November 21, 2018

USA Today’s new report on Iran’s Jews is Inaccurate and Irresponsible

Ciamak Morsadegh, the sole Jewish member of Iran's parliament.

Every so often the when the Iranian regime’s public image in the West has taken a hit, the regime’s leadership loves to invite various Western media outlets to Iran in order to parade members of the Jewish community in front of them in an effort to bolster their true negative image as an anti-Semitic repressive regime.  The regime’s Intelligence Ministry has hand-picked leaders of the Jewish community in Iran telling the Western reporters that Iran is a supposed a “safe and peaceful place” for Jews to live in. Unfortunately in the past Western media outlets such as the Guardian in England, the Forward in New York, the New York Times, CNN or NBC News have either been naïve enough to believe and report these lies, or just complicit in spreading them. Again such has been the case with USA Today recently publishing an article claiming the Jews of Iran feel “safe and respected”. As an Iranian Jewish journalist who has been covering Iranian Jewry worldwide for nearly two decades, I feel compelled to expose USA Today’s inaccurate and irresponsible reporting on Iran’s Jews.

While the reporter who covered this story for USA Today generally mentions the hardships Jews and religious minorities experience in Iran, she inaccurately portrays a “rosy” life for Iran’s Jews throughout her story without giving us the real facts about their real condition. This is done by the reporter repeatedly quoting the Jewish community leaders’ worn out and parroted comments about how life is supposedly “great for the Jews of Iran”.  The Iranian regime’s Jewish mouthpieces nowadays are Ciamak Morsadegh, the only Jewish member of the Iranian parliament and the community leader, Homayoun Sameyah Najafabadi. Both men are always claiming that the Jews of Iran are living in “total freedom and face no danger while living in Iran.” Yet what both men failed to tell the USA Today reporter and other western journalists are that Jews will say whatever their radical Islamic puppet masters in Tehran tell them to say in order to avoid arrest or other potential calamities brought upon the Jewish community in Iran. Morsadegh and Najafabadi may either be paid stooges for the Iranian regime to spread lies or may be saying good things about the Iranian regime’s treatment of the Jews under duress. The truth of the matter is that the Iranian regime and its secret police of thugs have a tight grip on the activities of the Jewish community in Iran.  So how can any journalist in their right mind give any credibility to what these hand-picked “spokespersons” for Iran’s Jews say? Moreover why isn’t the reporter or the editors at USA Today informing the reader of their article that what these men are claiming may not be accurate due to the repressive conditions in which they and other Jews in Iran live in today?

The USA Today article about Iran’s Jews is also inaccurate because it claims there are 12,000 to 15,000 Jews living in Iran, a number given to them by the Jewish Committee of Iran. Again these numbers are highly inaccurate and are hard for me as an Iranian Jewish journalist to accept because these are the same numbers Jewish leaders in Iran and the Iranian authorities have been giving western media for the past 25 years! Anyone who has been following Jewish immigration out of Iran and knows of the work of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society)that  has been quietly helping Jews fleeing Iran during the last near three decades and resettling the U.S. and Israel, knows that the number of Jews living in Iran today is getting smaller and smaller each year. In fact on a regular basis I meet and interview countless new Iranian Jewish immigrants to Los Angeles in the course of my reporting on the Iranian Jewish community in the city. So it’s a hard pill for me to swallow when the Iranian regime and its Jewish stooges claim that there are supposedly such a high number of Jews still living in Iran. According to the estimates privately given to me by Iranian Jewish leaders in Los Angeles and New York, the number of Jews still living in Iran are between 5,000 to 8,000 people. Yet these numbers are not widely published because Iranian Jews in America are by in large fearful that if they indicate these low numbers of Jews living in Iran, it may upset the Iranian regime’s leaders and therefore jeopardize the lives of Jews still living in Iran. Likewise the Jewish community leadership and the Iranian regime have never once conducted a proper census of the Jews living in Iran since 1979. Therefore the numbers the Jewish leadership in Iran gives the western media should not be given any serious credibility.

