Iran and the Jewish People:
A History of Hostility
By Daniel Goldberg, Th.D., D.D.
Modern-day Iran, which is situated east of Iraq beyond the Tigris River, boasts a long and colorful history. Biblically, it is the same Persian Empire that Cyrus the Great established in 550 bc, after Babylonia surrendered to Cyrus (Ezra 1:3-5) in the time of the exile of the Jewish people in that region. The reign of Darius the Mede (522-468 bc) marked the zenith of the Persian Empire (Daniel 5:31).
How ironic it is that the Persians lent their support to a Jewish return to their homeland in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, given the present animosity between these two ancient peoples.
Centuries later, after the death of Mohammed in 632AD, the religion of Islam infiltrated Iran, and today Iran is a Muslim country. The present population of Iran is about 70 million people, a majority of them Shia Muslims (89%), with a minority of Sunni Muslims (10%). Although there has been a Jewish presence in Iran since well before the rise of Islam, the Jewish population there now numbers only a few thousand people. By contrast, there are currently 250,000 Iranian-Israelis. These include both those born in Iran and now living in Israel and those born in Israel to one or both Iranian-born parents.
Iran is now a country governed by hardliners who intend to end Western influence in the Muslim world, eradicate Israel, and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia.
Casting the Jewish people as the scapegoat responsible for all evil is not a new political strategy, but it is one that has certainly worked before. At an anti-Israel conference titled “The World Without Zionism” attended by 4,000 students in Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, “Israel is a disgraceful blot that must be wiped off the map.” Mr. Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric is consistent with that of Iran’s political and religious leadership since the founding of the Islamic regime in 1979.
Iran is also working hand-in-glove with Israel’s other enemies, and the drumbeat of hatred is becoming more insistent. In a day when Hamas leaders continue to insist that “Israel is a tumor which needs to be removed,” the Arab media routinely promotes Holocaust denial and publishes cartoons showing images of rabbis draining the blood of Arab children to bake matzos for Passover. Now that Iran has made it clear that it will pursue its nuclear program, is it any wonder that Israel and its allies are becoming increasingly anxious?
The Jewish people are no strangers to the hatred of the world. Yet the promises of God continue to hold true. Israel is still “the apple of God’s eye” (Zechariah 2:8), and God has declared that “No weapon formed against you shall prosper. . ..” (Isaiah 54:17). Therefore, no Haman, Hitler, or Ahmadinejad has ever or will ever succeed in destroying the Jewish people.
But God’s people must not become complacent. Believers need to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6) and cling to the promise of 1 John 5:4, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith.”