• Iran's imminent nuclear breakout capability will, of course, come with insufficient notice for anyone to stop it.

  • With its new intercontinental ballistic missiles, Iran can deliver these nuclear warheads to every capital of Europe. It does not even have to do that. It need only threaten to, while spelling out what it wants.

  • Doubtless, Iran has also put the "Great Satan," the U.S., high at the top of its list.

  • Such a history, which reveals why most Jews of Iranian ancestry live abroad, can only intensify Israel's suspicion of any agreement reached with the current Iranian regime, which has pledged often to eliminate "the Zionist entity," the "Little Satan."

Christians and Jews are familiar with the biblical narrative of how the ancient ruler of the Persian Empire, Cyrus, granted the Jewish people their freedom after his conquest of the Babylonia in 538 B.C. His proclamation launched the most meaningful "aliyah" [going up to Israel] until modern times.[1]

The Persian ruler even contributed treasure to help finance the rebuilding of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar.

There is, however, a different narrative. When Zoroastrianism was declared the official state religion during the Sassanid Dynasty (224-651 A.D.),[2] the plight of Iran's Jews deteriorated.

This fusion of state and religion gave Zoroastrian clerics more political power than the monarchy. It also led to the enforcement of intolerant uniform rules of worship for all of Persia's citizenry.[3]

That persecution clearly shows that Iranian "Jew-Hatred" predates the birth of Islam. Professor Shaul Shaked details pre-Islamic Sassanid Era polemics against the Jews:[4] The Sassanids burned synagogues and outlawed the celebration of the day of rest, Shabbat. One Sassanid monarch, "Feroz the Wicked" (Reshi'a), had most of the Jews of Isfahan murdered [5].

Later, in most of the Safavid (1502-1736) and Qajar (1781-1925) dynastic eras, the monarchs' relationship with Iran's Jews was at best problematic. After the conversion of Iran's Muslims to the Shia sect of Islam, Jews, like other non-Shia minorities in Persia, were forced to live as dhimmi (tolerated, second-class citizens).

For centuries, there were forced conversions, the closing of synagogues, and destruction of Hebrew books[6] Outward signs distinguished Jews from the rest of Iran's "loyal" citizens. Throughout the Safavid Era, Iran's Jews were forced to wear colored hats and non-matching shoes.[7] In 1588, under the Safavid Shah Abbas I, restrictive ordinances against Jews were instituted, which came to known as "Jam Abbasi Laws," severely limiting Jewish property rights and professions in which Jews could work.[8] Sometimes anti-Jewish feelings resulted in the often deadly Yud Bazi (Jew Game)[9] or Yud Khost (Jew Murder).[10] Attacks occurred: Muslim Imams whipped up their followers in anti-Jewish diatribes.

The 6th century B.C. Persian Emperor Cyrus, who granted the Jewish people their freedom, is pictured at left in the painting "Cyrus II le Grand et les Hébreux" (by Jean Fouquet, 1470-1475). The Persian Safavid ruler Shah Abbas I, pictured at right reviewing the severed heads of captured Ottoman Turkish soldiers, instituted restrictive ordinances against Jews in 1588.

It was not until the Pahlavi Dynasty (1925-1979) that Jews in Iran could live without threats from their own government. Reza Shah Pahlavi even rebuffed Hitler's attempt to target Iranian Jews;[11] and under his son, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, Jews lived in freedom.

After the establishment of the Islamic Republic, however, Reza Shah was called a "Zionist stooge,"[12] and Iranian Jews were often accused of being spies for Israel. Many of Iran's Jews emigrated to Israel, the United States, or other countries in the Free World.

Although Iran is Shia and not Sunni, the same basic anti-Jewish references in theological texts are to be found in the Koran and Hadith. Both purport to justify inveterate Jew-hatred. The most familiar texts are the Koran's condemnation of the Jews as "killers of the prophets,"[13] "all Jews are not all bad, the good ones become Muslims, The bad ones do not."[14] There are also several Hadith passages that lend theological support for virulent Jew-hatred in today's Iran. For example, the murder by strangulation of a Jewess who speaks ill of the Prophet, is justified.[15] These passages buttress more contemporary assaults on Jews by Iran's Islamic revolutionary leaders, such as those of Khomeini and Khamenei, [16] along with earlier condemnation of Jews and Israel as najis, [unclean infidels].[17]

Such a history -- which reveals why most Jews of Iranian ancestry live abroad -- can only intensify Israel's suspicion of any agreement reached with the current Iranian regime, which has pledged often to eliminate the "Zionist entity," the "Little Satan."

