Thursday, January 03, 2008

Iranian Jewish Leader Ciamak Morsathegh Claims Jews Are In No Danger In Iran

A top Jewish community leader in Iran on Wednesday December 26th described the recent immigration of 40 Iranian Jews to Israel as a "misinformation campaign". Full story published December 30th, 2007 in the Tehran Times.

Ciamak Morsathegh, who heads the Tehran Jewish Committee, said Wednesday that the immigrants were not Iranian because pictures broadcast on television in Israel on Tuesday did not show their faces. "This is a misinformation campaign, a campaign of lies against Iran and its Jewish community. We can't confirm that 40 Iranian Jews landed in Israel", said Morsathegh.

A joint statement signed by Morsathegh and Morris Motamed, the only Jewish lawmaker in the Iranian parliament, also said the Iranian Jews have never been part of any "organized immigration" to Israel.

Morsathegh insisted Jews in Iran are not in danger. Iran's Jewish community of about 25,000 people is protected by the country's constitution and remains the largest in the Muslim Middle East. Synagogues, Jewish schools and stores operate openly.

"We are one of the oldest communities in Iran. We are free to practice our religion. Anti-Semitism is a Western phenomenon but Jews have never been in danger in Iran," said Morsathegh, who spoke in his office in the Sapir Charity Hospital, which is run by Iranian Jews.

Morsathegh said Iran's Jewish community disagreed with Ahmadinejad when he called the Holocaust a "myth" but insisted his policies do not endanger Iran's Jewish minority.

While some of the Iranian Jewish immigrants in Israel were quoted as saying that they were scared to wear a skullcap in the streets in Iran, Morsathegh said it was "sheer lies". "We are Iranian Jews and are proud of our nationality. No amount of money can encourage us to give up Iran. Our nationality is not up for sale", Morsathegh said.

An article published December 26th in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on the arrival of the 40 Iranian Jews in Israel. Because they chose to leave all their possessions behind, each one was given $10,000 upon arrival to help jump-start their new lives. They were sponsored by the International Fellowship of Christians & Jews. The Jews did not want to show their faces to the camera because they were concerned about the impact upon their relatives who remain in Iran.

While a couple of them told reporters that Jews were coming under more scrutiny in Iran because of the frosty relationship between Iran and Israel, there have been no anti-Semitic abuses reported.

Commentary: Of course Jews in Iran will be subjected to closer scrutiny because of the deteriorating diplomatic relationship between Iran and Israel, just as Muslims were subjected to closer scrutiny in the United States after 9-11. That's to be expected. But there is no evidence of any officially-sanctioned persecution of Jews in Iran.

Indeed, very few countries have been so subjected to misreporting as Iran. Remember President Ahmadinejad's famous speech about "wiping Israel off the map"? That was a gross mistranslation; Ahmadinejad was merely advocating regime change, similar to that which took place in the old Soviet Union. Here's the explanation, posted on Alaska Pride back in August 2007:

From the Truthseeker website comes this account by Arash Norouzi, a co-founder of the Mossadegh Project:

So what did Ahmadinejad actually say? To quote his exact words in Farsi:

"Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad."

That passage will mean nothing to most people, but one word might ring a bell: rezhim-e. It is the word "Regime", pronounced just like the English word with an extra "eh" sound at the end. Ahmadinejad did not refer to Israel the country or Israel the land mass, but the Israeli regime. This is a vastly significant distinction, as one cannot wipe a regime off the map. Ahmadinejad does not even refer to Israel by name, he instead uses the specific phrase "rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods" (regime occupying Jerusalem).

So this raises the question.. what exactly did he want "wiped from the map"? The answer is: nothing. That's because the word "map" was never used. The Persian word for map, "nagsheh", is not contained anywhere in his original farsi quote, or, for that matter, anywhere in his entire speech. Nor was the western phrase "wipe out" ever said. Yet we are led to believe that Iran's President threatened to "wipe Israel off the map", despite never having uttered the words "map", "wipe out" or even "Israel".


The full quote translated directly to English:

"The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time".

Word by word translation:

Imam (Khomeini) ghoft (said) een (this) rezhim-e (regime) ishghalgar-e (occupying) qods (Jerusalem) bayad (must) az safheh-ye ruzgar (from page of time) mahv shavad (vanish from).



While the false "wiped off the map" extract has been repeated infinitely without verification, Ahmadinejad's actual speech itself has been almost entirely ignored. Given the importance placed on the "map" comment, it would be sensible to present his words in their full context to get a fuller understanding of his position. In fact, by looking at the entire speech, there is a clear, logical trajectory leading up to his call for a "world without Zionism". One may disagree with his reasoning, but critical appraisals are infeasible without first knowing what that reasoning is.

In his speech, Ahmadinejad declares that Zionism is the West's apparatus of political oppression against Muslims. He says the "Zionist regime" was imposed on the Islamic world as a strategic bridgehead to ensure domination of the region and its assets. Palestine, he insists, is the frontline of the Islamic world's struggle with American hegemony, and its fate will have repercussions for the entire Middle East.

Ahmadinejad acknowledges that the removal of America's powerful grip on the region via the Zionists may seem unimaginable to some, but reminds the audience that, as Khomeini predicted, other seemingly invincible empires have disappeared and now only exist in history books. He then proceeds to list three such regimes that have collapsed, crumbled or vanished, all within the last 30 years:

(1) The Shah of Iran- the U.S. installed monarch
(2) The Soviet Union
(3) Iran's former arch-enemy, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein

In the first and third examples, Ahmadinejad prefaces their mention with Khomeini's own words foretelling that individual regime's demise. He concludes by referring to Khomeini's unfulfilled wish: "The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time. This statement is very wise". This is the passage that has been isolated, twisted and distorted so famously. By measure of comparison, Ahmadinejad would seem to be calling for regime change, not war.

Unfortunately, the bloodlust felt by the Israeli regime, and, to a lesser degree, the Bush Administration towards Iran tends to preclude rational thought and dialogue. Iran is the one true counterweight against Israeli expansion and Western imperialism in the Middle East.

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