The October 2019 Code Pink trip to Iran reflects its symbiotic relationship with the Mullah regime; they use each other to promote their shared anti-American, anti-Israel agendas.
In October 2019, CodePink took another in a long line of trips to the Islamic Republic of Iran on the premise of promoting peace.
The latest trip, even more so than the prior trips, amounted to a whitewash of Iranian human rights violations, particularly towards women. The CodePink group was led by National Co-Director Ariel Gold, and included several of her Ithaca (NY) anti-Israel activist friends, including Beth Harris and Amber Gilewski. (In the featured image, these three are circled, from left to right, Harris, Gold and Gilewski.)
The group supplicated themselves by wearing hijabs and chadors at a time Iranian women are being imprisoned and murdered for protesting forced veiling. The group also exploited the small remnant of a once thriving Jewish community, mostly driven into exile by Islamist persecution, to provide cover for the deep genocidal anti-Semitism of the Mullah regime.
Unlike Gold’s trips to Israel, where she disrupted prayers at the Western Wall and participated in protests, there were no public displays of protest against the repressive Iranian regime or at Muslim places of worship.
Table of Contents
A. CodePink Hypocrisy: A Summary
B. CodePink in Iran: October 2019
- Exploiting the Remaining Jewish Community
- Mouthpieces for a Hateful Regime
- Ignoring the Plight of Iranian Citizens
C. CodePink on Israel: A Comparison
D. CodePink’s Mullah Romance: A History
- CodePink and Iran: 2006-2008
- CodePink and Iran: 2014
- CodePink and Iran: 2018-2019
A. CodePink Hypocrisy: A Summary
We have long followed CodePink’s activities, and have written about the organization on dozens of occasions; a leader in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel, in 2013, the ADL listed CodePink among the “Top 10 most influential and active anti-Israel groups in the United States,” noting that its work focuses “on delegitimizing Israel and convincing the American public that Israel is an international villain that deserves to be ostracized and isolated.”
Accordingly, CodePink leaders have long castigated Israel and campaigned for the destruction of its character as a Jewish nation state on the basis of human rights violations. On the other hand, those same leaders look the other way as Iran abuses its own citizens—perpetrating some of the same horrors CodePink falsely attributes to Israel.
Though Iran was named in 2018 as one of the worst 10 countries in the world on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report; has executed thousands of political prisoners since 1988; regularly imprisons women for removing their hijabs (headscarves); and publicly hangs suspected homosexuals, CodePink largely overlooks this behavior and claims that its travel to the country will “help facilitate understanding and respect between our people—the building blocks necessary for true international diplomacy and peace between our countries.”
CodePinkers have thus journeyed to Iran multiple times, and maintained positive relations with Iranian regime officials, including those who are instrumental the regime’s oppression of women and homosexuls, or those who spread overtly anti-Semitic propaganda (though CodePinkers frequently insist that “it’s important to make a distinction between Judaism and Zionism”).
Moreover, CodePink insists that American sanctions of Iran should be entirely rolled back, and that Iran can’t be expected to negotiate with the United States until sanctions are dissolved. Similarly, CodePink contends that the United States’ soured relationship with Iran is due only to American militarism and interference, rather than any Iranian threats.
B. CodePink in Iran: October 2019
On October 19th 2019, the CodePink embarked upon its second trip of 2019 to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Though the group had originally planned two separate trips to Iran during autumn 2019, only one of those trips actually took place. Labeled the “Peace Trip” and the “Tourism Trip”, CodePink claimed that its fall 2019 delegations to Iran aim to “give participants a unique chance to understand this much-maligned nation and put a human face on this political struggle.”
As it transpired, the “Peace Trip” (scheduled for September 2019) did not occur. CodePink co-founder and would-be trip leader Jodie Evans revealed that the Iranian regime had rejected the visas for those trip participants, though she would not speculate on why.
In the meantime, the regime did approve CodePink’s visa applications for the “Tourism Trip” led by Ariel Gold, and the group announced:
After our successful trip to Iran in February and wonderful feedback we are excited to announce that CODEPINK will be travelling to Iran again! Since withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, the Trump administration has pushed a maximum pressure campaign on Iran. Sanctions, threats of war, and the travel ban are harming the Iranian people. Concerned by the U.S. administration building case for war with Iran, CODEPINK is organizing a trip to Iran in Fall of 2019.
