A lot of work went into the Iran Demonstration in Los Angeles. For the ten days preceding the demonstration, all I heard from Zohreh was “flags,” “posters,” “coordination,” “permit,” “notices” and “press outreach.” So many details, so much effort beyond the technical aspects.
The situation in Iran so occupied your mind and being, that there was no time left for anything else, and yet, on Shabbat you were at Shul (our synagogue) and after Shabbat you went to visit the sick.
Even then, you could not resist, walking from Century City to Beverly Hills with the Iranian flag; a solitary march, in preparation for today.
I discounted the entire affair; for what good would it do? For the young Iranians in Iran are well educated, with relatively good access to the West (a mutual acquaintance of ours raised and spent tens of millions of dollars of American tax payer money to ensure exactly that). They were all born into the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They know nothing different, would not remember with great admiration the late Shah, the same way I do, and if Iran is pushed or attacked, their loyalty will be with Iran; only with Iran.
Are they dreaming of an “Iranian Spring?” To what end? Replacing the Mullahs with a dictator of a different persuasion? Allow me to remind us all – this happened once before, in 1978-1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini took over following President Carter’s pressure on the Shah of Iran.
Today’s kids, youth and young Iranians know nothing better or different, and their aspirations will be quashed most harshly, in a similar manner to the way the Green Revolution ended, about some nine years ago, or to the manner in which some one million Syrians have received the blow from the current regime – murder, rape, torture, imprisonment.
And yet, it is good to dream; even when it is evident the support of Hizbollah, Hamas and global terrorism will not lessen; on the contrary, it will only intensify.
PST (Persian Standard Time)
Sunday, 1PM in front of the Federal Building in Los Angeles. You intended to arrive half an hour early, to bring the flags you bought and the signs you printed. You and I have often arrived early to events, at times being the first to arrive. Not today.
When I arrived at 12:30, there were already a few hundred demonstrators, with flags and signs (one in particular caught my eye: “Make Iran Great Again”). Alas, “Persian Standard Time” happened in the reverse today. For the next three hours, there will be a non-stop stream of people, adding up to some 2,500 strong.
The Absent Youth
Noticeably absent? Children and youth. There was one infant, two kids, another youth and later a handful of others. Not even 1% of the attendees.
What was visible are the real Iranians; those who had to flee and can only dream of going back. They came dressed immaculately, some with walkers, others with canes, still others in wheelchairs or being supported by a spouse. They carried on with dignity and a sense of purpose. Their children, themselves parents now, came in droves. They remember Iran of the Shah, and they grew up on their parents’ upbringing, where Iran was the essence of life. But their kids, those “30 years after,” did not bother to show up.
You stopped what you were doing, when the synagogue in Shiraz (Iran) was vandalized and later the Jews targeted. That ended 2017, and 2018 began with protests that spread throughout Iran, then were harshly quashed, as expected.
But those in their 30s, those already born here, stayed at home. It is Sunday after all, and there are more important things to do on such a beautiful day.
For them, Iran is part of their cultural heritage, but definitely not the meaning of life. They are similar to young American Jews who see themselves as Americans first, and if Israel ceases to exist, the world for them will not come to an end.
And herein lies the real danger. Young Iranians in Iran are very focused and loyal, no matter how “difficult” the present may seem. Their counterparts who were born and raised in the USA have no focus, no loyalty (other than to themselves) and no obligation (such as military or national service). It is a generation completely self-centered, void of any obligations and absorbed in a strange world of social-networks “friends” and “likes,” “petitions” and “action,” and an overall attention span of seconds.
The Stranger in Your Midst
Having worked closely with the Iranian community over the past year, it was obvious I should be there. Unlike other non-Iranians, I actually lived in Iran of the Shah, and to this day I speak most highly about the Shah’s concern and action for his people and his ancient kingdom, as he tried to bring it fast-forward into modernity.
