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April 19, 2016 0

The Iranian Regime Has Not Changed

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium

Iran Deal-condensed

Talks in Geneva over the Iran Deal in 2015.

A lit­tle over a year ago, the Anti-Defamation League reacted to the newly announced para­me­ters of the agree­ment between the world pow­ers and Iran, say­ing it left us with “many unan­swered ques­tions” about Iran’s nuclear pro­gram and the Islamic Republic’s inten­tion to fully and trans­par­ently uphold its com­mit­ments. “The Iran­ian regime has not changed, “ADL said then, “and we do not expect a change in its behavior.”

A year later, and months into the imple­men­ta­tion of that agree­ment, there is no clear evi­dence that Iran is vio­lat­ing its com­mit­ments, although our ques­tions on Iran’s true inten­tions regard­ing its long-term nuclear ambi­tions remain.

These ques­tions are more impor­tant than ever with ongo­ing debate tak­ing place in Wash­ing­ton over whether the Obama Admin­is­tra­tion should take more steps to facil­i­tate inter­na­tional bank­ing trans­ac­tions and trade between Iran and other states.

With this dis­cus­sion under­way, it’s timely to review the pre­dic­tions made by some experts that the agree­ment would lead to a more mod­er­ate and con­struc­tive Iran. Some opined that the deal would usher in a new approach, mak­ing it a fit­ting mem­ber of the com­mu­nity of nations. The steady pace of com­mer­cial and diplo­matic del­e­ga­tions vis­it­ing Tehran might lead one to believe that there is a glas­nost afoot.

Yet while there may be improved p.r., the regime has changed very lit­tle. It con­tin­ues to dis­play lit­tle regard for the human rights of its own cit­i­zens. It main­tains its poli­cies of regional aggres­sion includ­ing weapons devel­op­ment and test­ing. And it has not slowed its sup­port of ter­ror­ism and spread of base hatreds against Israel and its Jew­ish peo­ple. Indeed, just this week the sup­pos­edly reformed minded Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani called for vig­i­lance “against the dan­ger of the Zion­ist regime” and accused it of “con­tin­ued massacres.”

So much for change.

Unceas­ing Human Rights Vio­la­tions

Iran’s fail­ure to change, despite hopes for greater “open­ness” and “mod­er­a­tion” is most evi­dent in its abysmal human rights record. As the Spe­cial Rap­por­teur for Human Rights in Iran, Ahmed Sha­heed, recently told the U.N. Human Rights Coun­cil, there “is an alarm­ing surge in the rate of unlaw­ful exe­cu­tions in the coun­try, and ongo­ing arbi­trary arrests, deten­tions and pros­e­cu­tions of indi­vid­u­als for the exer­cise of their fun­da­men­tal rights.“ In 2015, accord­ing to offi­cial gov­ern­ment records at least 966 peo­ple were exe­cuted — the high­est num­ber since 1989, and 10 times as much as a decade ago. Grass­roots reports pro­vide higher rates.

Amnesty Inter­na­tional reports that Iran is the world’s lead­ing execu­tor of juve­niles — and at least 160 indi­vid­u­als under the age of 18 are cur­rently on death row. The Spe­cial Rap­por­teur reported that just since Jan­u­ary, “at least 47 jour­nal­ists and social media activists were report­edly detained in the coun­try …and over 272 inter­net cafe busi­nesses were report­edly closed in 2015 for their alleged ‘threat to soci­etal norms and values.’”

Iran con­tin­ues to per­se­cute reli­gious minori­ties, par­tic­u­larly the Baha’i com­mu­nity, restrict­ing their rights, as the Spe­cial Rap­por­teur said, to “openly man­i­fest their beliefs, to edu­cate their chil­dren, and to earn a liv­ing.” One recent exam­ple: Iran impris­oned a young Baha’i woman whose sole crime was protest­ing the poli­cies that pre­vented her from pur­su­ing higher education.

A legal sys­tem estab­lished by a gov­ern­ment that accords sec­ond class sta­tus to a spe­cific cat­e­gory of its own cit­i­zens, restrict­ing their access to basic ser­vices like edu­ca­tion and shrink­ing their basic civil rights is unacceptable.

Push­ing the enve­lope on aggres­sive weaponry

Pres­i­dent Obama recently said that while “Iran, so far, has fol­lowed the let­ter of the (nuclear) agree­ment” it is under­min­ing the “spirit of the agree­ment” with its “provoca­tive” actions. Most egre­giously, Iran thumbed its nose at the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity with its March launch of long-range bal­lis­tic mis­siles — an action restricted by UN Secu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 2231.