We hope to continue to spread the message of peace by building people to people relations, exploring the beautiful country of Iran, and learning about the impact of dangerous U.S. policies on the Iranian people. We’re inviting you to visit historical monuments, explore the bustling bazaars, and meet some of the most hospitable people in the world. Don’t miss the opportunity of the lifetime traveling throughout Iran and spreading the message of peace.
Leading the trip was CodePink National Co-director and long-time anti-Israel agitator, Ariel Gold.Gold might be familiar to readers from prior coverage of Gold’s work to have GreenStar Food Coop in Ithaca boycott Israeli products and products co-owned by Israelis, such as Sabra and Tribe Hummus. Or from her recent efforts to blame Israel for the El Paso shooting earlier this year. Or from her outrage when Israel refused to let her enter the country. Or from when she called for an “Intifada” in New York City. Or from when she brought anti-Israel activist Bassem Tamimi to a third grade class to encourage the children to become “freedom fighters for Palestine.”
Throughout the trip, Ariel Gold tweeted enthusiastically from Iran as she led the latest CodePink delegation around the country. (This is despite the Iranian government’s ban of Twitter, in effect since 2009.)
1. Exploiting the Remaining Jewish Community
During the course of CodePink’s October 2019 Iran trip, Ariel Gold’s Twitter feed showed CodePink’s giddy visits to a few Jewish institutions still located in Iran, but did not mention the systematic persecution Jewish Iranians have endured in the Islamic Republic since the Islamic revolution in 1979.wrote in 2016 after she traveled to the Islamic Republic,
In 1978, on the eve of the Islamic Revolution, Iran’s Jewish population consisted of approximately 80,000 individuals, most of them in Tehran. It was an ancient community, going back millennia, and also a thriving one, overwhelmingly middle- or upper-middle-class and boasting a wide array of institutions: schools, cultural centers, and synagogues—at least 30 in Tehran alone.
With the coming of the revolution, all of these advantages—high socioeconomic status, identification with the shah, strong ties to Israel and the United States—would suddenly become liabilities. Anti-Semitism intensified. Rumors circulated that Iranian Jews had been stealing the country’s treasures, and flyers appeared in Tehran urging vengeance. The slogans “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” were joined by “Death to the Jews” graffiti scrawled on the walls of Jewish institutions.
As the revolution turned to the massive confiscation of private wealth, tens of thousands of Jews fled to Israel and the United States, never to return. Whatever hopes were cherished by those remaining, some of whom had even taken part in welcoming Ayatollah Khomeini, were quashed with the execution of Habib Elghanian, the formal head of the Jewish community, for the crime of “Zionist espionage.”
Ever since then, the community has learned to live with the low-grade fear that comes from knowing your freedom might give way at any moment to repression. Granted, the situation isn’t one of persecution. But there are no rights—only privileges of an easily revocable kind. The very indeterminacy of the situation encourages resignation and quiescence.
What I find most disturbing are Jews’ outbursts of loyalty toward the regime, their constant assurances about their own wellbeing, and their repeated insistence on the difference between Jewishness (tolerated) and Zionism (emphatically not). As at my Sabbath-eve dinner, all speak highly of their special bond with Muslim neighbors. I’m quite familiar with this type of forced alienation, complete with routine denunciations of and dissociations from the state of Israel: after all, I’m a Jew from Sweden. But what I encounter here seems closer to Stockholm syndrome in its pure form.
But instead of acknowledging the precarious position of Jews in Iran, Gold and CodePink portrayed the Jewish communities of Iran as flourishing, free, and happy; Gold made sure to broadcast CodePink’s participation in Jewish holiday celebrations, using observance of Jewish tradition and visits to Iranian Jews to feign interest in the reality of Jewish life in Iran.
And though Gold sought to trumpet her own identification with Judaism, her tweets from Iran revealed her ignorance of basic Jewish practice and history.In one instance, Gold tweeted excitedly about seeing a “synagogue”, which she identified as being marked with a “menorah”.
