Teheran (Dec. 30)
After being kept in prison for more than five years, Dr. Shmuel Yeheskel Haim, who was the Jewish representative in the (Medjlis) Persian Parliament, (The Jews are entitled under the Persian Constitution to have one Deputy in Parliament) has been executed this week, it is learned to-day, on a charge of having been implicated in a conspiracy against the life of the Shah.
Deputy Haim was first arrested in May 1926; he was soon after released, but he was rearrested in October of the same year, and had been kept in prison till his execution now, in spite of repeated intervention made on his behalf by the Zionist Executive, who had in May 1926 appointed him on the nomination of the Zionists of Teheran as the representative of the Zionist Organisation in Persia in matters relating to Jewish immigration to Palestine.
When Deputy Haim was arrested in October 1926, it was alleged that documents had been secured by the police showing that elaborate plans had been made to do away with the Shah, the Crown Prince, many high military officers and some members of Parliament, with the simultaneous seizure of Teheran and the formation of a new Government. The plot was so well arranged, it was claimed by the authorities, that it would probably have been successful if a timely discovery had not been made.
A few days after the arrest, a report reached Baghdad and Jerusalem that Deputy Halm had been executed. It was explained by competent Jewish personages in these places who had been in touch with Mr. Haim that he was an ardent Jewish politician, who had been constantly protecting as a Jew against the Government’s persecution of the Persian Jews, and that he was also an active Zionist, and it was argued that it was probably more on account of his activities in these directions that he had been arrested. The Persian Jews contended that he was innocent of the crime with which he was charged, and that the Government was only anxious to get him out of the way because of his stand on behalf of the Jews of the country.
The report that he had been executed was denied a few days later, and it was explained that the authorities had decided at the eleventh hour to spare his life, but since no public announcement of this decision had been made, the Jewish Community had thought that the sentence had been carried cut.
When it was found that Mr. Faim had not yet been executed, the Zionist Executive again made energetic representations in the proper quarters with a view to saving his life, and if possible securing his release. The representations were, however, without avail, and efforts which the Zionist Organisation made later through the British Consul to try to obtain his release on condition that he would be allowed to emigrate to Palestine also failed.
LEAGUE OF NATIONS COULD NOT HAVE TAKEN COGNISANCE OF ANY COMPLAINT FROM DEPUTY HAIM
It has been stated that Mr. Haim’s real offence was that as a member of the Persian Parliament he had addressed a letter to the League of Nations complaining bitterly of the treatment of the Jews in Persia. The League of Nations, it was said, had addressed an enquiry on the subject to the Persian Government, whereupon the Shah sent for Deputy Haim and demanded that he should write to the League of Nations and state that everything had been put right. Deputy Haim agreed to do this on two conditions. The first was that the Chief of Police should be dismissed, and the second that the oppression of the Jews in Persia should really be stopped. The Shah resented these demands, especially, it was stated, as the Chief of Police is a close relative of His Majesty, and Deputy Haim was thrown into prison and sentenced to death for conspiracy.
Deputy Shmuel Yeheskel Haim was then a young man of about 35, so that he was now at the time of his execution about 40 years of age. He was a native of Kermanshah, near the frontier of Iraq, and was educated in the schools of the Alliance Israelite Universelle. During the war he worked for the British Political Office in Persia, and he came to Teheran when the British forces left Persia.
He was put into Parliament by the Jews of Persia in place of Dr. Loghman, a Teheran physiclan, who was the first Jewish representative in the Medjlis, after the proclamation of the Constituion. One Jew among 120 Moslem Deputies, it was complained, he sat down and made no attempt to raise the Jewish question, to protest against the unlawful taxation imposed upon the Jews in the Provinces, to demand that murderers of Jews who are time and again allowed to go free should be punished, that the laws which have at various times been passed in favour of Jews should not be allowed to remain a dead letters. Finally, the Jews deposed him and put Deputy Haim into his place, and Deputy Haim started a vigorous reorganisation campaign of the Jewish Communities, school committees, relief committees and the Zionist Committee.
After his arrest, a prominent Persian Jew wrote of the position of his fellow-Jews in Persia – “oppressed, persecuted, treated with contempt and ignored in their own country, the Jews of Persia have been almost forgotten by the Jewries of the world, and left to their fate. No one knows of them, or cares for them, and they themselves have lost the power and the energy to do anything for themselves. Pensian Jewry has become a backwater in Jewish life”.
The League of Nations Office in London discredits, on enquiry by the J.T.A., the suggestion that Deputy Haim’s arrest was brought about as a result of the League of Nations addressing an enquiry to the Persian Government on the subject of a letter sent by him to the League complaining bitterly of the treatment of the Jews in Persia.
