In our previous post, we called out Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on his hypocrisy regarding his country’s human rights abuses, calling into question the veracity of his farcical claim – broadcast on American television for all to see – that Iran “does not jail people for their opinions.”
But that was hardly Zarif’s first blatantly hypocritical (not to mention untruthful) statement. Back in March, Zarif boasted in an interview with NBC’s Ann Curry that Iran has “a bright record of tolerance to other religions,” stretching back to the great Achaemenid and Sassanid kings. But does Iran still hold that “bright record” today, more than three decades into the Islamic Revolution? According to Zarif, it certainly does – at least when it comes to Jews, whom Iran saved “three times” throughout history, including during World War II.
Zarif, apparently, has a peculiar reading of history – one that is meant to credit the current regime in Tehran, but that ends decades before the clerics actually took power. In fact, the tone for the Islamic Republic’s relationship with its Jews was set with an incident Zarif curiously neglects to mention – the execution of community head Habib Elghanian in May 1979 on charges that included “friendship with the enemies of God,” “warring with God and his emissaries,” and “economic imperialism.” The execution sent many Iranian Jews on a trajectory of emigration, and the shock and horror of it still resonates with them today.
Which is why we found it surprising that (Jewish) blogger Robert Naiman would wax poetic about being Jewish in Iran (the same Iran which is going to try Jason Rezaian next week) in a recent Huffington Post op-ed. While some of what Naiman learned from the “blessing” of touring the Islamic Republic was related more to napping and drinking hot beverages than to religious and minority affairs, he also observed that Isfahan has a Jewish community (“Who knew?”), and that a university imam is liable to “kiss you on both cheeks” if he “finds out that you are Jewish.” We wanted to formulate an apt response to these earth-shattering observations, but the feedback Naiman’s post received summed it up for us:
Wow, Iran sounds like paradise for anyone. Americans, Jews, women and everyone else. Not a single negative thing except for bad Cappuccino […] Kudos to the Huffington Post for standing behind this beautiful picture of daily life in Iran!