Israeli-Iranians: We will never be spies

Iranian immigrant advocate: The Iranians have always been searching, and they always try to target olim.

ahmadinejad smiles waves (photo credit: AP [file])
ahmadinejad smiles waves
(photo credit: AP [file])
The announcement Tuesday that Iranian intelligence has been trying to recruit Israeli spies came as no surprise to Israel's Iranian immigrants, many of whom say the efforts have been going on for some time. "The Iranians have always been searching, and they always try to target olim [new immigrants] as spies," said Nouriel Shaccid, who works with a rabbinical organization to assist new Iranian immigrants in Israel. "I can say that until now they have not succeeded." On Tuesday, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) revealed that Iran has been making concerted efforts to recruit Jewish and Arab Israelis as spies against Israel. The report specified that the Iranians were targeting Israelis of Iranian origin who travel to Iran to meet with relatives. More than 100 Israelis have applied for visas to visit Iran in the past two years. Iran is not considered an enemy state, and Israelis can travel there if they receive permission from both the Israeli and Iranian governments. The Shin Bet's announcement Tuesday reenergized efforts in the Knesset to declare Iran an enemy state. MK Arye Eldad (NU-NRP) proposed such a law three years ago, and on Tuesday he announced he would reintroduce the legislation once the Knesset returned from its recess next month. "Israelis already have to go through 10 degrees of interrogation before they can get to Iran, but for many of them it is worth it to visit their families," said Doron Jonas, who works with the Association of Iranian Immigrants in Israel. "Recently though, fewer and fewer Jews are making attempts to return." Jonas said there had been talk circulating of Iranian intelligence threatening to harm the families of those left behind in Iran if Persian Israelis did not deliver the information they requested. "Nobody talks openly about these things, but it is in the air," said Jonas. "No one will speak about it because it represents a loss of dignity." Shaccid said he meets with 95 percent of Israeli immigrants who come from Iran, and though stories of Iranian intelligence trying to recruit spies among the new immigrants are well-known, he remains certain that Iran has not been successful in its efforts. "We all know each other, there is a very close-knit community of Persian Israelis," said Shaccid. "We know exactly what is happening and I don't think that this type of thing will ever succeed." Unofficial figures from Persian immigration organizations estimate that there are more than 100,000 Persian Jews living in Israel. The largest communities are in Holon, Bat Yam and Jerusalem.