Posted by Karmel Melamed
California State Assemblymember Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon) made national headlines last year by introducing a landmark state legislation signed into law late last year that required state pension funds to divest an estimated $24 billion from nearly 30companies doing business with Iran. The bill, known as AB 221, was unanimously passed by both the California State Senate and Assembly. It was essentially a catalyst for other states to follow suit with similar Iran divestment bills. On January 8th of this year, Anderson continued his quest to hurt the Iranian regime in their pocketbooks with the introduction of the new Assembly Concurrent Resolution 79 (ACR 79). I recently chatted with him and he shed light on this resolution that is quite similar to AB 221:
”Assembly Concurrent Resolution 79 calls upon the University of California to follow the spirit of what the Legislature expressed in its unanimous passage of AB 221. With the University’s retirement plan portfolio worth more than $44 billion, it is possible that as many as $2 billion are invested in Iran , supporting the economy that powers the regime in Iran. However, divesting of the risk associated with funding business in Iran at this time will help University investments avoid the danger of national and international sanctions. Not only is that fiscally responsible, but as a matter of human rights, it is simply the right thing to do. Compassionate and forward-thinking global leadership defines California.” - California Assemblymember Joel Anderson
While ARC 79 is merely a symbolic piece of legislation that urges the University of California to divest from companies working with Iran, the resolution no doubt will wake the system’s Regents and other state offices to stop the flow of funds that are indirectly keeping the economy of Iran alive. Surprisingly, Iranian Americans of various faiths have supported this resolution across the board because it is yet another excellent example of how Americans and their elected officials on the state level can apply pressure to the notorious regime in Iran. Kudos to Anderson for working across the aisle with Democratic lawmakers in Sacramento to push forward the type of legislation which sends a clear message that Californians will not stand by idle and indirectly fund Iran’s regime that exports terrorism worldwide and is on a quest to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons!
In June 2007, Los Angeles became the first city in the country to approve its own Iran divestment measure. In May 2007, Florida became the first state to pass legislation to bar $1 billion in pension funds from being invested in companies doing business with Iran and Sudan.
Again and again experts and opposition groups within Iran have indicated that the best way to topple the regime in Tehran to go after it’s weak economy. The Iranian mullahs cannot be negotiated with contrary to what certain presidential candidates have proposed because the regime ideologically wants the destruction of Israel, the U.S. and any other country that does not conform to their radical Shiite Islamic beliefs. Economic isolation by the world through divestment no doubt puts the squeeze on the Iranian government and has proven to be the best weapon in curbing their misbehavior.
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February 26, 2008 | 10:38 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
As a journalist and writer, I have a special respect and admiration for individuals that are in my same shoes—especially those who share the stories of the unique Iranian Jewish community with the rest of the free world. Gina Nahai , an Iranian Jewish author based here in Los Angeles is one of those rare writers that I place in this special category. Kudos to her for being able to reveal the intricate mentalities and norms of Iranian Jews that not very many people know about in her works of fiction. The Iranian Jewish community is very tight-knit and typically closed off to outsiders for whatever reason, so having an insider like Nahai share details about us can be quite educational.
Not many in the local Iranian Jewish community like Nahai have the courage to express their ideas, reveal special facts, expose certain taboo topics, or behavior going on in the Iranian Jewish community. Don’t ask me why, but a number of Iranian Jewish adults over the age of 40 are often frightened that if they publicly speak up and share their feelings, they will be ostracized for doing so by their friends and relatives in the community. I personally do not understand it but have heard it is a cultural state of mind prevalent among many different Iranian groups who were not raised in an environment where freedom of speech was cherished.
Nahai’s books have received wide acclaim by critics and her first novel Cry of the Peacock even won the Los Angeles Arts Council Award for Fiction. Her works have been translated into more than dozen other languages and are used for teaching in universities worldwide. She is also a regular contributor to the Jewish Journal of Greater L.A. as well.
Those interested in meeting Nahai first hand can do so on Sunday March 9th at 2 pm at the Autry National Center here in L.A. She will be sharing some interesting new insights about Iranian Jews living in the U.S. as well as signing copies of her latest book “Caspian Rain”.
For more information on the event contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
February 24, 2008 | 10:04 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Several days ago this blog reflected on the incredible contributions of the late Iranian Jewish historian Dr. Amnon Nezter following his passing on February 15, 2008. An obituary on Nezter appeared in the L.A. Jewish Journal website this week, but our podcast recently interviewed Nezter’s close friends and collegues to get a better idea of his personality and his life’s work in preserving the ancient Iranian Jewish history. Our podcast chatted with George Haroonian, an L.A. area Iranian Jewish activist and Dr. Nahid Pirnazar, UCLA professor of Iranian Jewish studies, who both shed greater light on this special man.
