Ahmadinejad a Jew?

A report in a London newspaper claimed Saturday that Israel's arch-foe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is actually the descendant of a Jewish family.

David Lev, | updated: 09:02

Israel news photo: (file)

The family's original name was said to be Sabourjian, which the report says is a well known name in the Iranian Jewish community.
A report published Saturday in the London Daily Telegraph claims that Israel's arch-foe and serial Holocaust denier, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is actually the descendant of a Jewish family.

The report is based on a photo taken of Ahmadinejad in March 2008 in which the Iranian leader is shown holding up his Iranian identity card. Farsi experts said that a note scrawled on the card indicates that Ahmadinejad was born to a Jewish family that converted to Islam shortly after he was born. The note lists the family's original name as Sabourjian, which the report says is a well-known name in the Iranian Jewish community. The name, according to the report, derives from "weaver of the Sabour," with Sabour a commonly-used term among Persian Jews for a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl).

Ahmadinejad's parents are from the Aradan region, where there are Sabourjian families, all Jewish. The report adds that Sabourjian is on a list of names reserved for Persian Jews by the Iranian Interior Ministry. Speaking to reporters from the British Guardian earlier this year, where the report first appeared, relatives of Ahmadinejad said that his parents changed their name for "a mixture of religious and economic reasons."

The allegation was first revealed last February by Mehdi Khazali, the son of Iran's conservative Ayatollah Khazali, who said that the issue should be investigated, and the family background of the Sabourjians and their connection to the Jewish community checked. Khazali was reportedly arrested by Iranian police this past summer.

Experts quoted in the article said that if true, the conversion of Ahmadinejad's parents could go a long way toward explaining the Iranian leader's anti-Israel attitude, and his Holocaust denial. "By making anti-Israeli statements he is trying to shed any suspicions about his Jewish connections. He feels vulnerable in a radical Shi'a society," said an official of London's Center for Arab and Iranian Studies.

Israeli officials declined comment on the notion. "It's not something we'd talk about," said Ron Gidor, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London.