Did The Real Maz Jobrani Just Stand-Up?

An open letter to Iranian-American comedian/actor Maz Jobrani 

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Hello Maz,

Given that I seldom log in to Facebook, my wife sometimes shares pictures posted by friends and family, along with the occasional frivolous “status update,” which I usually dread hearing.

Last night, prior to going to bed, my wife shared with me two Gaza-related messages that you posted on your Facebook page. Not exactly a topic I want to think about prior to bedtime, but one that has been weighing heavily on our collective minds for the last week. Your posts read…

The comments that ensued on both posts ran the gamut from understanding, supportive, incredulous, to downright indignant.

- Beautifully said Mr. Maz Jobrani

- The problem with your so called position of peace, Maz, is that you’re assuming there’s an equal exchange of violence between Palestinians and Israel — this couldn’t be further from the truth, and you shouldn’t, even inadvertently, perpetuate this misconception.

- it seems all those preaching for peace without acknowledging the injustice’s being committed are doing so from the comfort, safety and distance of far away lands. Wonder if they would still be preaching if THEY were the ones being oppressed?”

- Taking sides is no good for your career still its perfect to feel like human Maz! Open your eyes for a massacre taking place in #Gaza
Please Maz find a better source of news … then post on facebook!

- Thanks Maz, well said. Let’s hope there will be a peaceful solution one day. I don’t have the illusion it will be soon, but someday would already be great.

- Maz….the issue has nothing to do with religion or taking sides….it is about being human and standing against genocide of the people in Gaza….I dont have to be arab to feel with them……but the humanity in me tells me it is terrible wrong for everyone to sit and watch innocent people being killed.

- I agree 100%. As humans we all seek peace, nothing more nothing less.

- The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times for moral crises. Unfollow!

- Thank you!!!! Finally someone with a brain!

- Maz, we have to agree to disagree. What’s wrong is wrong. Israel committing genocide is wrong. The media being muzzled is wrong. (Focusing on the Ukraine to ignore the elephant in the room is wrong.) The USA and Europe suppressing protests is wrong. Israel destroying Palestine is crminal. Israel ignoring UN resolutions is bllshit. Fencesitting is no longer acceptable. Playing Switzerland or being an ostrich or a faux diplomat is no longer acceptable.

- Well said! Only if majority could think like you, we would be very close to peace on earth.

- Are you serious? You would stoop that low as a middle eastern figure just to save your spot in Hollywood?

- Maz I commend you for being neutral…damet garm dadash!

- Beautifully stated. And I so agree.

- Condemning “missile attacks” by Hamas is like condemning punches thrown by a rape victim towards his/her rapist.

- Love this! I am inspired!

And so on.

While it is good that your second post calls for an immediate cease-fire and acknowledges the disproportionate loss of life, I was nonetheless surprised by your statements and what you did not say.

The Maz that I spent time with during his early career years—and whose career I have followed and supported—is a man of high character who boldly stands for what is right. Over the years, you rose up through the ranks of your profession by doing things the right way—treating fans/promoters with respect, doing countless shows for various charities, refusing terrorist roles in movies (at a cost to your earnings), mentoring aspiring comedians, and so much more. You’ve been a great guy and to boot, you are one of our own—an Iranian-American, Middle Easterner whom we are all proud to know and support!

You are a well-liked public figure with a predominantly Middle Eastern fan base, and I can understand that you felt pressure to say something about the events in Gaza and Israel. As such, you chose to take the high-road with a general “kumbaya-peace-love-and-unity” post that amounted to taking no stand at all. That’s your prerogative, and you may indeed have no strong opinion(s) on which side is right or wrong, or ideas for how to fix the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Or, perhaps, like many people reluctant to express themselves for fear of retribution, you simply do not want to be divisive, left to deal with the potential consequences by taking a stand on one side or the other (i.e., upsetting people, losing fans, potential stand-up gigs, roles, etc.). Damned if you do, damned if you don’t—but “high-road” or not, with your comments you ultimately chose to throw yourself into the shifting public Palestinian/Israeli discourse.

If the latter was the impetus for your initial post and subsequent clarification, it’s too bad because what is happening in Israel/Palestine is not about Jews vs Muslims but something much larger that transcends politics, religious affiliations, etc.: It’s about humanity, specifically the repeated and ongoing Israeli human rights violations against the Palestinians.

