucrative contract for their railway project. Perhaps now Siemens will wake up to the reality that they cannot do business with the regime in Iran and at the same time also enjoy financial successes elsewhere in the world!
October 6, 2009 | 11:18 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Late last month at the end of the holy Islamic holiday of Ramadan, the Iranian government rolled out their 30 year old traditional national holiday called “Al Quds Day”. Filled with hateful anti-Semitic propaganda, the entire day through out Iran is typically dedicated to bashing Israel as well as the United States for their “crimes against the innocent Palestinian people”. Yet this year, the tables were suddenly turned against the Iranian regime when the hundreds of thousands of protestors in the streets did not join in the hate rhetoric against Israel and the U.S. as originally planned.
As a journalist fluent in the Persian language, I witnessed history in the making while watching videos on youtube.com of hundreds of thousands of young Iranian protestors who filled the streets of Tehran on Al Quds Day not to chant “death to Israel and America”, but instead chanting “death to Russia and death to China” during their demonstrations. One may wonder what young Iranians suddenly have against Russia and China when their own government has long been calling for the annihilation of Israel and America? The answer to this perplexing question is very clear— young Iranians have cleverly found a way to express their displeasure with their own government by hijacking the state-run holiday of Al Quds Day! Iranian student opposition members I recently interviewed via telephone informed me that they chanted “death to Russia and death to China” because these two countries have been the only major economic and political forces in the world keeping the teetering repressive Iranian regime in power during the last 15 years. Likewise Russian and Chinese military advisors have provided weapons and training to Iranian government thugs who have cracked down on student protestors recently in the streets. But Al Quds Day was not only used this year by student protestors to speak out against Russia and China, but for the larger purpose of sending the regime in Tehran the larger message that the majority of Iranians living in the country were unhappy with their government. Average Iranians want greater freedoms with a real democratic government that truly represents and addresses their needs.
For a month and half before this year’s Al Quds Day, during Iran’s traditional Friday prayers (also known as Namaz-e-Jomay), where Iranian Shiites have prayed in mass numbers together, the first signs of student opposition groups post-election vocal displeasure with the government began. Traditionally since the start of Iran’s revolution in 1979, a government appointed “propaganda cheerleader” has stood in front of praying crowds and chanted “death to Israel and death to America” and the crowds have always responded back with the same chant. Yet this year when the propaganda cheerleader shouted the same chant, the crowds surprisingly responded with chants of “death to Russia and death to China”. A youtube.com video shot during one Friday prayer secession also showed a large number of both young adult Iranian males and females dressed in Western garb, sitting next to each other during the Friday prayers in the streets and wearing their shoes! All three of these things are not only religiously taboo but in clear violation of Iran’s radical Islamic laws that call for women and men to sit separately during prayers, not to wear Western garb and to remove their shoes before praying. These recent trends by young Iranians are simply incomprehensible to average Iranians over the age of 30 living in Iran. Most older Iranians in Iran have long been kept in check by their repressive government that has chocked personal freedoms in the country and shoved radical Islamic theology down the population’s throat.
Yet now, unlike in past years, it seems as if the Iranian government is slowly loosing its grip of controlling the young masses with their propaganda and violent crackdowns on dissidents. The hundreds of thousands of young protestors in the streets and the millions of young Iranians under the age of 30 in country clearly out number official police or military forces. Plus savvy young Iranians have finally learned to beat the current Iranian regime’s system by manipulating it to their benefit. A clear example of this method of “fighting the system” from within was made clear to me by one student protestor I recently interviewed via telephone from Iran. She told me that when an Iranian Shiite mullah demanded that she remove her shoes during the traditional Friday prayers, she cleverly retorted; “did the late Ayatollah Khomeini not release an edict during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s that soldiers fighting in the front lines did not have to remove their boots for prayers? Well then, if I am following the Ayatollah’s edict, why do you have a problem with me?” This clever approach by young people in Iran reveals that they are exposing the hypocrisy of their own government and have slowly engaged in a non-violent civil disobedience campaign similar to those carried out by Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to fight their oppressive system from within.
