An American rabbi reports on her visits to the ‘oldest ongoing Jewish community in the world:’ Iran

Roger Cohen's recent editorial in the New York Times about Iranian Jews continues to reverberate. Below is a reflection by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb (pictured below). Rabbi Gottlieb led a delegation to Iran last April and visited again in December. A Middle East Program Associate with the American Friends Service Committee in San Francisco, she will be visiting Iran again this August.

Rabbi-Lynn-Gottlieb
Reading Roger Cohen's piece in the NY Times confirmed my own experience in Iran. I have had the pleasure of meeting the ancient community of Jews from Esfahan, Shiraz and Teheran on two separate occasions. I attended services in each of the cities, met with the official representatives of the community twice in Shiraz and Teheran and had several private conversations in hotel lobbies and private homes for hours on end, with youth and elders. I was also surprised at the depth of study of Jewish sources by Muslim scholars at Mofid University who quoted Maimonides, Rashi and Torah with ease and were anxious to learn more. As in any culture there is a diversity of attitudes. The condition of Jews is really no different than the condition of others who are in the 'reformist' camp. There is a need for interfaith civilian diplomacy so that those relationships can be explored and nurtured.

The Jewish community of Iran has been present in their society for nearly 3000 years. They object to the attitude by non Iranian western Jews that we want to save them, or educate them, or in any way interfere with their cultural and religious  life. Before we make assumptions about what they need or who they are, it would be well to acknowledge that they are the oldest ongoing community of Jews in the world continuously associated with one place. They are not Jews of exile. They are deeply rooted in the land of Cyrus. They can visit the graves of Esther and Mordecai, Daniel and Habbakuk. They possess a Torah that is over 1200 years old. The Jews of Esfahan have their own language! The Jews of Iran are deeply proud of their own heritage, even though they, like other Iranians, may struggle with the limitations imposed by the Islamic Republic on freedom of expression.

The second delegation I led to Iran in December 2008 composed of 10 Jewish participants and four non-Jewish participants, included two rabbis, a rabbinic student,  and six other members who identify as 'religious' Jews. During our visit to Yusef Abad, the largest of approximately 22 synagogues in Tehran, I was invited to speak from the bimah (for the second time). Like the first time, people clapped and shouted in appreciation for our visit. When I identified the members of our delegation and asked them to stand, and pointed out that Sarah Bassem was also studying to be a rabbi, the congregation cheered again. Many people came up to me and began asking me 'rabbinic' questions, regardless of my gender.

Obviously, there are limitations on life for non-Muslims. There are limitations on life for minorities in the States as well. Still, the Jewish community is extremely proud of its heritage, and views the Iranian American Jewish community as somewhat lost. They point to the increase in divorce and inter-marriage as an example of the impact of assimilation which they do not feel in Iran.

The idea of Israel attacking Iran is an anathema to the Jews of Iran. Certainly, it would endanger them. We should cease and desist all bellicose language that threatens military action toward Iran immediately. For those of us in the Jewish community who have had the pleasure to visit the Jews of Iran, we understand the preciousness of that community. Any actions taken by Israel that would put the Jews of Iran in danger is a travesty. 

Finally, I look forward to my next visit which will occur this coming August. I pray that the gates will remain open, and I will have the profound pleasure of deepening my experience with this ancient and honorable community. 

About Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Beyondoweiss, Iran, US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics

{ 50 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Dan Kelly says:

    The Jewish community of Iran has been present in their society for nearly 3000 years. They object to the attitude by non Iranian western Jews that we want to save them, or educate them, or in any way interfere with their cultural and religious life. Before we make assumptions about what they need or who they are, it would be well to acknowledge that they are the oldest ongoing community of Jews in the world continuously associated with one place. They are not Jews of exile. They are deeply rooted in the land of Cyrus. They can visit the graves of Esther and Mordecai, Daniel and Habbakuk. They possess a Torah that is over 1200 years old. The Jews of Esfahan have their own language! The Jews of Iran are deeply proud of their own heritage, even though they, like other Iranians, may struggle with the limitations imposed by the Islamic Republic on freedom of expression…Obviously, there are limitations on life for non-Muslims. There are limitations on life for minorities in the States as well. Still, the Jewish community is extremely proud of its heritage…

    These folks are more steeped in Judaic culture than possibly any other group in the world. They want to be left alone to deal with their own society. Yet now we're going to have to endure commnents from people – who have never been to Israel or Iran – who will seek to speak for the Jewish community of Iran and who advocate obliterating Iran because they deem it to be in the interest of Israel (again, a place most have never even been to, and even if they have, they don't choose to live there) and in the interest of "worldwide Jewry", for which they designate themselves qualified to speak.

  2. syvanen says:

    What wonderful sentiments. These are the views that should be distributed widely in this country in order to neutralize the bomb Iran wing of American politics. Though these wingnuts are definitely on the defensive right now, they are still in positions of sufficient influence to manipulate the US into war against Iraq should some unforeseen incident occur.

    Peace with Iran is within our grasp, but the path must be guarded carefully.

  3. David says:

    Wow, what a great piece! It makes me sad to think about all of the thriving, ancient Jewish communities that were obliterated by the rise of Zionism, the State of Israel and the conflict between Jews and Arabs. They could've been a key link between the Arab/Muslim world and the West right now.

