|Tomb of Biblical prophet Daniel in Susa, Iran / Photo: ninara, CC BY 2.0|
Roy Isacowitz of “In These Times” is engaging in some wishful thinking if he believes that Iranian leaders’ gripe with Israel is solely Anti-Zionist in nature.
Unfortunately, the reality is that Iranian leaders' anti-Zionism quite happily coexists with a big, steaming vat of anti-Jewish hatred. Their state-sanctioned media and leaders often propagate John Bircher-esque and Nazi-inspired global Jewish conspiracy nonsense, some downright silly conspiracy theories, like this, this, this, and this, racist stereotypes so ugly they'd make Adolph Hitler blush, idiotic blood libel (claims that Jewish people use blood of murdered non-Jewish children to make Passover matzo), and declarations that not just Israel, but the Jewish people are to be eradicated from the Earth. The Ayatollah and former President Ahmadinejad have been particularly egregious on this front.
To be certain, not all Iranians hate Jews. Some actually *are* Jews, although 95% of Persian Jews have fled Iran since 1978, and 3/4 of that population now actually live in Israel (more on that in a bit.) Still, I wouldn’t assume that a majority of Iranian citizens hold virulently anti-Jewish views. However, there is very little reliable evaluation of Iranian public opinion that would allow us to gauge the level of public anti-Semitism. What we can determine with available information is that Iranian political leadership must believe that, at the very least, an important and powerful segment of the population is anti-Semitic, because they routinely resort to anti-Jewish rhetoric to coalesce their domestic political power. (Refer to the examples linked above.)
But what of the Persian Jews? Going back to 6th century BC, there was a significant Persian Jewish community in the area now defined as Iran. There are reasons why the vast majority of these folks fled Iran in the wake of the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini. There is a reason why today there are only 8,700 or so Persian Jews still in Iran, while more than 230,000 of them now reside in Israel (about 3/4 of all Persian Jews world-wide) and more than 60,000 now live here in the US. Yes, the U.S. now has more than 6 times as many Persian Jews as remain in Iran.
As concerned as they ostensibly are about oppression and freedom, best I can tell, The American Left has never gotten worked up about the plight of Persian Jews in Iran. I suspect it's because (a) most liberals know nothing about it, (b) those who know a bit about it assume the conditions that caused 95% of Persian Jews to flee Iran over the past 35 years weren’t really that bad, and (c) some who DO know the story don't care because they're raging Jew-haters, period.
Would Iran perhaps be less bellicose toward the Jews if Israel hadn’t been established in the Jewish people's historic homeland? If, instead, the US had volunteered a New Jersey-sized chunk of lesser-populated Nevada, North Dakota, or some such to be a new, sovereign Jewish homeland decades ago? Um, maybe. Or maybe those 300,000+ Persian Jews in exile know more about it than the rest of us do.
A Post Script: I'm not arguing against the current Iranian disarmament deal, which may well be the best we can do short of war to reign in Iran’s nuclear program. If we couldn’t sign peace treaties with leaders who have horrifying beliefs about certain classes of people – including Americans in general – we’d be at war all the time. I'm simply cautioning against erroneously minimizing the degree of anti-Semitism among Iranian leaders, or anyone else, for that matter.
 Before you go there, my super progressive American friends =) … yes, there is very much a parallel here between Iranian Jew-bashing and American demagogues bashing gays, blacks, immigrants, Muslims, “man hating feminists,” and everyone else they fret over. Which was why I gave up the GOP for good back in 1992. It's also why I do every little bit I can to call out hate-mongering rhetoric, whether it comes from Left or Right. This isn’t about us, it’s about Israel, Iran, and the Jewish people. So let’s think about someone other than ourselves for a moment.