"Zero Degree Orbit," a drama series produced by the Iranian state TV, under the directorship of Hassan Fathi, is an Iranian, Hungarian, Lebanese, Polish, and French collaborative effort.
The plot takes place in the 1930s in two locations: Iran during the reign of Reza Pahlavi, founder of the Pahlavi dynasty (World War II), and Paris on the eve of the Nazi invasion. (The Paris scenes were shot in Hungary.)
By means of this series, the Iranians hope to dispel allegations that they deny the persecution of the Jews during World War II and hope to discard their image as Holocaust deniers. The series was presented as an historical drama which aims to depict the suffering of the Jews during World War II, and which is even aimed at educating the Jews about their history. In several newspapers, it is stated that the series sheds light on the way the Jews fled several countries, thus becoming refugees.
At the same time, the series presents the "Zionist lie": The Jewish state is a Zionist invention, the result of collaboration between the Zionists and the Nazis in an effort to coerce Jews to emigrate to Palestine.
The plot focuses on Habib Parsa, an Iranian student whose father is Iranian and whose mother is a Palestinian from Haifa. The father is a former diplomat who was fired from the Iranian consulate in Palestine when he disobeyed the Iranian regime’s orders to refrain from participating in a conference by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin Al-Husseini. When Habib travels to France, he meets Sarah Struck, a Jewish student, and, while conducting research on the common denominators between Spinoza and an Arab philosopher, they fall in love.
Several other key characters in the series are noteworthy. Professor Weiss, Sarah’s maternal uncle, is an anti-Zionist historian, who possesses documents pointing to Nazi-Zionist collaboration. Juxtaposed with him is Theodor, Sarah’s paternal uncle, a Zionist who tries to exploit the plight of the Jews during World War II in an effort to get them to emigrate to Palestine, and who tries, through any means possible, to get his hands on Weiss’s documents. Shafur, Habib’s brother-in-law, a functionary in the Iranian regime, collaborates with the Nazis in an effort to prepare the ground for the Nazis’ arrival in Iran.
Several controversies were linked to the production of the series. According to ISNA, the Iranian Students’ News Agency, during one of the shoots at Persepolis, in the Fars province in southwestern Iran, a photographer stole a 2,500-year-old bas-relief, for which he was subsequently jailed.
On another occasion, a red chemical substance, used to represent blood, stained the floor and walls of an ancient palace at Persepolis, and had to be removed by a British team of experts. The incident was condemned by UNESCO.
Following are excerpts from episode 1 of the series, which aired on June 7, 2007. In it, Zionist agents assassinate the Rabbi of Tehran and try to intimidate Iranian Jews into emigrating to Palestine.
Zionist agent: Rabbi Yizhak.
Rabbi Yizhak, Rabbi of Tehran: Yes?
Zionist agent shoots Rabbi Yizhak.
Dr. Parsa, father of Habib: I'm very sorry. Poor Rabbi Yizhak. That poor man never harmed a fly. Whose handiwork do you think this was?
Anti-Zionist rabbi: Well, under the current circumstances, we don't lack malevolent enemies. On the one hand, there are antisemitic groups, such as the Ancient Iran Association, which are known for their support of the German. On the other hand, there are extremist Jews, who, based on a simplistic interpretation of Jewish tradition, try to encourage the Jews living in Iran to leave and go to Palestine.
Dr. Parsa: As far as the Ancient Iran Association is concerned, I doubt they will dare to do anything without government approval, and the government, despite its support for the Germans, has no choice but to take a cautious stand, because of the delicate international situation. Therefore, in my opinion, it is unlikely that the assassination was carried out by Germanophiles.
Anti-Zionist rabbi: As a matter of fact, this crossed my mind too, and that's why I suspect that the [order] came from within.
Dr. Parsa: Please explain what you mean.
Anti-Zionist rabbi: Rabbi Yizhak objected to the views of the extremist Jews, and on several occasions, he voiced his objections clearly. That is why, for several days now, I have suspected that it was the handiwork [of the Zionist Jews]. Of course, this is just a speculation.
Iranian police major: What are these?
Iranian police captain Asgari: These are files on students who have passed the exam in order to study overseas.
There are two problematic files. One is about a young man called Taghi Navadeh, whose brother is in jail, charged with having ties with a Communist group called "the 53 people."
Major: And the other file?
