As American Jews grapple with rising anti-Semitism on college campuses and in other arenas, they would be well-served remembering the root cause of much of the world's Jew-hatred: the Islamic Republic of Iran, the leading state sponsor of terror.
For many, last month's murder of 11 Jewish worshippers in Pittsburgh, which marked the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history, served as a wakeup call on an already alarming situation regarding domestic anti-Semitism. According to figures released by the FBI on November 13, anti-Semitic hate crimes in the United States rose 37% in 2017. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has documented that the rise in anti-Semitic incidents is directly related to an increase in disdain for Jews on college campuses, where 207 anti-Semitic incidents occurred that year, representing an 89% increase from the 108 such incidents in 2016.
While this growing trend can be directly linked to the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, evidence also reveals that the regime in Tehran has a hand in increased campus hatred toward Jews. Last weekend, UCLA hosted the national conference of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) despite calls by numerous Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, a California congressman, and the Los Angeles City Council for the university to nix its hosting of the forum due to SJP's history of anti-Semitism. SJP has issued calls to "kill Jews," 'kill all Zionists," and "stuff some Jews in the oven."
At the same time, it is well-documented that SJP receives funding from the U.S.-designated Palestinian terror group Hamas. Concurrently, Hamas is funded and takes its marching orders from Iran. These facts make the regime in Tehran a major supporter of the SJP conference. Regardless if Iran directly or indirectly funded the conference, it is conceivable that the Iranian regime may have played a role in ensuring that UCLA proceeded with hosting the conference despite vocal opposition. According to the Clarion Project, the Alavi Foundation, a front group for Iran, has funded UCLA.
Iranian journalist Neda Amin has reported that Tehran has been using the Alavi Foundation to fund anti-Israel Muslim students and professors as well as anti-Zionist Jewish students.
"By sponsoring and brainwashing them, the Iranian government believes that they demonstrate that they 'love Jews but that Israel and the Zionist Movement has given the faith a bad face in the eyes of the world,'" asserts Amin. "Through this, they can show the world, 'See, the American Jews themselves have problems with Israel.' It is a secret campaign by the Iranian regime against Israel."
An Iranian source noted that the Alavi Foundation funds Hamid Dabashi, a Columbia University professor of Iranian studies and comparative literature whom the source described as "Edward Said on steroids." Dabashi is an advisory board member of the US Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. According to the anti-Semitism watchdog Canary Mission, Dabashi has signed a petition to rebrand BDS at Columbia as "Columbia University Apartheid Divest," which is comprised of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and SJP. (The ADL has ranked SJP as one of America's top 10 anti-Israel groups.) This year, Dabashi wrote on Facebook, "Every dirty and treacherous ugly and pernicious act happening in the world just wait for a few days and the ugly name of Israel will pop up as a key actor in the atrocities."
The Clarion Project said the Alavi Foundation has also donated to the University of Maryland (UMD). According to a source who requested anonymity, ever since the Alavi Foundation funded UMD, anti-Israel sentiment has drastically risen on that campus. The school has an active SJP chapter which is driving a wedge between pro-Israel groups and the rest of the student population. One must consider: Is there a connection between Alavi's funding of UMD and the rise in anti-Israel sentiment there? While the Haym Salomon Center was not able to ascertain whether the recent Israel divestment campaign at UMD directly receives funding from Iran, there is evidence of Iranian student-SJP cooperation, and the UMD SJP has invited Hamas supporters to campus.
Further, the Iranian regime has infiltrated UMD. Iranian dissident Dr. Reza Parchizadeh noted that Ebrahim Mohseni, a research associate at the school, originated from "regime centers for public opinion engineering." According to the Iranian American Forum, Mohseni's ties to the Iranian regime have led him to create "fake opinion polls, which reflect the regimes talking points and is designed to provide the necessary materials to pro-Tehran advocates in Washington." The Middle East Forum reported that Mohseni's work is heavily promoted by the Iran lobby group National Iranian American Council, whose leader Trita Parsi spoke last year at UMD.
Parchizadeh believes the Iranian regime "has a monopoly on human sciences in North America when it comes to the Middle East." Although the Alavi Foundation faced significant legal challenges that almost shut the group down last year, a recent report by the Clarion Project found that they still fund "Islamic and non-Islamic institutions across North America." Salah Bayyazidi, the U.S. representative of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, noted, "Furthermore, I am sure that the Iranian lobby is also operating under another name in DC."
It is crucial to connect the dots here. While Jewish leaders, law enforcement, and other entities search for the cause of increased anti-Semitism, all signs point to the usual suspects in Tehran.
Rachel Avraham is a fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center and is the author of "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media."