Iranians 'least anti-Semitic in Mid-East'

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Iranians burn Israeli flag in Tehran (file photo)Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Despite hostility to Israel, Iranians scored low in the poll

A perhaps surprising result emerged from a recent opinion poll by an international organisation that fights anti-Semitism - that Iranians are the least anti-Semitic people in the Middle East and North Africa (with the exclusion of Israel).

According to the poll commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Iranian respondents scored the lowest (56%) in terms of holding negative views about Jewish people, while in other countries of the region, the figure ranges from 69% in Turkey to 93% in the Palestinian territories.

Iranian conservatives officially reject anti-Semitism, presenting themselves as "anti-Israel". Nevertheless, many Iranian state institutions - all under the control of associates of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - use anti-Jewish propaganda.

For example, Iran's state-run television networks and conservative media outlets have a record of denying, or downplaying the scale of, the Holocaust, blaming "influential Jews" for many of the world's problems and using crude anti-Jewish imagery.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, repeatedly used the issue of the Holocaust as a political tool against Israel, Iran's arch-foe, accusing Israel of exaggerating and manipulating it to gain international sympathy.

About six million Jews were killed in the Nazi genocide, subsequently termed the Holocaust, during World War Two.

On 6 May, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, was summoned to the parliament by hard-line MPs who criticised him for having called the Holocaust a "tragedy" in an interview with a German television station.

Anti-conservative reaction

On the other hand, among those Iranians who are critical of the ruling conservatives, there are many who hold negative views of the Israeli government for different reasons.

For instance, they disagree with Israel's policies towards the Palestinians and oppose its stance on Iran's nuclear programme.

Iranian youths who are not in line with the conservatives also never the less treated with derision comments last year by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Iranians were deprived of wearing jeans or of listening to Western music.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
In Iran, Israel is depicted as wanting to dominate the world

Jeans-wearing youth took to social media, posting pictures of themselves in Western attire and criticising Mr Netanyahu for commenting on issues about which he was not properly informed.

Yet despite such criticisms, the recent ADL poll shows that a large part of Iran's population is not influenced by the negative narratives presented by the country's conservatives about Jewish people.

One may even conclude that because of their distrust of the ruling conservatives, many Iranians may simply reject "whatever" the regime says, including its propaganda regarding Jews.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the recent opinion poll is the very low percentage of respondents in Iran who agree with the statement that "Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust."

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, where the ruling conservatives have been denying the Holocaust for a long time, only 18% of the respondents believe that the above statement is "probably true".

This figure is particularly noteworthy when compared to 22% who agreed with the same statement in the United States.

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