  4. Steve F says:

    There are more Iranian Jews in Nassau County NY than in Iran, and they are mostly in favor of a military solution to Iranian nuclear proliferation. Why do you think that is?

  5. BiBiJon says:

    I think folks do not understand Iranian Jews because they do not understand Iranian anything. I do not think Israel needs to be told to cool it. History is chuck full of chest thumpers (Iran has produced a few of its own), but Iranians have stuck together, and will likely do so for another 3000 years.

    Thanks for your courage for swimming upstream of orthodox Foxnews opinion.

    link to bibijon.org

  6. MRW. says:

    I concur. What a lovely piece.

  7. Richard Witty says:

    Its wonderful to appreciate the Iranian Jews and to be concerned for their safety should Iranian Muslims somehow hold Iranian Jews responsible for conflicts that Iran has with Israel (in the name of justice). Thats what defines a hostage relationship.

    I take issue with the attempt to deny (DENIAL) of real and actual malevolent actions and policies by Iran.

    Specifically, that it funds, arms, trains militias on three borders with Israel (Lebanon, Gaza, West Bank), that each employ violent, extra-legal means to "dissent".

    You have to take Iran at its word, that it is intent on removing the government "Israel" from the face of the map. (It doesn't have to be the genocidal meaning to be virulently aggressive.)

    That requires care, in both kind and fearful meanings of the term.

    The US, Europe, others have NOT been successful at suggesting that Iran not enrich uranium sufficient to make an atomic bomb. They are reported to now have enough enriched uranium for a bomb, and most of the technology to assemble it, and they now claim rocket technology sufficient to launch a large warhead to land in Israel.

    Its NOT lightweight.

    Unilateral attacks on Iran by Israel would not be lightweight either, but to go into denial that Iran is a threat is silly.

    I met an individual that accompanied Rabbi Gottlieb to Iran, and in public presentation he was nakedly in denial of the significance of their intent, modern history (foreign policy AND internal treatment of Jews – three reported waves of purges since the 1979 revolution). It upset me, as the presentation was in my shul, and among people that sincerely hoped that Iran's policy and behavior actually was different than reported.

    Repetition doesn't make truth is the point.

    Maybe there is an opportunity to encourage Iran to change its policy and behavior, but it is pursuing similar to the past (just more quietly).

  8. John says:

    What is your comment SOG, Chris Berel, Suzanne et al ?
    Waiting for the party line spin?
    John

  9. Pierre says:

    Iranian Jews are hostages of the regime. This fake Rabbi (she was never ordained by any recognized movement) is Walter Duranty, and Phil is a loyal Times reader. Nothing more.

  10. syvanen says:

    Richard Iran is not a threat to the US. Should we attack them they are in a good position to cause our Army in Iraq and Navy in the Persian Gulf some real pain. If that is the threat you worry about, then you should join us in urging our government to avoid such a foolish attack. The way to peace with Iran is to enter into serious negotiations and this means to stop giving them ultimatums in advance as to what they must do.

    I think that is good advice for Israel as well. But first the US should pursue its own interests in this matter.

  11. Norm says:

    Steve F: There are more Iranian Jews in Nassau County NY than in Iran, and they are mostly in favor of a military solution to Iranian nuclear proliferation.

    And you know this, how?

    Why do you think that is?

    So your source told you the above but didn't bother to say why? Anyway, if I were to make a wild guess, maybe it has something to do with misinformation from the U.S. media and government. Until recently, I felt the same way, for the same reason.

  12. Suzanne says:

    oh wow! I had no idea Dan "the Paternalistic Prig" Kelly has been to Iran. Gaza, and Israel and is therefore more qualified than anybody else to speak about the Middle East. I guess that trumps ethnic ties, eh?

    Anyway…this is all a bunch of phony kaka in your desperate attempt to spare Iran from getting bombed.

    It's well documented that most Iranian Jews cleared out–starting in 1948–and more recently right after the wacko revolution. That's all I need to know.

    If these folks stayed on, and are comfortable with dhimmi second class status (because that's all they know) and refuse to leave, there's not much anybody can do. I'm assuming it's their free choice.

    So FIDO.

    PS…that hypocrites can make all sorts of excuses for dhimmi status in Iran yet decry Israeli Arabs' status is predictable.

    This is why the Left is so despised in this country and has limited political power.

    Keep on blogging…it's all you've got. haha!

  13. Dan Kelly says:

    Richard, Iran is not close to a bomb. The facts about this have been presented ad nauseum.

    Iran is a signer to the non-proliferation treaty, and is enriching urnaium for peaceful purposes, as is its right under international law.

    Speaking of which, when will Israel abide by international law? When will Israel declare its nukes and sign onto the non-proliferation treaty, allow inspections, etc?

    How can anyone take Israel and its advocates seriously when these basic truisms are staring us in the face? It's the definition of hypocrisy.

    History is not on your side. While Israel has repeatedly provoked and outright attacked its neighbors, Iran hasn't bothered anyone in hundreds of years.

    Iran is obviously worried about Israel, and rightfully so, based on Israel's aggressive tendencies. In fact, if Israel refuses to join the rest of the civilized world vis a vis its nukes, it would be best for security in the Middle East if Iran does in fact develop a bomb.

    Anyway, no one will be bothering Iran. Although not a nuclear power and not on a par with Israel and the U.S. militarily, Iran nevertheless can go a long way towards matching their firepower. And Israel and the U.S. don't pick fights with those who can fight back, as recent history shows.