But, as multiple bloggers pointed out, the metal object she photographed is not a menorah. It is a Shiite alam, a metal symbol that is used in Shiite ceremonies commemorating the Battle of Karbala in 680 CE.
Once this was pointed out to her, Gold deleted her tweet without comment.
In another instance, the devoted anti-Zionist posted about reciting the most important Jewish prayer—the Shema—in an Iranian synagogue, without realizing that the Hebrew text in the photo she posted reads “Israel is blessed.”
In a third instance, she posted a posed photo celebrating a Jewish holiday in an Iranian synagogue featuring two famous Zionist rabbis. She apparently did not realize she was posing next to images of two of the most revered Zionist rabbis of all time.
2. Mouthpieces for a Hateful Regime
the CodePink delegation did more in Iran than exploit the remnants of once robust Jewish communities. On the second day of delegation’s stay in Iran, the group visited the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The embassy has been transformed into a museum dedicated to the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, in which a group of Iranian students seized the embassy and held dozens of hostages there for more than a year.
Rather than presenting an honest accounting of the violence and terror perpetuated by the hostage takers, the museum appears to blame the United States and Israel for the crisis, and glorify the 1979 Iranian Revolution that instituted Iran’s brutal theocracy.Trip leader Ariel Gold was only too happy to help the museum promote its conspiratorial propaganda.
She gladly shared posters from the museum’s walls, including one that calls the United States a “terrorist” regime, and insinuates that it is controlled by Jews. The poster also claims that the United States funds and supports ISIS, and blames the United States for the “genocide” of “Yemeni innocent people”.
Gold did not take issue with any of the accusations.
Their time at the former embassy was not the only occasion in which CodePink participants glossed over repressive regime policies or bigotries. For example, CodePink blogger Sushila Cherian tried to portray the group’s handlers as benign; Cherian inadvertently revealed that the group was tightly controlled and being watched very closely.
Katherine Skura—another CodePink blogger—recalled CodePink’s visit to an Armenian church in Isfahan. Describing the group’s conversation with the Armenian Christian guard, the blogger reported:
Armenian Iranian Christians are treated better than other minorities in Iran, he said. But, there is very little intermarriage between Armenian Iranian Christians and Iranian Muslims. Such couples might perhaps choose to remain together without ever marrying.
Skura did not acknowledge that religious intermarriage is rare because it is (especially involving a non-Muslim man) generally illegal in Iran. Such couples do not choose to avoid marriage—especially since cohabitation without marriage is also illegal in Iran.
CodePink’s official line on the trip seemed to be to totally ignore any Iranian regime repression; instead, the group FAQ page recommended that Iran trip participants present canned compliments to Iranians about Persian history.
Meanwhile, CodePink’s Ariel Gold and co-founder Medea Benjamin continued to campaign against American sanctions of Iran by posting an op-ed by the pro-BDS congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
3. Ignoring the Plight of Iranian Citizens
The CodePink delegation did not stop at whitewashing Iranian regime authoritarianism; the group also ignored the government’s appalling human rights record.
Even worse, the group cheerily conformed with the laws requiring that only women wear hijabs and chadors—at a time when Iranian women are protesting forced veiling and face dire consequences for speaking up.Meanwhile, Ariel Gold gloated publicly about being able to remove her headscarf once she left Iran—without a thought or mention of the Iranian women who aren’t able to do the same.
C. CodePink on Israel
If CodePink’s rose-colored-glasses attitude towards Iran seems bizarre, its inexorable disdain for Israel is odder still.
Indeed, it seems that for CodePink, only Israelis and Zionists are beyond the pale, excluded from CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin’s 2014 statement that peacemaking requires talking with and listening to “different kinds of people”. Presumably, according to CodePink, nobody should ever collaborate with or listen to Israeli musicians, talk to Israeli politicians, purchase or use any Israeli product, or even visit Israel at all.
Nobody, that is, except occasionally CodePinkers, who demonstrated what is apparently the only appropriate interaction with anything Israel-related in 2015, when CodePink National Co-Director Ariel Gold and CodePink activist Ariel Vegosen traveled to Israel as part of a CodePink “Palestine” delegation.
