To the Editor:In Iran, as in all Muslim states, the tolerance of other religions only extends to the point at which they are perceived to be slightly threatening. There are a few Jews left over in Egypt and Syria and Yemen, and as in Iran their governments like to point to them as proof of their tolerance. But they will only tolerate those who toe the line, who publicly agree with their totalitarian masters and who submit to second-class citizen status.
As a Persian Jew whose family was sentenced to death by the Islamic Republic of Iran as “corrupters on earth” and “agents of Zionism,” I was amused by Roger Cohen’s vision of Iranian treatment of its Jewish population.
Perhaps Mr. Cohen should have interviewed the Persian Jews living in exile in Los Angeles, who would have told him not to assume that the Jews left in Iran can honestly complain about their status. If Iran is such a haven, why has the Jewish population of Iran only declined from the Safavid period, to 100,000 at the time of the Islamic Revolution to only 25,000 today?
Mr. Cohen could have asked my dad why Jews were called “ritually unclean” (a comment also reserved for stray dogs). He could talk to my grandfather about the pogroms that took place in Tehran and other cities when Jews walked on the same side of the street as a Muslim, or talk to the Jews of the city of Mashad who had to remain hidden as Jews for decades after being forced to convert to Islam.
Just because the Persians were not as efficient in killing or exiling their Jews as others were or just because there are a few synagogues left in Iran doesn’t mean that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not mean it when he says that Israel should be wiped off the map, or that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei didn’t mean it when he said that Israel is a “cancerous tumor of a state” that “should be removed from the region.”David Simantob
Los Angeles, March 2, 2009
Proof that this is anti-semitism and not only anti-Zionism could be seen from a simple thought experiment:
Imagine how these tolerant governments would react if a Jewish community wanted to build a single synagogue that is taller than the surrounding mosques.