Los Angeles Jews, originating from Iran, awarded Stuart ‘Stu’ E. Eizenstat for his political maneuvering to get the endangered Iranian Jewish community out of the country as the first Islamic revolution was taking place there.
In an attempt to defend President Carter’s highly criticized presidency, Stuart ‘Stu’ E. Eizenstat, former President Jimmy Carter’s Chief Domestic Policy Adviser and Executive Director of the White House Domestic Policy Staff, President Bill Clinton’s, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs (1997-1999) and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury (1999-2001, also served as the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade at the International Trade Administration (ITA) from 1996 to 1997 is currently promoting his book ‘President Carter: The White House Years‘.
Today, among other activities, Mr. Eizenstat is the Chairman of ‘The Defiant Requiem Foundation’ that preserves the little-known story of the Nazi concentration camp, Terezín, where Jewish inmates fought back with defiance and defense through the culture of art and music.
Jews lived in what nowadays is called Iran since the destruction of the First Jewish Temple, in Jerusalem, and the exile of the Jews from the land of Israel to Babylon, later on known as Persia, what is known today as Iran.
The story of targeting Jews who lived in Persia, now Iran, goes back to the Biblical story of Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai who saved the Jews of Persia from Haman’s execution decree; the decree called to kill all the Jews living in Persia at that time, which was a call for a Holocaust.
Jews lived in Iran in ghetto-type quarters until the Shah appeared on the scene and let the Iranian nation be free of tough Islamic conduct and broke open the walls of the Jewish Ghetto and sent the Jews into the education sphere. Under the Shah’s rule, Jews in Iran were safe and prosperous.
Then came the Islamic revolution and life for the Jews in Iran went into an indefinite spin.
The Islamic Revolution occurred in 1979 in the Muslim country Iran. One of the main factors for the revolution, which was a violent overthrow of a government, was that many Leftist and Islamist Iranians disliked the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
The Islamic revolution brought about danger to the existence of the Jews living in Iran. Many fled the country and arrived in Los Angeles with only the shirt on their back. And with their economic success they changed the face of Los Angeles.
This past week, at a lavish afternoon event, held at the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills, California, with the participation of invitees representing many countries and faiths, generously sponsored by Mr. Isaac Moradi and wife Jacqueline, many of the Los Angeles Jewish-Iranian community members honored Mr. Eizenstat who was persuasive with his boss President Carter, and thus became most instrumental in getting the Jews out of Iran before their lives would have been at an irreversible risk.
A majority of the Jews of Iran who escaped the Islamic revolution while it was taking place there blame President Carter for his failed foreign policy that gave power to radical Islam in then the Shah of Iran religion and state separating rule.
I must admit that this event was new turf for me. I am familiar with the Iranian Jews blaming President Carter’s politics that forced the Shah out of power and the Jews out of Iran. However, I was not familiar with the political intrigues and complexity attached to this human event. Nor was I familiar with Mr. Eizenstat, who worked behind the scenes to save the Jews of Iran from the Islamic revolution’s claws. For that matter the story fascinated me regardless of all the go around blame.
Mr. Eizenstat elucidates the happenings in those years
On November 4, 1979, Iranian students seized the USA embassy and detained more than 50 Americans, ranging from the Chargé d’Affaires to the most junior members of the staff, as hostages. The Iranians held the American diplomats hostage for 444 days.
In response to the hostage situation, then President Carter signed an Executive Order demanding that every person with an Iranian identity, regardless of faith and ethnicity, must leave the USA at once.
As a result of the revolution Jews in Iran became defenseless and much a fair game. Jews in Iran became the table tennis-ping-pong ball of the political game. They had no say in the matter. And though the Islamic revolution was weak, the Shah was weaker and already cancer struck. President Carter undermined the Shah and William H. Sullivan, then USA ambassador to Iran, was a disaster who praised the Ayatollah as a saint.
Mr. Eizenstat admits that President Carter’s administration did not work openly on the hostage situation in Iran; they gave lip service and showed weakness, rather than strength, against the Ayatollah.
Mistakenly, the United States allowed the move of the Ayatollah from exile in Iraq, where he could not voice his radical and revolutionary Islamic ideas, to France, where he was handed the megaphone and the freedom to incite.
More so, the USA should have blockaded the Iranian oil industry in order to secure supplies in those oil shortage years. Instead, the oil companies, seeing instability, did not renew their oil contracts and President Carter followed in their policy’s footsteps. Only when the Ayatollah came to power the oil companies renewed their contractual agreements, too late to save Iran from the Islamic disaster.
Evading WWII Rerun
In a rerun of World War Two actions, no visas were to be issued to Iranians seeking entry to the USA.
Mr. Eizenstat and his team came up with a solution: a secretive asylum resolution, allowing all Iranians who opposed the Islamic revolutionary regime, mostly Jews, already in the USA, to remain in the USA without processing their asylum application till the Shah is back in power.
Mr. Eizenstat took the role of a modern Esther’s uncle, Mordechai. His political scheming, beseeching and sucking-up to the fresh Islamic revolution leaders resulted in getting many Jews out of Iran and saving them from the grasp of the first Muslim revolution, many who see it a result of a major USA foreign policy failure.
The idea was, not allow the rule of law but the rule of spirit.
The outcome was that all Iranian Jews who were already in the United States, for whatever reason, and could not return home were given refuge. During the Ronald Reagan presidency, additional 50,000 Iranians were able to leave Iran and find a safe new home in the USA, while the Reagan administration did not know about the asylum secret deal.
In the speech he delivered at the event Stu Eizenstat declared he was in awe of every single Iranian Jew who was stripped of his or her lifestyle, income and long history of ancestry in Iran, moved to a safe haven country and knew how to take advantage of the freedom and opportunity the United States offered to them.
The Islamic revolution in Iran was at the precipice of another Holocaust
Unity and compassion saved the life of so many. Hundreds of activists, the Raul Wallenberg type, worked behind the scenes, quietly, secretly and tirelessly, often risking their life, to save the Jews of Iran from a possible another Holocaust. One of them is Isaac Moradi, the benevolent philanthropist of the Jewish-Iranian community, to whom each Iranian Jew who was able to safely escape Iran owes the welcoming entrance he or she received upon arriving in the USA.
Just as the Jews of the Soviet Union were finally let get out of the iron curtain misery several years later, so were the Iranian Jews helped to get out of Iran. Two modern exodus.
Praise for President Carter, admission of crucial mistakes
In his book, Mr. Eizenstat reassess Jimmy Carter’s era. In his opinion Carter was the most accomplished one term president. He also admits to the mistakes made.
American intelligence did not understand the strength of the Shah’s policies, being a bulwark against the Soviet Union. The intelligence did not understand and did not get it, and I see the same is taking place today, the fomenting of the Islamic revolution and the hostages’ crisis.
The just in case occasion …
The unfolding disaster of the Jewish life in Iran miraculously ended positively. Many Iranian Jews escaping the Islamic radicalized Iran chose to start a new life in Israel.
There are so many other sad stories of saving Jews from a disaster in foreign lands that accompany Jewish history. And that is the reason that Jews, collectively, must keep the Jewish state, Israel, so very strong … just in case!