Posted by Karmel Melamed
On Sept. 6, the California Senate unanimously approved a bill that would require state pension funds to divest an estimated $24 billion in investments from nearly 300 companies doing business with Iran.
“I am thrilled with the state Senate’s overwhelming bi-partisan support for this legislation, which will end California taxpayer’s investment in key foreign-owned companies that prop up the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Joel Anderson (R- El Cajon), said in a written statement.
In early June, the California Assembly unanimously approved the bill, known as AB 221, and the governor is expected to sign it into law later this month. The bill has received wide support from California Iranian Americans of various faiths, as well as 17 state and national Jewish organizations. The state bill follows a similar one approved on July 31.
In June, Los Angeles became the first city in the country to approve its own Iran divestment measure. The state of Florida passed legislation in May barring $1 billion in its state pension fund from being invested in companies doing business with Iran and Sudan. Currently, Iran divestment bills are working their way through 12 additional states’ legislatures.
11.9.13 at 1:24 pm | L.A. Mayor Garcetti remains silent as UANI and. . .
10.20.13 at 10:40 pm | Since the new Iranian president's inauguration in. . .
10.10.13 at 11:25 pm | Rabbi Mark Diamond, the Regional Director of AJC. . .
10.2.13 at 6:48 pm | Iranian president's latest use of Twitter is only. . .
8.18.13 at 11:10 pm | Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei spews his. . .
6.30.13 at 11:22 am | Young Iranian Jews are breaking old community. . .
1.28.08 at 9:30 pm | (93)
10.13.07 at 3:19 pm | (33)
4.3.08 at 7:12 pm | (29)
September 11, 2007 | 4:42 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Five years ago Marla Bennett a 24-year-old Jewish graduate student from San Diego was killed with 8 other students by a bomb placed by Hamas terrorists at the Hebrew University’s cafeteria in Israel. Her grief stricken family refused to give up and decided to file suit against Iran’s government for their financial support of Hamas who perpetrated the cold blooded murder of their innocent daughter. Yesterday, the Bennett family finally received justice when U.S. Federal Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington D.C. ruled in their favor and ordered Iran’s government to pay them roughly $13 million in damages. “The plaintiffs should be praised for their courageous and steadfast pursuit of justice through legal means. This noble effort is made even more so when contrasted with the heinous and brutishly unlawful acts undertaken by the defendants and the individuals they support,” stated Lamberth in her decision to award the Bennett family damages against Iran’s government. While the Bennetts may have won the case against Iran, being able to collect the money may be limited as there are only a few frozen Iranian assets in the U.S. which they can tap into since other plaintiffs have also been successful in winning damages in their cases against the Iranian government.
In my opinion Lamberth deserves high praise for her brave stance and decisions as a member of the U.S. judiciary in the cases she’s heard regarding the Iranian government. On September 7th, she also awarded $2.65 billion to the families of the 241 U.S. service members killed in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut Lebanon. Lambreth gives hope to victims of Iran’s reign of international terror that while justice may not be immediate it does arrive in due time.
Iranian Jewish vicitims of Iran’s terror have also followed the same path taken by the Bennetts. Last September the families of 12 Iranian Jewish vicitims wrongfully imprisoned in Iran filed a federal suit seeks to collect damages from former Iranian President Mohhamad Khatami. The suit holds Khatami responsible for the kidnapping, imprisonment and disappearance of Jews imprisoned by Iran between 1994 and 1997. “Why is the world so silent? Why are Jews so silent about the plight of Jews being held captive in Iran?” Elana Tehrani, a victim’s mother asked a crowd during a speech at the Nessah Center in Beverly Hills last September.
My article about the Iranian Jewish families suit against Khatami can be found here.
Israeli attorney of Iranian heritage Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, along with Shurat HaDin, an Israeli organization that gives legal aid to terror victims, have been at the forefront of bringing more than two dozen lawsuits over the past several years against terrorist organizations and states sponsoring terrorism. Shurat HaDin has also successfully collected on judgments from suits brought against U.S. banks holding funds used by Palestinian terror groups. Darshan-Leitner and other American attorneys have been handling the case of the 12 missing Iranian Jews that is still pending in federal court.
Under the Federal Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act, non-U.S. citizens are able to to sue foreign governments in American courts. In addition, the 2002 Terror Risk Insurance Act permits U.S. terror victims to be paid the frozen assets of terror sponsoring states. In March of this year, B’nai Brith Canada filed suit against Iran’s current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejhad for incitement of genocide against the Jewish people in a Federal Canadian court. The suit also calls on the Canadian government to ban Ahmadinejhad’s entry into Canada.
