After spending time with Jews in Iran over the last months and hearing about their lives in the Islamic Republic – they’re free to practice in peace and are not particularly discriminated against – this news is predictable:
Iran’s Jews have given the country a loyalty pledge in the face of cash offers aimed at encouraging them to move to Israel, the arch-enemy of its Islamic rulers.
The incentives — ranging from £5,000 a person to £30,000 for families — were offered from a special fund established by wealthy expatriate Jews in an effort to prompt a mass migration to Israel from among Iran’s 25,000-strong Jewish community. The offers were made with Israel’s official blessing and were additional to the usual state packages it provides to Jews emigrating from the diaspora.
However, the Society of Iranian Jews dismissed them as “immature political enticements” and said their national identity was not for sale.
“The identity of Iranian Jews is not tradeable for any amount of money,” the society said in a statement. “Iranian Jews are among the most ancient Iranians. Iran’s Jews love their Iranian identity and their culture, so threats and this immature political enticement will not achieve their aim of wiping out the identity of Iranian Jews.”
The Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv reported that the incentives had been doubled after earlier offers of £2,500 a head failed to attract any Iranian Jews to leave for Israel.
Iran’s sole Jewish MP, Morris Motamed, said the offers were insulting and put the country’s Jews under pressure to prove their loyalty.
“It suggests the Iranian Jew can be encouraged to emigrate by money,” he said. “Iran’s Jews have always been free to emigrate and three-quarters of them did so after the revolution but 70% of those went to America, not Israel.”
If Iranian Jews speak openly of their support for Israel, they would certainly run into troubles with the authorities. But the arrogant presumption of this offer is that every Iranian Jew is desperately unhappy in their country and dying to leave. This is certainly not the impression I received when I was there.