A Tale of Two Regimes: Political Repression in Iran and Israel



Don Emmerich


The New York Times reports:

In
recent weeks, Iranian security officials have unleashed a wave of
arrests across the country in an effort to neutralize the political
opposition, silence critical voices and head off widespread protests
when the nation marks the anniversary of the revolution on Thursday.


The
article goes on to describe the extent of this repression. Needless to
say, it’s a very disturbing read, offering yet more evidence of the
regime’s ruthlessness.

But what I find most interesting about
the article—what I kept thinking as I read through it—is how almost
everything the article says about Iran can also be said about Israel.
Just substitute "Israel" for "Iran" and change around a few details,
and you’d have a pretty good description of what’s been happening in
the West Bank.

Iran:

Reports
have filtered out from across Iran of people being roused from their
beds during midnight raids and disappearing into the penal system
without an official word to family and friends.


Israel:

A
leader of the most persistent Palestinian protest movement against
Israel’s West Bank separation barrier was asleep in his home when
troops broke down his door and arrested him (Washington Post, 12/11/09).

Israel
has long argued that Palestinians should pursue their political
objectives in a non-violent way. However, several prominent Palestinian
peace activists have recently been arrested and jailed for doing just
that (Inter Press Service, 01/18/10).

Apparently
concerned that the protests could spread, the Israeli Army and security
forces have recently begun clamping down, arresting scores of local
organizers and activists here and conducting nighttime raids on the
homes of others (New York Times, 01/28/10).

Iran:

Though
the government does not report the numbers of those arrested, the
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a group based in New
York, calculated that in the past two months alone at least 1,000
people have been put in prison, many arrested under a blanket detention
order issued in June that empowers the police to take anyone into
custody for any reason.


Israel:

A
report published last week by Adalah, an Arab legal rights group in
Israel, said 830 Israeli demonstrators, the overwhelming majority of
them Arab citizens, were arrested for participating in mostly peaceful
demonstrations during the 23 days of the Gaza operation. According to
the report, the police broke up protests using physical violence; most
protesters were refused bail during legal proceedings, despite the
minor charges; the courts treated children no differently from adults,
in violation of international law; and Arab leaders were interrogated
and threatened by the secret police in a bid to end their political
activity (The National, 09/28/09).

Hundreds
of Palestinians are kept behind bars in Israel without charges having
been filed and with no access to a fair trial. Not even their lawyers
are allowed to look at the evidence. Some governments in the West have
expressed their concern, but the Israelis haven’t budged (Spiegel, 10/23/09).

In
recent weeks, the police has made [sic] dozens of false arrests of
demonstrators in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah (B’Tselem, 01/16/09).


Iran:

At least 10 people were killed when government forces opened fire on unarmed protestors.


Israel:

A
resident has been killed by Israeli forces during a demonstration.
Basem Abu Rahme, 29 years of age, was shot in the chest with a
high-velocity tear gas projectile…According to eyewitnesses, Basem was
on a hill with several journalists to the side of other demonstrators.
Soldiers opened fire from 40 meters, aiming directly with the tear-gas
projectiles (ISM, 04/17/09).

Israeli
forces have killed a demonstrator in the West Bank village of Ni’lin.
The Israeli army shot Yousef Akil Srour, aged 36 years in the chest
with 0.22 caliber live ammunition (ISM, 06/05/09).

At
least 19 Palestinians have been killed in the last six years alone
during nonviolent demonstrations against Israel’s apartheid wall that
is confiscating Palestinian cropland and imprisoning Palestinian
people. Many others have been killed in other parts of the Palestinian
territories while taking part in nonviolent activities (Counterpunch, 01/08/10).


Iran:

In the most recent crackdown, the government has rounded up scores of journalists.


Israel:

Four
separation fence security guards fired at a group of five journalists
who tried to approach people demonstrating against the fence near the
West Bank settlement of Efrat on Monday afternoon. Photos taken by AFP
photographer Moussa al-Shaer clearly show one of the guards using an
Uzi submachine gun to fire at the demonstrators. The other guards fired
with live ammunition in the air, although they were not in danger at
any stage (YNet, 05/21/07).

Israeli
troops manning the wall and its gate that cuts off the villagers from
their land showered the protesters with tear gas and rubber-coated
steel bullets immediately after the protesters reached the gate. 17
people were injured including seven journalists (International Middle East Media Center, 03/28/08).

Filming
at the site of shelling in Gaza earlier in the day, Fadel Shana was
himself targeted by shelling from the very tanks he was filming (ISM, 07/01/08).

Video
footage that aired Friday shows an Al-Jazeera reporter covering an
anti-separation fence rally in the West Bank dodging a tear gas grenade
fired by Israel Defense Forces troops (Ha’aretz, 09/05/09).

Iran:

The
government response has been to try to intimidate, Iran experts and
opposition leaders said. That has included imposing the death penalty
on 11 prisoners, and hanging two. Another five death penalty cases are
currently being prosecuted.


Israel:

Israeli
authorities are increasingly targeting and intimidating nonviolent
Palestinian grassroots activists involved in anti-occupation activities
who are drawing increased support from the international community.
Several weeks ago masked Israeli soldiers stormed the home of Ehab
Jallad from the Jerusalem Popular Committee for the Celebration of
Jerusalem as the Capital of Arab Culture for 2009 (IPS, 10/28/09).

Israel
is arresting a growing number of prominent opponents to its policies
toward the Palestinians, say critics who are accusing the government of
trying to crush legitimate dissent (Washington Post, 01/19/10).

Thirteen
Israeli human rights organizations sent an urgent letter to the
president, the Knesset speaker and the prime minister, protesting the
increasing and systematic campaign against human rights organizations
in Israel: "A democracy must not silence critical voices; protecting
human rights is vital" (B’Tselem, 02/02/10).

Although
these two regimes treat their dissidents similarly, the American media
gives far more attention to the situation in Iran. As illustrated
above, both the New York Times and Washington Post have
recently reported on Israel’s repressive actions, but such stories have
been extremely rare. Consequently, I doubt that more than one or two
percent of Americans have any idea what’s happening in the West Bank.

The
Palestinian cause, of course, is no less just than the Iranian cause.
Both groups share the goal of political self-determination, an ideal
which ought to resonate with Americans. And make no mistake about it,
according to international law
[.pdf], the West Bank is occupied Palestinian territory. Which, among
other things, means that Israel has no legal right to build its own
roads, walls, or cities in this area, something it’s been doing for
over forty years now.

Also like the Iranians, the Palestinians
mostly engage in non-violent protests. Israeli forces often try to
break up these protests by firing
"teargas, stun grenades, rubber-coated bullets and sometimes live
ammunition at the crowd." Sometimes protestors respond by throwing back
stones. I can’t say I blame them.

But despite all this, the
American media continues reporting on the plight of the Iranians and
all but ignoring the Palestinians. And so most Americans remain
clueless as their tax dollars continue funding Israel and its colonization of the West Bank.

Link: donemmerich.blogspot.com/2010/02/comparing-political-repression-in-iran.html

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