If you follow this blog, you’ll know that the Seattle Jewish federation is hosting an anti-Iran event on October 21st, Facing the Iranian Threat, organized by the Israeli consul general in San Francisco and featuring the military correspondent of the hawkish neocon Jerusalem Post and the deputy director of Aipac. In response to such clearly partisan Iran-bashing, I’ve decided to organize a conference of Iranian-American and American Jewish scholars and analysts which will offer a more pragmatic approach and emphasize the role of diplomatic engagement, which is the official U.S. policy towards Iran.
Yesterday, I asked the editor of the JTNews to allow me to write an op ed, which I’ve done twice before, expressing some of my concerns regarding the federation conference based on the past statements of the speakers and the groups for which they work. My intent was also to point out that the Jewish community has a far more diverse set of views on Iran than will be represented on the federation panel.
The editor refused saying that discussions with unnamed individuals convinced him that the event would be fair and balanced and that there was no need to present my view in the pages of JTNews. There were a few extraordinary passages filled with wishful thinking in his reply. Among them was this one:
“…It [the federation event] is intended to present information about Iran, the history, probably from 1979 to today that has led to the stalemate between Iran and most of the West…”
An Israeli consul general with no specific professional or academic expertise on Iran, a reporter with expertise in Israeli military affairs, and an Aipac Congressional lobbyist can present a historical overview of modern Iranian affairs? Given that the editor actually believes what he’s written, it only reinforces how insular the organized American Jewish community can be on subjects related to Israel. Indeed this fact is further suggested by the frightening results of the American Jewish Committee poll which claims that 56% of Jews approve of the U.S. attacking Iran and 66% approve of Israel attacking Iran.
This example of Jewish communal censorship shows the leadership is circling the wagons around a consensus devised in Tel Aviv and embraced by Israel’s Diaspora advocates. Here is part of my reply to JTNews’ editor:
Under the guise of editorial discretion, you have closed off the pages of the local community newspaper to any view which dissents from the alleged consensus on Iran. I find such censorship to be deeply disappointing since it is clear to me or any reasonable person based on both the text describing the federation event on your website and the records of the group’s whose representatives are speaking, that they have a highly partisan agenda that advocates the Israeli line on Iran: “crippling sanctions” possibly followed by military attack if sanctions don’t work.
I also notified him that I planned on writing my critique of the federation event and offering it as an ad in the pages of the newspaper. We will see whether the community is too frightened even to take my money in return for a bit of paid speech.
All this will take money and I once again renew my calls for contributions to defray the costs of this ad and the counter-conference I’m organizing in December here in Seattle. The speakers are lined up for that event along with the venue and will be announced shortly. But it will take considerable funds to pay for expenses. I hope you will step up to the plate and donate what you can by clicking the Paypal button above.
I have found the same to be true in my neck of the woods. But this is hardly surprising; the Federations, the UJC, etc. are all Zionist organizations.
And what exactly is your expertise on Iran?
Richard Silverstein says
I’m going to have a panel in December that will feature an Iranian-American, and two PhDs one of whom majored in Iran studies. That’s what my expertise is. Plus, when I write about Iran I quote academic experts who’ve studied Iran, have PhDs in the field, have lived in or visited the country. Does that satisfy you? I doubt it.
Robert Kaufman says
Are you shocked that the newspaper of the pro-Israel Jewish community does not want an op-ed from someone who seeks good relations with a country whose president denies that the Holocaust even happened and has sworn to wipe Israel off the face of the earth? There are limits to free speech, and you have crossed the line.
I see the comments ahead of me consider “Zionist” to be a pejorative term. Jews who are proud of our heritage do not.
Sorry you will not be in the Jewish paper. I’m sure al-Jazeera would love to give you air time.
