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David Matas

David Matas: Antisemitism and anti-Zionism of the regime of the mullahs in Iran

by David Matas, March 8, 2015


(A submission to the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights 26 February, 2015, Ottawa)



When the subject matter is international human rights violations and Iran, we have regrettably a wide range of subjects we can discuss.   Today we want to focus on Iranian antisemitism and anti-Zionism not just because we represent B'nai Brith.  We do so because antisemitism and anti-Zionism are central to the regime of the mullahs of Iran.  Though the regime bills itself as Islamic and Shiite, it is more accurate to describe it as anti-Zionist and antisemitic. 


There are many different ideological strands to the anti-Zionism and antisemitism of the regime.  Here I will mention only five - Holocaust denial, the rejection of any possible peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis, the mistreatment and expulsion of its own Jewish population, the creation of Hezbollah as a surrogate to attack Israel and the terrorism directed to Jewish targets worldwide.


There is a difference in tone, we acknowledge, between the previous president of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the present President Hassan Rouhani.  Yet, in substance, the regime remains ideologically the same.  Francois de La Rochefoucauld wrote that hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.  If one focuses on what the regime of the mullahs does, its actions are unequivocal.


Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hosted a Holocaust denial conference in Teheran in December 2006.  Another one was scheduled for December 2013 which Rouhani cancelled.  Rouhani also has said "the crime that Nazis committed towards the Jews as well as non Jews is reprehensible and condemnable".   But then, under Rouhani, the Holocaust denial conference happened anyways, last year, in October 2014.


Second, the regime of the mullahs is actively hostile to any peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis.  The regime takes the position that Israel should not exist, no matter whether the Palestinian authority comes to terms with Israel or not. Symptomatic of this attitude is the refusal of the regime even to call Israel by its name.  Instead Iran refers to Israel as the Zionist entity.  This is terminology President Rouhani himself uses.


I go to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva regularly, amongst other reasons, to attempt to counter with my colleagues in B'nai Brith International the ganging up on Israel at the UN. B'nai Brith International will be sending a mission again to Geneva in ten days and I will be joining them.  In one of my previous UN visits, when I was sitting observing events in the Human Rights Council chamber, an Iranian delegate fomented a typical diatribe against Israel, referring to it only as "the Zionist entity". The President of the Council interrupted the speaker and said that he could not do that, that he had to call a state by its name.


President Rouhani has said that whatever the Palestinians would accept, Iran would accept .  He referred to Palestinians and not the Palestinian Authority. That means that he included Hamas, who could not accept peace with Israel without ceasing to be Hamas. Rouhani has also said that Israel is an "old wound" that should be removed.


The Jewish population of Iran has shrunk from 100,000 to 120,000  in 1948 to 8,756 in 2011 .  The Iranian constitution enacted after the revolution states that Jews are a recognized religious minority who are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies and to act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education.  


Yet, Jews, including Jewish community leaders, have been arbitrarily executed, accused and convicted of spying for Israel, and their property confiscated.  The leadership of the Jewish community has been forced to condemn Israel publicly and take part in anti-Israel demonstrations.  


On behalf of B'nai Brith Canada, I sought a visa from Iran in 2000 so that I could observe the trial of 13 Orthodox Jews in May of that year, prosecuted on trumped up charges of espionage for Israel.  The Government of Iran never responded to my visa request.  Ten of the accused were convicted in unfair trials and given sentences ranging from 4 to 13 years.


Hezbollah began in Iran in 1982 as part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.  The Iranian regime sent fighters from Iran to Lebanon at the end of 1983; these fighters constituted the initial core of Hezbollah.  


A United States Federal Court judge Royce Lamberth, in a May 2003 judgment wrote:

            "It is clear that the formation and emergence of Hezbollah as a major terrorist organization is due to the government of Iran. Hezbollah presently receives extensive financial and military technical support from Iran, which funds and supports terrorist activities."

Hezbollah is listed in Canada as a terrorist organization.


A suicide bomber drove a car bomb in the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires Argentina in March 1992.  The attack killed 29 people and injured 100.  Ibrahim Hussein Berro, a second suicide car bomb terrorist, attacked the Jewish community centre, called the Israeli Argentine Mutual Association, with the acronym AMIA, in Buenos Aires in July 1994, killing 85 and wounding over 200. 


The Argentinean intelligence service investigated this second attack and concluded, in a detailed report, that the attack was planned and organized by the Government of Iran.  The decision to mount the attack was taken in August 1993 by Iran's National Security Council.  Participating in the decision were the then and current leader Ayatollah Khamenei as well as the then president Hashemi Rafsanjani.  Iran used Hezbollah to perpetrate the attack.   This attack has made the news recently because the lead Argentinean prosecutor Alberto Nisman was murdered in Buenos Aires just last month, in January.


Two Hezbollah operatives killed five Israeli tourists and a bus driver and wounded thirty two Israelis in Bulgaria in July 2012.   One of the two attackers identified by the Government of Bulgaria, Hassan el-Hajj Hassan, is a Canadian citizen as well as a citizen of Lebanon.


In the little time allocated, I would like to spend a bit on possible actions the Government and Parliament of Canada can take. I will limit myself to six points.


One is to expand the exceptions to sovereign immunity to catch Iranian human rights violations in a larger net.  It should be possible for victims of the Iranian regime

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