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Tuesday, January 2, 2018 - 5:46pm

1. Why are the Iranians protesting?

Iranian Protests

 

There are many factors that have brought Iranians out to protest, many of these reasons are linked to the state of the economy, and mostly, years of political and social repression.

 

The endemic corruption, fraud, and mismanagement of the government have caused the people of Iran to grow tired of the leadership in place and its funding of terrorism abroad while their economy is suffering. It is estimated that almost half of the countries GDP goes to the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps)  for continued involvement in proxy wars in the Mideast. Iran is proud of their increased status as a result of fighting in Syria and Yemen but at what cost will this continue?

 

Due to the inflation in the region, the cost of living is so high most people need to work multiple jobs in order to keep their families afloat.

 

2. What are they asking for?

Iranians are asking for their government to listen to them. Iran needs a fundamental change in it's economy and government. Many believe this is an impossible task to accomplish without breaking the stranglehold of groups like the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) on the Iranian economy.

 

3. How has the government responded?

 

 

Due to travel restrictions and limitations on internet access in the region media networks have limited ability to report on the ongoing unrest. The government also limited the use of the internet and social media in order to disrupt its citizens ability to continue to organize protests as well as remove online footage that would incite more of its citizens to protest violently.

 

4. When did this begin?

 

 

The first protest began Thursday, December 28, 2017, in Mashhad, Iran's second largest city, and holy site. There, protesters were found shouting "leave Syria alone, think about us" Referring to Iran's military involvement in Syria.

 

5. What will happen in the coming weeks?

 

 

Although we have no way of knowing how this development will continue to unravel in the weeks and months to come, many experts expect the regime to grow increasingly repressive. The IRGC is no stranger to containing protests such as these and is prepared for much worse.

 

In Tehran alone 450 protesters have been arrested in the last 3 days. Although Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has said, "People are free to express their criticism and to protest," The head of Tehran Revolutionary Court warned on Tuesday that arrested protesters could potentially face death penalty cases when they come to trial. Some Iranians even fear the IRGC has allowed the protest to fester as a pretext for expanding their authority in the name of national security

 

SOURCES:

- https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/12/the-battle-for...

- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5229033/Iran-blocks-social-media...

- http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/01/deaths-reported-iran-anti-governme...

- https://www.timesofisrael.com/qa-whats-happening-with-irans-ongoing-prot...

- https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/22/rift-between-irans-ayatoll...

- http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/31/middleeast/iran-protests-sunday/index.html

- https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/12/31/Iran-cuts-o...

- https://gizmodo.com/iran-moves-to-block-social-media-apps-mobile-network...

- https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy-post/wp/2018/01/02/the-rea...

- http://metro.co.uk/2018/01/02/protestors-threatened-death-penalty-speaki...

 
Monday, December 18, 2017 - 10:32am
By: American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen
Featured in The Hill
 

As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” When it comes to relations between the U.S., Israel and the Arab world, while governments set the tone, American Jewish leaders can play an important role in fostering a culture of mutual understanding between both sides. Rather than stoking tensions, America’s Jews should recognize the encouraging signs of progress that are being made.

There is only one way to bring positive change to the Middle-East and the Gulf, and that is through dialogue and diplomacy. Although there is much to criticize and there are wrongs to right, we need to engage with all parties in the neighborhood if progress is to be achieved. If the ultimate goal is peace between Israel and the Palestinians, then the other countries in the region need to be on board. The Arab world needs to help bring the Palestinians to the table and support an agreement. They will do this if they are convinced it is in their best interests, both domestically on the Arab street and internationally when it comes to trade with the U.S. and other countries.

The signs that peace is achievable are there. In the past month alone, I have travelled to both Qatar and Saudi Arabia and have spoken extensively with leaders and high-level officials there. They are all clear that positive relations with the U.S., be it with lawmakers, business leaders or opinion-formers, is something all Arab countries see as valuable. The signs are also there that rejuvenating the Middle East Peace Process will continue to be a priority for the Trump administration.

The Trump administration is crafting a plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace to be unveiled “by early next year,” according to The New York Times. Following his recent weeklong trip to the region, U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt declared the U.S. “will never impose a deal — our goal is to facilitate, not dictate a lasting peace agreement”.

Those that say Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a barrier to this peace are misguided. What matters is not the location of an embassy, which is trivial on a greater scale. What matters is the political will on both sides to come to the table and negotiate. This has to be the focus if we are to progress. Kushner’s efforts behind the scenes will hopefully also help achieve this. The number of visits he has taken to the Arab world can only be a good thing, and will hopefully contribute towards new channels of dialogue and a refreshed vision of optimism opening up amongst Arab countries. 

