≡ Menu

Seattle Jewish Federation Plans Anti-Iran Conference

The type of alarmist propaganda Seattles Jewish community can expect to hear at the federations Iran conference

The type of alarmist propaganda Seattle's Jewish community can expect to hear at the federation's Iran conference

Through a well-informed source, I have become aware that the Seattle Jewish federation will be hosting a community event on October 21st entitled, Facing the Iranian Threat.  The conference will be held at Temple De Hirsch Sinai and led by its rabbi, Daniel Weiner.  The federation hopes that radio host Dave Ross will moderate the program.  Though I wonder if he reads this he’ll have some second thoughts.

The event’s major premise will be that Iran is an existential threat to Israel.  It will present that country in an extremely harsh light and make the argument that it is a threat not just to Israel, but the world.  The speakers will be Israeli consul general (San Francisco) Akiva Tor, Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post military correspondent and Jeffrey Colman, Aipac deputy director.  The two main groups providing funding (through paying for the speakers travel and other expenses) are Aipac and StandWithUs.  It is unclear to me whether the conference organizers intended to make public the key role these groups were playing in organizing and funding the program.

Akiva Tor directs Israel's campaign against Iran among Northwest Jews

Akiva Tor directs Israel's campaign against Iran among Northwest Jews

All the speakers take a hardline approach to Iran, arguing that in the end diplomatic engagement cannot work.  I personally believe that the ultimate goal of the speakers and the groups they represent is an Israeli military attack against Iran.  But even if I am wrong, the conference is unfair and unbalanced.  The federation, as an umbrella organization representing the Jews of Seattle, should represent all legitimate views held by our community’s Jews on this issue.  There will be no speaker supporting the Obama administration’s policy of diplomatic engagement.  No speaker will warn of the potential dangers of a military attack on Iran.  No speaker will argue that Iran is not an existential threat to Israel (a view, by the way, recently supported by Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak).

The Israel programming committee of the federation never met as a group to plan this event.  Who did plan it?  A small group of local volunteers and federation staff.  That doesn’t seem to be a transparent way to plan such a potentially controversial major community wide event.  I have asked two federation executive committee members whether they were apprised of the content of the conference and approved the federation’s sponsorship.

A little background about recent federation history is in order.  A few months ago Canon Naim Ateek, one of the leading Palestinian Christian anti-Occupation activists spoke to the Kadima congregation here in Seattle.  The federation, at the behest of Aipac’s local director, asked scores of Jewish community leaders to sign a letter of protest to Kadima saying that Ateek was anti-Israel and anti-Semitic (which are false accusations).  Only twelve of those solicited agree to sign.  A number whose signatures were solicited were upset with the letter and it became a controversial matter: Kadima was the only local Jewish organization ever taken to task in this fashion by the rest of the community for its Israel programming.  A few federation board members were unhappy with the letter and the federation executive director quickly backpedaled saying he wasn’t fully aware of it and its contents.  Many local Jewish progressives see the original letter as an act of intimidation which thankfully backfired.

The federation Iran-Israel program as planned clearly indicates two of the most hardline local pro-Israel advocacy groups have hijacked the political agenda of our community when it comes to Israel.  They have done so with the connivance (either active or passive) of the Israeli consul general.  I should add that the Israeli government is in the midst of a massive lobbying campaign within this country that incorporates the Jewish community, news media and members of Congress.  The goal of the campaign, in my view, is to soften American opinion so it will be more supportive in the event that Israel attacks Iran.

The federation has two options: it can go forward with the program as planned, in which case I plan to organize a counter-conference with Jewish, Israeli and Iranian-American speakers representing a more pragmatic perspective on Iran and one that supports the Obama administration’s policy of diplomatic engagement.  Or the federation can modify this program so that it is balanced and loses its hard ideological edge.  The choice is theirs.

I am beginning a fundraising campaign to support the Iran-Israel conference I am planning.  We will be bringing speakers to Seattle from around the country and I plan, with other organizational and individual sponsors, to raise the funding to cover such expenses.  If you want to strike a blow for a fair and balanced U.S. policy toward Iran and want to tell our communal leaders that they must take such views into account then please use the Paypal button to give as generously as you can.  We may also need to pay a speaker fee to one or more of our speakers.  Quality doesn’t come cheaply.  So please help make this event possible.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • David September 24, 2009, 6:42 AM

    Welcome to a world in which Jewish Federations are local extensions of Israeli consulates. To all the other readers out there, look for something similar in your community too.

  • Norman Weinstein September 24, 2009, 7:03 AM

    Richard, I’ve donated through PayPal a few dollars to the cause – wish it could have been more and hope others will follow suit to join you in the good fight, not the other kind. We – I mean too many of the American population and their leadership, along with loads of apparently good observant Jews and some not so, neo-cons and peasants alike, seem awfully keen on reversing that wonderful old Isaiah longing for shalom into “They will beat their plowshares into swords (read bombs) and their pruning hooks into spears (tanks, etc.).” Poor old Isaiah face à face with this bunch of bloodthirsty, faux-military creeps, clamoring to “let slip the dogs of war” and spill buckets of blood – of others, of course – to satisfy their paranoia and the bullshit they manufacture and then hungrily spoon up.

  • DICKERSON3870 September 25, 2009, 8:43 AM

    RE: “please use the Paypal button to give”

    MY COMMENT: On my computers, when I move the ‘pointer’ to your Paypal ‘donate’ button, it changes from the pointer to the ‘cursor’ (regardless of whether I am using I.E. Explorer, Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome as my ‘browser’). At first, I assumed that it would not be possible to make a donation. But even though it is the cursor (whilst on the Paypal donate button) rather than the pointer, when I went ahead and ‘clicked’ on it I was taken to Paypal so that I could make a contribution.

    I recall a few instances of this having occurred on other sites. It’s weird because normally when there is something to ‘click’ on (an active link), the pointer rather than the cursor is showing.

    P.S. “I just think thinks should work properly!” – spoken with the affectation of a “quite proper” Englishman who designs and peddles weird looking and absurdly overpriced vacuum cleaners.

    • DICKERSON3870 September 25, 2009, 12:09 PM


      P.S. “I just think things should work properly!” – spoken with the affectation of a “quite proper” Englishman who designs and peddles weird looking and absurdly overpriced vacuum cleaners.

      *REGARDING MY ERRANT BRAIN: “I just think thinks should work properly!” – spoken with a pronounced Cockney dialect

    • Richard Silverstein September 25, 2009, 8:39 PM

      I’ve noticed that & it IS confusing. I just hope people won’t be put off by the fact that the cursor doesn’t change when you mouseover the Paypal link. If you click it it DOES take you to my Paypal acct. & I thankfully have received a number of generous contributions for the Iran-Israel conference.

  • Tom September 26, 2009, 9:05 PM

    Another perspective would be those that call for a nuclear-free middle east, and a nuclear free world. A sane policy would insist that Israel, currently the nation that introduced nuclear weapons into the Middle East, become a part of the Nuclear nonproliferation treaty. Props to the Obama administration for at least calling for that, but again, it will take no action.

    In contrast, the Obama administration has “all options on the table” in regard to Iran.

Leave a Comment