Thursday, December 21, 2006

Iranian Jews feel rising discomfort

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's antisemitism is making Iran's Jews feel uncomfortable, writes Pierre M Atlas in the Indy Star. And judging by today's election results, they are not alone: (With thanks: Albert)

"Israel is home to about 75,000 Persian Jews, some of whom have risen to the highest ranks of the Israeli polity. The current president of Israel, Moshe Katsav, was born in Iran and immigrated to Israel in the early 1950s, as did Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz.

"Israel Radio has operated a Farsi language service since the 1950s that is listened to by many Iranians, Jewish and non-Jewish. During the reign of the shah, relations between Israel and Iran were fairly strong, and in 1960 Iran officially recognized the Jewish state. By the late 1970s, Israel was purchasing 75 percent of its oil from Iran.

"The situation changed overnight with the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Ayatollah Khomeini cut all ties with Israel and denounced the Jewish state as "the Little Satan," alongside the United States as "the Great Satan."

"But despite his anti-Israel hostility, Khomeini officially recognized Iran's ancient Jewish community as a "protected minority." Today, Iran's Jews have one guaranteed seat in parliament and many synagogues and kosher butcher shops.

"Their situation is not all rosy, however. Iranian Jews are barred from serving as officers in the military, Jewish schools must have Muslim headmasters, and by law if a member of a Jewish family converts to Islam, he can inherit the property of the entire family.

"Ahmadinejad's unusually virulent anti-Semitism is making Iranian Jews increasingly uncomfortable, and the leader of Iran's Jewish community has publicly condemned the Holocaust conference. But Jews are not the only people in Iran who are being put off by the words and deeds of their country's president."

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