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June 21, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 21, 2013 Stand with the dissidents of Iran By Mark Kirk and Irwin Cotler WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Last Friday's Iranian presi- dential election was fraught with fraud and fearlcandi- dates vetted for their loyalty to the Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guards, the press muzzled by the imprisonment of independent- journalists, and the leaders of Iranian civil society in detention. The absence of any free or fair election is a manifesta- tion of the larger repression in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Simply put, the Ira- nian government imprisons and tortures thousands of activists, executes dissidents without due process, ruth- lessly curtails free speech, enforces a system of gender apartheid and imposes severe religious discrimination, dramatized in particular by the systematic persecution and prosecution of the Baha'i and the imprisonment of their entire leadership.. Indeed, killing people for their political beliefs is noth- ing new to Iran's theocrats. The government consolidated its power in the 1980s by executing thousands of dis- sidents. Its most brazen violation of human rights was amassacre of its political opponents in 1988. That summer, pursu- ant to an order by Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian regime subjected all of its political prisoners to one-minute "trials" and sentenced nearly 5,000 dissidents to death by hanging. To date, no one has been held accountable for these crimes. To the contrary, those who implemented Kho- meini's order have thrived, becoming cabinet ministers and Supreme Court judges. As the 1988 killings show, Iran's government has sys- tematically used its prisons as sites of mass murder. With at least 2,600 political prisoners today, it would not hesitate to do so again to create fear among a restless population with strong democratic as- pirations. There are several initiatives that Canadian and American lawmakers have taken--and can take--to promote ac- countability and prevent the Iranian regime from directing another reign of terror toward political dissidents. We recently launched the Iranian Political Prisoners Global Advocacy Project. Modeled on a similar initia- tive that once defended Soviet prisoners of conscience, the Advocacy Project encourages parliamentarians to "adopt" Iranian political prisoners and advocate on their behalf. Political prisonerswho escape Iran have consistently said that international attention to their case was their best protection. The participation of parliamentarians in the Global Advocacy Project can literally mean the difference between life and death for many Iranian activists behind bars. We must combat the Is- lamic Republic's pervasive culture ofimpunity.byshining a light on gross human rights violations that Tehran wishes to hide. Last week, Canada became the first country to officially recognize the 1988 massacre as constituting crimes against humanity. This will be a significant blow to the Islamic Republic's quarter-century effort to deny these killings and holds the regime accountable for its gross human rights viola- tions, no matter how long ago they occurred. The United States and Canada must continue to lead the annual resolution at the U.N. General Assembly that ,names and shames" Iran for its terrible human rights record. We must also work with like-minded countries, particularly those in the global south, to require Iran to permit the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran to visit that country's prisons and talk freely with dissidents. The intensity with which Iran fights the annual resolution and the rappor- teur's investigation indicates that Iran is vulnerable on this issue. We must expose the fraudu- lence of the Iranian presiden- tial elections where numer- ous candidates, specifically women, were barred from participating while two of PAGE 5A I the candidates, Mohsen Rezai and Ali Akbar Velayati, have themselves been indicted for terrorist acts. Iranian citizens yearn for human rights and the rule of law, as they clearly demonstrated during their massive and peaceful 2009 post-election uprising. They will not achieve these things in this presidential "election" on June 14. But solidarity and assistance from the United States, Canada and the inter- national community will help them pursue their demands and protect their rights. It is what Iranians require. It is what Iran's dictators fear. It is where we can help. U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Il- linois and Canadian MP Irwin Cotler serve as co-chairs of the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran and the Iranian Political