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Iran Pressures Jewish Minority To Sever Ties With Relatives In Israel

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Amid Iran’s unequivocal support for its proxy Hamas, the regime has pushed Iranian Jews to cut ties with Israel-based friends and relatives.

Sources told Iran International Wednesday that an unknown number of members of the community were forced to block their relatives’ phone numbers in Israel and some have left family and group chats on messaging apps, including WhatsApp. The sources did not specify how the authorities pressure them but there are other reports about unknown people – presumably intelligence or Revolutionary Guard agents — calling the Jewish people in Shiraz and pushing them into cutting relations with their Israeli relatives. 

Clearly organized by the regime, Iranian Jews have held ceremonies in synagogues across various cities over the past few days to express support for Hamas, which killed 1,400 mostly civilians on October 7 and took over 230 hostages to Gaza.

A regime-sponsored event in a synagogue in Tehran (October 2023)

In April, the regime pressured the Jewish community to participate in Quds Day, which coincided with the Jewish holiday of Passover. The one-year anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s murder, which sparked months of anti regime protests in 2022, coincided with the Jewish New Year on September 16, prompting community leaders to warn Jews to stay off the streets.

In a Telegram posting from Iran’s roughly 9,000 strong Jewish community, the leadership wrote “All worshipers are strongly requested to refrain from stopping and gathering in the streets for any reason during Rosh Hashanah and after performing religious duties in synagogues.”

Although Iran has voted several times on pro-Palestinian UN resolutions that called for a two-state solution for the conflict, Tehran’s official ultimate goal is the destruction of the Jewish state, as prophesied by the octogenarian despot. 

The pressure on the Jewish community comes on the backdrop of Iran extending its criteria to criminalize support for Israel. This week, a body tasked with determining instances of criminal content, under the judiciary, updated its articles to include any activity in support of Israel in cybersphere.

Since Hamas declared war with the operation it codenamed al-Aqsa Flood (Storm in Persian), Iranians have become even more vocal about their distance from the Islamic Republic’s narrative of the conflict, making trendy hashtags like IranStandsWithIsrael or chanting creative slogans about where the regime should put the Palestinian flag. 

An emotional funeral for a young Israeli soldier of Iranian origin killed in the Hamas attack earlier this week went viral, jogging Iranians’ memory of deep common roots with the Jewish community. Shirel Haeimpour’s grandfather sang a traditional Jewish love song and a wedding song with his Esfahani Persian accent for the young woman. 

In October, the Islamic Republic revealed again that it exerts considerable pressure on the country’s tiny Jewish community to denigrate Israel. The Tehran-born Beni Sabti, an expert on Iran from the Israeli National Security and Strategy Institute, told Iran International that the Islamic Republic strong-armed the Tehran Jewish community into condemning Israel on its Telegram channel for its efforts to defeat Iran’s ally, Hamas.

Iranian authorities have recently nudged down their saber-rattling against Israel and claim Tehran does not have any proxy militia under its command. Iran’s ruler Ali Khamenei attempted to counter international reports suggesting Iran’s role in organizing pro-Hamas rallies in major European and US cities during a speech on Wednesday. He dismissed the claims, saying it’s as if the Basij militia of the Revolutionary Guard had branches in London and Paris. In fact, the UK now claims Iran is one of the country’s number one threats, having attempted multiple attacks on UK soil in the last year. Khamenei also called on Muslim states to cease oil, food and goods exports to Israel. 

US and European officials are concerned that actions by the Iranian government could escalate the conflict to other fronts with Iranian proxy forces’ potential involvement. Since the war broke out, multiple attacks on US bases in the Middle East have already set tensions to crisis level. 

Prior to the war, Israel and Saudi Arabia were edging ever closer to opening diplomatic ties, in the footsteps of other nations such as the United Arab Emirates which was one of several countries party to the US-brokered Abraham Accords of 2020. However, the warming of ties with Israel and Saudi had been a huge point of contention for the regime which repeatedly warned against the normalization. 

US President Joe Biden listed the disruption of the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel as one of the reasons behind the Hamas attack.