The U.S., Israel and "Anti-Semitic" Iran (Part 4): The Role of World's Jewish Intellectuals in Building the Iranian Society

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic and the Iranian Jews

Article 3 of theConstitution of the Islamic Republic states"negation of all forms of oppression, both the infliction of and the submission to it, and of dominance, both its imposition and its acceptance" is a task of the government. According to Article 9, "No authority has the right to abrogate legitimate freedoms, not even by enacting laws and regulations for that purpose, under the pretext of preserving the independence and territorial integrity of the country." Article 19 declares that all the ethnic groups and languages have equal rights, while according to Article 20 "all citizens of the country, both men and women, equally enjoy the protection of the law and enjoy all human, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, in conformity with Islamic criteria."

Article 13 of the Constitution stipulates that

"Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian Iranians are the only recognized religious minorities, who, within the limits of the law, are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies, and to act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education."

Article 64 of the articles states that "the Zoroastrians and Jews will each elect one representative; Assyrian and Chaldean Christians will jointly elect one representative; and Armenian Christians in the north and those in the south of the country will each elect one representative." Iran's parliament currently has 290 deputies, and Iran's population is close to 80 million. Thus, from this perspective, the Iranian Jews are doing much better than those in any other country in the region.

According to the statistics published by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (p. 72), there are currently 173,000 Jews living in Turkey, 10,100 in Iran, and 8800 in the Republic of Azerbaijan. But, even though both Turkey and Azerbaijan have friendly relations with Israel, they do not have a single Jew in their parliament, and no seat has been set aside for them.

At the same time, Jewish businesses are free to close for the Sabbath. Many Iranian youth wear necklace with Star of David. Recently, the government unveiled a monument commemorating the Iranian Jews killed during the Iran-Iraq war, defending their homeland, and referring to them as martyrs. The government also provided the Jewish leaders with some significant funds to be spent for educational purposes.

Books and Jewish Intellectuals

In the Islamic Republic books can be published only if the government issues a permit for them. There is severe censorship that has provoked protests by authors and publishers. If systematic anti-Semitism existed in Iran, the government would not allow the works of major Jewish intellectuals to be translated and published in Iran. But, such works, even those by Jewish intellectuals that had a role in founding of state of Israel, have been and are being published in Iran on a large scale. Some of such works published in Iran (after translation) include the followings:

Hannah Arendt: She was active in persuading Jews to move from Europe to Palestine. But, many of her books have been published in Iran, including The Origins of Totalitarianism,The Human Condition,On Revolution , On Violence, Between Past and Future , and The Life of the Mind .

One may claim that the Islamic Republic's officials do not know about Arendt's background and her work for founding of Israel, but this is not true. Several books have been published in Iran devoted to her life, including On Arendt, Acting and Thinking: The Political Thought of Hannah Arendt , and Hannah Arendt /Martin Heidegger.

Arthur Koestler: It is well-known (pp. 234-297) that Koestler had deep relations with the Jewish terrorist group Irgun. He published a novel, Thieves in the Night: Chronicle of an Experiment , and sent its copies (p. 268) to the members of the British Parliament and members of the United Nations special commission for partitioning Palestine, in order to help founding of Israel. When it was announced in 1948 that the UN General Assembly had approved establishment of Israel, he took the day off and celebrated it by drinking whisky. Despite such a background, many of his books have been published in Iran including The Gladiators , Darkness at Noon, Arrival and Departure, The Sleepwalkers , Spanish Testament , and The Thirteenth Tribe.

Isaiah Berlin: In his book, Jewish Slavery and Emancipation, Berlin has defended Zionism and founding of Israel. In his book, Isaiah Berlin, John Gray explains and discusses Berlin's thinking. Gray's book has been published in Iran four times. Gray quotes Stewart Hampshire, saying (pp. 131-2),

"Zionism itself was originally a side-effect of the agitation of ultra-nationalist parties and groups in Europe, particularly as this agitation was associated with pogroms in Russia and with anti-Semitic movements elsewhere, as in Vienna around the turn of the century and in France during the l'affaire Dreyfus... The plan for a national home for Jews in Palestine was a natural and rational response to persisting anti-Semitism."

Gray then adds,

"It should be mentioned that Zionism, and its success in establishing the state of Israel, were the natural and rational reaction to the immoral slaughter of Jews by the Nazis."

Isaiah Berlin: a life, the book by Michael Ignatieff (philosopher and former leader of Liberal Party of Canada) has also been published in Iran. Most importantly, Berlin's own books have also been published in Iran including Russian Thinkers, Liberty: Incorporating Four Essays on Liberty , The Roots of Romanticism , The Magus of the North, Freedom and Its Betrayal: Six Enemies of Human Liberty , Karl Marx , The Crooked Timber of Humanity , and The Power of Ideas.They have sold very well.

Bernard Lewis: He is a neoconservative and disliked by many liberals. He even suggested partitioning of Iran. Despite this, many of his books have been published in Iran, including The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years, Cultures in Conflict: Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Age of Discovery , The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam , The political language of Islam, and What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East .

Alain De Botton: The Art of Travel, How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Consolations of Philosophy , A Week at the Airport , The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work , The Architecture of Happiness , and Religion for Atheists.

De Botton's grandmother was a friend of David Ben Gurion and an Israeli Spy. The Iranian magazine, Shahrvand-e Emrooz (today's citizen), interviewed her in December of 2007. She was surprised to learn that her grandson's work had been translated and published in Iran.

Norbert Elias: Loneliness of the Dying.

Bauman, a victim of the Nazis, considers modern enlightenment and the resulting rationality as factors that have contributed to brutality, darkness, torture and the Holocaust.

Even the memoirs of Meir Ezri, Israel's last ambassador to Iran, has been translated into Farsi and published in Iran. This represents a case beyond a book by a Jew; rather it represents that of an Israeli diplomat and stateman.

The works of hundreds of other Jewish intellectuals, such as Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk and others have also been translated and published in Iran. The social world is a creation of human's mind and language. Great Jewish intellectuals have played an important role in the creation of Iranians' social world. The discourse that they have created has helped create the world and has had important influence on at least Iranians intellectuals and the educated. If the Iranian society was anti-Semitic, or if the Islamic Republic, a state in which books require permit to be published, was anti-Semitic as a whole, such books would not be published in Iran. The real Iran is vastly different from what Benjamin Netanyahu pretends it to be.