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 Pernicious Claim That Israel Exists Because of the Holocaust

April 25 2017

Even more common than the insidious suggestion that Jews make too much of the Holocaust or cynically use it to their advantage is the related notion that they were given the state of Israel as compensation for their suffering at the hands of Nazis. Labeling this claim “Zionism denial” because it ignores the persistent efforts to create a Jewish state long before World War II, Einat Wilf addresses the corollary insinuation that Palestinians have been allowed to suffer at the hands of Jews because of European guilt over the Shoah:

The deceptively seductive canard that “the Palestinians are the secondary victims of Europe’s crimes” is one of the worst lies [about Israel’s founding], since to the untrained ear it sounds logical. In this tale, after World War II, when it became clear that the Final Solution was not final and that the Jewish survivors could not be expected or welcomed to stay in Europe, the Europeans decided to “dump” the surviving Jews on unsuspecting Arabs who were living in an area that colonial Europe controlled. . . .

[But] Israel exists not because the Europeans dumped the surviving Jews in a colony in the Middle East. Israel exists because the Jews willed it into existence. The modern state of Israel exists because the Jews who created it believed themselves to be descendants of the Israelites and Judeans who were sovereign there in ancient times and paid a high price for preserving their separate existence as a people. The modern state of Israel exists because for centuries and millennia Jews kept yearning for Israel, ending the Passover seder with the words, “next year in Jerusalem.”

In fact, if it were not for Arab resistance and Britain’s betrayal [of its duties as the Mandate power] and submission to Arab pressures, the Holocaust as such might not have taken place. Jews would have been able to escape Europe to their ancient homeland in what was already a widely supported embryonic state. They would have had a . . . country to which to immigrate freely at a time when Hitler was still willing to let the Jewish people go. Israel came into being after World War II not “thanks” to the Holocaust, but thanks to Britain’s imperial dissolution.

Read more at Daily Beast

More about: Anti-Semitism, British Mandate, Holocaust, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict