Moment magazine (December 2006) has a feature on the two contradictory faces Iran has historically shown towards its Jews - one Jew-friendly, the other antisemitic. (With thanks: Albert)
"Abdol Hossein Sardari didn’t look like a hero. But when Paris fell to Hitler in June 1940, the 30-year-old Muslim—a dapper man with a receding hairline—took it upon himself to save Jews trapped inside Nazi-occupied France. Sardari, a junior official at the Iranian Embassy, had been left behind to look after the building when the Iranian ambassador and his staff abandoned Paris to establish residence in Vichy, the new home of France’s pro-Nazi government. Once the Nazis began rounding up Jews, Sardari, without authorization from his government, made liberal use of the embassy’s supply of blank Iranian passports to assign new, non-Jewish identities to those in need, creating his own version of Schindler’s list."Ibrahim Morady, who died this past June in Los Angeles at the age of 95, was one of the hundreds of Jews Sardari helped spare from deportation. “My father moved to Paris from Persia when he was six,” recounts his son Fred. Once Morady, a well-to-do rug merchant, had his new identity, he and two colleagues arranged to purchase false papers for about 100 other Jews of Iranian descent. Sardari served as their go-between, passing a bribe to a German official. In return, these Jews were given documents asserting that they were members of “some strange tribe in Iran—Djouguti, or something like that,” Fred Morady explains. “I asked my father: ‘What does this name mean?’ And he said: ‘They just made it up.’”
"Sardari was not the only Iranian to protect Jews during World War II. The Iranian government itself kept its 3,000-year-old Jewish community out of Nazi reach. But his heroism is representative of Iran’s civilized and empathetic attitude toward its Jews.
"This attitude stands in marked contrast to the vitriolic Islamic Republic of Iran led by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that we hear and read about today. The world was stunned when Ahmadinejad, the former mayor of Tehran, felled an Iranian political giant—Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani—in the 2005 presidential election. Ahmadinejad, a radically conservative veteran of the Revolutionary Guards, an arm of the country’s Islamic establishment, quickly became a confrontational presence. Standing aside a banner that read “The World Without Zionism,” he whipped up a crowd of 4,000 students at an October 2005 conference in Tehran. “Our dear Imam ordered that the occupying regime in Al Quds be wiped off the face of the earth,” Ahmadinejad declared, referring to the late Ayatollah Khomeini and using the Arabic name for Jerusalem. “Anyone who would recognize this state has put his signature under the defeat of the Islamic world.”
"The president also garnered world headlines when he publicly pronounced the Holocaust a “myth.” He has since slightly toned down his rhetoric, questioning why, if the Holocaust happened, the Palestinians should suffer for it. “Under the pretext of protecting some of the survivors of the war, the land of Palestine was occupied through war, aggression and the displacement of millions of its inhabitants,” he told the United Nations General Assembly this September, ignoring the historic presence of Jews in Palestine.
"When it comes to the Jews, Abdol Hossein Sardari and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad represent the two faces of Iran. This Muslim, but not Arab, country that protected its Jews from the Holocaust now questions whether that genocide ever occurred. Once one of Israel’s closest Muslim allies, Iran now seeks to wipe the “Zionist entity” off the map. Tens of thousands of its Jews have left, yet Iran still retains the largest Jewish population of any Muslim country. "
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