I was surprised to be greeted time and again: “Ari, what are you doing here?”
Well, it is a most familiar place for me, for on on the side stretch the rows of dead, those who fought for all the freedoms we enjoy.
And here, exactly on the four corners of Wilshire Blvd and Veteran Ave, just a short distance away from my alma mater UCLA campus, I stood numerous times, defending Israel against external and internal enemies.
I am used to police, but not so many like today. Veteran Ave. was shut down on both sides, and the police, most patiently, stayed away, allowing the expanding crowd to swell, grow, move outward.
Overall, it was touchy, fulfilling and sad to see a people exiled from their land, gathered together in a futile plea for change. Hope and Change, neither of which can materialize. Not in Iran; not in N. Korea – both posing grave threats to world peace, to the world as we know it today.
Support of Passing Cars
We stood next to the heart of Tehran-geles (combination of Tehran and Los Angeles), Westwood, so one would expect that some of the passing cars would be of Iranian Americans. But the nonstop honking confused me. Are so many supporting the demonstration? Most Americans would not even know to recognize the flag of Iran, or to differentiate between the flag of the monarchy and that of the Islamic Republic.
These are the same Americans that would spit toward the Flag of Israel and crush or burn the American Flag, while stay oblivious to the flag of Daesh (Isis/Isil as President Obama liked to refer to the Islamic Caliphate).
So why are they honking? And to what end? I soon figured it out. It is in this very intersection that regular demonstrations against Israel take place, under the banner “Free Palestine.” The colors are similar (green, white, red for Iran, same with black for so-called Palestine). People surely thought they were honking against the Jews, against Israel, wishing to “End the Occupation” and “Free, Free Palestine from the River to the Sea!”
The March of 2,500 Strong
The singing, chanting and calls over the loudspeakers were familiar: “Regime change in Iran.” “Human rights for Iran.” “Long Live … .” “Freedom for Iran; no more Ayatollah!” And a sea of flags and posters. The swelling crowd, growing by the minute, getting ready for the march.
A permit was issued to march on Wilshire Blvd (closing east bound traffic lanes) to Westwood Blvd, turn onto Westwood (where the south bound lanes were closed) and continue south to Ohio. The march, like the gathering beforehand, was very well organized, a mid-Sunday outing. People hugged and kissed; took picture, waved flags, carried signs, sang and chanted. In short, they enjoyed the freedoms afforded to every American, those that are not tolerated in Iran or in Arab countries throughout the Middle East. And they were safe.
The group, a block and a half long and 15 – 20 deep, marched onward, carrying their dream – a memory 40 years old and beyond – with them.
I was inspired, full of respect and sorrow, sadness that you are celebrating a world that will not return, to which you are not allowed to return.
But you must not stop. And do not be discouraged.
We have seen that Israel, constantly warning of the grave danger from Iran, has stopped its radio broadcasting in Farsi (something to do with lack of budget, more likely indicating lack of importance assigned to it); its President just weeks ago during an official, rare visit did not find the time to meet with the Iranian community in Los Angeles or its leadership. Actions talk louder than words, and Israel apparently is focused on action of a different type (something similar to Stuxnet maybe).
We have seen American Jewry “help defeat the opposition to the Iran deal,” and AIPAC, the Israel lobby waste tens of millions of dollars failing to stop it. The result was the same – a deal for which a second Nobel Prize was forthcoming to President Obama, for using diplomacy to achieve “Peace in our Lifetime!”
And here, today, some 2,500 Iranians (with one exception) who realize the danger. Americans should understand that Iranians are not Arabs, that most are very educated and determined, loyal and clear in their outlook, and whose time horizon is different than that of Western Civilization. They came out to demonstrate. I stood amidst you and I was smiling, proud, grateful.
And as you chanted “Regime Change in Iran,” I felt safe enough to stand there amongst you – the only non-Persian – and sing “Yerushalaim, Yerushalaim … .”