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Interview With IKAR Senior And Founding Rabbi And "The Amen Effect" Author Sharon Brous; Interview With Chatham House Middle East Programme Director Sanam Vakil; Interview With Bard Center For The Stude Of Hate Director And "The Conflict Over The Conflict" Author Kenneth Stern. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired May 01, 2024 - 13:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Consider yourself under arrest for refusing to disperse.


AMANPOUR: As police sweep onto campuses across the United States, Rabbi Sharon Brous visited what protesters call their peace movement at Columbia

and UCLA in search of a moral message at the heart of this confrontation.

Then --


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can you show me the warhead? I've never seen the Shahed warhead before.


AMANPOUR: -- with Iran's weapons targeting Israel and Ukraine, Correspondent Fred Pleitgen reports from Tehran on its growing arsenal.

And as Iran flexes its muscles abroad, there is anger at home over a crackdown on women's rights. I speak with regional expert Sanam Vakil.

Plus --


KENNETH STERN, AUTHOR: When everything becomes antisemitic, nothing is antisemitic, and that makes it harder to fight antisemitism.


AMANPOUR: -- Michel Martin speaks with Kenneth Stern who drafted the definition of antisemitism used by governments across the world.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. Police have again moved onto American campuses from coast to coast. Over a

thousand people have been arrested at more than 25 colleges. And today, the New York City Mayor, Eric Adams, blamed outside agitators for creating

chaos, he said, at Columbia University.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NY): Young people are being influenced by those who are professionals at radicalizing our children. At the request of Columbia

University, after speaking with them throughout the week, at their request and their acknowledgement that outside agitators were on their grounds

training and really coopting this movement.


AMANPOUR: Powerful politicians are also using these demonstrations for their own purposes. This is an election year. House Speaker Mike Johnson

says Republicans plan to target campus unrest "like white on rice," pressuring colleges to further crack down on demonstrations. At the heart

of it all, mostly peaceful protests against a dire situation in Gaza and a deep dissatisfaction with U.S. policy in the region.

Even now, Israel stands by plans to invade Rafah, where more than a million Palestinian refugees lack even the basics to sustain life, that's according

to Doctors Without Borders. And so, how does society find moral clarity in a moment such as this, in the face of antisemitic and anti-Palestinian

hate? How do universities stand up for the fundamental right of students to protest peacefully, as they have done in the past, against U.S. policy over

the Vietnam War, or South Africa's apartheid regime? Or even the global student movement that took up Greta Thunberg's call to skip class for a day

and save our planet from manmade climate change?

Rabbi Sharon Brous is the founder of IKAR, an influential, progressive Jewish congregation in Los Angeles. And last week, she visited both

Columbia and UCLA to witness the protests, and she is joining us right now. Welcome back to our program, Rabbi.

SHARON BROUS, AUTHOR: Thank you so much for having me, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: And you know what, I meant to also say in my introduction that it's not just the dire situation in Gaza, but it's also the idea by the

Israeli government that with or without a ceasefire deal, they're going to go into Gaza, without even -- into Rafah, without even getting the hostages

back. That, they told the hostages families, and it's important to recognize that.

But, just first tell me, what made you literally get up and fly across the country to go to Columbia, and what did you see, and then also at UCLA?

BROUS: Well, the first thing is that clearly this protest movement -- and we have such a proud history of protest in this country and also at

Columbia University in particular, which is my alma mater, there's such a proud history of protest. And in our Jewish tradition, there's a proud

history of protest. And I believe that this protest movement is born in many ways out of a legitimate anguish over the incredible loss of life that

we've experienced in the last seven months, starting with the atrocities of October 7th, and then this war with its staggering death toll to

Palestinians living in Gaza over the last seven months.


So, I see the protests as a kind of growing out of a legitimate anguish and sorrow and moral concern that this war must end. And what I wanted to see

and understand is that I have seen many videos and heard personal reports from people I care deeply about on that campus about a growing thread of

virulent antisemitism in that place. And that is manifesting in people surrounding Jewish students, saying things like, we're going to do October

7th again and again and again. And chanting things like kill yourself, kill yourself, calling people Nazi bitches while they're walking down the

street, et cetera.

And so, I mean, this is truly a horrific new era that we've entered where we see the normalization of antisemitism in a very dangerous environment

and climate. And so, what I want to do is both affirm the importance of public protest as a way of collectively grieving something truly terrible

that's happening and thinking creatively about what might be born out of this moment.

And also, at the same time recognize that the eliminationalist rhetoric, that the antisemitic rhetoric, that the maximalist rhetoric of the protest

is profoundly unhelpful. And there are pockets of this protest --

AMANPOUR: Sorry. Sorry. I just wanted to get a question in there because that -- you know, those bits are important.


AMANPOUR: I kind of wanted to ask you what you actually saw there, because in the Instagram feed you talked about, you know, also you saw community,

including Jewish students and they'd say -- I think you had said that they had, in your sermon, they had set out food, everybody was, you know, trying

to discuss the issue.

But I want to also ask you, because this is vital, and it is being hijacked, as you heard from the mayor of -- or at least corners of it, from

the mayor of New York. And the idea that -- my question to you is, should the protest be viewed through the lens of the unacceptable behavior and the

words of a minority? Do you believe it's right to tarnish the whole movement like that? Because most people say it's mostly peaceful.

