Free Thoughts on Iran
Front Page | About FToI | Authors | Archives | Comment Policy | Disclaimer
e-mail

Monthly Archive: November 2004
bra.gif October 2004 | Main | December 2004 ket.gif

November 22, 2004

From caring about our national pride to Anti-Arab racism
Yaser Kerachian  [info|posts]

Persiangulf.jpgIt has probably started from one email. One day, someone has noticed that in the recent issue of National Geographic's Atlas of the world, Arabian Gulf has been used in addition to Persian Gulf, in a parenthesis. He wrote an email to his friends. Since then, the email has travelled hundreds of kilometers around the globe. Recently, a group of Iranian intellectuals also reacted to the issue and signed a petition. The Iranian government banned National Geographic reporters and sales of the magazine until Atlas changes.

A year ago, I was involved in a similar case against one of the local newspapers in Toronto. Initially I thought that my Iranian friends would be very reluctant to do anything. Unlike my expectation, there was a large number of phone calls, emails and letters to the paper. They finally had to beg us to ask our friends not to call them anymore after ensuring us that they will never repeat their mistake!

My initial expectation of weak reaction from Iranians to this issue has come from comparison with other similar cases. We are never good in doing any collective action in order to defend our rights or protest for them. It is also hard to see Iranians united on anything. In addition to that, recently, we are all very busy with our individualistic life and care much less about what is going around us. So, what has really happened that everyone now is very concerned about the gulf story?

It is definitely the right thing to protest against the use of Arabian Gulf instead of Persian Gulf. However, in my opinion, Iranians’ reaction to this issue is disproportionate and with a high opportunity cost. It is totally reasonable if an Atlas mentions another name of Persian Gulf in a parenthesis since it is now -right or wrong- used by many countries. I would like to argue that what has happened, mostly reflects our Anti-Arab racism other than anything else. We tend to be very racist toward Arab people and think that we are superior to barbaric Arabs. How many times have you stressed to your friends that you are not Arab? This racist subconscious has played its role here. We cannot tolerate others calling what is Persian, Arab! It is sad to see that Iranians don’t do much for other things when they should, take a simple example of defending the women's right to go to stadiums in Iran. The only thing that we are sensitive and may react to is when our so-called national pride is hurt meaning that others think that Iranians are Arabs! It is no doubt that the reason Arabs are using the Arab gulf reflects their racism toward us, as well. Having said that, this war on names seems to be a mini-racial war, and I would like to question its benefit.

Another interesting aspect of this story for me is looking at the type of the protest. So far, it has all been email forwarding and petition signing, the kinds of things that generally take less than ten seconds to do. We are all again good at doing these things! However, when it comes to persistence and patience and devoting a bit more time, it is hard to find anybody!

It is worth to mention the similar story which took place a few months ago. It was said in the news that Iran has asked to get a observer seat in the Arab League, something very normal in international politics. Turkey had filed the same request. However, at the time, there was a widespread protest even among some Iranian scholars saying that we are losing our national identity! Something that wouldn’t have happened if Iran was seeking to join a union with some countries with white people, if possible, EU. I'd like to refer you to the article that Pedram wrote about it at the time.

In such a difficult time in history, Iranians and Arabs should all put aside their racist minds and look for more cooperation. In many aspects, we have a lot of things in common with Arab countries, especially the fact that we are all rich in oil. Our countries are located in the same strategic region and we are all facing some level of dictatorship. We have similar problems and opportunities. It is only through our friendship with Arabs that would guarantee the correct naming of the Persian gulf.

November 17, 2004

Nuclear Dilemma
Hamed Seyed-allaei  [info|posts]

pinocchio.jpg

If you have something, it will be easy to prove your possestion. It is enough to show that, then every body will accept that you have it.
If you do not have something, it will be logically impossible to prove. Because whatever you do, they might think that you are hiding it.
When someone insists on such an irrational argument, it means that he wants something else which is provable. What it is , I do not know. I can only hope that it will not cost me a lot.

November 16, 2004

Yasser Arafat: The End of an Era
Ali Mostashari  [info|posts]

Arafat1.jpg

A week has passed since Yasser Arafat has died. Love him or hate him, Yasser Arafat was an icon of Palestinian nationhood. His death heralds a new era, with equal potentials for peace and continued violence. While there is no way of knowing how developments will shape the future of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it is worthwhile to look at how Arafat's leadership has influenced the Palestinian cause in different ways. The aim here is not to pass judgment on the man and his life, but to use this as a case study in understanding one of the many ways charismatic leadership can impact social movements. This article is a two-part article looking at the Arafat phenomenon within the background of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Short History of the Conflict

It is always contentious to talk about history, particularly the history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Depending on where people stand, there are different alternatives of history that are presented and defended with fervor. The version presented here is based on United Nations historical documentations. It is important to note that in this conflict there is no neutral representation of facts. There are tens, if not hundreds of alternative versions available to the readers elsewhere. Therefore readers should not take this representation as either exclusive, objective, representative of "the truth" or comprehensive. It reflects my personal belief in the objectivity of the United Nations narrative, and is only intended for setting the stage for analyzing Arafat's role in the events.

