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Watchdog: Anti-Semitism Part of Official Discourse in Iran

Despite efforts by some politicians in Iran to reach out to the country’s Jewish community, “antisemitic propaganda distributed by official or semi-official media as well as high-ranking clerics” continues to influence Iranian public discourse, Raz Zimmt wrote in a report published Thursday for the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism (ISGAP), an academic association devoted to fighting anti-Semitism.

Zimmt cited a number of articles to illustrate the nature of this propaganda, including one published on April at Mashregh News, a website affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which described Jews as history’s most bloodthirsty people. The piece charged Jews with killing non-Jews to use their blood for religious practices and claimed that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians “was proof of the rapacious and savage nature of the Jewish people.” It was later re-posted by other outlets, including one with ties to a member of Iran’s parliament.

Zimmt provided several other such examples, including an article published by Mashregh in August that called the Holocaust a “false myth” and a “lucrative industry” for Jews, which Israel used to “justify” their treatment of the Palestinians. Another piece– an essay posted on the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News– equated the Shi’ite belief in the Day of Judgment with the “divine promise to exterminate the Jews”

Zimmt noted that these expressions are not limited to organs of the IRGC, but are also spread by some Iranian clerics, including one who called Jews the “biggest enemies of Islam.”

Zimmt stressed that this type of discourse poses a risk to Iran’s remaining Jewish population, which is estimated to range between 10,000 and 15,000 people. “While the Jews in Iran seem to enjoy a reasonable degree of security and religious rights, Iranian public opinion is not immune from the possible effects of religious incitement,” he argued. “Antisemitic propaganda distributed by official or semi-official media as well as high-ranking clerics can create a dangerous atmosphere for the Jews.”

He added that isolated attacks against Jews occur in this atmosphere, and pointed to two separate murders from 2012: one of a Jewish woman by neighbors who wanted to seize her property, and one of a young Jewish man who was reportedly dating the Muslim daughter of an IRGC member.

The Jewish population of Iran today is roughly one tenth of the size it was in 1979. Shahrzad Elghanayan, a Jewish woman whose family emigrated from Iran, wrote in The Washington Post this past April that members of the community have often been targeted by the regime. She also refuted boasts by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif about Iran’s “tolerance” for Jews, noting that her own grandfather was executed by the regime in 1979 after a 20-minute trial.

[Photo: Mllad Alex / Flickr ]