BROUS: Right. And what I saw when I was on campus at Columbia last Thursday was peaceful. And there are Jews who are in part of this encampment as

well. There was shared food. There was clearly a sense of both belonging and shared purpose and shared grief in that space. And that is really


And so, what I think is important is to acknowledge and call out where the language is violent, vitriolic, and maximalist so that there can be a

protest movement that is a protest for peace, that is actually using the moral imagination that college students are so good at mustering to imagine

what a different kind of future might be possible.

But there's a kind of gaslighting that's happening, Christiane, right now, when Jewish students -- when many Jewish students say that they don't feel

safe on campus because some of this rhetoric is truly egregious and violent. People are saying, no, no, no, it's all peaceful. Kids are

braiding each other's hair and sharing food with each other. And that's not helpful either.

Now, what I saw on UCLA's campus on Sunday, which I think is a precursor to what we saw on UCLA's campus last night was something -- was essentially

the equivalent, but this time with a calling in of extremists from the pro- Israel side who came onto campus. And I saw them after the formal program ended, when essentially there was a group of Palestinian solidarity

students who are all standing together and then Israel solidarity students who are -- not students, activists who are outside of them and there was a


And we are really lucky that it did not turn more violent than it was because you have a kind of fueling of extremism here. And literally, I was

trying to weave in between these two camps saying to people, look, we need to deescalate. You need to go home. This is not helping anybody for you to

be here. And God forbid, somebody gets truly hurt in one of these conflicts.

AMANPOUR: So, RabbI find that really interesting --

BROUS: So, I mean, we are really at the point of crisis.

AMANPOUR: -- because you saw, you know, from both sides, and I think that's really very interesting and it really requires a very, as you say,

sensible, grown up de-escalation by the authorities. And as we know what happened in Columbia calling the police, I think it was the first

university to call in the police, and that created a wildfire effect across the nation.

But I want to ask you then to react to Brown University. It appears that the administration, the president of Brown, the administration of Brown

managed to de-escalate through talks and meetings and listening and talking with the actual students who ended up removing, on their own, their

encampment with university leaders saying that they would discuss and they would later vote on the issues, whether it be divesting or whatever it

might be.


Is that a model? Is that a model that you would say should be taken up by more of these universities?

BROUS: Yes, absolutely. And I think we have to celebrate that there's a way that this can be done peacefully. I know that at Columbia, the

administration was in very similar negotiations. And what I understand as of last night was that Columbia had actually made a very similar offer to

what the Brown administration offered. And that these negotiations were moving forward until this group occupied Hamilton Hall and there was

violence in that building. And so, that's what made them call the police.

And I want to -- I think it's really important to know that they were actually trying -- they were in the midst of these negotiations first, but

this is absolutely a model. There have to be grownups in the room.

And, Christiane, I want to tell you what -- one thing that I witnessed when I was at UCLA on Sunday amidst these protests and counter-protests and

increasingly violent language, and it seemed like people were gunning for a fight. That's what I saw. There was a group of people there who identify

with standing together, which is an organization of Israelis and Palestinians who are working together to build a just and shared future.

And in this city, in Los Angeles, there happens to be a Palestinian citizen of Israel who's married to an Israeli Jew and they're here in Los Angeles

and they together lead the chapter in L.A. And I found my way over to this group and together we were walking through the -- around the encampment

trying to help de-escalate.

And one of the students -- I mean, one of the people who leads this group started chanting, in Gaza and Tel Aviv, all children deserve to live. In

Gaza and Tel Aviv, all children deserve to live. And I saw something absolutely breathtaking happen, which is we're right in between the

Palestine solidarity camp on one side and the pro-Israel camp on the other. And people on both sides started to clap and started to say those words

because those words actually make sense.

And when you're fed a diet of extremism, you think the only answer is eliminations. For my people to have justice, your people must be wiped out,

but it's not true. We have been fed falsehood. And in fact, they're -- the only response to this will be when Israelis and Palestinians figure out how

to build a just and shared future. So, that's the grown-up voice in the space. That's the de-escalation voice.

You're right to want justice. You're right to be concerned about safety. So are we. And our safety is tied up in one another.

AMANPOUR: It's so interesting you say that because, you know, that is such a human reaction and yet, we are -- you know, we're stunned that people

say, all children have the right to live. I mean, this is where society has gone and this is where these seven months maybe have led us.

So, I again was struck by what you posted on Instagram where you actually said, you know, I think -- if I'm not misquoting, you said, Palestinians

are not Hamas. In other words, they are not that movement. Maybe there are some, but it's not all Palestinians. And you were very, you know, insistent

in your sermon to your congregation that these people, a people had to have the right. And as you say, this kind of -- you know, these wars, this kind

of division would probably continue until everyone's rights are legitimized.

BROUS: Yes, that's absolutely right. Palestinians are not Hamas. In fact, a survey came out in September before -- just before October 7th that showed

that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians in Gaza did not even support Hamas.

