December 12, 2014 | The Weekly Standard

Iran’s Supreme Censor

The Blind Man’s friend:  Don’t suffer because of the past. You censored books for the sake of God. .  .  . What is
it you are taking? 

The Blind Man:  Valium. I’m taking it to forget everything, even God.

Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s 2003 movie script Faramoushi (Dementia) never passed the censors at Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, the clerical regime’s gateway for all films, books, magazines, and newspapers. Makhmalbaf’s sarcasm and searing allusions often got him into trouble before he went into exile in 2005. His mordancy in Faramoushi, aimed at the rampant, crude, and at times comical censorship within the Islamic Republic, must have caused the censors particular unease: The intellectual journey of the central character, the blind censor, bears a definite resemblance to the evolution of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.  

Khamenei’s strange life is worthy of a Makhmalbaf movie: The young Ali was a lover of books; Ayatollah Khamenei bans books he dislikes. Budding with modern curiosity, the young man much preferred the company of intellectuals and poets to that of holy-law-loving mullahs. He tried his hand at poetry and prose, and under the shah endured the humiliation of interrogation and imprisonment for love of the written word. As supreme leader, Khamenei imprisons and assassinates poets and artists to safeguard the republic of God against cultural pollution from the West. 

What made the young cleric, an intellectual capable of considerable compassion toward atheists, turn into a torturer of dissident writers, poets, scholars, and students? It’s not an unimportant question. It was to Khamenei that Barack Obama started writing letters in 2009 in the hope of ending the rancor of U.S.–Iranian relations. The supreme leader and his praetorians, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, control Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

In Makhmalbaf’s script, the blind censor as a young man is a film aficionado, in love with Gelsomina, played by Giulietta Masina, in Fellini’s La Strada. He’s an admirer of Sergei Parajanov’s The Color of Pomegranates. Above all, he is enthralled by Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. When Saddam Hussein invades Iran, he fights for his country and loses his sight, a victim of Iraqi chemical agents. Returning from the front, the blind cinephile joins the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance to continue the fight on a different front: safeguarding the purity of the revolution against the “cultural onslaught” of the West.

Childhood Misery and Books

Khamenei was born in 1939 into a lower-middle-class clerical family in Mashhad in Khorasan Province in northeastern Iran. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, Khorasan’s aristocrats and poets revived the Persian language and culture, which had been submerged by the seventh-century Arab invasion and the rapid conversion of Iranians to Islam. By the time of Khamenei’s childhood, however, the province had become a cultural backwater. Most of Khorasan’s men of letters flocked to the more cosmopolitan and liberal Tehran. To judge by Khamenei’s autobiographical statements compiled in Hedayatollah Behboodi’s recently published Sharh-e Esm (The Elucidation of the Name), the land “where the sun arrives from” was wretched, backward, and religiously superstitious. In 1943, 4-year-old Ali and his older brother Mohammad enrolled at the neighborhood religious elementary school. It was hardly an Arcadian paradise: The teacher, a lowbrow cleric, often beat the students and tasked Ali to rub paper money against the Koran in the belief it would bring the teacher fabulous wealth. Ali was a seyyed, an alleged descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, and thus capable of miraculously “blessing” the money of the miserly mullah.

In 1946 Ali enrolled at a secular school, but his agonies did not cease. Clothed in his father’s old rags and slippers, he was ridiculed by more prosperous classmates. Ali’s undiagnosed nearsightedness, too, made him appear dull-witted and prevented him from doing well at school. Passing by a secondhand store one day, Ali accidentally tried a pair of glasses, and suddenly “the world became clear.” His father, however, would not pay for them, or for “shoes with laces.” Ali’s father thought his son so attired would appear the dandy. A year passed before Ali’s loving mother squirreled away enough money from her food budget to buy her son spectacles. 

At home Ali and Mohammad continued religious studies under the watchful eye of their introverted and neurotic father, who regularly slapped Ali for incorrect recitations of the Koran and other religious literature. The young man found solace in his mother’s recitations of Persian poetry. Her love of poetry ignited his own. 

Poetry led Ali to discover other literature, first through serialized newspaper novellas and Persian translations of popular European novels at a small neighborhood bookstall. For a modest fee, he would rent the popular works of fiction and escape from the harshness of his home.

