(November 29, 2018 / JNS) Tuesday’s “PBS NewsHour” featured a segment about Iran’s Jews living in apparently relative peace despite the Islamic Republic chanting “Death to Israel.”
“Many people outside of Iran are going to remark that you’re not being completely truthful, you’re not being completely open,” correspondent Reza Sayah, reporting in Tehran, asks Iranian Jew Siamak Morsadegh, whose wife moved to America and left him in Iran 20 years ago. “How can you convince people?”
Today, an estimated 15,000 Jews still live here. Most are in the capital, Tehran. There are five Jewish private schools here, several kosher restaurants. And Tehran’s oldest charity hospital was founded and is still run by Jews.
Tehran is a city with 13 synagogues. Some were confiscated by the government after the revolution. Jewish leaders say when they sued to get them back, Iran’s Revolutionary Court ruled in their favor. Today, all 13 are open, with little or no security measures in place.
Here’s one of the most remarkable things about this synagogue. In a region where almost all synagogues are protected with tight security, metal detectors, even armed guards, the doors to this synagogue are open. Worshippers, or anyone else, for that matter, can walk right in.
Manouchehr Behravan used to live in New York City. One thing he values in Iran, he says, is the absence of anti-Semitism.
Have you ever experienced any violent acts of anti-Semitism here in Iran?
The feature has prompted calls of bias.
“You think for a minute that PBS is at least a news network, and then you see this. It’s like they are doing PR for an anti-American, religious dictatorship,” the Media Research Center’s Dan Gainor told JNS. “Notice how this story discusses the 15,000 Jewish people who still live in Iran without mentioning that it was estimated to be 80,000 to 100,000 when Israel was founded.”
“It was all just Judy Woodruff letting the mullahs use these poor people as tools for their propaganda,” he added.
Sean Durns, senior research analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, echoed Gainor’s sentiment.
“The PBS report is Walter Duranty-esque,” he told JNS. “Just as Duranty, a New York Times journalist, whitewashed the crimes of the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s, this report parrots the propaganda put out by another anti-Semitic, totalitarian regime: the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
“Both Duranty and PBS worked to make these regimes look normal and tolerant when they’re anything but. And both failed to note that those they are ‘interviewing’ live under murderous rulers where a single word or phrase that is anything less than supportive of their governments could result in great harm to them or their loved ones,” stressed Durns.
He add that “unlike Duranty, however, PBS’s decision to whitewash despotism is made possible thanks to fungible American taxpayer dollars.”