Month: August 2006

Mind the gap…

‘Point of return’ will be taking a break. Posting will resume in September.

Most Iranian youth disapprove of regime

With the conflict between Iranian-backed Hezbollah and Israel, a local Californian newspaper asks some of the 50,000 Iranian Jews now settled in the state their views on the Iranian regime. (With thanks: Albert)

“I am not torn,” said Farzaneh, a 44-year-old Encino mother of three who asked that her last name not be used because she fears retribution against her family in Iran.

“There is a definite distinction between Israel and Iran. I feel connected to Iran culturally. That is where I was born and picked up good, rich, ancient culture. But what Iran’s regime has been doing for the last 20 years, I have nothing to identify with.”

For half of the 20th century, Iran was a hospitable place for Jews. They had been there for 2,700 years, longer than Jews had remained in any one country.

After Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi came to power in 1941, Jews began to prosper. He gave them their best treatment since the 5th century B.C., when ruler Cyrus the Great freed Jews from captivity in Babylon and allowed them to return to Israel.

But then came the Islamic revolution. The shah was deposed in 1979, and an estimated 70,000 Jews left.

Still, almost 30 years after the revolution, Iranian-American Jews temper what they say about Iran, lest more caustic words cause retaliation against the 20,000 Jews remaining in Iran.

And in the past year tensions have escalated even further as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” He claimed the Holocaust did not occur. And he said the road to peace begins with the obliteration of Israel.

However, scholars see a cause for optimism in Iran.

“The overwhelming majority of youths disapprove of this regime,” said Eliz Sanasarian, a University of Southern California political science professor and author of “Religious Minorities in Iran.”

“You cannot have this kind of a regime going for another 10 years with this group of young people growing up.”

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‘A good Muslim must be a Zionist ‘ – The Koran

David Yeagley’s piece about the Koran’s Zionism was prompted by what he felt was an ignorant and naive interview of Iranian President Ahmadinejad by Mike Wallace of the US TV programme Sixty minutes. (With thanks: Albert)

“The Qur’an doesn’t condemn the state of Israel. Why do Muslims become hysterically murderous over it? Yes, the Qur’an sanctions and encourages aversion towards Jews and Christians, but there is no specific injunction of hate toward a nation of Israel. Did the prophet’s vision fail to reach modern times? ”

“Mike Wallace recently procured with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Wallace gave opportunity for Ahmadinejad to profess a fair and equitable disposition toward the Jews. Why, Iran has no problem with Jews. Look at the large and ancient Jewish population of Iran. Look at the number of Iranian parliamentary seats held by Jews (one, actually – ed).

“It is only the state of Israel that Ahmadinejad condemns. He asks why the Jews insist on a state in the midst of “our Arab homeland.” Why can’t the Jews have their state in Europe, in Germany, or in the United States?

“Ahmadinejad doesn’t want to destroy Jews. He simply doesn’t want a state of Jews in the middle of the “Arab homeland.”

“This is error on all sides. First of all, the Wallace interview offers a pretentiously naïve view of Iran, Islam, and Ahmadinejad. It intentionally presents a fabricated “good” side, and Wallace insisted on the wonderful humanness of Ahmadinejad. The Iranian madman was cordial, warm, and very rational.

“Secondly, if Wallace is so ignorant of Iranians not to know they are the most charming, magical people in the world, then he shouldn’t have gone to Tehran for an interview. He was a dupe from the outset.

“Thirdly, Wallace is so historically ignorant as to accept the false notion that Palestine is Arab homeland, or not to notice that Ahmadinejad identified himself with the Arabs when he is the Persian president of modern Persia (Iran), then Wallace should never have undertaken a conversation.

“Finally, if Wallace is uninformed of the actual teaching of the Qur’an, and the fact that it does not condemn any state of Israel, then he should have consulted with someone before prostrating so pretentiously before the great and mighty Oz of Iran.

“All the Qur’an does say about Jews in Palestine is simply a recount of their original entry into Canaan. “O my people! Enter the holy land which God has assigned unto you” (5:22). “We settled the Children of Israel in a beautiful dwelling place, and provided for them sustenance of the best” (10:93), and “Dwell securely in the land of promise” (17:104). (…)

If the prophet did not condemn Israel for being in Palestine the first time, why do the mullahs get hysterical about the Jews there now?

In 1999, when I visited Astan Quds Razavi University (a Shi’ite theological seminary in Masshad), Professor Khazee Ali pushed the same line. “We have no objection to Jews in Palestine. It is the ruling state of Israel that is unjust and immoral.” Fine. Just don’t say that’s what the Qur’an teaches.

Islamic Professor Abdul Hadi Palazzi is quoted in the July 2, 2001, Washington Times: “A good Muslims must be a Zionist.” “Classical Islamic sources do not support the so-called ‘Islamic anti-Zionism’ preached by radical groups.” “The idea of making Islam a factor that prevents Arabs from recognizing any sovereign right of Jews over Palestine is an artificial apparatus that has no precedent in Islamic classical sources.” Sheik Palazzi is director of the Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community.

So, Muslims have a choice about what to believe, after all.

On the other hand, the Qur’an leaves the door wide open for the most base anti-Semitism—and hatred of anyone who isn’t a Muslim. But that’s another column.

