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Iran’s President Cancels UN Trip Amid Lawsuit Demanding Arrest Over ‘Crimes Against Humanity’

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during the official farewell ceremony for his trip to New York, at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, Iran, September 17, 2023. Photo: Iran’s Presidency/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has canceled a planned trip to Geneva, Switzerland to attend the United Nations Global Refugee Forum amid international outcry over the participation of the Iranian leader, who faced a fresh legal complaint this week demanding Swiss authorities arrest him for “crimes against humanity.”

Raisi, long accused of major human rights abuses, was set to participate in the UN event and address the forum on Wednesday. However, the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that Raisi had canceled his trip.

UN officials told French and Swiss media that Iran’s delegation would be led by Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

News of the nixed Raisi trip came after three alleged victims of the Iranian regime’s violent crackdown on dissidents in the 1980s filed a legal complaint on Monday asking Swiss authorities to arrest the Iranian president when he landed in Switzerland. The complaint also asked for Raisi’s prosecution “over his participation in acts of genocide, torture, extrajudicial executions, and other crimes against humanity.”

The UN, the US government, and human rights groups have documented and condemned how Iran notoriously executed thousands of political prisoners in 1988, when Raisi was deputy prosecutor of Tehran and part of a so-called “death committee” that ordered several of the killings.

Raisi was asked about his alleged involvement in the 1988 mass killings at a news conference in June 2021.

“If a judge, a prosecutor has defended the security of the people, he should be praised,” he said. “I am proud to have defended human rights in every position I have held so far.”

Two years earlier, an audiotape was released of the late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the one-time designated successor to former Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, lashing out in 1988 at Raisi and others alleged to be complicit in facilitating the mass killings, declaring, “You all will be judged as the biggest criminals in history.”

Raisi hasn’t just been tied to human rights abuses in 1988. In December 2019, the US government confirmed that the Iranian regime killed about 1,500 anti-government protesters as part of a crackdown by security forces on demonstrations the prior month.

The Treasury Department sanctioned Raisi, who was judiciary chief at the time and had a direct role in the suppression effort, for “advancing” the regime’s “domestic and foreign oppression.”

More recently, Raisi has been assailed by Western leaders for overseeing Tehran’s crackdown on the wave of nationwide demonstrations that erupted in Sept. 2022 with the killing of Jina “Mahsa” Amini, the young Kurdish woman whose death at the hands of Iran’s morality police sparked protests against the ruling Islamist regime on an unprecedented scale.

During the latest protests, it is estimated that hundreds of Iranians have been killed and tens of thousands arrested.

“We firmly believe that the United Nations, as a bastion of human rights and justice, should not compromise its reputation by extending an invitation to an individual accused of grave human rights violations,” the complaint said of Raisi attending the Global Refugee Forum.

The UN came under heavy fire for allowing Raisi to attend the event in Geneva alongside personnel from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a US-designated terrorist organization.

Over 300 former UN officials, politicians, Nobel Prize winners, academics, and other influential leaders signed a letter to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, president of the Swiss Confederation, and top European leaders expressing “deep concern regarding the planned participation of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi the upcoming 2023 Global Refugee Forum.”

The letter pointed to Raisi’s role in the 1988 massacre of thousands of political prisoners in Iran. It also stated that, in the past two months alone, Iranian authorities have executed at least 212 prisoners, “including seven political prisoners, three women, one juvenile offender, and a 17-year-old boy. At least three of those executions took place in public.”

The secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a coalition of Iranian opposition groups seeking to topple the regime, said in a statement that Raisi’s visit would be “an insult to human rights, the sacred right of asylum, and a stain on the history of the United Nations. It simply emboldens this regime in the killing of the people of Iran, the export of terrorism, and warmongering. He must be tried and punished for four decades of crimes against humanity and genocide.”

Members of Raisi’s planned entourage from the IRGC included Brig. Gen. Abdullah Mobini Dehkhodaee, who according to the NCRI was traveling to Geneva under the title of “deputy minister of interior and head of the Immigration Organization.”

A spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN’s refugee agency, defended the decision to allow Raisi to attend this week’s forum.

“Iran is a member state of the United Nations and therefore invited to the Global Refugee Forum,” the spokesperson told The Algemeiner. “Iran has also been one of the largest refugee hosting countries for over 40 years.”