The League of Nations Office states that it has no record of the League receiving any communication from Deputy Haim, and in any case the League could not have taken any cognisance of such a communication from him, had it been received, since Persia is neither a mandated territory, nor bound by the provisions of the Minorities Treaties.
If it is true that his arrest was on account of a communication which he sent to the League of Nations, it is suggested that the communication might have been intercepted by the autherities in the post, but the League of Nations could not have taken up the matter of his complaint.
THE POSITION OF THE JEWS IN PERSIA
Persia, once in the forefront of Jewish life, with a Jewish Queen, who figures among the heroines of Jewish history, and the happy deliverance of its Jewish population as the result of her intervention, aided by the wise Jewish statesman, Mordecai, forming the subject of world-wide annual Jewish rejoicing, is to-day a country where the condition of the Jewish population is deplorable a Jewish observer in Persia wrote recently.
Numbering all told about 60,000 souls, the Jewish community in Persia leads a life of continual harassment and affliction, he wrote. Surrounded by a vast ocean of Mohamedanism, the Jews are looked down upon as something inferior and second rate.
The standard of Jewish education is low. There are no Jewish religious schools and no Medrashim in Persia. The only Jewish religious knowledge is what is taught in the elementary schools – a little reading of the Torah and the study of Rashi for a few hours in the week, including oral translation into Persian, he continued.
The only Jewish schools in Persia are those of the Alliance Israelite Universelle – all elementary schools, existing in Teheran, Hamadan, Shiraz, Isfahan and one or two other large cities. At first they were almost entirely supported by the Alliance, the local Jewish communities contributing a small sum annually. The Alliance fed and clothed the children and supplied them with books.
The Alliance has done a great deal of important work on behalf of the Jews of Persia. Its schools have instilled a certain amount of education among them, which they would otherwise not have had. And it has prepared the way for those who wish to follow up their studies by enrolling in non-Jewish secondary schools, where they have to pay heavy fees, but afterwards, when they have graduated, they are able to take up important and highly paid positions.
The Jews of Persia have lived in the country for over two thousand years. The majority of them are the descendants of those Jews who were content with conditions in Persia at the time of the restoration of the Second Temple by Ezra and stayed in the country, or of those who were taken to Persia after the destruction of the Second Temple. But for centuries their condition has been pitiable, and for centuries they have been looking forward with yearning to a return to Palestine. They are constantly subjected to persecution and ill-treatment by their Moslem fellow-citizens, and massacres have been frequent in the past.
In the army the Jews are not allowed to serve in any except the lowest ranks, and in many of the higher schools only Moslems are admitted.
In Meshed, there are also a large number of Marranos, Jews, who, because of the persecution have outwardly adopted Islam, he concluded.
In 1929, however, a report was published in Paris, which said that the legal, political and economic condition of the Jews in Persia had greatly improved since the inauguration of the new regime. The Jews, who before the new constitutional era were treated like helots, being oppressed and maltreated, and barred from all but the lowest types of occupation, it said, are now under the new Constitution and with the advantages of the big economic progress which Persia has made since the war, able to engage in more honourable professions. Jewish merchants have erected big modern business houses in the main streets of Teheran, and act as middlemen in promoting trade with Europe. Jews are establishing printing presses. Large numbers of Jews are doctors and apothecaries. There are many Jews who are engaged in artisanship, especially in tailoring, and Government positions are also open to Jews. The wealthier Jews are leaving the ghetto of Teheran and settling in the European quarters. Jewish children attend the Persian and foreign secondary and high schools. Under the Constitution, the Persian Jew enjoys the same rights and privileges as any other Persian citizen, with the sole exception, that like every non-Moslem, he cannot become a member of the Government. Since conscription was introduced, young Jews serve in the army, which was previously closed to Jews.
Rabbi Kornfeld, who was United States Minister to Persia until 1924, told the J.T.A. in New York when he returned at the end of his period of office that with regard to the economic condition of the Jews of Persia, they were neither better nor worse off than the non-Jews. The majority of the 80,000 Jews in Persia, he said, earn their livelihood by peddling, merchandise of all sorts from house to house, or working as artisans at trades such as carpet-weaving, woodwork, etc. But the country suffers from lack of industrial development, so that, the Jews as well as the non-Jews are necessarily confined to a limited number of occupations. Conversion to Mohamedanism, which was greatly in vogue in past years, had of late been decreasing steadily, and occurs to-day very rarely, Rabbi Kornfeld said, attributing this to the influence of the Alliance Israelite, which he said was doing a wonderful work for the Persian Jews. The Persian Jews, he added, are enthusiastic believers in Palestine.
The work of the Zionist Federation in Persia, which had been interrupted for several years since the arrest of Deputy Haim, was resumed in January 1929, following a visit paid to the country by Mr. J. Mopelowitz, of Palestine.