July 17, 2012
Anti-Semitism in Iran: Worse than you think [UPDATE: FARSI TRANSLATION]
In Tehran last month, during a ceremony marking the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Iran’s current vice president, Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, launched an anti-Semitic tirade.
I am fluent in Farsi and understood 100 percent of what he said from watching his speech online. Rahimi blamed the spread of drugs on the teachings of the Talmud, claiming that “the Talmud teaches Jews how to destroy non-Jews and that 80 percent of America’s wealth is in the hands of 6 percent of the world’s Jewish population.” Likewise, he blamed an unnamed Jewish gynecologist in America for once sterilizing 8,000 Native Americans, which he claimed was in accordance with the teachings of Talmud. At the same time, Rahimi went on to blame the Jews for a series of other world calamities, including the long laundry list that can, by and large, be found in the classic 1880s Russian anti-Semitic book “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” (By the way, the Farsi copies of “Protocols” have long been best-sellers in Iran, with more than 400 pages added to the original 1880s Russian version.)
While the international media surprisingly gave substantial coverage to this vile speech made by an Iranian government official, making headlines worldwide, I was frankly not surprised to hear these comments from Rahimi. The truth of the matter is that 99.9 percent of the Iranian regime’s officials make such anti-Semitic comments regularly and believe every single word that comes out of their mouths in public. Yet, what should worry the Western world is the vile anti-Semitic accusations made by supposed “reformists” and “green party” leaders in Iran’s regime against one another or their opponents who also work in the Iranian government. The most classic and detrimental way Iranian government officials can attack 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 thrown around as a type of public insult or verbal assault. Officials in Iran and in most Islamic nations use it against one another in smear campaigns. For one Iranian government official to call or accuse another government official of being Jewish is the equivalent of individuals or groups in the United States accusing an elected official in America of being a child molester or pedophile.
The result is that being referred to as “Jewish” has a very derogatory meaning in Iran. Perhaps the best examples of Iranian regime members being publicly “smeared” with the “Jewish identity label” have been Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his senior adviser Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. On a regular basis in Iran, opponents of Ahmadinejad tell the public there’s no doubt Ahmadinejad or his cronies are “bad or foolish” people — because only a “supposed Jew or one of Jewish blood could be so evil in the world.” Another example of this “Jewish identity label” occurred during the 1990s and early 2000s, when Iran’s former president Mohammad Khatami or other “reformists” in the regime regularly accused hated rival officials of having Jewish blood. (My blog piece in 2009 uncovered the bogus story circulating worldwide that Ahmadinejad supposedly had Jewish ancestry.)
This form of anti-Semitism in Iran may seem to most observers in the United States or Europe merely dirty mudslinging that occurs in Iranian politics. Yet just this type of anti-Semitism should raise a red flag to everyone in the free world, because one day, should the current regime in Iran collapse, the supposed “reformists” who spew this type of hate speech today against Jews could potentially use this type of anti-Semitism as an excuse to blame hardliners for Iran’s destruction. At the same time, their comments could directly or indirectly fan some in the Iranian-Muslim population to lash out against the 10,000 to 25,000 Jews still living in Iran. No doubt both “reformists” and “hardliners” in Iran’s regime would not want to accept credit for the failures and heinous crimes against humanity committed by the regime’s current leaders, should the regime collapse one day. So, blaming the Jews for their own failures would be an ideal and classic scapegoat policy for them to pursue.
Finally, the only thing that should surprise anyone about Rahimi’s speech was that he did not attack Israel or Zionism, as most Iranian officials typically do per the regime’s policy. He went out of bounds and clearly attacked Jews and their religion, which reveals the Iranian regime’s true hatred of Jews. The Iranian regime’s propaganda English-language media outlets online quickly retranslated Rahimi’s speech on their sites by replacing his references to Jews with references to Zionists. The regime’s state-run news sites tried to do “media damage control” for Rahimi, but they failed miserably because his comments made in the Persian language can be translated by native Persian-language speakers who know that the words he said were insanely anti-Semitic. The Iranian regime still expects the world to remain stupid enough to believe their bogus propaganda and that they “love the Jews” and have “given freedom to the Jews” living in Iran today.
Karmel Melamed, an attorney, writes the “Iranian American Jews” blog at jewishjournal.com.