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Analysis: Following the Arab Spring and renewed Iranian aggression, Middle Eastern dissidents increasingly supporting Israel

From Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority to the Islamic Republic of Iran and Balochistan, an increasing number of Middle Eastern dissidents have started to outspokenly support the State of Israel following the outbreak of the Arab Spring and renewed Iranian aggression in the Middle East region.
Baloch dissident Ashraf Sherjan waves Balochi and Israeli flags Photo Credit: Baloch Republican Party

Following the outbreak of the Arab Spring and renewed Iranian aggression in the Middle East region, an increasing number of Middle Eastern dissidents have started to outspokenly support the State of Israel.   From Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority to the Islamic Republic of Iran and Balochistan, many of these dissidents have made a name for themselves by promoting peaceful coexistence with the State of Israel, viewing the Jewish state to be a bright light in a region dominated by radical Islamists and totalitarian dictatorships.   Others see Israel as a potential ally against their own much hated regimes.

Ashraf Sherjan is a Baloch dissident who has made a name for himself within social media by making numerous pro-Israel statements and waving the Baloch flag beside the Israeli flag.  In an exclusive interview with JerusalemOnline, Sherjan explained why he supports Israel: “Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East. In Israel, everyone has full rights to practice their religion no matter what religion you belong to.   Israel is growing very fast and with the time, the world is understanding Israel better. Countries which rejected Israel are now slowly opening their doors for Israel and its citizens. Recently in a conference in Germany, I stated very openly that I support Israel because we Balochs are secular Muslims.   We respect all religions in Balochistan. Our great leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti used to say in Balochistan everyone has the right to practice and worship their religion.”

“I am a member of a political party known as the Baloch Republican Party and our president is Nawab Brahumdagh Bugti,” Sherjan added. “He too is a secular Muslim.   He used to tell us that we have no problem with Israel because Israel is not abducting and killing the people of Balochistan.  Israel is not using helicopters and fighter jets against Balochistan like Pakistan, which calls itself an Islamic Republic and kills the people of Balochistan. Recently, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his support for the people of Balochistan and India is a very good friend of Israel so we Balochs ask Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to support India so that India can help the people of Balochistan to regain their freedom as soon as possible.”

Palestinian peace activist John Elias Dabis has also noticed changes in the Palestinian and Arab arena: “The Arab governments share the mutual Iran threat with Israel and want peace with Israel for this reason. Thus, the peace movements in many places excluding Iran, Lebanon and Sudan are not punished for seeking peace with Israel. In the Palestinian society excluding Hamas and other extremist entities, I see an overall need and want for peace. On Facebook, I always ask Palestinians what they think about peace and I always get less hostile reactions than I used to.”

Reverend Daad Essa Mamary waves Syrian, Israeli and American flags Photo Credit: Syrian Peace Movement

Reverend Daad Essa Mamary plays a leading role in the Syrian Peace Movement led by Mohammed Adnan. She has outspokenly promoted peace between Syria and Israel, even going as far as distributing a picture on Facebook of herself waving the Syrian, American and Israeli flag together on Capitol Hill while standing beside an Israeli citizen and waving the peace signal.  In an exclusive interview with JerusalemOnline, she stated: “I am a Middle Eastern pastor.  I ran away from terrorism in 1991 and since then, I have been living in the United States and dreaming that one day I can fight against the dictatorship that teaches people to hate one another and the neighbors especially Israel. The real reason for hating Israel is not the Palestinian people. It is only the new order by the Baath Party. I know that Israel is a good example of democracy in the Middle East and they don’t want good examples. They hate Israel like Cain hated Abel for Abel worshipped G-d better than him.”

“I was a teacher in Syria but now I have thousands of friends in Syria from different religious backgrounds and they all want to make peace with Israel,” Mamary proclaimed. “We noticed the medical help that Israel gave us. I thank Israel for helping our wounded. In appreciation, I attended the Christians United for Israel Conference and represented my friends in Syria. If we give peace, the other side will give it back to us so I started giving peace. At the conference, I met young people and spoke to them. I knew that one of them was Israeli. I told him about me. He asked for a picture. I had my Syrian and American flags with me while he had an Israeli flag. I said let us put them together for a better future. We put the three flags together. I took a picture for the first time with my revolutionary flag beside the Israeli and American flag. I felt a great victory when I placed it on Facebook. I am proud of it. Some of the Baathists did not like it but the people in my group were happy that I stood for peace with Israel.”

Reverend Mamary claims that thousands of Syrians since the outbreak of the revolution agree with her pro-Israel views: “The barrier is broken. We will be the second democratic country in the Middle East so Israel will be our first friend. Thousands have changed their minds now. They see with their own eyes that Israel is not an enemy of the Syrian people.  Israel as a government is from the people and for the people.  So, because they love their people, they love all the people and they love us.  When the government loves their people, they can love any other people. They opened their borders and took us to their hospitals. They also attacked the Baathist store houses and we thank Israel for that. Otherwise, those weapons would be used against us.   The government used chemical weapons against people in their homes.  We are dreaming to have such a government.   We dream to have our democracy back.   I remember how we used to live and we want to have it back. All of the negative images are from the Baath Party to destroy the good image of the revolution. Inside, the image is still clean and we still seek democracy for all. There will be peace in the Middle Eastern countries.”

