Shame on Germany for Denying the Iranian Regime’s Antisemitism
Earlier this month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government declared that the Iranian regime was anti-Israel, but was not antisemitic in its calls for Israel’s destruction.
The absurdity of this statement by the German government has shocked many Jews worldwide, but is perhaps most insulting to my Iranian Jewish community, which has firsthand experience of the vile antisemitism of this radical Islamic regime in Iran during the last 40 years.
The vast majority of us Iranian Jews know all too well that the regime in Tehran not only has a deep-rooted hatred for Jews, but has advanced an on-going campaign of terror against Iran’s Jews and promoted Holocaust denial since coming to power in 1979. Shame on the German and other European governments for turning a blind eye to the Iranian regime’s deep-rooted antisemitism in order to advance their own economic interests.
The list of antisemitic actions and laws carried out by Iran’s radical regime are too voluminous to list, but perhaps the regime’s first action against Iran’s Jews came in May 1979 when they executed Iran’s Jewish leader, Habib Elghanian, for no reason. After a sham 20-minute trial, Elghanian was executed on false charges of spying for America and Israel. His execution by the new Khomeini regime in Iran was designed to send a clear message to the country’s Jews: “You are no longer welcomed to live freely in Iran.”
And indeed, Elghanian’s execution caused a massive wave of Jews to flee Iran and either leave their assets behind or sell them at bargain prices. The Islamic regime in Iran did not stop with the execution of Elghanian; from 1979 to 1999, it has formally executed 20 Jews, arrested and tortured thousands more, and confiscated billions of dollars in Jewish property, businesses, and assets.
Moreover, Iran’s once 80,000 strong Jewish population has fled the country during these four decades to the point where only roughly 5,000 to 8,000 Jews still remain in Iran. The following is just a brief list of the antisemitic statements by the Iranian regime’s leadership or antisemitic acts carried out in Iran that were never stopped or investigated by the regime during the last 20 years:
- Between 1994 and 1997, 12 Jews that were trying to flee Iran via Pakistan were arrested by the Iranian secret police and have not been heard from since. The 12 were imprisoned and the Iranian regime has refused to discuss their fate.
- During 1999-2000, 13 Jews from the Iranian city of Shiraz were arrested and falsely charged with spying for Israel. They faced imminent execution by the regime. Ultimately a rigorous international media campaign waged by Iranian Jewish activists in America and American Jewish groups halted the executions. They were spared from death but imprisoned and later released.
- In December 2005, the Iranian regime’s state-run Jaam-e Jam TV program, showed Iranian commentator Ali-Reza Akbari claiming “the Jews murdered non-Jewish children and used their blood for Passover.”
- In January 2011, the Iranian student Basiji militia of the Abu-Ali Sina/Avicenna University in the western Iranian province of Hamadan rioted outside the entrance of the Esther and Mordechai tomb and threatened to destroy it if Israel destroyed the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
- In June 2012, the Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi — in a televised speech — alleged that the prevalence of drugs and drug-addiction throughout the world was rooted in the Talmud. “The book teaches them how to destroy non-Jews so as to protect an embryo in the womb of a Jewish mother,” he said.
- In November 2012, Toobah Nehdaran, a 57-year-old married Jewish woman, was strangled, then repeatedly stabbed to death, and her body was mutilated in a ritual manner by thugs who had broken into her home located inside the Jewish ghetto within the Iranian city of Isfahan. Nehdaran’s gruesome murder was never investigated by Iranian authorities, and suspects were never arrested in connection with her murder.
- In 2016, in an online video, the Iranian regime’s cleric Mehdi Taeb claimed that “the Jews aim to control the world and therefore people are obligated to kill anyone who is not willing to accept this control, particularly Muslims.” He also repeated false conspiracy theories that “the Jews control the global economy, the media, and have hatched plots and sow division, strife, and wars, especially among Muslims.”
- In December 2017, two synagogues located in the Iranian city of Shiraz were vandalized by unknown assailants who left a total of five Torah scrolls and numerous prayer books damaged or totally destroyed. Likewise, Tzedakah charity boxes were stolen from the synagogues. The incident was never investigated by the regime’s authorities and no arrests were made in connection with the crime.
- On February 28, 2019, three antique Torah scrolls were stolen by unknown thieves from the centuries-old Ezra Yagoub synagogue located inside Tehran’s Jewish ghetto. The crime was never investigated by the regime and no regime state-run media reported on the crime.
With all of these antisemitic actions that have been carried out by the Iranian regime or its thugs, as well as the antisemitic statements from the regime’s leaders, perhaps the most outrageously antisemitic actions by the Iranian regime have been their full support for vile Holocaust denial.
In December 2006, the Iranian regime proudly hosted a Holocaust denial conference attended by many American and European antisemites. In 2015 and 2016, the Iranian regime’s state-run Sarcheshmeh Cultural Institute organized the country’s official Holocaust Cartoon competition in Tehran that offers up to $50,000 to the cartoonist who featured the most “interesting Holocaust denial cartoon.”
But the antisemitism and Holocaust denial garbage spewed by the Iranian regime is nothing new. This disgusting behavior has a long and proud tradition dating back to the inception of the Islamic Republic. The regime has always maintained warm relations with notorious antisemites, including former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke and other American neo-Nazi groups who frequently appear on the regime’s state-run English language news platform Press TV to spew their messages of Jew-hatred.
Furthermore, the Iranian regime has a long history of ties to European neo-Nazi groups and Holocaust deniers. For example, the Iranian regime proudly announced many years ago that it paid for the legal defense in France of French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy, who was convicted and fined $80,000 in 1998 for denying the Holocaust. Garaudy was subsequently welcomed in Tehran as a hero and met with the Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei.
The list of antisemitic actions and statements from the Iranian regime that are not related to Israel is quite long, and it is utterly ridiculous for the current German government to deny it. That Merkel and members of her government continue to maintain diplomatic and economic relations with the Iranian regime that so proudly denies the Holocaust is shameful.
German laws prohibit denying the Holocaust, but German government officials are hypocrites for failing to apply that same law and standard when it comes to the Iranian regime’s officials who do so. The failure of Merkel and her government to oppose the Iranian regime’s open and proud antisemitism is caused either by their desire for economic ties with the regime or a sinister tradition of antisemitism in Germany. The German nation and people should be among the first and most vocal critics of the Iranian regime’s antisemitism, instead of being its apologists.
Karmel Melamed is an award-winning internationally published freelance journalist based in Southern California covering Iran and Middle East affairs.