Jewish-Iranian Identities in the Pahlavi Era

Sternfeld, L.

International Journal of Middle East Studies 46(3): 602-605


ISSN/ISBN: 0020-7438
Document Number: 424396
A few years ago, while conducting archival research on Pahlavi-era Iranian newspapers, I came across a photo from the anti-shah demonstrations that took place in late 1978 and early 1979. It showed a large group of Armenians protesting against the shah. In these years many Iranians and Westerners considered the shah's policies beneficial for religious minorities in Iran. Around the same time, I found a sentence that made this discovery more intriguing. In his seminal work Iran between Two Revolutions , Ervand Abrahamian mentions that throughout the Muhammad Riza Pahlavi era, the opposition to the communist Tudeh party accused it of being controlled by "Armenians, Jews, and Caucasian émigrés." I tried to find references in the current scholarship to Jews participating in the party, which could have earned them their part in this propaganda campaign, but found very little. Having read the important works of Joel Beinin, Orit Bashkin, and Rami Ginat on Jewish revolutionaries, including communists, in the Middle East, I wondered where the Jewish radicals in Iran were. Several factors may contribute to this silence in the historiography: the writing of Iranian history from a Zionist vantage point, a lack of interest in the history of the Iranian left in the postrevolutionary historiography, and an inability to conceptualize the transregional and global nature of the Iranian Jewish community.

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