To mark today’s festival of Purim, Jeff Goldberg writes in the New York Times about Iranian antisemitism:
“Three years ago, while visiting Tehran, I was introduced to a charmless man named Muhammad Ali Samadi, who, I was told, would parse for me the Iranian theocracy’s peculiar understanding of Judaism and Zionism. Mr. Samadi said that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, held no brief for anti-Semitism. Then, a moment later, he deployed an epidemiological metaphor to explain the role of Jews in history. “There are always infections and diseases in man,” he said. “In the world there is an infection called international Jewry.”
(…) As chance would have it, it was on Purim that I tried to cross from Iran to Iraq. Purim is the famously disorderly holiday, celebrated today, that commemorates the hairbreadth escape of Persia’s Jews from annihilation at the hands of the evil vizier Haman. The Purim story is recounted in the Scroll of Esther, which was read last night, Purim eve, in synagogues all over the world — including those in Iran, which is home to a remnant of a great and exceedingly old Jewish community. Judaism predates Islam in Iran by 1,000 years.
“Purim is the ne plus ultra of the “They Tried to Murder Us, They Failed, Let’s Eat” subcategory of Jewish holidays, and it is a self-consciously raucous day, a Jewish Mardi Gras when even rabbis are expected to drink themselves oblivious. It is possible to imagine, though, that Iran’s intermittently persecuted Jews, living today under a president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who denies the historical truth of the European Holocaust while threatening a new Middle Eastern one, might see Purim not as a story of tragedy averted but as one of tragedy foretold.”