And obviously, we are deeply wounded and deeply aggrieved and anguished all of us. And so, the danger is that we see each other in the most extreme and

sort of flat and binary ways. But in fact, most people -- as I said, Christiane, last time I was on your show, most people just want to live in

peace, put their children to bed at night. They want to have their dignity realized.

Palestinians deserve and need self-determination. If any people in the world ought to understand that, it ought to be the Jews, for whom self-

determination was denied for so much of our history. And we understand the vulnerability that comes with living as a minority under another power.

They need and deserve to live with dignity.

And that dignity and that self-determination is not going to come at the expense of Israeli Jews having out -- having their freedom and having their

self-determination, both of these things are possible. And I think the work of the grownups in the room right now is to pull us back from the edge of

the abyss and say, listen to the voices that are coming out of Israel and Palestine right now that are calling not for the annihilation of the other,

but that are calling for us to use our moral imagination and our creativity in order to manifest a different kind of fantasy, something that might seem

utterly impossible right now.


But a fantasy of peace in which somehow our children's generation is able to grow up without fear and actually see one another as neighbors.

AMANPOUR: And as a sort of teacher or at least a preacher yourself, I wonder if you -- I want to read you something that one of the Columbia

University history professors wrote in "The Financial Times" this past weekend, talking about the previous week's demonstrations. He basically

said, are not these students, from varied backgrounds, who are supporting the Palestinians, only doing what we have taught them to do? Have we not

taught them about the Holocaust and never again? And can we be surprised if the lesson many of them draw is that you need to be on the lookout for

genocide, and to stand up and be counted and not a bystander when you believe you see it happening?

So, I'm not asking you to declare on the genocide word. I'm just wondering what you think about that. You know, these students have grown up being

taught that any kind of injustice is not acceptable and that they need to stand up and protest it.

BROUS: That's right. And we work to cultivate in our children a kind of righteous indignation. And that's why it's so important for the people who

are in this movement, who believe that really what they are doing is working toward a just end, working to fight against unnecessary death in

this war. It's so critical that they also use their voices to speak out against virulent antisemitism, which also only undermines the cause and

only underlying undermines the movement.

And I just -- I do want to point out that I've seen a few people in the last few days who've really done this. I saw one Palestinian Muslim

theologian in Chicago -- in Michigan, who stood up at a protest and said, there is no room for antisemitism in this movement. It undermines our call

to justice. And we need to see more people doing that just as I -- in my own Jewish community are saying, there is no room for the kind of anti-

Palestinian sentiment and anti-Arabism that I saw on UCLA's campus among the counter-protesters on Sunday. There is no place for that kind of

vitriol and that kind of violent language in in our movements.

What we need to do is use our moral imagination and create a language and a rhetoric that will help lead us not toward more violence, but ultimately,

toward peace.

AMANPOUR: So, I want to ask you a personal question finally. Again, as you mentioned, we did speak much earlier on, who knew that it was going to

still be going on into its seven months now, you know, 1,200 Israelis dead, still hostages inside Gaza have not been brought home. A deal seems to be

stuck. You know, an offensive against Rafah appears to be coming, according to the Israeli prime minister.

Is there anything that gives you hope these seven months after? Did you think we'd still be here?

BROUS: I did not think we would be here. I prayed that we would not be here. It is absolutely devastating. The thing that gives me hope is the

people who walk in between the camps and say, friends, we are not enemies. We are all human beings. We are all in anguish. We need to see each other's

humanity. We need to turn toward one another with compassion, with curiosity and with care.

And that group is a very distinct and small minority right now, but it exists. And that's where the hope is for me, because we have to pull away

from these very rigid extremes. They will lead us only toward more heartache and more anguish.

I pray to God, this war needs to end. The hostages need to be returned. The staggering death toll in Gaza needs to be grieved publicly. They need

massive amounts of humanitarian aid immediately. And the parties need to be brought to the table, with leaders who can actually conceive of a different

kind of future, not a future of eternal war, but a future in which we are able to see and honor each other's humanity.

AMANPOUR: Rabbi Sharon Brous, thank you so much indeed for joining us.

Now, in the Middle East, there appears no consensus, as we said, on a ceasefire and hostage release, or on normalization of Israeli-Saudi ties.

But when it comes to Iran, all parties do seem to agree that it is the regional threat.

The temperature has dropped since last month's tit for tat airstrikes between Israel and Iran, after Iran fired hundreds of missiles and drones

in retaliation for the apparent Israeli airstrikes on Iran's consulate in Damascus that killed top Iranian officials. We're now being shown the same

type of weapons used in Iran's attacks, something it's military clearly wants the world to see. And Fred Pleitgen reports from Tehran.



PLEITGEN (voice-over): When Iran attacked Israel in mid-April, they fired hundreds of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and drones, developed by

the elite Revolutionary Guard Corps, Aerospace Forces.

PLEITGEN: So, these two were used in the Israel operation.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Now, the Revolutionary Guard showed us the types of weapons they use to strike Israel, including two ballistic missiles, the

Amad and the ADR (ph), with a range of more than a thousand miles, able to carry about a half ton warhead.

PLEITGEN: How accurate are these?


PLEITGEN: Less than five meters you can hit the target?