Fabian Maamari poses with IDF soldiers Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

Fabian Maamari is a Lebanese gay Christian activist who has made headlines for proudly supporting the State of Israel and making his home in Tel Aviv together with his Jewish boyfriend Avi.  In an interview with JerusalemOnline, Maamari stated: “I support Israel for the simple reason that it allows me to live a free gay life with my boyfriend here.  Thanks to our relationship, I got approval for a visa and 1 year work permit. And now in September, we have a scheduled appointment for extending it for another year. This is something that gays in Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East only can dream about and I am actually living it day by day.”

“And that is something that I can never take for granted,” he added. “Of course, it is mostly ok in Tel Aviv but isn’t it amazing that such a city exists in this country? For people to feel free and to be themselves? To walk around holding hands and to never be worried about being arrested?  Israel is the modern light for gays in the Middle East.   The only issue we are waiting for now to solve is gay marriage approval and then we have it all. My mother, brother and sister are coming to Israel for their first visit next month on my birthday and meeting Avi’s family during Rosh Hashanah for the first time. I am still having a hard time realizing that it will actually be happening. It is a dream come true for me.”

Mohsen Behzad Karimi is an Iranian dissident, who claims that many Iranians that are opposed to the regime view Israel positively as do many Arabs who are vocally against Iranian aggression in the Middle East: “Since no one is trying to stop Iran, the Arabs see an opportunity to stand by Israel. Lots of Arab people think that Israel is a better friend for them in their confrontation with the Iranian regime. The Kurds also see themselves as similar to Israel as they attempt to create their own country. They see a common interest, which is why so many Kurds are increasingly affiliating with Israel. Many young Iranians also see common interests with Israel in the Middle East. As long as the integrity of Iran as a whole is not threatened, they support Israel. The only issue is disintegration.   As long as Israel and their allies don’t try to disintegrate Iran, they don’t have a problem with the Israeli people or administration.”

According to Karimi, the only thing preventing the Iranian masses from supporting Israel is Israel’s perceived support for Kurdish guerillas, Arab separatism in Khuzestan and Azeri independence from Iran: “The Iranian regime shows in their propaganda that Israel supports the disintegration of Iran. From the perspective of Iran and Turkey, if there is an independent Kurdistan in Iraq and Syria, sooner or later, it will affect Turkey and Iran. That is why they have to fight to prevent it from now on. They believe that Israel helps these people in order to get legitimacy for themselves. The Iranian regime claims that Israel is a fake state trying to create another fake state in Kurdistan. This nationalistic ideology is still rooted among young Iranian people.”

“But aside from this issue, young Iranians have a deep rooted friendship and common interests with Israel,” Karimi proclaimed. “They believe that between Israel and the Arab countries, the only true friend that we have is Israel. We love Israel and hate the regime. We are opposed to having an Islamic state. But at the same time, we don’t want our country to be disintegrated.   Thus, Israeli support for Kurdish independence creates a third front and turns us into another Syria. We can all have peace and stability in the Middle East under a secular federal system.   Syrian Kurds are different from Iraqi Kurds and have nothing in common with Iranian Kurds.  We have to stay united or we will be another Syria. This is the only thing that the regime uses in order to keep the Iranian population supportive of their intervention in Syria, where they pursue the establishment of a Shia crescent in the Middle East.”

Iranian dissident Shabnam Assadollahi is known for supporting Israel and any other country that opposes the Iranian regime.   She explains that her reasoning for this is that she knows firsthand what it is like to live under a totalitarian dictatorship: “I was just 13 when the Islamic Republic of Iran was established by the dictator Ayatollah Khomeini. Overnight, all women including elementary school girls were forced to cover their bodies from head to toe and ordered to wear only dark colors. We were no longer allowed to attend school with the opposite sex. Our once praised school curriculum was now replaced by Islamic and Arabic studies, where we had to memorize and recite Quranic verses.   It was at that time that I had an awakening and started to search for the truth by reading banned newspapers and books as well as by attending after school youth study group meetings.  The Islamic Cultural Revolution had shut down the universities for two years so that the entire Higher Educational System will be changed. They fired all academics and researchers that were not part of the Islamic Republic’s establishment. The more I learned, the more I realized how I was robbed of my teen years by a radical regime that sought to force its values on the masses utilizing devastating force. My childhood memories were replaced by a reality created by a regime where women were now second class citizens and even the most mundane details of our lives were strictly controlled by Khomeini’s Revolutionary Guards and the Morality Police.”

“Imagine for a moment a mother living in Iran with a quiet and uneventful life surrounded by her children,” Assadollahi declared. “Imagine the horror of that same woman when in the early hours of the morning, she comes face-to-face with the notorious Revolutionary Guards forcing their way into her home in order to arrest her 16-year-old daughter. That child was me. In my young trustful mind, I did not think that a simple conversation, having an opinion and simply expressing it, would put my life in danger.  There are no words to describe what life in prison was like for a teenager who had never been apart from her parents, even for a one night sleepover at her grandparents. Being a picky eater at home, I was forced to eat the terrible selection at Evin Prison, where I found more than a couple of times a toenail in the food. In the end, I was given an 18-month sentence.”