The USA Today article likewise claims that the Iranian regime’s founder the Ayatollah Khomeini tried to build good relations with the country’s Jews after the regime wrongly executed the community’s innocent leader, Habib Elghanian in May 1979. Again this is totally false because of the Iranian regime’s long record of nefarious actions against Iran’s Jews and its blatantly discriminatory laws. The USA Today article also failed to mention the fact that just this past December, two synagogues in the southwestern Iranian city of Shiraz were vandalized and that a total of five Torah scrolls and numerous prayer books were damaged or totally destroyed. Moreover the Iranian regime never publicly acknowledged this crime against the Jews of Shiraz, nor did it investigate this crime. Is this the sign of a regime which is supposedly benevolent to its Jewish community? Again I am shocked and surprised that the USA Today reporter covering this story failed to mention this serious anti-Semitic incident. In addition the USA Today story also failed to mention the brutal murder of Toobah Nehdaran, a 57-year-old married Jewish woman living in the Iranian city of Isfahan who in November 2012 was horrifically butchered and her body mutilated by radical Islamic thugs. Again if Iran is such a safe and peaceful place for the Jews to live in, then why have Nehdaran’s killers not been brought to justice yet by the Iranian authorities? Why wasn’t the case ever investigated by the regime’s police?

If the Iranian regime “loves the Jews and grants them equality,” then why have more than a dozen Jews been randomly executed by the regime on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel and the United States during the last 39 years? And why, between 1994 and 1996, if life is great for Jews in Iran, were 12 Jews who were trying to flee Iran via Pakistan arrested by the Iranian secret police and not been heard from since? On a regular basis, as a journalist covering Iranian Jewry, I am reminded by countless Iranian-American Jewish leaders to “watch” what I might be writing about the Iranian regime for fear that what I might report on may have negative repercussions on the Jews of Iran. So my question is: Why on earth are Iranian-American Jews so concerned about my words and the safety of their brethren in Iran if everything is supposedly so fine and dandy for Jews in Iran? These are unanswered questions that should leave serious doubts in the minds of all individuals about the Iranian regime’s supposed “love” for the Jews of Iran.

The USA Today article briefly mentions the Holocaust denial cartoon contests that the Iranian regime regularly sponsors, but why didn’t the reporter mention the fact that the Iranian regime has always maintained warm relations with notorious anti-Semites, including former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke and other American neo-Nazi groups who appear regularly on PRESS TV, the Iranian regime’s state-controlled English language news network. Furthermore, the Iranian regime has a long history of ties to European neo-Nazis 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 in France for denying the Holocaust. Garaudy was subsequently welcomed in Tehran as a hero, where he met with the Iranian Supreme leader Ali Khamenei. In 2012, Khamenei publicly grieved the death of Garaudy in a personal Twitter message. Additionally Iranian state-run media outlets have also frequently cited the writings of the neo-Nazi American leader William Pierce. In addition the Iranian regime every year publishes hundreds of copies of a 500 page plus volume of the notorious anti-Semitic “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” book in Farsi language which they distribute not only in Iran but through most of their embassies in Europe. Again, I am baffled at how the USA Today article can in good faith and honesty give any credibility to the words of Jewish leaders in Iran who claim Iran is a supposed “paradise” for Jews to live in when the regime that rules them is so dangerously anti-Semitic.

