Wednesday, February 08, 2006

  • Wednesday, February 08, 2006
  • Elder of Ziyon
At least some Jews are getting rich off the Iranian mass psychosis.

The larger-than-life mural lionising Reem Saleh al-Riyashi, a Palestinian female suicide bomber, is as vivid an illustration as any of the Islamic republic's implacable hostility to Israel.

Two years ago, al-Riyashi entered the realms of Palestinian martyrdom when she blew herself up, killing four Israelis in the process, at the Erez crossing point in Gaza. Today, motorists and passersby gazing down from Motahari Street, in central Tehran, can contemplate her grimly resolute features as she holds her young son in one hand and a gun in the other.

Next to her portrait, set against a backdrop showing the Jerusalem landmark the Dome of the Rock and two booted feet trampling an Israeli flag, is another giant picture celebrating the actions of a further seven Palestinian women suicide bombers.

On the face of it, the banners are the highly predictable artistic reflection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent wave of fervently anti-Zionist rhetoric, in which he called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and dismissed the Holocaust as a myth. But there is one twist: they have been created with technology made in Israel.

Experts in Iran's printing industry say they are typical of images produced by hi-tech digital printers made by Scitiex Vision, based in Tel Aviv. Printing equipment originating in Israel is commonly used in Iran.

"Those two banners are five metres wide, and no printing company other than Scitex produces that kind of technology," said one Tehran printing company owner, who requested anonymity. "The large-format printing industry is Israeli-led. Their equipment is very reliable. The result is that Israeli-made equipment is sold in Iran, and a lot of the anti-Israeli and anti-American propaganda you see here is made by this kind of equipment.

"Last year a company run by a friend of mine produced a mural listing a number of goods produced in Israel and saying: 'By boycotting these products, let's give a punch in the mouth to Israel.' But he made it using a Scitex machine. We laughed about it."

Iranian intermediary companies import the Israeli-made printing machines into the country, bypassing the Islamic regime's ban on trade with Israel by buying the equipment in a third country and then rebranding it under another name. Scitex machines are purchased in Holland under the brand Blaze and then exported to Iran; printers made by another Israeli firm, Nur, are bought in Belgium and disguised for the Iranian market under various names, including Salsa.

Printing industry insiders say the Iranian authorities are either unaware of the practice or turn a blind eye. As a result, most of the campaign posters for this year's presidential election - including those for Mr Ahmadinejad - were churned out using Israeli technology. Experts also believe it was Israeli printers that produced the banner for the recent World Without Zionism conference, at which Mr Ahmadinejad made his first call for the Jewish state to be wiped out.

Iranian print specialists are convinced the Israeli manufacturers know their products are bound for Iran. "The whole thing is to the benefit of the Israeli companies," said the printing company boss. "They sell to a country that is officially banned from trading with them, meaning they have no after-sale service obligation.

But the move towards printed propaganda, especially using Israeli technology, has left many revolutionary artists disillusioned. Falling demand has forced Khasrow Karami to pay off several artists at his gallery, in an old disused cinema. Having once specialised in images of Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iran-Iraq war - in which he was seriously wounded - Mr Karami, 43, is now painting advertising posters for the Canadian government urging Iranians to emigrate to Canada.

"I would rather be painting martyrs from the war than doing this. It's a big contradiction," said Mr Karami. "When I heard that this banner-printing equipment was being imported from Israel, it was a heavy blow for me. It leaves us confused about what we should believe. Do we accept the government's propaganda against Israel or do we admire the Israelis' brilliant technological innovation?"

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