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South Dakota Passes Bill Adopting IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

Gov. Kristi Noem (R) speaking to legislators during the State of the State address on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024 at South Dakota State Captiol in Pierre. Photo: Samantha Laurey and Argus Leader via REUTERS CONNECT

South Dakota’s state Senate passed on Thursday a bill requiring law enforcement agencies to refer to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism when investigating anti-Jewish hate crimes.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) already adopted the definition, which has been embraced by lawmakers across the political spectrum, via executive order in 2021. This latest measure, HB 1076, aims to further integrate the IHRA’s guidance into law and includes the organization’s examples of antisemitism. It now awaits a vote by the state House of Representatives.

“As antisemitism continues to rise across America, having a clear and standardized definition enables a more unified stance against this hatred,” the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), said in a statement. “We appreciate Governor Kristi Noem for making this legislation a policy goal of hers, strengthening the use of the IHRA Working Definition in South Dakota through legislation, following the December 2021 adoption via executive proclamation.”

CAM called on lawmakers in the lower house to follow the Senate’s lead and implored “other states to join the fight against antisemitism by adopting the IHRA definition, ensuring the safety and well-being of their Jewish residents.”

First adopted in 2005 by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism states that “antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” and includes a list of illustrative examples ranging from Holocaust denial to the rejection of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. The definition is used by hundreds of governing institutions, including the US State Department, European Union, and the United Nations.

Widely regard as the world’s leading definition of antisemitism, it was adopted by 97 governmental and nonprofit organizations in 2023, according to a report Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) Antisemitism Research Center issued in January.

Earlier this month, Georgia became the latest US state to pass legislation applying IHRA’s guidance to state law. 33 US States have as well, including Virginia, Texas, New York, and Florida.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Columbia University Sued for Allowing Antisemitic Violence and Discrimination

Anti-Israel students protest at Columbia University in New York City. Photo: Reuters/Jeenah Moon

Columbia University allowed for antisemitism to explode on campus endangering the welfare of Jewish students and faculty, StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice and Students Against Antisemitism (SAA) alleges in a lawsuit announced on Wednesday.

Filed in the US District Court of Southern New York, the complaint recounts dozens of reported antisemitic incidents that occurred after Oct. 7 which the university allegedly failed to respond to adequately because of anti-Jewish, as well as anti-Zionist, bias.

“Columbia refuses to enforce its policies or protect Jewish and Israeli members of the campus community,” Yael Lerman, director of SWU Center for Legal Justice said on Wednesday in a press release. “Columbia has created a pervasively hostile campus environment in which antisemitic activists act with impunity, knowing that there will be no real repercussions for their violations of campus policies.”

“We decline to comment on pending litigation,” Columbia University spokesperson and vice president for communications told The Algemeiner on Friday.

The plaintiffs in the case accuse Columbia University of violating their contract, to which it is bound upon receiving payment for their tuition, and contravening Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. They are seeking damages as well as injunctive relief.

“F— the Jews,” “Death to Jews, “Jews will not defeat us,” and “From water to water, Palestine will be Arab,” students chanted on campus grounds after the tragedy, violating the school’s code of conduct and never facing consequences, the complaint says. Faculty engaged in similar behavior. On Oct. 8, professor Joseph Massad published in Electronic Intifada an essay cheering Hamas’ atrocities, which included slaughtering children and raping women, as “awesome” and describing men who paraglided into a music festival to kill young people as “the air force of the Palestinian resistance.”

300 faculty signed a letter proclaiming “unwavering solidarity” with Massad, and in the following days, Students for Justice in Palestine defended Hamas’ actions as “rooted in international law.” In response, Columbia University president Minouche Shafik, opting not to address their rhetoric directly, issued a statement mentioning “violence that is affecting so many people” but not, the complaint noted, explicitly condemning Hamas, terrorism, and antisemitism. Nine days later, Shafik rejected an invitation to participate in a viewing of footage of the Oct. 7 attacks captured by CCTV cameras.

The complaint goes on to allege that after bullying Jewish students and rubbing their noses in the carnage Hamas wrought on their people, pro-Hamas students were still unsatisfied and resulted to violence. They beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library. Another attacked a Jewish students with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger, after being asked to return missing persons posters she had stolen.

