Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal editorial page is as hard-line as ever, today featuring a lengthy and by now familiar meditation by AEI “Freedom Scholar” and perennial intrigue entrepreneur Michael Ledeen on “Iran and the Problem of Evil.” Actually, the headline is a bit of a distortion because, in typical neo-conservative fashion, Ledeen compares the conflated threats emanating from the Arab world and Iran — or, as Ledeen puts it, “from Hezbollah and al Qaeda to the Iranians Khomeinists and the Saudi Wahabis” — to those posed by Mussolini’s fascism, Hitler’s Germany, and Stalin’s Russia. To his credit, Ledeen decided to forgo the use of “Islamofascism,” a decision which no doubt will get him in trouble with David Horowitz, Frank Gaffney, and James Woolsey, among others of his hard-line fellow-neo-cons. But, of course, by putting “Iran” and the other assorted threats in the same context, he really doesn’t have to use the word itself. In any event, the lesson — and I guess here is where the headline that features “Iran” alone — is clear enough: “As it did in the 20th century, it means war.”
Ledeen often describes himself as a historian, and, as such, I would expect Ledeen to be scrupulously careful of his facts, but one assertion about anti-Semitism in Iran in his essay really stuck out at me; namely, that “The Protocol of the Elders of Zion” is now circulating in a Farsi edition. I did a quick Nexis search for the “Protocol” and “Protocols”, “Iran”, and “Farsi” and could find only two articles that appeared to corroborate Ledeen’s statement. One was a 2005 article in the Likudist New York Sun by Benny Avni, who asserted that “‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ the classic anti-Semitic fraud, is a best seller in Iran…” No further evidence to support that assertion was offered. A second article, which appeared in the November 2006 edition of Playboy, by frequent New Republic contributor Joseph Braude, also asserted that the notorious forgery had been translated into Farsi with the financial help of the Islamic Republic. Again, however, he offered no supporting evidence.
I also checked with the State Department’s nearly 100-page “Global Anti-Semitism Report” published less than three months ago and could find no mention of a Farsi edition of the Protocols, although it did note that new editions had appeared in English, Ukrainian, Indonesian, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Russian, and Serbian since 2003. The report also noted that the Protocols had recently become “best sellers” in Turkey (a strong ally of Israel’s and hence, presumably, irrelevant to Ledeen thesis on “evil”) and Syria.
Now, it is true that the Iranian delegation to the 2005 Frankfurt International Book Fair displayed an English-language edition of the Protocols among its wares, but I doubt that it would have become a ”best seller” in Iran in that form, as the Sun’s Avni had asserted.
Ledeen also wrote that “calls for the destruction of Jews appear regularly on Iranian ….television,” and, while Ahmadinejad’s periodic calls for the elimination of Israel (from the pages of time, from history, from the map — depending on the translation), not to mention the “Death to Israel” sloganeering that has been staple of government rallies in Iran since the Revolution, I don’t have enough knowledge or research time to assess the truthfulness of this assertion. I would note, however, that Iran continues to boast by far the largest Jewish community in the region outside Israel; that Jews are an officially recognized minority free to worship as they wish; that the vast majority have shunned substantial financial inducements to emigrate to Israel; and that, despite Ahmadinejad’s well-publicized Holocaust scepticism, the government television station has broadcast a popular series about the Holocaust based on a true story about an Iranian diplomat in Paris who helped Jews escape Nazi-occupied France. That doesn’t mean anti-Semitism in Iran does not exist; on the contrary, most experts believe it is indeed on the rise there, spurred in considerable part by regional tensions and the crescendo of threats and counter-threats between the Israel and Iran. But lumping Iran in with more clearly anti-Semitic movements and governments — not to mention his blithe assertions about the popularity of the Protocols’ Farsi edition — does not enhance Ledeen’s — or the Journal’s op-ed fact-checkers’ — credibility.