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The Truth of Iran’s Jewish Community

March 16 2017

Earlier this week, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, accused Benjamin Netanyahu of “resorting to fake history” and “falsifying [the] Torah” when the latter drew a historical parallel between the Purim story and contemporary relations between Israel and the Islamic Republic. Zarif went on to cite past instances of Iranian beneficence toward Jews as well as to make the claim—frequently cited by his government’s apologists—that Iran remains a welcoming place for Jews. The truth is different, writes Michael Rubin:

How often have pundits talked about the Islamic Republic’s supposed tolerance for Jews by citing the fact that . . . Iran is home to perhaps 20,000 Jews, supposedly the second-greatest Jewish population in the Middle East besides Israel?

Let’s put aside the fact that no one knows just how many Jews are in Iran today. The 20,000 figure has been bandied about since the 1990s, even though many Jews continue to leave Iran for Israel or the United States. And also put aside the fact that the “second largest community” doesn’t mean anything when the difference between the first and the second are several orders of magnitude. . . . What matters is that, under the regime that Zarif represents, Iran has lost at least 80 percent of its Jewish population. That’s generally not a sign that Iran is a welcoming and healthy place for Jews to thrive or even live. . . .

Beyond that, though, [has] Iran [historically been] safe for Jews? It depends. Pogroms—as vicious as any in Eastern Europe—[were frequent in] 19th-century Iran. Then there were the restrictive rules: in 1889, for example, the government prohibited Jews in Isfahan from going outside on wet days lest rainwater spread their impurity. Jews were also forbidden from touching food, speaking loudly, or purchasing any goods in the market. . . .

It is true that, at times, Iran was a relative haven for the Jews. The irony here, though, is that the regime represented by Zarif not only overthrew an Iranian state that allowed its Jewish minority to thrive but also sought to close the door on the laudable regimes of the distant past.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Semitism, History & Ideas, Iran, Javad Zarif, Persian Jewry

 

Why Cutting U.S. Funding for Palestinian “Refugees” Is the Right Move

Jan. 22 2018

Last week the Trump administration announced that it is withholding some of America’s annual contribution to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the organization tasked with providing humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees and their descendants. To explain why this decision was correct, Elliott Abrams compares UNRWA with the agency run by the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), which provides humanitarian aid to refugees who are not Palestinian:

One of [UNHCR’s] core missions is “ending statelessness.” [By contrast, UNRWA’s] mission appears to be “never ending statelessness.” A phrase such as “ending statelessness” would be anathema and is found nowhere on its website. Since 1950, UNHCR has tried to place refugees in permanent new situations, while since 1950 UNRWA has with its staff of 30,000 “helped” over 5 million Palestinian “refugees” to remain “refugees.” . . . UNRWA has three times as large a staff as UNHCR—but helps far fewer people than the 17 million refugees UNHCR tries to assist. . . .

The argument for cutting funding to UNRWA is not primarily financial. The United States is an enormously generous donor to UNHCR, providing just under 40 percent of its budget. I hope we maintain that level of funding. . . . The argument for cutting funding to UNRWA instead rests on two pillars. The first is that UNRWA’s activities repeatedly give rise to concern that it has too many connections to Hamas and to rejectionist ideology. . . .

But even if those flaws were corrected, this would not solve the second and more fundamental problem with UNRWA—which is that it will perpetuate the Palestinian “refugee” problem forever rather than helping to solve it. . . . [T]hat the sole group of refugees whom the UN keeps enlarging is Palestinian, and that the only way to remedy this under UN definitions would be to eliminate the state of Israel or have 5 million Palestinian “refugees” move there should simply be unacceptable. . . .

Perpetuating and enlarging the Palestinian “refugee” crisis has harmed Israel and it has certainly harmed Palestinians. Keeping their grievances alive may have served anti-Israel political ends, but it has brought peace no closer and it has helped prevent generations of Palestinians from leading normal lives. That archipelago of displaced-persons and refugee camps that once dotted Europe [in the aftermath of World War II] is long gone now, and the descendants of those who tragically lived in those camps now lead productive and fruitful lives in many countries. One can only wish such a fate for Palestinian refugee camps and for Palestinians. More money for UNRWA won’t solve anything.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Israel & Zionism, Palestinians, Refugees, U.S. Foreign policy, UNRWA