How happy are Jews in Iran?

Who could have imagined that the happiness of the Jews of Iran could be of vital interest to the Irish people? Yet letters on the subject have been flying back and forth all week long in The Irish Independent.

It all began with a letter from one Dr David Morrison affirming that Iran was not a threat to Israel:

Thursday September 09 2010

John Fitzgerald (Letters, Tuesday) writes that Iran poses “the greatest threat to the Jewish people since the days of the Third Reich”.

It is impossible to reconcile that view with the fact that Iran is home to the largest number of Jews in any state in the Middle East outside Israel.

Not only that, Iran’s 1979 Islamic Constitution recognises Jews as an official religious minority and reserves one seat (out of 290) in the Majlis, the Iranian Parliament, for them.

Mr Fitzgerald writes that President Mahmoud Ahmadin- ejad “has made clear his desire to wipe Israel off the map”.

That is simply a fiction, which arose from a mistranslation from Farsi of a remark he made in a speech on October 26, 2005, as American Professor Juan Cole has pointed out.

The remark was an old quote from Ayatollah Khomeini, the father of the Islamic Republic, to the effect that “this occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time”

This was not a threat to destroy Israel by military action, but the expression of a hope that the Israeli regime will collapse, just as the Soviet Union did.

Dr David Morrison

Lansdowne Road, Belfast

Saturday September 11 2010

DAVID Morrison shows that if you say something often enough, then sooner or later, everyone will finally believe it (Letters, September 9).

He tells us that Iran is no threat to Israel and that all the shocking barbaric statements made by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for Israel to be wiped off the map were mistranslated or misunderstood.

Hamas, Iran’s proxy in Gaza, believes in the genocide of Jews all over the world, but that could also be a misreading, according to Mr Morrison’s theory.

The well-documented Holocaust denial and the distribution of vicious anti-semitic material by Iran and her proxies is common knowledge. Maybe they were only joking as well.

Most of Iran’s Jews were lucky to escape from this vicious regime to the West and Israel.

Their mother tongue is Pharsi and they understand Ahmadinejad as being intent on carrying out his threats.

Mr Morrison obviously thinks he has a greater understanding of Pharsi and Iran than these Iranian-born refugees.

The few remaining Jews in Iran are very downtrodden and have no freedom of speech.

Iran is no Garden of Eden for them.

Good try, Mr Morrison, but the Irish public are not that naive yet.

Iran is not only a threat to Israel and the Jews, but to Europe and — believe it or not — to Ireland.

Daniel Briscoe
Kiriat Ono, Israel

Tuesday September 14 2010

Dr Morrison writes “that Iran is home to the largest number of Jews in any state in the Middle East outside Israel”. (Letters, September 9).

But what kind of home is it? Yes, it is believed that there may have been some 25,000 Jews living in Iran, but the numbers are falling.

They are allowed to practise their Judaism as long as they submit to Sharia law, show no links with Zionism and Israel, and do as they are told.

They are under the surveillance of the secret police, their Jewish schools are controlled by Iranian Muslims and are made to open on the Jewish Sabbath.

If this was happening in Ireland, then it would be the equivalent of Christians being allowed to worship provided they never mentioned Mary or Bethlehem, the entire Christian community living under Sharia law, all priests under surveillance to ensure there was no holy communion, and all the pubs either shut or not allowed to sell alcohol.

Clearly, the Jews are not under threat, and in similar circumstances Dr Morrison would be equally certain that neither were the Christians.

Lewis Herlitz
Essex, England

Wednesday September 15 2010

Daniel Briscoe says that the Islamic regime in Iran is viciously anti-semitic.

It is difficult to reconcile this assertion with the fact that around 25,000 Jews live in Iran, despite considerable efforts by Israel to persuade them to emigrate to Israel.

Substantial financial assistance is available to all Jews emigrating to Israel, but in 2007 a large additional package was offered to Iranian Jews.

In response, Iran’s sole Jewish MP, Morris Motamed, described the $60,000 offer as “insulting”, adding that “Iran’s Jews have always been free to emigrate and three-quarters of them did so after the revolution but 70pc of those went to America, not Israel.”

The offer had limited success: a total of 207 Iranian Jews emigrated to Israel in 2007.

Dr David Morrison, Lansdowne Road, Belfast

Thursday 16 September 2010

Dr David Morrison (‘lranian Jews are happy at home’, September 15) admits that three-quarters of the Iranian Jewish community left the country after the Islamic revolution. That only a quarter still remains is hardly a positive advertisement for the regime. Official anti-semitism and Holocaust denial is rampant.

There are many reasons why the remaining Jews do not leave Iran: compulsory military service is one.

Besides, it is not easy to uproot oneself and one’s family from a country where Jews have lived for 3,000 years, especially the elderly. Although Jews can and do travel, they are said to be denied the multiple-exit permits normally issued to other citizens: in other words, members of the family are kept back as hostages.

