Center for Iranian Studies
Miriam Nissimov 1
The article is from the Iran Times No. 9, November 13, 2008, and is used with the permission of the Iranian Studies Department of Tel Aviv University .
Since the advent of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the struggle against Zionism and Israel has captured a central place in the regime’s ideology. Attacks on Zionism and Israel are commonplace in Iranian leaders’ speeches, interviews, Friday sermons, and in articles and academic books. In recent years, the medium of television has been drawn and utilized in this effort. Television documentary and drama productions are increasingly dedicated to presenting the Islamic Republic’s position on the annals of Zionism and the State of Israel.
In 2005, The Iranian Broadcasting Authority sponsored the production of the television series "Zero Degree Turn" . Although some episodes in this series focus on the Holocaust and the fate of the Jewish people in Europe during World War II, the central plot deals with the conspiracy of "global Zionism" and its activities in Iran and the rest of the world. On the backdrop of a love story between a young Iranian man and a Jewish French woman the Zionists are portrayed as collaborators with the Nazis and as people who for the sake of implementing their Zionist objectives, harm other Jews from their own communities, and even murder Jews who dare to oppose them. Together with televised dramas, documentary productions that address Zionism also have come to occupy an important place. Throughout May-June 2008, the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN) aired the documentary series, "The Secrets of Armageddon". This series made widespread use of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion” to base the claim that international Zionism aims to take over the world. In twenty-six episodes, the producers of this series also presented supposed historical plans of global Zionism to take over Iran .
The depiction of Zionism as a force threatening Iran itself – and not just the Palestinian nation and the Islamic world – and the supposed uncovering of global Zionism’s plot to take over Iran is a new trend in Iran ‘s struggle against Zionism. Since the Islamic Revolution and the establishment of the Islamic regime in 1979, many scholars in Iran have dealt with the relations between the Pahlavi Regime and Israel and the influence of Zionist forces on the decision-making process in Iran of the Pahlavi era. Yet the novelty in this series is the attempt to present Zionism as a force trying to take over Iran and turn the country into a venue for Armageddon.
An additional innovation in the Iranian attack on Zionism can be found in documentar series that focus on Jews and their control over the global film industry. A twenty-six episode documentary, "Footprints of Zionism in World Cinema,” which aired during May-June 2008 on IRINN, seeks to expose the "true colors" of the global film industry. The series promotes the perception that the Western film industry – primarily Hollywood – is controlled by Zionists who strive to inculcate the viewers with Zionist subliminal messages. The creators of the series, with the aid of Iranian specialists who were interviewed, explained that these messages are meant to provide a basis for the State of Israel’s legitimacy and to justify its "criminal" policies. They warn that these messages operate on the sub-conscious of the viewer, and that consequently the viewer is convinced of the veracity of the messages. To substantiate this thesis, the series’ producers in Iran analyze a sequence of Western films of different genres and periods, including Ben-Hur (1959), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), La vita è bella (1997), Saving Private Ryan (1998), Meet the Parents (2000), Chicken Run (2000) and The Pianist (2002).
Against the backdrop of pictures from the successful British animation movie, Chicken Run (2000), the narrator explains that the images of the fenced farm along with other visual elements are meant to conjure associations of concentration camps, and that the longings of the caged chickens for a utopian place is a metaphor for the Zionist nationalist longings (MEMRI-TV, clip 1787). While discussing Fiddler on the Roof the Iranian experts in the series determined that the positive and sympathetic portrayal of the Jewish character in the film is meant to present to the viewers with a distorted picture of the reasons and the historical background surrounding Jewish migration to the land of Israel (MEMRI-TV, clip 1807).
One of the leading Iranian scholars who developed the central argument presented in this series is Dr. Majid Shah Hosseini, who in 2007 was appointed to manage the Farabi Cinema Fund, a leading governmental foundation for encouragement of cinematic creation. Shah-Hosseini is also the author of the book "The Cinema and Zionism” ( sinama va tzhionist ). In this book, he writes that a review of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion” reveals that global Zionism aims to take over the world and that cinema- which Zionism has taken control of since its earliest days- is manipulated for the purposes of this endeavor. In order to implement its world conquest, global Zionism and its agents penetrate the film industry and infuse movies with distorted religious messages. According to Shah-Hosseini, one of these distorted religious messages deals with the appearance of a redeemer and the existence of a utopian land and society, personified in Zion . The science-fiction trilogy Matrix (1999), Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions (2003) and the references in these films to the city Zion serve, according to Shah-Hosseini, as an additional example that proves his theory about a Zionist conspiracy. Shah-Hosseini, who is presented as a Western film expert, is one of the regular interviewees in the series, "Footprints of Zionism in World Cinema”. In one of the episodes, he connects the Matrix trilogy to the film Saving Private Ryan , claiming that the word ‘Ryan’ rhymes with the word ‘ Zion .’
The view that Western cinema is a tool in the hands of "global Zionism” assists Iranian film critics in explaining the phenomenon that they define as a cinematic attack on the cultural heritage of Iran and on Islam. They point to productions such as Armageddon (1998), Alexander (2004) , 300 (2006) and Persepolis (2007), as examples of films intended to harm Iran and its cultural heritage. In a conference held by the Association of Iranian Film Critics and Scriptwriters in April 2008, which was dedicated to this issue, the Iranian film critic Sayyid Abu-Alhassan Allawi Tabatabai asserted that films such as Armageddon and 300 are expressions of the Zionist policy which seeks to attack ancient Persian culture and heritage. In a conference on Iranian and international war films, that took place in June 2007, the Iranian filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh, a graduate of Columbia University who presently serves as Director General of the Foreign Programs Department at the Iranian Broadcasting Authority, also focused on the film 300. He claimed that the Americans have stated on many occasions that they are the enemy of Iran, and he added that this film and its like- funded exclusively by Zionists- was intended to strengthen the fighting spirit of American society.
While Hollywood films rapidly find their way into Iran and are pirated in street corners in broad daylight, as admitted by the authorities in Iran (MEMRI-TV, clip 1802), it appears that the regime’s cinema experts have increased their efforts to link the global film industry to Zionism, and are monitoring these matters for the sake of Iranian viewers. Iranian viewers are being warned of the concealed dangers involved in viewing Western film productions. What is interesting is that despite their harsh criticism the Iranian experts themselves are viewers of Hollywood cinema; they are familiar with it and analyze it. In
addition there has been no attempt on their part to call for a boycott of Hollywood productions and no attack or criticism against Iranian viewers of Western film.
These new trends in the struggle of the Islamic Republic of Iran against Zionism – trends that are manifested in the television series described above – further deepen the demonic image that Iran seeks to affix to Zionism. Zionism is not merely the ideology of the regime that occupies the land of Palestine and kills its sons, but rather it is a force whose extensions penetrate all directions and succeeds to infiltrate every household and influence the souls of children and adults alike through cinematic films that are purportedly intended to provide entertainment and pleasure.
1 Mrs. Miriam Nissimov is a research fellow at the Center for Iranian Studies and aPhD candidate at the Graduate School of Historical Studies at Tel Aviv University .