controversy has erupted recently about whether Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad is actually a Jew.
Pundits and professors alike are divided
over whether his original last name, which his family changed when he was 4,
is exclusively Jewish. I attended Camp
Havanagila, a Zionist summer camp in the
Catskill Mountains, when I was young—and so,
it seems did MA. For decades ago, as a young camper, I happened to come across
his diary when I was cleaning up under my bunk bed. I didn't know who MA was
then, but kept it because it offered such a novel perspective. Now, I am
presenting it to the public—to settle the matter of his background once and for
The following excerpts from are Ahmadinejad's childhood years.The first entry
was written when Ahmadinejad was 6, two years after the family converted.
I had a playdate with Ali and asked him what he got for Hanukkah and he
had no idea what I was talking about. At first I thought it was that his
parents were mean and didn't give him any presents. But then I realized he actually
didn't even know the holiday existed. He's so stupid. Who doesn't know what
March 3, 1962
I was telling my mom I don't want anymore playdates with Ali because he's
too stupid for me to associate with. I thought my mom would agree since she and
my dad put such a premium on education and intelligence. But then my mom told
me that actually most people don't know about Hanukkah because most people
don't celebrate it. She told me to keep it a secret that we do. I asked her why
and she said she'd tell me later. I wonder what it could be. I'm very curious,
skeptical and analytical by nature, so it's driving me meshuggah.
March 7, 1962
My mom told me that a few years ago my parents did this thing called
conversion where they stopped being Jewish, kind of and started being Muslim,
kind of. But I'm not supposed to tell anyone because I could get the family in
trouble. It's a family secret, so that's why I'm only telling you, dear diary.
Other family secrets are Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Passover, Purim and the
fact that we eat hamantashen which I thought was a national delicacy since the
whole Purim thing takes place in Persia, which is, of course, present-day Iran
March 20, 1962
I just found out that we even changed our name to cover up being Jewish. It
used to be Saborjhian which means cloth-weavers, a traditionally non Muslim
profession considered religiously impure. Now our name is Ahmadinejad
which means prayer mat seller. I also learned my name wasn't always
Mahmoud. It was originally Moishe.
April 1, 1962
today I offered my friend Mohammed some whitefish salad because his lamb
sandwich looked really good and I was hoping he would trade half with me.
But he didn't want to because he said he'd never heard of white fish and it
looked weird. Who doesn't know what white fish is? I thought to myself this guy
is almost as dumb as Ali. But then I went home and my mom told me that white
fish is a secret food, along with borscht, blintzes and danishes. I feel bad
for the people who didn't start out Jewish. They don't ever get to eat a danish
and those are good.
April 2, 1962
I wish my mom wasn't such a bargain hunter. She refuses to buy me a soccer
ball at the local bazaar because she says she can find it cheaper. And
she says if she can't find it cheaper, I need to wait for it go on sale. Oy. So
annoying. I'm already the worst soccer player and my asthma doesn't help so I
need all the extra practice I can get.
April 20, 1962
My mom got me a soccer ball and it's pink! And has a barbie on it! And it's
all banged up. Oy, how embarassing!
April 23, 1962
Happy Passover. My aunt Frieda is soooooo annoying. First of all,
me eat her gefilte fish, which stinks. And she makes me down the jelly
makes me gag and wheaze. And she won't shut up about the holocaust. She
the whole seder talking about it. Forget the slaves in Egypt, Frieda
just cares about the Jews in Europe. It's like enough already. She
keeps saying, Never
again. She really needs to learn how to live in the moment. But Frieda
make excellent charoses I'll give her that much.
April 24, 1962
today I told my parents aunt Frieda shouldn't come over anymore because all
she talks about is that whole depressing holocaust thing and it's depressing
and old fashioned. My parents got all angry and sensitive and said the
holocaust was very important and very tragic and that I needed to take it
seriously. But the holocaust was, like, so twenty five years ago. Come on
people. Get over it.
The following excerpts are from Ahmadinejad's teenage years
December 2, 1969
My parents are trying to force me to go to this Jewish summer camp. I
really don't want to go.
July 3, 1969
This camp is so terrible. First of all it is co-ed which was weird and
uncomfortable. All the kids had long hair. And playing the guitar is like a
sharia/ talmudic law, for crying out loud. All the kids do all day is talk
about revolution and sing The Times They are a Changing and Blowing in the
Wind. My friend Hasaan goes to a regular camp that regular Iranians go to and
there are no girls or hippies or talk of politics or guitars. They spend most
of the time playing soccer and camping and hiking.
July 15, 1969
Camp still sucks. And you won't believe this! Remember that Barbie soccer
ball? Well my cousin Jessica who lives in Great Neck is also at camp, which she
loves. Today she asked me how I liked the soccer ball. Turns out it was a
hand-me-down from Jessica. How embarrassing.
August 10, 1973
I am writing to you from a cruise on the Caspian sea
with my parents, my siblings, aunt Frieda, Uncle Saul, and my cousins Sheldon
and Rivkah. Once again, my aunt Frieda will not stop talking about the
Holocaust. The whole family gets in on it. I thought I was going to throw up.
The unlimited buffet didn't help either.
August 17, 1973
I'm back from the cruise. I think the whole family gained 15 pounds each. I
didn't like the cruise at all. I was sea sick the whole time and the moisture
is bad for my asthma. Plus I didn't enjoy the entertainment, which was a bunch
of self deprecating comedians. My family loved them, but I hated them. I really
can't relate to my family at all. It's gets worse and worse as I get older.
April 19, 1974
Today at the Bazaar I stumbled across this book called The
Forced War by American David Hoggan. It was published in Germany but
thanks to my familiarity with Yiddish, I was able to get the gist of it. It
questions the atrocities allegedly committed against the Jews. Maybe I'll give
it to Aunt Frieda.
April 22 1974
Happy Passover. Not! I hate this holiday even more than I used to. I
presented Aunt Frieda with The Forced War and the whole family went messhuga.
Frieda called Hoggan and anti-semite putz. The whole family got in on it and
when I tried to defend Hogan's argument they told me to "sha, you
vantz!" They are so closed minded.
July 13, 1974
Here I am back at camp as a counselor. I hate it here but my parents made
me go so I could learn the value of a rial. I have a brilliant idea. I've been
trying to get fired so I can go home so I've been speaking truth to power and
telling my campers that the
Holocaust never happened. Each night instead of singing them to sleep with Joani
Mitchel songs or reading them Shalom Aleichem
stories, I read them a chapter from one of the my several Holocaust denial
books. I have quite an extensive collection now, from Hoggan to David Irving to Pat
July 15, 1974
I think my plan is working. I gotta run to a meeting with the director of
the camp and I'm pretty sure I'm getting fired. Yes! I'm kind of sad because I
won't be able to spread the truth about the myth of the holocaust. But one day,
if I'm ever president, which I would love to be, I will use my voice and power
to show people the truth about the holocaust. Maybe I could even host a conference denying the Holocaust
ever happened. That would be so great. OK. Gotta run... more later. I better
hide you, diary. I'll put you under the bed.
Follow Katie Halper on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kthalps