His name was Ehud Goldwasser, though everyone called him “Udi.” Before the Second Lebanon War, he was a graduate student at the Technion, living in Nahariya. On July 12, 2006, Udi was serving compulsory reserve duty along the Israel-Lebanon border when Hezbollah kidnapped him and another soldier, Eldad Regev, during a cross-border raid. That day, the Second Lebanon War erupted.
Udi and Karnit had only been married a few months when he was abducted. For the next two years, she visited various countries and begged for the release of Udi, Regev and an IDF soldier who had been abducted into Gaza named Gilad Shalit. In a heartbreaking exchange in 2007, Karnit confronted then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York at a press conference following his incendiary speech at the United Nations General Assembly. Karnit and the tyrant locked eyes, and then she said, “Hello, my name is Karnit, the wife of Ehud Goldwasser, the soldier who has been held captive for over a year. Since you are the man that is behind the kidnapping due to the aid you grant Hezbollah, why don’t you allow the Red Cross to visit the two soldiers?”
Ahmadinejad’s response? “Next question.”
The Jewish world held its breath and prayed for Udi and Regev to come home safely. But in July 2008, their remains were returned to Israel as part of an exchange deal with Hezbollah.
Sixteen years later, a courageous anti-regime revolution is sweeping across Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. A U,N, official told CNN that over 14,000 Iranians have been arrested, while the NGO Iran Human Rights reports that over 300 have been killed, including women and young girls.
Protesters are posting on social media that plainclothes police are standing in the middle of crowds at protests and stabbing people; ambulance drivers are promising to take severely injured people to hospitals, but are instead driving them straight to detainment centers. A mother was shot in the head as she stood on a rooftop; a middle-school girl was beaten to death for having torn-up pictures of Ayatollah Khomeini in her school book, and an eight-year-old girl was shot to death while walking to school. We can’t even imagine what Iranians are enduring at this moment.
Iranians deserve our support because their revolution stands on its own merits, but I want to offer a plea that’s self-evident, but still overlooked: If you’re pro-Israel, you must unequivocally support Iranians who are seeking regime change today.
Again, lest anyone accuse me of offering conditional support that only considers Israel’s well-being, the protesters deserve to be supported on their own merits. But I believe that the second most grateful recipients of a free Iran (after Iranians themselves) will be those who support Israel.
I blame Iran for almost all the death, injury and carnage inflicted upon Israelis in the last 43 years, whether in northern Israel, Jerusalem, Sderot or the Sinai Peninsula. My reasoning is simple: Iran founded Hezbollah in the early 1980s and has armed and funded these terrorists ever since. According to Ynet, the regime transfers $1 billion to Hezbollah annually. You read that correctly: $1 billion.
But that’s not all. I also blame Iran for most of the Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis (and in some cases, Jews worldwide). The regime transfers $100 million to Palestinian terrorists annually; $70 million is sent to Hamas and $30 million to Islamic Jihad, both in Gaza.
It’s no secret that Iran is Israel’s greatest existential threat. That’s also true for the Saudis and all the Persian Gulf states. A Middle East without the Iranian regime would halt the country’s nuclear ambitions, limit Iranian interference in Iraq and Afghanistan, lessen the spread of fanaticism in parts of Africa and Latin America and bankrupt Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. If you’re pro-Israel, I’ve just described a seemingly impossible dream.
But there’s more: If you’re concerned about antisemitism, you must support Iranian protesters because the regime that is currently butchering them in the streets also poisons minds against Jews, and is the worst state purveyor of Holocaust denial in the world.
Pooya Dayanim, a Los Angeles-based Iran policy watcher and former principal liaison between various Iranian pro-democracy groups and the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, believes that anyone who is pro-Israel must support Iranians.
“Once the Islamic regime is gone, Iran will become a source of stability in the Middle East,” he told me. “And it will become a supporter of peace between Israel and Arab states [The Abraham Accords], and will sign its own normalization agreement with Israel, which Iran enjoyed under the Shah, that will be called the Cyrus Accords.”
What an amazing prospect.
Dayanim continued, “If you care about freedom, democracy, peace and stability, and if you care about religious freedom, women’s rights and the rights of all minorities, then you must support the revolution taking place in Iran. A free Iran will be the best friend of the United States and Israel in the Middle East.”
And not surprisingly, anyone who defends the Jewish people must also support Iranians. If the regime falls, Jews around the world will be safer. It was Iran that worked with Hezbollah to mastermind the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1994, killing 85 and injuring over 300. And Iran continues to put Jewish and Israeli lives in danger. In June, Israeli and Turkish spy agencies revealed that Iranian agents were following Israelis on vacation in Turkey and plotting to kidnap and even kill them. Thankfully, the plot was foiled.
October 29 marked Cyrus the Great Day, an unofficial holiday celebrated by millions in Iran and abroad to honor the leader’s legacy of religious and ethnic tolerance. True to form, last year, police in Iran barred anyone from entering Cyrus’s mausoleum to pray tribute to the devout Zoroastrian founder of the ancient Persian Empire. In 2017, the Farhang Foundation gifted the City of Los Angeles a large replica of the famous “Cyrus Cylinder,” the earliest-known charter of human rights. Hundreds of activists have hung headscarves, shawls and ribbons on the monument in Century City. The Farhang Foundation recently declared, “Iran is the birthplace of human rights.”
How’s that for an anomaly? But it’s true. Cyrus the Great’s realm is now one of the world’s leading human rights violators—but it doesn’t have to be this way for much longer.
There are many ways for Americans to support Iranians seeking regime change, but Dayanim suggests the following: “First,” he said, “contact your representatives in the House and the Senate and ask them to commit to supporting freedom and democracy in Iran by using this easy to navigate website: www.freeiranfreeworld.com.” Second, “support pro-democracy activists working on a transition to a future free Iran by supporting: www.cyrusforum.org.”
Third, “The Iranian regime indirectly lobbies in the U.S. through oil companies, NGOs, academia and think-tanks,” said Dayanim. “Support pro-democracy organizations such as NUFDI [National Union for Democracy in Iran] who lobby for freedom and democracy: www.nufdiran.org.”
Fourth, “Follow journalists who have direct access to raw information and footage about what is going on in Iran by following them on social media. These include Masih Alinejad, Ahmad Batebi, Lisa Daftari, Hamid Esmaeilion. And follow the news on Iran International English.”
I’m aware that some celebrities are currently promoting an Amnesty International petition that calls on the United Nations to investigate Iran for “serious crimes,” but given the insidious antisemitism of both Amnesty and the United Nations in obsessively singling out Israel, and only Israel, for condemnation, I’ve lost complete faith in both of these supposed human rights protectors.
And if you’re pro-Israel and still hesitant to take action in helping Iranians, remember Karnit Goldwasser’s words to a group of American Jews when she visited New Jersey’s Barnert Temple in 2007, a time when she hoped that Udi was still alive: “When I will meet my husband again—and I will do it—I will tell him about this place. And I hope that next time I am here, I will be with Udi and I will sit in the audience. And he will speak.”
Tabby Refael is an award-winning LA-based writer, speaker and civic action activist. Follow her on Twitter @TabbyRefael.
This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.
Be a part of our community
JNS serves as the central hub for a thriving community of readers who appreciate the invaluable context our coverage offers on Israel and their Jewish world.
Please join our community and help support our unique brand of Jewish journalism that makes sense.