Iranian jews pray in the Iranian city of Yazd, November 2014..
(photo credit: IRANIAN MEDIA)
The head of Iran’s Jewish community, Haroun Yashayaei, has harshly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an article appearing in a major Iranian newspaper. The piece was published soon after the nuclear deal was struck with world powers last week.
“There is no doubt that the Israeli prime minister is so narcissistic that none of these developments can deter him from following his delusional goals,” the chairman of the Tehran Jewish Committee wrote in an article published last week in the Iranian daily Shargh and translated by the Iran Review website.
Although Netanyahu traveled all over the world trying to block the nuclear deal with Iran, “he was not taken seriously anywhere and by anybody and was finally angry,” he wrote.
Referring to Israel, Yashayaei went on to criticize “the regime that has been occupying a large part of the Palestinian lands since 1967 and has never heeded any of the resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly or Security Council, and has even rejected to temporarily stop building settlements.”
He accused Israel of using rockets fired at it from Gaza as a “pretext” to “turn the Gaza Strip into ruins.”
Yashayaei’s comments against Israel have been perceived as a calculated effort to protect the Jewish community by flaunting their patriotic credentials.
“Jews in Iran have to be careful. The anti-Semitic discourse may have even gone beyond that which was [seen] during the time of [president] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in order to boost the resistance credentials of the regime in light of the nuclear deal with the West,” Eldad Pardo, an Iranian expert at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told The Jerusalem Post . “Yashayaei’s article seems also to resonate with those Iranians who wish to see decades of Iranian adventurism across the region end.”
The Jewish leader “wisely separates between Netanyahu – described as evil and irrelevant – and those opposing him within Israel; and distinguishes between Israel itself and the territories captured in 1967,” continued Pardo. “Thus he seems to defend not only Iranian Jews, but also puts Israel in the best possible light in an extremely hostile environment, in which anti-Semitic genocidal discourse is the norm.”
The recent increase in anti-Semitic rhetoric could mean that supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “wants to show that Iran is still in its revolutionary path which means they are not going to budge, and not going to open up and be less active in the region,” he asserted, adding that the regime is still committed to destroying Israel.
He cited an article from the hard-line daily Kayhan last week, after the nuclear accord was reached, talking about Israel as a “cancerous tumor.” The article claimed that Zionist Jews around the world are mobilizing to promote its cause.
There has even been criticism against the notorious anti-Zionist Neturei Karta fringe ultra-Orthodox sect, Pardo continued.
The Iranian regime “pretends to separate between Jews and Zionists,” he said.
In Pardo’s opinion, the Iranian-Jewish leader’s comments were intended to make him appear loyal and avoid trouble, adding that it was therefore “wise to speak this way.”
Shahram Chubin, an Iranian-born scholar and nonresident senior associate with the Nuclear Policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the Post that Iranian Jews see Netanyahu as misreading the Iranian issue.
“They see him as making a difficult situation worse by over-simplifying Iranian politics for political gain,” said the former director of studies at the Geneva Center for Security Policy.
In 2006, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was president, Yashayaei had criticized the government’s Holocaust denial in an interview with Spiegel Online International.
“It hurt feelings in our community very deeply. When our government questions a historical fact like the murder of 6 million Jews, we Iranian Jews feel very sad,” he said at the time.
The Jewish leader said he had written a protest letter to the Iranian president in January of that year to complain about a conference in Tehran that included Holocaust deniers, but never got a response.
Iranian Jews have good relations with some members of the regime and have used them in the past, during Ahmadinejad’s rule, to influence government policy to try to tame his anti-Semitism, according to Pardo.