More request to the university went unanswered and administrators told Jewish students they could not guarantee their safety while Students for Justice in Palestine held demonstrations. The school’s powerlessness to prevent anti-Jewish violence was cited as the reason why Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a recognized school club, was denied permission to hold an event on self-defense. Events with “buzzwords” such as “Israel” and “Palestine” were forbidden, administrators allegedly said, but SJP continued to host events whole no one explained the inconsistency.

Virulent antisemitism at Columbia University on the heels of Oct. 7 was not a one-off occurance, the complaint alleges, retracing in over 100 pages 20 years of alleged anti-Jewish hatred at the school.

“Students at Columbia are enduring unprecedented levels of antisemitic and anti-Israel hate while coping with the trauma of Hamas’ October 7th massacre,” SWU CEO Roz Rothstein said in Wednesday’s press release. “We will ensure that Columbia University is held accountable for their gross failure to protect their Jewish and Israeli students.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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University of California-Los Angeles Student Government Passes BDS Resolution

Graphic posted by University of California, Los Angeles Students for Justice in Palestine on February 21, 2024 to celebrate the student government’s passing an resolution endorsing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. Photo: Screenshot/Instagram

The University of California-Los Angeles student government on Tuesday passed a resolution endorsing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, as well as false accusation that Israel is committing a genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.

“The Israeli government has carried out a genocidal bombing campaign and ground invasion against Palestinians in Gaza — intentionally targeting hospitals universities, schools, shelters, churches, mosques, homes, neighborhoods, refugee camps, ambulances, medical personnel, [United Nations] workers, journalists and more,” the resolution, passed 10-3 by the UCLA Undergraduate Student Association Council (USAC), says, not mentioning that UN personnel in Gaza assisted Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7.

It continued, “Let it be resolved that the Undergraduate Student Association of UCLA formally call upon the UC Regents to withdraw investments in securities, endowments mutual funds, and other monetary instruments….providing material assistance to the commission or maintenance of flagrant violations of international law.

The days leading up to the vote were fraught, The Daily Bruin, the university’s official student newspaper reported on Wednesday.

“Non-UCLA students” sent USAC council members emails imploring them to vote for or against the resolution and USAC Cultural Affairs Commissioner and sponsor of the resolution, Alicia Verdugo, was accused of antisemitism and deserving of impeachment. The UCLA Graduate Student Association and University of California-Davis’ student government had just endorsed BDS the previous week, prompting fervent anticipation for the outcome of Tuesday’s USAC session.

Before voting took place, members of the council ordered a secret ballot, withholding from their constituents a record of where they stood on an issue of monumental importance to the campus culture. According to The Daily Bruin, they expressed “concerns” about “privacy” and “security.” Some members intimated how they would vote, however. During a question and answer period, one student who co-sponsored the resolution, accused a Jewish student of being “classist” and using “coded” language because she argued that the council had advanced the resolution without fully appreciating the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the history of antisemitism.

“As a Guatemalan, …my country went through genocide,” he snapped at the young woman, The Daily Bruin’s reporting documented. “My family died in the Guatemalan Mayan genocide. I understand. I very well know what genocide looks like.”

Other council members  voiced their support by co-sponsoring the resolution, which was co-authored by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a group that has held unauthorized demonstrations and terrorized Jewish students across the country.

Responding to USAC’s decision, Jewish students told the paper that they find the campaign for BDS and the attempts of pro-Palestinian students to defend Hamas’ atrocities myopic and offensive.

“How can anyone dare to contextualize since Oct. 7 without acknowledging that the Jewish people are victims of such a cataclysmic attack?” Mikayla Weinhouse said. “BDS intentionally aims to divide a community. Its supporters paint a complex and century-old conflict in the Middle East as a simplistic narrative that inspires hate rather than advocates for a solution.”

University of California-Los Angeles denounced the resolution for transgressing school policy and the spirit of academic freedom.

“The University of California and UCLA, which, like all nine other UC campuses, has consistently opposed calls for a boycott against and divestment from Israel,” the school said in a statement. “We stand firm in our conviction that a boycott of this sort poses a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty and to the unfettered exchange of ideas and perspectives on this campus.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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