It’s time American Jews stood with the protesters in Iran


Over the past three weeks, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in more than 30 different provinces across Iran to protest the corruption, negligence and lack of freedoms by a leadership that has made their lives unbearable. Their peaceful protests were answered by the regime’s thugs, who beat them, shot them, and imprisoned them. Unfortunately, although the poignant videos and images of people suffering at the hands of Tehran have been strewn on social media, US and Western news outlets have not covered these widespread rallies.

It is time for America’s Jews to speak out loud on behalf of innocent citizens of Iran who seek true freedom through regime change in their country. We in the American Jewish community, who have proudly supported freedom movements from Russia to Poland to South Africa, must also join with the Iranian people in demanding an end to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s oppressive rule.

While my own family fled more than 40 years ago to escape Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s policy of violent anti-Semitism, my heart breaks to see thousands of peace-loving citizens suffer at the hands of a heartless mullahs’ regime that left them starving, impoverished and left impoverished with no hope for a better future. Although the regime’s leaders have proclaimed their heinous intentions to genocide Jews for decades, the majority of the people of Iran do not share their views.

As an Iranian-American journalist in contact with other journalists and activists in Iran, they convey messages that people are fed up with corruption, tyranny, a lack of basic freedoms and the lack of economic opportunities at the hands of the current radical Islamic regime. They have taken to the streets in all major cities and even smaller towns and areas to protest the situation and promote the overthrow of their oppressive dictatorship. The evil Iranian regime has cracked down on them by arbitrarily beating, killing and arresting them. The images of the relentless brutality against the Iranian people using live ammunition circulated by protesters on social media platforms over the past week are chilling. In addition, the internet has been shut down in various provinces in recent weeks to prevent protesters from exposing the regime’s heinous brutality and indiscriminate killings of citizens in the streets.

The American Jewish community has, for the last 60+ years, been very vocal in speaking out not only against anti-Semitism in the world, but also against the evils of hatred, war, and the lack of freedoms for non-Jews. I call on the American Jewish community, which has long been strong supporters of social causes, equality and freedom movements, to support the people of Iran who are struggling to shake off an oppressive regime.

Wasn’t it American Jewry that was among the most vocal against the former Soviet Union’s tyranny of Jews and opponents of the Soviet communist regime during the Cold War? Aren’t American Jews among those who have voiced their vocal support and sided with Polish Solidarność activists in their protest against the Polish communist regime? Aren’t American Jews among the many who stood shoulder to shoulder with Nelson Mandela and his freedom movement against apartheid in South Africa? Aren’t Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and other American Jewish activists arm in arm with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marching as part of the civil rights movement? Even today, many Jewish communities have taken up the cause Tikkun Olam– from volunteering in their own neighborhoods to helping parts of poverty-stricken Africa.

It is therefore imperative that this long and proud tradition of support be continued and continued by American Jews for the plight of average Iranian citizens who aspire to greater freedoms in their country and better economic opportunities despite the oppression of their oppressive radical Islamic regime . We cannot and must not remain silent and stand aside while innocent men, women and even children are beaten and slaughtered on the streets of Iranian cities simply for speaking out against a corrupt government that has done nothing to improve their lives, but that of their country spends wealth on funding terrorist groups throughout the Middle East.

Supporting protesters on the streets of Iran who want the ouster of the oppressive Ayatollah regime is not only for the security of America and Israel; more importantly, it is right and moral. As Jews, don’t we read the Torah in the book of Deuteronomy every year (shoftim) with the inscription “Justice, justice shall you pursue”? As a people who have faced unspeakable violence, hatred, injustice, pogroms and even genocide for millennia, we have always spoken out for the oppressed and oppressed in every part of the world.

Our support of the peace-loving people of Iran would be no different and is essential at this time. How much longer can we stand by and not speak up while the regime in Iran not only slaughters and imprisons its own citizens, but its leaders constantly deny the Holocaust and call for a second annihilation of all Jews worldwide?

We American Jews—Ashkenazim and Mizrahi, conservative and liberal, secular and religious—have a duty to speak with one voice for freedom and for the innocents in Iran who seek to liberate their own country from an oppressive regime. Today, we Jews must remember the gift of freedom from the ancient Persian king, Cyrus the Great. He granted us freedom from the bondage of Babylonian captivity 2,700 years ago, and in return we must now stand by his descendants as they seek international support to break free from the yoke of radical Islamic bondage and oppression.

Karmel Melamed is an award-winning, internationally published Iranian-American journalist based in Southern California.


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