Week in Review: The Palestinian Non-Authority; The Non-Reforming Iranian Reformer

The Palestinian Non-Authority

Another Palestinian terror faction announced on Tuesday that it will not participate in upcoming local elections. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) stated that it would boycott the May municipal contests to protest the Palestinian Authority’s “suppressive” tactics against demonstrators.

Hamas, the terror organization that rules the Gaza Strip, had already announced that it would not run in the May vote following the PA’s decision to only hold the elections in the West Bank and not Gaza.

With its competition boycotting a circumscribed election and its leader, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, beginning the twelfth year of a four-year term, Fatah can hardly claim any popular legitimacy.

Fatah recently selected Mahmoud al-Aloul to serve as party vice-chairman, but Aloul is not viewed as a potential heir to Abbas, leaving the matter of succession open. One potential successor, Palestine Olympic Committee chairman Jibril Rajoub, told The Tower’s Neri Zilber last month that the PA needs a candidate who is “able to win the hearts here in Palestine.”

It is clear that Abbas is not such a candidate.

Last April, Abbas established a new constitutional court and populated it with allies and gave it authority over lower courts. In November, he was unanimously re-elected as head of Fatah after banning all rivals from the party’s convention. The following month, he lifted parliamentary immunity on exiled rival Mohammad Dahlan and some of his supporters, exposing them to possible criminal charges.

All of these actions strengthen Abbas’s hold on power, but do nothing to broaden his appeal. A poll conducted last year by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that two-thirds of Palestinians want Abbas to resign.

While the international community continues to pressure Israel to make peace with the Palestinians, little attention is paid to the Palestinian Authority’s inability to deliver peace, even it it were to get every concession it demands. The Palestinian Authority lacks the authority to get terror groups like Hamas or the PFLP to give up their terror campaigns against Israel, and it lacks the authority and popular support to build the political backing for a peace deal.

The Non-Reforming Iranian Reformer

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, who was first elected in 2013 and faces re-election later this year, is widely portrayed in the international media as a moderate or reformer. But his record has suggested that this is not the case, and that he is really a true believer in the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary ideology.

The latest news confirming Rouhani’s non-reformist credentials is the jailing of Hossein Karroubi, the son of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, who has himself been under house arrest since 2011. The younger Karroubi was convicted on charges of distributing anti-government propaganda for publicizing his father’s request for a public trial last year.

Part of Rouhani’s electoral appeal came from his promise to free Karroubi and other leaders of the Green Movement that protested the 2009 elections, which were widely accepted to have been fraudulent. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated last month that he would allow no reconciliation with the Green Movement.

Further harming the government’s “moderate” credentials was the announcement that an American-Iranian dual citizen and his wife had been sentenced to death for “holding mixed parties” at which alcohol was served. The sentence underscored two trends that have been noticeable during Rouhani’s time in office: the jailing of dual citizen on dubious charges, and the prolific use of capital punishment.

Executions increased in each of the first three years of Rouhani’s tenure, reaching a ten-year high in 2015. That’s not surprising, given that Rouhani’s Justice Minister is Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, who earned the nickname “Minister of Murder” in the 1980s for his role in thousands of summary executions.

The Non-Boycott of Israel

Despite extravagant claims of success, the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign has had little impact and changed few minds.

Chip-making giant Intel’s record-breaking acquisition of Israeli automotive technology firm Mobileye is the latest evidence that the campaign has had minimal effect—particularly on Intel, which has had a presence in Israel for four decades. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich proclaimed following the acquisition that “We think of ourselves as an Israeli company as much as a U.S. company,” indicating that the Fortune 500 company intends to stay in Israel for the foreseeable future.

The Mobileye acquisition represented Israel’s importance in the emerging field of driverless cars, the technological future of the automotive industry. General Motors, Daimler (the owners of Mercedes-Benz), Honda, and Volvo all have development centers in Israel.

With Israel’s appeal to Intel and its growing importance to the automotive industry, the BDS campaign will face an uphill battle convincing people to give up their computers and cars.

Feature: Who Will Protect Minorities in Iran?

Julie Lenarz observed the Iranian government’s tyranny has not abated under Rouhani. “In fact,” she writes, “the situation for minorities in Iran has steadily deteriorated under his leadership. Persecution, violence, and outright murder have only gotten worse under his tenure. This brutality is the true face of Iran’s ostensibly ‘moderate’ regime.”

The oppression of minorities includes both religious groups, such as Jews, Baha’is, and Christians, but also ethnic groups like the Kurds and Balochis. (Lenarz wrote an investigation into the treatment of Balochis in the October 2016 issue of The Tower Magazine.)

Baha’is are systematically excluded from public life in Iran—barred from university, government jobs, and the public pension system. The fact that the Baha’i World Center is in Haifa, Israel provides the regime with a pretext to suppress them, claiming that they are Zionist agents. 200 Baha’i leaders have been executed since the Islamic Republic came to power in 1979, with thousands more dismissed from public sector employment. Today, more than 90 remain jailed without any form of due process.

Unsurprisingly, the charge of Zionism is also aimed at Iran’s remaining Jews. Jews practice their faith quietly to avoid trouble, but “the Supreme Leader and other high-profile government officials aggressively incite violence against the country’s Jews and spread anti-Semitic propaganda in official statements.”

Christians, too, can find their churches characterized as “Zionist propaganda institutions.” Approximately 550 Christians have been arrested since 2010 for their beliefs and practices, and once in jail, “Christian prisoners are subjected to severe beatings, sexual assault, and torture.”

Noting that there has been a rush to conduct business with Iran since the nuclear deal was agreed upon in 2015, Lenarz argued that “Iran’s persecuted minorities deserve better than being sacrificed on the altar of lucrative business deals with a regime that remains one of the worst violators of human rights in the world.”

This Week’s Top Posts

• U.S. Seeks Extradition of Palestinian Terrorist Behind Sbarro Massacre in Jerusalem
• Iran-Backed Militia Forms “Golan Liberation Brigade,” Vows to Destroy Israel
• Tillerson to UN Human Rights Council: Shape Up or We’re Shipping Out

Three Big Questions
In a news item about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s threat to withdraw the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Kylie Atwood of CBS wrote, “The UN has been criticized for what critics call a bias against Israel. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley referenced that perceived bias in her confirmation hearing.” Actually, Haley observed in her confirmation hearing that the UN “has passed 62 resolutions condemning the reasonable actions Israel takes to defend its security. Meanwhile, the world’s worst human rights abusers in Syria, Iran, and North Korea received far fewer condemnations. This cannot continue.” Can we acknowledge that anti-Israel bias at the UN has been documented and quantified, and that it is not just something that is “perceived”?

A report issued on Wednesday by an obscure UN commission that accused Israel of apartheid was co-written by Richard Falk, the UN’s former Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Palestine. Falk has also promoted 9/11 conspiracy theories, for which he was condemned by then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. While current Secretary-General Antonio Guterres demanded that the report be removed from the commission’s website, Hillel Neuer of the advocacy group UN Watch noted that most news organizations who covered the report effectively took its charges at face value, ignoring its co-author’s checkered history. Why do news organizations seem to embrace charges of Israeli wrongdoing while ignoring the sources of those claims?

At the same time, given Guterres’s demand that the report be removed, as well as the commission’s chief resigning under pressure from Guterres, are Tillerson’s threat to withdraw from the UNHRC and Haley’s emphasis on the UN’s anti-Israel excesses having an effect?

[Photo: Flash90 ]