[Marxism] Re: Ahmadinejad attacks liberal and secular intellectuals

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Sep 6 04:07:49 MDT 2006

 <http://www.nytimes.com/> Here is an item from the New York Times that
moved me, despite the Times' obvious use of it as effective war
propaganda.  What strikes me most about these attakcs on Jews and
intellectuals is that, from the standpoint of unifying Iran against
imperialism, they are totally harmful.  Nor do they flow necessarily
from the Islamic character of the regime.  They represent  the interests
of the bourgeois clique that, above all, needs to keep the masses
diverted and divided even at the cost of weakening itself in a
confrontation with the US where their cause is actually just.  Think of
all the talent and skills they throw away carelessly with these attacks.
Think of how they drive people away from the country.  
I often forget that the Purim holiday with the delicious fruit=filled
cakes, is a celebration of Jewish success in Iran.
Much more is involved in what's wrong with these attacks than that they
make Iran look bad in public opinion.  They deeply weaken the nation in
the struggle against imperialism which, from the point of view of the
oppressed and exploited, takes first place.
Fred Feldman



September 2, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor

Reading the Holocaust Cartoons in Tehran 


THE news of the exhibition of Holocaust cartoons in Tehran took me back
to a moment in my childhood. In 1974, his first year at Tehran's Academy
for Visual Arts, my brother mounted an exhibition of his own cartoons.
The drawings were a novice's best attempt at political satire, but they
were enough to alarm my law-abiding father into sending my brother away
to America. Our family was never whole again. 

Back then, I thought my father had made the decision out of fear of
Savak, the shah's intelligence agency. Years later, I realized that it
was not really fear but gratitude for all that a Jewish man had been
able to achieve in Iran that prompted him to send my brother away.

Born and raised in the largely Muslim town of Khonsar, my father was
admitted to the university against all odds, got a master's degree,
joined the military as a second lieutenant, went back to his village
dressed in the first Western-style suit the locals had ever seen, then
moved to Tehran to become a leading educator. 

His childhood stories remain the most memorable features of our family
gatherings. Once a bad mullah came to Khonsar, intent on making trouble
for the Jews; two mischievous Jews drove him out by secretly spraying
his prayer mat with liquor. Then there was the time a local fish peddler
realized that my father had touched a fish, thereby "dirtying" the whole
load. The peddler threw the rest away, providing a feast of free fish to
the Jews of the town.

And the best was this: When it rained for eight consecutive days, my
grandmother stormed into the office of the school superintendent to
protest the rule that Jewish students had to be kept home on rainy days.
Moved by my grandmother's plea, the superintendent escorted my father to
his classroom, had him sip from a glass of water, then took the glass
and gulped down the rest. He turned to the class and said: "If this
water is good enough for me, it is good enough for all of you. From now
on, Hakakian will come to class in all kinds of weather." 

More than any religious instruction, these stories shaped my
understanding of what it meant to be an Iranian Jew. In Persia, the land
of Queen Esther, whose virtue overcame evil, one could, by wit or by
wisdom, overcome every bigot. 

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rhetoric about the Holocaust may terrify
people who don't know Iran. But those who do, find it, above all,
tragic. By resuscitating symbols like the swastika and other Nazi-era
relics, he is contaminating the Iranian social realm, where such
concepts have scarcely existed. No doubt Jews have been mistreated in
Iran throughout their long history, but to a degree incomparable to that
suffered by Russian and European Jews. 

Throughout its 2,000-year presence in Persia, the Jewish community has
helped shape the Iranian identity. Some major Persian literary texts
survived the Arab invasion of the seventh century because they had been
transliterated into Hebrew. Traditional Persian music owes its
continuity to the Jewish artists who kept it alive when Muslims were
forbidden to practice it. Yet Iranian Jews have had to hide their
identity and restrain its expression. 

Of all the pain that Muslim Iranians have inflicted upon the Jews, the
most persistent is obscurity. We have always been admired for being
"completely Iranian," the euphemism for being invisible,
indistinguishable from Muslims. We speak Persian. We celebrate the
Iranian New Year with as much verve as the next Iranian. Our kitchens
smell of Persian cuisine. At our Jewish festivities, we dance to Persian
music. In the United States, we have often angered our American
counterparts for not wishing to pray in their temples, because we insist
on conducting our services in Persian. 

Yet Muslim Iranians, even those who have loved and befriended us, have
never known us as Jews: in our synagogues, wrapped in prayer shawls, at
our holiday tables recounting the history of our struggles. They lack
even the proper vocabulary by which to speak about the Jews: "What shall
I call you, 'Kalimi' or 'Johoud?' " they sometimes ask. These words are
the Persian equivalents of "Jew" and "kike." And occasionally, as if to
inflict punishment, they ask: "Do you consider Iran your real homeland?"

Iranian Jews remain obscure to non-Iranian Jews, too. Sometimes they are
shocked when I say that my generation was on the streets chanting "Death
to the shah!" But 1979 was a blissful, egalitarian moment when young
people shed everything that defined them as anything but Iranian. 

Four years later, the regime did its best to instate policies and
practices hostile to religious minorities. Water fountains and toilets
at my high school were segregated, some marked with signs that read "For
Muslims Only." But by and large, Iranians were not receptive to such
bigotry. We crisscrossed among the stalls until the signs became

The post-revolutionary regime has had the misfortune of ruling a people
reluctant to embrace its radical message. That is why Iran remains home
to the second-largest community of Jews in the Middle East - second only
to Israel. 

My father barely ventures out of his Queens apartment these days. When
my siblings and I scold him for not getting out enough, he says that
there is nothing here he wishes to see. "Tell me we're going to
Khonsar," he says, "and I'll see you at the door." 

Roya Hakakian is the author of two books of poetry in Persian and the
memoir "Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary


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