  14. David F. says:

    Suzanne: "It's well documented that most Iranian Jews cleared out–starting in 1948–and more recently right after the wacko revolution. That's all I need to know.

    If these folks stayed on, and are comfortable with dhimmi second class status (because that's all they know) and refuse to leave, there's not much anybody can do. I'm assuming it's their free choice."

    Ah, yes. Well, Zionists have never had much trouble throwing diaspora Jews under the bus when it served their purposes.

  15. Dan Kelly says:

    Its wonderful to appreciate the Iranian Jews and to be concerned for their safety should Iranian Muslims somehow hold Iranian Jews responsible for conflicts that Iran has with Israel (in the name of justice).

    This statement is utterly devoid of context in relation to what we just read and the comments that followed. It ignores the will of the Iranian Jewish population that was just presented. As I predicted (not to toot my own horn), we will now have endure comments from people who don't live in Israel or Iran, yet qualify themselves to speak for those WHO DON'T WANT TO BE SPOKEN FOR.

    Incidentally Richard, we're interested in the well-being of ALL the Iranians, not just the Iranian Jewish community. What a fascinating insight into how you think – it's entirely Jewish-centric, the rest of humanity be damned. Where did anyone in the column suggest that Iranian Muslims will hold Iranian Jews responsible? The IRANIAN JEWS SURE DIDN'T. But that's what you've been taught and what has shaped your worldview. The entire point of the post is that you should abandon these feelings because they're wrong. Are you able to do that?

  16. Suzanne says:

    Yeah Dave…Jews always get it wrong, don't they?

    I wish you wimps had the courage to talk your stuff to Jews in person. Better yet, Israelis.

    I'd pay top dollar to see you talk to Israeli men the way you do here. You'd be getting some serious cosmetic surgery…lol!

  17. Dan Kelly says:

    oh wow! I had no idea Dan "the Paternalistic Prig" Kelly has been to Iran. Gaza, and Israel and is therefore more qualified than anybody else to speak about the Middle East. I guess that trumps ethnic ties, eh?

    LOL. What ethnic ties to the Middle East do you have, Suzanne?

    No, I haven't been to the Middle East (yet), but then I'm not blindly supporting a racist, apartheid state that is committing acts essentially in my name, being that it has such a "special relationship" with the country in which I was born and raised, have developed community relations, have made a living, etc.

    This is why the Left is so despised in this country and has limited political power.

    I don't know why you keep bringing up "the left". It insinuates that most of the posters here are part of "the left", and that simply isn't true.

    Incidentally, you asked that I don't post to you anymore, and I kindly ask you to do the same. Don't post to me, and don't mention my name in posts. If you want to respond to something I've writen, then kindly repeat my post in whole or part and respond to the substance of the post (or lack thereof, as ever you choose to see it). We are not accomplishing anything by making this personal, as I'm sure you would agree.

  18. Shirin says:

    "It makes me sad to think about all of the thriving, ancient Jewish communities that were obliterated by the rise of Zionism, the State of Israel and the conflict between Jews and Arabs."

    It is terribly sad. The Iraqi Jewish community, one of the oldest in the world, is now dispersed all over the world, and yet even members of the generations who have never seen Iraq feel a close connection.

    But please do not characterize the conflict as being between Jews and Arabs. It most decidedly is not. The conflict is with the State of Israel, not with the Jews either individually or collectively.

  19. Suzanne says:

    LOL. What ethnic ties to the Middle East do you have, Suzanne? " My mother is Jewish. If I choose, I can be a citizen of Israel.

    Protest all you want, argue in the abstract all you want…that's a fact you can't change…

    Any invasive foaming at the mouth anti-semitic questions regarding that will be ignored. Sayonara. :-)

  20. Shield of Asherah says:

    "I'd pay top dollar to see you talk to Israeli men the way you do here. You'd be getting some serious cosmetic surgery…lol!"

    Yes, violence is the only argument Zionists have.

    "That's all I need to know."

    Quite, don't let pesky facts get in your way.

  21. Dan Kelly says:

    I wish you wimps had the courage to talk your stuff to Jews in person. Better yet, Israelis.

    I can only speak for myself, but I have open conversations about this subject every chance I get. It's an incredibly important subject, and fascinating at that. I haven't lost any Jewish friends yet.

    Admittedly, there are a couple people I haven't brought it up to, not for fear of physical retaliation (which, as evidenced below, the poster seems to be hoping for), rather because I do think it may make things uncomfortable between us and my family at large (my uncle's wife is Jewish, and I have not had a conversation with her yet).

    I'd pay top dollar to see you talk to Israeli men the way you do here. You'd be getting some serious cosmetic surgery…lol!

    That's funny? The poster thinks that engaging in necessary conversation which includes constructive criticism about Israel and its advocates, its behavior in the world, etc., will lead to being physically marred, and goes on to celebrate it. Quite telling on many levels.

  22. Shirin says:

    Dan Kelly, it never ceases to amaze me how many Americans who have never set foot in or even studied the Middle East, know nothing about its society, or social, cultural, and political history, do not speak,Arabic or Persian, let alone read or write, and yet have declared themselves experts on the subject.

