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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

The Threats Posed to Israel by a Palestinian State

Oct. 23 2017

To the IDF reserve general Gershon Hacohen, the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank would, given the current circumstances of the Middle East, create a graver danger for the Jewish state than either Iran or Hizballah. More damaging still, he argues, is the attitude among many Israelis that the two-state solution is a necessity for Israel. He writes:

Since the Oslo process began in the fall of 1993, dramatic changes have occurred in the international arena. . . . For then-Prime Minister Yitzḥak Rabin, Oslo was based on the superpower status of the U.S. . . . At the time, the Arabs were in a state of crisis and aware of their weakness—all the more so after the U.S. vanquished Iraq in the First Gulf War in the winter of 1991. . . . It was that awareness of weakness, along with the PLO leadership’s state of strategic inadequacy, that paved the way for the Oslo process.

[But] over the [intervening] years, the America’s hegemonic power has declined while Russia has returned to play an active and very influential role. . . .

Something essential has changed, too, with regard to expectations in the Israeli-Palestinian sphere. At first, in the early days of Oslo, the expectations were of mutual goodwill and reconciliation. Over the years, however, as the cycle of blood has continued, the belief in Palestinian acceptance of Israel in return for Israeli concessions has been transformed in the Israeli discourse into nothing more than the need to separate from the Palestinians—“They’re there, we’re here”—solely on our own behalf.

The more the proponents of separation have honed their efforts to explain to Israeli society that separation is mandated by reality, enabling Israel to preserve its identity as Jewish and democratic, the more the Palestinians’ bargaining power has grown. If a withdrawal from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state is a clear-cut Israeli interest, if the Israelis must retreat in any case for the sake of their own future, why should the Palestinians give something in return? . . . Hence the risk is increasing that a withdrawal from the West Bank will not only fail to end the conflict but will in fact lead to its intensification.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Oslo Accords, Russia, Two-State Solution