No, the Iranian Shah Didn’t Rename His Country to Please Hitler

In a recent book, the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy claims that Reza Shah Pahlavi, the founder of Iran’s last dynasty, changed his country’s official name from Persia to Iran to make a good impression on Nazi Germany. The latter name is related to the word “Aryan,” which was used by the ancient people of the area stretching from Iraq to India to describe themselves, as well as by such Western writers as Herodotus. In the late-19th century, it began to be used by European historians and was eventually adopted by German race theorists. But, writes Amir Taheri, Lévy not only gets the story wrong but also unwittingly repeats a piece of propaganda that originated with Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers:

Trying to justify their [own] anti-Semitism, expressed through anti-Israel rhetoric, the ruling mullahs claim that they are continuing an old national tradition. To back that claim they trace their policy to Reza Shah, the man who founded the Pahlavi dynasty, [which was later overthrown by the self-styled Islamic revolution]. FARS, the news agency run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, ran a long feature detailing what it claims are Reza Shah’s misdeeds, including his promotion of “Aryanism,” allegedly under Nazi influence, [in order to discredit him]. . . .

All that isn’t surprising; Reza Shah and his promotion of patriotism was the polar opposite of Khomeini [and his worldview, which emphasizes religion over nationalism]. . . .

Consciousness of Iran and Iranian-ness [as opposed to a narrower sense of Persian identity] has been a theme of hundreds of poets writing in modern Persian, the lingua franca of Iranian peoples, for over 1100 years. Many of them were born and lived in lands that are not part of present-day Iran and had as their mother tongues other languages of the Iranic or Indo-Iranian linguistic family; but all saw themselves as Iranians. . . .

[I]n 1936, Hitler’s government tried to classify Iranian Jews as “Semites” and thus sub-humans. Iran protested and argued that as far as Iranian Jews were concerned, Judaism was a religion, not a racial category, and that Iranian Jews should be regarded as Aryans. Iranians insisted that Cyrus the Great had liberated the Jews from bondage in Babylon 25 centuries earlier and that Iranian Jews had been Iranian long enough not to be divested of their identity. Hitler set up a committee . . . to arbitrate. . . . The committee recommended that Iranian Jews be exempted from Nazi racial profiling, and Hitler agreed. . . .

[This was] the reality of the situation under Reza Shah who abolished many of the last remaining restrictions against Jews and other religious minorities, a process that had started 50 years earlier under Nassereddin Shah.

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Read more at Kayhan London

More about: Adolf Hitler, Anti-Semitism, Ayatollah Khomeini, History & Ideas, Iran

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary], approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat