|Tales (Tails?) Of Binx and Jahandir…|
by Gerald A. Honigman
Yes, over the years, I've said some of this before. And, no doubt, some have read some of this before.
Nevertheless, some issues remain so persistent, urgent, and timely that revisiting them seems to be in order. So, please allow me...
I guess it was my own fault…
Several years ago, my two older daughters brought home a momma cat and two small kittens that they found late at night wandering on the road. Another kitten was spotted not far away which lost out in its chance meeting with a car. Who could say "no" to them?
The problem was that we already had three established cats. While we've had situations related to this involving our original two females, it was Binx, the young male, who (even though neutered) had really proven to be a pistol regarding the newcomers. And I suspect that he began by first taking it out on me…
I kept a box in my bedroom closet with some important stuff in it. No problem--until after our feline additions entered onto the scene. Not long after their arrival, Binx was caught in the act of leaving souvenirs, if you get my drift, in my box.
Not having much of a choice, I now had to gingerly weed through decades of materials I had saved. Funny what you'll find when you do this sort of thing.
Among the various hidden treasures I now reviewed was a letter dated to 1979 from Jahandir, a half Iranian fellow doctoral student, who was commenting on a research paper I had written.
I liked Jahan, but we butted heads constantly. He's probably teaching at some university now. We were doing graduate work together at the height of Iran's Islamic Revolution.
Allow me, please, a few comments about the latter before we proceed…
The fate of the twenty-six century old Jewish community in Iran frequently--especially after the Arab imperial invasions ushered in the Islamic age in the mid-7th century C.E--depended upon a balance of power between the ruling Shah (who acted as their protector) and the Islamic religious establishment. (No, Ahmadinejad--not all Jews came from Europe…just ask Israel's recent former president and chief of staff of its armed forces--modern Iranian Jewish refugees).
Prior to the Islamic era, there were often good times for the Jews in Iran as well as good relations between Iran and the original land of the Jews, Judea/Israel.
Cyrus the Great, according to ancient Iranian accounts ( like the Kurash Prism) as well as Jewish ones, allowed Judeans--Jews--whom he freed from Babylonian (modern Iraq) captivity some six centuries before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth to return to Judea. Many returned--but many remained in Iran, and from there also moved points east. The Hebrew Bible's Book of Esther takes place in Iran, and much archaeological and written evidence shows that Jewish soldiers manned Iranian outposts in places like Elephantine, Egypt (where they also had their own temple).
For the sake of relative brevity (something I'm not too often accused of), allow me just one additional example of these long and positive ties between the Iranian and Jewish peoples…
Practically on the very eve of the Arab imperialist, colonialist Islamic onslaught, in the 7th century C.E., of both the land of the Jews and that of the Iranians as well, ancient, non-Jewish sources tell of the alliance of tens of thousands of Jewish warriors with Iran against the hated Byzantines.
Okay, enough background information. Let's now return to Jahandir, the Jews, and the latter's dependence on a powerful shah in the Islamic era…
Such age-old dependency would get Jews and modern-day Israel in trouble as well, as they both had close relations with the Pahlavi dynasty.
While the Pahlavi shahs did much to bring Iran into the modern world (Reza modeled himself after Mustafa Kemal--"Ataturk"--in Turkey), their decision to rule their people (which they had indeed helped in many ways) as if nothing had changed since the days of Iran's ancient, all-powerful shahanshahs could no longer be accepted by many Iranians whose eyes had now been opened to the freedoms of the West. Think Jahandir, as but one example…
Ironically, the advances on behalf of the Iranian people made by the Pahlavis did much to bring about their own downfall.
But, little did the frustrated Iranian Street know (or want to know), that when the Islamic Revolution came while Jahan and I were both doing grad work in Middle Eastern Studies in 1979, they would simply be replacing an autocratic shah with an absolute, megalomaniacal, autocratic theocracy instead--which would be even worse in terms of supporting those very freedoms many who opposed the shah had sought.
At the time, Ayatollah Khomeini was the hero for most of "Progressive" (anti-Shah, anti-Israel) academia, so Jahan's similar Khomeini-flavored, anti-Israel politics (too often a "litmus test" in Departments of Middle Eastern Studies, History, Political Science, and the like) were far more acceptable to the powers that be than those of myself. As a result, I'm sure Jahan was not denied a Ph.D. dissertation advisor the way I was…the most advanced doctoral student in the program at the time. I naively made the mistake of expecting that the same lenses of academic scrutiny would be applied when studying the "Arab" and Islamic world as were routinely used in dissecting Israel in the classroom…
Big mistake, paid for dearly.