Too timid to rebel against his father’s authority and continue his studies at a secular high school, Ali enrolled at the Mashhad Theological Seminary in 1952. Quickly, however, he discovered the library of the Astan-e Qods-e Razavi charitable foundation, Iran’s equivalent of the Vatican library. In this beautiful refuge from the daily humiliations of school and home, he encountered masterpieces of European literature. “I would go there to read,” Khamenei later recalled. “The voice of the moezzin calling to prayer was broadcast through the loudspeakers, but I was so absorbed in reading that I would hardly notice!”

Which works made the later self-appointed vali-ye amr-e moslemin, or guardian commander of the Muslims, forget about the call to prayer? Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, the story of Jean Valjean, who finds himself on the wrong side of the law but the right side of virtue. Khamenei later praised the book as “a miracle in the realm of the novel .  .  . a work of sociology, a work of history, a critical book, a divine book, and the book of affection, sympathy, and love.” He also read Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, which, in Khamenei’s words, “depicts the initial defeats [of Russia], but in a way that makes them a source of pride and glory of the defeated nation.” The morally strong characters in Romain Rolland’s Jean-Christophe and L’âme enchantée (The Soul Enchanted) appealed to the young Ali, who also read Dante’s Divine Comedy, Mikhail Sholokhov’s And Quiet Flows the Don, the works of Michel Zevaco, and “anything” by Alexandre Dumas, père et fils. Still later, Khamenei discovered Mikhail Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog, an “artful” parody of the Soviet regime, which he later praised, but still later dismissed as unrevolutionary and thus “lacking universal appeal.”

A Religious Intellectual

Before long, Khamenei, doubtless defying his strict father, began attending the literary gatherings at Mahmoud Farrokh’s aristocratic and “eye-pleasing” mansion, which attracted traditionalists, and the Negarandeh circle, an informal association of younger literary hopefuls. Chez Farrokh, Khamenei got to know the poets Mehdi Akhavan-Sales, Mehrdad Avesta, Mohammad-Reza Shafiee-Kadkani, and other literary luminaries from Mashhad. He even tried his hand at poetry under the pen name Zia al-Din, or Light of the Faith, but never dared to publish or recite his own poems. “I knew poetry, knew the difference between good and bad poetry. .  .  .Looking at my own poems,” Khamenei later remarked, “I had the view of a critic and was not satisfied. Therefore, I would not recite a poem. Had the poem been on par with the poetry of the day, I certainly would have recited it.”

In the Iran of the 1960s, as wherever political debate is suppressed, there was little distance between literature and politics, and literary circles inevitably led to political activism. Gholamreza Qodsinejad, founder of the Negarandeh society, who spent four years in prison after the 1953 coup that restored the shah to power, became a lifelong friend of Khamenei’s. Khamenei also got to know Ali Shariati, a French-educated intellectual who became one of the ideologues of the 1979 revolution, and still later Jalal Al-e Ahmad. By mixing Shiism with Marxism, Shariati, who died in 1977, managed to unite the secular and religious opposition to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s regime. Al-e Ahmad, a Westernized teacher with a deep knowledge of Persian literature, coined the term gharbzadegi (Occidentosis) in his book of the same name in 1962, which traced Iran’s backwardness to emulation of the West. Unlike most revolutionary clerics, Khamenei was first exposed to politics at literary salons, not in religious schools and mosques. 

Having rubbed shoulders with the literati and the chic revolutionary set, Khamenei readily embraced Ruhollah Khomeini’s 1963 rebellion against the shah. The shah’s modernization scheme, the White Revolution, launched in 1963, distributed the lands of the rural aristocracy and religious endowments among peasants, organized a civilian corps to fight illiteracy, and introduced female suffrage. While the traditional and religious segments of Iranian society were enraged by the reforms, the shah’s dictatorial rule alienated the secular elites who might otherwise have supported the modernization scheme. Khomeini managed to transform both rage and alienation into a political movement with his own interpretation of Islam as its unifying ideology and political program. For the vanguard of his revolution, he mobilized theology students. 