We invite you to listen to this podcast here.
February 22, 2008 | 10:33 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
A new television commercial suggesting U.S. presidential candidate John McCain is involved in a Jewish conspiracy against Iran, recently aired in Iran courtesy of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry. Translations of this commercial were made by the Washington-based, Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) that typically does an excellent job at exposing the anti-Semitic and anti-American rhetoric spewed by Iran’s radical Islamic government. MEMRI’s latest translations of the “McCain Jewish conspiracy” commercial gives great new insights into the mentality of the Iranian government when it comes to McCain and the 2008 U.S. presidential race. The a seven-minute computer-animated commercial can be viewed with subtitles here.
This Iranian government propaganda commercial identifies McCain as a “White House official who is conspiring to overthrow the regime in Iran with the help of the Jewish tycoon and mastermind of ultra-modern colonialism” George Soros. Animated figures of Soros and McCain are shown in the commercial chatting around a table with other American “colonialists” to discuss how they’re supposedly going to topple the government in Iran. This commercial reveals that the Iranian regime is fearful of McCain and the possibility that he might stand up to them if he is elected president. So the regime’s goons have already begun attacking McCain’s character and what better way to vilify any person in the Middle East than to use the classic anti-Semitic charge that they are involved in a “Jewish conspiracy!” The Iranian government’s motto like most Islamic and Arab governments is simple…whenever you’re in trouble or want to divert attention away from your own shortcomings, “just blame the Jews!” It is simply ludicrous to suggest that Soros and McCain would be involved in anything since both men have no friendship, no association with one another and nothing in common. Soros is an extreme left-wing political activist while McCain is a Republican conservative. What a bunch of B.S. put out by the Iranian government!
Moreover, this Iranian TV commercial is not only anti-Semitic, but also reveals that the Iranian government is seriously concerned with domestic groups within Iran that may be emboldened to topple the regime if a hawkish U.S. president like McCain is elected. The propaganda commercial asks average Iranian people to “snitch” on their friends and relatives who they think may be involved in subversive activities. The commercial claims that those turned over to the government will be given a light punishment…again more lies, considering the fact that Iran’s current laws require death by hanging for anyone involved in spying or trying to help topple the regime. Perhaps the next U.S. administration should support these opposition groups in Iran and their efforts to topple the regime if the Iranian government is so fearful of such a coup. Regime change done by the Iranian people from within just maybe what the doctor ordered in removing these radical Islamic elements from power in Iran.
We in the U.S. need to take notice of these messages coming from Iran when we vote in November. The regime in Tehran unfortunately only understands a show of strength and nothing else. The mullahs in Iran know very well which presidential candidate will stand up to them if elected and which candidate will be a softy who literally let’s them get away with murder.
February 21, 2008 | 4:32 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
According to a report released by the Beverly Hills police department, last night at 9 pm, Alfred Hakim, a 49 year old Beverly Hills resident was allegedly shot by his 47-year-old brother Adel Hakim in the 400 block of North Palm Drive. Local Iranian Jewish leaders declined to comment on the incident but confirmed that both brothers are Iranian Jews. While no motive has been identified by police, Alfred Hakim is listed in critical condition at nearby Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Adel Hakim according to the report is being held by police without bail after being arrested following a traffic accident.
This tragedy has indeed been a shock for the local Iranian Jewish community as incidents of shootings, killings, or this type of violence are very rare for member of our community to be involved in. For the most part, L.A. area Iranian Jews are affluent, well educated and law abiding. During my reporting on the community over the last eights years I have heard of incidents of Iranian Jews being killed in robberies or involved in domestic violence and drug abuse, but never come across news of such violence between two Iranian Jews. Many in the tight-knit Iranian Jewish community in L.A. typically consider talking about these events as taboo and bringing shame to one’s family. Others who hear of such tragic occurrences fear for the future of the Iranian Jewish community’s survival in America’s open society.
February 20, 2008 | 4:56 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Iran’s radical fundamentalist Islamic leaders never cease to make me laugh nowadays with their almost daily ridiculous news releases to the Western media concerning Jews and Israel. This is one of their latest asinine news releases put out by the Iranian government’s state-run media. Ayatollah Ali Akbar Nateq Nuri would now like to “have the Jews return” back to Iran:
“The Islamic Republic of Iran welcomes all Iranian Jews who have immigrated to the occupied Palestine,” he stressed. Speaking to reporters in Cairo he said the Islamic Republic of Iran supports all Palestinian and Lebanese factions, adding “Tehran’s support to Hezbollah Movement backs to its braveness in fighting against the Zionist regime.”