For far too long, the media, lobby groups and politicians have beaten it in our heads that any public criticism of Israel’s policies is veiled in Anti-Semitism. I can tell you that the first time that I thought of publicly expressing criticism of Israel (below), it felt as though I was doing something wrong. I felt concern about offending people, as well as the unforeseen consequences of my words—I hesitated and felt unsure of myself. Yet, I couldn’t shut off my feelings and conveniently sweep them under the rug. Finally, while visiting the Palestinian territories, I had seen and researched enough to stand up for what in my heart and mind I know to be the truth; a truth that, left untold, will continue to dehumanize the Palestinian people.

Yes, Maz, having Israelis AND Palestinians living peacefully is what you, many others and I support. Sadly, making general token statements is, at best, a platitude that does not make one iota of difference in accomplishing your stated hope for peace. Frankly, you would have been better off not saying anything at all. Anything short of voicing strong support for justice for the Palestinian people are empty sound-bites which only reinforce an entrenched false equivalence. Until we decide to boldly stand for justice, history will sadly continue to repeat itself.

Hopefully, the Maz that we have come to love (and want you to continue being) will confront what is really happening beyond the platitudes and embrace what is required of all of us to help bring peace.

Your friend,

-Saïd

 (first published July 24th, 2014 on Iranian.com)

The Iranian Regime’s Favorite Sanctions

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating.”– Kofi Annan

Technology and innovation are celebrated in the United States like no other country in the world. We foster a culture of entrepreneurship and openness that encourages people to dream big, take risks and build amazing companies that help sustain and vitalize our economy. We are a nation that embraces progress to better the human condition. However, sanctions against Iran that prevent ordinary Iranians from accessing communication tools are antithetical to this spirit and play directly into the hands of an oppressive Iranian regime that views technology and the flow of information as an existential threat.

With the sham Iranian presidential elections just weeks away and lessons learned from the 2009 Green Movement protests as well as Arab Spring uprisings at the forefront of our minds, the Iranian regime is intent on further restricting and choking off any and all communication channels that threaten its hold on 4l37tt34rqopower. According to a recent report by opposition website Kaleme, Internet speeds have increasingly slowed as the June elections approach and popular Google services, including Gmail and Google Plus, have been restricted over the past few weeks. In a further attempt to strangle the free flow of
information, the regime has blocked access to “illegal” virtual private networks (VPNs), which are widely used by the people to circumvent government filtering. These actions clearly show that those in power in Iran are keenly aware of the disrupting potential of such services as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, and so on.

Unfortunately, biting U.S. communication sanctions actually bolster the repressive Iranian regime’s goal of further isolating its population. Many of the goods and services, which in 2009 helped the Green Movement organize and document the regimes crackdown, have been placed under sanction. With that, we have lost a space for the greater good, an important intelligence resource, and a real-time pulse on the true sentiments of the people, which ultimately translates into increased opacity. What can be seen as overreaching sanctions include bans on cell phones, laptops, commercial software and encryption tools like VPNs, services including satellite internet access and web hosting, and financial im18odrj52b2transactions that facilitate the transfer of these goods and services. To put in perspective the scope and degree of the current U.S. communication sanctions, even online dating services like Match.com are barred from permitting Iranians in Iran from registering on their site. Perhaps it is safe to assume that dating is not a national security risk.

With the existing sanctions in place, Iranians aspiring for democratic reform may very well look at us and think, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” Freedom of information and the technological tools that facilitate exchange are pillars of open and prosperous societies; thus it begs the questions: Are such monolithic sanctions furthering our strategic and economic interests? Does the current incarnation of our policies support the Iranian people who seek greater freedoms and inclusion in the larger world community? It seems that we have taken one of our greatest strengths and tied it firmly behind our backs.

With the Iranian presidential elections only a few weeks away and an increasingly heavy handed Iranian regime bent on preventing its people from meaningfully participating in the political process, organizing, peacefully protesting, accessing information and sharing freely with the rest of world, it is paramount that we urge and support President Obama to take action and ease sanctions on benign communication tools and technologies. Such inexact sanctions not only undermine the democratic aspirations of many Iranians; in fact, they run counter to the very spirit of our nation—a nation that finds resource, resolve and strength in liberty that we, at our best, aspire to complete with enduring fidelity.

Action Alert: Please click here to tell Obama to lift sanctions on communications tools.

 

(this article was first published on May 29, 2013 on Iranian.com)