September 10, 2007 | 9:49 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Often times when folks discover that I was born on September 11th they express a sense of shock and sadness for me since terrorists attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001. Honestly I have not celebrated my birthday since my bar mitzvah but rather September 11th has been a day of personal reflection for me because of the circumstances that occurred on that day in Iran 29 years ago.
While many folks are quite familiar with the events of September 11, 2001, the vast majority of people are unaware that one of the bloodiest days of the Iranian revolution was on September 11, 1978. In contemporary Iranian history, the day is popularly referred to as “Black Friday” (or in Persian as “Jome Sia”) because protesters clashed in the streets of Tehran with military forces loyal to the late Shah. Every year for as long as I can recall my parents retell the story with vivid details about how thousands of students and other protesters flooded the streets of Tehran calling for an end for the reign of the Shah and for an Islamic revolution. My father recalls that folks who were out on the streets of Tehran that night protesting were violating Marshall law that had been declared. As a result violence broke out between protesters and military forces sent in to end the violence. “There were many dead bodies laying in the ditches along the streets,” he said. My grandmother recalls many power outages during the night with electricity going on and off in the hospital. “Those where turbulent times my young man when you were born and we had to have the brit milah in the hospital because of the violence outside,” said my grandmother.
But the violence of September 11, 1978 was just the beginning of a blood bath that was to follow in Iran in the weeks and months following my birth. Hundreds were killed in Iran during the revolution and thousands after the revolution for being tied to the Shah’s regime and in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). While many Jewish families fled Iran in 1978 and 1979 at the start of the revolution, our family remained in Iran until the summer of 1980. At that time my father’s cousin was arrested and executed by the new Islamic government’s thugs for being a supposed “Zionist spy”. Our family only then realized that Iran was not the place for Jews to live peaceably and so we left all of our assets and fled Iran for good with only the shirts on our backs.
Ultimately I mourn the loss of innocent American lives lost on the tragic day of September 11, 2001. Yet at the same time I wonder how my life would have been different had there not been the Iranian revolution and the tragic events of senseless violence had not occurred on September 11, 1978.
September 8, 2007 | 5:06 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Iranian Jewish author Gina B. Nahai is perhaps one of the most well known and successful writers in our community having penned a series of fictional novels that give a unique perspective into the world of Iranian Jews. Yesterday I had the special opportunity to meet Nahai and attend a book signing for her latest published novel “Caspian Rain”. Without giving away the entire story, the novel focuses on the life of a young Iranian Jewess living in Iran before the 1979 revolution and dealing with her parents’ crumbling marriage. The novel also gives a rare glimpse into the taboo topic in the Iranian Jewish community of intermarriage with Muslims.
What I really enjoy about Nahai’s works is the fact that she is able effectively reveal the intricate mentalities and norms of Iranian Jews that not very many people know about. Our community is very tight-knit and typically closed off to outsiders for whatever reason, so having an insider like Nahai share details about us can be quite educational. I think younger Jews of Iranian heritage will also enjoy “Caspian Rain” because it gives them an idea about the lives of Jews in Iran before the 1979 revolution which they may have not otherwise known about.
By the way, for those who are unfamiliar with Nahai, her books have received wide acclaim by critics and her first novel Cry of the Peacock even won the Los Angeles Arts Council Award for Fiction. Her works have been translated into more than dozen other languages and are used for teaching in universities worldwide. She is a regular contributor to the Jewish Journal of Greater L.A. as well. Those interested in Nahai’s other works should visit her site: http://ginabnahai.com/
September 7, 2007 | 6:32 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Frequently I am approached by Americans and other folks who ask me why Iran’s government officials and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have decided to deny the Holocaust all of a sudden. Why the Holocaust? What does the Shoah have to do with Iran and the regime? From the Iran experts I’ve spoken to over the past year, the reasoning for the Iranian regime to even bring up the Shoah are vast and multi-layered.
Perhaps the best explanation for the Iranian government’s decision to attack the validity of the Holocaust was made by Yigal Carmon, president of the Washington, D.C., Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which translates anti-Semitic and anti-American media reports from various Arab and Islamic countries, including Iran. In many of his speeches Carmon explains that Iran’s Holocaust revisionism is based on their ultimate goal to delegitimize Israel’s existence. For the Iranian regime’s officials the Holocaust lends moral justification to the creation and continued existence of the State of Israel. Now if the Iranian government could only deny the Holocaust and prove it was a mere “Jewish fabrication”, then they could more easily justify to their desires to eliminate the Jewish state of Israel.
