Ahmadinejad: Self-Loathing Jew?

Diana Novak

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be a dedicated self-loather, as the UK’s Telegraph has uncovered information indicating that the Holocaust-denier is actually of Jewish descent.After careful inspection of a photograph showing Ahmadinejad displaying his identification papers during Iran’s March 2008 elections, the newspaper reported that his surname at birth was ‘Sabourjian’, a classically Iranian-Jewish name which identifies his family’s profession as weavers of the tallit, the Jewish prayer shawl.His family's name change—and subsequent conversion to Islam—didn’t happen until after Ahmadinejad was four years old.The Sabourjians claim Ahmadinejad’s birthplace Aradan as their home, and the Telegraph cites a London-based expert on Iranian Jewry to report that the "jian" ending to the name suggests his family were practicing Jews at the time of the conversion.The outspoken leader has repeatedly—and vehemently—denounced the existence of the state of Israel as a refuge for the Jewish people, claiming that the massive genocide of the Holocaust is simply a “myth.” Some would argue, however, that Ahmadinejad's controversial words have more to do with overcompensating for his own religious and ethnic background than his hatred for Israel.

Diana Novak is a fall 2009 editorial intern at In These Times and a contributor to Chicago INNERVIEW. She moonlights as a trial lawyer assistant.
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