BELALI: Less than five.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Brigadier General Ali Belali was himself once a missile commander in the Revolutionary Guard. He says Iranian missiles

managed to hit two targets in Israel, including an air base, in retaliation for the bombing of Iran's embassy compound in Syria.

While the U.S. and Israel claim to have shot down nearly all of Iran's missiles and drones, the general says Tehran showed the power of its

aerospace forces.

Today our drones and missiles have become an important factor of strength and the execution of power in the world, he says.

He also showed us this cruise missile, a type also used in the strikes and arguably currently the most infamous drone in the world, the Shahed 136.

PLEITGEN: Can you show me the warhead? I've never seen the Shahed warhead before.

BELALI: Penetration.


BELALI: And then it goes in the -- inside --

PLEITGEN: Into the missile and then it explodes. OK.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): While the Iranians acknowledge using Shaheds against Israel, the U.S. and Ukraine accuse Tehran of also giving hundreds of these

drones to Russia, Moscow using them to attack Ukrainian cities and energy infrastructure. The Iranians continue to deny those accusations.

The general tells me the Shahed attack in swarms often fired off secretly from unmarked trucks like this one.

Everything is preprogrammed, he says, the flight route is chosen according to the enemy's capabilities and blind spots of radars and all the elements

that can help us reach the target.

Well, tensions between Iran and Israel have somewhat eased after they traded direct military blows for the first time, the general warns that the

Iran has even more modern weapons at its disposal.

The only path for them is to have logical and wise negotiations with us, he says. In our defense capabilities, we don't depend on anyone. We've had

good progress in this field, and we will progress more. There are achievements that have not yet been talked about.


AMANPOUR: That was Fred Pleitgen in Tehran. What about the internal repression by the regime on its own people? And where does this

multilayered crisis in the Middle East lead? What does it say about American policy in the region? Here to answer all these questions is Sanam

Vakil, director of the Middle East Program at London's Chatham House think tank. Welcome back to the program.


AMANPOUR: So, have you seen that kind of show and tell before? What do you think the -- you know, the aim of the Iranians is to put that out in


VAKIL: Well, the Iranians are trying to show the range of their military kit that they have developed indigenously. Over the past few years, they

have been demonstrating their capabilities. And we've seen more recently that they've become an exporter of drones, in particular, to Russia, but

also using their missiles.

So, this is about projecting their power, using a soft power as well to showcase that they are a military force in the region. And this is despite

sanctions and containment and international efforts at restraining Iran.

AMANPOUR: Do you think the fear of the so-called wider war is pretty much abated, even though there was a first ever direct, you know, tit for tat

between the two?

VAKIL: Well, it was a difficult few weeks. I don't personally think it's over. I think we are in a lull. And I think that it could kick up at any

time. Much of it is very much connected to obtaining a ceasefire in Gaza and understanding from the Israelis themselves on how they're going to

answer their security dilemma.

They have the war in Gaza that is ongoing. They have goals directed to eradicating Hamas. But at the same time, they have Hezbollah on their

northern border, they have militias in Syria backed by Iran and also militias in Iraq. And that dilemma continues to loom large over the Israeli


And so, they not only have to end the war in Gaza, but also be able to provide security to their people. And there's been a displacement of

Israelis from the northern border for many months now.


AMANPOUR: Yes. Yes. It's not just the Israeli issue, it's the American issue, it's the Saudi issue, the Egyptian, Jordanian, none of them. The one

thing they all agree on between themselves is that Iran is the biggest threat.

So, I want to ask you about things that you've been writing about and also, you know, clearly what Secretary Blinken's trips throughout the region are

meant to promote, and that is something that the U.S. wants very much, something that the Israelis want very much, the normalization between Saudi

Arabia and Israel.

And you wrote before October 7th, well before Hamas's October 7th attack, Arab states had generally decided that the best way to temper the risk from

an increasingly aggressive Iran was to seek rapprochement, not retribution.

I mean, where does that stand now? I mean, I've been told that it's kind of fantasy to think there'll be anything like that before the end of a war and

the commitment to a Palestinian State in the future.

VAKIL: Well, I think normalization is still being very much promoted by the Biden administration. And this is part of this broader strategy of managing

and containing Iran's regional influence through the integration of Israel into the region. And this has been the thinking of the Biden administration

from before October 7th.

The reality is that that's very hard to achieve without engagement from the Israeli leadership, and they're not engaging on this. This is the truth

behind all of the --

AMANPOUR: What are they don't engaging on?

VAKIL: On the idea of normalization. They're very much focused on Gaza and their own security and Saudi Arabia. It continues to try and push for

normalization with the Israelis, but the conditionality of this vision is that something has to be provided for the Palestinians.

AMANPOUR: Right. So, are the Israelis not engaging on, you know, the idea of something for the Palestinians, or they're not engaging in the whole

idea of normalization?

VAKIL: Well, I think that they would like to pick up on normalization after they've addressed their security issues that I've already sort of laid out.

The Saudis need normalization sooner than later. And of course, the war ongoing in seven months with the devastation and the humanitarian disaster

still underway poses a huge obstacle for them to engage with Israel.

And also, Saudi Arabia has its own objectives here. They're seeking stronger defense ties with Washington, ones that can be bilateral and

consistent. They're seeking U.S.'s support for a civilian nuclear program. So, there are multiple arrangements on the table.