During the years of the Palestine Mandate, from 1922 to 1947, large-scale Jewish immigration from abroad, mainly from Eastern Europe took place, the numbers swelling in the 1930s with the notorious Nazi persecution of Jewish populations. Palestinian demands for independence and resistance to Jewish immigration led to a rebellion in 1937, followed by continuing terrorism and violence from both sides during and immediately after World War II. Great Britain tried to implement various formulas to bring independence to a land ravaged by violence. In 1947, Great Britain in frustration turned the problem over to the United Nations.

After looking at various alternatives, the UN proposed the partitioning of Palestine into two independent States, one Palestinian Arab and the other Jewish, with Jerusalem internationalized (Resolution 181 (II) of 1947). One of the two States envisaged in the partition plan proclaimed its independence as Israel and in the 1948 war expanded to occupy 77 per cent of the territory of Palestine. Israel also occupied the larger part of Jerusalem. Over half the indigenous Palestinian population fled or were expelled. Jordan and Egypt occupied the other parts of the territory assigned by the partition resolution to the Palestinian Arab State, which did not come into being.

In the 1967 war, Israel occupied the remaining territory of Palestine, until then under Jordanian and Egyptian control (the West Bank and Gaza Strip). This included the remaining part of Jerusalem, which was subsequently annexed by Israel. The war brought about a second exodus of Palestinians, estimated at half a million. Security Council resolution 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967 called on Israel to withdraw from territories it had occupied in the 1967 conflict.

In 1964, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was established in East Jerusalem (occupied by Jordan). In its infancy, the PLO was not associated with violence. But from 1967 on, it became dominated by an organization called Al Fatah, led by Yasser Arafat. The PLO militarily attacked Israeli interests all over the world, often targeting military as well as civilian targets. A group affiliated with the PLO, called "Black September", took Israeli athletes hostage in the 1972 Olympics and killed two of the athletes. Subsequent rescue operations by the German police led to the death of 9 additional athletes. From this point onwards the image of the PLO became internationally associated with terrorism.

In 1974, the General Assembly reaffirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty, and to return. The following year, the General Assembly established the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. With the PLO chosen as the representatives of the Palestinian people in the Arab League conference in Rabat in 1974, the General Assembly conferred on the PLO the status of observer in the Assembly and in other international conferences held under United Nations auspices.

In June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon with the declared intention to eliminate the PLO. A cease-fire was arranged. PLO troops withdrew from Beirut and were transferred to neighboring countries after guarantees of safety were provided for thousands of Palestinian refugees left behind. Subsequently, a large-scale massacre of refugees took place in the camps of Sabra and Shatila by pro-Israeli Christian Lebanese militia, allegedly with the direct order of Ariel Sharon.

In December 1987, a mass uprising against the Israeli occupation began in the occupied Palestinian territory. The Intifada, as the uprising was called, mainly included Palestinian children throwing stones at Israeli troops. The first Intifada was limited to the occupied territories and did not impact Israel proper. Methods used by the Israeli forces during the uprising resulted in mass injuries and heavy loss of life among the civilian Palestinian population, most of them young people.

A peace conference on the Middle East was convened in Madrid on 30 October 1991, with the aim of achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement through direct negotiations along 2 tracks: between Israel and the Arab States, and between Israel and the Palestinians, based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) (the "land for peace" formula). A series of subsequent negotiations culminated in the mutual recognition between the Government of the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, the representative of the Palestinian People, and the signing by the two parties of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements in Washington, D.C., on 13 September 1993, as well as the subsequent implementation agreements, which led to several other positive developments, such as the partial withdrawal of Israeli forces, the elections to the Palestinian Council and the presidency of the Palestinian Authority, the partial release of prisoners and the establishment of a functioning administration in the areas under Palestinian self-rule. The Oslo accord, as the agreements were called turned out to be ineffective in changing the status of the Palestinian people. The failure has been attributed to the lack of a viable Palestinian economy due to both leadership corruption and hardship inflicted by the Israeli occupation, as well as the emptiness of financial aid promises of Western nations, which failed to materialize.

