On Saturday, October 3rd, Britain's Telegraph published a story claiming that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's family may have Jewish roots. The assertion is based on a photograph taken during the elections where President Ahmadinejad is seen holding up his identity card. Upon close examination, the card reveals that Ahmadinejad's family name was changed from Sabourjian in the early 1950s. Sabourjian is a Jewish name meaning “weaver of the sabour” (or prayer shawl, known in Hebrew as talit).
The Telegraph states the following evidence to further their claim:
– Sabourjian is a common Iranian Jewish name
– “-jian” is a well known Jewish ending to Persian names
The article also publishes responses by various experts who opine that President Ahmadinejad's virulently anti-Israel stance may be orchestrated to draw attention away from a possible Jewish past.
Original inquiries into the subject were spurred by Persian blogger Dr. Mehdi Khazali, who first raised the issue of the president's heritage during Iran's June presidential elections. (The blog has since been deleted by the Iranian government.) The president was asked to identify his name during a debate. Challenged by his opponent, “My full name is Mehdi Karroubi. What is your full name?” Ahmadinejad responded, but without including Sabourjian as one of his surnames.
How is the Israeli blogosophere reacting to these claims? Many bloggers are calling the them “holey” and cite the irony of someone so virulently anti-Israel having possible Jewish family ties.
Jaron of the Jaron Report questions the significance of President Ahmadinejad refusing to address his alleged name change.
Not denying it is a far cry from admitting it.
I also haven't denied that I'm Elvis Presley, which doesn't prove that I am Elvis Presley.
This is manipulative journalism in the sense that they are trying to get readers to make faulty assumptions. First, prove the switch of names, then try to address the reasons and subsequent psychological fallout.
While I am definitely not Elvis Presley, Ahmedinejad may in fact turn out to be of Jewish descent.
If this story does ring true, it certainly would explain Ahmedinejhad's Holocaust, Jew, and Israel obsession.
The Muqata's takes a stronger stance.
So… is Ahmadinejad a Jew? Other than being an historical oddity, I don't find it of much relevance. He's a madman, leading a country threatening to destroy Israel.
A commenter on the Muqata corrects the story that the Telegraph seems to be putting forth as breaking news. The commenter explains:
The story of Ahmadinejad's Jewish origins — including the specifics… was first revealed some months ago, by Iranian blogger Dr. Mehdi Khazali. In retribution for this, Khazali was arrested by the Iranian authorities….
You can read all about this in this article from the Jerusalem Post dated July 3.
The Telegraph's fraudulent attempt to pretend that they just now broke this story themselves is sheer chutzpa. This is yet another example of the mainstream media taking credit for a news story broken by a blogger — a phenomenon that seems to be getting more and more common.
If you read the Telegraph article carefully, you'll notice that there is a brief mention of Khazali way down near the end. This is their attempt to cover themselves. But the article does not explain that the entire story was, in fact, shamelessly lifted from Khazali's blog.
The Jerusalem Post article states that:
Dr. Mehdi Khazali, who reportedly participated in several recent opposition demonstrations, was reportedly summoned to a special court convened for religious figures, detained and transferred to an unknown location.
Before his detention, Dr. Khazali was director of the Hayyan Cultural Institute in Teheran. No further information is available on Dr. Mehdi Khazali's well-being. If you have updated information, please share your knowledge in the comments section– if you feel safe doing so.
The Jerusalem Post cites other governments’ reactions to this news.
The “Jewish Ahmadinejad” dispute even spread beyond Iran, when Bahrain's oldest newspaper, Akhbar al-Khaleej, was briefly shut down by the governing authorities two weeks ago after it published an article recycling the claim.
Jewlicious’ CK adds a humorous note on what it would mean for Israeli Jewish programming if Ahmadinejad truly was Jewish.
The family converted to Islam when little Mahmoud was 4-years old for “a mixture of religious reasons and economic pressures.” Consequently, Ahmadinejad qualifies for the law of return and can become an Israeli citizen tomorrow. He can even qualify for a Birthright Israel trip, if he was a little younger.
Taglit-Birthright Israel is a program that provides free group tours of Israel for 18- 26 year old Jews.
In response to Ahmadinejad's repeated claim that Iran is not anti-Jewish, only anti-Israel, CK jests:
Of course this news ought have no effect on Ahmadinejad’s political career. As we all know, Iran has always treated its Jews well and I am sure Mahmoud has nothing to fear. Nothing at all. I look forward to having him over for a Shabbat meal whenever he has the chance.
Persian Jews in Iran–
According to Wikipedia's article on the living conditions of Persian Jews in Iran, Jews and Muslims have similar legal rights under the Iranian constitution. A study by the U. S. State Department, however, asserted that there are some restrictions on Jews’ rights in Iran. In response, the Association of Tehrani Jews declared:
“We Iranian Jews condemn claims of the US State Department on Iranian religious minorities, announced that we are fully free to perform our religious duties and we feel no restriction on performing our religious rituals.”
Wikipedia notes that as a result of the Association's statement, “The U.S. Government was accused of trying to create tension in Iran.”
The Jewish Virtual Library further remarks:
Today, Iran's Jewish population is the second largest in the Middle East, after Israel. Reports vary as to the condition and treatment of the small, tight-knit community, and the population of Iranian Jews can only be estimated due to the community’s isolation from world Jewry
- “A Humble Beginning Helped Form Iran's New Hard Man” (UK Guardian, July 2005)– a profile of President Ahmadinejad and his background, including interviews with some of the Sabourjian family from the small town of Aradan (population: 7,000) where he grew up.
Robert Tait writes that the name Ahmadinejad sources from the words “Ahmad,” meaning “virtuous,” as in the Prophet Mohamad, and “Nejad” meaning “race.” The name in full praises Islam and affirms the Ahmadinejad family name as part of the “virtuous race.” Tait also describes the president's family as devout Muslims whose religious values infuse their lifestyle
From Global Voices Online–
– “Iran: Protesters Greet Ahmadinejad in New York” (Hamid Tehrani, September 23rd, 2009)
- “Iran: Testimonies of Torture and Rape” in relation to the June presidential elections (Hamid Tehrani, August 22nd, 2009)
- “Iran: Mourning the Victims of Protest” (Hamid Tehrani, July 31st, 2009)
- “Iran: Storm of Protest After the Election” (Hamid Tehrani, June 13th, 2009)
- “Iran: Reformist and Activist Blogger Arrested” (Hamid Tehrani, June 19th, 2009)