It is a generally assumed that the Shah’s downfall led to the severing of ties between Israel and Iran, which up until that point resembled a love story. However, both Iran’s intellectual elite and the rest of the nation drastically changed their views of the Jewish State after 1967.
By Lior Sternfeld
The relationship between Israel and Iran dates back to the early years of the Jewish state, and constituted the basis of both countries’ geopolitical policies. This political relationship was not, however, merely a matter of the ruling elites. Insofar as Pahlavi’s Iran is concerned, even oppositional circles in the 1960s and 1970s had a complex and sometimes favorable approach to the State of Israel. Moreover, many of these viewed Israel and Iran as essentially exceptional in nature in the contemporary Middle East, a perception that would change definitively for the worse after the 1967 war.
Shortly after the establishment of Israel in 1948, a new love story began in the Middle East. In 1950, Iran granted Israel de facto recognition and opened an embassy in Jerusalem. At that time Iran was (and still is) a homeland to the largest Jewish community in the Middle East, and a safe haven for many Iraqi Jews who had fled persecution in Iraq throughout the 1940s.
Unlike the majority of Jewish communities in Arab countries, many Iranian Jews decided to stay in Iran after the establishment of Israel. While most other Jewish communities in the Muslim world vanished between 1948-1956 and migrated en masse to Israel, the vast majority of Iranian Jews stayed in their homeland and had a complex relationship with the Zionist movement and Israel. This is not to say Iranian Jews were anti-Zionist. However, due to their decision to stay in Iran, Iranian Jewish communities were generally not identified with Zionism. This was, of course, a sharp contrast to most Arab-Jewish communities from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, and Libya. Many Arab-Jews emigrated to the newly founded State of Israel before 1956, due of increasing tensions (and at...Read More