Also published at Alternet:
Rudy Giuliani, potential future Republican candidate for governor of New York, keynoted the Stand for Freedom in Iran rally earlier today at the UN. Like a similar rally last year during the presidential campaign, when the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations invited Sarah Palin to keynote an anti-Iran UN rally, Giuliani confirms that tomorrow’s event, sponsored by the New York Jewish community, represents a hardline neocon agenda. By announcing Giuliani’s participation less than 24 hours before the event, the rally organizers avoid the cries of political partisanship that would build (which is precisely what happened in Palin’s case) if his invovlement had been announced earlier.
The Stand for Freedom website doesn’t acknowledge that this coalition of New York ethnic, religious and labor groups was organized by the Jewish community (it’s website is registered by the Jewish Community Relations Council). I wonder whether the non-Jewish groups know that it has been hijacked by a partisan political agenda? The website doesn’t mention Israel, in whose interests all these events are being planned. It doesn’t mention that the sole Iranian-American sponsoring group has ties to the Mujahadeen al Khalq, listed as a terror group by the U.S. government. The People’s Mujahadeen also favors the violent overthrow of the Iranian regime.
Instead, the rally’s stated political agenda appears relatively innocuous, indicating its support for the Iranian reform movement. The truth is, involvement of hawks like Rudy Giuliani and the Progressive American Iranian Committee will damage the reputation of the reform movement and drive Iranians into the arms of hardliners like Ahmadinejad.
So why would the Jewish community do such a thing? I believe they not only don’t really care about Iranian reformers, they in fact seek a hardening of U.S. policy toward Iran, leading up to a possible Israeli attack. So what the Netanyahu government, American neocons, and the Israel lobby ultimately want is regime change by any means necessary.
Yes, sanctions are what they say they want. But just as with Iraqi sanctions under the Bush administration, they are a means to get to the next level, which is a military solution. I am sorry to say that the leadership of American Jewry has been co-opted by the Israeli diplomatic corps in this country. It is carrying water for Israel and doing so in league with the Republican right represented by Giuliani.
American Jews do not share these views. Our so-called leaders are out of step with their followers. But the former somehow is given carte-blanche. That is why we progressive Jewish bloggers do what we do. We say, No. You don’t represent us. You don’t even represent Israel’s real interests. You represent your own wealthy class interests. You represent the interests of a right wing Israeli government. You represent a rush to military action. We reject this. We reject you.
Instead we embrace the pragmatists among the Israeli intelligence & political community that endorse diplomatic engagement. Even Ehud Barak, for what it’s worth, said last week Iran was no existential threat to Israel. We will make common cause with those in Israel who refuse to drive their nation off the rails by getting into a military adventure that will lead to the same disasters that befell Israel in Lebanon and Gaza. The difference with Iran though is that it is a country that has means not only to defend itself, but to exact retribution if Israeli bombs should fall on Iranian soil.
In that case, there will be blood: Jewish, Iranian and possibly even American. Blood that needn’t have been spilled. I find it hard to believe that Pres. Obama and the international community couldn’t organize to stop this train wreck in the making. The jury is still out on whether they are prepared to act.
Why would there be cries of “political partisanship” about Giuliani’s appearance, considering that Democratic NY Gov. David Paterson spoke also–and was announced a week or two before Giuliani?
Richard Silverstein says
The Stand for Freedom website did not list the speakers. I was not there. I only know I was told by the JCRC staffer responsible that Giuliani would speak. She did not tell me that Paterson spoke nor did I receive any list of speakers from anyone confirming this. I take it that the JCRC is more interested in having you & JTA know about its plans than me.
However, the notion that this is a highly partisan organization, whether that means supporting an Israeli or American neocon agenda is beyond dispute whether or not David Paterson spoke. All the Paterson invitation means is that they learned their lesson from last year’s fiasco when they only invited Sarah Palin & half-heartedly invited Hillary Clinton after the fact (& she wisely turned down the invitation).
I am afraid you got this one completely wrong. I was there and Rudy was the ONLY Republican speaker and was NOT the keynote speaker. There was a long list of Democratic office holders from the Governor down to the NYC City Council speaker. There was a union president who gave a great speech about workers’ rights in Iran. If anyone was the key note speech, it was given by Elie Wiesel. Rudy’s speech was flat and unimpressive. In addition, to my relief, as I was assured in advance, there was no sabre rattling.
I must tell you that you did yourself a great disservice with this post. I read your thoughts regularly and when I see you so completely misrepresenting the facts on an event that I attended, it naturally makes me wonder about your fact checking on other events.
