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Anti-Semitism Vs Anti-Semitism in Iran

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier who, for many, is the living symbol of anti-Semitism, has recently become the target of an anti-Semitic attack.

Mehdi Khazali, the son of a conservative – and pro-Ahmadinejad – ayatollah, and director of the Hayyan Cultural Institute in Tehran, published a post in his blog trying to discredit Mr. Ahamadinejad and his supporters by claiming Iran’s president has “Jewish roots.”

Some newspapers and websites, such as the Jerusalem Post, reported this story but ignored Mr. Khazali’s entire post and its multi-dimensional anti-Semitic aspects, showing that Mr. Ahmadinejad and his supporters do not have a monopoly on anti-Semitism in Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s rivals, too, use radical anti-Semitic arguments as ammunition in attacks against him.

Mr. Khazali, who supports the protest movement, and was even briefly jailed, used in his post some of the most common anti-Semitic arguments in Iran to discredit the president and his supporters.

Hidden Jews

Mr. Khazali claims that Mr. Ahmadinejad's real family name is "Saboorchian," a Jewish name that he changed to "Ahmadinejad.” Mr. Khazali, naming a few other prominent leaders of the Islamic Republic as new converts to Islam from Judaism, wonders whether a Jewish cabal has crept in and taken over the revolutionary government, going on to say that if the president does indeed have Jewish roots, then Jewish power and strength has firmly established itself in Iran.1

Mr. Khazali’s obsession with hidden Jews is not restricted to Mr. Ahmadinejad. He claims that his landlord, too, is a hidden Jew. “I have a landlord who changed his name to an Islamic family name meaning ‘lover of Unique God.’ He chose this Arabic and Islamic name to protect his possessions. In some of our meetings he swears so much to Ali (the first Shiite imam) that I assume he is making fun of him.”

Chasing hidden Jews is one of the obsessions of Iranian anti-Semites. Hidden Jews supposedly disguise their Jewishness in order to further their goals in Iran and elsewhere in the world. Even Muammar Gaddafi is considered by some anti-Semites to be a hidden Jew. Iranian Jews are often accused of using non-Jewish names to hide their identity.2

The Enemy Becomes Jewish

It seems that for Mr. Khazali being a Jew is cause enough to incur his hostility.

Mr. Khazali, in his post, attacks Habibollah Askar-Oladi Mosalman, who heads the conservative Islamic Coalition Party. He was reportedly born to a DamavandiJewish family that converted to Islam during the reign of Reza Shah. Iran’s economy is in the hands of the Islamic Coalition Party and its leader has a Jewish background. Why then, wonders Mr. Khazali, does Mr. Askar-Oladi defend the Islamic economy in such a way that discredits it? Mr. Khazali also adds that if we do the research, we will find that the most retrograde cleric in Qom has Jewish roots.

The case of Mr. Khazali displays that anti-Semitism is not restricted to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s supporters, and some who support the protest movement share the same anti-Semitic attitudes, perhaps even more radically. Abdullah Shahbazi, a well-known Holocaust-denier, is another fervent supporter of the protest movement. While Mr. Ahmadinejad has been the public face for Iranian anti-Semitism, he is only one brick in a much larger wall. This wall crosses over Iran’s various political factions facing little opposition from more enlightened persons ready to knock it down.