Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The 'Peace' Coalition to Iran

Recently, a group of people, mostly peace advocates and various "clergy"-type folks from the New Haven area, went to Iran to make sure that people "understand" each other, and that Americans don't fall for the United States' "propaganda" about Iran posing a threat.

The group included at least one Jew, a rabbi.

So I'm curious if the people in this group got to hear Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad say things like this, from a story on The Earth Times Web site:

Tehran - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that Israel would "be soon swept away" from the Palestinian Territories by the Palestinians.

It is the second time within less than three years that the Iranian president predicted the eradication of the Jewish state. The first time was in 2005 when Ahmadinejad hoped that Israel would be eradicated from the Middle East map.

"This terrorist and criminal state is backed by foreign powers, but this regime would soon be swept away by the Palestinians," Ahmadinejad anniversary of Israel's foundation, he said that "it would be futile to hold a birthday ceremony for something which is already dead." As far as the regional countries are concerned, this regime does not exist," said in a press conference in Tehran. Referring to worldwide celebrations for the 60thAhmadinejad added.

The Iranian president said last week that the anniversary feasts could not save this "rotten and stinking corpse."Ahmadinejad caused international outrage in the past by hoping for the eradication of Israel, the relocation of the Jewish state to Europe or Alaska and questioning the historic dimensions of the Holocaust.

I mean, I wondered when I first read about the trip, what is it that the people in this "peace" coalition are finding so hard to understand?

How did the rabbi feel, going somewhere where the leader has denied that people of her faith should be allowed to live? Or does she think the American press is making these stories up, just to get Americans ready for war with Iran?

And, don't forget, Iran is the place where people are arrested -- and suddenly disappear -- for doing things like listening to rock music, and dancing.

It's just appalling to me that someone's disdain for their own country would make them so blind. But, if nothing else, Ahmadinejad is smart -- I'm sure he knew enough to make sure that the gullible members of the "peace" coalition saw only what he wanted them to see, heard only what he wanted them to hear, so they would come back to America with praise for Iran, and more criticism for America, so that they and the other liberals in this country would make sure we do nothing to stop Iran's violent goals.

By the way, here is the original story about the "peace" coalition:

NEW HAVEN — Peace activists Patty Nuelsen and the Rev. Allie Perry went international with their message as they joined others from across the country on a citizen diplomatic mission to Iran.

Sponsored by New York-based Fellowship of Reconciliation and hosted by the Center for Interfaith Dialogue in Iran, the 21 Americans are meeting with religious leaders and groups of citizens in an attempt to better understand each other.

“For me, the importance of this kind of trip is that as citizens in a democracy, we have a voice in policy. I think the worst thing that could happen to us as a country is that we lose faith that our voice is important,” Nuelsen said.

Both women are concerned with the latest news stories out of Iran and hope the U.S. doesn’t take military action against Iran.

This is the second visit to Iran sponsored by FOR this year, with two more trips already booked.

The New Haven women left Tuesday and will return May 13, after visiting Tehran, Shiraz, the sacred city of Qom, Esfehan and Persepolis, in a trip led by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, who helped found the Jewish Renewal movement in the U.S.

For the past 23 years, Nuelsen has worked for New Haven/Leon Sister City Project, an original model of citizen diplomacy started after the U.S. covert war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua in the 1980s.

Nuelsen has made more than half a dozen trips to Nicaragua over the years; the project still carries out education and infrastructure projects in Leon.

Perry is part of Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice, which is working for an end to the war in Iraq.

The heart of the trip is meeting with Iranians in educational, religious and cultural settings, as well as have an opportunity to meet a government official.

“We are talking about one of the most ancient cultures in the world and our government talks about this country as if the president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) is the country. Of course, we know if people did that to the United States, what trouble we would be in,” Perry said.

She said one of the most troubling things is that Americans, including herself, are not knowledgeable about Iran “and are susceptible to propaganda. When charges are made, people don’t have a context to be able to evaluate the credibility of those charges.”

They pointed to the role of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in overthrowing the elected government there in 1953 and installing Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as shah of Iran. The bloody Iraq-Iran war from 1980-88 also left hundreds of thousands dead and left a complicated relationship between the two countries.

In news reports last week, the U.S. said Iran is continuing to funnel weapons into Iraq, although the extent of its involvement was unclear.

Perry said a friend told her she is naive to go to Iran and that she will only hear what that government wants her to hear.

But she said, “we need to learn about each other” and that there is a diversity of opinions among Iran’s 70 million citizens and reformers in the government. “In the end, (the friend) conceded he wasn’t against the idea of dialogue,” Perry said.

Still, both women said they would bring a dose of suspicion with them.

“We are capable of analysis. We are capable of understanding that there is complexity. The problem in this country is that it denies there is any complexity,” Perry said.

“I think we have to be very savvy. I don’t have any trouble operating with a lens of suspicion,” Nuelsen added.

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