I actually did an article about the roots of Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitism: http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/searchview.php?id=17335
Political scientists have long studied brutal dictatorships such as the one in Nazi Germany, where a group of people were vilified in the media before the masses to rally hate and gradually win support for he dictatorship’s desires to harass or eliminate a certain group. Such was the case in Nazi Germany, where Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals and other “undesirables” were portrayed in German propaganda films as “subhuman” or like vermin. This disgusting propaganda worked as many Nazi supporters, soldiers, and officers were convinced that the Jews and others needed to be eliminated after they were dehumanized through films.
Again today, the Iranian government is seeking to do the same thing the Nazi propaganda machine did in the 1930’s…to blame the Jews for supposedly “taking control of the world and being evil”. Through this hateful message they hope to make their sick case for eliminating Israel. Here’s a three-part “documentary” created by Iran’s state-run television called “Merchants of Myth” which tries to disprove the Holocaust with a series of lies and disgusting use of famous Holocaust revisionists. This film would make Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels quite proud, as the Iranian government is trying its best to cover up all Nazi atrocities:
“Merchants of Myth” is not only ridiculous in it’s denial of undisputed historical facts about the Holocaust, but it makes absurd claims that News Corp. C.E.O. Rupert Murdoch is Jewish! Nothing could be further from the truth…Murdoch is not Jewish and does not have any Jewish ancestry. Now some Iran experts will argue that the Holocaust denial statements made by the Iranian President and others in Iran are just a smoke screen to draw attention away from their nuclear weapons plan. This argument may indeed be valid, but we in the free world who respect life and the have tolerance for all mankind, should not turn a deaf ear to tyrants who speak of genocide. The world ignored Hitler when he called for the destruction of the Jews nearly 70 years ago and as a result millions of Jews perished. Today, we just cannot afford to take the same risk of ignoring the Iranian government’s calls for the destruction of the Jewish people living in Israel.
For all of those journalists, Iranian government sympathizers and folks who think Iran is such a great place for Jews to live in, I’d like to ask them how anyone would consider a country where the Holocaust is so blatantly and regularly denied, as friendly to Jews?
September 7, 2007 | 4:07 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Los Angeles’ Israeli Consul-General Ehud Danoch made history on Sunday, Sept. 2, by becoming the first Israeli official in more than 25 years to directly address the people of Iran via live television.
Danoch appeared on “Roundtable With You,” a Persian-language call-in program that features interviews with newsmakers and personalities in the news. The show is broadcast by the Voice of America (VOA) in Washington, D.C. It airs nightly to an audience of about 20 million to 25 million viewers in Iran and worldwide.
“By having this interview with the Voice of America by satellite, which no one can stop, maybe the moderate people in Iran will understand that we extend our hand in peace to all of our neighbors and them in Iran,” Danoch said, in an interview. “I wanted to make it clear that we in Israel distinguish between the people of Iran and the regime’s leaders.”
The program featuring Danoch was also simulcast on VOA’s Persian-language satellite radio program and on its Web site through streaming video.
The VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news and educational programming every week to more than 115 million people worldwide in various languages. VOA broadcasts six hours of Persian television each day, and among international broadcasters, it has the largest combined radio and television audience.
“Roundtable” host Bijan Farhoodi said he was impressed with the tremendous response from Iranian viewers generated by Danoch’s appearance.
“I think Mr. Danoch came across very professionally, and his message of peace coming from an Israeli official really resonated with the viewers in Iran, who called and e-mailed in positive things about Israel,” said Farhoodi, a 27-year veteran journalist.
During the hourlong broadcast, Farhoodi covered a wide range of topics, including Iran’s support for the Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist groups, Holocaust denial statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as well as the Iranian government’s escalating calls for Israel’s destruction.
Several viewers’ e-mails read on the air expressed sympathy for Israelis, as well as concern over the Iranian government’s efforts to provoke Israel and the United States into war.
Danoch also fielded hostile questions, with one pro-Ahmadinejad caller asking why “Germany and Europe have not given land to the Jews for causing the Holocaust.”
“We make our show very objective and cover all sides of the issues, because our viewers in Iran really rely on us to give fair news, since the other Persian-language satellite programs in the U.S. are only spouting hate for the regime,” Farhoodi said. “You also have to realize that some people in Iran are terrified to openly speak in favor of Israel for fear of [what] the government might do to them.”
Danoch’s appearance on the VOA program is part of an ongoing strategy by the Israeli consulate to reach local and U.S.-based Iranian Muslim-owned, Persian-language news outlets that broadcast to Iran. The consulate’s goal is to help change the hearts and minds of average Iranians who are being indoctrinated with hate for Israel through anti-Israel propaganda put out by Iran’s fundamentalist Islamic regime, Danoch said.
“My message to the people of Iran was that we want to live in peace and prosperity with them,” he said. “I cannot comprehend how such good and talented people, such a civilization, is being held hostage by a regime which is completely the opposite of these people.”
