On Friday, May 7, three AUIS students accompanied us to an exhibition of Iranian life, brought to Sulaimani from Iran. One of the students speaks fluent Farsi, so could translate whenever we were trying to communicate with Iranians. (The border with Iran is less than two hours from here by car, so the cross-border traffic between the two countries is quite heavy.) Lots of stuff for sale, everything from books and DVDs to head scarves for women to knick knacks for one’s home.
The exhibition was a fascinating contrast between official hard line stances by the Iranian government, and the reality in Iran. On one hand, one young lady, in full head and body covering, let it be known that she wanted the Reform party to win in June of 2009, and that she demonstrated when they were robbed of the election. The Iranian consul to Suli was there and invited us to come to Iran. All very friendly. On the other hand there was an entire display set up by the Hezbullah, the Iranian-backed Shi’ite group in southern Lebanon, with lots of videos of gruesome war scenes of Israeli-caused atrocities in attacks on Lebanon. They cannot mention Israel without mentioning the US. There were vendors selling, in addition to lots of editions of the works of Ayatollah Khomeini, copies of anti-American, anti-Jewish books.
One fellow had a volume, all in Farsi unfortunately, of the documents found in the American Embassy at the time of its capture. Once people knew that we are Americans, most went to great lengths to talk about how we as people could be friends, but this book seller seemed to take a perverse pleasure in showing me this book, a sort of living proof of Iranian suspicions about America’s bad intentions toward Iran. Another vendor had copies of a collection, in English, of Henry Ford's articles from his own newspaper called the Dearborn Independent. The title of the book: The International Jew (The World's Foremost Problem).
I had long read that Ford was anti-Semitic, but this is the first time I actually read what he thought. He makes constant reference to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Jewish document forged in Russia early in the 20th century, and he even acknowledges that the book may be a forgery, but he says that it doesn’t really matter that it’s a forgery because the facts of the day are that the Jews are doing the very things that the Protocols say they are going to do. Then he goes on to quote the Protocols throughout his articles. Chapter titles like “How the Jews Use Power,” “Jewish Influence in American Politics,” “Bolshevism and Zionism,” etc. The book was edited in Iran and published by the Department of Translation and Publication, Islamic Culture and Relations Organization, in 1997. On reading the book, I can make two observations: it’s no wonder that Ford liked Hitler; it’s no wonder that Israelis don’t trust Iranians (or other people of the Middle East who still peddle the Protocols).
After visiting the exhibition, we went to a nearby restaurant for iced fruit drinks and conversation with the AUIS students and then walked with them along Salim Street, the main east-west street in town, until they turned off to the house where they live. We walked on to our apartment, a bit tired from being on our feet most of the afternoon.