Khamenei claims to have joined Khomeini’s rebellion “from the first hours of the struggle” and says he was already acquainted with Khomeini’s polemical Kashf al-Asrar (The Unveiling of Secrets), first published in 1942. Given Khamenei’s love of Western literature and lack of interest in clerical polemics, however, this can be doubted. He probably read the book later, after joining Khomeini’s revolt. The work, nonetheless, seems to have made a lasting impact on the young cleric, who later described it as “the blueprint for an Islamic government.”

Perhaps inspired by Shariati, Al-e Ahmad, and Khomeini, Khamenei spent 1965 translating Egyptian radical theoretician Sayyid Qutb’s Al-Mustaqbal li-hadha’l-Din (The Future Belongs to this Religion), from the Arabic original into Persian. Executed in 1967, Qutb was the most influential Arab Sunni Islamist since the Egyptian Hassan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928. His voluminous Koranic commentary has remained required reading among fundamentalists. His emphasis on jihad and on takfir—declaring Muslims who fail their faith infidels, not just poor Muslims—was instrumental in the intellectual march to al Qaeda and mass-casualty terrorism. Qutb’s book shared a fundamental assumption of Khomeini’s: that Islam is fully capable of delivering answers to contemporary social and political needs. Equally appealing to Khamenei, Qutb shared Al-e Ahmad’s distaste for Middle Easterners’ emulating the West and Shariati’s passionate revolutionary rhetoric. 

Khamenei’s foreword to his translation of Qutb reveals his understanding of political Islam in the 1960s. According to Khamenei, Western imperialism was perfectly happy with Islam as a set of daily rituals, which kept Muslims ignorant of the “revolutionary and mobilizing factors” of the faith. Westerners and Westernized Iranians wanted to neutralize “jihad and self-sacrifice for the preservation and propagation of the faith” and the “necessity of using force and violence against its enemies.” Khamenei also highlighted that Islam, in spite of its originality, in its traditional garb could no longer appeal to young people, and clearly saw Qutb’s theoretical innovations and literary style as a means of countering the appeal of Marxism and scientific socialism among Muslims.

While Shariati and Khomeini revealed to Khamenei the political potency of Islamism, Al-e Ahmad and Qutb radically changed the young man’s perception of the West. The West was no longer the civilization that had given him Dante, Dumas, and Hugo; Russia was no longer the mother of Tolstoy, Sholokhov, and Bulgakov. The West and Russia had become “world-devouring” imperial powers. Their materialism and communism were killing the faith and spirituality of Muslims.

At the time Khamenei was translating Qutb’s book, its author was in Gamal Abdel Nasser’s prison, and by the time the Persian translation was released, Qutb was dead. In April 1967, Khamenei’s translation was banned in Iran. SAVAK, the shah’s secret police, arrested the young cleric. During his three-month imprisonment and ensuing legal proceedings, Khamenei consistently claimed that Qutb’s book and his own foreword were directed against communism and Nasser’s Arab socialism, and not against the Pahlavi regime.

The arduousness of imprisonment appears to have had its intended literary effect. Khamenei took cover. In 1970 he translated Shaykh Radi Aal-e Yasin’s 1953 treatise Sulh al-Hassan (The Peace Treaty of Hassan). In Khamenei’s translation, the title of the book also featured a subtitle: The Most Glorious Heroic Flexibility in History

Aal-e Yasin’s book defended Hassan ibn Ali (625-670), the second imam of the Shia, who in the face of adversity made peace with his enemy, Muawiyah ibn Abu Sufyan, and relinquished his claim to the caliphate. Muawiyah, with his Syrian army behind him, claimed the caliphate after the death of Hassan’s father Ali in 661. This peace has since caused controversy among the Shia, between those who considered it wisely expedient and those who believed Hassan should have chosen war and possible martyrdom rather than the unjust victory of Muawiyah, the first ruler of the Umayyad dynasty. In his short introduction, Khamenei argued: “[The third imam] Hussein’s drinking from the chalice of martyrdom under specific circumstances, and Imam Hassan’s preserving life through peace under other circumstances, were two schemes and two means to immortalize the [Shiite] school of thought.” He found both approaches to be “wise solutions .  .  .  from which there was no escape.” Revealingly, Khamenei’s introduction has been removed from postrevolution editions of this translation, which clearly shows the cleric’s unease with his original theme. It is difficult not to interpret Khamenei’s first foreword as the words of a defeated man. Burned by prison, unable to foresee Khomeini’s triumph nine years later, Khamenei advanced an Imam Hassan-style accord with the shah rather than torturous struggle and martyrdom. Curiously, Khamenei used the phrase “heroic flexibility” when he publicly endorsed President Hassan Rouhani’s nuclear negotiations with the United States in 2013. This time, Khamenei stressed, however, that “heroic flexibility” is a tactical stratagem employed by wrestlers who meet formidable opponents. “One must never forget the nature of the enemy,” he added.

