Commentary Magazine


Topic: Fars News Agency

Illustrating Iranian Anti-Semitism

Fars News Agency is the go-to place for foreign media outlets to find out what’s going on in Iran or at least what the government in Tehran wants us to think is going on there. But lest anyone think the journalists at Fars are untainted by the demented anti-Semitism that is the hallmark of much of the discourse we hear from that government, a contest run by the news service should remind us how deep the virus of hate runs in Iranian society. Fars has just held an “International Wall Street Downfall Cartoon Festival” in which illustrators were invited to draw something that would demonstrate sympathy with the Occupy Wall Street movement. The winner was one Mohammad Tabrizi, who earned 5,000 euros for drawing a depiction of a monumental-style building labeled “New York Wall Street,” which was a replica of the Western Wall in Jerusalem before which figures dressed as Orthodox Jews worshiped.

The cartoon is, as the Anti-Defamation League noted, “offensive on many levels.” But the main point here must be to point out that this drawing is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Iranian anti-Semitism. Far from being an outlier, the cartoon is just the latest in a series of incidents and statements that show how Jew-hatred has become an integral factor in Iranian discourse. While this is damning by itself, it puts the struggle to stop the Islamist regime from obtaining nuclear weapons in a frightening context. It ought to give pause to those who claim Iran’s leaders are too responsible to even think of using such weapons against the Jewish state they have also pledged to eliminate.

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Fars News Agency is the go-to place for foreign media outlets to find out what’s going on in Iran or at least what the government in Tehran wants us to think is going on there. But lest anyone think the journalists at Fars are untainted by the demented anti-Semitism that is the hallmark of much of the discourse we hear from that government, a contest run by the news service should remind us how deep the virus of hate runs in Iranian society. Fars has just held an “International Wall Street Downfall Cartoon Festival” in which illustrators were invited to draw something that would demonstrate sympathy with the Occupy Wall Street movement. The winner was one Mohammad Tabrizi, who earned 5,000 euros for drawing a depiction of a monumental-style building labeled “New York Wall Street,” which was a replica of the Western Wall in Jerusalem before which figures dressed as Orthodox Jews worshiped.

The cartoon is, as the Anti-Defamation League noted, “offensive on many levels.” But the main point here must be to point out that this drawing is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Iranian anti-Semitism. Far from being an outlier, the cartoon is just the latest in a series of incidents and statements that show how Jew-hatred has become an integral factor in Iranian discourse. While this is damning by itself, it puts the struggle to stop the Islamist regime from obtaining nuclear weapons in a frightening context. It ought to give pause to those who claim Iran’s leaders are too responsible to even think of using such weapons against the Jewish state they have also pledged to eliminate.

Only a couple of weeks ago, Iran’s vice president shocked some diplomats by opening a United Nations conference by blaming the international drug trade on the Jews and the Talmud. Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi was just the latest proof of the hold Jew-hatred has over Iran’s political class. But if people believe this virus is confined to the ayatollahs and doesn’t have much impact on the rest of the culture, then they haven’t been paying attention. In April, Iranian TV commemorated Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day — by running anti-Semitic cartoons. And, of course, it shouldn’t be forgotten that, as the ADL pointed out, the Iranian government itself sponsored a Holocaust cartoon contest whose entries mocked the Jewish victims while also denying the crime.

Foreign policy realists who think a nuclear Iran can be contained or that it can be trusted not to use nukes simply ignore the incitement and hatred against Jews that is commonplace in Iranian culture. Similarly, those who believe diplomacy can sweet talk the ayatollahs into giving up their nuclear ambitions are not taking into account the way their enmity for Jews has come to define Iran’s view of the world. This Iranian take on the Occupy movement isn’t a joke. It’s a clear signal of the genocidal direction in which Iran is heading if it isn’t stopped first.

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