A little more than 39 years ago my family and I along with thousands of Jews fled Iran to escape the radical Islamic and anti-Semitic regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini. After arriving in Los Angeles, my community of Iranian Jews was embraced and supported by our American Jewish brethren. Having fled Iran at a very young age, I have no recollections of that country nor the turmoil of that period. Yet for the last four decades America and America’s Jewish community have been my home and my anchor. Over the years I’ve realized the importance of social justice and “Tikkum Olam” (healing of the world) to a great number of American Jews. They have proudly been involved in supporting such importance causes in America and internationally on behalf of those seeking freedom and justice for various sources of tyranny. For the last week or so as widespread peaceful protests by average Iranians in all parts of Iran have been met by violence and by bloodshed by the Iranian regime, it is imperative for America’s Jews to now speak out and speak loudly in support of these innocent citizens of Iran seeking true freedom by regime change in their country.
While apologists for the Iranian regime have gone on U.S. and European news programs calling the recent protests by average Iranians in Iran as backlash for high fuel prices, nothing could be further from the truth. As an Iranian American journalist who is in contact with other journalists and bloggers in Iran, they have relayed the message that the people of Iran are simply fed up with the corruption, tyranny, lack of basic freedoms and lack of economic opportunities from the current radical Islamic regime in Iran. They have taken to the streets in all major cities and even smaller cities and towns to protest the lack of freedoms, lack of ability to sustain normal livelihoods in their own country and for the ouster of their oppressive dictatorship. The evil Iranian regime has cracked down on these peaceful protestors by randomly beating them, killing them, arresting them. The horrific images of the regime’s unmerciful brutality against the people of Iran with the use of live ammunition during this past week circulated by protestors on social media platforms are chilling. Moreover the Iranian regime has for the past several days totally shut down all Internet access to Iran’s entire 80 million population to prevent the protestors from exposing the regime’s heinous brutality and random killings of citizens on the streets of every city in the country.
The American Jewish community in the last 60 plus years has been very vocal in speaking out not only against anti-Semitism in the world, but against the evils of hate, war and lack of freedoms worldwide. Today I call on the American Jewish community who has long been strong proponents of social justice causes, equality and freedom movements to support the people of Iran that are fighting to rid themselves of an oppressive regime. During the Cold War was it not American Jewry who were among the most vocal against the tyranny of the former Soviet Union toward Jews and opponents of the Soviet Communist regime? Were American Jews not among those who voiced loud support and stood with Polish Solidarity union activists during their protest against the Communist Polish regime? Were American Jews not among the many that stood shoulder to shoulder with Nelson Mandela and his freedom movement against the apartheid system in South Africa? Did Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and other American Jewish activists not march arm in arm with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Right Movement? And even today, many American Jewish congregations have even taken on the cause of “Tikkun Olam” or healing the world through their volunteerism in their own neighborhoods and to parts of poverty stricken Africa. Therefore it is imperative that this long and proud tradition of support for real social justice movements must continue and be carried forward by American Jews for the plight of average Iranian citizens seeking greater freedoms in their country and better economic opportunities despite the repression they have faced from their oppressive radical Islamic regime. We cannot and we must not remain silent and on the side lines while innocent men, women and even children are beaten and slaughtered in the streets of Iranian cities just for protesting against a corrupt government that has done nothing to improve their lives but instead spent their country’s wealth on funding terrorist groups throughout the Middle East.
Supporting the protestors in the streets of Iran who want regime change in their country, is not merely to the ultimate benefit of America and Israel’s security, but more importantly it is the right and moral thing to do. After all do we as Jews not read the Torah every year in the book of Deuteronomy in Parashat Shoftim which states “justice, justice shall you pursue”? As a people who for millennia have faced unspeakable violence, hatred, injustice, pogroms and even genocide, we have always spoken out in every part of the world in support of those who were downtrodden and oppressed.
Today our support of the peace-loving people of Iran would be no different and essential at this juncture in time. And even if the Iranian ayatollahs and military apparatus ruling Iran may claim our support for the average Iranian protesters is a part of some “great American or Zionist conspiracy” to bring down their regime, we must stand steadfast with those Iranians seeking a democratic representative government in their country. How much longer can we stand idle and not speak up while the regime in Iran not only slaughters and imprisons its own citizens, but whose leaders constantly deny the Holocaust and call for a second annihilation against our people in Israel?
More importantly for Jews and non-Jews who love peace and abhor war, standing in solidarity with the people of Iran protesting today is a moral and just thing to support because it avoids unnecessary conflict between nations when the people of Iran will eventually overthrow their country’s oppressive leaders. Unlike their repressive regime, the vast majority of people in Iran harbor no hate for Americans or any other group. Most average Iranians are perhaps some of the most peace-loving, hospitable and kind individual you may ever come across. We as American Jews, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, conservative and liberal, secular and religious, have a duty to speak with one voice for freedom and in support of those innocents in Iran who want to liberate their own country from a repressive regime. We as American Jews must today recall the gift of freedom the ancient Persian king, Cyrus the Great. He granted us freedom from the bondage of Babylonian captivity 2,700 years ago and in turn today we must stand with his descendants in Iran who are seeking international support to free themselves from the yoke of radical Islamic bondage and oppression.