Posted by Karmel Melamed
I was privileged recently to witness history in the making a few weeks ago when a small group of Iranian American Jews, Muslims and Christians came together in a show of unity and harmony. My piece this week in the Journal covers the historic evening that unfolded on November 12th at the Washington D.C. home of Israel's Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. Iranian American prominent leaders came together to celebrate the music and message of peace put out by popular Iranian-Israeli singer "Rita". Kudos to the Israeli diplomats here in the U.S. and to Rita for reminding Iranians of various religions living in America of the centuries long friendship between the people of Iran and the Jews people. Oren spoke of the history’s long kindness the first emperor of Iran, Cyrus showed to the Jewish people when he freed them and allowed them to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. Rita gave a short but incredibly powerful performance that had the guests singing and dancing with her-- including Oren who joined the band! The following are brief videos of her performance that night:
Other prominent individuals at the event included CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer and former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Sadly while the regime in Iran has repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction and funded terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah to attack Israel, more the most part, Iranians living in Iran and worldwide have no issues with Israel nor the Jewish people. Jews and Israelis who outreach to the people of Iran and Iranians elsewhere in the world with an outstretched arm of friendship during this difficult time in Iran’s history only disproves the anti-Semitic propaganda put out by the Iranian regime. Perhaps one day both peoples can reunite and prosper together in a climate of peace, instead of the horrid nuclear war desired by the Iranian regime.
(Iranian-Israeli singer Rita performs with her band and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, photo by Israeli Embassy)
(CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer holding up his autographed C.D. of Rita's music...he looks like a happy camper! Photo by Karmel Melamed)
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November 23, 2012 | 5:59 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
It is heartbreaking for any normal human being to see the death and destruction that occurred this week in both Israel and Gaza. While the news media has been quick to blame Israel as the cause for the civilian deaths in Gaza, most of these media outlets have totally overlooked the biggest culprit of the destruction unleashed on Gaza-- the current Iranian regime and the mullahs that run Iran! Why haven’t the journalists asked why Iran has poured millions of dollars’ worth of short and long range missiles as well as other weaponry into the hands of Hamas terrrorists in Gaza? Why have the media outlets not traced the millions of the dollars that support the Hamas terrorists back to Iran? Would Iranian-made “Farj” rockets have been shot into Israel had Iran not furnished them into the hands of Hamas terrorists? Would stockpiles of weapons not be stored in homes, schools, mosques and other civilian locations in Gaza had Iran not furnished them to Hamas? Where is the outrage of the international community at Iran for sponsoring the terrorism perpetuated by Hamas? All the financial and military roads lead back to Iran and the regime’s ruling clerics and they must be held accountable for these crimes against humanity.
It is common knowledge that Hamas’s primary lifeline has been directly from Iran since 1993. The Iranian regime openly admitted that in 1993 they first provided Hamas with an annual subsidy of approximately $30 million, in addition to military training. In January 1995, outgoing Director of the Central Intelligence Committee James Woolsey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that Iran had provided more than $100 million to Hamas. By November 2006, amidst an international embargo against Hamas, the organization announced that Iran had already given $120 million. During a visit by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to Tehran the following month, Iran pledged $250 million in aid to compensate for the Western boycott. Today analysts estimate that the Iranian regime provides anywhere from $300 to $400 million in financial and military aid to Hamas in Gaza!
Aside from the heartbreak of innocent lives been destroyed in both Israel and Gaza, what is even more tragic is the suffering that the poor people of Iran must endure under this current regime. None of the western news media have dared to cover the stories from thousands of average Iranian bloggers and individuals in Iran using social media to convey their rage at the Iranian regime that is using millions of the country’s petro-dollars to fund this senseless proxy war against Israel while average Iranians are living in extreme poverty. I’ve read many Iran-based blogs that are posting “No to Gaza, No to Lebanon, I die for Iran”-- a popular slogan began in 2009 when protestors in Iran were furious that the Iranian regime had pour billions of dollars into terrorists groups such as Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, instead of helping average Iranians suffered at home with these funds. Hundreds of thousands of average Iranians in Iran cannot publicly voice their opposition to the regime for fear of being imprisoned or killed, but they are anonymously speaking out online and in social media sites against the regime.
The future outlook of the Iranian regime's funds and weaponry to Hamas is questionable right now. Since the outbreak of a ruthless civil war in Syria with the Assad regime attacking Palestinian camps in Syria and killing thousands of Sunni Muslims, Hamas has distanced itself from Assad who is also a puppet of Iran. Moreover Hamas has refused to openly support Assad’s regime after they were directed to do so by their Iranian puppeteers. The Syrian war has no doubt strained relations between the Shiite clerics in Iran and the Sunni followers in Hamas, but time will only tell if their mutual hatred for Israel can keep their unholy alliance together for long. Yet Hamas is not worried a bit about their source of revenue since the emir of Qatar, in late October, promised more than 400 million dollars to the Hamas government for developmental projects
Instead of media scrutiny and U.N. pressure mounting on Israel, the international community must start asking Iran’s radical Islamic leadership what substantial role they have played in bringing the latest round of death and destruction to the people of Gaza. Iran’s regime is the cancer in the Middle East that must be removed; otherwise the entire region will slowly be pulled into more death and destruction from the chaos created by Iran’s mullahs.
November 4, 2012 | 10:47 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Several hundred Los Angeles area Iranian American fans had packed UCLA’s Royce Hall this past week on November 1st as they danced and joined in singing with popular Iranian-Israeli singing superstar, Rita Jahanforuz. Known simply to her fans in Israel and worldwide as “Rita”, she indeed brought the house down singing her well known Israeli songs in Hebrew as well as the long popular Persian songs. Her heart-pounding powerful performance of popular Persian songs such as “Gole-Sangam” and “Shah-Doomad” had fans at the concert singing and dancing along with her the whole time. The concert’s attendees included local Iranian Americans of various religious backgrounds who were hardcore fans of Rita. The evening’s performance also featured a number of solo performances by Rita’s brand members who played traditional Persian music instruments such as the “tar” a long-necked three-string instrument that is similar to a lute.
Following Rita’s performance, nearly three dozen private guests including Israeli Consul General David Siegel welcomed Rita and praised her efforts as an Israeli ambassador of goodwill with her music. Rita serves as a remarkable ambassador of goodwill from Israel not only because she speaks and sings in Persian, but she represents the Iranian segment of Israeli society that embraces their cultural heritage from Iran and would one day like to renew relations with individuals in their former homeland. Rita and her music also enable Israel in a non-political atmosphere to directly outreach to the people of Iran with their message of peace despite the Iranian regime’s repeated calls for Israel’s destruction.
The following is a segment of Siegel’s brief and very special welcome to Rita that night…click here
In 2012, her album "All My Joys," also sung in Persian, has been tremendously popular in both Israel and Iran. Interesting enough Rita’s music is prohibited by the Iranian regime along with all music which is banned under the radical Islamic laws of the country-- yet thousands of Iranians listen to Rita’s music online or on bootleg versions of her C.D. Her legions of fans in Iran bombard her daily with e-mails of praise and even call into Persian-language radio and television programs based in Israel or the U.S. asking hosts to play her music.
Rita, who was born in Iran in 1962 and immigrated with her family to Israel in 1970, represents a certain smaller segment of the Iranian community in Israel who never firsthand witnessed the Iranian revolution and therefore still feel a strong sense of nostalgia for Iran and Iranian culture. The nostalgia some Iranian Jews have for Iranian culture also stems from the significant tolerance and prosperity they enjoyed while living in under the Pahlavi dynasty for more than 50 years. What is truly remarkable to me about Rita’s music today is the fact that for centuries many Jews living in Iran were musicians that kept the country’s music alive despite the national Islamic prohibition against Muslims listening to or performing music in Iran. Ironically today, you have a Jewish person like Rita keeping Persian music, songs and culture alive with her albums and performances!
(Hundreds of fans pack UCLA's Royce Hall to enjoy Rita's concert).
(Iranian-Israeli pop superstar singer "Rita", photo by Karmel Melamed)
(left to right; Iranian-Israeli singer Rita, former Iranian Jewish mayor of Beverly Hills Jimmy Delshad and Israeli Consul General David Siegel).
(Israeli Consul General David Siegel honors Iranian-Israeli singer Rita for her work as a goodwill ambassador to Israel during her latest concert at UCLA's Royce Hall, photo by Karmel Melamed)