Sunday, September 16, 2007

Iran and the Jews.

Today, we are going to depart from our ongoing reflection on the U.S. and France and briefly mention some surprising news from Iran.

The Islamic republic's state-owned television has a very popular tv show about Jews in Europe during WWII. Well, I imagine what you're thinking: another anti-Semite piece denying the Holocaust.

Well, apparently, and against all odds (given Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's anti-Jewish rhetoric this is not the case, at least according to The Wall Street Journal:

The hour-long drama, "Zero Degree Turn," centers on a love story between an Iranian-Palestinian Muslim man and a French Jewish woman. Over the course of the 22 episodes, the hero saves his love from Nazi detention camps, and Iranian diplomats in France forge passports for the woman and her family to sneak on to airplanes carrying Iranian Jews to their homeland.

The newspaper also reminds us a fact often overlooked by many French and Americans alike:

Iran is home to some 25,000 Jews, the largest population in the Middle East outside of Israel. Iran's Jews -- along with Christians and Zorastrians -- are guaranteed equal rights in the country's constitution. Iran's Jews are guaranteed one member of parliament and are free to study Hebrew in school, pray in synagogues and shop at kosher supermarkets. Despite Mr. Ahmadinejad's statements, it isn't government policy to question the Holocaust, and the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, hasn't endorsed those views.

Is this another spin? Well, for one thing, nobody can accuse Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal of ties with the Iranian regime or pushing for a pro-iranian agenda.

As far as Iran's television is concerned, it is certainly the voice of the real men in charge: surpreme leader Khamenei and his fellow clerics. And what are they trying to tell us?

According to Amir Levy, director of the teleprocessing department of the Satlink satellite company, who is following the series, the makers of the series wish to relay a message that Iran has traditionally treated Jews well, as opposed to the racism and persecution they encountered in Europe. Levy says that other messages are emphasized as well, such as the claim that Iran is the cradle of civilization because ancient Persia and its philosophy predate Greek philosophy. (Harretz)

Well, there may be a lot of ego there but all in all, not a bad message.

An interesting illustration of the complexity of the situation regarding Iran – a far cry from the demonizing rhetoric of the neo-cons in America and Ahmadinejad’s maddening words.


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