By Ray Hanania
I consider myself to be a fairly reasonable person. I also try hard to be consistent, applying the same standards I hold dear in defense of Palestinian rights for those of others, too.
And I was among those who had to wonder if the Government of Iran was being fair in its handling of the 10 Iranian "Jews" who have been charged with spying for the State of Israel.
I wasn't bothered, like many Americans, that the trial was being conducted by Iran. Instead, I was concerned because the accused did not receive a fair trial. They were held in jail for 16 months, most of the time, without access to a defense.
The only evidence used against them were confessions extracted while they were held in confinement.
That's wrong, and we all know it. Not because they are or are not "Jews," but because justice demands the fair treatment of the accused, and the right of the accused to legal representation.
So, I wasn't surprised when I read in my local newspaper, the Chicago Sun-Times, this editorial which was published on July 4, 2000, the date of the American Independence Day:
"Stand against Tyranny"
"On the day when we celebrate our cherished freedoms, it is only fitting that we pause for a moment to consider the plight of 10 Iranian Jews convicted of spying for Israel over the weekend. They were held in jail nearly 16 months without the opportunity to consult with lawyers. The only evidence used in the trial were confessions extracted from them during this period of isolation..."
"Backdoor diplomacy is credited with saving them from execution. But the 10, declared guilty in a trial that would not pass muster in any Western Democracy, face long prison sentences. This cannot stand. The United States has relaxed some sanctions against Iran in hopes of encouraging moderation in a state notorious for its radicalism and fanatical hatred of the West in general and America and Israel in particular. But this trial puts a lie to the claims of moderation, and the sanctions must be tightened unless Tehran [sic Teheran] releases the 10 Jews..."
Give me a break, please!
Imagine, the Chicago Sun-Times editors or any editor of a major American newspaper taking such a hypocritical stand for justice.
What is hypocritical, you ask?
Simply that the Chicago Sun-Times, like most American newspapers, fail to apply their indignation fairly and across the board.
Take the case of hundreds of Palestinians who have been arrested and held in Israeli jails for years without a peep from the so-called indignant American newspaper editorial writers. These so-called prisoners have been held in concentration camp like conditions, and the have been routinely denied legal representation.
More importantly, setting them apart from the "Jews" being held by Iran, is that at least the Jewish prisoners in Iran have been publicly charged with something. Most of the Palestinians held in Israeli prisons remain there uncharged.
I'll say that again. No charges have been filed. Under Israeli laws applied separately based on religion, Christian and Muslims can be arrested and detained for months and years without ever having any charges filed at all. And, they are kept in isolation without legal consul, or the ability to speak with their family members.
These harsh conditions, when they finally do culminate in an appearance before an Israeli Judge, are justified using forced confessions in Hebrew (not Arabic or English), and are extracted not only while they are in detention but are signed usually after the prisoners have been tortured.
And the Israelis admit that "some torture" is necessary.
And then there is the United States, the biggest hypocrite of all. If you are a drug dealer in the United States, you have the right to legal representation and an immediate hearing before a judge to review the charges against you.
But, if you are a Palestinian American Citizen, like Muhammad Saleh of suburban Chicago's Bridgeview community, you can be arrested, detained and charged without ever seeing the evidence against you.
It's called "secret evidence," a new way that the American judicial system can discriminate against Arab-Americans without ever having to be accountable.
So when I read stories about spies in Iran I have to shake my head knowing that the American double-standard will only end up hurting the innocent, be they Palestinian or Iranian Jews.
I want to explain, also, that I put the word "Jews" in quotes because the issue has never been that they were Jewish in Iran, but that they spied for Israel against their own country. It is the American news media and Israel that have inserted the fact that the defendants are Jews.
I should also note that it is unfair to use the Chicago Sun-Times as an example of bias, since they are such an easy target. I used to work at the Chicago Sun-Times, 8 years. It was a struggle but the quality of my work kept me there until a political fight erupted in 1991, when I left.
The Chicago Sun-Times is owned by the same company that owns the rightwing Jerusalem Post newspaper. Every week, commentaries bashing Arabs are published in the Sun-Times, with no response permitted from Chicago's Arab American community.
I would just love to be among those standing up to defend the rights of the Iranian citizens who are charged with spying on their on country, a crime that can and has resulted in a life sentence in the United States and in Israel, too. (Don't let either make you believe that they would do something different.)
But I can't do that knowing that these poor victims of an unfair judicial system are only a small fraction of the victims of unjust judicial systems in Israel and in the United States.
I wish them the best, but until the United States and Israel clean up their own acts, they have no right to talk. (Ray Hanania is a Palestinian-American author and writer. His columns are archived on the Internet at www.hanania.com. He can be reached by email at [email protected])