The Israeli consulate has held a series of informational meetings and press conferences since August 2006 for local Persian-language media outlets to educate its journalists about Israel. The consulate is also hoping to learn more about the current sentiments of the Iranian people.
The L.A. consulate has not been alone in its efforts to win support for Israel among Iranians worldwide. In July, the Israeli Foreign Ministry officially launched its Persian-language Web site, Hamdami. The site provides news of Iranian government activities and educates Iranians about Israel.
In addition, the site allows for an interactive dialogue between average Iranians in Iran and Israeli officials, as well as information on the Shoah in response to Ahmadinejad’s repeated statements denying the Holocaust.
Last month, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman answered questions from listeners in Iran during a live broadcast by Israel Radio’s Persian-language news segment. The show has become a popular satellite radio program for Iranians living in Iran who seek more objective news.
While his term in Los Angeles ends next month, Danoch said his successor most likely will continue outreach to local Persian-language news outlets.
September 3, 2007 | 3:54 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Yesterday the Iranian government announced plans to build a new 73,000 square foot cultural and sports complex for its Jewish minority in central Tehran. Mohammad Saidi-Kia, Iran’s Minister of Housing and Urban Development broke ground on the site of the project that is slated to cost more than $3 million and to be completed in two and half years.
The Iranian government is seeking to show this project done for the Jewish populace as proof of the supposed “freedoms” enjoyed by its religious minorities. Unfortunately the move reeks of an obviously public relations stunt by Iran’s fundamentalist regime. Iran’s government has no other way to bolster their image in the world and do damage control for the anti-Israel and Holocaust denial statements of their President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, than to put the Jews on display and show supposed “benevolence” to them. Sadly, this P.R. stunt is yet another example of how Iran’s government has used the presence of 10,000 to 20,000 Jews still living in the country as a major propaganda tool to try to show themselves in a positive light to the West. The truth of the matter is that the Iranian regime and its secret police of thugs have a tight grip on the activities of the Jewish community in Iran and if the Jews step out of line, they face serious dangers. An example of this was in 2000 when 13 Jews from the city of Shiraz were randomly arrested on trumped up charges of being supposed spies for Israel and the U.S. If the Jews and religious minorities live in such supposed “freedom” in Iran, then why does the Iranian Constitution clearly indicate that all non-Muslims have inferior status to Muslims? Why do Iran’s laws require that all non-Muslims be humiliated and confined to prevent them from gaining any advantage over Muslims?
As an Iranian Jewish journalist living in the U.S. and covering the Iranian Jewish community worldwide, I am often attacked by various non-Jewish Iranians who claim that my statements about the lives of Iran’s Jews are false. My response to these critics is quite simple, if the Jews living in Iran are so free and living in tranquility, then why do Iranian American Jewish leaders repeatedly caution me about the potential negative repercussions that may befall the Jews of Iran because of my articles? The fact of the matter is that Iran’s Jews do not live in freedom and fear for their lives otherwise I wouldn’t be constantly reminded by community leaders in the U.S. about the potential danger they face!
We as Americans and American Jews must take whatever statements are made in the media by Jews in Iran with a grain of salt. These Jews in Iran are most likely making these supposed “positive” statements about Iran and the government because they are indirectly under duress. They know that they will face torture, imprisonment, and even death by execution at the hands of the regime’s thugs if they say anything that could even be construed as negative about the government in Iran. In the end the Iranian mullahs should be congratulated, they’ve finally done a great job of mastering the fine art of one-sided propaganda reminiscent of the old school propaganda put out by similar ruthless dictatorships in Nazi Germany, Cuba, the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea!
August 31, 2007 | 4:27 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
On August 30th nearly 300 Beverly Hills residents, business owners, community leaders and elected officials gathered at Graystone Mansion in Beverly Hills for Mayor Jimmy Delshad’s first State of the City address. Delshad, made history this past February when he became the first in the Iranian American Jewish community to attain the position of Mayor in the U.S. after winning his re-election to the Beverly Hills City Council by a slim margin this past February. The post of mayor rotates among the City Council members in Beverly Hills. Delshad was first elected to the city council in 2003 but faced two other Iranian Jewish candidates earlier this year in his re-election race. Votes cast for the Iranian candidates accounted for more than 50 percent of the votes cast in the Beverly Hills city council race this year.
Delshad’s new role in politics has drawn interest from among other Iranian American Jews who were previously not been involved with politics in the U.S. and had been barred from political involvement for centuries in Iran. For the past 30 years since their arrival in Southern California, a substantial number of Iranian Jews have gradually attained tremendous wealth in business as well as prominent positions in academia. Delshad’s involvement in local government has opened up a new area for Southern California’s Iranian Jewry to pursue and branch into.