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

Can President Trump Break Free of Conventional Wisdom about the Peace Process?

President Trump arrives in Israel today on the heels of a series of seeming fissures in his administration’s promising relationship with the Jewish state. First, a low-level American diplomat stated that the Western Wall is not part of Israel; when asked, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster then declined to express an opinion on the issue. Thereafter, Prime Minister Netanyahu was reportedly requested not to be on hand at the president’s upcoming visit to the Western Wall. Lee Smith comments:

Donald Trump was elected because he was going to drain the swamp, and there is no fouler cesspool in U.S. foreign policy than the peace process. It’s an industry that creates a lobby of many thousand creeps around the world who have a vested interest in prolonging a pointless exercise regardless of how many Israeli, Arab, or American lives are sacrificed along the way so they can go on mouthing platitudes at Davos. Trump is not going to walk away from the peace process because the swamp will drag him in—it already has. . . .

Trump is the guy who was supposed to have seen through this garbage and was determined to back his words with actions. Being a good ally—as Trump promised—means supporting the Israelis 100 percent in international fora, sharing intelligence, and arming Israel’s fighters to the teeth so that they can send to the next world as quickly as possible as many terrorists as it takes to ensure peace. So what does Trump think now? That the millions of American children, Jewish and Christian, who read the Bible in Saturday or Sunday school learn that Jerusalem isn’t actually the capital of the Jewish people and the center of their religious and national yearnings for 3,500 years—no, it’s a mere detail that will have to be settled in final negotiations.

But what about the peace process? Isn’t that important to Israel’s future—indeed, to its very survival? Here’s another news flash: Israel is doing fine. Its economy is booming. . . .

One of the reasons Trump isn’t moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, at least not now, as he promised, is that he doesn’t want to upset other American allies, like Saudi Arabia. It’s good for America that Trump wants to reinvigorate the American alliance system in the Middle East, . . . but let’s be serious: what are the Saudis going to do if their American protector decides it’s moving its embassy to the Israeli capital? Retaliate by losing $5 billion out of the $100-billion arms deal the Saudis [were] cutting with Trump this weekend for the sole and explicit purpose of making sure the president’s mind is focused on Iran?

Read more at Tablet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, Western Wall