(March 29, 2020 / JNS) Many of my American Jewish acquaintances have been shocked at the increased levels of anti-Semitism generated by the Iranian media outlets and leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Jewish community must finally wake up and realize that there are no “moderates” in Iran’s regime, and that the Iranian leadership is an evil, anti-Semitic force which must be permanently removed from power.
As the world grapples with controlling this pandemic, all of humanity has a responsibility to denounce the Iranian regime’s vile attempts to blame Jews for COVID-19 and publicly pressure all those spreading such disgusting anti-Semitism.
Blaming Jews for starting or spreading diseases is a tradition that began in Europe in the Middle Ages, when Jews were blamed for spreading the Black Plague which killed hundreds of thousands of people. These false and baseless charges led to thousands of Jews being killed by ignorant, angry mobs. Today, the Iranian regime’s leaders, thugs and state-run media personalities carry on that same shameful tradition by blaming the Jews for creating and spreading COVID-19.
Perhaps the most obvious display of the Iranian regime’s anti-Semitism with regard to COVID-19 come from the regime’s state-run English language television news network PressTV. The network’s website articles and various programs have not only blamed the “Zionists” for creating COVID-19, but one of the network’s online articles references a 2017 article which claims that “America’s Jews are driving America’s wars.”
Other recent PressTV programs have falsely claimed COVID-19 was “created by the Zionists as a form of biological warfare against Iran.” The deep-rooted hate for Jews and the Jewish state has even come from PressTV reporter Roshan Salih, who tweeted earlier this month: “I’d rather take my chances with the virus than consume an Israeli vaccine.”
This anti-Semitism spewing from PressTV should come as no surprise to anyone, as this Iranian regime propaganda outlet has in past years regularly featured anti-Jewish commentary from notorious American neo-Nazis and White Supremacists such as David Duke and the late William Pierce. PressTV has also provided a platform for notorious American and European Holocaust deniers such the late Roger Garaudy, who claimed the Nazi genocide was a false narrative created by “international Jewry to extort money from the world.”
But the Iranian regime’s anti-Semitism regarding COVID-19 has come not only come its propaganda outlets, but also from their clerics, who have been preaching hate for the Jews to large groups of people in Iran. One example came just a few weeks ago when an unnamed younger Iranian ayatollah was caught on video addressing an angry mob of Iranians in the city of Qom. The mob was upset that their holy shrines had been shut down by the regime due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In the video, which was circulated on social media, the Iranian ayatollah calls on the angry mob “not to follow the World Health Organization, because they are a bunch of infidels and Jews!”
At the same time, a controversy recently arose in Iran several weeks ago when the notorious anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi claimed during an interview with a regime newspaper that it was not forbidden to buy or use a potential COVID-19 vaccine made by the Zionists “if there are no other vaccines available.” Later the same day, Shirazi vehemently denied making any such statement.
While many may be shocked at the anti-Semitism spewing from the Iranian regime during this COVID-19 crisis, it comes as no surprise to those familiar with this regime. For nearly 30 years the Iranian regime’s propaganda machine has been parading the country’s only Jewish member of Parliament, or other token Iranian Jewish leaders, in front of Western TV cameras, claiming that the regime “loves the Jews” and that they “live great lives in Iran.” All lies; the regime’s laws are vehemently anti-Semitic, and the regime’s anti-Jewish actions have been on full display for the world to witness.
Moreover, the Iranian regime every year publishes a 500-page Farsi-language version of the infamous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” This unlovely, anti-Semitic book is circulated worldwide by the regime through their various embassies and consulates. Additionally, this radical Shi’ite Islamic regime has a sick, unending obsession with promoting Holocaust denial through conferences, cartoon competitions and financially supporting notorious Holocaust deniers.
Here are just a few of the Iranian regime’s most well-known anti-Semitic actions:
• Between 1979 and 1999 the regime formally executed 20 Jews, including, in 1979, Habib Elghanian, Iran’s Jewish community leader, on false charges of spying for Israel and America.
• 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 regime has refused to discuss their fate.
• In 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. The 13 were imprisoned and later released.
• In November 2012 Toobah Nehdaran, a married 57-year-old Jewish woman, was strangled and stabbed to death, and her body 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 the murder.
• 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 destroyed. Likewise, tzedakah charity boxes were also 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 Feb. 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, no suspects were ever arrested and no state-run media even reported on the crime.
• Late last month Iranian regime thugs from the Basij militia publicly threatened to tear down the ancient burial site of Queen Esther and Mordechai in the Iranian city of Hamedan in retaliation for U.S. President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century.”
Sadly, Iranian regime’s anti-Semitism with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic is just the latest episode in a long and disgusting history of Jew hatred. This ayatollahs’ regime and its leadership have resorted to blaming and attacking the Jews and the Jewish state for the pandemic instead of admitting their own corruption, negligence and total incompetence.
Since the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in 2013, many American Jews were fooled into believing he and this regime were “moderates.” But with the Iranian regime’s numerous displays of anti-Semitism during the COVID-19 pandemic, American Jewry must finally wake up and denounce this regime’s Jew hatred. The American Jewish community must launch a campaign to pressure governments worldwide to cut all economic and diplomatic ties with this vile regime over its blatant anti-Semitism.
We must not remain silent when anti-Semitism arises anywhere in the world, especially from this evil regime which has unceasingly pursued a second genocide of the Jewish people for the past 41 years.
Karmel Melamed is an award-winning and internationally published journalist based in Southern California.
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