On September 28, 2000, the Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount (called Har HaBayt in Hebrew, Al-Haram As-Sharif in Arabic) in Jerusalem, the holiest site for Judaism, the third holiest site in Islam, and a place of special significance to Christianity. Sharon's impending visit was officially announced in advance, and prior to it some moderates on both sides protested, because of his controversial political stance and his massive armed bodyguard — over 1,000 strong. He was warned that this could lead to riots but Sharon declared that he went to the site with a message of peace. On the site, he publicly proclaimed the area as eternal Israeli territory, reiterating Israel's official policy, according to the Jerusalem Law passed by the Knesset in 1980.

The day after Sharon's visit, large riots broke out around Old Jerusalem; during the riots, several Palestinians were shot dead. One of the deaths, of a 12-year-old boy, Muhammad al-Durrah, was captured on videotape and broadcast around the world. Images of the boy and his father caught in the crossfire, attempting to hide behind a concrete water barrel caused much outrage throughout the world. On October 12, two Israeli reservists who entered Ramallah were arrested by the PA police. A Palestinian mob stormed the police station and lynched the Israeli soldiers: they beat the soldiers to death, threw them out of the window, stabbed them, dragged them on the road and mutilated their bodies. The brutal lynch were captured on video and was broadcasted on TV, outraging Israeli and global public opinion. In retaliation for the deaths of the two soldiers, Israel launched a series of air strikes against the Palestinian Authority destroying the little infrastructure built with foreign aid, as a warning to not allow such things happen again. The cycle of violence between the two sides is too intensive and too painful to recount fully. For a full list of casualties on both sides refer to the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories website.
It’s time to turn my attention to Yasser Arafat, for he is the main topic of this post.

Military years of the PLO

A detailed overview of Arafat’s life can be viewed in this article. The part of interest to our discussion starts with the Battle of Al-Karameh. In this battle, several hundred Palestinian militias led by Yasser Arafat, and aided by the Jordanian military battled Israeli troops that attacked the village of Al-Karameh on the East bank of the Jordan river and forced the Israeli troops to withdraw. While over a hundred Palestinians were killed in exchange for less than 20 Israeli troops, the battle was proclaimed victory and the corpses of Israeli soldiers were taken to Amman for people to see. This victory (I am not sure what to call it, but I guess the issue is relative) made Arafat famous and ensured him the leadership of the PLO. A civil war in Jordan between the Palestinian refugees and the Jordanian government in 1970 led to the killing of many PLO members and the expulsion of the PLO from Jordan to Lebanon. Like most other incidents on the Middle East the real nature of the events of Black September are in dispute, but they range from Arafat trying to seize power by toppling King Hussein, to an Israeli plot to alienate Jordan from the PLO. The PLO distanced itself from the “Black September” killings of Israeli athletes in 1972, but it is hard to imagine that they did not welcome the shift in public perception of the struggle as a Palestinian/Israeli struggle instead of an Arab/Israeli struggle.

In 1974 Arafat was invited by the UN to talk to the general assembly. The U.S. denied him visa, which made his speech all the more important, with the entire general assembly moving to Geneva to hear him speak. This melodrama, turned into an international incident was an unintended, and yet quite powerful public relations stunt by the U.S. government for Mr. Arafat and his Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Arafat and Iran

With the Iranian revolution of 1979, Israel saw one of its closest allies turn into one of its most important enemies. Yasser Arafat was one of the first foreign officials to travel to Iran after the revolution. He met with Ayatollah Khomeini and allegedly advised him on creating a militia force as a parallel structure to the professional Iranian army, so that it could defend the revolution should the Army’s loyalty be in question. It is said that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard of Iran emerged out of this suggestion, but this is currently just speculation. Iran closed the Israeli Embassy in Tehran and turned it into the PLO’s official headquarters and embassy, making it one of the few places where the Palestinian flag was flying. Yet, the honeymoon did not last long. After the invasion of Iran by Saddam Hussein, Arafat and the PLO chose to support Saddam in the conflict, probably due to the idea of Arab solidarity, as well as Arafat’s disdain for Islamicists at that time. In fact it is said that some Palestinians fought alongside Iraqi forces in the Iran-Iraq war. While this was never really substantiated, it fueled a lot of resentment among middle class Iranians towards the Palestinian cause. The Middle East being the strange mixture it is saw other interesting developments. In a scandal, later known as the Iran-Contra affair, allegedly the Israeli government approached the United States in August 1985 with a proposal to act as an intermediary by shipping 508 American-made TOW anti-tank missiles to Iran in exchange for the release of the Reverend Benjamin Weir, an American hostage being held by Iranian sympathizers in Lebanon, with the understanding that the United States would then ship replacement missiles to Israel. President Reagan then used the funds from these arm sales to support the Contras in Nicaragua. The rationale of Israel helping its enemy Iran with arms sales has been explained by the perception that Iraq was the more dangerous enemy at that time, and that it couldn’t hurt having two enemies exhaust their mutual resources in war.