An aerial view of a heavy-water production plant, which went into operation despite U.N. demands that Iran roll back its nuclear program, in the central Iranian town of Arak, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2006. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared Saturday, after the inauguration of the plant, that his nation's controversial nuclear program poses no threat to any other country, even Israel "which is a definite enemy."  (AP Photo/ ISNA, Arash Khamoushi)

An aer­ial view of a heavy-water pro­duc­tion plant, which went into oper­a­tion despite U.N. demands that Iran roll back its nuclear pro­gram, in the cen­tral Iran­ian town of Arak, Sat­ur­day, Aug. 26, 2006. (AP Photo/ ISNA, Arash Khamoushi)

Four of the six world pow­ers who signed the Iran­ian agree­ment — the U.S., U.K., France and Ger­many — sent a let­ter to the heads of the U.N. and Secu­rity Coun­cil call­ing Iran’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile oper­a­tions “incon­sis­tent with” and “in defi­ance of” the Secu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion which bars mis­siles that could carry nuclear weapons. In an omi­nous wink to the coun­try Iran has most pub­licly threat­ened, the Iran­ian news agency Fars said one of the mis­siles tested on March 6 had “Israel must be wiped off the Earth,” writ­ten along its side in Hebrew.

And it’s not just bal­lis­tic mis­siles. In a recent Iran­ian news report, Brigadier Gen­eral Hos­sein Salami of the Iran­ian Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards threat­ened: “The Zion­ist regime will col­lapse in the near future. When Hezbol­lah has stock­piled over 100,000 mis­siles, it means Iran has tens of times more than that. Iran is in pos­ses­sion of dif­fer­ent classes of mis­siles, and this power is unstop­pable.” Around the same time, offi­cials in the city of Lamard held a mil­i­tary train­ing pro­gram for chil­dren with the goal of “con­quer­ing Tel Aviv.”

And the weapons pro­lif­er­a­tion is not just related to Israel. Three times in the last two months, U.S. Naval ships have seized large caches of weaponsbelieved to be sent by Iran intended for Houthi rebels in Yemen. And oth­ers have reported exten­sively on the con­tin­ued train­ing and weapons deploy­ment in Syria in sup­port of the Assad gov­ern­ment whose bru­tal­iza­tion of its own cit­i­zenry insti­gated the civil war that con­tin­ues to wrack the coun­try and desta­bi­lize the region.

Con­tin­ued cam­paign to destroy Israel and its Jew­ish population

Mean­while, even as Iran puts on a pub­lic face to court inter­na­tional busi­ness and invest­ment, its pro­pa­ganda machine churns out base con­spir­acy the­o­ries about Jews and Israel. A recent absurd alle­ga­tion asserted that imports of “genet­i­cally mod­i­fied prod­ucts are a ‘Zion­ist plot’ to infect Ira­ni­ans with dis­eases and a ‘seri­ous exam­ple of infil­tra­tion.’ And, while Pres­i­dent Rouhani has not touted the issue like his pre­de­ces­sor Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ahmadine­jad had, it is appar­ent that Holo­caust denial and mock­ery are very much alive and well within Iran­ian soci­ety, with aca­d­e­mic exam­i­na­tions of the issue and car­toon contests.

The Jew­ish fes­ti­val of Purim, which com­mem­o­rates ancient Persia’s Queen Esther and Mordechai’s sav­ing of the Jews from the evil Haman who planned to kill them all, has long pro­vided anti-Semitic fod­der in Iran. Point­ing to the Book of Esther’s telling that after Haman was killed, 75,000 Per­sians were slain, Ira­ni­ans have manip­u­lated this ancient story and pre­sented it as a “holo­caust” and “geno­cide” per­pe­trated by the Jews against Ira­ni­ans, and the real source of alleged Jew­ish hos­til­ity toward Iran.