AMANPOUR: What do you make of the U.S. role right now? You know, we're talking about these big meta things, but the real issue, before all others,

according to everybody who's serious, is fixing the ongoing conflict and the ongoing wars between Israel and the Palestinians and Hamas, but it's,

you know, Palestinian civilians who pay the price.

Is there, do you think, any serious, route towards solving that problem? Because it seems none of these others will be solved.

VAKIL: I don't see the U.S. administration having the same influence as they have perhaps in the past. This is perhaps their limitation in the

context of geopolitics, the war in Ukraine, ongoing tensions with China, there's a lot on the agenda. And the Middle East -- and the conflicts of

the Middle East were not on the Biden administration's to-do list before October 7th. That's the reality.

AMANPOUR: But you mean that kind of taken -- they'd just shifted from the Middle East --


AMANPOUR: -- and pro, you know, towards Asia basically. And obviously, they had Ukraine.

VAKIL: Yes. They -- I mean, if you look at the U.S. security strategy, the Biden administration sort of objectives were to park the Middle East or

contain the Middle East, and they were quite pleased to see conflicts abating and that normalization was succeeding from their angles.

So, they were taken aback and very surprised by the horrors of October 7th and this war, but they haven't been able to use their influence enough to

deliver the ceasefire, the hostage release, and then the broader agenda of addressing Palestinian self-determination and beyond that, regional


AMANPOUR: Inside Iran, there is, you know, this show and tell at the military center there, but then there's also the death sentence against a

rapper, Toomaj Salehi. What do you make of that? Why would they do that at this time? And do you think it'll go through or do you think there's --

they're posturing right now?


VAKIL: I think the Iranian government is trying to show that they are in a position of strength. They've come out of the protests of '22, '23 over the

death of Mahsa Amini and many others. And at the same time, they are projecting force and trying to protect their influence across the region,

their relationships with the groups known as the Axis of Resistance. And they're trying to be resilient inside and crack down simultaneously.

And this is what they have been doing for many months and too much (INAUDIBLE) becoming a cause, (INAUDIBLE) if you will, and a dangerous one

that could mobilize people out into the streets, it's certainly mobilized people in the diaspora. And they might make a case out of him. Make him a

martyr but really show that they mean business.

AMANPOUR: Is there any way to try to avoid that? Is there anything the International Community can do? Do they have any leverage? Anything?

VAKIL: Well, I certainly think that policymakers from all countries need to pressure the Islamic Republic on human rights and protecting their citizens

and do so consistently. There hasn't been strong enough voices of condemnation coordinated across the globe to protect the life and

livelihoods of Iranians.

And I'm -- I was disappointed that after the protests came to an end in 2023, really because of a coercive force and repression, that the voices

became silent on such a critical issue. And that, of course, left Iranians feeling abandoned.

AMANPOUR: You mean the voices of governments who had fulsomely stood with these women, just shut up?

VAKIL: Yes, effectively.

AMANPOUR: And now, there's more -- the U.N. says it's observing an intensifying crackdown on hijab wearing, because, at first, we were told,

well, the government has decided to turn a blind eye. Lots of reports of women, you know, going here, there, and everywhere without the hijab on.

But it looks like they're re-upping that repression.

VAKIL: Yes, they are reasserting control. And it's interesting that they timed that maneuver, that move against women in Iran, and specifically in

Tehran, as I've heard, at the same time as they responded to Israel on April 13th. So, it was telegraphed, and it was quite coordinated. And I

think this is about projecting strength. And they've also been trying to silence criticism of government policy.

So, this is a regime trying to show that it is resilient despite pressure, despite sanctions, despite really a grave economic situation. And it is

unclear how things are going to evolve, but it's Iranian people that are always paying the price.

AMANPOUR: Always paying the price. You said that, you know, Mahsa Amini was killed in custody -- well, I'm using that word, was killed in custody, and

others were killed during the repressive regime crackdowns. There was a famous young teenager, Nika, who, you know, died, found dead, and the

regime said she committed suicide.

Now, the BBC has conducted a very thorough investigation. I'm going to read it so that I get it absolutely straight. A leaked secret document saying

that Iran's security forces molested, sexually and killed Nika in 2022. That -- by three men working for the Iranian Security Forces, only coming

to light because of the BBC.

Does -- yes. And does it have an effect when these things come out publicly? Is there any way to prevent this kind of thing?

VAKIL: I mean, again, I think there needs to be coordinated pressure. In the past, the Islamic Republic has responded to such pressure. Criticism

over death sentences against minors, for example, is something that they adjusted their policy towards.

But unfortunately, I think in the climate of increased western criticism against the Islamic Republic, it has a rebound effect inside which leads to

further pressure against ordinary citizens, and that's what's devastating. But sexual violence against women and men, it has been used and noted and

documented for -- from -- for a long time inside Iran, if not in other authoritarian states.

AMANPOUR: You know, many people are beginning to write more and more as they do on Iran, and certain academics and policy experts have basically

said that, you know, in view of what you've said about human rights, essentially the West has never really concentrated on human rights when it

comes to trying to censure Iran or pressure Iran. It's always been security, it's always been nuclear, it's always been terrorism, and never

about the wellbeing of the people inside.

