Jewish Journal

New Jewish center in Iran, just another publicity stunt

by Karmel Melamed

September 3, 2007 | 3:54 pm

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!

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Karmel Melamed is an internationally-published freelance journalist based in Southern California.

Since 2000, Melamed has specialized in covering the growing influential...

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