Khamenei’s foreword to his translation of another Qutb manifesto published in Iran in the mid-1970s, reflects a similar resignation. Khamenei admits he’d abandoned the Persian translation of Qutb’s essay, and that it would never have been completed without the help of Hadi, his younger brother. Khamenei continues the theme of insidious Western conquest. It remains unquestionably the most salient narrative in the supreme leader’s speeches today. “This is the story of our life, the sad story,” Khamenei writes, “.  .  . of a people who, by changing and forgetting themselves, totally surrendered their dear and centuries-old heritage to the civilization of the West. Instead of their own rich, original, and deeply rooted civilization and culture, they tried to console themselves with the sorry remains of creations of others. Even strangers pitied them, let alone friends.” On top of his earlier grievances against the Occident, Khamenei also accuses Westerners of “seeking consolation at the feet of idols in Hindu temples, Jainism, yoga, or any other mystical way, if not through ridiculous manners of the hippies or through marijuana, LSD, heroin, and the like.” 

Five decades later, Khamenei uses similar accusations against anyone who seeks political or moral inspiration from the West.

In 1974 Khamenei’s writings and his association with leading clerical figures again led to his arrest and imprisonment. Houshang Asadi, a leftist political activist and Khamenei’s cellmate for three months, in his Letter to My Torturer, recalls the cleric who would “recite the Koran quietly .  .  . pray .  .  . and weep, sobbing loudly .  .  . losing himself completely in God” while “looking at the sky from behind cell bars in search of a compassionate and merciful God.” Asadi also remembers his cellmate’s “unique mastery of contemporary literature, especially poetry.” To Asadi’s dismay, Khamenei was not fond of modernist poets like Forough Farrokhzad and Ahmad Shamlou, or Sadeq Hedayat the novelist. But they shared a love for Akhavan-Sales, who wrote free verse, and the more traditional, but socially conscious, Houshang Ebtehaj. To pass the time, the two men would recount novels and poetry to each other. Asadi would even sing Communist hymns, to the cleric’s obvious enchantment. But every time the conversation turned to Asadi’s atheism, Khamenei would say, “You are a Muslim. I can see God in your heart. Even when you talk about atheism, your breath smells of God.” Asadi also recalls “the glow” in Khamenei’s eyes as the cleric, with his own hands, fed a Communist cellmate who had just returned from a session of severe torture. This occurred at a time when most clerics considered Communists religiously impure and performed ablutions if they accidentally touched a Communist in prison. Khamenei, however, was about to change.

A Deadly Ideologue

Makhmalbaf’s blind cinephile changed as he began working as a censor. He censored movies according to his own whims, based on his feelings towards the cinematographer, or depending on what movies he considered expedient for the “immature” general public. Sitting in the movie theater of the ministry, the blind censor listens to Vigen, the old Armenian movie operator, describe the clips shown to him. Then the censor adds his own commentary: 

A whore deserves to be stoned [to death], but showing such scenes is not expedient. .  .  . [A] thief deserves to be dismembered as a means of frightening the public from committing theft, but screening this movie is not expedient. .  .  . [Yasujiro] Ozu’s Tokyo Story is fine, but the director had a habit of drinking from dusk to dawn with his pals. He demanded “Nothing” be written on his gravestone. Showing the works of nihilist directors is not expedient. .  .  .Fahrenheit 451? They say it is about the death of literature in the hands of cinema and television, but in Iran, intellectuals who see it will think it is against censorship. Not expedient. .  .  . One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? No, no, .  .  . these young people just wait for a window to be smashed to take arson to the streets .  .  . ! Parajanov? Had he not been a sodomite, I would allow his The Color of Pomegranates