Another interesting phenomenon of the Al Quds Day counter-protests by student opposition groups in Iran is that they are voicing their anger with their government’s squandering of billions of petro-dollars to funds terrorist groups like Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. Finally, young Iranians in Iran are waking up and furious at the fact that their regime spends all these funds to help fuel hate, violence and destruction elsewhere in the world when the same funds could more wisely be spent to improve the lives of average folks living in Iran. One youtube.com video I recently watched from Iran showed thousands of young Iranian protestors in Tehran chanting in unison “Not Lebanon! Not Gaza! We will sacrifice our lives only for Iran!” These average Iranians are furious at the fact that their government has spent billions of petro-dollars to help rebuild roads, bridges and other infrastructure of Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon following the 2006 war that that terrorist group had with Israel, when all the while major southwestern cities like Khorramshar in Iran have still not been rebuilt by the regime 21 years after the Iran-Iraq war! It’s no wonder average Iranians today are not participating in Al Quds Day for “Palestinian suffering” when they have double digit unemployment, double digit inflation and lack basic foods available to them at home. The inability to make ends meet has left people in Iran to take extreme measures in order to survive with many women resorting to prostitution in order to feed their families and men to even sell their organs in order to pay their bills! Another Iranian student opposition leader I spoke to recently said; “we realize the true hypocrisy of the Iranian government officials because they claim they are defending an ‘oppressed Palestinian’ people in Gaza when their own thugs oppress and kill fellow Iranians living here in Iran!”
What policy advisors in Washington D.C. and media pundits in the U.S. do not seem to realize is that the “Green Movement” that began with the “reformists” candidates in Iran like Mousavi, Kharoubi and Rafsanjani during the recently July elections has now escalated and transformed within the last two months. Student protestors in Iran are no longer listening to these “reformists” nor following the direction of these party leaders. Protestors have moved on and are quietly forming the beginnings of a more powerful movement for regime change in Iran through civil disobedience. Protestors are waking up to the reality that these “reformists” are just a part of the same apparatus and regime of the hardliners like Khamenei who want to keep the status quo instead of granting greater freedoms to average Iranians. Again, a prime example of this new “Green movement” transformation came during the recent Al Quds Day when thousands of protestors on the streets chanted “Rafsanjani, if you continue to keep silent you are a traitor!” For anyone just a year ago to utter such words in public would be grounds for their immediate execution by hanging for speaking treasonous words. Today the masses are shouting these slogans because they are simply fed up with the way the Iranian government officials have destroyed their lives. Ultimately what has transpired this past Al Quds Day may be the last if not one of the last of its kind in Iran as a new movement for greater democracy and freedom gains momentum in that country.
(This video posted on youtube.com from Iran shows the counter-Al Quds Day protests in the streets of Tehran).
(Another youtube.com video showing counter-Al Quds Day protests in Iran).
(Youtube.com video showing protestors during counter-Al Quds Day protests in the city of Esfahan).
October 5, 2009 | 11:18 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Nearly 400 local Iranians Muslims, human rights activists and members of the L.A.-based Israel educational organization Standwi.com (SWU) held signs outside the Federal Building in Westwood on Sept. 23rd demonstrating against the arrival of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the United Nations in New York City last week. Our blog’s podcast program caught up with all of the L.A. human rights protesters who gathered at the location to voice their outrage with Ahmadinejad and Iran’s current regime.
Our podcast can he heard: HERE
Waving the imperial flags of Iran from the Shah’s era, the evening rally was a unique gathering bring together local Americans and Iranians of various religions including Jews, Muslims, Christians and Bahais who were calling for greater freedoms for average individuals living in Iran. Various Iranian groups opposed to the current regime in Iran were present at the demonstration including members of the Constitutionalist Party of Iran. The turnout of protestors that evening at seven p.m. on a weeknight was quite impressive considering the traffic many individuals have to battle after work in L.A.‘s clogged freeways and streets. SWU officials said their members were also a part of a larger two and half hour demonstration on Sept. 24th outside the United Nations Plaza in Plaza along with more than ten thousand people to demand freedom for all Iranians during Ahmadinejad’s speech to the U.N.
