Netanyahu’s gift to Obama jeopardized the 2800-year-old bond
between two peoples
Special to WorldTribune.com Á FreePressers.com
By Sheda Vasseghi
Thursday, March 15, 2012
During their most recent meeting, Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave President Barack Obama a copy
of the Book of Esther as a symbol of his fears for Israel if the
Islamic Republic of Iran becomes nuclear.
While this gesture effectively telegraphed
to the American public the message he wanted to deliver them, it did
violence to the historical truth which is that the people of Israel
and the people of Iran are not enemies.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
meets with President Barack Obama in the White House on March 5.
It is very disappointing when politicians
such as Netanyahu, who are well-versed in their nation’s history,
blatantly and before the global Internet-viewers manipulate and
revise history to meet a military agenda.
Islamists are criticized for using the
Koran for political purposes and the same expectation goes for Prime
Minister Netanyahu, who should not use the Scriptures for similar
The Iranian people sympathize with and
share the same fears that Israeli people have of militant Islamists.
The Iranian people’s fears are further enhanced as they watch
misrepresentations being made of the historical relation between
their country and freedom of religion. That is, as a people who
played a key role in implementing “tolerance” as a necessary
practice for advancement of human civilization, Iranians are seeing
politicians make far-fetched and erroneous comparisons between
“Iranian history” and “mullahcracy.”
At least as early as 9th century BCE the
Assyrians deported and settled large Jewish populations in Iran.
Therefore, even before a Persian Empire, Jewish people have lived in
Iran as part of the fabric of that nation. According to the world’s
first human civil rights decree dating to 6th century BCE ordered by
Cyrus the Great (the Cyrus Cylinder), the Jewish captives were given
their freedom to return home and rebuild their temple that was
destroyed earlier by the Babylonians.
That is why the Persian king Cyrus is
praised in the Old Testament numerous times. Cyrus was not acting on
impulse or some new revelation. He was a byproduct of a culture that
followed a philosophy involving free will and freedom — a philosophy
that history has named Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism with its
famous motto of “do good, think good, say good” is the Iranian
people’s ethnic religion, and a way of life that is still strongly
present in their culture. As a matter of fact, it is the basis of
the Iranian national identity.
It was under the Persian Empire as the
first world empire that some 28 nations were brought under one
central government with law and order while people were guaranteed
freedom of religion, language, and even the form of government. (For
example, Darius the Great (r. 522-486) ordered the Ionian Greeks be
allowed to keep their form of democracy.) Because the Persian
central government was relatively mild compared to those before it,
their empire of about 3,000,000 square miles lasted for 220 years
with relatively minimal rebellions. The Achaemenids frequently
settled Jewish soldiers and their families in garrisons to serve as
a buffer or border patrol. That is, Jewish communities were often
Even with the second Iranian empire
created by the Parthians (247 BCE-224 CE), the policy of the Iranian
government towards Jews remained unchanged. As a matter of fact, the
Parthian era lasting almost 500 years was considered one of the best
times in Jewish history. Hence, the famous 1st century Jewish sage
Rashbi, forced to go into hiding for criticizing the Romans, said
“if a man saw a Parthian horse tethered to a gravestone in
Palestine, he should listen for the footsteps of the Messiah.”
As for Christianity, early followers lived
in Iran since the beginning of its conception. After the birth of
Jesus, he was visited by the three Magis — Iranian Zoroastrian
priests — whose remains are kept at Cologne Cathedral in Germany as
a First Class Relic. By early 5th century, the Sassanian Persian
Empire established the Eran Catholicos, effectively paving the way
for Iranian Christians to practice and nurture their faith.
The third Iranian empire before the
invasion of Muslim Arabs was the Sassanian Persian Empire (224-651).
