Posted by Karmel Melamed
On June 18th Ambassador and the former Central Intelligence director R. James Woolsey visited the Musuem of Tolerance in Los Angeles for an event put together by the local Iranian Jewish group 30 Years After to discuss the threat of Iran’s growing nuclear weapons program. Woolsey, who is co-chair of the New York based United Against Nuclear Iran organization, spoke with our blog’s podcast about the current unrest in Iran and the potential dangers a nuclear Iran would bring to the entire Middle East.
Our podcast interview with Woolsey can be heard: here
After following the Iranian government’s activities for many years myself, in my opinion Woolsey is perhaps the most knowledgeable former U.S. government official with regards to Iran’s current regime. I was pleasantly surprised to hear his comprehensive knowledge of many aspects of the Iranian government structure including his knowledge of the “Hojatia” (pronounced Ho-Ja-Tee-Ya) or the radical fundamentalist Iranian Shiite cult group based in Qom, Iran which Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad belongs to. The Hojatia believe that they must bring about an international war where thousands are destroyed in order to speed up the arrival of their messiah. Woolsey’s familiarity of the Hojatia and explanation of their insane beliefs only reinforces the reality that Iran’s government must not be permitted to to have any type of nuclear program. All Americans, Europeans and others who value life on this planet must come together to stop this regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons because thost in power in Iran will not hesitate to use such weapons on those who do not believe in their radical form of Shiite Islam.
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June 27, 2009 | 10:30 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
During the recent uprisings in Iran following the June 12th elections in that country, I have been approached by dozens of individuals asking me what is going on in Iran’s Jewish community today. The simple answer is pure fear
. An emotion which is nothing new to Jewish minorities who have lived and somehow survived massacres, pogroms, as well as forced conversions in Iran for the past 2,700 years. Iranian Jewish fear is not only present today among the Jews in Iran but has also gripped thousands of Iranian Jews living in Southern California and New York. My piece this week in the Jewish Journal explores the fear that the Iranian American Jewish community is experiencing.
Since the current crisis broke out in Iran, I have had scores of Iranian Jewish activists and leaders repeatedly remind me to “watch” what I write about with regards to the government in Iran. They fear that what is said by our community in the U.S. may possible jeopardize the lives of the Jews living in Iran. This fear is so powerful in the Iranian American Jewish community that some individuals and community leaders will not even publicly comment on why they have decided to remain silent about their true feelings concerning the conflict on the streets of Iran! They not only believe that the regime of radical Islamic clerics may seek retributions in the form of violence against their Jewish brethren in Iran, but they also feel as if the regime’s thugs will manipulate any statements the Iranian American Jews make to news media outlets to divert the attention from the regime’s human rights violations after the election. Now while you may see many Iranian American Jews joining the hundreds of protesters in L.A.’s Westwood Village holding up banners against the regime in Iran, not many of them will openly criticize the regime on the record for a news media outlet.
This journalist’s sources here in Southern California and in Iran reveal the reality that the Jews of Iran are trying to stay out of the conflict on the streets of Tehran. They are essentially staying neutral with regards to the political battle between the “hardliners” and “reformists” in the Iranian regime. Nevertheless, my sources have informed me that young Jews have been among the Iranian student protesters injured and even arrested by the Iranian government following the election. What many American Jews and those unfamiliar with Iranian Jewish history do not realize is that Iran’s Jews have always found a way not to take sides when political or social crises occur in Iran. Perhaps the best example of this occured during the 1906 Constitutional Revolution when many in Iran wanted a form of a representive type democratic government with a constitution. Iran’s Muslim majority approached the Jews threatening them to either accept or refuse the new constiutional government or face death. To these demands Iran’s Jews in 1906 responded with a popular saying that community members in L.A. recall; “as has been dictated to us by the country’s Muslims, we also do not want a constitutional government”. While Iran’s Jews had not this year nor have they ever endorsed any candidates during the last 30 years in Iran, the community shares positive relations with many of the supposed “reformist” politicians including Mehdi Karroubi. During his campaign, Karroubi, who himself a follower of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, did briefly speak about improving rights for Iran’s minorities. Yet Iran’s Jews have not openly sided with the “reformists” nor with the regime’s “hardliners” for fear that may either side of the political power struggle clamp down on the Jews for saying anything advantageous. The upheaval in Iran today only reinforces the long hard reality that the Jews still living in Iran are essentially hostages of the regime! The not only place their own lives at risk but they also serve as the perfect scapegoats and propaganda tools for Iran’s radical Islamic regime to abuse at any time. Those interested in reading about how Iran’s Jews have been used as propaganda puppets for the regime in Iran can read my previous pieces here and here.