This offer to “welcome” the Jews back to Iran stinks as a yet another publicity stunt by the Iranian government to seek sympathy for the international community by claiming that they “love” Jews. If the regime supposedly would like to welcome Jews, then would they reimburse the 80,000 Iranian Jews who live outside of Iran the billions of dollars in assets the Iranian government confiscated from the Jews of Iran since 1979? If they want to welcome the Jews back to Iran, will Jews be given the same equal rights that Muslims have in that country? If they want to welcome the Jews back to Iran, will they apologize for wrongfully executing more than a dozen Iranian Jews since 1979 for supposedly being “Zionist spies”? If they want to welcome the Jews back to Iran, will the Iranian government finally release information about the 12 Jews who they arrested in the 1990’s and have not yet be heard from?
The answer to these and other questions is a very obvious NO. This is because this regime in Iran would never truly welcome Jews back to that country and give them the same freedom Jews enjoy in the U.S. and other democratic free nations. Again and again the current Iranian government has proven that it does not welcome Jews and will never welcome them because of their unfair laws and anti-Semitic state of mind. Jews and other religious minorities may have a “representative” in the government, but this is merely for show as the majority of Iranian laws treat all religious minorities as second class citizens. Likewise we can’t forget the daily calls from the Iranian government for the annihilation of the State of Israel. It is simply ridiculous and hypocritical to say you welcome Jews to your country on the one hand but on the other hand you want to eliminate the Jewish State from the face of the earth!
So to Nateq-Nouri, I say no thanks…we Iranian Jews have had enough of your government’s B.S. and terror toward our brethren in Iran and in Israel. We do not want to return to that country while jackasses like yourself are in power. We do not want to return to a country whose leadership has terrorized Jews, Muslims, Christians and others who do not follow your radical form of Islam. We do not want to return to a country whose leaders constantly call for the destruction of another country. We do not want to return to a country where we will be forced to live in constant fear for our lives and be treated as second class citizens because of our religion. We do not want to live in a country where we have to be ashame of loving Israel and being proud of America.
For those unfamiliar with Nateq-Nouri, he was the former hardliner speaker of the Iranian “Majles” or parliament and ran in the 1997 Iranian presidential elections against Mohammad Khatami. He became involved in politics in 1963 as an anti-Shah activist while studying under the radical Islamic Ayatollah Montazeri in the Iranian city of Qom. After being arrested numerous times by the late-Shah’s regime, he eventually fled the country for Lebanon and Syria. But Nateq-Nouri, quickly rose to prominence in Iran following the 1979 revolution and was Minister of Interior from 1981 to 1985.
One last thought to leave you with…why is the Iranian government so interested in the plight of the Palestinian people and bad mouthing Israel, instead of helping the suffering people of Iran who are a Muslim majority? Iran is now facing double digit unemployment, high inflation, food and gas shortages, massive trade embargos, international pressure on their banking systems…and the list goes on. It’s amazing how the crazy mullahs in Iran do nothing about their own country’s problems but always use the Jews and Israel as a scapegoat for their domestic problems and shortcomings!
February 17, 2008 | 11:46 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
On Sunday February 17, 2008 roughly 500 Los Angeles area Iranian Jews bid a final farewell to the late Iranian Jewish historian Dr. Amnon Netzer during his memorial at Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills. He had died a few days earlier at the age of 73 at UCLA Medical Center while visiting Los Angeles. To the academic world and for non-Jewish Iranian intellectuals, Netzer was known as one of the world’s foremost experts in the areas of Iranian history, culture, and linguistics. For the tight-knit Iranian Jewish community worldwide he was considered a legend who had researched and help preserve the near 2,500 year history of Iranâs Jewry.
Netzer was born in the northwestern Iranian city of Rasht in 1934 and immigrated with his family to Israel in 1950. He is credited for working as an editor for various Persian language newspapers in Tel Aviv during the 1950âs and as the first producer/anchor of the Persian language news broadcasts on the Voice of Israel radio between 1955 and 1958. After receiving a degree in Middle East and International Affairs from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in 1965 Netzer obtained a degree from New Yorkâs Columbia University in Iranian Studies, Indo-European languages, as well as Semitic Languages and literature. Later in 1969, Netzer obtained his doctoral degree in the same subjects from Columbia and went on to teach at various universities through out his career.
In 1970, Netzer returned to Israel where he co-founded the Iranian Studies department at Hebrew University and began his research on Iranian Jewish history as well as the ancient Judeo-Persian language. He not only authored scores of articles about Iranian Jewish history but helped compile, âPadyavandâ, a rare and comprehensive three volume book detailing various significant events in Iranian Jewish history. His research on Iranian Jewry was not only as a result of his travels to the most remote villages in Iran to find Jews, but also as a result of visiting archives worldwide to locate documentation about Iranian Jewry. Netzerâs friends said he was also among a small and distinguished panel of academics that were frequently called on by Israeli government officials to share their expertise regarding Iran and the Middle East.