Richard Silverstein says
Listen shmegegee, I’m a progressive Zionist so don’t give me that crap about ZIoninst being a pejorative term. What I do consider objectionable is ignorant political grandstanding & hasbara coming fr. the likes of you. In case you didn’t realize it, our own government seeks good relations w. Iran as well as long as those relations don’t lead to incinerating half the Middle East, something that could happen both on Israel’s account and Iran’s if it gets the bomb.
Make sure you read next week’s JTNews. Either my statement will be published as an op ed or as an ad.
And you’re the 10th hasbarist who has lied about Ahmadinejad’s statement about “wiping Israel off the face of the earth.” You’ve been reading too much CAMERA, StandWithUs propaganda.
And also thanks for letting us know that you believe neither in free speech or in democracy. That’s good to know.
For heaven’s sake, Richard, will you please stop mincing words and say what you really think?! It is so tiring to have to read between the lines. :o}
“ncinerating half the Middle East, something that could happen both on Israel’s account and Iran’s if it gets the bomb.”
I don’t agree with you at all on the supposed dangers of Iran getting the bomb. First, there is to date no evidence that it has a nuclear weapons program, or any intention of having one, although, since it is under serious threat from two nuclear powers, it might consider it a good idea as Japan has done, to be prepared to turn its domestic nuclear capabilities into a defensive nuclear weapons capability if necessary. Second, even if Iran were able to produce a nuclear bomb or two the likelihood that it would use it as anything but a deterrent is virtually zero given Iran’s nearly-three-century history of non-aggression combined with its government’s awareness of the consequences of striking Israel.
Richard Silverstein says
I meant to make an equivalence bet. Israel and Iran as either current nuclear powers or aspiring ones & each would pose a certain level of danger to their neighbors by having nuclear weapons. I don’t know whether or not Iran would maintain its nuclear weapons repsonsibly (if there can be such a notion). But I’d rather not see another member of the nuclear club if I have a choice. The diff. bet. Bibi & me if that he’s willing to kill to stop it & I’m not (though I would do things short of that to attempt to prevent it).
“the comments ahead of me consider “Zionist” to be a pejorative term. Jews who are proud of our heritage do not.”
I am sorry to tell you that an increasing number of Jews who are very proud of their heritage find that Zionism as it has manifested itself is inconsistent with Jewish philosophy and heritage, just as most Muslims who are proud of Muslim heritage find that terrorism and despotism are inconsistent with Islamic philosophy and heritage.
“I’m sure al-Jazeera would love to give you air time.”
Really, Robert Kaufman? And what do you know about Al Jazeera? How many hours have you spend watching Al Jazeera, and if you have watched even one minute of it, how much of it did you understand? Let me guess. You have never watched a single nanosecond of it, and in any case you would not understand so much a syllable because you do not understand Arabic at all. So, you have no idea about Al Jazeera outside of the ridiculous, nonsensical propaganda about it that you have eagerly absorbed. So, in reality you have no clue what Al Jazeera broadcasts, and under what principles it operates.
It is ironically harder to criticize USA’s foreign policies in the Middle East and Israel in the USA than in the Middle East, including Israel, itself. Ironic, isn’t? Oh yeah, we talk of “freedom”. And we complain of being hated? Damn!
First of all, if I hire Nelson Mandela to speak, does that make me a human rights expert? I was unaware that one could become an expert by getting others speak. Since we dont know the names of the speakers, it is hard to ascertain whether they are truly experts. Is an Israeli-American necessarily an expert on Israel? What did the other person get a PhD in? A PhD in lets say, physics, might not be too helpful, unless it was maybe nuclear physics
Richard Silverstein says
I never said I was an expert on Iran. But I know more about Iran than any of the federation speakers and I know a lot less about Iran than the speakers who will talk to the conference I’m organizing (& that’s a good thing). And as for my knowledge of Iran compared to yours–no contest.
All the speakers have direct academic expertise in Iran. At least two speak Farsi and have visited Iran. You will hear the names of the speakers in due time. Stay tuned here for further details.