Is that a fair comment? And could that change? And are there examples of when a powerful country in the West stood up for human rights, it actually

broke through?


VAKIL: I would broaden it beyond Iran. I think that western governments don't have an effective and consistent policy to protect human rights or

defend human rights and the principles of human rights across the board, especially in the Middle East, where interests, national interests collide

with principles and values.

And so, there's been a lot of flip flopping with regards to Saudi Arabia, with regards to Egypt. And Iran is yet another case. I think there could be

a coordinated international effort. But it's very hard to get this right. But again, it's the people that lose on this and it's the people that feel

let down on this. And, again, looking at the case of Gaza, Palestinians feel very let down that their rights also haven't been protected.

AMANPOUR: Which is why so many are, you know, so enthused about the solidarity that's being shown across the world right now by students. Sanam

Vakil, from Chatham House, thank you so much indeed.

And as we mentioned earlier, the crisis across America's campuses is making some wrestle with the current definition of antisemitism, as written by the

International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. It's a definition which has been adopted by countries across the globe.

Next, Michel Martin speaks to the author Kenneth Stern, who led the drafting of that document and who now warns it's being used to chill free



MICHEL MARTIN, NPR, HOST: Thanks, Christiane. Kenneth Stern, thank you so much for joining us.

KENNETH STERN, AUTHOR: Thank you so much for having me.

MARTIN: Now, I just want to mention that you have a distinguished career as a trial lawyer, as an author, as a human rights activist. But what I think

a lot of people might know about you is that you were the lead drafter of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, working definition of

antisemitism, and we're going to talk a little bit about the way you feel this definition has been used and perhaps misused.

But I just wanted to ask you to start us off by telling us why you drafted this to begin with. What was the -- what's the origin story of this?

STERN: Well, the origin story was that after the beginning of the second intifada and the collapse of the peace process in 2000, there was an uptick

in attacks on Jews in -- particularly in Europe and the United States too, but mostly in Europe. And there was a group called the European Monitoring

Center that was tasked with doing reports about racism, xenophobia, and antisemitism and have put out a report in the end of 2004 that found, in

fact, that the -- some of the attacks were (INAUDIBLE) not only the traditional suspects, white supremacists and others, but also by young Arab

and Muslim folks in some outskirts of Paris and other places like that.

So, the data was right. But they said, we have a problem and that we have all these different countries that have people that are collecting

information and no common score sheet, no common definition of what to look at. And then they also said, well, we're going to have a temporary

definition that's going to look at issues of antisemitism based on stereotypes, about Jews. And they went through that exercise and said, what

do we do if a Jew is attacked in the streets of a European city as a stand in for an Israeli?

And they said, if somebody had these stereotypes and applied them to Israelis and reapplied them to Jews, that was antisemitism, but not if they

were upset with Israeli policy. They said that's lamentable, but should not be counted. And that struck me as nuts basically, because I grew up at the

time of the civil rights movement and I can't imagine somebody saying, well, lynching some black person is racist that they have these stereotypes

about black people, but not if they were upset by a political event, Martin Luther King speech.

So, it just so happened that the director of the European Monitoring Center was invited by a colleague to come to the American Jewish Committee, where

I worked, for its annual meeting to talk broadly with others about what was happening in Europe. And as we saw then, as we see now, there's some

discourse about Israel that's correlated with attacks on Jews, not necessarily causation, but we thought it was important to take the


There were other reasons for the definition too, but that's how it started. And that's why there is real examples inside the definition.

MARTIN: I wanted to talk about the op-ed you wrote for "The Boston Globe" a few weeks ago. You say that the term is now being used -- it's now being

weaponized actually to muzzle free speech on campus. Could you just explain how the term or the framework that you wrote is now being weaponized and

why you find that dangerous?

STERN: Well, the language of the definition was being -- started to be used in Title VI cases after 2010. And it was looking at issues like what a

professor was teaching, what speakers were coming into campus, what texts were being assigned, and things that clearly are the heart of academic



And, you know, my concern is that the pushing of this on, especially on Title VI cases, I'm not particularly worried about the cases themselves,

although I am worried about how some of them are going to be litigated. The pressure is on administrators, when they know that people are poised to sue

when a certain speech is happening on a campus that may trigger somebody to file a Title VI case, they're more likely to try to suppress that speech or

counter that speech, because part of what they do in their day job is to protect the university from being sued.

So, I see it as not only just the question of the legal question, I see it as intentionally trying to create a chilling effect, and I don't think

that's appropriate counter speech with other speech. You don't use instruments of law to suppress speech. And that's how I see it's being


And it's also becoming a symbol in a way, that's really troubling to me, too, about, you know, being concerned about antisemitism, which is the, you

know, work I've been doing for decades. Once we try to reduce things into is this antisemitism or not, we're losing focus on so many things about how

antisemitism works in the real world.