Global Advocacy Project. By Shai Franklin Stop pretending to care about Iranians' rights ers list because they are lead- their'lives and being tortured something we do because we ago, Iran's Persian national of force, then we should stop. NEWYORK(JTA) The JTA Op-Ed championing human rights in Iran is very compel- ling but for two facts: It was co-authored by two of Israel's greatest advocates, and they published it in JTA, a Jewish media outlet. As a community, we can be willing to bomb Iran into oblivion in order to stop its nuclear program, or we can worry about the rights of its citizens. We cannot, and should not even pretend, to do both. The co-authors, Canadian lawmaker Irwin Cotler and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), are high on the AIPAC speak- By Jonathan Mark New York Jewish Week In the children's magazine Highlights, home to those moral opposites Goofus and Gallant, we can imagine that revenge is for the likes of Goofus, while Gallant waits for judge and jury. Vengeance is unseemly, the province of the unhinged, while justice is a Greek goddess holding the scales outside a government courthouse. Even when it comes to Nazis, Simon Wiesenthal titled his book, "Justice, Not Vengeance." Even after 9/11, President George W. Bush declared, "Ours is a nation that does not seek revenge, but we do seek justice." Thane Rosenbaum, author of the new book"Payback: The Case for Revenge" (University of Chicago Press), muses that bombing Afghanistan and putting a bullet in the head of Osama bin Laden "sure looks a lot more like vengeance than like the-more measured application of the rule of law. Why all the misdirection and doublespeak?" Wiesenthal's delicate dis- tinction wasn't on too many minds in 1945. In another new book, "Savage Continent: Eu- rope in the Aftermath of World War II" (St. Martin's Press), by Keith Lowe, we're told that after liberation, plenty of survivors were perfectly comfortable with vengeance; beating, sometimes killing, their ex-guards, kapos and ers in the effort to safeguard Israel's security on the ground and protect its good name at the United Nations. It's been a while since either of them was significantly involved i broad-based human rights work unrelated to the pro- Israel agenda. Were there a way to push such propaganda that also benefited the Iranians fight- ing for participatory democ- racy, it would be benign. But when Cotler and Kirk call on Jews to demand democracy and human rights in Iran-- implicitly branding it as a pro-Israel priority--it actu- ally undermines the cause of dissidents who are risking daily just for the basic human dignity that most JTA readers take for granted. At the same time, numer- ous Jewish leaders and friends of AIPAC routinely defend Israel's right to attack Iran and push for stronger iner- national sanctions, including denial of certain conveniences and necessities that impact the quality of life for most Iranians--those whom Cotler and Kirk would presumably "save" from the regime. Unlike the black South Africans of the 1970s and 1980s,hese Iranians are not encouraging usto isolate and strangle their country eco- nomically and politically. It's care more about Iran's threat to Israel than we do about the lives of individual Iranians who may or may not support the Islamic regime. As should also be evident, not only do most of the brave Iranians Cotler and Kirk claim to be helping not want their help, they would prob- ably continue much of the terrorist and nuclear enter- prise the current regime is pursuing. As we've seen with their counterparts in Egypt, Libya and Syria, Iranians are not looking to replace their leadership in order to make friends with Israel. Unlike Iraq,which the Brit- ish created barely a Century identity stretches back thou- sands of years. The recent election ofa"reformist" presi- dent to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won't change most of Iran's hard-line policies, given the religious control over major decisions. But even a complete change of regime--whether by internal revolution or external force-- would be unlikely to produce a cooperative government that renounces Iran's inbred aspi- rations to regional hegemony. If the main reason the pro:Israel community pushes democracy and human rights for Iranians is to justify fur- ther crippling sanctions and to enable the devagtating use Payback: The art of. revenge German civilians. After all, Lowe explains, "Much as we might now deplore vengeance in all its forms... For Hitler's victims it restored a sense of moral equi- librium .... Acts of vengeance certainly gave individuals, as well as communities, a sense that they were no longer passive bystanders ... the recourse to vengeance at least gave them the sense that some kind of justice