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Jamal Abdi

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Commentary's Racist Attack Against Iranian Americans

Posted: 07/20/2012 5:48 pm

Commentary magazine today published a racist attack against Iranian Americans, cynically exploiting the disgusting terrorist attack in Bulgaria that took the lives of seven Israelis as an opportunity to settle petty domestic political scores and disenfranchise our community.

In a column today, Commentary's Alana Goodman suggested that Iranian Americans should not be allowed to engage with their own elected officials because of actions by the Iranian regime. Many in the Iranian diaspora left Iran precisely because of the regime's undemocratic makeup and its violations of human and civil rights. Now, Commentary is advocating that the U.S. government should close its doors to Iranian Americans and deny our democratic right to petition our government.

Goodman slammed a first-ever meeting between the White House and a diverse group of Iranian-American community leaders as a "slap in the face to the pro-Israel community." Her implication that Americans of Iranian descent should be punished for the crimes of the Iranian regime is despicable, and her ridiculous claim that being pro-Israel means promoting racism against Iranian Americans is one that that flies in the face of the long history of the American-Jewish community's support for civil rights.

In the same week that Michele Bachmann faced a firestorm of criticism for her own racist attacks against Arab and Muslim-Americans -- insinuating that Hillary Clinton's deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin was somehow affiliated with terrorism because of her heritage -- Commentary decided to double down on the racist attacks against Americans of Middle Eastern descent.

The White House meeting referenced by Goodman was indeed a historic event for the Iranian-American community. The White House invited community leaders from across the political spectrum -- including members and staff of not just my organization, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), but organizations like the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) and Iranian Alliance Across Borders (IAAB). Other ethnic and religious communities, including Jewish-Americans, Muslim-Americans, and Arab-Americans, have participated in similar meetings for years without controversy. Now, Iranian-American community leaders from across the political spectrum were invited as a group to discuss everything from foreign policy to the economy to health care. It was a moment of pride for a community that for too long has not seen its economic and academic success matched by its level of civic engagement.

But Commentary seized on the meeting to argue that Iranian Americans do not deserve a seat at the table. Goodman exploited the disgusting and tragic murder of Israelis in Bulgaria to advance the neoconservative crowd's long-held commitment to silence any organized and effective effort by the Iranian-American community on issues of substance by any means necessary.

The neo-conservative movement's bigoted racism aimed at Iranian Americans is nothing new, but its efforts to silence us has never been so blatant. Goodman has in the past fought on the same side as the Iranian regime in her efforts to silence the Iranian-American community, such as when she attacked NIAC's successful work with Congress and the State Department to support the establishment of a UN human rights monitor.

And now, the blatantly racist agenda aimed at disenfranchising Iranian American voices through smears and slander has been put on full display by Commentary's latest, most shameless anti-Iranian-American screed. Similarly, in recent weeks others in the neoconservative camp -- including even Iranian Americans on the fringes that support war against Iran -- have glibly defended discrimination against Americans of Iranian descent as a necessary component of the effort to punish Tehran.

Sadly, the terror attack in Bulgaria is being exploited to silence Iranian Americans who had nothing to do with this appalling act, simply because of our heritage. Americans of all political stripes, ethnic backgrounds, and ideological perspectives should be agree that Goodman's shameless opportunism is despicable and Commentary's racism against Iranian Americans should be rejected unequivocally.

 

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