The decision of Britain's Channel Four to invite President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to deliver an Alternative Christimas message to the traditional broadcast by Her Majesty the Queen has sparked predictable furore. Why not ask Kim-il-Jong? Why not Mugabe? say the outraged critics.
Why not the sole Jewish member in the Iranian parliament? James Meek, writing a Comment Is Free piece in the Guardian, has this novel proposal:
"Channel 4's alternative Christmas message has often, in the past, been a sort of double opposition to the Queen - not just from somebody putting a counter-establishment point of view, but a non-celebrity; a wounded Afghan veteran, a 9/11 survivor, Doreen and Neville Lawrence. If Channel 4 had wanted to put up a leftfield Iranian voice to provoke thought, why not invite Maurice Motamed, the only Jewish member of the Iranian parliament, a voice of Iran's 25,000 Jews - the second largest Jewish community in the Muslim world - and someone who has spoken out against Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial?"
There are two things wrong with Meek's suggestion. First, Meek is unaware that Maurice Motamed is no longer the Jewish representative in the Iranian Majlis - his place has been taken by Ciamak Morsadegh. The Jewish community may still be the second largest in the Muslim world, but that is not saying much. It is a mere shadow of its former self: four-fifths of the Jews of Iran have already fled.
Second, the 'voice' of the Jewish representative is timid and fearful. The Jewish representative speaks under duress. He says what the regime wants to hear. Yes, Motamed did condemn Ahmedinejad's Holocaust denial, but that is as outspoken as he has dared to be. Otherwise, the Jewish community has 'no problem,' as long as it denies that part of its Jewish identity that has links to Israel. In theory, Jews could leave Iran, but in practice things are not so simple. Travel visas are not issued to all members of one family.
Of course, the Jews of Iran are not so badly off, compared to the Bahai's, for instance. Meek could have suggested that a Baha'i deliver Channel Four's Christmas message, but that too would be as candid as a Kapo's in a concentration camp. Such naivety says more about the West's ignorance of fear societies than anything else.