PARIS (May. 10)
The death warrant and execution of Iranian Jewish community leader Habib Elkanian in Teheran Tuesday was personally approved by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, “as a warning to American and Zionist agents in Iran,” Iranian sources in Teheran told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The execution, the first of a prominent Iranian Jew, was seen by many as a turning point in Iranian policy toward the 55,000 Jews remaining in that country.
Until now, both the Ayatollah and the government of Premier Mehdi Bazorgan had claimed that the policy of their Islamic regime was directed against Israel and Zionism, not the Jewish community whose rights they promised “will be strictly respected.”
Yesterday’s execution indicates an openly anti-Jewish policy, according to reliable sources and is perceived as such by Iran’s Jews. The State-contralled radio and television used the occasion of Elkanian’s execution to launch violent attacks against Israel and vowed that the campaign to root out “Zionism” in Iran would continue.
Elkanian, a millionaire industrialist, was one of seven “enemies” of the regime executed by firing squad in Teheran. Rahim Ali Khorram, another businessman described as a millionaire, was also shot. They were, respectively, the only non-Moslem or non-political persons among the estimated 200 people executed by the Khomeini regime since it took power last February.
Elkanian’s trial by an Islamic court began Tuesday morning and ended late Tuesday night. He was not permitted assistance by an attorney. He and the other six men sentenced to death were executed in the prison courtyard an hour after the trial ended. Teheran radio, broadcasting the news yesterday morning, played up Elkanian’s alleged “Zionist and Israeli Connections.”
SIGNAL OF NEW DANGERS
In Israel, an Iranian-born member of the Knesset, Moshe Katzav, said yesterday that the execution of Elkanian, who he knew personally, could signal new dangers for Iran’s Jews. He said “it is not too late” for Israel “to take both orthodox and unorthodox actions” to get Jews out of that country. However, two other former Iranian Jews now in Israel said on a television news interview in-Jerusalem last night that Elkanian was executed as a symbol of the old regime and a former confidante of the Shah, rather than as a Jew. They did not believe his death necessarily presaged anti-Jewish persecutions by the Khomeini regime.
Nevertheless, the Israeli government and the World Zionist Organization expressed deep concern yesterday that the execution was tantamount to killing a Jew because he is a Jew. Leon Dulzin, chairman of the WZO Executive said “We call on world public opinion to alert Khomeini’s men to the serious consequences of their deterioration into a path of anti-Semitism. History proves that all regimes which followed that path were eventually destroyed,” he said. He added, “to the Jews of Iran we say; be strong, the Jewish people stands behind you and will not abandon you.”
PROTESTS, CONDEMNATIONS CONTINUE
Meanwhile, American Jewish leaders continued today to express outrage and shock at the execution of Elkanian and said this wanton act raises deep concern about the fate of other Jews in Iran. The Jewish leaders, who condemned the execution and the star chamber proceedings which led to it, called upon President Carter, Congress, and religious organizations and human rights groups in this country and abroad to use every possible resource to persuade Iranian authorities to abandon their ruthless practices.
Among these leaders were Albert Chernin, executive vice chairman, National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council; Jack Spitzer, B’nai B’rith president; Richard Maass, American Jewish Committee president; Nathan Perlmutter national director, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith; Howard Squadron, American Jewish Congress president; Ivan Novick, president, Zionist Organization of America; Jacob Sheinkman, president, Jewish Labor Committee; Sarah Shane, president, American Mizrachi Women; and Richard Ravitch, president, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.
In other actions, the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry and some 200 high school and college students in New York City held a demonstration today in front of the Iranian Mission to the United Nations. The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York announced that it will conduct a citywide memorial service tomorrow to mourn the death of Elkanian.