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Debunking Anti-Iran Propaganda: The Myth of the "New Holocaust"
By Benjamin Schett
In a pattern of propaganda now well-established in the mainstream media, fear-mongering against Iran is reaching an all-time peak. A case in point includes ongoing accusations that Iran is in violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, despite statements to the contrary from U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta as well as a number of American intelligence officials.
In addition, claims that Iran is involved in terrorist activities
were released by the Obama administration, fabricating an Iranian
conspiracy with the goal to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the
Most recently, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has
accused Iran of having planned terrorist attacks in India, Georgia
As it stands, the intensification of propaganda is fuelling an anti-Iranian proxy conflict in Syria and creating the serious danger of aggression against Iran in the coming months by Israel's extremist government and/or the Obama administration. These media fabrications also do not question why the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran would increase worldwide tensions so much more than the hyper-developed nuclear weapons programs of countries like Israel and the United States. (Notwithstanding the fact that there is no existing proof that suggests that Iran is doing anything other than developing a peaceful civilian atomic program.)
Opponents of possible armed aggression against Iran are regularly accused of repeating the mistakes from the period prior to World War II, namely of not taking seriously the purportedly dangerous eliminatory "anti-Semitism" of the Iranian regime. This charge is echoed by the Anti-Defamation League, one of the biggest pro-Zionist U.S. groups, who is lobbying for taking any "necessary" measures in order to overthrow the Iranian government and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:
Moreover, Israeli President Shimon Peres called Iran a "danger to the entire world" while addressing the German Bundestag in a speech marking Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2010.
The symbolism of such actions is clear: whoever refuses to participate in the campaign against Iran is neglecting the threat of a new Holocaust, the insinuation being that if Iran were to get nuclear weapons, it would use them against the state of Israel.
First of all, suggesting that the current situation in Iran is even remotely comparable to the crimes committed by the Nazis inexcusably downplays the suffering of Jews, Roma, Communists, Slavic nations and other victims of Fascism.
In addition, while the strategic motivation behind arguments made by Israeli decision-makers is clear, the facts are not. In fact, the alleged statements made by Ahmadinejad calling for Israel to be "wiped of the map" were proven to be fake thanks to a false translation from Farsi into English. (See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/jun/14/post155) This has been well known already for some time, although it does not seem to faze the war propagandists.
The other question that should be asked by anyone investigating accusations against the Iranian government of being the "foremost threat against Jews" is how do Jews actually live in Iran? If the Iranian president is supposed to be some kind of reborn Hitler, would that not be reflected in imposed anti-Jewish legislature in his country, calls for pogroms, etc.?
The evidence on Jewish life in Iran, from various sources, including Jewish and American mainstream is revealing. For example, a website belonging to the Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture (FASSAC) acknowledges that:
This makes Iranís Jewish community the largest in the Middle East, outside of Israel. Furthermore, many Iranian Jews show pride in their mixed Jewish-Iranian heritage and would not consider emigration:
As we see, Jewish roots in Iran date back to biblical times: "The Jews trace their heritage in Iran to the Babylonian Exile of the 6th century BC...". Indeed, several Persian kings enjoy a positive reputation in the Old Testament because of their friendly attitude towards the Hebrew people.
Today, Jewish religion and culture is still present in everyday life in Iran:
It can't be denied that there must have been considerable concern among Iranian Jews in the time following the Islamic Revolution in 1979, as it was hard to predict how things would develop under the new radically anti-Zionist leadership, and many chose to emigrate on this account. Nonetheless:
The Iranian leadership seems to draw a clear line between Zionism as a political ideology (inspired by Western European colonialist ideas in the 19th century), and Judaism. This conclusion can be underlined by several statements President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made throughout recent years. In a Christmas message to the people of Great Britain, broadcast by Channel Four, Ahmadinejad started his speech with the following lines:
The religious pathos might not be to everybody's taste, but the more relevant question would be whether these could realistically be the lines of a fanatical preacher of hate, as he is portrayed by mainstream media in the West. In fact, by addressing the "followers of Abrahamic faith", president Ahmadinejad expresses his respect for the three religions of the book: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Critics might argue that a conciliatory message prepared for a Western audience might serve the purpose of leaving the people outside Iran in the dark about its real hidden agenda. Thanks to the Internet, it is not necessary to speak Farsi to get an impression of what Ahmadinejad is saying in front of an audience in his own country. In a speech delivered in May 2007 in the city of Esfahan (available on YouTube with English subtitles), he explains to the crowd what his response is to people who accuse him of being anti-Semitic on account of his heavy criticism of the Israeli regime:
In May 2006, the National Post published an article claiming that the Iranian parliament had passed a sumptuary law forcing religious minorities, Jews included, to follow a specific dress code:
However, the story turned out to be a hoax and the National Post issued an apology by its editor-in-chief. But the intention of this falsification is obvious: it was meant to remind people of the yellow star that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany, and thereby create fears of similar events happening in Iran that might lead to some kind of new Holocaust.
One of the particularly critical Jewish responses to this provocation came from Iranís Jewish Member of Parliament, Moris Motamed. (It should be noted that Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians all have their own guaranteed seat in the Iranian Parliament (Majilis), which is one of the results of Khomeini's fatwa calling for the protection of these religious minorities). As Motamed outlined in an interview with Counterpunch:
The same Motamed, who officially represents the Iranian Jewish community, does not criticize Iranís nuclear program, unlike many foreigners who claim to act in favour of Judaism by encouraging "strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities":
In further demonizing the Iranian state, Western media and pro-Zionist lobbyists accuse Ahmadinejad of making ambiguous statements about the Holocaust. Clearly, however, holocaust denial does not represent the official position of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Otherwise it couldn't be explained why in 2007 the Iranian state television broadcast a series emphasising the suffering of Europeís Jews in the Second World War, in what can be likened to an Iranian version of "Schindlerís List":
This Iranian diplomat saving Iranian Jews, named Abdol Hossein Sardari, actually existed in real life and has been honoured in past decades by Jewish organisations, including the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
It should not be the goal of this article to make a final judgement on Jewish life in Iran, because this would be an almost impossible enterprise without having the personal experience of how life looks when belonging to a religious minority in a very religious country. But it is important to put the collected information into perspective. It is apparent Iranian Jews have the right to freely practice their religion and to maintain their culture and traditions. Jewish institutions such as synagogues, Jewish libraries, hospitals and restaurants are well-established across the country.
By contrast, the impression we get from one of America's closest Middle Eastern allies, the totalitarian Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (a rival of Iran), looks very different. Neither Jewish nor Christian worship is allowed, and Saudi school textbooks spread hateful messages such as the following, according to Daily Mail:
This is not the first time that the U.S. government is fighting alongside extremists against states that they perceive as barriers to the proliferation of their economic, geopolitical and imperial agendas, while at the same time pretending to combat "terrorism", "ethnic cleansing" and other crimes against humanity.
All things considered, the hypocrisy is plainly clear. It is therefore not only necessary but also imperative to oppose the dangerous propaganda and warmongering spread by the most aggressive factions within the U.S. and Israeli establishments, and ensure that truth prevails over rampant militarization.
Benjamin Schett is an independent Swiss-based researcher and student of East European History at the University of Vienna. He can be reached at email@example.com