The BBC’s Today* programme became the latest of the western media to fall for the lie that the Iranian TV soap opera ‘Zero Degree Turn’ represents an about-turn on official antisemitism. Iranian-Jewish journalist Karmel Melamed puts the record straight:
“The Christian Science Monitor in its article today regarding the Iranian Television Series “Zero Degree Turn” became the latest U.S. publication to inaccurately report on this fictional drama on Iranian state-run television with the Holocaust as its back drop. The show has been hailed by reporters at the AP, Wall Street Journal, and NPR as sympathetic to the issue of Holocaust– a supposed change of rhetoric coming from Iran in light of the anti-Semitic comments spewed by Iran’s president in the last few years. But as a responsible journalist who has covered this story before, I’m here to say that these news media outlets have totally been inaccurate in their coverage of this TV program!
“To the contrary, my own accurate article last month in the L.A. Jewish Journal revealed that “Zero Degree Turn” in no way sends a positive message about the Shoah or Jews. It is clear that the AP, Wall Street Journal, NPR and other reputable news outlets failed to properly review and translate the program with the help of experts. My investigation of the new Iranian program revealed that “Zero Degree Turn” is nothing more than the same old anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda put out by the Iranian government. The following is the truth indicated in my article about this TV show that the Monitor and AP failed to pick up on:
“This TV program lists in its credits a man named Abdollah Shabazi, who was an ideological strategist for the Iranian government, and he gave this idea to make this propaganda film to show that Iranians are ‘good with the Jews,'” said Bijan Khalili, a Los Angeles-based Iranian Jewish activist and Persian-language book publisher. “But in reality, this man is the author of many anti-Semitic and anti-Bahai [Persian-language] books.”
“One of the objectives of this program is to show that Jews are corrupt, because they are shown as both giving bribes and accepting bribes,” Khalili said. “The story includes a character called Homayoun Talab, an Iranian diplomat, who accepts bribes in order to provide false papers to Jews.”
Talab, Khalili said, is loosely based on Abdol Hossein Sardari, Iranian ambassador to German-controlled France during World War II, who forestalled the deportation of 200 Iranian Jews living in Paris at the time.
Fariborz Mokhtari, a professor of Eastern studies at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., recently completed a book on Sardari’s life. He said “Zero Degree Turn” egregiously misrepresents Sardari, who never accepted money for giving Jews in France Iranian passports.
“Sardari was duty-bound to look after the interests of Iranians. Whether they were Zoroastrian, Christian, Jewish or Muslim was not very important to him,” said Mokhtari, who is Muslim and has been researching Sardari since 2002. “As he was quoted having told his inquiring nephew, ‘It was his duty to his country and to God.'”
Khalili also said that other episodes of “Zero Degree Turn” make repeated references to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which are historically out of place, because the issue was not prevalent in the 1940s. Likewise the Jewish characters in the series are shown in a poor light, because they speak an improper form of the Persian language, as compared to the Muslim characters, Khalili said.
“We have a responsibility as Iranian Jews living outside of Iran to reveal to the rest of the world how anti-Israel and anti-Semitic the Iranian government is through this program and others like it,” Khalili said.
“Shame on the Monitor’s editors and shame on the reporter Scott Peterson for failing to do better research to expose the REAL TRUTH about “Zero Degree Turn”. Instead, Peterson and the Monitor in this story continued to spread the one-sided propaganda feed to them by the Iranian government concerning this show! Supposedly the Iranian leaders are now “good people” after producing this show that does not deny the Holocaust. What a bunch of hog wash! When articles like these fail to expose the “spin” put out by Iran’s radical leaders this is a discredit to journalism and in a way helps the Iranian regime continue to help cover up their President’s anti-Semitic comments about the Holocaust. While reporters in Iran cannot freely cover the news in Iran without being imprisoned, tortured or executed by the regime’s leaders, U.S. and western journalists have a duty to expose the truth of what is going on in Iran and not help to cover it up.
“If you don’t believe me about the anti-Semitic nature of “Zero Degree Turn“, just view this clip accurately translated by The Middle East Media Research Institute!
*See 7.40 slot, Thurs 29 November
Update: the story is now on the BBC website