We'd all consider the Tree of Life shooting clearly antisemitic, but the shooter at the Walmart, in El Paso, a few months later, had the same

ideology, was worried about the fevered pitch about immigrants destroying our country, we look at one is antisemitism, we don't look at the others as


When I talk to synagogues and I said, just concerned about antisemitism. What concerns me most is not necessarily what people are saying about Jews,

it's what politicians and others is saying about anyone among us as a danger, whether it's immigrants or Muslims or others, because once you

prime that pump, that inevitably leads people getting into these buckets of thinking that are sort of conveyor belts to conspiracy theories.

On top of that, I, you know, worked the American Jewish Committee for 25 years. I jealously guarded the term antisemitism. To have a sting, it has

to be used only in the clearest cases. So, I'd always default to not. Now, there's a push to make it almost ubiquitous. And when everything becomes

antisemitic, nothing is antisemitic, and that makes it harder to fight antisemitism.

MARTIN: You know, look, I take your point. Look, if everything's antisemitism, then nothing is antisemitism. But having said that, does the

framework still have utility? Like, is there still a need for this or is that -- or has it gone so far, then, in its misuse, that it no longer has


STERN: Well, I think, you know, there are various definitions of antisemitism. Some of them are better for one purpose or another. Some of

them are more likely to be used to stop pro-Palestinian speech, or at least abused, which is how I see the -- you know, the IRA (ph)definition being

engaged. But, you know, all of them have also core, the basic idea that antisemitism is conspiracy theory about Jews harming humanity. And, you

know, giving an explanation for what goes wrong in the world.

But again, I don't want, you know, the shortcuts to be used to look at speech. And the parallel I look at is imagine if one put together a

definition of racism that would also take into account some political things that may affect racism. Not to say, if you say these things are

inherently racist, but they may be appropriate things to consider.

So, opposition to Black Lives Matter, opposition to removal of confederate statues, opposition to affirmative action, then you can make the argument

that those things might be in dishes of the temperature of racism to put into surveys and so forth.

Would you want to then have a hate speech code in effect, let alone endorsed by Congress that says one has this particular view on any of these

issues, they're therefore expressing racism? I don't think so. And you see the damage that that would do to the ability to even look at these things

on a college campus. And those are the same concerns I have about the use of these definitions in this context.

MARTIN: This is kind of exactly the issue that we see at play now, as these demonstrations on college campuses have, you know, spread really across the

country. And I just -- you know, this is sort of the argument that we are being told that this is between, you know, an argument between free speech

and student safety. Do you see it that way?

STERN: Really a complicated issue. But I see the -- you know, students should be safe from harassment, from intimidation, from bullying, from

discrimination, regardless of whether they fit into one of the -- you know, the classifications legally. Any student should be protected from those



But students should be prepared and the university should stress that students are going to hear things that they find disturbing. I hear a lot

of the chants and things disturbing. But if they're not being made as part of a threat, just a question of expression, that has to be protected. Part

of the background to what we're seeing now was the push to outlaw Students for Justice in Palestine, because of what they're saying. And I disagree

with a lot of what they're saying, but I don't want them banned. DeSantis did that in Florida. Brandeis did that. Not based on anything they did,

just in terms of what they were saying.

And so, that's part of the reason why I think we're seeing some of the uptick now in the response is that there's been a -- you know, a lack of

clarity. And we're not -- you know, we're going to support your right to say things that we find, you know, offensive. We're going to use the assets

of the institution to teach about it, but we're not going to suspend you or discipline you for things that you say.

MARTIN: What is the line? Because obviously some speech is already criminal conduct. If a person threatens to kill you, right, you can -- makes a

credible threat to kill somebody, you can be arrested for that. That's already a crime. So, where do you feel like the universities have kind of

gone off the rails?

STERN: Yes. I mean, if somebody makes a specific threat to a person, I'm going to kill you, and it's a direct immediate threat, that's obviously a

problem. There was a case a number of years ago in California, somebody found the names of everybody that sounded like an Asian student -- Asian-

American student and put out an e-mail to all of them saying, I'm going to make it my mission in life to hunt you down and kill you or something. He

got convicted appropriately so.

But if I just stand up and say something deplorable about, you know, Zionist or Israelis or any group that's nothing more than speech, that

should be counted but it shouldn't be disciplined. And that's what we're losing.

MARTIN: One of the sort of a key flashpoints, I think, would be around from the river to the sea, eight. Palestine should be free from the river to the

sea, right. Some people are interpreting that as a belief that Israel shouldn't exist.

Now, under the definition, you know, one of the definitions of antisemitism under the framework was, denying the Jewish people their right to self-

determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavor. Right? That is one of sort of the definitions.

But people who want to use that phrase, some of them say, that's not what they're saying. What they're saying is that -- but they believe that Israel

should be a multiethnic, multireligious democracy like the United States. That was kind of the hinge upon which that congressional hearing where some

of the, you know, congressional Republicans were hammering on the presidents of a number of the universities and saying that they were

insufficiently zealous about guarding against antisemitism and genocide. How do you think about that?

STERN: Well, first of all, the -- that December 5th hearing was really a set up in a lot of ways. And I found it very offensive that, you know, you

have members of Congress who wouldn't criticize President Trump for hosting a holocaust scenario, wouldn't criticize him for -- criticizing for saying

immigrants are poisoning the blood of the country, now apparently care about issues like antisemitism.

