Where are all the usual suspects?

Why will Westerners wear green for Hamas and Hizbullah but not for Iranian dissidents?

basij throwing rock 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
basij throwing rock 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Following the contested Iranian election, the green armbands of the opposition and pictures of bloodied and dying Iranian protesters were being held aloft by Iranians from Los Angeles to Paris. Noticeably absent from the international scene were Westerners, particularly students. The reaction to events in Iran has shown once again the double standards and hypocrisy of those in Europe and the West who jump at the slightest opportunity to protest Israel but remain stoic in the face of events in Iran. While many have compared the outpouring of anger in Iran to what presaged the 1979 revolution, there is one key difference; this time around, no Western students care. Before the shah fell from power, he often visited the capitals of major European and North American cities. Every time he did, tens of thousands of progressive students and human-rights activists poured out onto the streets calling him a fascist and protesting his visit. In one such protest on June 2, 1967 a German student, Benno Ohnesorg, was even killed. But now there is no such outpouring of emotion. Neither is there any interest from the UN or from Jimmy Carter. YET IN January, when Israel was embroiled in a war with Hamas, the anger directed at her in Europe was apoplectic. When Israel fought a war against Hizbullah in 2006, Western students even proudly wore the symbol of Hizbullah, a clenched fist holding an AK-47. So where were the Western students to hold aloft the green armbands of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi? Why will Western students who call themselves progressives wear green for Hamas and Hizbullah - terrorist organizations that murder civilians - and not for Iranian dissidents? Why have CNN and other major media been so coy when it comes to covering the outrages perpetrated by the regime in Iran? Describing the deaths of protesters, CNN never once, in the coverage I watched, mentioned who had killed them. It simply said they were "shot." But when Iranian dissidents in Washington were interviewed with "death to the dictator" placards, the CNN reporter challenged them, demanding to know if they were calling for "murder." Murder? The only murder that has taken place so far is the murder of Iranian protesters. For members of my parent's generation, protesting the shah was one of the things you did as a sign you were a good person. It was up there with the civil rights movement. So where is this generation in its opposition to the modern shah of Iran, the ayatollahs and their lackey, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? THE REASON for the disconnect on Iran has strange roots. It was encapsulated in the support that Michel Foucault, a major figure in Western philosophy, gave the Islamic revolution. Foucault, angry at what he found to be a conservative Western attitude toward his homosexuality and feminism, came to support Iranian Islamism in the warped belief that it was the newest "revolutionary" idea. Even when women were smothered in chadors and gays were executed by the ayatollah, he didn't admit that he was wrong. During the years of the second Bush administration, there was a belief among some on the extreme Left that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Even the indefensible Ahmadinejad was rewarded by those choosing to see his evil through the lens of "realism," "interests" and "historical meddling by the West." The BBC claimed that should Mousavi win the election, it would be "hard for Israel to ratchet up opposition to Iran" and CNN claimed that "Iran's main enemy, Israel," was watching the protests closely. Those who oppose Israel therefore justify supporting Iran. This strange logic has led to support for Ahmadinejad's right to "free speech" by inviting him to Columbia University and supporting his "right" to speak at Durban II. It is a disgrace that those who don keffiyehs as a fashion symbol in universities and fiercely protest Israeli actions in Gaza and Lebanon will not lift a finger in defense of democracy in Iran. It is a sad testimony to the warped logic of "human rights" that it was a cause célèbre to riot against the shah in the streets of Europe in 1978, but that no one can be called away from their coffee houses and belly dancing classes to raise their hands against the rigged election in Iran. There are many in the West who are on the wrong side of history, and just as Iranians did not forgive the West for coddling the shah, neither will Iran's next generation forgive us for our silence on this momentous crackdown. The writer is a PhD student in geography at the Hebrew University and runs the Terra Incognita Journal blog. sfrantzman@hotmail.com