FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Talking to Iran’s Only Jewish Member of Parliament

by TRISH SCHUH

Morris Motamed is the only Jewish member of Parliament in Iran’s Majlis, and is the official representative of the largest (25,000) Jewish community in the Middle East diaspora outside of Israel.  The Persian Jewish community stretches back nearly 3000 years to around 680 BC when Jews fled King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia and were freed from Babylonian captivity by Persia’s King Cyrus the Great. Cyrus also underwrote the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

But now those ties are under strain. President Ahmedinejad has repeatedly offended the Iranian Jewish community with his attacks on Israel and the Holocaust, and there is worry for the community’s safety if Israel attacks  Iran. Concerns abound that the Jewish community could be pressured as they were during the Israel-Hezbollah War of 2006. After several synagogues in the southern city of Shiraz were attacked during the conflict, Jews held a pro-Hezbollah rally to prove their loyalty to the regime. In October, 2007 the Israeli press disclosed that “Danger!” letters had been sent to Iranian Jews by Jews in the diaspora warning them to flee ahead of an impending military attack on Iran.

Schuh: What is the condition of the Jewish community in Iran?

Motamed: Fortunately we have no problem in the Jewish community’s living conditions. People often ask if there was any change after President Khatami’s was succeeded by  President Ahmedinejad and if there was any change in conditions for religious minorities, especially Jews? We always answered that fortunately and happily, that there was no change, and we hope that there will be no change in a negative direction..

Do you ever consider emigrating to Israel or the USA?

Emigration? I haven’t thought about it and haven’t decided anything. For the time being all my family members are living in the United States.

What is most difficult about life in Iran?

There is no difference between the way of life of the minority communities and the main body of the society, which means the Muslims.

A couple of years ago, it was reported that the Iranian government was going to force Jews to wear a star or marking on their clothes. What was the truth behind this?

Unfortunately, this was fake news published in a Canadian newspaper. I considered this news a big insult to the religious minorities of Iran. I refuted the story vigorously, , to the point that the source of the news and the Canadian government officially apologized to the Iranian government. The fake story was published in a newspaper following a resolution that was being talked about in Parliament on fashion and fabrics – and they twisted it.

Please comment on the alleged statement of Iranian President Ahmedinejad’s threat to “wipe Israel off the map”. What did he actually say in Persian?

One of the basic principles of democracy is freedom of speech, so that a person can freely express his ideas and viewpointsas did  Mr. Ahmedinejad. So after his speech we observed that some Iranian political authorities talked in a different manner ad said that Iran doesn’t seek the wiping out or destruction of any nation from the page of history or from the map.

What do you think of the Iranian nuclear program?

As a Jewish Iranian, I consider enrichment of peaceful nuclear technology the obvious right of Iranian society. What is sad here — and I’m so sorry about it — is that before the Islamic Revolution, we witnessed that western Europe and America pressuring  Iran to obtain nuclear technology and establish a nuclear power plant. Now the idea is brought up: “Why do you want nuclear technology? What is the point of nuclear technology for you when you have rich resources like fuel and gas and oil?” My question here is  why at that earlier time, the problem of natural resources was not brought up?

Please comment on Ahmedinejad’s statement that the Holocaust was a myth.

About two years ago when Mr. Ahmedinejad denied the great tragedy of the Holocaust, I immediately, as the representative of the Jewish community of Iran, held a press conference and expressed my sadness about the statements of the Iranian President. I declared his words a very big insult to all Jewish communities all around the world.

Does Ahmedinejad actually believe that there were no Jews killed in the Holocaust?

Fortunately after what he said about the Holocaust the first time, we found in his next speeches, he became more moderate. But not to the extent that he apologized or withdrew his statement.

What about the Holocaust conference held recently here?

When the Holocaust conference was being held in Iran, I sent an official letter to the institute in charge of holding this conference. I expressed sadness about the holding such an event whose fubnction was to deny the greatest tragedy in human history, and to undermine the rights of victims of the terrible genocide. I complained about it. Fortunately and happily, we witnessed that this conference was not welcomed as the organizers had been expecting. Not in Iran or in the world.