    I make a rule of never trying to engage in discussion with anyone who throws around terms they have no clue about like dhimmi, or "infidel". When they do that they immediately tell you about the quality and sources of their information. Such people are ineducable because they "know" everything they want to "know".

    Willful ignorance is not correctable. Don't even try.

  23. David F. says:

    Yeah Dave…Jews always get it wrong, don't they?
    I wish you wimps had the courage to talk your stuff to Jews in person. Better yet, Israelis.
    I'd pay top dollar to see you talk to Israeli men the way you do here. You'd be getting some serious cosmetic surgery…lol!

    ****

    I enjoy talking to Israelis about the Middle East. They are usually very well informed and practical. Most Israelis, as you will find if you ever visit Israel, or even read Israeli papers, are not driven into hysterics by opinions that differ from their own.

  24. Suzanne says:

    Piss off Shirin…. there's a community of Persian Jews where I live and I'll listen to them about their experiences and recount of history before I'd listen to your slimy version of things.

    You are really some arrogant piece of work.

  25. Dan Kelly says:

    My mother is Jewish. If I choose, I can be a citizen of Israel.

    Ethnic: of or relating to large groups of people classed according to common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background

    The racial component is impossible to know, but it's highly doubtful that your bloodlines go back to original Hebrew blood. The percentage of people who self-identify as Jewish with Hebrew blood is barely measurable, and of course the Palestinians themselves are more likely to be racially related to the ancient Hebrews than American Jews are.

    The national component is out. You were born and raised in the United States.

    The tribal component could perhaps apply, depending upon how one chooses to define "tribe". It would be a rather loose definition, in my opinion.

    religious You are secular.

    linguistic I guess if you know Hebrew (or obviously Arabic) you could claim an ethnic tie to the Middle East, but of course anyone can learn a language.

    cultural Distinctly American.

    I suppose there is some basis for an "ethnic tie" to the Middle East, but it's rather thin. It's far outweighed by your ethnic ties to America, obviously.

    The fact that you can automatically become a citizen is merely a matter of Israeli law, and has no basis in ethnicity, at least not in any meaningful sense of the word.

    Again, Palestinians have much greater ethnic ties to the area than you do, obviously.

  26. Dan Kelly says:

    Dan Kelly, it never ceases to amaze me how many Americans who have never set foot in or even studied the Middle East, know nothing about its society, or social, cultural, and political history, do not speak,Arabic or Persian, let alone read or write, and yet have declared themselves experts on the subject.

    Shirin, Suzanne brought up a fair point in that I'm condemning her for not having been to Israel yet defending it to the death, while I've never been to Iran yet I'm going out of my way to defend it.

    As for the "ethnic ties", I have tried to show how thin an argument that is (as have many Israeli scholars, on which I base my arguments).

    I think your point about the language is of utmost importance, and isn't talked about enough. We don't have enough people writing about the Middle East right now who are well-versed in both Arabic and English. Thus, we get inaccurate translations of things. Often, this is intentional. I can't tell you how many times I've read an interpretation of something that I later learn was incorrect.

  27. Steve R says:

    Dan Kelly wrote:

    "I can't tell you how many times I've read an interpretation of something that I later learn was incorrect."

    You said it! All of us who read the lies, misinterpretations, and fantasies that Phil regularly puts on this website have had that feeling!

  28. Shield of Asherah says:

    Of course, we should completely ignore all accounts from real identified people who've actually visited Iran in favour of an anonymous commenter and her pet "community of Persian Jews".

    Hey, I know the same Persian Jews as Suzanne and they all say she's wrong and she smells funny. So there!

  29. Dan Kelly says:

    You said it! All of us who read the lies, misinterpretations, and fantasies that Phil regularly puts on this website have had that feeling!

    Then why do you keep coming back? I don't continue to frequent sites that I don't think provide accurate information. Either you're not very bright, or you're here to disrupt the site, without any intention of offering anything constructive.

    Incidentally, the site is run by Phil Weiss AND Adam Horowitz.

  30. Dan Kelly says:

    Great Neck, NY, and Beverly Hills have the largest Iranian Jewish communities, I believe.

  31. Shirin says:

    Dan, most of the translations of Arabic and Persian language that you see in the American media come from MEMRI, an ultra-militant Zionist organization whose raison d'etre is to demonize Arabs and Muslims. Every day they go through the media with a fine toothed comb looking for items that they can extract, and "translate". They frequently take things out of context in a manner that distorts their meaning and/or intent. They also engage in "malicious translation", and worse yet, they do not hesitate to blatantly mistranslate words and phrases, transmogrifying them into something very different from what they are.

    The only people who use terms such as dhimmi (which they invariably mispronounce) are those who get their "information" from anti-Islam hate materials. Dhimmi is an archaic Arabic word that has no meaning at all in today's world, and is not used by Muslims today except in discussions of history. People who throw that word around with great pride as if they knew what it meant do not have a clue what the concept of dhimmi was. It is amusing, really, to see them toss that word around as if they think someone will be impressed by their obvious misuse of it.

  32. Mohdran says:

    Shirin:
    That's completely untrue–dhimmi is used in everyday spoken Egyptian Arabic.

  33. Doppler says:

    I think these reports of Iranian Jews are fascinating. The durability of Jewish culture generally is surely one of its most extraordinary qualities. What other culture has survived intact and in many ways unchanged for 3000 years, most of it without benefit of a homeland? And to think of this small island of Jewry tied to its place amid the Persians since before the Syracusans fought the Athenians is mind-boggling.

    I tend to think of America as having been founded by wise students of history who identified many of the causes of calamity and structured our government and society to avoid those problems. Compared to the traditions of the Jews, the Americans chose to separate religion from government, we chose to institute a government of laws, not men, we declared all men equal, and two hundred years later have proven we meant it, we embraced free and open debate as the bests tools for truth-seeking, we eschewed empire and monarchy and unchecked power of any kind.

    I for one look forward to greater interaction with Iran, both the Muslims and the Jews. I have seen some of their movies. I had a partner once, a Jew born in Iran who had immigrated to Los Angeles when young. I have read the Book of Esther. I would be very interested to read more firsthand accounts of these Persian Jews, and open up cultural exchanges. Those who seek to bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran should be ashamed. They must not be treated as credible voices in US policy-making.

  34. Dan Kelly says:

    Shirin, thank you. Are there any sites that you are aware of whose sole purpose is to correct Zionist misinterpretations? If not, it would be a great idea to start one.

    I'll wait for your response to Mohdran.

    Here is an interesting excerpt on Dhimmi from Wikipedia. Wikipedia is of course heavily Zionized. I took this from the last heading, the "Myth of dhimmitude". Notice that the "scholars" are both Jewish. No Islamic perspective is given.

    Bernard Lewis states that there are two well-established myths available in the literature about the position of Jews in the Islamic world.[155] Mark Cohen calls them the "Myth of an interfaith utopia" and "countermyth of the Islamic persecution of Jews".

    The first myth states that medieval Islam provided a peaceful haven for Jews while Christendom relentlessly persecuted them.[156] "A golden age of equality, of mutual respect and cooperation, especially but not exclusively in Moorish Spain"[155]

    The other myth, according to Lewis's statement, is the story of "dhimmitude" (a term coined by Bachir Gemayel and introduced into Western discourse by Bat Ye'or), of subservience and persecution and ill treatment.[155]

    Lewis says these are myths and that like many myths, both contain significant elements of truth. According to Cohen they equally distort the past. The historic truth is that persecution was rife and doctrinally grounded. The pioneering works of Bat Ye'or and Andrew G. Bostom have dealt a devastating blow to the notion of dhimmitude as a myth, but present overwhelming evidence of the canonical foundations of Islamic antisemitism.[155][157]

    Dhimmi

  35. Dan Kelly says:

    The durability of Jewish culture generally is surely one of its most extraordinary qualities. What other culture has survived intact and in many ways unchanged for 3000 years, most of it without benefit of a homeland?

    Very true, and one of the primary reasons so many Jewish folk were against the Zionist project and Israel.

    The most enduring cultures are those of the Far East. Their model of the universe includes absolutely no concept of a personal deity, creationist theory, etc. Amazingly, their idea of the universe is much in line with what quantum physics and modern sciences have taught us about the interrelationships between everything. It took Western science how long to get here? (And we still don't live according to what much of modern science has taught us, i.e. we still largely think in terms of Newtonian cause and effect). We could learn a lot from Taoism and Zen Buddhism, if we chose to.

  36. Shirin says:

    "dhimmi is used in everyday spoken Egyptian Arabic."

    Really! How interesting. By whom, and in what context?

  37. Thom says:

    ROFLMAO.

    I love this, in the middle of a love fest about how tolerant Iran is, the article makes it clear that the Iranian Jews are hostages that will be attacked if Israel attacks Iran. "Certainly, it would endanger them."

    Oh, as for Iran refining uranium for peaceful purposes, that is hilarious. I mean, hey, nuclear power, of course that is what it is for. I mean, it isn't as though Iran is sitting on one of the world's largest oil reserves. Oh, wait, Iran _is_ sitting on one of the world's largest oil reserves.

  38. LD says:

    Wow, even Suzanne's trolling has resulted in vulgar and obscene insults and suggestions of violence.

    You come to this blog and spew your ignorant paranoia as if anyone gives a damn and then threaten people with violence while smirking?

    You're so pathetic. How about you go up to a Palestinian and speak to them with the sort of condescension and entitlement that you exude in every single one of your sanctimonious comments? Oh wait, nothing would happen because the Palestinians are held hostage by cowards with advanced weaponry/a great propaganda machine/massive economic support and the support of an equally morally bankrupt country.

    You are nothing but a coward Suzanne. You, who waste so much time fighting the tide on this blog by accusing everyone of antisemitism rather than contribute any argument of substance or rationality.

    Get a life.

  39. Dan Kelly says:

    I love this, in the middle of a love fest about how tolerant Iran is, the article makes it clear that the Iranian Jews are hostages that will be attacked if Israel attacks Iran. "Certainly, it would endanger them."

    Iran is quite tolerant. Let's see how tolerant any country on earth is to various peoples within its borders once it's under attack. I would hate to be an Arab in Israel if Israel is under attack. Oh, wait, I'd hate to be an Arab in Israel NOW, in peaceful times.

    The bottom line is, Israel should not be attacking Iran. And it won't.

    Oh, as for Iran refining uranium for peaceful purposes, that is hilarious. I mean, hey, nuclear power, of course that is what it is for. I mean, it isn't as though Iran is sitting on one of the world's largest oil reserves. Oh, wait, Iran _is_ sitting on one of the world's largest oil reserves.

