The most haunting image I came across at the anti-Ahmadinejad rally at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza on Monday was also the most encouraging. A series of photographs depicted a young Iranian man being hanged by a regime that prefers to strangulate its victims with slow-rising construction cranes rather than allow the gravity of the gallows to break their necks quickly. In one still, the man has been fitted with the noose and he is smiling. The adjacent caption explains that this was the expression he chose to wear for his mother, present in the crowd of onlookers, moments before his own death.
Nothing terrifies Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his clerical masters more than such outward displays of defiance and bravery by those trying to escape from under the jackboot of fascism. I quit the scene in midtown Manhattan this afternoon thinking that no amount of street theater can ever rival what the man on the street in Tehran has accomplished, and what the 120,000 men, women and children who have been executed since 1979 have symbolized for their totalitarian murderers. “The clock is ticking,” said Rabbi Charles Klein to the 2,000 assembled souls of all denominations and none. He was referring to the regime’s imminent nuclear capability, but the metaphor might have just as easily applied to the mullahs’ own mutually assured destruction.
The rally was coordinated by the National Coalition to Stop Iran Now, an umbrella group consisting mainly of Jewish organizations and supporters of Israel. Black hats and yarmulkes abounded, but I was pleased to see that tribalism was nowhere on the agenda. National self-interest fused with selfless internationalism in a manner not usually seen at these types of assemblies. (To counterbalance the cliché picture of a burning U.S. flag should be the one I glimpsed of the Israeli flag intertwined with an Iranian one in a show of solidarity. Put that on Al-Jazeera.)
The organizers may have invited ridicule for their inability to decide which of the two women candidates for high office they’d rather see in attendance but they were wise and decent to turn the mic over to those worried about Shiite fundamentalism not as a regional menace but as a domestic one.