donderdag 24 mei 2018

Israeli Miko Peled in Iran

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Iran Miko Peled d017b
Trump’s declaration regarding the US backing out of the Iran agreement came just days before my trip to Iran was confirmed and my visa was approved. I was asked by several people if I was still going, thinking that Trump’s declaration that sanctions were going to be reinstated was a de factodeclaration of war on Iran. I wasn’t going to let Donald Trump dictate where I was or was not going and certainly I was not going to cancel a trip into which so much effort had been placed by my hosts. My only concern was that I might get stopped and questioned by the authorities upon my return to the US.
I was interested to see Iran and to hear what people in Iran thought of Trump’s declaration and also how they felt regarding Israel’s constant accusations and threats of attack. I had a clue of what Iranian attitudes might be thanks to a piece written by Orly Noy in the progressive Hebrew online magazine Mekomit. Orly Noy is an Israeli journalist who was born and raised in Iran and is fluent in Farsi. In this piece, she quoted responses from people in Iran as they were expressed on social media. One response came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the display of documents he alleged were smuggled out of Iran by Mossad agents. There were hundreds of thousands of documents weighing a total of half a ton in which, so Netanyahu claims, it was made clear that Iran was lying and was not abiding by the agreement. In response to this one Iranian wrote, “Netanyahu finally discovered our secret intent: to attack Israel with fifty thousand paper airplanes.” Other responses were equally dismissive.
My first impression of Iran and its people was the calm and cleanliness one feels even in a large city like Mashhad, which has a population of five million and was my first point of entry. And, unlike the Middle-East and Europe, in Iran, it is rare to see people smoke. Mashhad, is considered a holy city and it is the home of the Imam Reza shrine, which I was told can accommodate all five million people within its compound during prayer. I visited the shrine along with a few friends between midnight and 2 AM and still there were many people there worshipping, some sitting in silent contemplation and there were even families enjoying a late-night picnic. Returning to the hotel I could not help mentioning to my friends that there are not many cities of that size in the world where one feels completely comfortable and safe to walk at 2 o’clock in the morning.
The most common response I received when asking people about their thoughts and concerns on the issue of the sanctions and Israeli threats was a smile, “We have been living under sanctions for many years and the lifting of the sanctions in 2013 brought very little change. So now we are going to live with sanctions again.” As for the Israeli threats, “we are not afraid, we are strong and will defend our land as we have always done.” It is worth noting that Iran has not attacked a single country in recent history though it has been the target of attacks and political assassinations by foreign powers. At the same time, Iran has been a staunch supporter of both the Palestinian resistance and the Lebanese resistance against Israeli oppression violence.
Still, with large corporations like the French oil and gas giant Total and Danish shipping giant Maersk announcing they will back out of deals they had made with Iran there is definitely cause for concern. It is still unclear what French automakers like Peugeot will do since they’re part of large conglomerates and use parts made in the US. Furthermore, even though European countries declared that they remain committed to the Iran deal, it is unclear whether or not they will bow to American pressure because of fear of American retaliation. Another concern for the European corporations is the fact that so much of international banking is controlled by the US and transfer of funds will be all but impossible if they continue to do business with Iran. So will the Europeans show back bone and stand with Iran or will they cower, that remains to be seen.
Two particularly interesting experiences I had took place while visited Yazd in central Iran. The first was speaking in front of cadets of the notable Revolutionary Guards. Some two hundred young cadets along with their officers sat on the floor of the mosque on base and listened intently. Their young, bright faces so attentive one could hear a pin drop. I told them that even though I was introduced as an American, I was not actually American – though I reside in the US I was Israeli and the son of an Israeli army general. I told them of my niece who was killed when three young Palestinians blew themselves up during a suicide mission. I also told them that I reject Israel as a political entity and look forward to the day when Palestine is free and democratic. I ended my talk by saying that “When Palestine is freed from the racist, apartheid regime under which it is currently suffering, you must come to Al-Quds to pray in Al-Aqsa mosque and then visit me in Jerusalem.” There was no fear or sense of insecurity in their faces but rather a confident calmness. Their attention, their questions later and their warm applause were reassuring. I also told them what I believe to be true, and that is that neither Israel nor the United States will dare to actually attack Iran.
The other remarkable experience I had took place later the same day at a local high school. What does one say to a room full of young Iranian high school boys? What do they know of Palestine? I looked at the three hundred or so boys who sat on the floor waiting to hear me speak and decided to ask them what they knew about Falasteen. After a short pause, one young boy raised his hand. “Falasteen,” he began, “was a place of peace and tranquility. It was a land where Muslims, Jews and Christians all lived and worshiped in peace, until it was invaded and occupied.” I could not have wished for a better answer. I am one of the occupiers, I admitted. My family had participated in the invasion, occupation and oppression that we see today in Palestine.
“Our Supreme Leader” one student asked, “says that in twenty-five years there will be no Israel.” What did I say to that? Well, we know that by “no Israel” he means that Palestine will be free and the Zionist regime will be gone. That he wishes for a day when Muslims, Jews and Christians will be once again able to live and worship in peace. I would ask, I told them, that they do me a favor and help me and millions of Palestinians and millions of supporters of Palestine, and prove the Supreme Leader wrong by making this happen sooner than twenty-five years.
Throughout the visit, both during lectures and other occasions I had received a few questions and comments that were critical of the Iranian official line towards Israel. I was asked if I felt that Iran’s policy towards Israel was harming Iran and if I thought it was the right policy. “Is it true,” I was asked, “that the Jews bought land in Palestine and that it was taken from them by the Palestinians.”
I returned to the US with some trepidation. I landed at Dulles International Airport and was quite ready to call an attorney in case I was stopped. However, all was well, and I exited the airport as though I had landed from any other destination. Looking from the outside, particularly from Iran, one has the advantage of distance and some perspective, and still with his declaration on Jerusalem and his decision on Iran Donald Trump seems like a petulant adolescent with far too much power.


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