Iran - Anti-Israel Slogan Blog 2015

In a recent arti­cle enti­tled “Purim: the Iran­ian Holo­caust by Jews, A Cel­e­bra­tion of Half a Mil­lion Iran­ian Mas­sa­cred” in Gha­treh, asserted: “Zion­ists’ hatred and jeal­ousy of the ancient his­tory and glo­ri­ous civ­i­liza­tion of Iran for their sci­en­tific advances and their his­tor­i­cal achieve­ments, par­tic­u­larly after the Islamic Rev­o­lu­tion is not some­thing they can hide. The Zionist’s infe­ri­or­ity feel­ing toward the great­ness of the Iran­ian nation has a his­tor­i­cal root. By one glance to the his­tor­i­cal con­text and events that hap­pened between Ira­ni­ans and this peo­ple prove the fact. After Cyrus as a ruler who was a seeker for jus­tice, released cap­tive Jews from Baby­lo­nia, he never imag­ined the same peo­ple after few years would carry out a creep­ing coup against Iran and Ira­ni­ans and respond to the kind­ness of Ira­ni­ans, would be bru­tal slaugh­ter of them.”

It is galling to see the Islamic Repub­lic gain acco­lades for tweets in Eng­lish around Rosh Hashanah while its sup­port­ers use Farsi to issue such anti-Semitic screeds that seem like updated ver­sions of the Pro­to­cols of Zion.

In con­clu­sion, a year after the path was forged to the nuclear agree­ment with Iran much has changed. Pres­i­dent Rouhani trav­eled to Rome and Paris to pro­mote trade and eco­nomic part­ner­ship with Iran. Iran was a key par­tic­i­pant in the talks lead­ing to a cease­fire in Syria — much to the con­ster­na­tion of its Per­sian Gulf rivals. Iran finally released four Amer­i­can pris­on­ers it had been hold­ing, includ­ing Wash­ing­ton Post bureau chief Jason Rezaian.

But when it comes to its inter­nal illib­eral poli­cies, human rights vio­la­tions, the spread­ing of hate against Jews and its con­tin­ued mil­i­tancy against its neigh­bors, the past year has made no dif­fer­ence. As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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July 3, 2015 2

Yes, Justice Thomas, the Government Can Deprive People of Dignity

The word “dig­nity” appears 30 times in last week’s Supreme Court mar­riage equal­ity case, Oberge­fell v. Hodges. Describ­ing the same-sex cou­ples who aspired to marry, Jus­tice Anthony Kennedy, writ­ing for the 5–4 major­ity, stated:

Their hope is not to be con­demned to live in lone­li­ness, excluded from one of civilization’s old­est insti­tu­tions. They ask for equal dig­nity in the eyes of the law. The Con­sti­tu­tion grants them that right. supreme-court-civil-rights

 

 

 

In a bit­ter dis­sent, Jus­tice Clarence Thomas demurred, stat­ing that “the Con­sti­tu­tion con­tains no ‘dig­nity’ Clause.” He argued that the gov­ern­ment is “inca­pable of bestow­ing dig­nity,” stat­ing flatly that” human dig­nity can­not be taken away by the government.”

Aston­ish­ingly, Jus­tice Thomas then attempted to prove his dubi­ous propo­si­tion by cit­ing two extreme and rep­re­hen­si­ble gov­ern­ment actions that were actu­ally designed to deprive vic­tims of “equal dig­nity under the law” – slav­ery and the incar­cer­a­tion of Amer­i­cans of Japan­ese descent dur­ing World War II:

Slaves did not lose their dig­nity … because the gov­ern­ment allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in intern­ment camps did not lose their dig­nity because the gov­ern­ment con­fined them.

But the gov­ern­ment did not “allow” blacks to be enslaved – the laws of the time facil­i­tated and empow­ered slave own­ers and enforced slavery.

And the Japan­ese Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens League was rightly “appalled” by Jus­tice Thomas’ blind­ness to the impact of the government’s shame­ful and unwar­ranted forcible relo­ca­tion and incar­cer­a­tion of 120,000 Amer­i­cans of Japan­ese descent, the vast major­ity of whom were citizens.

In 1942, just 10 weeks after the sur­prise attack on Pearl Har­bor, Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt issued his Exe­cu­tion Order 9066, pro­vid­ing the legal author­ity for this depri­va­tion of lib­erty and dig­nity. Roosevelt’s exec­u­tive action was issued against the back­drop of wide­spread, base­less fears that Amer­i­cans of Japan­ese ances­try might pose a threat to the U.S – anx­i­ety that was cer­tainly fed by a long his­tory of prej­u­dice and xeno­pho­bia direct against Japan­ese Americans.

Those incar­cer­ated in the camps were uprooted from their com­mu­ni­ties, sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies, their homes, and their pos­ses­sions, and lost their per­sonal lib­er­ties and free­doms until the end of the war.