Richard Silverstein says
I’m afraid you are incredibly naive, not to mention aiding and abetting the Iran hawks in the Jewish community.
Wow, a leader of the liberal Zionist community attending NY’s anti-Iran rally. What does that tell you about Ameinu & Mr. Bob’s political orientation on this subject? Are you aware of the Conference of President’s saber-rattling against Iran? Are you aware of Stand for Freedom in Iran’s affiliation with an Iranian group, one of whose founder’s is on the excecutive council of the People’s Mujahadeen? Does that not trouble you? Do you really believe, considering the warmongering of the Israel lobby on this subject that the Jewish participants in this coalition were expressing their true views at this rally? If not, why would they dissemble so? And why was Israel left out of the group’s website? Would you also ask the organizers whether the Israeli consultate was involved in planning this coalition & event?
My friend, Israel is headed for a possible attack against Iran. If you want to attend rallies that inch us ever closer to that eventuality be my guest. But I’m happy to serve the role that Jim McDermott did before the Iraq war in which he visited the country & warned us about the foolhardiness of a military invasion. That leaves those of us like you who after the fact will deny you had an opportunity to do something to prevent it & instead encouraged it by yr attendance at rallies like this.
I’m sure btw if you contact our local federation you can join the speakers list for their anti- Iran conference next month. They’d love to have a liberal Zionist to bolster their agenda.
In both absolute and relative terms, the United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world. Shouldn’t Giuliani be standing up for freedom in America?
RE: “American Jews do not share these views. Our so-called leaders are out of step with their followers. But the former somehow is given carte-blanche.”
MY COMMENT: Yesterday afternoon I had to stop by my mother’s house, and she had the TV tuned to Fox News (despite my constantly giving her hell for it). I was only there for a couple of minutes, but unless I was having auditory hallucinations I heard Netanyahu unequivocally state that he was speaking for “all of the Jewish people” (not just the Israelis). As much as I admire so many Jews (or because or it), it pains me to say that I feel very, very sorry for “the Jewish people” as represented by Binyamin Netanyahu. Of course, due to G W Bush, Pat Robertson, “Pastor” John Hagee, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, David Duke, etc., I renounced several years ago any association with “Christians”, Protestants, Westerners, Americans, WASPS, Whites, etc. I’m also perilously close to renouncing my membership in the ‘human race’ (the species Homo sapiens in Hominidae, the great ape family).
“I was once a man; I know the evil men do.” – Swamp Thing
RE: …I heard Netanyahu unequivocally state that he was speaking for “all of the Jewish people”
TO CLARIFY: He was addressing (making his speech to) the General Assembly at the UN. I’m certain this was a carefully prepared speech, so I attach considerable significance to his claiming to “speak for all the Jewish people”. Since I only saw a couple of minutes of his speech, it is unclear to me whether he was speaking “for all the Jewish people” for his entire speech or during only a portion of his speech.
It is also unclear to me as to whether he is claiming that as PM of Israel he speaks not only for the Israelis but for “all the Jewish people”. Does President Peres also speak for “all the Jewish people”? Does FM Avigdor Lieberman speak for “all the Jewish people”?
Assuming that I’m not Jewish, should I care whether Netanyahu claims to (or does, in fact) speak for “all of the Jewish people”? Of course, I suppose it’s really none of my business. I suppose that I should only concern myself when someone claims to speak for me (or perhaps is perceived as speaking for me). And yet, I seem to vaguely remember some leader of a nation in the past who essentially (implicitly, if not explicitly) spoke “for all the ?????? people”. I might be wrong, but I have this vague recollection that he appeared to think that he spoke not only for the people who resided in his country (unless they were of inferior origins, were not pure or were otherwise deemed unfit), but also for people outside his country who’s forbears were originally from der Heimatland (assuming there had been no intermarriage with people of inferior origins, or at least not enough so that it was obvious). And I seem to vaguely remember this leader causing a whole lot of trouble. Was it Charlemagne? I just can’t seem to remember. If only I was fortunate enough to have a degree in history from Yale!
I, too, was at this rally, having come to New York for the Jewish holidays, and find this post to be a bit off-target.