Sharia law imposes certain handicaps: a Jew cannot occupy a senior post in the government or army. Jewish schools are run by Muslims. There is continuous pressure to convert to Islam: a convert to Islam becomes the sole inheritor of his family’s property.

And, as in the well-publicised case of Sakineh Ashtiani, who is threatened with stoning for adultery, all Iranians — including Jews — could fall victim at any time to the human rights abuses of this appalling regime.

Mrs L Julius

Friday 17 September 2010

DAVID Morrison (‘Iranian Jews are happy at home’, September 15) seems to write from the heart when he argues all is well for the Jewish population of Iran, but he clearly knows very little about Iran or its regime.

As someone with a PhD in Persian Studies and a lifetime spent studying the country, may I be allowed to advance a different theory?

Mr Morrison’s worst sin is that he blithely ignores Iran’s largest religious minority, the Baha’is — an indigenous community with origins in the country. They have been condemned for their belief in a prophet following Muhammad, whom Muslims consider the ‘Last Prophet’.

Since the revolution in 1979, the Baha’is have been viciously persecuted. More than 200 have been executed, and many more imprisoned.

Their current elected leadership has just been sentenced to 230 years apiece for the crime of leading the community.

Baha’i shrines, several of which I have visited, have been demolished in acts of wanton vandalism.

Most professions are forbidden to Baha’is, and young Baha’is are prohibited from entering university. Baha’i women have been hanged for teaching Sunday school. This is the yardstick by which brutes like Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must be judged.

I could go on, but I want to pause and ask why Mr Morrison is so intent on putting a smile on the face of a regime that acts like this?

Does he not understand a PR exercise when he sees one?

A bunch of murderers and bigots who openly make jokes about the Holocaust or deny it ever took place, threaten to ‘exterminate’ the Jewish state, hang gay men from cranes and stone women to death are given the kid-glove treatment by Mr Morrison.

The Islamic regime is one of the ugliest and most repressive in the world. Fellow travellers like David Morrison are a direct affront to human rights and the hopes of the Iranian people for freedom and justice.

Iran’s Jews live under sufferance, as Jews have always done in the Islamic world. If a time comes when the regime wants to show another face, their days may be numbered.

Dr Denis MacEoin
Newcastle upon Tyne

Update: The exchange has entered its second week:

Wednesday 22 September 2010

DR DAVID Morrison (Letters, September 21) should not go unchallenged when yet again he repeats his unsubstantiated claim that it is a “fact” that “25,000 Jews have chosen to stay in Iran, when they are in a position to leave. . .”

The real truth is that Iran’s remaining Jews have not freely “chosen” to remain. Rather, they have been forced to stay there for two simple reasons:

1. Any Jew who even dares to apply for a passport immediately gets interrogated and then placed under surveillance.

2. Any Jew who does eventually receive a passport and travels abroad is forced to leave a family member behind. This is clearly to ensure that Jews travelling abroad will be deterred from staying abroad.

In effect, the Iranian regime is holding the entire Jewish community of around 24,000 people captive.

In light of these facts, surely Dr Morrison is willing to accept that these people deserve our greatest sympathy for not having the right to emigrate freely, a right that both he and I enjoy, should we ever need to exercise it.

Dr Ivor Shorts
Dublin 16

Friday September 24 2010

Dr Ivor Shorts (Letters, September 22) writes that Iranian Jews remain there because they are “forced to stay” by the Islamic regime.

The US State Department paints a different picture in its 2009 International Religious Freedom Report for Iran, which states: “Jewish citizens were free to travel out of the country but were subject to the general restriction against travel by the country’s citizens to Israel. This restriction, however, was not enforced.”

In a similar vein, the BBC reported in 2006: “Gone are the early days of the Iranian revolution when Jews — and many Muslims — found it hard to get passports to travel abroad.”

The report quoted Iran’s Jewish MP, Maurice Motamed, saying that: “In the last five years, the government has allowed Iranian Jews to go to Israel freely, meet their families and when they come back they face no problems.” Happily, it appears that Iranian Jews who wish to emigrate to Israel or elsewhere are free to do so, and many have done so since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Dr David Morrison
Lansdowne Road, Belfast

Saturday September 25 2010

Dr David Morrison (Letters, September 24), in quoting Iran’s government-nominated sole Jewish MP, is actually unwittingly making my point for me.

He quotes the former MP Maurice Motamed as saying of Iranian Jews who travel abroad that “when they come back they face no problems”.

This is precisely the point that I and others in your newspaper have been making to Dr Morrison: that these Jews are forced to return to Iran because they are fearful of what will happen to their family members whom they were obliged to leave behind.

But Dr Morrison quite disingenuously persists in equating the ability of Jews to travel abroad with their right to stay abroad, that is, to emigrate.

It is akin to claiming that a prisoner who has prison leave for a set period of time is the same as one who has been released altogether. Thus, by virtue of the restriction that they are obliged to return to Iran, the 24,000 Iranian Jews are in effect all being held on a tight leash, tantamount to being out on limited parole.

Dr Ivor Shorts
Dublin 16

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