I had the rare pleasure of knowing Netzer during the last five years and interviewed him on a number of occasions for my articles about Iranian Jews and their ties to Purim. His historical knowledge about the topic was literally mind blowing and beyond genius! I also found him to be a humble man who did not seek the limelight nor community acclaim for his work. This was quite refreshing to witness because I typically see some individuals in our community often doing their best to show off their ‘accomplishments’ at every opportunity. From my observations, what has been most heartbreaking to his close friends and former students in the Iranian Jewish community was the lack of sufficient financial support Netzer received for his research. Many of his Iranian Jewish friends have told me confidentially that they felt as if the wealthy in our community who could have given grants to Netzer so that he could conduct his research more efficiently and rapidly, did not do so. Netzer had also revealed his disappointment and heartbreak with some in the Iranian Jewish community who had taken advantage of his kindness or taken credit for his work without giving him correct attribution. Unfortunately while financial support for the arts and academia might be important in certain communities, the Iranian American Jewish community demonstrated that support for Nezter’s work—which was groundbreaking—was not a priority for them.
While the Iranian Jews are still struggling to come to grips with Netzerâs passing, his close friends said future generations will undoubtedly benefit from his legacy and knowledge he left behind.
February 14, 2008 | 4:35 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Angela Cohan is a Los Angeles area Iranian Jewish mom, writer, community activist and a friend of mine who recently shared with me an incident last year in which anti-Semitic remarks were made at a local grocery store own by Iranian Muslims in the Westwood area. Her outrage over the incident has led her to organize a small boycott of the market, but she has decided not to name the store as she believes the owners are not anti-Semitic. Instead she wrote an essay sharing her feelings about the incident. I found her essay to be quite interesting considering the often hidden anti-Semitic sentiments some non-Jewish Iranian groups living in Iran, Europe and even America still harbor toward Jews.
It should be noted that the Iranian American Muslim community is by in large not anti-Semitic and shares close friendships with their Jewish compatriots here in the U.S. In fact the strong cultural and linguistic bonds Iranians of all religions share along with the sense of tolerance created in Iran prior to the 1979 revolution, has kept the majority of them on friendly terms with one another in America.
No doubt this incident which Cohan encountered may have been isolated, nevertheless it is important to take note of as some anti-Semitism still exists among some non-Jewish Iranians. Only by bringing such stories to light and engaging Iranians of other faiths can we as Jews help erase any anti-Jewish sentiments that may exist. Cohan’s painful story is as follows:
By Angela Cohan
We came to California in search of the dream. Like the sound of sirens, through the Pacific Ocean, California beckoned us to a better life and a safer future. Leaving everything behind, we bypassed the contiguous states and landed here in search of Camelot. Almost 30 years later, my soul still remains a slave to the soil that belonged to my ancestors. I seek solace in Westwood where I crave to connect to my roots, when I yearn to speak in my native tongue and go in hopes of finding my compassionate comrades and compatriots. As I entered the Persian market in Westwood I smelled the sweet smell of cream puffs and saffron and took in the sweet smell of the jasmine of my childhood.
The clerk was engaged in a heated argument with a customer. The poor woman had not left the store when I heard the clerk talking condescendingly about her. She was carelessly bad mouthing her Jewish clients. I stared into her callous and icy cold green eyes. She was looking at my credit card. She looked up at me and said: “Cohan? You’re a Cohan? You’re Jewish?”
“Yes.” I declared proudly. I gave her an equally cold and calculated smile. “You don’t look Jewish,” she said with a sly smirk. Suffice it to say that I have not returned to that store and have since created a campaign and told my friends and family members to boycott the market. I didn’t give up my country and move 20,000 kilometers to flee from ignorant bigots to be talked down to by a condescending camel of a woman who started cursing Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and the rest of the mullahs.
She was holding to my arm and not letting me go but not out of contrition. She was talking about burning all the prophets that same fundamental hatred that scared us out of our homeland and drove us away in 1979. Almost 30 years later and halfway around the world, the same dark force has followed us where ignorant fools scrutinize, slander and self-flagellate. My 15-year-old daughter is in Israel studying and teaching tolerance among cultures and this coward is talking about burning people?
Enough hate, enough rage, enough bloodshed! It’s time to grow up and learn to share the world. And so my little critters, I am not a cold-blooded, calculating creature, I have learned to stay calm while the calamity subsides.