Moreover, what the USA Today article fails to mention is the fact that the Iranian regime’s official laws are blatantly discriminatory against Jews. For example, the Iranian regime’s criminal laws state that if a Muslim kills an infidel such as a Jew, Christian or Zoroastrian, his punishment is a mere monetary fine as the life of an infidel is only worth one-half the life of a Muslim. Whereas if an infidel kills a Muslim, his punishment is the death penalty. Or even the Iranian regime’s civil laws are discriminatory against Jews and other religious minorities. For example, Article 881 of the Civil Code of the Islamic Republic states: “an infidel does not get inheritance from a Muslim and if there are infidels among the heirs of a deceased infidel, the infidel heirs do not take inheritance even if they are prior to the Muslim as concerns class and degree.” This discriminatory inheritance law encourages non-Muslims to convert to Islam to gain all of their family members’ inheritance in Iran.  Another very anti-Semitic law the Iranian regime has on hand is that books may not be published in the Hebrew language in Iran and Jews cannot teach their children to speak the Hebrew language. What the USA Today article failed to mention was the fact that religious texts that the Jewish community in Iran uses today were published 40 years ago prior to the Iran’s Islamic revolution. Are these discriminatory laws and anti-Jewish actions the signs of a regime that are respectful and tolerant of the Jews? Clearly they are not.

The USA Today article additionally fails to mention the fact that its reporter was most likely granted a visa to come to Iran after the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence approved of her beforehand and they were given assurances that her final published piece would be favorable towards the regime. Almost always, U.S. or European journalist like myself who are highly critical of the Iranian regime would never be granted a visa to come to Iran by the regime and to report on the real truth surrounding Iran’s Jews. (I would never go to Iran myself for fear of my own safety as a Jew). Moreover what the USA Today article also fails to mention is that the reporter who traveled to Iran, most likely had a regime handler follow her, translate for her and prevent her from speaking to Jews not previously hand-picked by the regime beforehand! Again how can any reporter’s story have any credibility when there are such stringent restrictions of their ability to openly and honestly report the facts on the ground in Iran?

Lastly the most obvious and ridiculous statement in the USA Today article about Iran’s Jewish community is the fact 100,000 to 150,000 Jews lived in Iran in 1979 and today the number is substantially less! No doubt anyone with half a brain would read that statement and decipher that Iran under the rule of the radical Islamic clerics today is obviously not such a great place for Jews to live if such a substantial number of its Jewish population have fled the country! The USA Today article also claims “many Jews fled” after the revolution. This is an understatement. Thousands of Jews have fled Iran in massive waves since 1979 for fear of their lives, or when their family members were imprisoned on false charges by the regime, or when the regime executed innocent Jews, or when the regime wrongly seized their billions of dollars’ worth of Jewish assets! Today those thousands of Jews who fled Iran now live primarily in Los Angeles, New York and Israel and each and every single one of them will tell you the real horror of living under this evil regime and how it is not a safe place for Jews to live in. It is shocking and absurd that the USA Today reporter who wrote this article didn’t have the brains to interview Iranian Jewish leaders and activists in America, Europe or Israel who could give her more accurate information about the very real anti-Jewish nature of Iran’s regime.  At least facts from my community members living in the U.S. would balance this article out and shed light on the real danger Jews face in Iran.

With all of these unanswered questions about the conditions of Jews living in Iran today and the clear facts about the Iranian regime’s true anti-Semitic nature, one is left wondering why USA Today published this false and inaccurate article about Iran’s Jews. The answer is two-fold. One, the reporter who covered this story and her editors were either ignorant and naïve about the dangerous and unsafe condition for Iran’s Jews. Or two, the USA Today reporter and her editors ignored the Iranian regime’s blatant anti-Jewish activities and anti-Jewish laws in order to advance the Iranian regime’s propaganda interests to bolster their negative image in the western media by parading their “beloved Jews”. In either case USA Today must publish a retraction of this inaccurate story or at the very least publish a follow-up article exposing the real anti-Semitic  nature of the Iranian regime. USA Today’s article about Iran’s Jews is poor journalism and must be exposed for its inaccuracy because it only serves to improve the image of an evil regime that not only represses its religious minority population but also cracks down hard on its Muslim majority population which opposes its repressive totalitarian rule.

Those interested in reading my past responses to those who falsely claim the Jews of Iran live in freedom and peace in Iran today can read here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.