July 25, 2020 | The Jerusalem Post

Iran stokes antisemitism about ‘Esther, The Girl who became Queen’

“A Zionist hero has infiltrated our streaming services” in Iran
July 25, 2020 | The Jerusalem Post

Iran stokes antisemitism about ‘Esther, The Girl who became Queen’

“A Zionist hero has infiltrated our streaming services” in Iran

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)–controlled media outlet Fars News Agency published an antisemitic attack last week on the VeggieTales animated children’s movie “Esther: The Girl Who Became Queen.”

Nayime Movahed, writing for Fars News, argued that the show about Esther was “a Zionist hero [who] has infiltrated our streaming services.” The Esther film, which aired in 2000, is part of the animated series called A VeggieTales.

When asked about Movahed’s 1,600 word article, Reza Behrouz ,an Iranian-American physician and dissident based in San Antonio, told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday that “It is an excruciatingly long, labyrinthine article that at the end, leaves you with the same impression you had before even beginning to read it: a virulently anti-Semitic piece of propaganda by the Islamic Republic.”

He added that “Neither the story of Esther – as the Jewish queen of Persia, nor the Purim holiday have anything to with Zionism. Hence, to make an outlandish attempt to tarnish them in the name of ‘anti-Zionism’ means the Khomeinist regime is not just anti-Israel, it is inherently and fundamentally anti-Semitic.”

Behrouz, who has written about Iranian society and the clerical regime, said “this type of propaganda leaves what is left of the Jewish community in Iran vulnerable to harassment, and Jewish sacred monuments and synagogues to desecration and vandalism.”

Esther was a biblical heroine who, as Queen of Persia, prevented a genocide of the Jews. According to IMBd movie website covering the animated story, it is about “Queen Esther and her struggle to save her people from being sent to the Island of Perpetual Tickling (IPT) by her husband the king.”

The Fars News journalist Movahed wrote about Esther that “This is a historical fabrication that can easily mold the mind of a child,” adding that “Such a mind would be more amenable toward accepting Zionist conceptions, Judaism, and occupation of the land of Palestine.”

Karmel Melamed, an Iranian-American and and journalist who has written about the regime’s antisemitism, told the Post that “for the last 41 years the Iranian regime’s media apparatus has regularly used the story of Purim to inaccurately portray Jews as murderers of the ancient Persian people in a way to stir antisemitism among Iranian society.”

Melamed, who is Persian-Jewish, added that “they always fail to mention the Jews in the story of Purim defended themselves against the Amalakites who tried to killed them and did not kill Persians. Today what you see in this regime news report with this cartoon story is a yet continuation of their perverse Jew hatred.”

Writing on the website IranWire on July 16, Arash Azizi offered an explanation for the IRGC attack on the Esther being streamed in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“The Old Testament story of Esther, to which an entire book of the Hebrew Bible is dedicated, has long been used to celebrate the ancient ties between Persians and Jews – while also abused by others to foster both antisemitic or anti-Iranian sentiments,” wrote Azizi.

Fars News is affiliated with the IRGC and the Post reported in June that the IRGC’s commander   Maj.-Gen. Hussein Salami called for the “elimination” of the Jewish state. The US government classified the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.

Azizi wrote that “Esther was originally dubbed to Persian in 2011, led by the voice actor Anita Qalichi, whose masterful work includes dubbing of the animation Frozen films. It was broadcast on Iranian state TV before being pulled due to ‘numerous protests,’ according to Fars.” He added that “ But the animation is now available both on Filimo (something of an Iranian Netflix) and on the streaming outlets of the same organization that did the dubbing in the first place:”

Azizi asks whether Movahed means that “Vegetable Esther Helps Occupy Palestine?”

He notes that “But in the context of the Iran-Israel conflict, demagogues have attempted to twist the facts in the Esther story to foster hate. This April just gone, Tehran’s Young Journalists’ Club, run by Iran’s mammoth state broadcaster, claimed that Purim was ‘a celebration of killing Iranians.”’

Purim is the popular Jewish holiday the celebrates Esther and her cousin Mordechai for saving  the Jewish people from Haman, an Achaemenid Persian Empire official who sought to engineer the extermination of all the Jews.

Azizi wrote that Iran’s “rulers continue to use most abject forms of antisemitism to justify their hatred of Israel. But from the long perspective of history, we can only hope that their reign will be short. Purim has been celebrated for centuries and it will be here long after the Tehran dictatorship goes. I personally can’t wait to go to a Purim in Tehran.”

The organization International Christian Concern said in connection with the Fars News attack on the animated Esther show that “Anti-Semitism in Iran has strong implications for the Abrahamic faiths, including Christianity. Many Christians are targeted by the regime and sentenced to jail on charges of promoting so-called Zionist propaganda.”

Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal

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