With the Islamic revolution, a failed poet became a powerful critic. Khamenei enthusiastically fanned the flames of Iran’s cultural revolution. The writer Faraj Sarkouhi explains well the significance of culture for most within the clerical class. “The clergy is a cultural class and aware of its importance. For years they had complained about the assault of Western culture against the world of Islam, and now they wanted to get even with Western culture, and with anything that did not fit their interpretation of Islam. Freedom of speech, thought, and religion, human rights, humanism .  .  . individualism and anything the Constitutional Revolution [of 1905-1911] had imported into Iran .  .  . they considered the work of Satan.” 

Culture was so important that even in February 1982, in the midst of one of the darkest periods of the war with Iraq, Khamenei, by this time president of the republic, chose to address cultural commentators at the newspaper Jomhouri-ye Eslami. Khamenei disclosed that a poet had sent him a letter thanking him for his interest in poetry, but complaining about feeling isolated after the revolution. Khamenei answered, “I had a look at his poetry, and saw that his [real] message was ‘this autumn too will pass. .  .  . ’ I wrote back, ‘You don’t see the spring [the Islamic Republic] has come. How can you complain you are separated from the people .  .  . ?! The spring is here, but a donkey is grazing in the midst of the flowers. One must chase the donkey, and not dismiss the reality of the spring!’ ”

Not even the great masters of the past were spared Khamenei’s criticism. He attacked as “unrevolutionary” the poetry of Nizami and Sadi, twelfth- and thirteenth-century poets, respectively, who surely were among the great, classical poets his mother once lovingly recited to him. Complaining about prerevolution poets became a recurring theme in Khamenei’s speeches. He slammed art from before the Islamic revolution as “in the service of masters of power and the government.” He demanded that the arts serve “the people,” which in Khamenei’s terminology means “the regime,” and attacked “artists who have parted ways from the loving, grateful people.” 

A speech to the Iranian Students’ Poetry and Literature Congress in December 1986 is typical of the new, post-revolution Khamenei, who, like the revolution’s founding father, wanted to birth a new man, the perfect man, which traditional Shiites had once thought was possible only for the chosen few in some eschatological future:

I have a complaint .  .  . many of those who could have used their superior art in the service of the revolution and the people have not done so. .  .  . Some of them never claimed to be popular. One would say: “I am the poet of requiems for my own wounded heart,” and would write poems only for himself and had nothing to do with the ideals and goals of the revolution. .  .  . [And then] there were some who claimed [to be popular and revolutionary] but did not join the people. They failed to do so because of several reasons: their dogmatic thoughts were nullified by the victory of the revolution. .  .  . Liberal minded Westerners, who talked of humanism and the like, aestheticians who worshipped beauty and love, and indulged in saying absurdities. .  .  . But the leftists too, those who considered the people the toiling class .  .  . as their ideal. .  .  . When the revolution came, it became clear they were all absurd. .  .  . They did not join the [Islamic] revolution, did not accept the idea of the revolution and they have naturally nothing to say. .  .  . There were also those who on the one hand desired to be popular poets and now have the honor of being revolutionaries—but at the same time continue their revelry and debauchery, drinking incessantly and the like. .  .  . There are those who want to be the sole star of the revolution .  .  . [but with] their evil character, wickedness, and dependence on various counterrevolutionary camps, have no motive to be in the service of the revolution, and have even worked against it.  

The once unassuming, awkward young cleric now believed the only goal of the arts was to immortalize the revolution’s achievements. “A call, vocation, revolution, civilization, or culture—be it truthful or false—which is not expressed by art will not survive.” Poetry is capable of making posterity understand “what happened in this society in the days of the revolution, and during the imposed war [the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988],” he wrote in 1987. “Revolutionary poetry must be the vanguard of the caravan of the revolution. .  .  . [T]hrough the arts and literature, the revolution can be exported in an easier and more honest way.” “Make a sword out of your art,” he demanded, “in order to cut away filth and impurities.” Answering proponents of artistic freedom, Khamenei shot back: “There are those who say: ‘You are shackling the artists, you are restricting them. The artist should be free, and art can’t be restricted to ideological frameworks!’ This is a total lie. .  .  . Art has always been the best means of explaining ideology.”

