Just One Question for FM Zarif

###About that Cyrus guy you mentioned…

After Prime Minister Netanyahu’s masterful speech to Congress last week, in which he clearly laid out why the current deal being offered is so dangerous in light of continued Iranian aggression and terror around the world, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sat down with MSNBC’s Ann Curry to respond.

Since Zarif has had so much experience duping American nuclear negotiators, the fact that he is able to do so easily to a reporter should be of no surprise.

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But still, Curry does of decent job holding Zarif’s feet to the fire, asking him specifically “Netanyahu strongly suggested that Iran has genocidal ambitions against the Jewish people, saying, “Iran’s regime is not merely a Jewish problem, any more than the Nazis were a Jewish problem.” What is your response to that?”

In order to counter this question that deserves a real answer from the Iranian negotiating team, Zarif digs deep into history saying:

Well, it is unfortunate that Mr. Netanyahu now totally– distorts realities of today. He even distorts his own scripture. If you read the Book of Esther, you will see that it was the Iranian king who saved the Jews. If you read the Old Testament, you will see that it was an Iranian king who saved the Jews from Babylon. Esther has a town in Iran where– where our Jewish population, which is the largest in the Middle East– visit on a regular basis. It is– it is truly, truly regrettable that bigotry gets to the point of making allegations against an entire nation which has saved Jews three times in its history: Once during that time of a prime minister who was trying to kill the Jews, and the king saved the Jews, again during the time of Cyrus the Great, where he saved the Jews from Babylon, and during the Second World War, where Iran saved the Jews.

I applaud the Foreign Minister’s verbal and historical acrobatics, but it would have been nice if Curry challenged him on any of the many above inaccuracies.

###Ignoring Queen Esther

Vox.com called Zarif out for misrepresenting the story of Queen Esther. Yes it was King Achashverosh/Xerxes who “saved the Jews from a Prime Minister,” but it was the same king who had previously signed off on their annihilation and only countered the decree after the intervention of his Jewish bride.

###Did the Holocaust Happen or Not?

Zarif’s mention of Iranian efforts to save Jews during WWII was no doubt a reference to Abdol Hossein Sardari who did in fact issue hundreds of Iranian passports to Jews (both Iranian and non-Iranian) and is often called the “Schindler of Iran.” Given the Islamic Republic’s history of Holocaust Denial, it is interesting that Zarif would mention this at all. But of course he doesn’t talk about the fact that after the Islamic Revolution, instead of supporting such a worthy humanitarian, the new Islamist government rescinded his pension and confiscated his property. It must have been this “generous” policy towards those who worked to save Jews that convinced more than 90% of Iran’s Jews they would be better off emigrating.

###Iranian Jews

He also says that Iran has the “largest [Jewish population] in the Middle East.” This is nonsense. Israel has the largest Jewish population in the Middle East, followed by Turkey. If Iran actually had 20,000 Jews, as Zarif claims, it would have more than Turkey’s 17,000, but a 2012 census at less than 9,000. But Iran’s Jews are routinely trotted out by the government to Blue-and-Whitewash away its anti-Semitism.

###Back to that Cyrus guy you mentioned…

But I think the most important question that should have been asked in response, was about Zarif’s characterization of the actions of Cyrus the Great, who he describes as “saving the Jews from Babylon.” This is certainly true. However, what Zarif fails to mention is that in freeing the Jews exiled to Babylon, he allowed them to return to Israel and ordered them to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

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Upon hearing Zarif talk about King Cyrus the Great, how is the next question not: Do you recognize the established history that states that Cyrus not only liberated the exiled Jews in Babylon, but instructed them to return to the Land of Israel and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem? Do you deny this undisputed fact of history, showing the Jewish connection and right to the Land of Israel that was also recognized by the great Iranian King Cyrus?

Cyrus’s role in reestablishing Jewish life in Israel and rebuilding the Temple is not questioned by any historian. In fact, in 1953, when visiting the Jewish Theological Seminary, President Truman’s Eddie Jacobson introduced him as “the man who helped create the state of Israel.” To which Truman responded, “What do you mean ‘helped to create’? I am Cyrus.

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Of course Zarif can’t discuss Cyrus the Great’s central role in allowing the Jews to return to Israel and certainly not his orders to rebuilt the Temple because this would prove Israel’s historical connection to the land and help justify its continued existence. It is this reason why Zarif also didn’t mention the short-lived, Sasanian-aided Jewish conquest of Jerusalem in 614 that was successful until Iran abandoned its Jewish allies to Byzantium, leading to massacres throughout the land.

###Which is it?

Iran can’t have its Jews and kill them too: either it recognizes that Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Israel and rebuild the Temple, thereby recognizing the right of the Jews to the land, or it does not. It cannot celebrate the King for liberating the Jews and ignore what this entailed.

It would just be nice if one of the many journalists interviewing him actually called him on it.