There, the Ariels visited the Kotel/ Western Wall—for Jews, the world’s holiest site where they are permitted to pray—and interrupted others’ prayer by unfurling banners and signs urging people to boycott Israel.Contrast the Code Pink activists’ apparel in Israel—which they hate—and in Iran.
Yet, disturbing Jewish prayers at the Kotel/ Western Wall is not the only BDS-friendly activity for CodePink. Over the years, the group has engaged in a wide range, including:
- In 2011, CodePink filed a Congressional Ethics Committee complaint “in response to a right-wing junket in which 81 Congress people visited Israel with an AIPAC affiliate.” Benjamin reportedly claimed that, “AIPAC puts the interests of Israel before U.S. interests, which makes these Congressional junkets dangerous and downright un-American.”
- In 2014, CodePink advocated for divestment from the Israeli beverage company SodaStream, and celebrated when the company moved its factory from near Ma’ale Adumim (beyond the green line, though an area that would undoubtedly end up part of Israel in any land swaps and peace agreement) into Israel proper. CodePink took no notice when the company maintained that the move was only for “commercial reasons“, and did not seem to mind that 500 Palestinians who were unable to travel into Israel proper lost their jobs at SodaStream.
- Also in 2014, while Medea Benjamin visited Iran to speak at the New Horizon conference (see below), CodePink objected to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the White House. The group staged a protest and insisted that he be “held accountable” for the deaths of Palestinians during the 2014 Hamas war with Israel.
- In 2015, CodePink helped promote a campaign to pressure the Beacon Theater in New York not to host Israeli musician Idan Raichel, saying that the theater “should not co-sign the atrocities that the Israeli government is committing by hosting Israeli musician Idan Raichel’s concert”.
- In 2018, CodePink publicized and participated in a coordinated campaign to stop American police officers from participating in exchange programs with Israeli police.
- Also in 2018, CodePink launched an effort to keep Ziggy Marley from performing in Israel, tweeting, “if he goes forward with his July and August concert dates in Israel, he will be using his name and talents to whitewash Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, including ongoing massacres taking place right now in Gaza.”
- In 2019, CodePink did the same to Lionel Richie, claiming, “If you choose to follow through with your performance in Tel Aviv, it will act as an endorsement of Israel’s brutal systems of military occupation and apartheid.”
Even during her October 2019 tour of Iran, CodePink’s Ariel Gold still managed to find time to complain about Israel, citing its recent refusal to allow her entry given her years of campaigning for its destruction. (She did not protest Iran’s September rejection of her colleague Jodie Evans’ visa, and the subsequent cancellation of the other fall 2019 CodePink delegation.)
D. CodePink’s Mullah Romance: A History
1. CodePink and Iran: 2006-2008
In Iran, CodePink has long found a willing partner in its quest to denigrate Israel, and the organization’s romance with the Islamic Republic dates back to at least 2006, when the group sent a delegation to the country to establish “people-to-people ties“.Then, in 2008, several CodePink leaders (including the group’s co-founders Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans) met with then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York City, almost a year to the day after he denied the scope of the Holocaust and asserted that there are “no homosexuals” in Iran during his infamous Columbia University speech.
CodePink’s press release about the meeting called it a “major step forward”, praising its “cordial and positive atmosphere”.The press release did not mention any discussion with Ahmadinejad about his comments, nor did it consider that his bigoted attitude and willingness to oppress homosexuals might contribute to hostile feelings between the United States and Iran.
Later in 2008, the CodePink activists visited Iran again (calling the trip the “Interfaith Peace Delegation to Iran”) as part of a delegation coordinated by the left-wing organization Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR).At the same time, Jodie Evans, Medea Benjamin, and long-time CodePinker Col. Ann Wright (ret) visited the country, invited by Ahmadinejad himself. The CodePink activists on the FOR tour met with ayatollahs, shopped at markets, and prayed at Muslim holy sites. One of the participants, Rae Abileah (who also happens to be a founding member of Jewish Voice for Peace’s youth wing, Young, Jewish and Proud) wrote of the trip,
We are on a jihad ~ which means that we are going to a conflict region and seeking to transform our perception of it into a field of compassion, a spiritual journey to deepen our understanding and bearing witness.