Did you protest the attendance of the Jewish group Neturei Karta?

Neturei Karta has traveled to Iran many times for religious dialogues between faiths. It is natural that I meet with them.

Recently, an Israeli government official has threatened the Palestinians in Gaza with a “Holocaust”. Could you comment on the use of this word in this context?

Because of what is going on nowadays in Gaza… where we are witnessing  the killing and injuring  of innocent people — old men, children and women — as a representative of the Jewish community, I’m very sorry. We have set forth our revulsion on this matter,  with a declaration.  ‘Holocaust means ‘genocide’. Here’s a person who knows what occurred  during the second world war by Holocaust, and who now himself wants to bring up the specter of  another Holocaust. This kind of statment is  shameful and embarassing.

Haaretz has mentioned cash incentives for Iranian Jews to relocate to Israel?

Iranian Jews are free. But three months ago we published a declaration that the freedom of decision making for Iran’s Jews is not for sale. Great numbers of Jews have been offered this infucement , but we don’t want to leave our homeland. We prefer to be here.

While we have been talking today in Tehran, your answers have been very moderate. But if you did have serious problems here – would you really be free to discuss them with a foreign reporter? Or would you be punished when I leave?

Never. I have had many, many press conferences… I express my ideas. There have been  no contacts or punishments. I don’t know what you mean.

For criticizing the President?

No fortunately, nothing has happened yet and I hope in future also nothing will happen.

Footnote: In recent weeks, President Ahmedinejad has amplified his criticism of Israel by calling it a “stinking corpse” doomed to annihilation.  Local authorities have burned down seven ancient synagogues in Tehran neighborhoods in the name of  neighborhood renovation. Clerics recently announced a plan to erase Iran’s non-Islamic heritage by destroying the tomb of Cyrus the Great.

Morris Motamed is 63 years old, born in Hamadan, Iran and trained as an  engineer and cartographer in the field of Aerial mapping, field mapping, site mapping, satellite images. “This is my field of study and this is a consulting engineers company of which I am one of the owners of this company.”

Simultaneous translation by Meisam Jebelli, Iranian government interpreter.

TRISH SCHUH writes about Middle East issues and is a member of the UN Correspondents Association and Military Reporters and Editors.  She is at www.BloggingTheJihad.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
January 23, 2018
Carl Boggs
Doomsday Panic in Hawaii
Mark Ashwill
If I Were US Ambassador to Vietnam…
Jack Rasmus
US Government Shutdown: Democrats Blink…Again
Nick Pemberton
The Inherent Whiteness of “Our Revolution”
Leeann Hall
Trump’s Gift for the Unemployed: Kicking Them Off Health Care
Dean Baker
Lessons in Economics For the NYT’s Bret Stephens: Apple and Donald Trump’s Big Tax Cut
Mitchell Zimmerman
Law, Order and the Dreamers
Ken Hannaford-Ricardi
The Kids the World Forgot
Dave Lindorff
South Korea Slips Off the US Leash
Ali Mohsin
Extrajudicial Murder of Pashtun Exposes State Brutality in Pakistan
Jessicah Pierre
Oprah is No Savior
John Carroll Md
Keeping Haiti in Perspective
Amir Khafagy
Marching Into the Arms of the Democrats
January 22, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
It’s Time to Call Economic Sanctions What They Are: War Crimes
Jim Kavanagh
Behind the Money Curtain: A Left Take on Taxes, Spending and Modern Monetary Theory
Sheldon Richman
Trump Versus the World
Mark Schuller
One Year On, Reflecting and Refining Tactics to Take Our Country Back
Winslow Wheeler
Just What Earmark “Moratorium” are They Talking About?
W. T. Whitney
José Martí, Soul of the Cuban Revolution
Uri Avnery
May Your Home Be Destroyed          
Wim Laven
Year One Report Card: Donald Trump Failing
Jill Richardson
There Are No Shithole Countries
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
Are the Supremes About to Give Trump a Second Term?
Laura Finley
After #MeToo and #TimesUp
Howard Lisnoff
Impressions From the Women’s March
Andy Thayer
HuffPost: “We Really LOVED Your Contributions, Now FUCK OFF!”
Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail