Jews Wary of Becoming Fall Guy for Iran's Woes

Article excerpt

Byline: John R. Bradley, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

TEHRAN - Members of Iran's Jewish community fear they are being set up to take the blame if President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's drive to establish a nuclear program ends badly for the country.

Members of the 30,000-strong community say they already are being viewed as a potential fifth column after a series of speeches in which the firebrand president has spoken of a "Holocaust myth" and heaped scorn on Europe for its defense of the "Zionist entity."

"Ahmadinejad has decided to pick on the easiest victim, Israel," said Meir Javedanfar, a specialist on Iran and director of the Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Co. "Every time Ahmadinejad has internal problems, he will attack Israel again, using it as a tool."

Iranian Jews, many of whom have family ties with Israel, are hitting back with forceful public rebuttals. But privately, they acknowledge fears of orchestrated political attacks if the United States or Israel conducts air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities.

There are still painful memories of events six years ago in the southern city of Shiraz, where 13 Iranian Jews and eight Muslims were accused of spying for Israel.

It was widely thought that they were being used as pawns in a struggle within the Islamic regime, with hard-liners seeking to embarrass President Mohammed Khatami and his comparatively moderate administration.

Now there are signs that Mr. Khatami and other reformers are using the Jews to try to undermine Mr. Ahmadenijad's political agenda.

Mr. Khatami publicly contradicted the president this month, describing the Holocaust as a "historical reality."

"We should speak out if even a single Jew is killed. Don't forget that one of the crimes of Hitler, Nazism and German national socialism was the massacre of innocent people, among them many Jews," the cleric said in widely published remarks.

The prominent centrist newspaper Sharq also has taken on Mr. Ahmadinejad, saying, "The Jewish question was never a problem for Iran or Islam."

The debate has forced supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to speak out in support of the president in spite of widespread reports that he is unhappy with Mr. …