Jewish queens (as well as Christians), such as Shapur II’s mother
and Yazdgerd I’s wife, were not uncommon. These women did not have
to convert in order to marry Zoroastrian Persian kings serving as
evidence that Iranians remained liberal in such matters. And most
importantly, let’s not forget that it was Sassanian king Khosrow
Parviz II, who in 614 established a Sassanid Jewish Commonwealth
after conquering Jerusalem. Prior to that, the Romans had crushed
Jewish rebels in the region abolishing their hegemony.
So when did a conflict begin between a
3000-year-old Iran and a newly established 65-year-old Israel?
The conflict started some 1400 years ago when the new religious sect
of Muslim Arabs took control of Arabia from Christian ruling
families and a large Jewish Arab population. Since Islam divides the
world between Muslims and non-Muslims, Zoroastrian Iranians were
ill-treated as much as the Jews. Today under an Islamic constitution
in Iran one can see how religious minorities such as Christians and
Bahais are persecuted.
The friction that Islamism created in Iran
was finally addressed with the rise of a nationalist leader Reza
Shah Pahlavi, who took control of a devastated Iran in 1925. It was
only then under a new Iranian government based on nationalist
interests and culture that the minorities were finally freed from
the yoke of dominating Islamists.
Further, it was because of an Iranian
nationalist government in place that during the Nazi occupation of
France, an Iranian diplomat A.H. Sardari (1895-1981) vigorously
worked to appeal on behalf of Iranian Jews living in France to
protect them from anti-Semitic laws. An unconfirmed report by
Sardari’s nephew, Fereydoun Hoveyda, claims that Sardari issued some
1500 Iranian passports to endangered Jews during 1942. The U.S.
Holocaust Memorial Museum has noted Sardari’s deeds while working on
confirming the issue of fake passports.
During the 1973 Arab-Israel conflict,
despite all Arab oil-producing countries having banned business with
Israel, it was the Iranian government under Mohammad Reza Shah
Pahlavi (1919-1980) that sold the badly-needed oil to Israel knowing
that Iran was endangering its national interests with bordering
Muslim countries harboring fundamentalists.
This quick look at the chronology of
Iranian-Jewish relations is to clearly show that the current Israeli
Jewish problems are with Islamists not Iranians. Prime Minister
Netanyahu should distinguish between the two. That is, the
Persian-speaking mullahs in Iran are Islamists. Their 1979
Constitution clearly states that the resources of the nation will be
used to further Islamic militant politics, not Iranian. They do not
represent the people of Iran. They are the ones having a problem
with the Iranian people as well as the world.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli
government must make the best decision for their safety and national
interests. However, war is not necessarily the answer. The people of
Iran have risen since 2009 with empty hands in trying to show the
world that they are not with the regime, and that the regime is
illegitimate. The people of Iran have repeatedly stated during
demonstrations that their interest is to free their country from the
Islamists and rejoin the Free World. The people of Iran have
continuously shouted “Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, I only die for Iran”
meaning their only concern is Iran and its freedom and advancement.
During a meeting with a Roman envoy,
Sassanian king Khosro I Anushirvan (r. 531-579) stated, “Wisdom
overcomes the force of arms for the reason that, whereas the power
of war is such that it cannot survive the act of war (unless it
feeds on itself), wisdom, having no material existence, protects not
only itself but also the man who possesses it.” Prime Minister
Netanyahu should recall that many top Israeli politicians and
intelligence officers such as former head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan,
also stand against military action.
At a time when the world is facing
bankruptcy, unemployment, inflation, housing crisis, and much more,
leaders such as Prime Minister Netanyahu should not add a World War
III to the mixing bowl and rip apart some 2800-year-old bond between
the peoples of Iran and Israel. Israel should stand with the people
of Iran in their endeavor to overthrow the regime in Teheran.
Sheda Vasseghi is on the Board of Azadegan
Foundation, and is a regular contributor to Freepressers.com and
WorldTribune.com on Iran’s affairs. Join The Official Site of Sheda
Vasseghi on Facebook.
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