Disturbing reports from #Iran that the tomb of Esther & Mordechai, a holy Jewish site, was set afire overnight. We hope that the the authorities bring the perpetrators of this #antisemitic act to justice & commit to protecting the holy sites of all religious minorities in Iran.
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) May 15, 2020
A few days ago Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League tweeted that the holy shrine of the Tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Iran was “set afire.” He claimed, without offering any evidence, that it was an “anti-Semitic act.” The story was picked up by the Jerusalem Post’s chief reporter-fabulist Ben Weinthal, who added his own fictional touches to the story, saying that it was “set ablaze;” and adding for special effect that it was “torched.” Another Iranophobic Post report by Seth Frantzman referred to the “burning of Esther tomb.”
You can see in this picture taken at the shrine yesterday by an Iranian source (after the alleged attack) that the main building is entirely intact and undamaged.
Trump’s “Anti-Semitism Czar” added his own denunciation, which was a bit more circumspect, calling the incident an “attack.” But he added for good measure this bit of nonsense: “Iran’s regime is the world’s chief state sponsor of antisemitism.” I have consistently railed against such false conflation of Israel with Judaism. It is a mistake common to real anti-Semites like David Duke and the white supremacists who are favorites of Donald Trump; and of the Israel Lobby and Israeli government. Iran is opposed to Israel. It is not opposed to Jews. Anti-Semitism is an attack against Jews, not Israel.
In fact, there are 25,000 Jews living quite peaceably in Iran and the Jewish community there is one of the oldest continuously-existing Diaspora communities in the world. In fact, the Tomb of Esther and Mordechai is not only sacred to Iranian Jews, it is beloved by all Iranians. Claiming that Iran is anti-Semitic is equivalent to saying that because Israel opposes Iran that it is anti-Shiite. The truth is that while Israel’s leaders hate Iran, they could care less about Shiism. They may know something about Islam, and Islamophobia is rampant among Israelis, especially the far-right. But it’s preposterous to say that Israel’s animus against the country is based on hatred of Shiism.
The anti-Semitism canard is, of course, a convenient cudgel with which to beat those critical of Israel, since the world generally rejects anti-Semitism and reviles anti-Semites; while it does not share the same revulsion toward those critical of Israel. That’s why Israel and its enablers like Greenblatt and Weinthal prefer the anti-Semite tag. It’s something like a comedian who prefers the cheap laugh to the sophisticated one.
There was an attempt by a lone individual to attack the shrine. But it was thwarted and there was no damage to the Tomb. Another building in the same compound was attacked and there was minor damage to its interior. An Iranian source sent me the IRNA story which was published about the incident:
“…A person tried to enter the mausoleum to “take certain actions,” but was prevented from entering it. Security cameras have recorded a picture of the man, and the police is looking for him, but until he is arrested, one cannot be sure about what he intended to do, and the motivation for doing them.”
In other words, what actually happened was that a single individual took it upon himself to attempt to firebomb the holy site. As the attack took place on Israel Independence Day (the same day as the Palestinian Nakba), it was possibly intended as a protest against Israel or the Nakba. But since the suspect is not yet in custody it is far too premature to speak of a motive as Greenblatt falsely did.
Returning to the attack itself, either visitors or security at the site prevented the individual from entering the Tomb. But he did firebomb an auxiliary building causing light interior damage, and the authorities are pursuing him.
The moral of this story is that Greenblatt has foisted a wildly-exaggerated story on an unsuspecting world. He has exploited the ADL’s undeserved reputation for defending Jews against anti-Semitism by leveling false charges against Iran. This should make everyone who sympathizes with the ADL take pause before accepting its reports, unless they are supported by credible evidence.
It goes without saying that Weinthal and the Jerusalem Post have long been known for perpetrating hoaxes on their readers. In some cases, they’ve knowingly reported invented stories and in others they published stories they believed were true, but turned out not to be. The Post has never, to my recollection, retracted or apologized for any of these grave errors of “journalism.” Caveat emptor.