Ahmadinejad keen to prove he is not anti-Jewish

The Guardian have discovered the Jews of Iran and their sole Majlis representative, Maurice Motamed. They have also managed to interview a childhood friend of President Ahmadinejad. To prove he is no antisemite the president is about to make some symbolic gesture towards the Jews of Iran, the friend confides.

We can hardly wait, Mr President… (With thanks: Albert)

“Although he took on Mr Ahmadinejad over the Holocaust, Mr Motamed supports the president on other issues, including the stand-off with the US, Europe and Israel over the country’s nuclear programme. “I am an Iranian first and a Jew second,” he said.

“He acknowledged there were problems with being a Jew in Iran, as there were for the country’s other minorities. But he said that Iran was relatively tolerant. “There is no pressure on the synagogues, no problems of desecration. I think the problem in Europe is worse than here. There is a lot of anti-semitism in other countries.”

“Most of his family, including his mother, father and sisters, left after the 1979 revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power, as did 75,000 other Jews, heading mainly for Israel, the US and Europe. But Mr Motamed, 61, an engineer, opted to remain. “I love my homeland.”

“Jews have been living in Iran in large numbers since Cyrus the Great freed them from slavery when he captured Babylon in 539BC. Members of the Jewish community in Iran today, for the most part, keep a low profile and many Iranians are unaware of their presence. Mr Motamed said there were about 14,000 Jews in Tehran, which has 20 active synagogues; 6,000-7,000 in Shiraz; 2,000 in Estafan and small groups scattered throughout the rest of the country.

“He confirmed Jews and other minorities were all excluded from “sensitive” senior posts in the military and judiciary. And the authorities refuse to allow Jewish schools to close on the sabbath, a normal working day for the rest of Iran.

“But Mr Motamed said there had been improvements in other areas. Legislation was introduced three years ago overturning a judicial practice of awarding more compensation to the families of Muslim accident victims than to those of Jews. And when he complained in the chamber about a TV soap opera regularly portraying rabbis as evil, he said the speaker of the Majlis expressed support for him.

“Nasser Hadian-Jazy, associate professor of political science at Tehran University and a childhood friend of the president, said Mr Ahmadinejad was keen to put the Holocaust row behind him.

“I asked him, ‘Are you anti-Jew?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ I said, ‘Why not go to a synagogue to express regret for what Iranians have done to Jews?’ … He said, ‘I have another idea, a better idea.’

He will do something to show he is not anti-Jewish. I hope he will do it soon. He will make a gesture to the Jews in Iran and that has implications for Jews elsewhere. What he will say is very important and will remove the idea that he is anti-semite.”

Saeed Jalili, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and another close friend of Mr Ahmadinejad, said the Jewish seat in the Majlis “tells you that we have no problems with Judaism” but he added that he had not heard of any planned gesture by Mr Ahmadinejad.

“The Jewish community in this country are very fairly treated … Of course, a symbolic gesture is good and well, but we think that what we do is more than symbolic.”

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  • Middle East politics are indeed very complex.Israel and Iran ARE natural allies, but I disagree with you that if only Israel withdrew from the Golan, Shebaa farms and Jerusalem, hey presto! all would be well. Israel is not killing ‘thousands of Sh’ites’ in southern Lebanon – I think you will find the Sh’ites of southern Lebanon are hostages to Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a threat to the Lebanese government, no less than to Israel.

  • Iranians are not anti-Jewish. First of all Iran is not an Arab country. If Israelis were not so cruel to the Shiites in southern Lebanon, and would allow Jerusalem to become an international city instead of making it their “eternal capital”, most Iranians would favor normalization of relations between the two countries. In many ways Iran and Israel are natural allies. Iran is very much alone in the Middle East, the same way Israel is, because it adheres to the Shi’ite creed, and is a non-Arab country that has challenged the leadership of a predominantly Sunni Arab Middle East. Iranians support the Palestinian cause, because the Palestinians (both Christian and Muslim) were brutally displaced and uprooted from a homeland they lived in for centuries, but NO Iranian is willing to die for the predominantly Sunni Palestinians (who deep down in their hearts sympathize with Sunni insurgents in Iraq killing Shi’ites), and whereas Egypt went to war four times for the Palestinians, Iranians will not even entertain the thought of going to war for them even once…for Jerusalem yes, for the Palestinian people, no.

    Shi’ite, non-Arab Iran, like Turkey and Israel, has few friends in the Middle East. Arab countries cannot tolerate the thought of a powerful Shi’ite entity in the Middle East, the same way the thought of a Jewish entity in the Middle East has always been anathema to them.

    Israel needlessly made enemies out of Shi’ites by slaughtering thousands of Shi’ite Lebanese over two soldiers. Not only did she not get back the two soldiers, she lost over 200 soldiers, (with some more being captured in addition to the two). Ironically, it is a Shi’ite country, the Republic of Azerbaijan, from where Israel gets over 40 percent of her oil.

    Iran, like Israel, is the object of hatred among most Arab nations. Turkey of course, has always been the object of hatred among Arabs. Arabs have not forgotten centuries of brutal Ottoman rule, and in turn, Turks have never forgiven Arabs, their fellow Muslims, for betraying them with the help of the non-Muslim British and revolting against them during WWI (had the Arabs not committed this folly, Israel would have never been created, and even if it had, it would not be as big as it is today).

    Shi’ites are now the Jews of the Middle East, persecuted and oppressed in Bahrain (where a Sunni minority oppresses a Shi’ite majority), in predominantly Shi’ite eastern Saudi Arabia (al-Qatif/al-Hasa region) where they are not even allowed to observe Ashura in public and are considered heretics, and in other Gulf countries. In Lebanon they are the largest sect, yet the only position the Lebanese Constitution affords them is Speaker of the House.

    If Israel would cede control of Jerusalem to an international governing body, stop killing Shi’ites in southern Lebanon, and give up Sheb’aa farms, return the Golan Heights to Syria (an ally of Iran ruled by Alawites who are technically Shi’ites but a different kind than Iranians), she would find an ally among Iran and Shi’ites.

    Iran is taking alot of crap from Arab countries for asserting control over three small islands in the Persian Gulf (which Arabs call the Arabian Gulf), yet Arabs do not realize those three islands were occupied by Iran in exchange for Iran renouncing her legitimate claims to Bahrain.

    Ironically Israel is indirectly helping a predominantly Sunni Arab world maintain its power in the Gulf, through her tight alliance and cooperation with the United States, whose Fifth Fleet in Bahrain protects the interests of Gulf Sunnis, including the corrupt Sunni Al-Khalifa family of Bahrain.

    As you can see Middle East politics are very complex.


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