The Stand for Freedom in Iran Rally was organized by the JCRC as an umbrella organization for a whole slew of groups(including Progressive American-Iranian Committee; New York City Central Labor Council: AFL-CIO; UJA-Federation of New York; Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union; American Federation of Teachers; United Federation of Teachers; American Federation of Government Employees; NAACP-New York Conference; The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine; National Puerto Rican Coalition; Alliance of Iranian Women; Iran Human Rights Documentation Center; Foundation for Democracy in Iran; Korean American Public Affairs Committee; Turkish American Community in New York; Chinese Community Relations Council; National Inter-agency Task Force on Iran) and more than 40 other non-Jewish and Jewish organizations.
There were no doomsayers at this rally; Giuliani spoke about the nuclear threat and Wiesel about the Holocaust, but the rest of the speakers spoke about human rights violations. I’d venture to say that more than half of the protesters were Iranians protesting the regime of their native country, and there were not close to as many Jews as expected. The focus was much more on gay and women’s rights, freedom of speech and religion, etc. in Iran. Holocaust denial and a nuclear threat were quite secondary. And that wasn’t a result of some Jewish-partisan-conspiracy to harden US policy; the topics addressed were proportionate to the groups who came to protest.
As for “American Jews…not [sharing] these views” and the Israeli government not representing you, you are absolutely correct. I couldn’t agree more, and I think this is a mistake that many American Jews make. They think that, in their ivory towers of New York and LA, they have something to do with “Israel’s real interests”. The Israeli public has voted in a “right-wing government” because we are not interested in having Tel Aviv and Jerusalem turn into another Sderot. “A rush to military action”? It doesn’t matter whether American Jews “reject this” or not. It is Israelis who reject this, because we are the ones whose sons and daughters are in the battlefield and securing cafes and bus stops. We do not want to go to war. We are not looking to board IAF planes and fly over the mountains of Iran.
Who would not be grateful, if sanctions would work against Iran? I don’t think any sane person living in Israel would “rush to military action” if sanctions are so available and possible. And while some may think sanctions will work, those who are truly “pragmatic” and who have had more experience dealing with such regimes understand their extent. The problem is that the US administration (both Bush and Obama) has not addressed the sanctions early enough (despite numerous Israeli intelligence reports warning them of Iranian nuclear facilities). Yes, America can take its sweet time, because New York is awfully far from Teheran; Israel is dealing with a ticking clock. And we, here in Jerusalem, must live with a constant question mark- Barak has said that Iran is no existential threat, yet countless other IDF and Mossad officials have said quite the opposite. Each person can believe and quote whomever’s opinion is more suited to their own. It’s easy to be naive if you aren’t being threatened directly.
As for blood to be spilled- if the sanctions are not implemented immediately and the Iranian reaction gauged correctly, yes, Jewish, Iranian, perhaps American will be spilled, too, thanks to the naivete of those who continue to stick their heads into the sand and call Iran a “paper tiger”.
Richard Silverstein says
First we have JTA’s Eric Fingerhut, then Ameinu’s Ken Bob…now Avital, who probably has some official capacity with some group or other.
Interesting that Elie Wiesel spoke about the Holocaust. It figures. That puts him right in Bibi’s sweet spot. It’s 1938 & Teheran is Munich. Right on, Elie, now part of the anti-Iran propaganda machine.
That’s actually quite funny (unintentionally). Actually, it’s Israelis like Avital who live, not in ivory towers, but secreted behind an isolating wall that is to all intents & purposes something like the Separation Wall. Behind this wall, she hears little of what the rest of the world thinks about Israel. And I include American Jews and the U.S. government who, contrary to her claim actually DO have quite a bit to do with Israel’s REAL interests. Not those interests as defined by Bibi, Israeli nationalists, or even Avital. Because they perceive Israel’s real interests in such a twisted, out of touch fashion that if they were allowed to pursue such interests ad infinitum they’d prob. end up destroying their own State.
Says who? Actually, Israeli polls show that most Israelis believe that Israel WILL attack Iran. So much for you, an Israeli, knowing what yr fellow countrymen & women really believe.
I am just as bound up in Israel’s fate as you are & I resent yr claim to have a monopoly on knowing what’s best for Israel.
“Interesting that Elie Wiesel spoke about the Holocaust.”
As a professional Holocaust survivor, what else would he talk about?
“Right on, Elie, now part of the anti-Iran propaganda machine.
Elie Wiesel is a hypocrite of the first water. He poses as a world-class human-rights champion while he is complicit in and utterly silent about one of the greatest, and longest standing human rights atrocities going.
“It’s easy to be naive if you aren’t being threatened directly.”
If you weren’t such a threat to others, you might not have reason to feel threatened yourself.