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July 1, 2016

Iranian Commemoration of Al-Quds Day Includes Anti-Semitic and Harsh Anti-Israel Expressions

Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day, which takes place on the last Friday of Ramadan, was initiated in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic revolution in Iran, as a show of solidarity with the Palestinians and to assert the Islamic claim over Jerusalem. While events are held around the world, in Iran, it is often marked by a hateful demonstration of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment, manifest in government organized rallies and other activities. Before this years’ Al Quds day (July 1), Iran’s leadership rallied the country.  Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei called its commemoration and support for the oppressed Palestinians an important religious duty.

The Islamic Propagation Coordination Council in a statement called for widespread participation in Quds Day demonstrations and asked them to repeat the same slogans “Death to America, Death to Israel and Death to international Zionism and Imperialism.” It was reported that in one Quds Day demonstration, placards were held up which called for Israel’s destruction by the year 2040, and people chanting “Death to America” threw stones at a mock Statue of Liberty. In advance of Al Quds day, Iran’s Fars news agency published a wave of harsh anti-Semitic and anti-Israel cartoons, some with classical anti-Semitic themes, such as Jewish world domination, depicting the world under the control of a Jewish/Israeli octopus, worm or spider:

Others are of a more anti-Israel nature, yet similarly conspiratorial in that they imply Israel is a part of a broader, if not global, U.S. plot. One depicts Israel as a dog operated by the U.S. against Gaza, while another shows the U.S. and an Arab figure – most probably representing the Saudi royal family who are bitter rivals of the Islamic Republic – forming together a Star of David, as though they are working in the service of Israel and the Jews.

Other cartoons depict an Israel on the verge of destruction.  One depicts an Israeli figure running away just before a dam with a Star of David collapses, as a result of a mass of people, with the caption “Death to Israel”. Another cartoon shows an Israeli soldier drowning in blood represented by the red part of the Palestinian flag.

Other cartoons demonize Israel by deforming the appearances of an Israeli soldier shown with satanic ears and with teeth shaped like nuclear missiles, while another of former Israeli president Shimon Peres depicts him as a demonic figure.

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June 20, 2016

LGBT Communities at Risk: Another Case for Immigration Reform

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog originally appeared on Medium

The assault on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Orlando last weekend that left 49 dead and more than 50 wounded in its wake was in many ways unprecedented and, in many others, far too familiar. It was the deadliest mass public shooting in American history. And it shattered sacred moments of multiple communities.

First and foremost, it violated Pride Month, designated as the time of year when LGBT people and their allies can celebrate their difference. The violence occurred during the weekend when we marked the Jewish festival of Shavuot — the culmination of a 49-day count between our festival of liberation from slavery in Egypt and the moment when the Jews remember receiving the wisdom of our holy Torah at Mount Sinai. And the attack tore at the peace of Ramadan, when Muslims seek to be closer to God and to focus on their inner selves.

All of the Abrahamic religions are rooted in texts that pave the way to peace. It is in these times that we must find those strands of faith which bind us together. Already, many faith communities have come together in cities across the country, united in grief, standing in solidarity with the LGBT community, and looking for answers as to how a lone gunman with hatred in his heart could wreak such devastation.

But even in this moment, we must take note that it is not just in this country where the LGBT community is at risk. Across the globe, LGBT people face persecution, legalized discrimination, and the threat of both state-sanctioned violence and brutality at the hands of non-state actors.

Across the globe, LGBT people face persecution, legalized discrimination, and the threat of both state-sanctioned violence and brutality at the hands of non-state actors.

We have seen the members of the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) literally throw individuals from rooftops, simply for being suspected of the “crime” of being gay. Hamas executes individuals without trial for the same “offense.”The Islamic Republic of Iran also has been known to hang young men suspected of homosexuality.

The violence in Orlando and the elevated risk of violence that LGBT people face around the world cannot be separated. There is some debate about the motives of the gunman, Omar Mateen. During the crime, he claimed allegiance to ISIS and his apparent homophobia is consistent with their bigoted teachings. At the same time, some have claimed he was wrestling with his own repressed sexual identity.

Whatever the cause, according to the U.S. Office for Refugee Resettlement, an estimated 3,500 LGBT refugees land on our shores every year, seeking to escape torment in their homelands. This also is true of the millions of Muslims fleeing the brutality tearing apart their homelands, such as the civil war in Syria or the destruction of Iraq. They are not alone — we also see other embattled minorities, including Christians from the Middle East and abused women from around the world coming to our shores, seeking refuge from violence and oppression.

As we pause and consider World Refugee Day, our common humanity and Jewish values compel us to hear their cries and embrace these victims.

The notions espoused by certain public figures of refusing refuge to the downtrodden, or rejecting widows and children at our borders simply because of the sins of a handful of their co-religionists, is not a policy. It’s a travesty, an affront to all notions of decency. We can do better on behalf of those who have lost everything.

To date, the trickle of such refugees permitted entry into this country pales in comparison to the scores of millions who come to our shores every year through business and tourism visas. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Stateapproved 10.8 million nonimmigrant travel visas, as compared to 531,463 immigrant visas.

Nonetheless, we should strengthen the screening processes to ensure that those who come to our shores are legitimate refugees who need our support. And individuals hailing from illiberal democracies undoubtedly need education and integration to mainstream them into our liberal democracy to ensure they embrace and understand our civic culture and common values.

On this day, as we acknowledge and elevate the plight of refugees around the world, let us root our work in chesed, the Jewish value of benevolence and compassion. Let us remind ourselves that we were once strangers, as we are told in the Torah and as we have experienced throughout history.

Let us remind ourselves that we were once strangers, as we are told in the Torah and as we have experienced throughout history.

We can anchor this approach in the enduring words of Emma Lazarus, inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor; Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free….” And we can galvanize this commitment by reclaiming what the terrorist attempted to take from us in Orlando — our common humanity.

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June 2, 2016

Winners of Iran’s Holocaust Cartoon Contest Announced

A French cartoonist with a long record of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel art work has been named the winner of Iran’s most recent Holocaust cartoon contest.  Zeon, who the Iranian media said was arrested in the past for his “anti-Zionist” cartoons in 2015, won the $12,000 prize.  His winning work features what appears to be the entry gate of a Nazi-era death camp atop a cash register with six million in cash inside.

The next day, the Iranian Cultural-Art Masaf Institute announced a new  cartoon contest – this time calling for submissions on the  “Zionist Caliphate” that will focus on “Zionism, terrorism and racism” and “ISIL terrorism and genocide in the name of religion and to the benefit of the Zionists.” Conspiracy theories linking ISIS and Israel are common in the region.

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