The question is, can American Jews play a part in this process and make peace more achievable? I believe so. Our contribution starts from a diplomatic level. There are signs of diplomacy emerging on both sides. Attitudes in many of the Arab States are going through a gradual metamorphosis and becoming more aligned with America’s position in many areas. How the administration and Congress speak about the Arab world makes a real difference in promoting dialogue. Americans, and American Jews, can help support this process. 

However, diplomacy requires two players, there needs to be a feeling of reciprocity. If there is a sense that neither side is willing to communicate effectively, they have no time for each other’s opinion and there is no appetite for cooperation, then dialogue has no chance of succeeding. 

For the first time in a long time, the Arab world is now making efforts to show they want to engage.

They may only be taking small steps, but they are no less significant for that. In the last couple of months UNESCO, a thorn in Israel’s side, has delayed a negative vote on Israel and not objected to a Jew becoming its new director-general.

Further afield, Qatar has made it clear that Israelis (and Jews) are welcome at its World Cup. Israel Judo Association officials also “shared greetings and positive discussion” with officials from their UAE counterparts following last month’s Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam. When taken together these developments represent the signs that a significant movement may be underway. I believe the tide is turning and American Jews need to play their part. 

Many argue that Qatar is different, that they support terrorist groups such as Hamas which refutes Israel’s right to exist and we should act to condemn them where their interests run contrary to Israel’s. The situation is extremely complex and nuanced and Qatar is viewed by many as an outlier in the region. But the fact remains that America is heavily invested in Qatar and Israel is engaging with them. There are shared interests between Israel and Qatar and both countries want to take those interests forward. Where Israel and America are aligned, American Jewry should be following suit. We should be sending a message to Qatari officials that we are ready to communicate and open to engagement. American Jewry is equally well-equipped to help support diplomatic mechanisms, by creating a positive environment conducive to peace.

Engaging in a comprehensive dialogue with the Arab world is sometimes delicate but stability will only be brought through mutual cooperation and that requires making tough and often difficult decisions. If we foster a climate of collaboration, welcoming the positive changes and opening the door to greater dialogue the rewards could be immense.  Attitudes are changing, but profound change doesn’t happen overnight and what’s needed now is some level heads, time and care to allow these small changes to develop and see where they lead.

Jack Rosen is president of the American Jewish Congress and chairman of the American Council for World Jewry.

Friday, December 15, 2017 - 2:33pm

Thursday, December 14, 2017 - 9:40am
By: American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen
Featured in the Ynetnews
 
Jerusalem is and has always been the heart of the Jewish people. This most ancient and controversial of cities is the capital of the Jewish state as recognized by the government of Israel and Jews all over the world.
 
Rather than being lambasted, US President Donald Trump should be applauded for taking the brave step to recognize officially Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city and committing to relocating the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This historic acknowledgement by the Trump administration recognizes Jerusalem’s just and rightful position as the centerpiece of the Jewish state.
 
US officials have been keen to quash claims that the designation would in any way prejudice final-status negotiations as part of any future peace deal. There is little reason why it should, so I say to my friends in the Arab world that they should not lose hope. It’s clear that there is still room for negotiations, and no reason why a settlement—one that is palatable for both sides—cannot be reached. As Ambassador Ron Dermer said following the announcement, “The US did not say they were deciding the boundaries of Jerusalem,” and so a comprehensive peace deal is still very much alive.

Recognizing Jerusalem is an acknowledgement of reality (Photo: Israel Bardugo)

Jerusalem

Unfortunately, the international community does not see it this way. The reaction has moved from plain critical to outrage. Leaders from London to Montevideo, from the UN to the Vatican are falling over themselves to condemn President Trump. The reaction is both wrong-headed, misguided and, indeed, dangerous.

You can’t help wondering why it is that the Jewish state is singled out in this way, given the ongoing atrocities in countries like Syria and Myanmar that have not received the same reaction. What other country on earth has its own choice of capital city questioned? What moral right does any other country have to dictate to Israel where it chooses its Capital? The outrageous thing about this whole episode is that it is so controversial in the first place.

While it cannot be denied that the announcement represents a different approach by the US and a break with its long-time policy of ambiguity on its status, Jerusalem is and always has been the capital of the Jewish state. President Trump’s announcement, in this context, is little more than a belated acknowledgement of historical fact. Jerusalem is after all the designated seat of the Israeli government, the Prime Minister’s Office and the legislature. It is a pure charade to pretend otherwise. Every person travelling to Israel, from a casual tourist to a head of state is left in no doubt where Israel’s capital lies.

Much of the focus from opponents to the move has been on the obstacles it will present the US in its efforts to broker peace, which President Trump has described as the “ultimate deal.” In reality, the Palestinian attitude to the peace process has long been entrenched, with the Palestinian leadership preferring to embark on unilateral action and diplomatic terrorism at international institutions, such as the UN, the International Criminal Court and UNESCO, instead of returning to the negotiating table with Israel.

President Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital (Photo: AP)

President Donald Trump

We all understand the pain felt by ordinary Palestinians, but the Palestinian leadership really only has itself to blame for its current predicament. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ warning of the “dangerous consequences” for lasting peace as a result of the US action speaks of a cynical attempt, given legitimacy by the over-blown outcry of world leaders, to inflame tensions and justify further diplomatic and military terror.

US allies roundly criticized the policy deviation, with the UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May declaring it “unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region.” French President Emmanuel Macron, on the other hand, condemned it as a move that “(went) against international law and all the resolutions of the UN Security Council”. Perhaps to be expected, Turkey also chipped into the furor, with President Tayyip Erdogan likening the announcement to “throwing the region into a ring of fire.”

The vehemence of the collective response from world leaders demonstrates yet again that where Israel is involved, the international community always seems to revel in its condemnation and faux-outrage. This is clear hypocrisy, the likes of which we have seen repeated countless times at the UN Security Council, as the same standards are not applied to Western countries, much less more unsavory regimes around the world. Such an outcry was simply not seen on the same scale when Assad unleashed Chemical Weapons against his own people in Syria and following the ethnic cleansing of Myanmar’s Rohingyas, which continues to rage on.

Recognizing Jerusalem is an acknowledgement of reality. Peace will only be achieved by furthering the dialogue between Israel and Sunni Arab states with a shared interest in helping to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table. Overreacting on Jerusalem is not going to help and only serves to encourage and embolden Islamic radicals and their apologists in the West, which in turn entrenches the extreme Israeli right. These, in combination, are the real obstacles to peace.

Jack Rosen is president of the American Jewish Congress.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 3:40pm

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 - 1:42pm

Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 2:39pm

Monday, November 20, 2017 - 4:49pm
By: Dr.Kazmir's
Featured in the Huffington Post
 
I was heartened to see recently that Argentina and the United States are talking about increasing trade with each other. I think open trade is a hallmark of a productive economy and the United States couldn’t have a better partner to deal with on the Argentinian end of the spectrum than President Mauricio Macri. I met President Macri last year at the house of American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen and then again earlier this month at a private dinner at the same location.

Jack is working hard around the world to build relationships that could be beneficial not only to AJC, but to many countries worldwide. This includes President Macri, whom Jack is very close with.

On a personal level, President Macri is a charming guy. When you combine his charisma and his penchant for reform, you can easily tell why many consider him to be the Argentinian Ronald Reagan. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a lot of world leaders but to this point, President Macri has been the most impressive one I have met.

I have been to Argentina many times since my daughter studied abroad in Buenos Aires for her law degree. Without a doubt, the country has changed in a positive way under President Macri’s leadership.

Most recently Macri’s party won re-election, which is good news for the Argentinian people and for us, since it makes the road to trade between our two countries easier. There are many investment opportunities for American businesses in Argentina and I hope the friendship between our two nations grows so that the U.S. and Argentina can benefit from each other over the long haul.

In addition, for as long as President Macri is in office, it means that we have a key ally in the region, which is excellent. I am very pleased that President Macri is a friend to Israel as well.

I look forward to progress continuing to be made in Argentina under President Macri and am excited for the positive global outcomes that should occur as a result.

 

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

 

 

 

 

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/religion/346887-charlottesville-does-not-stop-me-from-being-a-proud-american-jew
Tuesday, August 22, 2017 - 4:01pm

The scenes from Charlottesville last week were truly harrowing. My parents, and thousands of other Jews across Europe, did not flee the Nazis and come to America for their grandchildren to face the kind of violence and hatred from the extreme-right that we all witnessed this weekend. However, the response to the tragedy has, if anything, made me even more proud to be an American Jew.

After witnessing the disgusting protests and statements made in Charlottesville, I came away with a feeling of revulsion. Neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and Confederates brought hatred and discrimination into an otherwise peaceful community. Anti-Semitism and other forms of grotesque racism were suddenly acceptable and violence seemed to be inevitable. 

This was a scene that many of us had hoped was confined to the history books.

In the aftermath, many focused on the President Trump’s reaction and what he did and didn’t say at various points after the attack. As a Jewish leader, many would have imagined that this would have left me questioning our country and its values. But I think it is important to understand the wider reactions, from religious leaders, politicians and society. For once, I have found the response from all parts of society overwhelming.

People from all walks of life, all races and all religions were willing to stand up against these atrocities and stand united against discrimination and hatred. Many mentioned the anti-Semitic nature of the rally directly and were willing to show that this was not acceptable.

Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) family, like my own, witnessed first-hand the atrocities of Nazi Germany. He made it very clear, “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn't give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.” He was not alone. Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives all made their position public. That is without detailing the scores of Christian, Muslim, Jewish and other faith leaders who spoke out against the atrocity.

Our religious and political leaders proved that America is able to unite against this type of incident and rally behind those affected. They have proven that they are focused on the institutions that make us great: our freedom, our democracy, our passion for justice.

The public has followed this lead and instead of turning on our fellow Americans, the hatred on display this weekend brought us together. Much of the loathing comes from resentment and hardship but as American’s we are committed to understanding and unity, coupled with our desire to eliminate racist and anti-Semitic ideologies from our country once and for all.

I do not want to down play this tragedy, but we must realize that a small minority does not define us as Americans. We are a large country and there are many fringe and extreme groups. When this type of atrocity occurs, we all must clamp down and find ways to stop hateful ideologies from spreading and seeping into our society. Rallying together is our only tool in fighting these atrocities.

When my family was scattered and shaken by the horrors of the Holocaust we had America to turn to. America is still the home of liberty and freedom. As long as we continue to speak out against hatred, even when it comes from within, we will only be stronger for it. This is the hope of our nation and our people. To fight for freedom from oppression and for peace. This is our legacy, this is our duty. I am proud of my heritage and my country. I am proud to be a Jewish American.

Jack Rosen is president of the American Jewish Congress, an organization fighting for the civil rights and civil liberties of minorities.

 

 
 
Monday, July 3, 2017 - 2:30pm
By: American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen
Featured in the Jerusalem Post
 
From today, the Kotel [Western Wall] is open to all Jews.” So said Diaspora Affairs minister Naftali Bennett in January 2016 when a deal was agreed to enable men and women to pray together at the Western Wall in a designated zone. Well, following the government’s decision to “freeze” the “Kotel Deal,” now apparently the Wall is not for all Jews. This a slap in the face to millions of Jews all over the world who believe in religious freedom and pluralism. It also makes it much harder to defend and advocate for Israel in the US and the international arena.
 
Like many others, I welcomed the January 2016 compromise, seeing in it not just a deal to enable egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall but a reaffirmation of the liberal democratic principles on which the State of Israel was established.
 
After this volte-face I feel disappointed and fearful for the future complexion of Israel.
 
Religious freedom has been a problematic issue ever since the establishment of the state. At the beginning there was the status-quo agreement struck between David Ben-Gurion and the religious parties, which effectively gave the Orthodox establishment a stranglehold on religious matters. To this day the Chief Rabbinate has authority over kashrut, shabbat, Jewish burial and personal status issues, such as marriage, divorce and conversion. Secular and non-Orthodox Israelis and Diaspora Jews still smart under the impact of that agreement.
 
In the “Kotel deal” at long last sought to address one of the injustices of the Orthodox religious monopoly. Not only did the deal provide a practical solution for those non-Orthodox Jews who wanted to express their faith according to their traditions at Judaism’s most holy place, but it also offered the hope that creative solutions could be found to address the legitimate concerns and aspirations of non-Orthodox Jews.
 
I agree with the assessment of Natan Sharansky that “[The] decision... will make our work to bring Israel and the Jewish world closer together increasingly more difficult.” For those of us at the coal face, defending Israel from criticism and vitriol, this decision is a significant obstacle. I and many others like me have not fought all these years for a haredi- dominated religious state. Here in the US, the American Jewish Congress has been a leading voice in advocating for hundreds of civil rights and religious freedoms cases.
 
Americans and especially American Jews cherish their religious freedom, and this decision in Israel portrays the country in a negative light. In one fell swoop it has the potential to alienate our youth and undermine the impressive success of the Birthright program in cementing the connection between young American Jews and Israel. Many more Jews will be turned off Israel now than were won over to Israel through Birthright. The support of the American Jewish community is crucial to the US-Israel relationship and there can be no doubt that this decision will be demotivating for a very large proportion of that community. Unsurprisingly a high-level delegation from AIPAC has been hurriedly organized to discuss the impact on support for Israel in Congress.
 
The government’s action is deeply damaging and plays into the hands of Israel’s critics, especially the growing number of progressives in the US. They will all now be emboldened in their view that the State of Israel has strayed from the high-minded principles embodied in its Declaration of Independence. This decision therefore has strategic implications.
 
It undermines the democratic pluralistic essence of Israel and Israel’s relationship both with American Jewry and the broader Diaspora.
 
Though he points to the wrong culprits, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau is absolutely right to remind everyone that the reason given for the destruction of the Temple, from which the Western Wall derives its holiness, was “sinat hinam” (baseless hatred) between Jews.
 
United we stand, divided we fall.
 
The negotiations announced by the Prime Minister’s Office last Sunday must begin soon. We hope the government can respond to rectify quickly this disappointment and repair some of the damage.
 
This was clearly a political maneuver, but the Western Wall should be out of bounds for politics.