UPDATE: The JTNews’ editor just telephoned me to say that he intended to publish the op ed I mention below. I want to say that I am grateful to him for reconsidering his position and for his willingness to add my voice to the communal debate over Israel and U.S. relations with Iran. The text of the ad copy below differs in a few key details from the op ed. The following was written when I was under the impression the op ed would not run except as a paid ad.
I had reason to believe that JTNews’ editor might reconsider his refusal to publish my op ed critiquing the Jewish federation’s community-wide conference, Understanding the Iranian Threat. A federation executive committee member told me she believed the paper would publish it. But she was wrong unfortunately. Apparently, the newspaper of record for Seattle’s Jewish community finds no reason to present an alternative to the hawkish panel speaking on October 21st at Temple DeHirsh Sinai. This program will present the Israeli consul general from San Francisco, the Jerusalem Post’s security correspondent, and an Aipac lobbyist as “experts” on Iran. It will be moderated by KIRO’s Dave Ross, who will give it a moderate gloss. Speakers will advocate draconian sanctions and possibly a military attack if those don’t work. Even more importantly, they will be at odds with the current policy of the U.S. administration. None of this the JTNews finds worthy of publication.
As a result, I’ve been compelled to pay for an ad in the coming issue. In light of the latest AJC survey finding that 65% of American Jews favor an attack on Iran by Israel, if you feel this message is an urgent one for Jews to read, please support my effort with a contribution. I’m really tickled that the pro-Israel hasbara right smears my effort by calling it “schnorring.” Clearly, these are ignorant Jews who do know at least one Yiddish word, but who don’t understand the Jewish commitment to tzedakah and tikun olam, of which this effort is a proud part.
Here is the ad copy:
Misunderstanding the Iran Threat
The Jewish Federation is hosting a community conference, Understanding the Iranian Threat, next week. The Federation website notes it will:
…look at Iran’s history and political landscape; [offering] an in-depth analysis of the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran; its strategic threat to Israel, the United States and the world; and, an understanding of how we can prevent it.
The Aipac, Jerusalem Post and Israeli government speakers, while qualified to represent the views of their employers, are not qualified to discuss “Iran’s history and political landscape” since they likely have never visited Iran, do not speak Farsi, and have no academic expertise in this field.
This event will present a partisan hawkish view of the Iranian crisis. Its expenses will be paid by Aipac and StandWithUs, hardline pro-Israel advocacy groups. Speakers will advocate “crippling sanctions” (Bibi Netanyahu’s term) and failing them, a possible military attack on Iran. Yaakov Katz, a conference speaker, wrote in the Post that an Israeli military attack on Iran could cause the current hardline government to fall. In fact, almost every serious Iran analyst and the leader of the opposition, Mir-Hussein Moussavi, have warned that further sanctions will hurt the reform movement.
We as Jews should think about the long-term impact of U.S. and Israeli actions. If we seek a democratic Iran open to foregoing nuclear weapons, then a pragmatic approach is the only way to go. As tempting as confronting Ahmadinejad is, we should think about the impact of threats and harsh rhetoric on political reality. Iran’s current hardline leadership is an unsavory lot. But a policy of confrontation will not attain our goal of eliminating Iran’s nuclear threat.
The Federation conference claims to represent the consensus views of the local Jewish community. But an American Jewish Committee national survey finds one-third of Jews oppose an attack on Iran. This realist strain in Jewish opinion will NOT (as of the day I write this) be represented by any panelist at the event.
JTNews has refused to publish this statement, claiming it is unnecessary because the event will not be partisan. I disagree. That is why I have to pay to make views known that should have been readily published and instead were suppressed.
The Israeli foreign ministry, Aipac and StandWithUs should not control this debate within the Jewish community. For that reason, a coalition of local community groups including some in the Jewish community will host a conference which will present the alternative views that should have been offered on October 21st.
On December 16th at Town Hall, Keith Weissman, former director of Aipac’s Iran desk, Ian Lustick, professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, and Trita Parsi, director of the National Iranian American Council, will present a pragmatic approach to Iran, embracing diplomatic engagement and eschewing force. Unlike the Federation event, each of these speakers has academic and personal experience of Iran along with experience of Israel and its interests. I invite Seattle’s Jewish community to hear a point of view endorsed by one-third of our fellow Jews, one that will not be heard at the Jewish Federation event or in the pages of JTNews (except when you pay for it).