A MODERN HOLOCAUST?
by Ira A. Lipman
During this period in which we commemorate our nation’s independence, we
should reflect upon the significance of the liberties that were secured for us almost 225
years ago. We enjoy freedom of religion, freedom of expression—the freedom to live our
lives without fear of a tyrannical, oppressive government. We have the right to read
whatever we choose, the right to live and to travel wherever we want, and the right to
education in whatever field we desire. Our people as a whole have the privilege to be the
freest in the world. No other country’s citizens have such guaranteed liberties, which too
many of our own take for granted.
The plight of the Iranian Jews recently convicted of espionage provides a stark
contrast to our own hard-earned freedom. These men have not experienced due process of
law. Their government has violated essential human rights in imprisoning and
subsequently sentencing these men not for the alleged crime of spying on behalf of
Israel, but for the age-old sin of practicing their religion openly. We cannot in good
conscience celebrate the fruits of liberty, while allowing others to suffer the atrocities that
characterized such eras as the Spanish Inquisition, Maoist China and Stalinist Russia.
The justice meted out by the authorities in Iran bears chilling resemblance to the
measures used to punish medieval heretics and other such enemies of the state. Numerous
accounts have emerged that reveal decades of systematic torture by the Iranian
government for the purpose of obtaining recantations. Only by this means can prisoners
avoid their physical punishment. The widespread use of television allows the authorities
to ensure their control over the population by the carefully choreographed broadcast of
After interrogating the incarcerated Jews for more than a year, the Iranian
government succeeded in obtaining several such confessions, which have been repeated
on state television. The closed trial that ensued did not produce evidence that these men
had passed on—or even had access to—classified information. According to
representatives of the legal defense, these confessions served as the only damning
evidence in the court proceedings. The prison sentences handed out by the judge bode ill
for the remaining 27,000 Jews living in Iran.
The growing anti-Semitism within the Islamic government assures us that, unless
we act against this travesty of justice, this incident will only mark the beginning of a new
crusade against the Jewish people. Others will be taken hostage, tortured, wrongfully
tried and convicted. Already, half of the Jewish population in Iran is considering
emigration. All 13 of these men are innocent, yet the Iranian government has convicted
10 of them. What protection do the rest of the nation’s Jews have against a government
that treats them all as spies for Israel? The protracted persecution of these men serves as
an example of what will surely follow. Those of us in the free world cannot sit complacently by and allow such evil to go unchecked.
Freedom of religion is among the most precious of our liberties, one for which hundreds of thousands of men and women worldwide have died over the centuries. We have a moral responsibility to try to prevent such repression of innocent people who want only to uphold the traditions and beliefs that provide their spiritual sustenance. We have witnessed firsthand the tragedy that can occur when tyrants are permitted to reign free; we cannot allow it to happen again.
We live in the greatest nation the world has ever seen, and we owe that greatness to those who sacrificed their lives to secure our freedom. Our legacy demands that we intercede on behalf of these innocent men. If we are not willing to act for the freedom of future generations, we relinquish our own right to wear the mantle of liberty.