    This statement shows an incredible lack of knowledge of world oil markets and, in particular, petrodollars. That Iran has an abundance of oil has no bearing on its intent to build a modern energy infrastructure. It's been pursuing a nuclear energy program since the 70's.

    Down but not out, North-South cooperation resurfaced in new ways. In late 1975, Brazil contracted with Germany to build a nuclear power plant complex. A similar deal was made with France for an experimental fast breeder reactor. Mexico as well decided to go nuclear for part of its electricity to conserve oil and so did Pakistan and Iran. The Shah's oil revenues were substantial, and his idea was "to realize an old dream" – to create a modern energy infrastructure, built around nuclear power generation, that would transform the entire Middle East's power needs. In 1978, Iran had the world's fourth largest nuclear program, the largest among developing states, and the plan was for 20 new reactors by 1995.

    The idea was simple – to diversify from Iran's dependence on oil and weaken Washington and London's pressure to recycle petrodollars. Also involved was investing in leading European companies to ally with the continent. Washington was alarmed and tried to block the plan but failed. Nonetheless, the Carter administration continued Kissinger's strategy behind a phony "human rights" mask. In reality, the game was unchanged – limit Third World growth and maintain dollar hegemony. It failed miserably but threats to dollar dominance were stalled for a time.

    They resurfaced in June, 1978 on the initiative of France and Germany. Responding to policy disagreements and a fluctuating dollar, they took steps to create a European currency zone and proposed Phase I of the European Monetary System (EMS) under which central banks of EEC countries agreed to stabilize their currencies relative to each other. EMS became operational in 1979 with notable positive results. This worried Washington and London as a threat to petrodollar supremacy, Britain refused to be an EMS partner, and Carter was unable to dissuade Germany from pursuing a nuclear option. The situation required drastic action.

    It began in November 1978 with a White House Iran task force that recommended Washington end support for the Shah and replace him with Ayatollah Khomeini, then living in France. It would be by the same type coup that overthrew the Iranian government in 1953 along with broader aims that again are in play in the region.

    Key then (and now) was to balkanize the Middle East along tribal and religious lines – a simple divide and conquer strategy that worked in the 1990s Balkan wars. The aim was to create an "Arc of Crisis" that would spread to Central Asia and the Soviet Union. Another 1978 event highlighted the urgency. At the time, the Shah was negotiating a 25-year oil agreement with British Petroleum (BP), but talks broke down in October. BP demanded exclusive rights to future Iranian output but refused to guarantee oil purchases. The Shah balked and was on the verge of independently seeking new buyers with eager ones lined up in Germany, France, Japan and elsewhere.

    Washington and London were alarmed and acted. They implemented destabilization plans, starting with cutting Iranian oil purchases. Economic pressures followed, and trained US and UK agitators exacerbated them by fanning religious discontent and overall turmoil. Oil strikes as well were used. They crippled production and made things worse. American security advisors recommended Iran's Savak secret police use repressive tactics to maximize antipathy to the Shah. The Carter administration cynically protested human rights abuses, and BBC correspondents exaggerated anti-Shah protests to rev up hysteria against him. At the same time, it gave Khomeini an open platform to speak and prevented the Shah from replying.

    Things came to a head in January, 1979 when he fled the country, and Khomeini returned to Tehran and proclaimed a theocratic state. Chaos was unleashed, and by May the new regime cancelled plans for further nuclear reactor development. At the same time, Iran's oil exports were cut off, and the Saudis inexplicably cut their own in January. Spot prices skyrocketed, and a second oil shock ensued that was as deviously conceived as the first one. Then it got worse. In October, newly appointed Fed Chairman Paul Volker unleashed a new scheme that turned calamity into catastrophe by design.

    F. William Engdahl's "A Century of War" – Part II

    Incidentally, the lie that "Iran is close to a nuclear bomb" has been bandied about periodically since the 80's, always for political reasons, of course. You can go back and check headlines from the Times and other papers and you'll see that. They've always been wrong, and there's no reason to believe them now, unless one wants to give in to propaganda. Listen to the IAEA, not the propaganda produced by the mass media on behalf of various governments, notably Israel and the U.S.

  40. Duscany says:

    Suzanne: "this is all a bunch of phony kaka in your desperate attempt to spare Iran from getting bombed."

    Why should we want to see Iran bombed? If Israel attacks Iran, the US will be drawn into a major mid-east war that will bankrupt America and plunge us into a decade-long thirties-style depression. If Israel wants to rid the mid-east of nuclear weapons it could start by getting rid of the 300 devices in its own stockpile.

    Israel started the mid-east nuclear arms race nearly 40 years and now it's hysterical that another country may in the next year or two have enough material for a single bomb. Where is the wall on which it is written, "Israel is allowed 300 bombs but no one else can have any"?

  41. Dan Kelly says:

    this is all a bunch of phony kaka in your desperate attempt to spare Iran from getting bombed

    I don't want to see any country on earth get bombed. It's unimaginable to me to root for the bombing of a country. I guess it's not for you.

  42. Shirin says:

    Dan,

    If by Zionist misinterpretations you are referring to the kind of thing I described from MEMRI, then I am not aware of any such site. It would be a good idea, but it is certainly a big undertaking.

