The Simon Wiesenthal Center hosted more than two-dozen representatives from local Iranian Muslim news outlets this month to provide them with information about the Holocaust that they can, in turn, use to educate their readers, listeners and viewers.
âWe are looking to introduce the Iranian media to the Wiesenthal Center and to respond to the hatred of Jews in Iran,â Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the centerâs associate dean, said in remarks to the group. âWe want you to expose the lies and hatred coming from the Iranian government.â
Cooper was referring to recent statements by Iranâs new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian leader has implied that the Holocaust is a myth; on another occasion he asserted that Israel should be obliterated and that a homeland for Jews could be located instead in Europe or America.
Ahmadinejadâs comments have recently energized the Southern California-based Persian-language media to support Israel publicly and to speak out against anti-Semetic remarks made by Iranian government officials for the first time in the 26 years since the Islamic revolution. A pro-Israel rally in Westwood drew nearly 2,000 Iranians from various religions last November.
At the weekend gathering, Iranian journalists talked of a duty to learn more about the Holocaust so they could properly relay the full extent of Nazi atrocities to their audiences.
âIt is our responsibility to give people in the Iranian community the correct information about this issue,â said Parviz Kardan, a Persian-language media personality and host of the radio program âA Spoonful of Sugarâ on KIRN 670 AM. âWe must be a window for young Iranians everywhere to show history in the proper light.â
Those in attendance were given an electronic card with the name and photograph of a child who lived during the era of the Holocaust. At the end of the tour, they discovered what happened to that child.
âI was aware of the Holocaust, but not to the extent of what I learned from this visit,â said Assadollah Morovati, owner of Radio Sedaye Iran (KRSI), a Persian-language satellite-radio station based in Beverly Hills that broadcasts news into Iran and worldwide. âIn Iran we have a dictator like Hitler who is behaving like him and speaking like him.â
The journalistsâ tour guide was Holocaust survivor Peter Daniels, who had his own perspective on Ahmadinejad.
âWeâve dealt with Holocaust deniers for years,â Daniels said. âThe president of Iran is not anything new. Itâs a way for them to be heard and get attention. I try not to take it personally.â
In a question-and-answer period following the tour, Cooper noted that Ahmadinejadâs statements may be an attempt to divert attention from Iranâs alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons. But he urged the Iranian media representatives to respond to them nevertheless.
âThe average American thinks the president of Iran speaks for all Iranians,â Cooper told them. âThey donât know the region well, so you need to have a core message.â He also urged them to reach out to U.S. elected officials âto voice your concern for the safety of your friends and family in Iran.â
Local Iranian Jewish leaders George Haroonian and Bijan Khalli were involved in setting up the Museum of Tolerance event. They said they felt a responsibility as Jews to inform their non-Jewish Iranian compatriots about the truth of the Holocaust.
âForgetfulness about the Holocaust is like committing a crime,â Haroonian told the crowd of Iranian journalists in Persian. The Iranian government is âtrying to teach hatred for Jews. We hope this tour will be a step to awaken the Iranian people.â
This article was originally published by the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles:
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