was possible." And yet, noticed Lowe, "Jewish vengeance was in- significant compared to the havoc provoked [by] other nationalities." Nevertheless, "revenge was perhaps more" widespread than is usually admitted." Sometimes it was havoc, sometimes highly organized. One Jewish group, Abba Kovner's Avengers, appeared to have "arranged the assassi- nation of more than a hundred suspected war criminals, as well as the placement of a bomb inside a prison camp for SS men that killed 80 inmates," writes Lowe. They poisoned the bread inside another prison camp and at least 2,000 Germans "fell sick with arsenic poisoning, although it is not clear how .many, if any, died." In time, the Avengers gave up their dreams of reprisal, "choosing instead to fight for the future" of a new Jew- ish state. Here, offers Lowe, "is a clue that might explain why Jewish vengeance was not more widespread." Ven- geance "is an act committed by.those who have an inter- est in restoring some kind of moral balance. For many Jews, perhaps the majority, there was no such interest. They had decided to turn their backs on Europe altogether..." Lowe quotes one Jew who explains, "We sought to take revenge on our enemies through disparagement; re- jection, banning and keep- ing our distance .... Only by setting ourselves apart from these murderers completely ... will we be able to satisfy our desire for vengeance, which in essence means doing away with the European exile and building our homeland in the Land of Israel.". With the passing of the years, writes Rosenbaum, a novelist and professor of law at Fordham University, the gallantry of vengeance began to disappear into "a dark and deeply buried shelf inside the closet of cultural taboos." On the High Holidays Rosenbaum noticed that in the new edition of his liberal prayer book, the ancientAvinu Malkenu prayer was edited so that "a line that asked God to avenge the killing of Jews was deleted .... It made God look unhinged.., lest [we] be reminded that the language of revenge had once been very much part of the prayers of the Jewish people." In the classical Haggadah, though, when the door is opened for Elijah at the seder, what's recited isn't the stuff of tikun olam [repairing the world] but a request that God "pour out Thy wrath" against our enemies who have "con- sumed Jacob and ruined his home." "Vengeance can be cur- tailed and suppressed but it can never be truly undone, nor should it,"writes Rosenbaum. "Whether we admit it or not, whether we are permitted to act on it or not, revenge brings order to the moral universe, establishes the proper mea- surement for our loss, gives voice to indignity, and serves as a necessary equalizer when victims have been rendered low." Justice may be gallant but not always reliable. In 2009, 27 French Muslims were convict- ed of kidnapping, torturing and murdering ayoung Jewish man; some received sentences of only six months. In 1992, a jury acquitted Lemrick Nelson of murdering Yankel Rosenbaum during the Crown Heights riot, and some jurors went out and celebrated the acquittal. Nelson confessed to the murder several years later. In Israel, thousands of terrorists served only a frac- tion of their sentences before being freed in disproportion- ate prisoner exchanges. After the murder of five members of the Fogel fam- ily by Palestinians, a poll by Ynet-Gesher (taken before the murderers were appre- hended) found that 46 percent of Israeli Jews believed that "price tag" attacks (rogue settler vengeance against Palestinians) were justified. The problem with "price tag" attacks, however, is that they are often indiscriminate, not always directly connected to the victim or the perpetrator. Vengeance, says Rosenbaum, has to be as exact and surgical as possible. Experts such as Don Corleone and the Torah's Jacob agree. Rosenbaum discusses a scene in "The Godfa- Let's stick to emphasizing Iran's violation of its inter- national obligations and the dangers it poses to its Gulf neighbors and the State of Israel. This superficial "human rights" campaign will not fool the European, Russian and Chinese officials we do need to convince. It's only fooling some of our own, and the transparent cynicism of this approach affects our cred- ibility on the nuclear issue and many other communal priorities we want to advance. Shai Franklin is senior fel- low for United Nations Affairs at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. ther," when a gentleman, Bonasera, comes to Don Cor- leone because his daughter was raped and beaten but her tormentors were given only a suspended sentence and left the courtroom sneering. All his life, Bonasera said he played it straight, buL now, emotionally wounded, he came to the Godfather on the wedding day of the Payback on page 19A Dry Bones W THe !