“In reality, according to the law, I should have been executed for my anti-Islamic Republic views,” Assadollahi claimed. “To this day, I have no idea why or how my life was spared. But I do remember making a deal with myself in that corner of the torture chamber that if I were set free, I would dedicate my life to fighting against injustice to my very last breath. I also silently promised each and every one of those who was tortured and murdered by the Islamic Republic that I would live and bear witness for them.”

“After I was freed from the clutches of Evin, I decided to find out exactly why I was taken and why so many were killed,” Assadollahi stated. “I found out that the Islamic Republic of Iran demands absolute compliance with the regime. Torture and death await those who dare to question it. There was absolutely no room for error by a citizen and there was no forgiveness. When I was barely 18, we left Iran. My parents were so worried that I could end up back in prison as I continued to rebel against the regime and hated their forced hijab. I was stopped by the morality police a number of times and given a warning for not covering my hair or for walking too fast as a female, which is against the Islamic Sharia law in Iran.”

According to Assadollahi, Gaza is no better than the Islamic Republic of Iran: “In Gaza, atheists are jailed by Fatah and Hamas for having an opinion.  All protests are banned. Opposition groups are banned; those who are against Hamas are shot and killed. Hamas bans women from dancing and riding motor scooters. They arrest women for wearing immodest clothing and meeting with men who aren’t relatives. In Gaza, co-educational schools are attacked by armed gunmen. Hamas keeps terrorizing the tiny minority population of Christians. The only Christian store in Gaza was firebombed by Hamas mobs and its owner was executed by them. Hamas forces Christians to convert to Islam. There is no opposition or even elections. Hamas also uses their elderly, women and children as human shields in order to show themselves as victims.”

Assadollahi emphasized that she supports Israel for its values are the exact opposite of the Iranian regime and other totalitarian governments like Hamas in Gaza: “I stand with Israel because it is the only free, liberal and democratic country in the Middle East. I support Israel because they have free and democratic elections, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of sexuality. In Iran and Gaza, the officials implement barbaric brutal Sharia law, a law that won’t allow the mixing between the genders, a law where women are designated as second class citizens and a law where if a woman defends herself against her rapist or attacker, she gets hanged by the officials.”

“The Western world must support Israel, the only free and democratic country in the Middle East,” Assadollahi proclaimed.  “The Western world must support groups that follow secular enlightenment values and must openly condemn those leaders and groups that do not. I support Israel and condemn her enemies, the enemies of humanity and freedom such as Hamas, Fatah, Hezbollah, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Syria, Turkey, and the Arab League including Saudi Arabia, Al Qaeda and ISIS. If we let Israel succumb to their forces, it will be a disaster for the rest of the Western world.”

In conclusion, she proclaimed: “I support Israel because it is a true liberal state where 30% of its population is atheist. That is far more than secular Ireland. In Israel, you can freely change your religion or go to the only nude beach in the Middle East without being harassed by the Police. The Israelis had another successful Gay Pride Parade which took place in Tel Aviv in June and Tel Aviv was voted the best gay city in the world in 2011.  I am sure that supporters of the Palestinian and Iranian regimes will like to tell the world when the next Gay Pride Parade under Sharia law will take place? That which comes out of Israel is kind, humanitarian and hopeful. It is a beacon of light and fresh air in an otherwise dark, suffocating and terrorized Middle East.”

Iranian filmmaker and dissident Sheema Kalbasi concurred with Assadollahi: “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Most countries can learn from what Israel offers her citizens including Pakistan, a country that was established around the same period of time. Israel faces threats from neighboring countries and is under scrutiny from others around the world while Pakistan has been accepted without anyone questioning its legitimacy. Israel grants equal rights to non-Jews whereas Pakistan persecutes and discriminates against the non-Sunni Muslim majority.”

According to Iranian dissident Avideh Motmaen-Far, “I support Israel because I profoundly believe in the Western enlightenment and its values. I think that the State of Israel is founded on those secular democratic values. Israel is a parliamentary democracy which is elected through free and open elections. It is also a democracy that has no ethnic or religious restrictions on voting rights.   I support Israel because they have elections, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion and because nobody is persecuted or discriminated against because of their gender or sexual orientation.”

“To put it simply, I do not know of any other nation on earth that has lived under perpetual emotional strain, been threatened to be wiped off the map and yet provides its enemy with water, electricity, food, weapons and medical treatment,” Motmean-Far noted. “At the same time, they have the highest scientific publications per capita in the world, are much happier than all of the Europeans, have the highest worldwide publication of new books, are the only country to have started the 21st century with a net gain in the number of trees, and have the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world. They also have the largest number of start-up companies and are the world’s largest immigrant absorbing model, just to name a few of the many other great accomplishments of this young country.”

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