Captain Asgari:: It is on a young man called Habib Parsa, the son of a doctor called Ali Parsa. According to the information in the file, the father of this student served as a top Foreign Ministry official in the Iranian consul in Egypt and Syria. Towards the end of 1931, he helped to organize and participated in an Islamic conference in Jerusalem, held at the initiative of Hajj Amin Al-Husseini, the Mufti of the Muslims in Palestine. The conference was intended to denounce the Zionist movement and British policy in Palestine. Because he did not receive the Iranian government's permission to participate in the conference, he was demoted to the position of consul-general in Palestine. A few years later, after Mahmoud Jam was appointed prime minister, and at the recommendation of former Foreign Minister Enayatollah Samii, he was designated to head a special office in the Shah's court, in charge of the policy supporting the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. He resigned in protest, and he has been working for some time now as a doctor.
Zionist agents kidnap and interrogate an eye-witness to the murder of Rabbi Yizhak. Iranian detectives follow them.
Daud Youdein, eye-witness: Why did you bring me here?
Zionist agent: Shut up, don't talk.
Masked Zionist agents to guards in mansion: You two can return to your posts. We'll call you if necessary.
Whimpering Daud Youdein: Why did you bring me here? Who are you? What do you want from me?
Masked Zionist agent: Mr. Daud Youdein?Daoud Youdein
: That's me. Who are you?
Daoud Youdein is beaten by Zionist agents.
Masked Zionist agent: These "caresses" are so you'll remember that we are the ones who ask the questions here, not you. Is that clear?
Daoud Youdein: Yes, whatever you say.
Masked Zionist agent: A few days ago, a letter was sent to you, right?
Daoud Youdein: Yes.
Masked Zionist agent: And you probably read it carefully.
Daoud Youdein: Right.
Masked Zionist agent: But it seems that you didn't quite understand it.
Daoud Youdein: No sir, I understood it perfectly.
Masked Zionist agent: Then why did you arrange a meeting with that police detective?
Daoud Youdein: I think there's been a misunderstanding. It was him who came to me.
Masked Zionist agent: And what did you say to him?
Daoud Youdein: The same thing I told him beforehand – that I didn't see the shooter, and that I don't know who he is.
Masked Zionist agent: And what else?
Daoud Youdein: That I'm just a simple Jew who never harms a fly, and I just want to mind my own business.
Masked Zionist agent: That's exactly what your crime is, Daud – you are a Jew. You have dirty blood, whereas we Iranians are Aryans, of the same race as the Germans. Do you know what that means?
Daoud Youdein: No sir, please tell me.
Masked Zionist agent: It means that sooner or later, we in Iran will do to you Jews what our German brothers did to members of your religion in Berlin and other cities in Germany. We killed Rabbi Yizhak, just like we will kill the rest of the Jews, unless you all get out of this country as quickly as possible.
Door bursts open as Iranian detectives enter the room.
Major: Hands up. Don't move. The smallest move, and my colleague and I won't hesitate to shoot you. Youdein, come here.
Daoud Youdein: Yes, sir.
Iranian detective I: Move back, with your hands in the air. Hurry up!
Captain Asgari: Yes, sir.
Major: Take off their masks, so we can see their faces.
Captain Asgari: At your command.
Removes mask from Zionist agent to reveal Jacob Kasas.
Daoud Youdein: Jacob!
Jacob Kasas: Shut up, you filthy thing.
Major: Behave yourself.
Captain Asgari removes mask from second agent.
Captain Asgari: What about this one, do you recognize him?
Daoud Youdein: No sir, I don't.
Captain Asgari removes mask from third agent.
Captain Asgari: What about this one?
Flashback – Youdein remembers seeing him kill Rabbi Yizhak.
Daoud Youdein: That's him. that's the man who killed Rabbi Yizhak.
Rabbi Yizhak's murderer: You filthy lowlife. He's lying like a dog.
Major: Let's talk quietly. Please keep calm, sir. Everything will be clarified at the police station.
Zionist lookout crouches outside door and bursts into the room.
Captain Asgari: Be careful, Major.
Zionist lookout takes hold of the major and rabbi's killer shoots Captain Asgari.
Jacob Kasas: That one, shoot him!
He shoots the lookout holding the major, who in turn, shoots the killer.
Major: Stand still. Youdein.
Daoud Youdein: Yes, Major.
Major: Call the police, and tell the officers to send an ambulance.
Daoud Youdein: Yes, sir.
Jacob Kasas: But the most important one has gotten away, Major.
Major: Don't worry, we'll get him too.