‘A Nation of People’

How does the uprising in Iran look from my perspective, as a Jewish American?

Hundreds of thousands — by some estimates millions — of people protesting against a fraudulent election and a repressive regime? Thousands streaming through the streets in silent protest? A revolution facilitated by a Web site that gives users only 140 characters to make their point?

For nearly a week now, I’ve been contemplating how to respond, and I can’t get past one fundamental thing: The ire of the Iranian people is directed squarely at President Ahmadinejad, a madman with well-known and often articulated anti-Semitic and anti-Israel views.

Here are some of the Ahmadinejad quotes that are seared into the collective conscience of my Jewish community:

  • “The skirmishes in the occupied land are part of a war of destiny. The outcome of hundreds of years of war will be defined in Palestinian land. As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map.”
  • “Israel is a tyrannical regime that will one day will be destroyed.”
  • “The real Holocaust is what is happening in Palestine where the Zionists avail themselves of the fairy tale of Holocaust as blackmail and justification for killing children and women and making innocent people homeless.”

This, and so much more.

I’m not naive enough to think that those people out on the street are somehow now embracing Israel. I doubt most of them have ever met a Jew — there aren’t many left in the country. This is clearly an Iranian uprising, with uniquely Iranian origins. But part of what the people are protesting against is Ahmadinejad’s totalitarian, anti-Democratic excesses, including his anti-Western sabre-rattling. It may not be linked, but they are risking their lives to stand against one of the world’s most notorious anti-Semites.

Before the election, it was so easy to imagine Ahmadinejad represented a monolithic Iranian viewpoint. When he said Israel would be erased, his was the voice of Iran.

Now, we see that Iran has another voice. And like everyone else, the Israelis are moved by what they hear.

“We are all revolutionaries here,” Bradley Burston writes in today’s Haaretz:

The people in Tehran’s streets have made it possible to begin to see past Ahmadinejad. I have to get used to Iran not as a cartoon bully, but as my neighbor. Not because they will go nuclear … though nuclear they may well go. But because it is a nation of people, as we are, not pawns in an increasingly obsolete revolution.

A nation of people. People who use cell phones and send tweets.

As much as we knew this before, if we stopped and thought about it, we see it now — we feel it — and that changes everything.


5 Responses to “‘A Nation of People’”

  1. Loyal says:

    It is important to recognize the pluralism that you point out. At the same time both sides emphaiszed an anti-Israel stance. Whether sincere or not, it is perceived at least as a political necessity in modern Iran. This is particularly sad given the broad particpation of Persian Jews in Iranian society before the Islamic revolution.

    Also, a thought that haunts me about this election: was the overwhelming voter turn out a vote to turn out the Ahmadinejad regime or was it like we saw in the US in 2004 — a huge turnout by fundamentalists who had not previously voted. I don’t know how to tell. Any thoughts?


  2. Neurotic Dem says:

    A great question. I’ve heard over and over that the consistency of the vote from precinct to precinct is a statistical impossibility. That — and the millions of people who have taken to the street following this election — strongly suggest to me that it was not a surge in fundamentalism.

  3. Loyal says:

    that’s my feleing too, but I’m not certain. On BBC this morning were some contrasting views. One point made is that the disaffected are as a whole younger, better educated, more likely to speak English, and more likley to be in Tehran and thus are disproprotionately visible. they are also extremely passionate. So, we wait and see what emerges…

  4. Sorry for the delay in responding to your comment! NYC does have a nice population of adult American Oystercatchers! You should be seeing oystercatcher chicks now. Just keep in mind because of the high rate of human disturbance and predator access, there is a low rate of nest success. So….all those pairs and nests you see will not produce chicks.

  5. May be we are already looking into some action, though it has not been publicly announced. I am sure that in addition to the consultant the U hired almost a year ago, we are already looking into taking some action should it be needed.

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