The following are just a few photos of the protest I captured….
October 4, 2009 | 7:41 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
This reporter and blog were bombarded with e-mails and questions since last night from readers of this blog asking me whether the story published in Britain’s Daily Telegraph’s that Ahmadinejad was born a Jew had any validity. After reading the Telegraph’s original story published yesterday and consulting with a number of local Iranian Jewish scholars with regards to the story’s claims of Ahmadinejad’s supposed Jewish identity, as an Iranian Jewish journalist
I cannot verify a single shred of evidence that would suggest this story is accurate in anyway
. The article lacks any real or credible sources cited that can unequivocally prove that Ahmadinejad had any Jewish roots and it seems as if the story was just leaked to the Telegraph by “reformist” leaders in Iran as a part of a larger smear campaign against the newly “re-elected” hardliner president of Iran.
The article’s authors, Damien McElroy and Ahmad Vahdat claim that “Iranian experts” they consulted with have seen the supposed “Jewish name of Sabourjian –meaning cloth weaver” in a photo of Ahmadinejad’s identity papers from March of 2009. My main problem with this claim about the “Sabourjian” name is that the Iranian Jewish experts, scholars and religious leaders in L.A. I have interviewed today, have never heard of any Jewish family in Iran with such a name. Likewise the handful of English to Farsi dictionaries authored by Solomon Haim (a 20th century Iranian Jewish scholar of Persian language) found at UCLA’s library I have research through today
identify the word “sabour” as “the name for the Jewish tallit shawl” as both McElroy and Vahdat claim in their article! For that matter, none of the English to Farsi dictionaries I came across even had the word “sabour” nor a definition listed for it! Where these journalists came up with this nonsense about the word “sabour” having a Jewish meaning is beyond me! As an Iranian Jewish journalist fluent in the Persian language for the last 31 years, I have never heard of the word “sabour” uttered by members of my community and the Iranian Jewish community has never used this word as a reference to the Jewish prayer shawl. We Iranian Jews refer to the Jewish prayer shawl by it’s Hebrew name of “seat-seat” (the Hebrew word for the fringes of the prayer shawl) or we use the Hebrew word of “tallit” just like the millions of other Jews living on this planet.
Likewise I also have a problem with McElroy and Vahdat’s supposed expert sources they used in their article who are not even Iranian Jews nor credible scholars with any real familiarity with the subject of Iranian Jewry! The authors of the article list “Ali Nourizadeh, of the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies” in London and some Iranian internet blogger “Mehdi Khazali” as their experts who back the unproven claim that Ahmadinejad was supposedly born a Jew. Both Nourizadeh and Khazali are clearly
and my question as a reader of the article (and not as an Iranian Jewish journalist) is a simple one; why would anyone cite non-Jewish experts unfamiliar with Iranian Jewry as supposed accurate sources on a story about the Jewish origins of a country’s leader? You’d think these journalist would go through some effort to find some sort of a Jewish scholar or expert familiar with Iran to substantiate their claims—but no, McElroy and Vahdat instead rely on Iranian Muslims with
no real knowledge of Iranian Jewry
to prove their allegations of Ahmadinejad supposed Jewish roots. Therefore the articles authors’ use of these non-Jewish experts who lack any real credibility or knowledge of this topic clearly places the entire accuracy of their overall story on Ahmadinejad into question for me. Iranian Jewish experts I consulted with also said they were unable to read the unclear photo of the Ahmadinejad’s identity papers to properly verify the Telegraph’s story.
