Making Sense of What Happened in Iran

Jan. 24 2018

The recent anti-government protests in Iran hardly amounted to a revolution, but they were certainly not instances of “conspiracy” or “sedition,” as the mullahs tried to label them; nor were they merely economic, as former Obama-administration officials insisted. Rather, writes Amir Taheri, they were an expression of fundamental political discontent with the regime itself:

[O]ne remarkable feature of the protests was that, for the first time in Iranian contemporary history, there was no religious undertone in any of the slogans and speeches made by protest leaders. What we witnessed in Iran was a political movement with political aims . . .

Many Iranians, including some within the regime, implicitly agree that the mullahs took over a fairly prosperous country four decades ago and turned it into a poorhouse where up to five million suffer from chronic hunger and a further 25 million are housed in slums unfit for human habitation. And . . . they know that the nation’s economic woes are a result of the regime’s reckless policies at home and abroad. Thus, what we witnessed was a national political revolt against the status quo. . . .

The revolt . . . cut across class, regional, ethnic, and religious divides. In some places, for example Isfahan, the richest local families were marching alongside the poorest of the city with middle-class and lower-middle-class people also joining in. In Arak, an industrial city, workers and their employers marched shoulder to shoulder to indicate they were fed up with the Khomeinist system. The revolt also bridged the generation gap, bringing together people of all ages. . . . [It] also cut across the gender gap by bringing together almost as many women as men. In many places, even smaller towns, women assumed leadership. . . .

[The revolt] didn’t offer a clear alternative [to the present system] but helped clear the air by puncturing the Khomeinist regime’s claim of invincibility. Even a year ago few would admit that the Khomeinist system was overthrowable. Now many, including some of the regime’s lobbyists abroad, publicly do so. . . . The national revolt was about the change that may be delayed but won’t be denied.

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Read more at Asharq Al-Awsat

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs

Palestinian Acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State Must Be a Prerequisite to Further Negotiations

Oct. 19 2018

In 1993, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasir Arafat accepted the “right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But neither it nor its heir, the Palestinians Authority, has ever accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Robert Barnidge explains why this distinction matters:

A Jewish state for the Jewish people, after all, was exactly what the [UN] General Assembly intended in November 1947 when it called for the partition of the Palestine Mandate into “the Arab state, the Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem.”

Although the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state does not stand or fall on this resolution—in declaring the independence of Israel on the eve of the Sabbath on May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, [the precursor to the Israeli government], also stressed the Jewish people’s natural and historic rights—it reaffirms the legitimacy of Jewish national rights in (what was to become) the state of Israel.

The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to recognize Jewish self-determination. [Instead], the PLO [has been] playing a double game. . . . It is not simply that the PLO supported the General Assembly’s determination in 1975, rescinded in 1991, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” It is that that the PLO leadership continues to speak of Jews as a religious community rather than a people, and of Zionism as a colonial usurper rather than the national liberation movement that it is.

The U.S. government, Barnidge concludes, “should demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state” and refuse to “press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until that happens.”

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat