Sunday, October 09, 2011

A message from Shane Bauer: one of the three Americans arrested by Iranian government

Here is a message I received from Shane Bauer (my response follows below):  "Dear As’ad,

I have to say that I am disappointed. Not only was you class one of my favorite’s at UCB, but I even talked up your blog to Josh in prison, and frequently pointed people to it before our arrest.

You say you “heard” that Josh Fattal is an Israeli. Where did you hear this patently false information? Josh is Jewish, not Israeli. People have also said that I, a corn-fed boy from rural Minnesota, am Jewish.
Sarah too. We are not.

The Iranian prosecutor said the same things. The same person who said we were part of an “elaborate Israeli-American conspiracy to undermine Iran” without a single piece of evidence?

But I know you aren’t supportive of what you call the “lousy” Iranian government. Your doubt about our intentions doesn’t mean that you love the Iranian government. (I’m reminded of a hate email I just received: “Going back to Syria soon? Going to kiss Assad's ass?” Why would someone assume that if I lived in Syria that I love Assad?) Why do people assume that because Josh is Jewish, he is Israeli and hence involved in some kind of conspiracy? Josh is NOT Israeli. Josh’s father is Israeli. Josh is American.

In Iran, there was never any evidence put forth against us. There was no effort to. The whole case against Josh (to call it a “case” is to batter the English language. The trial I’m talking about was the worst
kind of sinister theater) was based on the fact that he is Jewish. Nothing more. There was never any evidence put forth against us. There was no effort to.

Your recent comments rub me in a similar way. I know you sift through a lot of media and don’t double-check everything you hear and honestly, if I heard our story I would have been suspicious too. But
I’d like to think I would have looked into it a bit before I start writing about it publicly.

But most importantly, it’s also disappointing to see that you were so quick to have a typical knee-jerk politicized reaction: “How would have the US reacted if three Iranian hikers were found along the
Canadian-US border?” The answer to this question is pretty clear, but that’s not the point. The most salient feature about your class at UCB to me is how much effort you put into discouraging people from feeling like they needed to excuse oppression because they were opposed to the oppression of the other side. Why not condemn both, you would say? Just because the US engages in “imperialist feminism” (I believe that was the term), that’s not a reason to apologize for the oppression of women in the Middle East, you would say.

And just because the US government has been on a path of destruction in the Middle East for the past 60-70 years, that’s not a reason to excuse the Iranian government for arresting some people they shouldn’t have.

Iran arrested the wrong people and they knew it all along. Neither our guards nor our investigators would go so far as to call us spies. None of us are spies. We are the opposite of spies. I have studied Arabic
(which I speak fluently) and have spent years in the Arab world with the purpose of exposing injustice, especially but not exclusively the injustices of the US government. Before our arrest, I published a
piece in the Nation about a previously unknown US backed death squad titled “Iraq’s New Death Squad” and another in Mother Jones magazine called “Sheikh Down” about US military corruption and use of militias in Iraq. Check these out if you need some evidence of our integrity. I suppose you could see these investigative pieces as part of an elaborate cover up like the Iranians claimed they were, but I’m sure
you wont.

I sincerely hope you will change your position about us and explain your mistake on your blog. If you can’t, I would like to know why. And I insist that you correct your factual errors. Josh is not Israeli.
Josh is a Jew and Josh is an anti-Zionist.

The voices of nuanced analysis are sadly few, especially in this county. You have been one of those voices to me. I hope you can see your mistake and correct it.


Shane Bauer"

My response:  Dear Shane, First, as I explained, I dd not know what happened but was skeptical of the early claim of "hiking" along the border.  Although, I have come to know that some of my students, especially from UC, Berkeley do have an adventurist spirit and that can be admirable.  Secondly, I, of course, don't trust the Iranian regime and treat its claims with skepticism.  Three, yes, the lousy Iranian regime and lousy Arab regimes often persecute people under the pretext of fighting an American-Israeli plot.  But that does not mean that there is no American-Israeli plot in the region.  It seems to me that, in this day and age, to deny the existence of this plot is to display extreme naivite or worse.  Fourthly, I did not like your discussion about the Jewishness of Fattal.  I never ever brought up his religious affiliation, and as you know, this matter is never relevant to me.  This is not the issue, for me, and I dont recall that it was even brought up by the lousy Iranian regime.  Sixthly, yes, I sometimes am guilty of impulsive and thoughtless reactions especially when it comes to something that arouses my suspicion regarding an Israeli hand.  But it was the Israeli press which reported that the Israeli media (and by default the US media) deliberately covered up the Israeli connection of Fattal (or the Israeli citizenship of his father).  That did arouse my suspicions and that really provoked my statement.  Finally, I don't know the purpose of the trip and I am often guilty of being protective of and defensive about people who were my students.  Your letter did sound sincere, and I have no problem in extending an apology to you if my reaction (which did not in any way maintain guilt) was unfair to you or even to your colleagues.