Lastly, I leave apologists for the Iranian government and those who still want to negotiate with Iran’s brutal dictators with one observation; if the killing of innocent demonstrators in Iran is how the regime in Tehran treats its own Shiite Muslim population, then I do not want to know how the Iranian government will treat non-Muslims in the West should the regime attain nuclear weapons!
June 22, 2009 | 2:34 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
June 20, 2009 - Federal Building on Wilshire Blvd.
June 16, 2009 | 11:18 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Iranian Jewish activist and director of the Committee for Minority Rights in Iran, is perhaps one of Iranian Jewish community’s few very knowledgeable sources for accurate information regarding the behavior, history and tactics of Iran’s current regime. He has spent a better part of his life speaking out in public about the true evil nature of Iran’s current government towards Jews and non-Jews alike. I recently sat down with Nikbakht, who is based in Southern California, to discuss the results and background concerning Iran’s recent elections and the mentality of those Islamic clerics ruling Iran today with an iron fist.
Mr. Nikbakht thanks for chatting with us. From your knowledge, would Ahmadinejad or the supposed reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi be any different in their treatment of religious minorities such as Jews, Christians and Bahais living in Iran?
They don’t make a difference since both of these candidates have hardline histories in their fundamentalist loyalties to the discriminatory Islamic Republic of Iran constitution as well as documented anti-Israeli policies and military planning. Mousavi, for example was not only the initiator of the current nuclear program In Iran but he was among the leading officials as Prime Minister in the 1980s behind the creation of the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group and the deployment of thousands of Revolutionary Guards in Southern Lebanon and Baalbek area.
You are an Iranian Jew who knows first hand about the regime in Iran and its treatment towards Jews/minorities. What is the biggest misconception Americans have about the elections and the candidates running for the presidency there?
The biggest misconception among Americans is that they think the official government in Iran is actually a real policy making entity; it is not. There is another parallel government in Iran which is headed by the Supreme Leader Khamenei, complete with several major departments, which is the real government and policy making entity and which does not hold elections either. The official government is in charge of implementing major policy decisions of the higher authority and also tasked with minor policy making and the day to day business of the country.
If the reformists are able to regain the presidency fromAhmadinejad, how will they be using Iran’s Jews to advance their own propaganda machine and their image in the West?
The “reformers” were the ones who initiated the using of minorities for major foreign propaganda, but Ahmadinejad took this to a higher level and was behind the continuous efforts for bringing sympathetic or bought off journalists to Iran to report on the “ideal” conditions of the religious minorities in Iran. Ahmadinejad, forced the removal of the old and obedient Jewish leadership in Iran since they finally refused to accept his Holocaust denying statements. The “reformers” as some in the West like to call them, will certainly do the same and appoint Jewish “representatives” according to their needs.
Do you believe either Mousavi or Ahmadinejad will be better for the Obama Administration to deal with when it comes to the nuclear issue?
The Obama administration on the other hand has been heavily rooting for Mousavi, who was declared the loser by a huge margin in the recent elections and whose loss is already creating the largest regime split and popular uprising since the early 1980s. The US administration, clearly misled by their Iran advisers and analysts, apparently believed that the real power in Iran would stay neutral in the elections and would let the people actually elect someone without fraud and vote rigging—even when it comes to the four out of 470 candidates which the powers that be had approved for their loyalty to the regime and the Supreme Leader.
Can you please discuss the role/influence of Khamenei and the Council of Guardins in the elections? And also when it comes to negotiating with the nuclear issue?
No major decision in Iran is made without Khamenei’s approval. We are witnessing as before that every factional dispute is always taken to the house of the leader for mediation or decision. The Wall Street Journal had an excellent factual account of how the 1997 participation, approval and election of president Khatami was painstakingly negotiated and pre-approved by the supreme leader, even though Khamenei himself didn’t predict the actual landslide Khatami victory back then. The same deal is on-going today.