And what they set up was this, you know, claim that from the river to the sea means genocide against Jews. And are you going to stop claims for

genocide against Jews? Again, speech is deplorable. You don't discipline people for use the assets of the university, you know, to go against it.

And, you know, there was a poll that came out that -- was it 66 percent of Jewish students here from the river to the sea as genocide against Jews.

And I find that phrase disturbing too. I'm a Zionist. I believe in the two- state solution. And I think some are using it to say that -- you know, precisely that there should be no right of Jews to exist in that area.

However, 14 percent of Muslims, only 14 percent of Muslim students surveyed see that as a call for getting rid of Jews or genocide. And I think that --

you know, that's part of the challenge is that people are hearing different things at the moment. And I have a colleague at Bard who was realizing that

people were throwing around terms like antisemitism, genocide, ethnic cleansing, settler colonialism as weapons and we're in a college.

So, it's just putting -- put together a class. I'm actually teaching the session on antisemitism later this week. What are these words mean? How do

we understand them? Why do people hear them differently? You know, those are the things that a university should do. It shouldn't say, here's a

statement that's going to get you into discipline, for as long as it's not a true threat.


MARTIN: Muslim students -- Muslim people in general, have had this complaint for some time about words that are important in their culture and

traditions that they feel have been misused, like jihad. You know, jihad, for example, for -- you know, you'll have people say, well, jihad can mean,

like, a jihad against bad habits, you know, we're going to wage a, you know, war against bad habits of our own, and they feel like, well, why do

other people get to define what we think without asking us what we mean by those words.

So, how do you redefine words that have been claimed for certain meanings?

STERN: Well -- and it's not new. I mean, and it's not only about this issue. We see it around politics, immigration, abortion, other things, too.

You know, I run a hate studies center, and that informs a lot of how I think about these issues. I think -- especially on hot button issues where

your identity is tethered to an issue of perceived social justice or injustice, we know from brain science and social psychology and other

fields like, you know, inform heat studies, what happens to human beings?

We get into this sort of us versus them buckets. We get into the place where we crave simplicity. We crave certainty. We crave symbols. And I

think part of what we're seeing around the question of the IRA (ph)definition and other things are questions of symbols, and we don't want

to engage in the complexity of why these things are so contentious. We want somebody to tell us what side of a ledger we should put it on and not.

And that's part of the concern I have about the push of the IRA (ph)definition and there are a couple of bills in front of Congress at the

moment that are considering using it, more for educational purposes, also for funding issues and in Europe too. And I don't see that as different

from what I object to, what, again, Governor DeSantis, not to pick on him, but what he's doing in Florida about what do we teach about gender? What do

we teach about race?

I may not agree with everything that's being taught. But I don't want the state to define what's OK to teach and what isn't. I want faculty and

students and, you know, universities to do that. And antisemitism was a real problem, and there are Jewish students who are being intimidated, but

the way to deal with it is not to use law to try to suppress speech we don't like, it's to encourage students how to treat each other, how to

realize that we're all in the same community together. It's not a competition, you know, between faculty and students, but how do we engage

this moment together? And why don't we have the intellectual curiosity?

Aren't you curious as to why they have that view? Can't you have the emotional empathy to imagine yourself in their shoes. So, those are the

types of things that, I think, we need to focus on as opposed to just what word should be, you know, wants to get you into trouble.

MARTIN: As we are speaking now, it's the end of the semester, graduations are afoot. In some places, students are being arrested. They're saying --

they're giving them specific, you know, instructions. If you don't leave by X time, we're going to -- you're going to be arrested. That's already

happened in a number of places.

So, if you were advising university presidents who are addressing this, given everything that's already happened, what would you do now?

STERN: It's a tough question. I'm glad I'm not in their seats. But what I have been telling them, and I have been meeting with boards and presidents

and so forth, is that they should prioritize academic freedom in terms of whatever they do. And some of the reasons that we're seeing at the moment

was not prioritizing academic freedom.

I think that, you know, arresting students should be the last resort for any reason. I thought -- I saw a statement this morning from the president

of Wesleyan who basically said, as long as there's not violence, we're going to let the encampment be. I understand the dynamics and difficulties

with graduations and other things. Some people can't use that space. It's not an easy thing. But it's not going to be resolved by, you know, mass

arrests or mass suspensions. And I think that only energizes the protesters in some way, too. And I understand that.

MARTIN: Kenneth Stern, thank you so much for speaking with us today.

STERN: It's been my honor to be with you. I thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: And finally, when it comes to words, we remember the life and remarkable work of the celebrated American novelist Paul Auster, who died

at his Brooklyn home yesterday, aged 77. Auster wrote more than 30 books over the span of his career, including his acclaimed "New York Trilogy." A

series of mysteries which he used to pose existential questions to his readers.


While accepting one of Spain's top literary awards in 2006, Auster acknowledged that he was living his dream, saying "I have spent my life in

conversation with people I have never seen, with people I will never know, and I hope to continue until the day I stop breathing. It is the only job

I've ever wanted."

And what a message that is as we discuss how to have a dialogue in the most fraught of times.

That's it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. Remember, you can always

catch us online, on our website, and all-over social media.

Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.