Over the past years, the growing movement called BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) has made Israel its exclusive target. It has been a great puzzle for me to understand how the supporters of BDS who claim concern about peace and human rights have been silent when it comes to the tremendous pain and suffering caused by the government of Iran. If I had the opportunity, I would ask the supporters of BDS a few questions.
Here are the questions:
Does it not trouble you that today there are 200,000 dead Syrians and millions of refugees for two reasons: Iran and its proxy Hezbollah? The massive support provided by Iran and Hezbollah to the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad has somehow escaped the notice of supporters of BDS. Moreover, the horrific causes of so many of these deaths have also escaped their attention. Who is President Assad protecting himself from? Why aren’t the supporters of BDS criticizing the Assad regime for its crimes against humanity? Their silence is more than troubling- it is shameful.
In her 2014 speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial, America’s UN Ambassador Samantha Power said, “President Assad is deliberately targeting his own people – using indiscriminate air attacks, introducing the world to barrel bombs, denying civilians food in starvation campaigns and practicing systematic, industrial torture – all of this to force the Syrian people to submit to his will.”
If you still have any doubts, look at the evidence now on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial.
Do the citizens of Syria not have the right to live in freedom from brutality and terror at the hands of their own government?
The Iranian regime bears responsibility for Assad’s actions, for it is Iran that continues to arm and finance Damascus’ crimes against humanity. It is Iran that sends operatives from its own Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Hezbollah, to lead the fight for Bashar al-Assad.
To make matters worse, Iran’s support of terror does not end with Assad. Terrorist organizations have also benefited from Iran’s financial largesse.
Does it not trouble you that over the past decade, Iran has provided Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad with an endless supply of rockets, and the know-how to manufacture rockets, that have been fired at Israeli civilians? In fact, since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, more than 10,000 rockets have been fired at Israeli civilians from Gaza. In the summer of 2006, Hezbollah fired 4,000 rockets into northern Israel. These rockets serve a single purpose- to murder and maim innocent Israeli civilians. Some of these civilians are children playing with friends outside. Others are mothers caring for small infants. What crimes have these civilians committed? In the view of Hezbollah and Hamas, their only crime is that they were born Jewish.
Do the citizens of Israel not have a human right to live without the fear of rockets supplied by Iran to terrorist organizations? Does it not anger you when Iranian leaders openly call for the destruction of Israel? Are you not troubled when the Supreme Leader of Iran refers to Israel in terms reminiscent of the Nazis calling Israel a “rabid dog” and “true cancer tumor”?
Does it not trouble you that the people of Iran live in constant fear of their own government? Of special concern are members of the Baha’i community who are routinely persecuted. According to the report by Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, “At least 126 Baha’is were held in detention as of August 2014”.
Do members of the Baha’i faith in Iran not have a human right to freely practice their religion?
Furthermore, does it not trouble you that Iran ranks 123 out of 134 countries in the World Economic Forum gender equality rankings?
Are you not sickened to see that the gruesome practice of public executions on building cranes are a regular occurrence in Iran?
For those in the BDS movement, these questions are troubling in their own right. When a country like Iran is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions, all of us should be concerned.
For the past six years, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) has been advocating for stricter economic sanctions against the Iranian regime. UANI will continue to lobby for the economic isolation of Iran, because it is simply not acceptable for a regime that conducts itself in such a nefarious manner to have a nuclear weapons capability.
Some will ask what connection is there between Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and its abysmal human rights record. David Keyes, Executive Director of Advancing Human Rights, wrote this about the execution of the Iranian human rights activist and poet Hashem Shaabani. He wrote:
“As world powers attempt to negotiate an accord with Iran, they would do well to keep Shaabani in mind. What does the hanging of a poet have to do with nuclear negotiations? Everything. It gets to the heart of the nature of the regime”.
With all of the death and destruction caused by radical groups like ISIS, the facts are clear. Today, Iran still poses the greatest threat to peace and human rights. There is no doubt that a nuclear-armed Iran would only feel emboldened to do even worse.
Those who are truly concerned about peace and human rights should focus their efforts on the government of Iran. Otherwise, their silence is a damning indictment of sheer hypocrisy.
Bob Feferman is Outreach Coordinator for the non-partisan advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI).