Iran-Americans motivated to build new bridges with Israelis

By Karmel Melamed

(JNS) After a visit to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in late July, Khosrow Beitollahi, a former Iranian Air Force pilot and activist against the current Iranian regime, said he was devastated to learn magnitude of the Nazi genocide as well, but inspired by the spirit of the Jewish people to rebuild a new life in their ancestral homeland.

Ahmad Batebi, a non-Jewish Iranian activist and journalist renouncing the Iranian “Sun and Lion” flag that was used during the Pahlavy dynasty in Israel. Credit: Courtesy.

Beitollahi is one of hundreds of non-Jewish Iranian activists in the United States – a growing number – who openly support Israel because of their desire to help rebuild the neglected and devastated Iranian landscape under the current Islamic regime in to be able to.

“This current criminal regime in Iran has created a failed state because it cannot provide basic water, electricity and food to the country’s 80 million people,” said Beitollahi, 70, who lives in Los Angeles. “This regime will soon collapse and we Iranian patriots have a responsibility to reach out to Israel, our one true friend in the region for its help to avert a major humanitarian catastrophe for the Iranian people. “

Beitollahi was one of six Iranian dissidents from the United States who visited Israel last month on a tour organized by the Southern California-based organization Institute for Freedom Voices (iVOL).

“We did not go to Israel as representatives of the Iranian people,” said Beitollahi, who was involved in a failed 1980 attempt to bomb the house of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran. “We have gone as Iranian patriots who have watched the mullahs’ regime destroy our beloved Iran for 42 years and we want the help of Israeli experts in water, agriculture, technology and other fields to rebuild Iran when this evil regime will soon collapse. “

The iVOL trip was not the first of its kind. In 2016, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) hosted a symposium in which 15-20 activists opposing the Iranian regime from the United States and Europe met with Israeli security experts to discuss the consequences of the Iran nuclear deal. At the time, the JCPA event in Israel had not received much media coverage due to concerns that some Iranian participants could be the target of potential attacks by Iranian regime agents operating in Europe.

Ahmad Batebi, an Iranian non-Jewish activist and journalist who also traveled to Israel with iVOL, was inundated with positive messages and support for Israel on the social media platforms of Iranians inside and outside from Iran after posting photos of himself in Israel.

“I have been moved to tears by the countless messages of love and desire for peace with the Israeli people from my compatriots in Iran who know that the Islamic Republic has lied to them about Israel for decades,” he said. said Batebi, a former political prisoner who now lives in Washington, DC

Batebi said he and Iranian opposition activists would like to continue forging new ties with Israelis in Israel and the United States through a series of cultural events.

“I would love to see a night of poetry recitals between Israelis and Iranians here or in Israel – or maybe Israeli and Iranian musicians playing together,” Batebi said. “Each act of open friendship between Iranians and Israelis helps bring the two peoples together and strengthens this ancient bond. “

Indeed, support for Israel among many Iranian-Americans and Iranians in Iran is strong. During the Israel-Hamas war last May, thousands of Iranians around the world posted messages of support for Israel on social media. An Iran-based account identified as “Mamadou Archives” hosted a live session on May 13 with more than 25,000 attendees – mostly Iranians – who sent nearly 100,000 tweets in seven hours.

For some Iranian-American opposition activists, supporting Israel is not a new phenomenon.

“Over the past decade, I have fought tooth and nail on the Iranian and international fronts to prove that Israel is not the enemy of Iran, but the enemy of the Iranian regime,” the Iranian regime said. Dr Reza Parchizadeh, a political theorist. based in Maryland. “I have made many proposals for friendship and cooperation between the two countries, and in the meantime, I have paid the price for all those who stood in the way of ‘normalization’.”

With the larger Iranian-American expat community based in California, activists said they would like to start connecting with Israelis and pro-Israel American groups at the local level.

One such Los Angeles-based Iranian nonprofit, the Normal Life Council, was inspired by Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei, who won a silver medal at the recent Tokyo Olympics and the dedicated to the people of Israel.

“We would like to co-organize with a local Israeli group a judo or wrestling exhibition here in Los Angeles between Iranian athletes like Mollaei and Israeli athletes to show the Iranian people that there is nothing wrong with competing with it. Israelis, ”said Ali Ebrahimzadeh. , president of the Council of Normal Life.

Saeed Deihimi, an Iranian-American pianist and music teacher at the popular World of Music School in Los Angeles, said his band would be happy to have the opportunity to have joint Iranian-Israeli concerts.

“Over the past 40 years, the Iranian Jewish community has almost single-handedly kept Iranian music alive by encouraging their children to learn Persian instruments and by funding Iranian musicians or singers by bringing them to their parties,” he said. said Deihimi, who is not Jewish. . “I know that many of my students and their families would jump at the chance to help fund and organize musical concerts that promote friendship between Israelis and Iranians.

Arielle Mokhtarzadeh, who sits on the board of directors of the Jewish-Iranian Association 30 Years After in Los Angeles, explained that Iranian-American Jews “exist in the gray space between Iran and Israel.”

“We have the unique ability to translate and transform the relationship between non-Jewish Iranians and Israelis,” Mokhtarzadeh said. “Our existence as a member of a group makes us a great asset to the other. “

Iranian Jews in Southern California have organized a number of cultural and social events in recent years that have hosted members of the non-Jewish Iranian community.

In September 2019, Iranian rabbi Ruben Malekan organized the very first Selichot prayer service at Temple Beth El in West Hollywood which incorporated traditional Persian instruments. The event featured Malekan chanting Hebrew prayers in Persian melodies while internationally renowned non-Jewish Iranian grandmaster Manoochehr Sadeghi played the Santur instrument, a hammered Persian dulcimer.

“It was truly a spiritual and not so much religious event where we welcomed Iranians of all faiths to join us in a sense of brotherhood,” Malekan said. “As Iranian Jews, we have a deep love for Iran and Israel, so I see no reason why we shouldn’t have more similar musical events to bring these two people together in friendship.”

Beitollahi stressed the long-term importance of building these new bridges.

“This Islamic regime in Iran will collapse – it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when,” he said, “and we have to have our relations in place with the Israelis to help the Iranian people to immediately rebuild the nation the day after the ousting of the mullahs.


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