The Council of Guardians is a major Islamic institution which existed even in the old constitution of the 1906 Revolution and was mandated during the Pahlavi Dynasty whose disregard for the constitution resulted in the absence of this institution from the scene for over 50 years. It became the source of a deadly grudge between the mullahs and the Shah. After the revolution, this council was put in charge of vetoing any parliamentary law that was passed but was somehow deemed to be “un-Islamic”. However an additional and very controversial role given to this council enabled it to be the main legal and dictatorial entity for qualifying or disqualifying any candidate—turning the Guardian Council into a major power deciding the destiny of the nation. One of the main demands of democratic forces inside Iran is the abolition of these powers in the Council. The supreme leader, of course can and has overridden some of the decisions of the Guardian Council. As Mel Brooks would say: “It is Good to be the Supreme Leader!” The nuclear issue is an exclusive domain of the house of the supreme leader. The “reformist” Khatami, as his officials have boasted, succeeded in buying time and deceiving the West while the nuclear industry in Iran surged ahead clandestinely. Ahmadinejad took the ball and is running with it to the end of the field. The difference was their style and also the possibilities and necessities of the Islamic Republic.
During the recent elections in Iran were there any political candidates in Iran who discussed issues dealing with Jews and other religious minorities?
Some Jews in Iran admired Karoubi during whose tenure as the Speaker of the Islamic Assembly (parliament) in 2002, he passed a law “equalizing” the blood value (value of life and limb in compensation laws) of some minorities with the blood value for Muslims. Of course this law was rejected by the Guardian Council as un-Islamic but temporarily re-instituted by an indirect way by another confusing super-institution called the “Expediency Council” which cited our opposition in the West to such attrocious discriminatory laws as “foreign propaganda”. Karoubi also used some of my own writings in his campaign speeches - verbatim- to present himself as a pro-minority rights person. In the end, according to the official results, Karoubi received about 0.8% of the votes! Yesterday, in his post elections bitter statement, Karoubi specifically apologized to his constituents including the religious minorities for not having been able to be in a position to defend their rights. Of course he couldn’t do anything for them anyway since the constitution itself is very specific about Muslim superiority over religious minorities in all aspects of life in Iran.
June 15, 2009 | 4:18 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
With Los Angeles and Southern California being home to one of the largest populations of Iranians living outside of Iran, local Iranian Americans of various faiths were busy this weekend protesting the sham and undemocratic elections in Iran. The uproar in the larger Iranian community (which included some Jews) began on Friday June 12th outside the Westin hotel near LAX airport where the Iranian government had rented space inside the hotel and set up an illegal voting station there. At total of four Southern California hotels were used by the Iranian government to set up their voting stations. The hotels listed on the official website of the Iranian Interest Section in Washington D.C. included the Westin near LAX, the Hyatt in Irvine, the Embassy Suites in La Jolla and the Ayres Hotel in Ontario. Sources close to this journalist have confirmed that roughly six local political groups opposed to the current Iranian regime were protesting outside the Westin LAX hotel where nearly 1,000 local Iranian Americans came to cast their votes for the Iranian elections. These sources on hand indicated that the people who came to vote where not only Mousavi voters who actually thought they could make a difference in the election, but a large group of the voters were openly pro-Ahmadinejad supporters.
Members of the six local Iranian opposition have spent the last few months visiting various hotels and hotel chains writing letters and asking them not to rent space to these Iranian government representatives. The oppositions groups have been successful in some cases here in Southern California in getting the hotels to deny the Iranian regime’s people from renting space for their voting events. Sources close to this journalist said Iranian government proxies were originally planning on organizing and holding their voting secessions in a few Denny’s restaurants at first because many local hotels were denying them space. On June 13 and 14, hundreds of local Iranian Americans gathered outside the Federal Building near Westwood to protest the recent “landslide victory” of Iran’s current president. These protesters included both local Iranians who despise the radical Islamic regime in Iran and those who were supporters of Iran’s “moderate” presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.
On an interesting note before the Iranian presidential election, a small contingency of younger pro-Ahmadinejad supporters had during the last several been speaking to crowds of Iranian American students at UCLA and other campuses in the L.A. area in an effort to encourage them to vote for Ahmadinejad. two weeks ago as many as seven pro-Ahmadinejad supporters were standing in front of the Borders bookstore in Westwood, waving Iranian government flags and chanting slogans in favor of the Iranian president.
What disturbs me as an Iranian Jew who knows about the Iranian government’s evils first hand is how the Western media and some U.S. officials actually believed that Iran’s elections would somehow magically be fair and democratic. Anyone who knows Iran and its current regime knows full well that that government is a totalitarian dictatorship where all the power lies in the hands of the Iranian “supreme leader” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Basically Khamenei makes all policy decisions for Iran including issues regarding Iran’s nuclear weapon’s program, while is merely a powerless stooge of the regime spewing propaganda that Khamenei and other ruling clerics feed him. In addition to Khamenei, a group of radical Islamic clerics called the “Guardian Council” is in charge of vetoing any parliamentary law that is passed but is somehow deemed to be “un-Islamic and they may qualifying or disqualifying any political candidate. Of course, the supreme leader, can and has overridden some of the decisions of the Guardian Council. So based on these facts, HOW ON EARTH could anyone believe Iran’s elections were fair or democratic in the first place?
