February 11, 2010

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

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.


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.


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).


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.


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).


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


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).


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


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).


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.


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.


Enlightened Rogue said...

What excellent, well documented and researched evidence to support a claim I’ve been making for some time- ALL regimes and ALL states and ALL political philosophies are tyrannical, whatever label they give themselves. It’s just that some do a much better job of marketing than other competing regimes, state, and political philosophies.

Don Emmerich said...

Absolutely. It's like Godfather III. Remember, Michael's trying to change his image and has even started his own charity. And he's able to fool some people. But none of this can change that fact that he's still a cold-blooded murderer.

In my opinion, the state-Mafia analogy is the best one around. The state is just a colossal crime organization, and all the PR in the world can't change that.