Khamenei’s criticisms were warnings. “The remains of the art from the era of Taghout [the rebellion against God, a reference to the era of the shahs], the spirit of which was surrender to the cultural onslaught of the foreigners, cannot have any role in the structure of the revolutionary art of today. Those authors will no longer be allowed to publish.” 

Shahrokh Meskoob, the Iranian literary critic, once remarked that fathers kill their sons in Persian mythology, not the other way round as with the Greeks. This is what happens in Makhmalbaf’s script. The blind censor employs his own son to read aloud book manuscripts submitted to the Ministry of Culture. In the end, however, the son is “infected” and “poisoned” by the dangerous literature. He is imprisoned and later executed in the presence of his father. The blind censor finds refuge from this terrible deed and abundant self-hatred through valium. His wife falls into dementia. 

Khamenei went after some of the revolution’s most accomplished children. He warned Ali-Akbar Saidi Sirjani, a famous poet and essayist who supported the revolution but whose parables attacked the Islamic Republic’s despotism and religious hypocrisy, to halt his writings. Ignoring the supreme leader, Sirjani published an open letter and a satirical poem ridiculing Khamenei. In March 1994, Sirjani was arrested. The Ministry of Security and Intelligence charged him with “drug abuse, production of alcohol, and homosexual activity.” After the Iranian branch of PEN questioned why the intelligence ministry, and not the regular Law Enforcement Forces, had arrested the poet, the ministry produced additional charges: “contacts with spy networks” and “receiving money from counterrevolutionary forces.” Sirjani died eight months later in custody. Members of PEN who had protested his arrest were also interrogated by the intelligence ministry. Many fell silent. 

After the murder of Sirjani, the newspaper Kayhan, Khamenei’s official mouthpiece, went after intellectuals. In a series of articles, later made into a TV series, the newspaper pinpointed public intellectuals—most of whom had refused to turn on Sirjani—as “mercenaries,” “lackeys,” and “poison pens” of the West. Then in October 1995, the regime killed the writer and literary translator Ahmad Mir-Alaei, who’d not only refused to retract his support of Sirjani but had met with the British author V. S. Naipaul, who was visiting Iran for Beyond Belief, his sequel to Among the Believers. In 1996 the regime attempted to kill a group of authors, Faraj Sarkouhi among them, who had publicly refused to take back their support of Sirjani. They were on a bus headed to a literary conference in Armenia. The driver attempted to kill them by steering the vehicle over a cliff as he jumped to safety. Fortunately, passengers thwarted the plot. Again the fingerprints pointed directly to the intelligence ministry and Khamenei. It’s a near certainty that the supreme leader authorized all of the assassinations of intellectuals and oppositionists, at home and abroad, since 1989. Although Hassan Rouhani has a long track record of uninterest in or hostility to intellectuals and students who push the envelope of “cultural” expression, the regime’s current severe crackdown on journalists and intellectuals ultimately can be traced, too, to the supreme leader. 

There are—there always are—artists who side with the regime. Poets who show up at Khamenei’s court with panegyrics for the “wise leader”; authors whom the supreme leader praises for their dishonest books about the Iran-Iraq war and the clerics’ (disastrous) waging of it; and moviemakers who soften the image of the country. It’s a tricky business. Sirjani and Makhmalbaf, once favored by the regime, fell from grace. Khamenei may still admire Les Misérables, but he probably now sympathizes with Police Inspector Javert, who imprisons human beings in this world in return for freedom from torment in the next. Khamenei may still like War and Peace, but most likely as a literary device to explain away Saddam Hussein’s triumph over the Islamic Republic in 1988. Bulgakov he now dismisses, which isn’t surprising. Rather than sympathizing with the dog, the supreme leader surely now identifies himself with the totalitarian surgeon who is striving to create “the new man.” Khamenei, who once would have enthusiastically agreed with Makhmalbaf’s tearful plea in his film Gabbeh (Life is Color!), has become his country’s Grand Inquisitor. It requires no great insight to see that such a man isn’t ready for President Obama’s good intentions. 

Ali Alfoneh and Reuel Marc Gerecht are senior fellows at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Gerecht is also a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.


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