Iran's imminent nuclear breakout capability will, of course, come with insufficient notice for anyone to stop it.

With its new intercontinental ballistic missiles [ICBMs], Iran can deliver these nuclear warheads to every capital of Europe. It does not even have to do that. It need only threaten to, while spelling out what it wants.

Doubtless, Iran has also put the "Great Satan," the U.S., high at the top of its list.

Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, where he was a Military Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Israel.


[1] Discovering Cyrus: The Persian Conqueror Astride the Ancient World by Reza Zarghamee. Mage Publishers, Washington D.C. 2013. p.232; and the Book of Ezra, 1:2, 6:3. According to The History of the Jewish People: "The Aliyah of Zerubavel and the Building of the Second Temple," about 50,000 Jews from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin returned to the Jerusalem area. Mesorah Publications, N.Y. 1982. p.25.

[2] Terua: The History of Contemporary Iranian Jews: Vol. I. Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History, Beverley Hills, California. 1996. p.14.

[3] Ibid. p.14.

[4] "Zoroastrian Polemics Against Jews in the Sasanian and Early Islamic Period" by Shaul Shaked. Padyavand, Volume I, edited by Amnon Netzer. Mazda Publishers: Los Angeles. 1996. pp.75-80.

[5] Ibid. p.3.

[6] Terua. Vol. I "History of Jews in Iran:1500 to the Present" by Peyman Banooni & Sammy Simnegar. p17.

[7] New Society: Harvard College Student Middle East Journal "Jews of Iran Under Islamic Rule" by Victoria Golshani. p.1.

[8] Ibid. p.1. See also Dhimmi Status and Jewish Roles in Iranian Society by Lawrence Loeb. Salt Lake City, Utah. Gordon and Breech Science Publishers: 1976. p. 92.

[9] One Yud Bazi game during Muslim festivals in the Qajar Era featured throwing Jews into a large pit of muddy water (hauz) for the amusement of onlookers, who would then watch these poor half-drowned souls climb out of the hole.

[10] Terua. Vol. I. p. 26. "Yud Khost" simply means "Jew Death" in Persian, an unconscious historical precursor of the mid-1930s in Germany.

[11] Personal Interview of Boghrat Khorsandi by Victoria Golshani, 28 September 2000.

[12] Padyavand Vol. I. p.122. "The Events of 1978".

[13] Koran surah 2, al-Baqarah/The Cow. Verse 61b, verse 83, verse 91, surah 3 al-Imran/The Family of Imran, verse 21 are just a few of the Koranic passages that accuse the Jews of murdering Allah's prophets sent to them.

[14] Koran, surah 3, al-Imran/The Family Imran, verse 113.

[15] Hadith, Abu Dawud 3, #4349.

[16] Upon his arrival in Iran after the Islamic Revolution had succeeded in overthrowing the Shah, Khomeini made crystal clear that his sympathies lay with the Palestinian Arabs. But he also delineated between Iranian Jews and Zionist Jews -- that the former were loyal to Iran. However, following the 9 May execution of prominent Iranian Jewish businessman Habib Elghanian, the Jews of Iran began to emigrate en masse. Hundreds of Jews were executed in the first few years of the Islamic Republic under Khomeini, including a 13-year-old boy executed because he wrote a letter to relatives in Israel. Under Khamenei, the present Supreme Leader, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security constantly monitor the remaining Iranian Jews. Paydavand Vol. II. "The Events of 1979: 9 May."

[17] Terua. p. 16 and p. 22. Also, see Iran's Final Solution for Israel by Dr. Andrew Bostom and "Jihad, Najis, & Islamic Jew-Hatred", 31 January 2015.

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