Commentary Magazine


Topic: Iranian anti-Semitism

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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Holocaust Denial Cartoons Undermine Confidence in Iran Talks

The fact that Iran’s leaders continue to threaten Israel with destruction and perhaps set in motion a second Holocaust while all the while denying the reality of the first one is a conundrum that observers of Tehran have never quite figured out. But even while their negotiators have been successfully stalling Western diplomatic efforts to force them to drop their nuclear ambitions, the Islamist state is still promoting Holocaust denial. Israel’s Channel 2 News reports (via the Times of Israel) that Iran’s state run television is honoring Yom HaShoah by broadcasting cartoons that depict the Holocaust as a fraud. The cartoons (which are available for viewing on memri.org) shows figures dressed as ultra-Orthodox Jews fabricating stories about the Holocaust in order to make money and to dispossess the Palestinians.

The cartoons are important not just because they are offensive, but because they reflect the mindset of the Iranian government. Anyone who thinks the ayatollahs can be trusted with a nuclear weapon or with even a peaceful nuclear energy program — which may be the “compromise” that Tehran will agree to in order to allow the West to back away from a confrontation over the issue — needs to understand that the hatred for Jews and Israel is integral to the ideology of the regime and its ultimate goals.

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The fact that Iran’s leaders continue to threaten Israel with destruction and perhaps set in motion a second Holocaust while all the while denying the reality of the first one is a conundrum that observers of Tehran have never quite figured out. But even while their negotiators have been successfully stalling Western diplomatic efforts to force them to drop their nuclear ambitions, the Islamist state is still promoting Holocaust denial. Israel’s Channel 2 News reports (via the Times of Israel) that Iran’s state run television is honoring Yom HaShoah by broadcasting cartoons that depict the Holocaust as a fraud. The cartoons (which are available for viewing on memri.org) shows figures dressed as ultra-Orthodox Jews fabricating stories about the Holocaust in order to make money and to dispossess the Palestinians.

The cartoons are important not just because they are offensive, but because they reflect the mindset of the Iranian government. Anyone who thinks the ayatollahs can be trusted with a nuclear weapon or with even a peaceful nuclear energy program — which may be the “compromise” that Tehran will agree to in order to allow the West to back away from a confrontation over the issue — needs to understand that the hatred for Jews and Israel is integral to the ideology of the regime and its ultimate goals.

The purpose of the cartoons and other forms of anti-Semitic propaganda promoted by Iran is to demonize Jews and to justify their destruction. Iran is not Nazi Germany, but Iran’s efforts to portray Jews as subhuman creatures who sucked money from Europe and land from the Arabs are strikingly similarly to the propaganda that was used to prepare the way for the Holocaust.

Iran’s defenders, such as German Nobel laureate and SS veteran Gunter Grass, depict it as an innocent victim of potential Israeli aggression. But he and other European detractors of Israel who pose as advocates of “human rights” seem remarkably indifferent to the fact that Tehran has become, along with other Muslim capitals, one of the leading exporters of vile anti-Semitic propaganda to the West. The more one learns about the way Iran’s government promotes Jew-hatred the less convincing arguments that claim the ayatollahs are not interested in a war of annihilation against Israel and the Jews sound.

The idea that Iran is a reasonable country that can be enticed by rational arguments to back away from the nuclear abyss is one that doesn’t take into account the ferocity of the regime’s Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. While one would hope that President Obama’s window of diplomacy would be used to force the ayatollahs to give up their weapons program, confidence in Tehran’s willingness to give up its hope for nukes is only possible so long as one ignores the essential nature of the regime.

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