Memorandum from the Board of Deputies
of British Jews
1.1 The Board of Deputies of British Jews
and the Community Security Trust welcome the opportunity to make
this submission to the Foreign Affairs Committee. We have previously
made submissions to the Foreign Affairs Committee's earlier inquiry
into Iran (2000-01) as well as its Inquiry on the Foreign Policy
Aspects of the War Against Terrorism (2002).
1.2 The Board is the representative body
and voice of the British Jewish community. It was founded in 1760.
The Community Security Trust was established in 1994 to provide
security and defence services and advice for the community. It
works closely with the Board, and with the police.
1.3 We note the restoration of full diplomatic
relations between HMG and Iran and the continued success of low-key
bridge-building which has taken place. We also note the EU's successful
attempts to mend relations with Iran. We welcome these positive
developments. However they should not be pursued without a full
realization of the negative aspects of Iranian foreign policy.
1.4 In our previous memorandum to the Committee
we pointed out that Iran continued to assist terrorist groups,
and that the Jewish community in Iran suffered severely as a consequence
of the government's oppressive internal policies. The situation
is little changed and we wish to take the opportunity to amplify
these comments. In February 2001 we noted that the Foreign Affairs
Committee had produced only an interim report on Iran, because
its members were unable to visit the country. We trust that during
its second planned visit, it will bring to the Iranian government's
attention the concern of Britain, and in particular the Jewish
community, on the matters noted below.
2. Internal repression
2.1 A recent US Department of State report
on religious freedom noted that there was no change in the situation
of those religious minorities who continue to be harassed, intimidated
and imprisoned during 2002. While the Jewish community may not
suffer to the extent that the Bahá'ís or Christians
have, Jews nevertheless continue to live under an oppressive regime.
The Jews who were falsely imprisoned on charges of espionage in
1999, have now mostly been released. However, it is believed that
up to five men remain in prison, and according to Iranian Jewish
communities abroad, a number of others have disappeared, possibly
while trying to escape from the country.
2.2 While all religions are protected by
the Constitution, the reality is that the courts and government
bodies discriminate against non-Muslims. In general, those wishing
to practice their faith find obstacles are constantly put in their
path. Such is the climate of apprehension that the Jewish community
is nervous in drawing attention to these difficulties. This climate
is magnified by the government's anti-Israel policies and threats
published in the media and in the semi-official sponsorship of
classic anti-Semitic publications such as the Protocols of the
Elders of Zion (published in serial form in 1994 and again in
3.1 The US State Department's publication,
Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001, notes that Iran was
"the most active sponsor of state terrorism". Iran continues
to meddle in the affairs of its neighbours, and its promotion
of terrorism centres broadly on three areas: the Middle East;
Afghanistan; Southern Africa. Iran promotes terror to further
its strategic objects, which include strengthening its position
vis-a"-vis its neighbours and extending its influence
and control among them; exporting the Islamic revolution. In connection
with the first of these, it should also be noted that Iran continues
to arm itself heavily, that it continues to seek weapons of mass
destruction, including missiles of an offensive nature, and that
this process has been accelerated by the conclusion of the Moscow/Teheran
agreement on military and technical co-operation in 2001.
3.2 Iran has increased substantially its
funding to Palestinian terrorist organisations, notably the Palestinian
Islamic Jihad. Despite Hizbollah's participation in the Lebanese
political process, its external policies remain fixed on mounting
terrorism against Israel. It is the recipient of Iranian arms,
military training and assistance, the shipment of which is facilitated
by the Syrian government. A recent authoritative US report notes
that Iran contributes over $100 million per annum for Hizbollah
terrorist activities against Israel, and that it is now pushing
Hamas and Hizbollah to increase their terrorism against Israel.
The Palestinian Authority is also the recipient of both arms and
training from the Iranian government. It was Iran that was responsible
for sending the Karine a shipment of arms to the Palestinian Authority
last year, in flagrant violation of international accords. The
Jordanian government recently made public its evidence of foiled
Iranian terrorist plots within that country.
3.3 It is now known for certain that the
Iranian government was responsible for the bombing of the AMIA
Jewish community building in Buenos Aires in 1993, as well as
the bombing of the Israel Embassy in 1992.
3.4 Iran has sought, since the late 1990s,
to extend its influence among the Muslim communities of southern
Africa. It has established terrorist training camps in South Africa
itself and members of South African Islamist organisations are
receiving terrorism training in Iran.
3.5 While the Iranian government has continued
to express its willingness to help the Afghan government, there
is now evidence that senior members of al Qaeda have been sheltered
in Iran, and that the Iranian government has allowed its country
to be used as a transit point to other countries, notably Lebanon.
Iran provides military aid to Islamist opposition elements within
Afghanistan, and is reliably reported to be fomenting trouble
within that country. At least two Iranian-sponsored terrorist
bodies are operating in Afghanistan, in opposition to the government,
Sepah-e-Mohammad and Sephah-e-Quds.
3.6 It also should be noted that Iran provides
training facilities for other foreign terrorist groups, most notably
those from Central and South East Asia.
3.7 Threats have been published recently
in the Iranian press against Jewish communities around the world,
as Iran continues to disrupt the peace process between Israel
and its Palestinian neighbours. For example, an editorial in the
government-linked Kayhan (28 November 2002) stated that Muslims
must threaten the lives of "Zionists" around the world.
The same article lauded the al-Qaeda attack in Mombasa, Kenya.
Likewise, Hizbollah leader Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah called for suicide
bombings to be exported worldwide in December 2002.
4. Additional information
4.1 The Iranian government continues to
fund Holocaust denial in Europe and elsewhere. It was only the
prompt action of the Italian government during 2002, as a consequence
of private warnings from Jewish community bodies in Britain and
the USA, that barred the entry to one conference organised by
Italian neo-Nazis of Iranian nationals, who it is believed are
acting on behalf of elements within the Iranian government.
4.2 Iran supports the Islamist thesis that
world Jewry and/or the State of Israel, are responsible for the
attacks of September 11, and that the al Qaeda attack on the French
oil tanker in 2002 was a part of an anti-Muslim world conspiracy.
5.1 Despite the foregoing, there are positive
signs emerging from within Iran. The youthful population appears
not be fully supportive of the clerical regime's internal repression
and to be seeking increased western contacts. With such increased
contact there are likely to be greater opportunities for western
governments to influence the hitherto narrow perspectives forced
on the population.
5.2 Increased contacts with western governments
provide an opportunity to confront and confound the Iranian government's
policies of exporting terrorism.
Board of Deputies of British Jews