Tag: <span>Ayatollah Khomeini</span>

Richard Falk Appeals

Richard Falk. Public Intellectual: The Life of a Citizen…

Featured Image: Richard Falk. By Iran Review, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Richard Falk has written an autobiographic account of the political issues; which have marked his life: the U.S. war in Vietnam, apartheid in South Africa; the end of the Shah’s government in Iran, and the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.  For those who wish to know where Falk stands on political issues today; one can start with Chapter 16.

“Intellectually Engaging the World: Fears, Desires, and Hopes.”

However; if one is interested in how he got there; it is better to start with the front of the book which details his experiences but also people met; what he did with them at the time and also later.  This review starts in the same style.

(Atlanta GA: Clarity Press, 2021, 464 pp.)

The pilgrim, as he walks upon the road, must have the open ear, the giving hand, the golden voice, and the open eye which sees the light.  He knows that he does not travel alone.  There is no rush, no hurry, and yet there is no time to lose.  Each pilgrim, knowing this, presses his footsteps forward, and he finds himself surrounded by his fellow men.  

Some move ahead – he follows after; some move behind – he sets the pace.  He travels not alone.

         Tibetan advice for the pilgrim.

Yasser Arafat.

Falk became a friend of my Princeton classmate Edward Said. Said and I shared an interest in how literature could tell one something about a culture.  At Princeton; Said was concerned with English literature and I with French and Russian. Later Said turned to the study of how Western writers saw the Middle East and “Orientalism” as well as “Culture and Imperialism” became fundamental approaches to the march of empire through Western literature.  Said became the best known of the public intellectuals of Palestinian background; and for a while was a member of what could be considered a Palestinian parliament; until he could no longer take the autocratic ways of Yasser Arafat.

The name of Yasser Arafat brings to my mind an invitation to supper with Yasser Arafat.  I knew Arafat’s brother somewhat who was president of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society; and who would come from time to time to Geneva.  Thus; I was invited to a supper that Yasser Arafat was giving in a hotel in Geneva. Although I was not a big fan of Yasser Arafat; I accepted the invitation.  It was a buffet-type supper; and Arafat moved among the guests.  He came to me and we chatted awhile.  Nothing very memorable was said; but I thought if there were something at a later date that I could do on the Palestinian issue; I would be happy to say to Arafat “I am glad to see you again” and not “I am glad to meet you.”

Yasser Arafat

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat receives the Nobel Peace Prize for 1994 in Oslo. Government Press Office (Israel), CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Vietnam War.

Thus with Falk’s account; we move from issues to people met.  Richard Falk spent most of his academic life teaching international law at Princeton; an hour by train from New York City; where he grew up with a lawyer father and was a graduate of the elite secondary school Fieldston; whose graduates Falk continued to meet in the halls of power.  New York was home to the Institute for World Order; where Falk was active in the World Order Models Project – an effort to analyze the trends in the development of a world society from different cultural viewpoints.  New York was also home to the Council on Foreign Relations; in which Falk was active along with a good number of other public intellectuals.

Therefore; by the mid-1960s when Richard Falk was established at Princeton University; debates on the U.S. war in Vietnam were at a fever pitch.  Falk, who opposed the war; being against all armed foreign interventions as a violation of the U.N. Charter; was considered to be on the “left”.  There were letters to the editor attacking him in the Princeton Alumni Weekly; as well as hot debates among the faculty.  Falk was often attacked by the polemic Marion Levy; who had been one of my sociology professors.  

However, by the late 1960s, U.S. elite opinion was divided on  the wisdom of the Vietnam war.  There were those who felt that the war was dividing American society – not to mention the harm that was being done to Vietnamese society.  Falk was invited to North Vietnam in a return of U.S. war prisoners to the U.S.  – a visit which marked Falk as a voice of the anti-war left.  As he writes :

” As a known critic of the Vietnam War, I was frequently invited to play a leading role in campus events that involved war and foreign policy, and I rarely refused such interventions.”

Vietnam War

Vietnam War. By Department of Defense. Department of the Navy. U.S. Marine Corps.James K. F. Dung, SFC, PhotographerRonald L. HaeberleU.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Another issue of importance to the thinking of Richard Falk; and also the way he was seen by others; was the end of the regime of the Shah of Iran and the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini.  Falk went to Iran in 1979 at the request of the political figure Mehdi Bazargan to understand the popular anti-Shah movement that was going on; some 10 days before the Shah left Iran.  On his way back; Falk stopped in Paris and was able to interview Ayatollah Khomeini.  From his Iranian observations; Falk was able to understand better the impact that religious ideas have  upon people.  As he writes; the Iranian experience gave me:

” an appreciation of the potency of Islamic values, and the potential of mobilization from below by and for the masses  in the Middle East…I came to understand that these societies were deeply religious, and that secularization  and Europeanization that had been so enthusiastically embraced by urban elites, had never been accepted by most of those living in villages scattered throughout these countries.”

The same interplay of politics and religion play an important role in a key aspect of Falk’s reflections.

” On no issue has the personal and the political been more interwinded in my life experience, especially since the turn of the 21st century, than with respect to the long struggle involving Palestine and Israel.” 

