(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)
It is time for pro-Israel American liberals to speak up.
Saeed Abedini is the American Christian pastor who was falsely imprisoned by Iran and exchanged by the US government for Iranian prisoners on the Interpol terrorism watch list. The pastor was tortured, placed in solitary confinement and left at the mercy of an al-Qaida terrorist who nearly killed him, all while under Iranian control.
“They beat me very badly because they wanted me to write something I didn’t do… it was in a courtroom that the judge closed the door and the interrogators started beating me… The worst thing that I saw was when they took some Sunnis for execution…. I can say most were executed for their faith.”
This is a story of torture, religious intolerance and extortion by a dictatorship’s mock judicial system. Unfortunately for Pastor Abedini, his rights were violated by the universally recognized leader of state-sponsored international terrorism, Iran, which has been given favored nation status by the Europeans and the progressive anti-Israel lobby. So his case drew silence, indifference or at best mild rebuke from the liberal elite of progressive newspapers’ editorial pages, ivory-tower professors and “human rights” leaders.
Iran’s misogyny, illiberalism, homophobic oppression and mistreatment of domestic minorities are willfully ignored in the pick-and-choose world of progressive “human rights” organizations, where Israeli “house demolitions” are presented as far more egregious human rights abuses than the intentional slaughter of 250,000 Syrian civilians by Syrian President Bashar Assad, backed by Iran.
We live in an era of selective morality, where European governments now sign billions in trade deals with Iran, thereby financially supporting Iranian terrorism and Syrian genocide, while the pope legitimizes the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and human rights abuse with a reception for the Iranian president at the Vatican that was fit for a king.
A distinction must be made between liberals and progressives of the far left.
The semantics really matter. Liberalism is a great and honored tradition. The progressive far left is something radically different, and it is up to the standard- bearers of noble liberalism to distance themselves from this most illiberal movement. Within the American domestic arena, the lines between progressive and liberal are more nuanced than the sharper divide between the progressive and liberal views on the Middle East, especially on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.
I have just been in Israel speaking to progressive human rights NGO leaders who fight exclusively for the human rights of Palestinians and every person in the world except the citizens of Israel.
I tried to convince them that their cases would be much more compelling if they fairly addressed all human rights abuses equally, including those committed by Palestinians against their own people. I pleaded for the presentation of human rights abuses to be in context. This sadly fell on deaf ears.
These NGOs present a fig leaf of balance, but their actual goal is to isolate Israel. Some say this punishment is for the ultimate good of the state, but they are willing to align themselves with other NGOs whose goal is clearly the delegitimization and ultimately demise of the Israel.
The progressives have supported the Iranian government, portraying it as a victim of Western oppression. You won’t find any progressive protests about the disqualification of the vast majority of reformist candidates for the upcoming Iranian election of the Assembly of Experts, its parliament (Majlis).
Where have the progressive voices been over the past seven years, while the true pro-democracy moderate Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehadi Karroubi have remained under house arrest for years? Progressives advocate for equal rights, and fair and free elections. They fight for effective voting rights of minorities here. So why are they AWOL in criticizing Iran’s fake democracy where any reformers or opposition candidates are routinely disqualified? According to The Washington Post, “Iran’s election overseers have cleared only one-fifth of the potential candidates seeking a spot on the 88-member Assembly of Experts… Such widespread vetting of candidates is a fixture of Iranian politics, culling those perceived as potential threats to the ruling system and the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Last week, the election gatekeepers, known as the Guardian Council, disqualified more than 7,000 of the 12,000 people seeking seats in parliament.”
The far-left progressives of the Women’s Study Association responded to the Palestinian mistreatment of women by simply creating their own set of facts that fly in the face of the reality of Palestinian misogyny and homophobia.
“As feminist activists, scholars, teachers, and public intellectuals who recognize the interconnectedness of systemic forms of oppression, we cannot overlook the injustice and violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, perpetrated against Palestinians.”
Why don’t the progressives organize an LGBT march in the centers of Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah, with transsexuals and cross-dressers leading the parade? Will they claim Israel did not give the Palestinians a permit? Progressives claim to be champions of the protection of children. But instead of being appalled and condemning the brainwashing of Palestinian children in hatred and violence, they respond by rationalizing it in the name of “frustration.”
As former defense minister Moshe Arens wrote in Haaretz, “Palestinian children knifing people while yelling ‘Allah Akbar’ are a sign that Palestinian society is plumbing new depths… Those who ascribe this to the Israeli ‘occupation’ are offering lame excuses for a culture that glorifies death and killing… The Palestinian leadership has failed generations of Palestinians.”
A society that inculcates hatred, teaching its children that stabbing an Israeli is the way to glory and eternal salvation, is one that should offend every progressive.
While Israeli civilians are been rammed and knifed in the streets of Israel, even within the Green Line, progressive moral equivalence rationalizes terrorism as a desperate plea from a people with no other options, a legitimate form of fighting an “occupation.”
The point here is the progressive hypocrisy that finds fault only with those it considers its ideological enemies.
America is the last refuge for pro-Israel support in the West, and the unchallenged bigotry and hatred for Israel with the goal of destroying the Jewish state needs a loud and vigorous response from not only centrist and conservative Americans, but most importantly from liberal Zionists who are being eclipsed by extreme anti-Israel progressives on college campuses, and within so called “human rights” organizations.
So the question is not where are the progressives, but where are the voices of pro-Israel liberal Zionists? When will far-left progressive voices be challenged, and when will there be a demand for accountability for their selective moralism?
The author is the director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political Information Network™) .