Haman begging Esther for mercy, by Rembrandt
With the festival of Purim around the corner, Jews turn to Persia and tell the story of how the Jewess Esther and her uncle Mordechai saved their people from extermination by the wicked Haman.
Same story, different time. President Ahmadinejad has again just announced he is looking forward to a Middle East without Zionists.
In leftwing circles it's become fashionable to downplay Ahmadinejad's threats to annihilate Israel as just so much empty rhetoric, or a mistranslation of the Farsi. We are now seeing a breed of young (Ashkenazi) Israeli academics who see Marxist dichotomies and hifalutin' theories of cultural dissonance where there is just plain old antisemitism.
This book, by professor Haggai Ram, at Ben Gurion university, reviewed here, is no exception:
Employing the sociological concept of “moral panic,” Ram takes on the commonly held notion that Iran and Israel are “natural” enemies. Instead, Iranophobia suggests that Israel’s “moral panic” finds its roots in cultural anxieties relating to Israel’s precarious conception of itself as essentially “Western.” Ram’s analysis argues that fear of Iran is in fact deeply connected to tensions generated by the presence of non-Western Jewish immigrants in Israel. These groups are seen as calling into question the state’s Ashkenazi (European) “ethnocracy” and complicating Israeli society’s perception of itself as fundamentally European and “modern.” The conception of Iran and Iranian culture as essentially non-Western, as some kind of “Other,” allows Israeli society to conceive of itself and build an identity in contrast to that country and its people.
Well I'm sorry, Ram, your theory rests on the false Marxist premise that Israel's Mizrahi Jews want nothing more than to break away from their culturally-repressive Ashkenazi brethren in Israel and melt back into the surrounding Middle East landscape of corrupt and tinpot dictatorships. It's easy for crackpot professors in the Israel and the West who have never heard the knock on the door in the middle of the night to disparage Israeli democracy as some sort of alien 'western' concept foisted on the natives against their will. But democracy and the rule of law and the protection of human rights mean a great deal to Mizrahi Jews in Israel who suffered in their countries of birth from the absence of such things.
Ram's work seems to have nothing to say about Iran's long tradition of Shi'a discrimination, enshrined in the Islamic Republic's sharia law. Whether the Shah was Eastern or Western, the bottom line is that he was a good deal more tolerant of minorities than the Ayatollahs are nowadays. To trumpet the fact that there are 25,000 or 30,000 Jews in Iran today is nothing to be proud of. The truth is that 80,000 Jews got out when they could.