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Emet m'Tsiyon

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Pollyanna "Liberals" Were Wrong about Iran & Khomeini; Now Wrong about PLO/PA and the Muslim Brotherhood

A lot of the so-called "liberals" & "progressives" in the United States have long championed the causes of tyrants abroad, whether Stalin or Castro or --more recently-- the Muslim Brotherhood and so on and so forth. This has often been done by presenting the tyrants or would be tyrants as representing the democratic will of the people or as being liberal, progressive and tolerant themselves. A classic case of how this was done appeared not long after Khomeini's regime took power in Iran. The new regime was extolled for its civil libertarian commitment.

We now know that Khomeini and his successors were and are anything but devoted to liberal values, to civil liberties, democracy, etc. However, Kai Bird, a very prominent "leftist" and "progressive" in the 1960s and 1970s fought valiantly to present this false image of Khomeini & Co. to the American public. When you read Mr Bird, think of the academic and media advocates of the Iran regime or the Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas or Fatah/PLO, and so on, today.

Bird wrote the following in an article that was featured on the front page of the "Liberal" weekly The Nation magazine [31 March 1979]:

. . .  there is every reason to believe that the still unpublished Constitution [of the brand new Iranian Islamic Republic] will include all the elements of a liberal democratic system. Minister of Information Nasser Menachi,  a close confidant of Bazargan and a man with impeccable civil libertarian credentials, told The Nation that "the new Constitution --which has been drafted by five foreign-trained jurists-- contains the strongest possible civil libertarian guarantees. . . . and Khomeini himself  has approved the document with but the most minor changes, a fact which should be read as an extremely good sign." The Ayatollah will reportedly have no formal office in the proposed Islamic Republic. Elections are scheduled to be held within several months after the adoption of the Constitution.
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Isn't this all just too noble, too precious, too lofty to be believable? It hardly corresponds to how the Ayatollah Khomeini and his successors have actually ruled Iran.

Does everyone see the pattern in this excerpt here? Consider the style here against the background of the tens of thousands --or hundreds of thousands or millions-- of victims of the Iranian regime over the years? Look at the grand phrases in this not very long paragraph: liberal democratic system & impeccable civil libertarian credentials & the strongest possible civil libertarian guarantees. 

How many readers of Emet m'Tsiyon would want to depend upon the civil libertarian guarantees of the Iranian regime? Now just how is it that Kai Bird and his editors at The Nation could not foresee what the Khomeini regime would produce, a regime that tramples civil liberties and pays lip service to them at best? A regime that is a caricature of democracy where the leading ayatollah, called the Supreme Guide, has the final say on everything, whatever the parliament may think?

Why couldn't Bird and his The Nation friends understand that the books that Khomeini had written, books in which he expressed a desire for a political regime based on Islam, Shiite Islam, explained what he would do if and when he took power? That that was the kind of regime he would erect and that civil liberties would bow before the needs of the regime of ayatollahs implementing Islam as they saw it and interpreted it? Did they ask what would happen to ethnic and religious minorities in Iran, such as Jews, Bahais, or Sunni Muslims, for that matter? Did Bird & Co. ask how women would fare under the ayatollahs who would apply strict Shiite Muslim rules to them? Did they ask whether Khomeini's ostensible loyalty to or tolerance for democracy and civil liberties, and the comforting, liberal-sounding slogans that he and his associates threw out from time to time might not have been mere dissembling for the purpose of gaining and consolidating power?

Were Bird and his friends naive, ignorant, simpleminded or simply deceitful? We may ask the same question today about Washington policy specialists and American academics who promote the cause of the Muslim Brotherhood or Hizbullah or Hamas or Fatah or the so-called "palestine liberation organization."
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Now that we know what "liberal" establishment journalism and its predictions are worth in the United States -- and elsewhere, let's talk a little about Kai Bird. He was known as being hostile to Israel back in the 1960s, when that was less fashionable than today. He had been in Israel during his rather privileged childhood when his father, an American diplomat, and his family lived in the Jordanian-occupied sector of Jerusalem from which all Jews were driven out, starting in December 1947. Young Master Bird crossed the Armistice Line, the Green Line, every day that he went to school. This was the Anglican school on Street of the Prophets [רחוב הנביאים] in "west Jerusalem" under Israeli control. The school is still there although in the past 20 or 25 years it has raised its stone outer wall by three or four feet. Little Master Bird crossed on every school day the Mandelbaum Gate, actually a border crossing built partly over the home of a family named Mandelboym [the proper Yiddish pronunciation]. The house had been destroyed in the fighting in 1948. The colony of Westerners living in Jordanian-occupied Jerusalem was notorious in those days for being fanatically anti-Israel and anti-Jewish. Bird and his family lived in the Sheikh Jarrah quarter near the Orient House, the American Colony Hotel, and the old Jewish neighborhoods of Shimon haTsadiq, Nahalat Shimon, and Siebenbergen Houses from which the Jewish residents had been driven out in December 1947 and January 1948.

From the Mandelboym Gate crossing Bird and his schoolmates from the Jordanian sector traveled down Tribes of Israel Street [Shivtey Yisra'el שבטי ישראל], formerly St George Street under the British, which name Jordan kept for the street on its side of the armistice line. The pupils traveled for about one-half kilometer down to Street of the Prophets, turning right into and traveling on it for about a kilometer or more. They were escorted, to my knowledge, by armed Israeli troops. But they were also protected by the power and prestige of the empires and governments that they and their families represented.

As to Kai Bird's honesty, I have read several reviews of his autobiography for this blog post, and I don't find any reference to his  activity with the American "New Left" in the 1960s, 1970s and afterwards. I have to conclude that he left that information out of his book. He apparently decided that references to his "New Left" activism would not be useful or beneficial to him or his political purposes.

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