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This is a momentous time for Iran
Last uploaded : Thursday 25th Jun 2009 at 23:19
Contributed by : Carol Gould


This is a Seminal Moment in the History of an ancient Civilization

by Carol Gould

June 24th, 2009

I cannot help thinking of how much my late mother, a lifetime political activist, would have been glued to her television watching the momentous events in Iran unfolding as June, in the Rodgers and Hammerstein song lyric, ‘is bustin‘ out all over.’

At the recent D-Day commemorations in Portsmouth I was shocked by the mirth of the young cadets on duty and their hilarity when a visitor asked them if they had been to visit Auschwitz. If our youth today have no political perspective and feel the sum total of life experience should be an alcoholic haze we are doomed to a precarious future. Conversely, Twitter and Facebook are introducing the young of the world to a staggering moment in Persian history as June 21st, Longest Day, passes by. Indeed the youth of Iran are leading the new revolution.

I decided to reflect on some events in my lifetime that have shaped my views of the world and, more specifically, my perspective on the present turmoil in the Middle East.

I was born eight years after the liberation of the concentration camps and five years after the establishment of Israel. In 1953 there was a tiny black and white television in our humble little parlour and no computers, faxes, internet or cellphones. One often wonders how quickly Hitler’s death camps would have been shut down had a witness been able to sneak a cellphone image around the world.

In the year of my birth Britain under its new sovereign Queen Elizabeth II was still enduring wartime rationing and southern African-Americans were forbidden to eat in a diner or drink from a water fountain. Television was coming into its own and the images of Jim Crow were proliferating around the world. Forever emblazoned on my childhood memory were the images of black marchers being fire-hosed.

In 1953 the young Jordanian King Hussein, having witnessed the assassination of his grandfather for attempting peace with the Jewish

State, had ascended the throne. In 1953 Yitzhak Rabin was graduating from the British army staff college; forty years later King Hussein would make peace with him.

1953 was a watershed year in world affairs: Senator Joe McCarthy had become a household name for his televised hearings to uncover and blacklist Communists in the woodwork of every structure within the United States. In 1953 he set about investigating the Army Signal Corps, where my fiercely patriotic Aunt Betty was employed. If she was an example of the Corps personnel he sought to condemn, his efforts would be doomed and indeed he abandoned the enterprise. 1953 saw the premiere of ’The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller; it was an allegory for the witch-hunts that had destroyed so many careers and heralded the beginning of the end of the McCarthy era. As Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing Norgay ascended Mount Everest a gleeful President Eisenhower witnessed the descent of the Senator from Wisconsin.

DNA was discovered in 1953, as was the Salk polio vaccine. Jackie Cochrane, who figures in my book, ‘Spitfire Girls,’ became the first woman pilot to break the sound barrier. The Korean War came to an end and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for pro-Soviet espionage.

But another event occurred that year that makes the events of June, 2009 all the more notable: on August 19th 1953 Iranian General Mohammed Zahedi was instrumental in overthrowing Prime Minister Mossadegh. Three-hundred people died in what was seen as Britain and the American CIA’s Allen Dulles planning the mission to overthrow the government. Mossadegh had sought to nationalize the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Some Iran-watchers feel the seeds of turmoil that culminated in the 1979 Islamic revolution were sown in 1953. Woe betide any commentator to pontificate on the complexities of recent Persian history but the timeline of my own life has helped me understand the passions of the exiles I meet in my section of central London.

The seminal events of my life were the assassination of President John F Kennedy and the anti-war era; had he lived it is possible the Vietnam conflict might never have happened but would he have spearheaded the civil rights movement with as much determination as that of Lyndon Johnson? If the United States had not degenerated into near-chaos and tyranny with the Nixon-Watergate scandal I might not have been

despatched to Britain. Crime and civil discontent had made America a difficult place in which to live and my sister and I ended up in Europe. On the other hand I loved my 1973 summer in Washington shadowing Lebanese-American Senator Jim Abourezk and Gerry Ford, a true mensch; I often wonder who and what I might have become had I stayed in the USA.

In recent years the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was a life-altering event for me. Nowadays even young Jews have no idea what I am talking about when I describe the earthquake of his handshake with Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn in 1993. I recall standing in my office and saying, ‘Rabin has just signed his own death warrant’ and I was right -- two years later he was assassinated by a Jewish religious zealot and the destiny of the Middle East was forever altered. The extreme Right rejoiced at his death, but because I lived in Israel at that time, to this day I believe that had he been allowed to conclude his dream of ‘No more blood, no more tears’ the world might have been a better place in 2009.

On September 11th, 2001 I was sitting in my living room writing a piece for the local synagogue’s High Holy Days brochure about the most significant event of my life. I had decided I would select the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin as that defining moment in my career, when I left theatre and drama and became a documentary maker and journalist, and as my laptop recorded the story of the end of the Israeli peace process the first aircraft plunged into the World Trade Centre.

I often wonder what might have been had the Rabin revolution been allowed to come to fruition. During Oslo Israel boomed and nations were lining up to open consulates in Tel Aviv. Rabin’ s visits to China and to Jordan were historic but Yigal Amir, his assassin, could only see beyond his little finger. Had peace and prosperity been engendered by the Rabin vision some feel 9/11 might not have happened.

As the monumental events unfold before our eyes in Iran one must hope that the enlightened youth of that beleaguered nation are able to bring it into a new era and lead the world and the region to a freedom that has eluded humanity for far, far too long.
Carol Gould is the London-based, Philadelphia-born author of Don’t Tread on Me: Anti-Americanism Abroad, Spitfire Girls, and A Room at Camp Pickett, a play about her mother’s experiences as a WAC in World War II; she has just completed films about black GIs and GI babies. Carol has been a panelist on BBC's Any Questions?, hosted by Jonathan Dimbleby, and is a commentator on Sky News, Press TV, the BBC World Service, and Five Live and writes for Pajamas Media and CurrentViewpoint.


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