Knowing of the reputation regarding the tenured chief honcho in terms of anything having to do with Arab-Israeli politics, I had been assured by others that there would be someone else to serve as my program adviser when the time arrived to start my doctoral dissertation. As the song goes, like a fool, I believed.
Imagine taking a graduate course on the Palestine Mandate and never hearing anything about the preliminary Cairo Conference, the original 1920 borders of post-World War I "Palestine," the separation of Transjordan from the latter in 1922, and so forth. Or hearing Hitler's good buddy, the Arab Mufti of Jerusalem, being idealized while Jewish nationalist leaders, like Jabotinsky, were being painted as the real fascists. Or constantly being fed additional, one-sided material sympathetic to Arab nationalist aspirations while the rights of scores of millions of non-Arabs in the region were deliberately being ignored. Looking back, I later came to realize that, for a number of nauseating reasons, such duplicity is indeed not rare in the Ivory Tower.
The only time, for example, that Kurds were ever mentioned during those studies was when the above professor made a mockery of their own plight and aspirations upon reporting of his travels throughout southeastern Turkey. It was a rarity for them to ever be mentioned in classrooms at all, or read about in assigned textual materials (guess why?). And, again--forget about an assumed climate of academic freedom. Beware if you dared to disagree...as I would later find out the hard way. One mustn't veer away from the specially chosen, designated bad guys…
As is even more typical today, while Israel was constantly selected for "special treatment" and placed under the high power lens of scrutiny, the far more real and gruesome sins of the Arab/Islamic worlds were and are more often than not ignored. The Arab genocide and continuing atrocities against black Africans in the Sudan, slavery in the Arab World, massacres of Kurds, Imazighen/Berbers, Copts, kilab yahud "Jew dogs," and others as well were going on back then as they are today...but students would never know any of this coming out of most classrooms.
And that's where Jahandir enters into the picture again.
Constantly demonstrating on campus against the Zionist occupiers of Judea and Samaria (aka, the West Bank), sitting across from me in class, and the like, we finally had a long-brewing explosive exchange.
After Jahan had given me a critique of the work I had done on that research paper mentioned earlier, I fired back with both barrels with something as timely and relevant to the discussion today as it was when we did battle over a quarter century ago.
Prior to the Iranian nationalist era of the Pahlavi shahs, Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province has had--for centuries-- an Arab majority. In fact, it had largely been ruled by the Arab Sheikh of Mohammarah until the early 20th century. Later, Arab chieftains had advocated the incorporation of "Arabistan" into Iraq. Undoubtedly, such memories played a key role in Saddam Hussein's Iraq's ill-fated decision to invade Iranian Khuzestan/Arabistan, sparking a long and costly war in the 1980s.
Was it not back then--and is it not now--absurd for Iranians such as Jahandir to be pointing fingers at Israel (which has been trying hard to arrive at a truly fair compromise, a la UNSC Resolution 242, with Arabs over such things as the "West Bank") while Iran ruthlessly deals with its own Arab, Kurdish, Balochi, and other "problems?"
Arabs in Khuzestan have been scattered to other areas, numerous Aryans were transferred from elsewhere into the strategic province, and any manifestations of Arab nationalism have continuously been squashed by whatever means necessary in the name of the Iranian nation--and with no United Nations' condemnations, trials in Geneva, comments by Jahandir, lectures by academics, or whatever. All of the latter seem to be reserved almost exclusively for the Jews in their attempts to survive instead. Among other measures, serious thought was given by Iran to even outlawing Arabic as a spoken tongue...shades of Iraqi and Syrian Arab and Turkish and Iranian policies towards Kurds, Arab policies towards Imazighen/Berbers, and so forth. Israel has made Arabic the second official national language of the land.
The point to all of this, of course, is the blatant double standards Jahan, the current Iranian rulers, and much of the rest of the world typically display in all of these matters. Adding insult to injury, minuscule Israel is simply expected to ignore a would-be nuclear Iran's repeated intentions to wipe it off the face of the planet.
Finally, before closing, let me just update you a bit about my former Iranian classmate…
Despite repeated inquiries regarding his atypical loss for words, I never did get a final response from Jahandir in our exchange in academia during those momentous days ushering in Iran's Islamic Revolution.
The stench of hypocrisy reeks as badly on such matters today as it did back then, and the continuing silence from all quarters speaks volumes as well.