News media wrong on new Iranian TV series ‘Zero Degree Turn’

October 20, 2007

News media outlets from New York to New Dehli for the past month have been a buzz and praising the content of the latest teleivision drama series “Zero Degree Turn”, produced by Iran’s state-run network. The show has been hailed by reporters worldwide as sympathic to the issue of Holocaust—a supposed change of rhetoric coming from Iran in light of the anti-Semitic comments spewed by Iran’s president in the last few years. To the contrary my own personal research has revealed that “Zero Degree Turn” in no way sends a positive message about the Shoah or Jews and that many publications including the Wall Street Journal failed to properly review and translate the program with the help of experts. My investigation of the new Iranian program with the help of experts fluent in the Persian language revealed that “Zero Degree Turn” is nothing more than the same old anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propoganda put out by the Iranian government.

Iranian Jewish activist Bijan Khalili and researcher Dr. Fariborz Mokhtari exposed just a handful of the program’s hateful messages and inaccuracies in my latest L.A. Jewish Journal article on “Zero Degree Turn”:

“This TV program lists in its credits a man named Abdollah Shabazi, who was an ideological strategist for the Iranian government, and he gave this idea to make this propaganda film to show that Iranians are ‘good with the Jews,’” said Bijan Khalili, a Los Angeles-based Iranian Jewish activist and Persian-language book publisher. “But in reality, this man is the author of many anti-Semitic and anti-Bahai [Persian-language] books.”

“One of the objectives of this program is to show that Jews are corrupt, because they are shown as both giving bribes and accepting bribes,” Khalili said. “The story includes a character called Homayoun Talab, an Iranian diplomat, who accepts bribes in order to provide false papers to Jews.”

Talab, Khalili said, is loosely based on Abdol Hossein Sardari, Iranian ambassador to German-controlled France during World War II, who forestalled the deportation of 200 Iranian Jews living in Paris at the time.

Fariborz Mokhtari, a professor of Eastern studies at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., recently completed a book on Sardari’s life. He said “Zero Degree Turn” egregiously misrepresents Sardari, who never accepted money for giving Jews in France Iranian passports.

“Sardari was duty-bound to look after the interests of Iranians. Whether they were Zoroastrian, Christian, Jewish or Muslim was not very important to him,” said Mokhtari, who is Muslim and has been researching Sardari since 2002. “As he was quoted having told his inquiring nephew, ‘It was his duty to his country and to God.’”

Khalili also said that other episodes of “Zero Degree Turn” make repeated references to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which are historically out of place, because the issue was not prevalent in the 1940s. Likewise the Jewish characters in the series are shown in a poor light, because they speak an improper form of the Persian language, as compared to the Muslim characters, Khalili said.

“We have a responsibility as Iranian Jews living outside of Iran to reveal to the rest of the world how anti-Israel and anti-Semitic the Iranian government is through this program and others like it,” Khalili said.

It’s quite sad when reputable publications and news outlets in the U.S. and Europe are too lazy or close-minded to do their research and dig deeper into a story regarding Iran before jumping to conclusions. These editors and reporters failed to ask the most important question before filing their stories on “Zero Dgree Turn”; since when has the Iranian government put out programing that was supposedly “positive about Jews”? Never, so some red flags should have gone up for them. On a final note, what is even more disturbing is the fact that millions of Iranians living in Iran who are watching this very popular show are indirectly being brainwashed with the anti-Semitism protrayed in this program.

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