    One of the most egregious examples of MEMRI's work is something you might remember because it was all over the news in the U.S. a year or so ago. MEMRI had "translated" a clip from a Palestinian children's show featuring a Mickey Mouse-like character and distributed it all over the media, and it became quite notorious. Jon Stewart even did a bit on it on his show.

    The mistranslation was shocking, but what was more shocking was that not one media outlet bothered to contact an Arabic-speaking source to check the accuracy of the translation, nor did they consult anyone who might be able to interpret what was going on on the program, and explain why such a subject was even being discussed on a children's program.

    Here are some of the more egregious examples of MEMRI's obviously deliberate distortions of that clip. I have included the Arabic in transliteration followed by the correct translation, and then MEMRI's "translation". The Arabic is Palestinian dialect. I have also put in a few explanatory remarks in parentheses.

    In the beginning of the clip a little girl, Senabel, is asked what she will do for the sake of Al Aqsa (the great mosque in Jerusalem, which is obviously being used here as a symbol for Palestine). Farfour is a mouse character played by someone in a mouse costume:

    Sanabel (answering): Biddi arsim sura.

    Correct translation: I’m going to (or I want to) draw a picture.

    MEMRI: I will shoot. (There is simply no way on earth this could be an honest mistake. I shoot in Arabic is atoch, I will shoot hatoch. I draw a picture is arsem (I draw) sura (a picture), I will draw a picture harsem sura, or biddi arsem sura. You can see that this was a deliberate deception.)

    Farfour: Eish hane’mil, Senabel, ya’ni keif ehna bidna ya sanabel enharrir …

    Farfour: What are we going to do, Sanabel, I mean, how are we going to liberate …

    MEMRI: Sanabel, what should we do if we want to liberate…

    Sanabel: Bidna nqawim.

    Sanabel: We are going to resist.

    MEMRI: We want to fight. (The Arabic verb قاوم qawama is virtually exactly equivalent to the English verb resist, and refers to all kinds of resistance, non-violent as well as violent. MEMRI did a bit of what is called malicious translation here by choosing the verb fight in place of the more accurate resist.)

    Farfour: W ba’dein? Hadi hfiznaha, w ba’dein?

    Farfour: And then what? We know this, and then what?

    MEMRI: We got that. What else?

    Sanabel: Bitokhoona al yahood.

    Sanabel: The Jews will shoot us.

    MEMRI: We will annihilate the Jews. (There is no way this is an honest mistake. A first semester Arabic student would not make a mistake like this. The verb means shoot, not annihilate, the subject is obviously al yahood (which in this context refers to the Israelis, not The Jews in the broader sense), and the object of the verb is obviously first person plural, us. There is absolutely no way to mix any of those things up.)

    Now, a person might reasonably question why this kind of discussion is taking place on a children's program, and I admit that this is not the way I would prefer to see it approached, but these are the realities of life for Palestinian children, and it is far healthier to discuss them openly than to avoid them. It is really a shame that the U.S. media not only did not check the translations for accuracy, but did not consider why this type of subject was even part of a children's program.

    There are a number of very worthwhile websites that I can recommend for information about issues concerning Palestine. Have you visited link to lawrenceofcyberia.blogs.com? Some excellent, very well-researched, beautifully-sourced and well-reasoned historical and conceptual information there. link to justworldnews.org is the blog of the wonderful researcher/analyst/journalist Helena Cobban. Among other things, she has interviewed most of the top figures in Hamas and Hezballah, and has much to contribute to understanding of those organizations. For a more acerbic take on Palestine, Lebanon, and all sorts of related matters, I recommend a daily look at link to angryarab.blogspot.com.

  43. Shirin says:

    Dan, as for the Wiki article on the dhimmi thing, I did not have time to read the whole article, so it is not really fair to comment on it much. In general, anyone who cites Bernard Lewis earns negative points right away. Bernard Lewis used to be a respected historian, albeit a classical orientalist, until he got into writing popular nonsense about Islam. At that point he lost a lot of status as a scholar, and in the last decade or so he has become an object of pity, or a laughing stock depending on your point of view.

    He is NOT a recognized scholar on Islam, and most of what he has to say about Islam and Muslims is rubbish gleaned from his Zionist biases. However, it sounds like in this case I might agree with him. While it is true that Jews fared far better under Islamic rule than they did in Christian Europe, and while it is true that Jewish culture and influence experienced a golden age during the Islamic empire, the situation of minorities in the Islamic age varied enormously depending on the rulers they lived under (as did the situation of Muslims, as a matter of fact). So how it went for Jews, Christians, and other minorities depended on where and when they lived. So, I would say that Lewis's description of the two opposing myths definitely has substance. It was neither unmitigated glory, nor horror for Jews.

    As for the dhimmi thing, that word has taken on a meaning and a significance among American Islamophobes that it never had in real life. In the Islamic empire it designated protected minorities, specifically believers in the God of Abraham, who were primarily Jews and Christians, but also included a few other groups such as Mandaeans, and, inexplicably, Zoroastrians (politics sometimes trumps religion).

    Some Islamophobes make much of the fact that these protected persons were required to pay extra taxes, but what they do not mention is that the payment of extra taxes was due to the fact that their sons were not subject to military conscription as all Muslim men were. The extra tax was intended to keep things even, not to punish non-Muslims. Muslim males played their part by serving in the military, non-Muslims played their part by paying more taxes. It seemed fair at the time.