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Iranian Jews feel dutybound to support Israel

An emotional evening (featuring an address by Karnit Goldwasser, wife of one of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers) capped weeks of urgent fundraising on behalf of Israel by the 30,000 strong Iranian Jews living in Southern California and 15,000 Iranian Jews living in New York, the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles reports. (With thanks: Albert)

“The giving has special meaning for Jews who not long ago enjoyed the umbrella of protection Israel offered them while living in Iran. Now, they feel a sense of duty to support Israel at a time when it is being threatened by Iran.

“We are the children of parents who were born and raised in Iran’s ghettos during the Holocaust and the subsequent birth of the state of Israel,” said Sam Kermanian, secretary general of the IAJF, which is based in Los Angeles. “I think we have a keen understanding of the fact that when the chips fall, the only guarantee against another Holocaust is a strong state of Israel.”

“Kermanian said Iranian Jews in Southern California and New York have been quick to stand behind Israel as many frequently do business in Israel and also have family ties with the 200,000 Jews of Iranian decent living there.

“Besides the donations pledged for Israel Monday night, younger Iranian Jews collaborating with the IAJF also raised roughly $170,000.”

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Charismatic rabbi who fought Iranian antisemitism

Persianrabbi profiles the late Rabbi Uriel Davidi of Tehran, who died in Israel last December. Throughout his youth in the village of Consair, the decades he served as rabbi in Tehran, and even during his final years in Jerusalem, Rabbi Uriel Davidi devoted his every moment and considerable talents to furthering the physical and spiritual well-being of his fellow Iranian Jews. (With thanks: Albert)

“Until the fall of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the Jews of Iran lived like citizens of any Western country. But beginning on the winter day in 1979 when the Shah ran for his life, and the Ayatollah Khomeini returned from France to take over the reins of the country, life changed for the Jews.

“The new government expropriated many industries and properties. Extreme fundamentalist practices of Islam became law in all areas of religion and culture; all opposition was squelched. The Jews of Iran, who had grown accustomed to a westernized lifestyle, realized that while Khomeini might allow them freedom of religion, their lives were now bound by strict limits. Their footsteps were dogged; they were forbidden from emigrating, not to mention moving to Israel. Those who applied to the immigration authorities for passports were turned down outright, or instructed to fill out mountains of paperwork. For all intents and purposes, the Jews were hostages in their own country, held against their will, and all had to pledge their loyalty to the new establishment.

“Very quickly, the tzaddik Rabbi Uriel Davidi comprehended the new and confusing reality. The relatively good times under the Shah had come to an end. Now they had to submit to the whims of the fundamentalist government. Bar-Osher is sure that Rabbi Davidi was able to sense the oncoming revolution, but he didn’t think of himself. Instead, he expended all his efforts on getting Jews out of the country. It was Rabbi Davidi who enabled the Iranian Jews to deal with the new reality and with the new government. (…)


 Life in Tehran presented Rabbi Davidi with endless dilemmas of this sort: what to do, what to say, when to say it, when to remain silent. As local rabbi, he had to deliver the community’s birthday wishes and New Year’s wishes to Khomeini. “At those two events we used to watch how he entered the lions’ den,” Rabbi Kahanian recounts. “He had an amazing ability to say suitable words of Torah which would find a listening ear in our enemy. He also appeared on Iranian television, alongside the Iranian ruler. Of course, the television’s mainstay was fundamentalist-religious propaganda. He often visited the Majlis, the Parliament, and delivered Torah-based lectures that entranced all the Parliament members and ministers.” Rachamim Yaakovian remembers the profundity of Rabbi Davidi’s words. “The Muslims would be openmouthed. How was it that the Jewish chacham was so learned and well versed in their own issues? We often heard them praising our chacham.”

“Menashe Amir, an Israel Radio commentator and expert on Iranian Jewry, feels that Rabbi Davidi’s effectiveness in this area stemmed from his familiarity with Islam, which enabled him to present Jewish ideals in terms familiar to Muslims, and allow them to gain an understanding of the essence of Judaism. “In this way, he made a tremendous contribution to the battle against anti-Semitism and against the negative image of Judaism that the extremist Iranian clerics presented. His lectures in the synagogues were formulated with Muslim listeners in mind, as well, because top government officials would visit the synagogue on Jewish festivals to bless the community.”

“Amir relates that when the Tehran community tried to open a kosher slaughterhouse, extremist Muslims opposed the idea. “There were some Muslims who viewed Jews as ‘impure’ and opposed the establishment of such a slaughterhouse near their own slaughterhouse,” he explains. “Rabbi Davidi discussed the matter with the authorities, and delivered a typically charismatic speech. Once again, he facilitated an understanding between the Jewish organization and the establishment, and the slaughterhouse was approved.”

(…) “Rabbi Davidi did everything he could on behalf of his flock, helping those who were entangled in difficulties with the government to “escape the hangman’s noose,” as his students repeatedly phrased it. He expended every effort to help Jews who were caught attempting to escape. These activities required a very fine balance and great diplomacy, in order to avoid conflicts between the government, with whom he maintained warm ties, and his flock, some of whom hoped to leave the country.”

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