Houshang Nematzadeh, a native of Iran who settled in the United States before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and is part of the large Iranian Jewish population in Great Neck, heard the news about the assassination of Qassem Suleimani on BBC’s Farsi-language broadcast on Friday last week.
His first reaction: “I support my president.”
In synagogue the next day, he heard similar reactions.
“The community as a whole” — Iranian-Americans of all religious backgrounds, “including the Jewish-Iranians” — supports the decision by President Trump to have Suleimani, Iran’s top general, assassinated, Nematzadeh told The Jewish Week this week. “Because Soleimani was the enemy of the State of Israel,” he said, “whatever he did, he did to cause harm to Israel.” Indeed, on Tuesday evening, as Iran launched missiles into two Iraqi military bases that house American forces, it threatened to strike Haifa as well as Dubai if tensions with the U.S. escalated.
Interviews with several members of the local Iranian Jewish community in Great Neck, on the North Shore of Long Island — with an estimated 15,000 Jews of Iranian background, it is the center of Iranian Jewish life here — indicated wide support for Trump and for the targeting of the Iranian military leader.
“In Great Neck, most people [in the Iranian-Jewish community] are great supporters of Trump,” said Esther Nassimi Alian, a Venezuela-born member of an Iranian-Jewish family. “They feel [the United States] has taken out a terrorist.”
Similarly in Los Angeles, which also has a large Iranian Jewish population, “many responded positively to Suleimani’s assassination,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “The concern is about effects that will happen around the region, but I don’t think the U.S. could [just] stand there,” one member of the community told the paper. “I think Trump needed to make a stand in some way.”
Many Iranian Jews here declined to comment, over concern for the safety of Jews still living in Iran. An aide to State Sen. Anna Kaplan, who is of Iranian-Jewish descent, said she would not be commenting on the situation, citing similar safety concerns.
Alian said she parts company with many Iranian Jews in this country, calling the assassination a rash action. “Diplomacy is always the way to go,” she said. “Politics is always more powerful than force. I think the United States should not meddle [militarily] in the affairs of other countries.
“I don’t think the U.S. achieved much from this,” she said. “Assassinating political leaders is not going to be a solution. He wasn’t exactly a terrorist – he was a general and a politician… there will be someone who will replace Suleimani. It may be someone more radical.”
Raymond Iryami, a lawyer from Great Neck who left his native Iran after the Iranian Revolution, also questioned the wisdom of the Suleimani assassination. “I’m scared,” he said, that Israel, an ally of the U.S., may come under attack from Iran. I’m scared the assassination may not have the desired effect” of weakening the current regime in Tehran.
Nematzadeh said he spoke with friends in Iran in the days following the assassination. They “absolutely” support Trump’s action.
While Iranians — both Jews and Muslims — will be threatened by the country’s government “if they show support” for the assassination, conversations with Iranians and social media postings indicate wide support for Trump, Nematzadeh, a developer, said. “Millions of people [there] are applauding it.
“The government of Iran does not represent the people of Iran,” he said, adding, “there is no [freedom of] public opinion in Iran.”