Shmuley Boteach

Kerry’s willful moral blindness about gays in Iran

The Secretary of State needs to hold Teheran's feet to the fire for its horrid treatment of homosexuals

The reaction was powerful. And swift. And just.

As soon as Secretary of State John Kerry heard that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni had signed into law draconian edicts against gays – including a 14-year sentence for first time offenders and life imprisonment for repeat offenders, or, “aggravated homosexuality” – Kerry put out a firm warning to Uganda. “This legislation is not just morally wrong, it complicates a valued relationship. Now that this law has been enacted, we are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the Government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values.”

Kerry’s threat to withhold more than $400 million in annual American economic and military aid to Uganda was followed by a moral condemnation, comparing the news Ugandan law to the Holocaust. Speaking to a small group of reporters he said, “You could change the focus of this legislation to black or… Jewish, and you could be in 1930s Germany or you could be in 1950s, 60s apartheid South Africa.”

In the 35 years since the rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran its leaders have threatened a second holocaust – the annihilation of the State of Israel – more times than anyone can count. Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the supreme leader, did so as recently as last November when he threatened the ‘rabid dog’ of Israel with doom and annihilation. That Kerry and President Obama have chosen to overlook direct, rather than only inferred, references to the holocaust and release more than $10 billion in Iranian assets to the world’s foremost terror-funding regime is troubling enough.

But what of Iran’s, rather than just Uganda’s, treatment of homosexuals. Why has Kerry only blown a gasket over the threat of life imprisonment to gays in Uganda while in Iran they are regularly hung from cranes in public in the most gruesome form of execution.

Yes, I know that Ahmadinejad assured 700 Columbia students in 2007 that gays in Iran don’t exist, saying, “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. We don’t have that in our country. In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I do not know who has told you that we have it.” And the tragic truth is that given how many gays are being executed in Iran he might just be right.

In September, 2012 Ahmadinejad told Piers Morgan that homosexuality is an “ugly deed” and compared homosexuals to thieves. But Iran’s standards the comment was absolutely tame. As the Huffington Post reported, the truth is that just three months before he said this Iran executed four men – Saadat Arefi, Vahid Akbari, Javid Akbari and Houshmand Akbari – on charges of sodomy under their nation’s sharia laws. A month just before that one of Iran’s influential clerics, Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi-Amoli, from the holy city of Qom, condemned homosexuals as inferior to dogs and pigs.

Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia’s entry for homosexuality in post-revolutionary Iran: “Sodomy (lavat) can in certain circumstances be a crime for which both partners can be punished by death. If the participants are adults, of sound mind and consenting; the method of execution is for the judge to decide… A non-adult who engages in consensual sodomy is subject to a punishment of 74 lashes.”

Ah. Leniency at last! Teenage gays are only whipped 74 times rather than getting the noose and the crane.

One wonders how John Kerry can sit down so regularly with Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Zarif, negotiating away America and Israel’s security, without once telling him the same thing he said about Uganda and homosexuality and its comparison to the Holocaust. Where is Kerry’s public warning to Iran about their brutal murder of homosexuals?

By any measure, the medieval, barbaric, murderous actions of the Iranian government against gays is far worse than Uganda. But come hell or high water, John Kerry is going to do his Iran nuclear deal. If that means overlooking Iran’s stated intent to destroy Israel, he’s prepared to do that. It’s only words right?

And if it means overlooking Iran’s support of Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations that murder Americans, he seems prepared to do that too. OK, it’s not just words. But at least it’s not nuclear weapons, right? And if it means remaining silent as gays continue to be hung from cranes in Iranian cities, he’ll do that too.

I believe with all my heart that John Kerry is a moral and good man who wants to do the right thing. But his capacity to show great moral courage – as when he first wished to punish Assad for gassing children – is beginning to seriously conflict with what seems to be too many instances of willful moral blindness.

Mr. Secretary, it’s time to speak up.

About the Author
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the founder of This World: The Values Network. He is the author of Judaism for Everyone and 30 other books, including his most recent, Kosher Lust. Follow him on Twitter@RabbiShmuley.
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