People burning the Israeli flag during a regime-sponsored rally in support of Hamas in Tehran on October 18, 2023

Iran’s Regime Pressures Jewish Community To Bash Israel

Thursday, 10/19/2023
Benjamin Weinthal

Benjamin Weinthal is a writing fellow at the Middle East Forum.

The Islamic Republic of Iran revealed again on Wednesday that it exerts considerable pressure on the country’s tiny Jewish community to denigrate Israel.

The Tehran-born Beni Sabti, an expert on Iran from the Israeli National Security and Strategy Institute, told Iran International that the Islamic Republic strong-armed the Tehran Jewish community into condemning Israel on its Telegram channel for its efforts to defeat Iran’s ally, Hamas.

“Every conscience of every free human is hurt now because of this news about this hospital that people were killed by an enemy who has no conscience and is very violent, “ wrote the Tehran Jewish community in a reference to Israel as the “enemy.”

The Tehran Jewish community, which serves as an umbrella organization for the country’s estimated 9,000 Jews, blamed the Tuesday bombing of a hospital in Gaza on Israel that resulted in casualties. However, a spokesman for Israel Defense Forces, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist organization was responsible for the explosion at the medical center.

“An analysis of IDF operational systems indicates that a barrage of rockets was fired by PIJ terrorists in Gaza, passing in close proximity to the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza at the time it was hit,” said the IDF.

As more direct evidence emerged, it has now become clear that a Palestinian rocket hit the parking lot of the hospital setting several cars on fire and leaving behind a small crater on the ground. No one really knows the number of casualties, although Palestinians first claimed 300 were killed, and then the number of 500 and even a 1,000 were mentioned.

President Biden agreed with the IDF assessment while visiting the Jewish state on Wednesday. The US government has classified both Hamas and the PIJ as foreign terrorist organizations.

Sabti, who speaks fluent Persian and has extensively documented the clerical regime’s repression of Iranian Jews, said that “There is another war in Israel and they are afraid Muslims will come and attack them. They are afraid. This war is much bigger and dangerous. And they have to be more loyal than the revolutionaries in Iran.”

The Tehran Jewish community also wrote on Telegram: "The conscience of every freedom loving individual considers respect for fellow human beings and protecting innocent lives at hospitals one of the pillars of humanity. But savages and criminals in history have no trace of humanity and conscience in their existence and spill the blood of innocent people."

The text written to reflect the ideological rhetoric of the Iranian regime, went on to say, "Unfortunately, this crime by the fabricated and inauspicious regime has been committed with the support of arrogant powers that have always slaughtered innocent people throughout the history of man. This desperate act will clearly encourage all freedom lovers all over the world to fight the Zionist regime and defend the rights of the Palestinians."

The “arrogant powers” is a phrase referring to the United States.

The Jewish community did not name Israel but instead used the commonly used pejorative phrase invoked by Tehran’s media and rulers -- the Zionist regime -- in its Telegram post. Sabti said by omitting Israel’s, the community showed its conformity with the official jargon of the Islamic Republic.

The Iranian regime's injection of fear and propaganda into the Persian Jewish community is not a new state tactic. The now-defunct totalitarian German Democratic Republic exploited its tiny Jewish community to advance its anti-Israel and antisemitic policies. In 1967, the GDR secured a letter from some German Jews in the East German communist state who lashed out at Israel (and sided with the Arab regimes) for its pre-emptive war to stop the invasion of Arab armies in 1967,

Sabti also provided Iran International with a video of the Iranian Rabbi Yosef Lalezar, who condemned Iran.He is the Rabbi for the Iranian city of Shiraz. Sabti said Lalezar’ diatribe against Israel mirrored the language of the Tehran Jewish community but the Rabbi used the phrase “Zionist regime” that is “responsible for the crime at the hospital.”

He added that the Jewish leadership “can condemn Israel with lighter words” but “They are afraid that the revolutionaries will come and attack them.”

Sabti said a picture of the former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaee is circulating on social media along with the message that if Israel makes any mistakes and attacks Iran or its allies, the 10,000 Jews in Iran will pay a very heavy price.

Former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaee (Rezai)

The Iran expert said it is fake news and was distributed two years ago, but many Iranians Jews believe the Rezaee story.

Sabti said “There is an expectation that they condemn Israel. They see the threat and it is coming. For them it is real. In 2008 and 2009, when there was another war between Hamas and Israel, a Jewish Iranian told me that some regime supporters went to Jewish shops and said they will take the businesses to avenge what is happening it is Gaza.”

Iran International reported in September that the Tehran Jewish community issued a semi-coded warning to its members not to participate in protests for the one-year anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s murder. The remembrance of Amini coincided with the Jewish New Year on September 16, prompting community leaders to warn Jews to stay off the streets.

Prior to Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran’s Jewish population numbered at least 100,000, most of whom fled after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized state power.

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