2. CodePink and Iran: 2014
Only a few years later, in 2014, Medea Benjamin infamously attended and spoke at the 2nd annual ‘New Horizon’ conference in Iran (her travel was evidently entirely paid for by the conference organizers). The conference drew many well-known holocaust deniers, anti-Semites, and anti-Israel activists, including
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) noted that other 2014 conference participants included
French antisemitic “comedian” Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, who created the “quenelle” gesture that is modeled after the Nazi seig heil salute. There was also conspiracy theorist Wayne Madsen, who has accused Israel of carrying out the 9/11 attacks. Holocaust-deniers Maria Poumier and Claudio Moffa also presented. The conference featured discussions titled “Mossad’s Role in the 9/11 Coup d’Etat,” “Zionist Fingerprints on the 9/11 Cover-up,” and “9/11 and the Holocaust as pro-Zionist ‘Public Myths.’
former U.S. Representative Mark Siljander, who in 2012 was sentenced to a year in federal prison for accepting stolen funds on behalf of a charity with terrorism ties; Occupy Wall Street activist Caleb Maupin; Brooklyn-based activist and “caller to Islam” Cyrus McGoldrick; “social action/social justice minister” and Iranian Press TV columnist Rev. Randy Short, Dr. Gareth Porter, who, inter alia, writes for Al-Jazeera English and is described there as “an investigative journalist and historian specializing in U.S. national security policy”; and Dr. Kevin Barrett, author of Truth Jihad: My Epic Struggle Against the 9/11 Big Lie and Questioning the War on Terror: A Primer for Obama Voters and a columnist for Press TV; in addition to former U.S. citizen and U.S. Marine Kenneth Nichols O’Keefe, known for leading the human shield action to Iraq and participating in the 2010 Gaza flotilla.
Despite the impressive roster of criminals and bigots the 2014 New Horizon conference presented (and the fact that former Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad headlined the first conference in 2012 with a speech in which he infamously called the Holocaust a myth and for Israel to be destroyed), CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin seemed only too pleased to participate. She later insisted she didn’t regret taking part in the conference, and justified her participation on a panel with O’Keefe by claiming that “[she] had never heard of nor met Ken O’Keefe before [the panel].”She also justified her presence at New Horizon 2014, saying
We should talk to our adversaries whenever we can. That means traveling to Iran. That means going to conferences with different kinds of people—listening to their views and having them hear mine. I think some of the people at the conference were moved by some of our late-night discussions. And I learned a lot, particularly from the Iranians attending the conference, that will be very helpful to me as a peace activist. Peacemaking is all about dialogue…with people who see the world from very different perspectives.
3. CodePink and Iran: 2018-2019
Whereas CodePink is so dedicated to pressuring others to boycott, sanction, and divest from Israel that the group will send activists to Israel and cause a ruckus at Jewish holy sites to say so, it continues to oppose all sanctions of Iran—and refuses to “dialogue” with people who advocate those sanctions.In the video below, you can see Medea Benjamin eschew “dialogue” in favor of disrupting a September 2018 Hudson Institute event featuring remarks by Brian Hook, the State Department’s special envoy to Iran.
On the other hand, Benjamin’s CodePink seems to have only sympathy for Iranian companies, rules, and government officials.CodePink demonstrated that sympathy during its first 2019 trip to Iran (in February and March) by meeting with envoys of the Iranian regime and refusing to acknowledge repressive policies or hateful rhetoric.
For example, upon arrival in Iran, the February 2019 CodePink delegation enthusiastically met with then-Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Though his foreign ministry officials reportedly helped arrange the 2014 New Horizon conference (as well as being involved in those following), the CodePink delegation was only too happy to engage in some healthy “dialogue” with Zarif. Indeed, CodePink later plastered an image of Benjamin with Zarif all over its website.
You can listen to the audio recording of Javad Zarif’s meeting with CodePink here and below.
As the recording demonstrates, none of the CodePinkers used the opportunity to question Zarif about the regime’s patronage of terrorist proxy groups Hamas and Hezbollah, jailing and torturing of women for removing their hijabs, imprisonment and castigation of human rights activists, the unjust detention of Americans in Iran, or the arming of Houthi rebels in Yemen. Nor did any of them question Zarif’s assertion during his talk that Israel is “on record” as supporting ISIS.
Instead, a trip participant called Sean Reynolds wrote a fawning blog entry about the day, praising Zarif in flowery terms:
As a visitor here, attempting to convey my sense of the human worth of a people I’m hoping to spare from the unmerited, unprecedented devastation seemingly intended for them by my government, I’m obliged to respond to the stunning hospitality we’ve already received with courteous admiration.
It’s important for entirely other reasons, though, for me to note that we all found that hourlong dissertation stunningly cogent and riveting. Not because I expected the celebrated Mr. Zarif to be a poor communicator, but because speaking for an isolated nation with few refuges aside from the moral high ground to fall back upon, Mr. Zarif could never have taken his work this far without being able to commandeer in compelling detail the ethically relevant facts which seem all that Iran has on its side.
Similarly, the CodePink delegation met with the Iranian parliament during the same trip, and seemed to accept the claims they heard there without question. According to another blog by trip participant Alex McDonald, the special assistant on international affairs to the speaker of the Iranian parliament insisted that “Iran fought ISIS but then ran across evidence that the United States was actually supplying ISIS.”
CodePinker McDonald recounted this assertion without offering any opposition.
Like the most recent CodePink trip, nobody on the February 2019 CodePink delegation seemed to have any issue with the severe regulations imposed on women’s dress in Iran. The trip FAQ page on CodePink’s website acknowledged the unbalanced dress code for men and women (women are required by law to wear hijab and to cover most of their bodies at all times when outside) but only enough to tell its participants how to dress safely.
Unsurprisingly, nothing in the CodePink web pages about Iran trips question the discriminatory laws.pointed out,
Every day Iranians are starving, with about a third in absolute poverty — but Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin described in a blog post the rich breakfast she enjoyed before meeting Zarif: “I usually don’t write about breakfast, but the breakfast in this hotel is quite extraordinary—with items such as fresh honey you scoop out from the honeycomb, locally made red and green cheeses, fresh celery and carrots juices made from scratch in front of you, and about 20 different herbs you can pick out and combine for your custom-made tea.”
As reward for their pro-regime efforts, Medea Benjamin, Ann Wright, and CodePink friends were granted a press junket by Iranian news network FARS, where they were able to publicize CodePink and purport to speak for the American people without opposition.
In January 2019, The Israel Project’s Josh Block wrote about CodePink’s early 2019 trip to Iran in JNS, explaining the truth behind the group’s rhetoric on Iran and Israel. He noted:
The truth is that Code Pink has no interest in communicating with ordinary Iranians fighting for freedom against a regime that tolerates no dissent. Why? Because the stories told by Iran’s violated population don’t corroborate Code Pink’s strident anti-Americanism that has blinded them to the evil of the regime.
In the absence of any hint to the contrary, Code Pink’s trip to Iran is a “peace delegation” in name only. They are useful idiots in a perverted propaganda campaign for the mullah’s repressive and reactionary regime. Whatever Code Pink thinks of the current U.S. administration or the policies of the Israeli government, the fact that many progressives consider America and Israel public enemy No. 1—not Iran, Syria, North Korea or other rogue regimes—demeans liberalism.
Block’s assessment is spot on; the “women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement” is only concerned with peace and social justice if it can blame Israel and the United States. Thus, CodePink and the Mullahs of Iran have built a symbiotic relationship; they can each use the other to promote self-serving propaganda and push their own worldviews.
The Iranian regime can count on its American CodePink visitors to regale fellow Americans with tales of Iranian tolerance and victimhood, acting as propagandists on the regime’s behalf. And CodePinkers can count on Iran to grant them rare opportunities and luxuries, as well as fame, praise, and international publicity for their ‘work’.
[Featured image via Code Pink Iran Trip Blog]
Samantha Mandeles is Senior Researcher and Outreach Director at the Legal Insurrection Foundation.DONATE
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