Monday, February 13, 2006

World Jewish Congress launches anti-Iran campaign

By Yoav Stern
Haaretz Correspondent

The World Jewish Congress has launched a campaign against Iran following the nuclear crisis and the anti-Semitic statements of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In its biannual gathering in Jerusalem on Thursday the WJC called on Jewish communities throughout the world to pressure their governments to act against the Iranian nuclear program and urge economic and political sanctions against Iran.

The WJC also called on Jewish communities to act to change their countries' energy policy so that they decrease the dependence on oil.

President of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress Alexander Mashkevich called on the WJC to prepare for the possible emigration of Iran's Jews. "It's our responsibility to prepare for the unexpected. It is not clear what their condition is and what their fate will be, and if they want to leave, we should not be surprised," he said.

He said an estimated 30,000 Jews live in Iran, and that it is extremely hard to maintain contact with them.

Mashkevich, who emigrated from Kazakhstan, said the former Iranian foreign minister had authorized his visit to the Jewish communities in Iran, but after Ahmadinejad's election, the visit was canceled.

The WJC is a world Jewish organization, not a Zionist one, and sees itself as the diplomatic arm of the Jewish people.

The chairman of the WJC's Policy Council, Rabbi Israel Singer, told Haaretz on Thursday that despite the risk of the Iranian regime's harming the Jewish community, the congress decided to debate the issue.

"The Jews in Iran have been living there for 2,700 years, from the days of Queen Esther. They remained there despite the wars and Zionism, and are aware of their situation. We are working for them, not against them," he said.

Singer said Jewish communities around the world must make it clear to their governments that the Iranian regime threatens not only the Jews with its utterances and nuclear activity, but all the countries in the world.

The WJC's strategy is not to spearhead the move against Iran, but to encourage countries to act themselves against Iran.

"The Iranian nation is very civilized and its majority doe not support the regime's acts. We must convey the message that it endangers the whole world in sophisticated methods, like blogs and other means to prevent another world war," Singer said.


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