Friday, June 12, 2009

Better the Ahmadinejad they know...

As Iranians go to the polls today, this Sky TV report claims that Iranian Jews are pawns in the leadership contest between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mirhossein Mousavi. Mousavi is the more 'liberal' of the two front-runner candidates: he has criticised Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial as discrediting Iran. However, the Jews are more likely to vote for Ahmadinejad in today's elections: better 'the devil' they know. Al-Arabiya reports:

As Iranians head to the polls Friday to elect their next president, Israeli experts expect Iran’s 25,000 Jews to vote for incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while Iranian experts say they will likely vote for a candidate more friendly to minority rights.

Experts in both countries describe the Iranian Jewish minority as a low-profile community that strives to be on the winning side of any election to avoid confrontation in the Islamic Republic.Isreali experts predicted Jews would support for Ahmedinejad despite his controversial statements on Israel and the Holocaust.

“They are leaning towards leaving Ahmadinejad in his post because (Mirhossein) Mousavi is unpredictable,” David Mutaj, spokesman for the Central Organization of Iranian Immigrants in Israel, was quoted as saying by Israel’s Ynet news.

Mutai stressed that since the Islamic Revolution, the Jewish community has tried to keep a low profile in politics and election propaganda. “They do not participate in support rallies and certainly do not organize any,” he explained.

David Menashri, director of Tel Aviv University’s Center for Iranian Studies also predicted Jewish votes would go to Ahmadinejad since Jewish minorities tend to follow the mainstream.

"The ruler today is Khamenei, who is more supportive of Ahmadinejad. Even though he doesn't say it explicitly, any criticism against the president is directed at Khamenei," Menashri told Ynet.

But some Iranian experts disagree, noting that the platforms of Karoubi and Mousavi are friendlier towards ethnic and religious minorities.

Dr. Ali Raza Nouri Zadeh, expert on Iranian Affairs, said Iran's Jews are mostly backing Mehdi Karoubi, whose platform guarantees minority rights and political participation and Mousavi who is more moderate than Ahmadinejad.

"Iran's Jews suffered a lot under Ahmadinejad and they know better than to miss the chance of improving their situation under other leading candidates who care about minority rights," Zadeh told Al Arabiya.

He acknowledged that the Iranian Jewish community exercises extreme caution in politics but stressed that they are active behind the scenes.

"Iran's Jews are extremely careful about what the statements they give. They have representatives in the Iranian Parliament and in the past 30 years their protests against government have not exceeded 10 times," Zadeh explained. "This is because whatever they do they are accused of being Israeli agents."

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