Irina and Ellie talk anti-Semitism, Iran regime propaganda, & changing the narrative

March 25, 2021

Women’s Roundtable Recaps | Republic Underground 

Image a screencapture of the Facebook live event by Republic Underground news. 

On March 24, Irina Tsukerman, RU News’ Media VP, and Ellie Cohanim, a former U.S. State Department staffer brought on to help combat anti-Semitism, met to talk more about Cohanim’s life, her career in fighting for Jewish rights, and the truth about the IRGC regime.

“Irina, first of all, I just want to thank you for inviting me to have this conversation with you. You are a formidable force in the field of journalism and human rights, and so it’s really a pleasure to be joining you in this conversation and experience you are hosting.” 

“So, to answer the question, I was born in Iran myself to a Jewish family that traces back our lineage thousands of years, to the First Temple period in the Jewish Bible. After the destruction of the First Temple, the Jewish people are forced into Diaspora, into Babylonia. So, you’re talking about a Jewish community that predates the rise of Christianity in the Middle East and late Islam. I come from this family that has ancient, deep roots in Persia which later becomes Iran in the Middle East region. 

As a Jewish minority, the Jews, who at the time of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran numbered around 100,000 people, my family, and the majority of the Iranian Jews at the time realized that this radical Islamist regime that took power over the course of the Revolution was anti-Semitic in its nature and posed a threat to the safety and security of Jews. The key significant event that made all of us realize that was the regime’s execution of the President of the Jewish community Mr. Habib Elghanian.”

 

Habib Elghanian was executed by the regime on May 9, 1979. He was the leader of the Jewish community and the one who established Plasco. Elghanian was the first Jewish citizen and one of the first Iranian civilians to be executed by the new regime in 79. He was executed by firing squad in Tehran and was 67-years-old at the time of his passing. 

I consider myself really fortunate because my family left very early on in the Revolution and so by the time we arrived in the United States it was September of 1979 and soon after that was the Iran hostage crisis. That’s the early history of my family. 

Like I said before, I consider myself one of the most fortunate people out there because I came to the United States as a child. We were granted refugee status. I just know how fortunate I am to be a woman who was raised in the United States of America and was able to flee the Iranian regime, which I think, as you know, has been one of the worst in the world for the status of women specifically.”

Tsukerman then turned the conversation to the number of Jews that remained within Iran. 

“How big is the Jewish community in Iran today? Because I’m hearing very different numbers, depending on who you ask,” she said. 

“The numbers right now is less than 10,000. It’s hard to get a completely accurate counting, but that’s about the understanding. And so, Irina, the status of Jews in Iran today, it’s a sad situation, because what you have is a regime in Iran. When I was working at the State Department, we determined and designated the Iranian regime as the number one state-sponsor of antisemitism in the world.” 

She then explained what it meant to be “the number one state-sponsor of antisemitism.” 

“When you ask yourself ‘what does that mean to be the number one state sponsor,’? 

Well, what it means is that the Iranian regime from its very very top leadership, so we’re talking about the Supreme Leader the Ayatollah Khamenei himself, tweeting a plan to eliminate the Jewish state of Israel, constantly calling for the elimination of the Jewish state of Israel. 

As State Policy, the regime denies that the Holocaust, the murder of 6 million Jews, ever took place. Then, of course, there is the maltreatment of the local Jewish community. So, what you find with the regime, they have this propagandist line where they say, ‘oh, look at our happy Jews, we don’t have anything against Jews, we’re not antiSemites, we are just against the Zionist entity.’ The regime likes to put out this propaganda that somehow you can separate the Jewish people from the Jewish state.” 

She then talked about how the IRGC uses state funding to finance proxy activity, with terror organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah along with the Israeli border, as well as the Houthis in Yemen.

“Also, the Houthis in Yemen, which are a threat to Saudi Arabia. At the same time, the Houthis have a chant that is very similar to the Iranian chant. It goes something like “death to Jews, death to Israel.” We know that the Iranian regime routinely chants, “death to Israel, death to America.” So, you see the Iranian regime’s antisemitism in proxy activity. Like I said, it motivates everything that they do, and so that is why we designated them the number one state sponsor of antisemitism in the world,” said Cohanim.

Tsukerman then noted how she had been hearing from both the United States and the Middle East that, in a sense, the Jewish community of Iran was somewhat a protected minority because the community had more freedom to worship than Sunni or Bahai.

“Supposedly, Iran does not actually have anything against their own Jews even though they have issues with Israel and Jews elsewhere in the world,” said Tsukerman.

“There are these right misconceptions based in part on Iran’s own successful propaganda, but I am afraid of antisemitism elsewhere in the world aside from Iran’s successful propaganda in that regard. How do you answer that?”

She then also asked a second question regarding the travel of Jewish people to Israel to perform some of the commandments in the Jewish law that can only be conducted in Israel.

“For example, a Jewish man recently traveled to Israel for personal reasons, and upon his return, he was thrown in prison. That’s not a line that gets out a lot. About the line between Israel as a religious and as a political entity. How do you address that? ”

“So, I want to tease out these issues, and you’ll have to remind me again about the second question. So, to answer the first, I think it’s a sad situation in Iran. Because, everybody in the country, unless you are part of the regime ruling class, you are targeted by the regime for human rights abuses. Basically, the Islamic Republic’s regime right now has created systems to truly oppress the average Iranian woman and man in an effort to maintain control over the population. So, when you understand that that’s kind of the broader picture in Iran, is it a case of everything being relative? So, what are you asking yourselves? “Do the Jews have it better than the Bahai’s or the Sunnis?” I think that this is a very flawed way of looking at this situation. The reality of it is that every Iranian is targeted.”

At this phase, the discussion developed to discuss a broader issue of human rights in Iran. Keep checking back for more updates on this discussion in our “Women’s Roundtable Recaps.” Follow our livestreams @RepublicUndergroundNews via Facebook to catch these events in real time.