In the next Part, I will continue the discussion with the role of Arafat in the first intifada.

November 07, 2004

An old old epic
Hamed Seyed-allaei  [info|posts]

docock.jpg Once upon a time there was a king who was like any other one. The only thing which makes him the subject of our story is not the king himself. Our king had a cook which was unique in all the world at all times. He was able to cook very delicious dishes that no one had cooked before and after.

This is an old bloody epic, like our bloody world. I do not recommend it to Iranian and underaged children.

The king loved his cook very much; therefore, one day he asked the cook to make a wish.

"Your Majesty, my only wish is to serve you which is the job that I am doing now", the cook responded. But the king insisted on and convinced the cook to make a wish.

"Your Highness, my only wish is to kiss your shoulder", the cook requested gracefully.

"Are you sure that this is all you want ?", the king asked amusingly.

"Yes your Majesty, this is my only wish and I think you're not going to refuse it", the cook replied.

"You can have your wish.", the king said with great enthusiasm.

The king was happy that his cook had made such a inexpensive wish but he didn't know about the consequences. The cook kissed both shoulders of the king and then vanished which was unbelievable for the king and his ministers but
it was not as unbelievable as the two huge snakes that came out of the shoulders of the king. The king was frightened to death by the awful snakes.

"Go, go and bring here the best doctors of my kingdom", he shouted. All of the best were gathered but no one could find any cure for the poor king. Every one was hopless. And then, a doctor came that no one had ever heard of.

"There is no cure, you have to put up with the snakes". the doctor said.

"What a great proposal! Cut his head off!", the king said with anger.

"Just a moment your Highness! I have no cure for the snakes but I know how to stop them from killing you.", the doctor screamed. "They will eat your brain if you do not stop them and I am the only one who knows how." the doctor said and then smiled. Finally, he could catch the attention of the King.

"Well, tell me. What should I do?" king asked impatiently.

"You have to feed them every day with fresh brains of two young men, otherwise they will have yours instead." He continued and then vanished. Which was a surprise for the council of the king, although they were starting to get used to that. Rumor has it that the doctor was in fact the same cook and some go further and say that it was the devil who used this trick to get his revenge from our kind.

The command commenced and every day two men were brought to the kitchen of the palace. After all, he was the king and the most important person in his kingdom. What was wrong with sacrificing a couple of worthless men to save the king and the country?

At that very time, a wise man was among the kitchen's staff. He was the one who was supposed to slaughter the poor men. He was bad enough to accept the job but good enough to kill less. He devised a wise plan. He killed one man every day and let the other one flee away and instead of his brain, he used a cow's brain. I wonder how he preferred one to the other. The stronger, the more handsome, or did he just flip a coin? I should confess that he had a very difficult task that few people could do.

Well, now I am tired and I am going to sleep. You can go and find what happend to the king in "Shaahnaameh", the book by the celebrated Iranian poet "Ferdowsi".

November 03, 2004

The People Have Spoken..
Ali Mostashari  [info|posts]

4dummies.jpg
The people of the United States of America have spoken (by a margin of 3.8 million votes) for the re-election of George W. Bush. This was a historic event by all means, and I believe we will see the impacts not just in the U.S., but on a global basis, and not just in the next four years, but in the decade to come. There is a lot or room to debate the effects, but I take this moment to declare:

I just realized that it is difficult to live in a democratic society when the majority people in that society have values that are not only different, but also diametrically opposed to mine, which they seek to impose on my life.

No, I am not joking. This is precisely the emotion I caught in my sub-conscious when watching the election coverage last night. ""What the..", "are these people crazy?"..."I can't believe they voted for this moron...." etc. And then it dawned on me. Despite what I have tried to make myself believe, I have not been able to internalize a democratic spirit within me. The reason I push for democracy in my own country may merely be the fact that democracy would actually push Iran in a direction which I believe to be the right one. This is sad to realize, very sad indeed.

So what if the American people believe that the Iraqi civillian toll of more than 100,000 (as of October 20, 2004) was not an issue. So what if they voted for a person who said "Do I think faith will be an important part of being a good president? Yes, I do.". So what if they decided that Christian Fundamentalism is the way to go. So what if they are for cutting social security, increasing military spending, increasing deficits, and decreasing civil liberties. It's their inalienable right, it's their country. But it still doesn't sink in...again comes the question: "How could America, with all of its potentials...?"

"Gnothi se auton" (Know thyself), has a whole new meaning today.