Jewish Journal

The fate of the Jews in Iran after the election violence

by Karmel Melamed

June 27, 2009 | 10:30 pm

Iranian Jewish school boys hold placards during a sham protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza, in front of the U.N. office in Tehran on December 30, 2008.

During the recent uprisings in Iran following the June 12th elections in that country, I have been approached by dozens of individuals asking me what is going on in Iran’s Jewish community today. The simple answer is pure fear

. An emotion which is nothing new to Jewish minorities who have lived and somehow survived massacres, pogroms, as well as forced conversions in Iran for the past 2,700 years. Iranian Jewish fear is not only present today among the Jews in Iran but has also gripped thousands of Iranian Jews living in Southern California and New York. My piece this week in the Jewish Journal explores the fear that the Iranian American Jewish community is experiencing.

Since the current crisis broke out in Iran, I have had scores of Iranian Jewish activists and leaders repeatedly remind me to “watch” what I write about with regards to the government in Iran. They fear that what is said by our community in the U.S. may possible jeopardize the lives of the Jews living in Iran. This fear is so powerful in the Iranian American Jewish community that some individuals and community leaders will not even publicly comment on why they have decided to remain silent about their true feelings concerning the conflict on the streets of Iran! They not only believe that the regime of radical Islamic clerics may seek retributions in the form of violence against their Jewish brethren in Iran, but they also feel as if the regime’s thugs will manipulate any statements the Iranian American Jews make to news media outlets to divert the attention from the regime’s human rights violations after the election. Now while you may see many Iranian American Jews joining the hundreds of protesters in L.A.’s Westwood Village holding up banners against the regime in Iran, not many of them will openly criticize the regime on the record for a news media outlet.

This journalist’s sources here in Southern California and in Iran reveal the reality that the Jews of Iran are trying to stay out of the conflict on the streets of Tehran. They are essentially staying neutral with regards to the political battle between the “hardliners” and “reformists” in the Iranian regime. Nevertheless, my sources have informed me that young Jews have been among the Iranian student protesters injured and even arrested by the Iranian government following the election. What many American Jews and those unfamiliar with Iranian Jewish history do not realize is that Iran’s Jews have always found a way not to take sides when political or social crises occur in Iran. Perhaps the best example of this occured during the 1906 Constitutional Revolution when many in Iran wanted a form of a representive type democratic government with a constitution. Iran’s Muslim majority approached the Jews threatening them to either accept or refuse the new constiutional government or face death. To these demands Iran’s Jews in 1906 responded with a popular saying that community members in L.A. recall; “as has been dictated to us by the country’s Muslims, we also do not want a constitutional government.  While Iran’s Jews had not this year nor have they ever endorsed any candidates during the last 30 years in Iran, the community shares positive relations with many of the supposed “reformist” politicians including Mehdi Karroubi. During his campaign, Karroubi, who himself a follower of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, did briefly speak about improving rights for Iran’s minorities. Yet Iran’s Jews have not openly sided with the “reformists” nor with the regime’s “hardliners” for fear that may either side of the political power struggle clamp down on the Jews for saying anything advantageous. The upheaval in Iran today only reinforces the long hard reality that the Jews still living in Iran are essentially hostages of the regime! The not only place their own lives at risk but they also serve as the perfect scapegoats and propaganda tools for Iran’s radical Islamic regime to abuse at any time. Those interested in reading about how Iran’s Jews have been used as propaganda puppets for the regime in Iran can read my previous pieces here and here.

Lastly, I leave apologists for the Iranian government and those who still want to negotiate with Iran’s brutal dictators with one observation; if the killing of innocent demonstrators in Iran is how the regime in Tehran treats its own Shiite Muslim population, then I do not want to know how the Iranian government will treat non-Muslims in the West should the regime attain nuclear weapons!

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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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