Trag­i­cally, the president’s exec­u­tive order was bol­stered by addi­tional con­gres­sional enact­ments. And when the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of these actions was chal­lenged in two main cases before the U.S. Supreme Court – Hirabayashi v. U.S. andKore­matsu v. United States – the Court held that these clearly dis­crim­i­na­tory actions by the gov­ern­ment were, in fact, jus­ti­fied and constitutional.

Now, 73 years later, the Anti-Defamation League uses the cruel and unwar­ranted wartime treat­ment of Amer­i­cans of Japan­ese descent as a teach­able moment for our nation on the dan­gers of stereo­typ­ing, prej­u­dice, and racial pro­fil­ing. While we can honor and admire indi­vid­u­als that can retain their per­sonal dig­nity under the most adverse con­di­tions, there should be no doubt, Jus­tice Thomas, that the gov­ern­ment can deprive peo­ple of their “equal dignity.”

For­tu­nately, a Supreme Court major­ity has now held that the Con­sti­tu­tion man­dates that same-sex cou­ples are enti­tled to equal treat­ment – and mar­riage equality.

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June 17, 2015 0

White House Hosts Conference on Combating International LGBT Hate Crimes

whitehouse

On June 12, the White House hosted a “Con­ver­sa­tion on Com­bat­ing Bias-Motivated Vio­lence against LGBT Per­sons Around the World.”  Bias-motivated vio­lence against LGBT indi­vid­u­als remains dis­turbingly preva­lent, as doc­u­mented by a May 2015 report by the United Nations High Com­mis­sioner for Human Rights and the FBI’s annual Hate Crime Sta­tis­tics Act report.  The prob­lem is com­pounded by incon­sis­tent def­i­n­i­tions of hate crime and inad­e­quate hate crime data col­lec­tion efforts, accord­ing to a 2013 ADL/Human Rights First report on hate crimes in the Orga­ni­za­tion for Secu­rity and Coop­er­a­tion in Europe (OSCE) region.

Randy Berry, the State Department’s Spe­cial Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons,announced a num­ber of new Admin­is­tra­tion ini­tia­tives at the con­fer­ence, which fell dur­ing LGBT Pride Month.  He high­lighted exist­ing part­ner­ships and pledged to expand inter­na­tional law enforce­ment train­ing and tech­ni­cal assis­tance, as well as efforts to empower civil soci­ety and LGBT edu­ca­tion and advo­cacy orga­ni­za­tions. The Admin­is­tra­tion will con­tinue to draw on exist­ing exper­tise across the US Gov­ern­ment to enable orga­ni­za­tions and agen­cies abroad to request assis­tance to launch new local and national initiatives.

The White House pro­gram included pan­els focused on the impact of community-based orga­ni­za­tions, the role of law enforce­ment and the judi­ciary, and gov­ern­ment actions and best prac­tices – which was mod­er­ated by ADL Wash­ing­ton Coun­sel Michael Lieber­man.  The meet­ing built on a Decem­ber 2011 Pres­i­den­tial Mem­o­ran­dum on “Inter­na­tional Ini­tia­tives to Advance the Human Rights of Les­bian, Gay, Bisex­ual, and Trans­gen­der Per­sons.” Fed­eral agen­cies – espe­cially USAID, the Jus­tice Depart­ment, and the State Depart­ment – have done a lot of work on the issue.  The State Depart­ment released a report in May 2014 detail­ing its progress on car­ry­ing out the President’s Memorandum.

ADL works to address dis­crim­i­na­tion and vio­lence against LGBT indi­vid­u­als in the United States and abroad, fil­ing ami­cus briefs in Supreme Court cases, con­duct­ing work­shops and train­ing for edu­ca­tors and law enforce­ment offi­cials, and encour­ag­ing the col­lec­tion of hate crime sta­tis­tics that help local and fed­eral law enforce­ment track and address this issue. ADL rep­re­sen­ta­tives also helped craft the sem­i­nal OSCE pub­li­ca­tion, Hate Crime Laws: A Prac­ti­cal Guide, and main­tain rela­tion­ships with many human rights groups to track anti-Semitism, hate crimes, and vio­lence and dis­crim­i­na­tion against LGBT per­sons at home and abroad.  ADL Wash­ing­ton Office Direc­tor Stacy Bur­dett, who also attended the con­fer­ence, leads that work.

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