Another serious question I have with the accuracy of McElroy and Vahdat’s story is their claim that Ahmadinejad’s alleged Jewish name “is even on the list of reserved names for Iranian Jews compiled by Iran’s Ministry of the Interior”. Again I am perplexed at why these seasoned journalists would place any kind of credibility on an official Iranian government document when most experts familiar with the current Iranian regime know very well that anytime lists of names are “complied by the Iranian government” they are used by different forces in the regime for nothing more than to attack another official, party or faction in the country. The most classic and detrimental way Iranian government officials have attacked one another is to claim that the “such and such official was born a Jew, or was once a Jew who converted to Islam, or his family was Jewish a generation ago and then converted”. The “Jewish identity label” is your classic textbook example of anti-Semitism at its prime that is thrown around as a type of public insult or verbal assault officials in Iran and in most Islamic nations used against one another in smear campaigns. The Iranian Jewish experts I interviewed this morning in L.A. informed me that for one Iranian government official to call or accuse another government official of being Jewish is the equivalent to individuals or groups in the U.S. to accuse an elected official in America of being a child molester or pedophiliac! This is the sad and unfortunately reality that being a Jew in Iran has a very derogatory meaning.
The negative connotation of claiming that someone Muslim in Iran is Jewish or has Jewish roots brings me to my final analysis of the true origins of this entire Ahmadinejad-Jewish story. Iran experts here in L.A. I recently interviewed said that even before Ahmadinejad, various “reformist” leaders during the “open era” of the past Iranian President Mohammad Khatami during the 1990s and early 2000s were using “Jewishness” as a verbal assault against other rival officials they hated or against other Iranian officials who presumably had Jewish blood. Frank Nikbakht, an L.A.-based Iranian Jewish activist and director of the Committee for Minority Rights in Iran, said the accusations Iranian officials make of each other being Jewish is nothing new for Iran’s current regime. “I remember in early 2000 when members of Khatami’s reformist party in Iran accused one of their hardliner rivals, a man named Habibollah Ashkaroladi Mosalman, of having Jewish roots,” said Nikbakht in a telephone interview today. “What we are seeing today with this story of Ahmadinejad being supposedly Jewish is the same smear tactics the reformists have used in the past against their hardliner opponents”. It seems as if even the supposed “reformists” in Iran, who Obama administration officials and other Western leaders have long hail as being supposedly “open-minded”, are also now showing their true anti-Semitic tendencies by vilifying Ahmadinejad with disgusting anti-Semitic rhetoric! Why else would Ahmadinejad be such an evil and horrible dictator trying to take over the world and kill people? He must no doubt be a Jew. Sounds like garbage you might read in the classic anti-Semitic book the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”! (By the way, the Persian language copies of the Protocols have long been best sellers in Iran with more than 400 pages added to the original Russian version published in the 1880s).
As an journalist I am shocked at the lack of accurate reporting and very poor journalism in McElroy and Vahdat’s story regarding Ahmadinejad in this instance. Shame on the Daily Telegraph’s editors for publishing such inaccurate claims with no real experts familiar with Iranian Jewry cited. The reporters and editors at this paper are either completely brainless or stooges and mouth-pieces for “reformists” officials in Iran who have begun this smear campaign against Ahmadinejad. It’s poor journalism like this story that fan the fires of anti-Semitism and hate around the world. Readers and bloggers worldwide should condemn this story published by the Telegraph, call for McElroy and Vahdat’s resignation and write letters to the newspaper about their poor journalism in this instance.
Lastly, even if this story is true (which I highly doubt) it is well known in Iran that those who have converted to Islam over the years have done so because of different family disputes including inheritance rights. According to Iran’s radical Shiite Islamic laws, new converts to Islam who came from a non-Muslim family, can automatically inherit all of their dead non-Muslim relative’s assets without the need to go to probate court and their non-Muslim family members are entitled to none of the inheritances. These new Muslim converts from Judaism (also known as “jadid-ol-eslam” or new to Islam) today and in the past have typically been the most anti-Semitic of Muslims living in Iran.