Sadly the Obama Administration was clearly misled by their Iran advisers and analysts. They wrongly believe that the real power in Iran would stay neutral in the elections and would let the people actually elect someone without fraud and vote rigging, even when it comes to the four out of 470 candidates which the powers that be had approved for their loyalty to the regime and the supreme leader. Now they have had a rude awakening and Obama needs to seriously reconsider his decisions to negotiate with Iran directly because this move by his administration would undermine support for the U.S. among younger Iranians living in Iran who make up nearly 70 percent of the population.
Lastly what blows my mind is the fact that Western news media outlets really believe that Mosavi and other “reformists” will bring about freedom or some sort of change to Iran with their policies. The fact of the matter is that these supposed reformists like the former president Mohamad Khatami, not only made Iran less free, but they were more oppressive to the population than all the past hardliners. For example, more journalists and political voices opposed to the regime were executed under the reformists in the late 1990s. Khatami’s government also killed, tortured and imprisoned hundreds of opposition student leaders during the 1999 student uprisings. Furthermore the nuclear weapons program in Iran was also secretly going forward at full speed during Khatami’s watch and he knew all about it! As for Mosavi, in the 1980s he served as the last Prime Minister in Iran and has had a long bloody history of having his political rivals murdered after being imprisoned for “treason against the state”. So how on earth could such a man be a “nice freedom-loving reformist” when he’s had a horrible history of human rights violations?
June 10, 2009 | 2:00 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Over the course of my experience in interacting Southern California’s Iranian Jewish community, I have found there are really two types of “community leaders and volunteers”. There are those who are affluent, flaunt their wealth and claim to be leaders but really do nothing more than attend community meetings—then there are those who are truly remarkable jewels in the community by going above and beyond the call of duty in their volunteerism and seek no recognition. Dr. Azizeh Bral , a 90-something great-grandmother who lives in the Wilshire-corridor area belongs to the second group of amazing community servants.
On May 27th more than 100 local Iranian Jews gathered at the Iranian American Jewish Federation’s synagogue at Temple Beth El in West Hollywood to honor and recognize Dr. Bral’s continuous, unselfish and life-changing support of her community in Iran. I met this remarkable woman last month while researching my recent article on the late Habib Elghanian, the Jewish community leader who was executed in 1979 in Iran. Despite her old age, I found Dr. Bral to be very friendly and mentally sharp but unwilling to share the intimate details of what she had done on behalf of the Jewish community while she was living in Iran. During my interview with her I sensed that she did not want to open up about what she had done to help Iran’s Jews because her humble character and her desire to remain quiet about many sensitive community work. Luckily I had interviewed others in the local Iranian Jewish community who in the past revealed some of Dr. Bral’s amazing achievements and good deeds over the years. For example, the late Elias Eshaghian, the former head of the Alliance Israelite Universelle, French Jewish schools in Iran, informed me that Dr. Bral was key in raising funds and finding housing for poverty-stricken but bright Jewish students in Iran who wanted to get a college education in Tehran but could not afford to do so. Dr. Bral was also known for literally going out to the Jewish ghetto in Tehran frequently during the weeks to leave food items with poverty-stricken families who could no afford to buy the basics to eat. Now many may ask, so what’s so special about this woman who did hands-on philanthropic work In Iran? Well, Dr. Azizeh Bral is also the first Jewish woman in Iran and among the first group of women in Iran to attend and graduate from university! This was an amazing accomplishment and honor for women and the Jewish community as women before this time were barred by the government and society from seeking higher education. Most times women in Iran seven decades ago had to marry in their late-teens early and help raise a family while their husbands went to work. So Dr. Bral broke some barriers in her time and her education enabled her to give back to those less fortunate in Iran’s tight-knit Jewish community.
In essence, Dr. Bral was and still is the best example of what a select group of very special Jews in Iran did to help raise their community from poverty and a lower standard of living.
She always put community FIRST
and her own interests lasts! She was not interested in receiving accolades from others then but doing good deeds for the reason that it was the right thing to do. In my opinion, Southern California’s Iranian Jewish community needs to learn from folks like Dr. Azizeh Bral and get involved in real community activism in order to truly help those in need. Unfortunately many of them nowadays just show up at social fundraisers and pat each other on the backs for attending meaningless local meetings in order to show off their “philanthropy”.