  44. Dan Kelly says:

    Shirin, thank you so much for your valuable input. The true translation of the children's show is exactly the type of thing I was looking for. It's utterly disgusting that the misinterpretation was allowed to be disseminated far and wide in this country via the mass media. That alone has brainwashed countless millions of Americans with a completely false image of Palestinians. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

    I would have to imagine that some Arabic outlet tried to correct this, but I'm not aware of any retractions.

    I am aware of the sites you mentioned, and will make an effort to frequent them more often. I have so many sites that I try to get to each day – it gets overwhelming. I just became aware of Helena Cobban quite recently, via this site, in fact.

    The Wikipedia entry was just an example I pulled up quickly. I would never trust Wikipedia for any information outside of actor's birthdays or athlete's biographies or other trivial stuff like that. I certainly wouldn't depend on it for anything resembling the truth when it comes to the Middle East.

    Thank you again for your posts. Phil and Adam were posting columns from a gentleman named Mohammed at one point (I haven't seen anything from him lately), and I wonder if they would do the same for you from time to time, if you're interested. You write extremely well, and your viewpoint is essential. I would especially like it if they would post your translation of the children's show from above. It is very important, in its own right, and as an example of all the misinformation and outright lies that we are bombarded with on a daily basis vis a vis Palestine, Arabs, Muslims, etc.

    Thank you again.

  45. chris berel says:

    Yes, the entire world (Except the Islamic World) shuddered at the use of a children's program to broadcast savage hatred using popular icons.

    So nice that we have our very own islamic antisemite to lie and convince Phil phools that it was all innocent. Kelly certainly needed the information.

    I see Shirin is advocating that the MUslims of Israel pay an extra tax so that their children will be exempt from serving in the army.

  46. Richard Witty says:

    Dan,
    For a rational person, the problem isn't the a word or observation is misused (and must therefore be untrue). The questions have to be about what IS occurring.

    And, in this modern world, at this time, Iran is actively expanding its power and influence. If its military efforts were limited to genuinely defensive capacity, then maybe the assertion "Iran is not aggressing" might be true.

    But its NOT true now. Israel is a sovereign state, a member of the UN. Iran is a sovereign state, a member of the UN.

    Iran though actively funds, trains, arms militias on three borders of Israel, that DO use their weapons to attack Israeli civilians, NOW. (There is still periodic shelling from Gaza and Lebanon.) That reality, combined with their public statements of seeking to remove Israel from the map, creates an "enemy" relationship between Israel and Iran.

    That there might be some basis of some reconciliation in other conditions is wonderful. But, to ignore the current is foolish, and supports the right-wing description of the west currently as appeasing.

  47. Dan Kelly says:

    Iran though actively funds, trains, arms militias on three borders of Israel, that DO use their weapons to attack Israeli civilians, NOW.

    There is no proof of that. Iran is sympathetic to Hamas, but doesn't provide it any weapons (as evidenced by the meager homemade "rockets" that Hamas operatives employ). Hamas is a local resistance group attemtping to defend the Palestinians from Israel's illegal occupation.

    Iran was initially involved with Hezbollah, but Hezbollah has largely come into its own of late.

    Hamas is not Iran's Puppet

    Are the "attacks" on Israel always in response to Israeli aggression, or are they always unprovoked, or a little of each?

    Richard, do you support a military invasion of Iran?

  48. chris berel says:

    Nothing like having antisemites with blinders advocating for Iran. There is ample prrof of Iran supporting Hamas with both money and weapons.

    From NPR:

    The political leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, is on a visit to Tehran this week, to thank Iran for its support during Hamas' 22-day war with Israel.

    During the conflict with Hamas, Israeli leaders — and some in the United States — characterized the fighting as a proxy war with Iran. And Iran makes no secret of its support for the Palestinian resistance group.

    For weeks, Iranian television and newspapers have been full of news about the war in Gaza — all of it anti-Israel and pro-Hamas. So Meshaal's visit has been hailed as something of a victory lap.

    Little is known publicly in Iran about weapons supplies. But the Iranian government makes no secret of its material support for Hamas.

  49. Family says:

    RE: "LOL. What ethnic ties to the Middle East do you have, Suzanne? " My mother is Jewish. If I choose, I can be a citizen of Israel."

    Many commenters here do not have such an insurance contract. They simply are Americans. They can't run to another country at the drop of a hat. Hence they have the right and duty to be critical of the regime governing in the only land they have.

    Sort of like the difference between kids who have to stay at home because their grandparents died, and other kids who can always run off and stay at Grandma's place. Which ones have more of a daily pressing need
    to set their home right?

  50. Eva Smagacz says:

    Thank you Shirin,

    I agree that ذمّي has been highjacked as a propaganda meme.

    The word started to evolve in english from meaning "protected" to meaning "second-class". It is deliberate.

    I am most amused by the current concept where being separated from "pagans" by the Islamic teachings and being recognised as a "worshippers of the one true God" in VII century AD is considered barbaric somehow.

    It is meant to be shown as opposite, I suppose, to the twentieth century standard of civilised behaviour that the "Western Civilisation" displayed in the VII century in the forests of France and Germany. LOL.

    It is a bit like rallying against barbarity of Italians for the roman sin of not giving women equal rights 2000 years ago AND saying this with the straight face.