Iran retells the story of Nazis and Israel on state television
22-part series attempts to show Iran's warm treatment of Persian Jews; paints ME crisis as a European issue.
Iranian state television has begun airing a drama series that claims that the Jews reached Palestine because of persecution during World War II. The episodes aired thus far are in line with the Iranian government's official stance that the Israeli-Arab conflict is essentially a European problem and therefore Jews in Israel should return to their home countries in Europe.
The series, "A Zero Degree Turn" is aired weekly at prime time. So far six of its 22 installments have apparently been shown. It tells the story of a young Iranian named Habib Parsan, played by a well-known Iranian actor, Shihab Hassini, who goes to Paris to study at university before the war. He befriends a young Jewish woman by the name of Sarah Struk, who fears the growing strength of the Nazis in Germany. The two friends are very embarrassed when a group of students jeer Sarah after seeing the two together on a public bench.
So far the series shows considerable financial investment. It was filmed in Tehran, Budapest and Paris, and includes dozens of actors, some of whose voices are dubbed in Persian.
The producers' stance on the Holocaust is not clear. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has has called the Holocaust a "myth," and the international Tehran conference on the Holocaust a few months ago included Holocaust deniers among the speakers.
The series mentions anti-Semitism. In one instance the character Schmidt, a German student, says the war was being forced on Germany, and adds that the Jews are the victims because "it is clear that the Jews have been in positions of economic power for the past 20 years." Sarah's father is killed during Kristallnacht, and her family worries about what the future holds for them.
It is important for the creators to emphasize that the emigration of European Jewry to Israel stemed from the Nazis, Europeans and certain Jews, and to leave out the role of Jewish philosophers. Sarah's uncle, Rabbi Weiss, rejects the call to emigrate to Palestine: "External pressures are trying to settle the Jews and the Muslims together, and it is impossible. The Jewish fate has always been complicated and difficult. The solution is not emigration to Arab countries, where there are Arab citizens."
In the episodes aired to date the fate of the family is unclear.
According to Amir Levy, director of the teleprocessing department of the Satlink satellite company, who is following the series, the makers of the series wish to relay a message that Iran has traditionally treated Jews well, as opposed to the racism and persecution they encountered in Europe. Levy says that other messages are emphasized as well, such as the claim that Iran is the cradle of civilization because ancient Persia and its philosophy predate Greek philosophy.
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