Ayatollah Khomeini

Ayatollah Mohammad Mofatteh and Grand AyatollahRuhollah Khomeini. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Therefore, Richard Falk had a Jewish mother which is all one needs to be considered Jewish.  Falk became active on the Israel-Palestinian issue as the U.N. Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur; on Human Rights in Occupied Palestine (2008-2014).  Falk was chosen for this unpaid and demanding position because of his scholarly work on U.N. issues.  However; he quickly became a target of pro-Israeli, pro-Zionist writers.  

“Typically, I was called a ‘Jew hater’, sometimes reinforced by hate language and death threats…I concluded myself that the intensity of these attacks on me, which actually almost immediately lessened after my position at the U.N. ended, suggested that the position of special rapporteur, especially with respect to sensitive issues of this kind, is more  important than I had previously realized.   In my case the position was certainly taken seriously by Israel and its supporters… Being part of the U.N. makes one aware of its scale and scope, as well as its dual ambitions of keeping the governments of member states content and carrying out its mission of making the world a better place from the perspective of peace, justice, development, and ecological sustainability.”

Richard Falk is keenly aware of the challenges which we all face.  As he writes:

” Now the future, if conceived as an extension of the present, paints a bleak picture.  The miseries of climate change, global migration, famine, autocratic governance, militarist geopolitics, and diminishing biodiversity seem unlikely to be alleviated within my life span and will more likely worsen.”

Yet at the end, he holds out the hope for positive collective action to meet these challenges. 

” I conclude with the fervent public hope that the several revolutionary pathways traveled by citizen pilgrims will be more often and urgently chosen by my sisters and brothers throughout the world, and so widened in scope, extended in meaning, and deepened in influence.”

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Narges Bajoghli Book Reviews

Narges Bajoghli. Iran Re-Framed: Anxieties of Power in the…

(Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2019).

The title of this valuable book comes from the vocabulary of film and video making when images are “reframed”; to tell a different or additional story than when the images were first made.  The book is devoted to interviews and discussions with film and video makers in Iran; who are supporters of the regime; having made films for the Revolutionary Guard and the Bagij (a volunteer paramilitary group first; created during the Iraq-Iran war.)

As Narges Bajoghli writes:

Once I began my long-term research in Iran in 2009, I became immerssed in the richly complex and competitive environment of regime media production.  I found a media world in which men tied to the Revolutionary Guard and the country’s paramilitary organizations held heated debates about the future of the Islamic Republic, fought with one another over resources and pursued their project through trial and error…They engaged in difficult conversations about which stories to tell, whose stories are included and how to frame the issues at hand.  The revolutionary zeal of the founding decades is now gone, and the regime’s media producers face the dilemma of how to replace it with a commitment to the regime in the face of fierce international pressures.

To make matters even more complicated, regime media producers in Iran have to contend with the fact that audiences dismiss anything they produce as propaganda. So how do they get a message across when a large portion of the audience no longer wants to engage?”

    

  She writes of one media discussion; in which she participated.

Populist Nationalism.

As the regime’s cultural producers were strategizing new engagement and distribution strategic; they began to brainstorm about the ways they could tailor the content of their work to young audiences.  Their old stories were couched in their interpretations of a Shi’a ethos of fighting against oppression that was embodied in the Karbala mythology of Imam Hussein.  But these stories clearly no longer resonated with their desired audience; they needed a new unifying story.  This new story presented itself in the form of populist nationalism in the general population. 

Mr Ahmedi chimed in ‘We have to show young people that we’re here to protect Iran as a nation not just the Islamic Republic as an idea.  Young people pull away from us because they see the regime as alien to the history of Iran.  We have to show them that we also care about Iran.”

Four Generations.

         Narges Bajoghli deals with four critical periods of modern Iran, creating what she considers as four generations.  Generations are defined; not so much by time as by central events that touch people of different ages; but whose attitudes and world vision are formed; at least in part by these central events.

The Islamic Revolution.

1) The first of the current generation was formed by the Islamic Revolution; with the return from exile in February 1979 of Ayatollah Khomeini; followed by the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war.  The war allowed the Islamic Republic government; to silence dissent and eliminate many of the non-Islamic elements; which had been active in overthrowing the Shah.  The war time media helped to rally the country; behind nationalist sentiments and to strengthen state institutions.

The Reconstruction.

2) The second generation was formed by the post-war 1990s: the reconstruction after the war led to economic gain for those close to power.

Once the war ended, a conscious decision was made to transform the war from a military confrontation with Iraq to a cultural and social confrontation in Iranian cities and towns.”  This period saw the rise of efforts to control dress; increased participation in religious ceremonies and a stress on Islamic values.

Green Movement.

3) The third generation is marked by the 2009; Green Movement with the largest demonstrations; since the 1979 period.  The regime confronted a crisis of credibility.  While the Green Movement did not reach its goals; the Movement impacted those who participated; and so became the defining event of the generation.

Soft War.

4)  The fourth generation is the current; one that the regime media producers want to influence.  Since 2015; the regime cultural producers have begun to pour more money and resources into producing music videos; that they hope young people will not only consume; but also make viral on Instagram and Telegram.  There is an increasing effort to confront; what the Iranian officials call the “Soft War” – the ways in which the U.S.A., European powers, the iranian diaspora and Israel try to influence Iranian politics with the power of culture.  This “Soft War” is still going on; and Narges Bajoghli has written a useful guide to understnading the issues.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.