Fri Mar 10, 2017 09:30AM
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in Moscow on March 9, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in Moscow on March 9, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop adopting hostile policies against Iran based on a legend in “the fifth century B.C.,” instead of focusing on the realities on the ground.

Putin made the remarks at a Thursday meeting with Netanyahu in Moscow, during which the Israeli premier claimed ancient Persia had made a failed attempt to “destroy the Jewish people” some 2,500 years ago, a legend commemorated through the Jewish holiday of Purim, which Israel will celebrate starting Saturday night.

“Today there is an attempt by Persia’s heir, Iran, to destroy” Israel, said Netanyahu, adding that “they say this as clearly as possible and inscribe it on their ballistic missiles.”

In response, Putin described the remarks as part of a legend going back to “the fifth century B.C.” and added, “We now live in a different world. Let us talk about that now.”

The holiday of Purim commemorates the Jewish legend of a conspiracy to slaughter Jews some 2,500 years ago, which was discovered by the Persian king and thwarted. 

While scholars do not agree on the accuracy of the Purim story, Netanyahu has constantly referred to the legend as a basis of his anti-Iran arguments in his meetings with different world leaders.

In a controversial speech to the US Congress in March 2015, Netanyahu repeated his own account of the Purim story and claimed, “Today the Jewish people face another attempt by yet another Persian potentate to destroy us.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif responded shortly after the speech. “If you read the book of Esther, you will see that it was the Iranian king who saved the Jews,” he said. 

Zarif was apparently referring to Persian King Ahasverous who discovered his viceroy’s conspiracy and had him executed, according to Jewish accounts.

Netanyahu has also been selective in his recount of history, ignoring the Hebrew Bible that has repeatedly praised Persian King Cyrus the Great (576 – 530 BC) as the patron and deliverer of the Jews, who put an end to their Babylonian captivity.

In this November 20, 2014 photo, an Iranian Jewish man holds a Torah scroll at the Molla Agha Baba Synagogue, in the city of Yazd. (Photo by AP)

Iran has one of the world’s largest Jewish communities. Under the Iranian constitution, the country’s Jews are represented in the parliament.

In March 2016, Iranian Jewish MP Ciamak Morsadegh said following his election, “The fact is, Iran is a place where Jews feel secure and we are happy to be here.” 

“We are proud to be Iranian. I know this doesn’t follow the Zionist script, but this is the reality,” he told the British daily The Independent.  

He further said, “Netanyahu  and the anti-Semites need each other: they supply each other with what they need – intolerance and hatred.