Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has exasperated the world with incensed condemnations of Israel and his insistence that the Holocaust is a hoax, but could there be another reason behind his seeming hatred for the Jews?
According to a London Telegraph report, his ferocity may be overcompensation … for his own Jewish roots.
Examining a photo of the Iranian president holding aloft his identity card during the nation’s 2008 elections, the newspaper discovered Ahmadinejad’s original family name – prior to their conversion to Islam – was Sabourjian, a Jewish name meaning “cloth weaver.”
Ahmadinejad has not denied that his name was changed when his family moved to Tehran in the 1950s, but he has also never confirmed what that original name was.
A note on his identification papers, when magnified from the photo, however, suggests the man from Aradan, Iran, carried a common Jewish name from the region of his birth. “Sabourjian,” the Telegraph reports, is even on the list of reserved names for Iranian Jews compiled by Iran’s Ministry of the Interior.
“This aspect of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s background explains a lot about him,” commented Ali Nourizadeh of the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies. “Every family that converts into a different religion takes a new identity by condemning their old faith.”
Nourizadeh told the Telegraph, “By making anti-Israeli statements, he is trying to shed any suspicions about his Jewish connections. He feels vulnerable in a radical Shia society.”
Ahmadinejad, the fourth of seven children of a man who worked as an ironworker, grocer, barber and blacksmith, moved with his family to Tehran when he was a small child. Reportedly, the family moved to seek better economic fortunes but also took on the new, Islamic name.
Some biographers, including Joel C. Rosenberg, list Ahmadinejad’s original family name as “Sabaghian,” meaning “dye-master” in Persian.
But the Telegraph reports the name on his papers is “Sabourjian” and cites a London-based expert on Iranian Jewry, who says the “jian” ending is specifically Jewish.
“He has changed his name for religious reasons, or at least his parents had,” said the newspaper’s source. “Sabourjian is well known Jewish name in Iran.”
If Ahmadinejad is of Jewish ancestry, he has done much to distance himself from his heritage.
In a 2006 speech aired on the Iranian News Channel, Ahmadinejad listed alleged crimes by Israel against Palestinians while the crowd chanted, “Death to Israel! Death to Israel!”
Ahmadinejad responded, speaking of the Jewish people, “They have no boundaries, limits or taboos when it comes to killing human beings. Who are they? Where did they come from? Are they human beings? ‘They are like cattle, nay, more misguided.’ A bunch of bloodthirsty barbarians. Next to them, all the criminals of the world seem righteous.”
That same year, he said, “[Israel] will be gone, definitely. You [Western powers] should know that any government that stands by the Zionist regime from now on will
not see any result but the hatred of the people.”
At a U.N. meeting last month, the Iranian president denounced Israel for “genocide, barbarism and racism.”
“Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium,” responded Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the same U.N. summit. “A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a man who denies the murder of six million Jews while promising to wipe out the State of Israel, the State of the Jews. What a disgrace. What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations.”
The Telegraph reports it contacted the Israeli embassy in London for comment on Ahmadinejad’s birth name but was told it would not speak on the Iranian president’s background.
“It’s not something we’d talk about,” said Ron Gidor, a spokesman.
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