The following appeared in today’s JTNews, the newspaper of the Seattle Jewish community. It was accompanied by an excellent news report by Leyna Crow on the controversy surrounding the Seattle federation co-sponsored conference on the alleged Iranian nuclear threat. To support the progressive Iran-Israel conference on December 16th, please make a donation here to cover our expenses:
The Jewish federation is hosting a community conference, Understanding the Iranian Threat, on October 21st. The federation website notes it:
…Will provide a look at Iran’s history and political landscape; 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.
While the panel speakers (from Aipac, the Jerusalem Post and Israeli government) are qualified to represent the views of the Israeli government, Aipac and StandWithUs, the sponsors, they 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. Expenses for this event will be paid by Aipac and SWU, hardline pro-Israel advocacy groups. Speakers will advocate “crippling sanctions” (Bibi Netanyahu’s term) and failing them, a possible military attack on Iran. Katz, in a report in the Post said that such an Israeli military attack on Iran could cause the current hardline government to fall. In fact, almost every serious Iran analyst believes that a military attack on Iran will unite the nation behind the hardline clerics and doom the reformist movement. The leader of the opposition, Mir-Hussein Moussavi, has publicly warned that further sanctions will hurt his movement.
We as Jews should think about the long-term impact of U.S. and Israeli actions. If we really wish a more democratic Iran open to foregoing nuclear weapons, then a pragmatic approach is the only way to go. As tempting as confronting Iran’s Ahmadinejads 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 the goals that we set for eliminating Iran’s nuclear threat.
The federation conference claims to represent the consensus views of the local Jewish community. But the 2009 American Jewish Committee national survey finds that about one-third of Jews oppose an attack on Iran. This minority realist strain in Jewish opinion will NOT (as of the day I write this) be represented by any panelist at the event.
While JTNews originally refused to publish this statement claiming it is unnecessary because the event will not be partisan. I disagreed and planned to pay for an ad to make views known that should have been readily published. But I’m pleased to say that the newspaper’s editor finally agreed to publish this as an op ed and recognized the need to present a wider perspective within the pages of the paper.
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, Prof. Ian Lustick of the University of Pennsylvania’s department of politica science, and Trita Parsi, director of the National Iranian American Council will present a pragmatic approach to the Iranian crisis which embraces diplomatic engagement and eschews force. Unlike the federation event, each of these speakers has academic and direct personal experience of Iran along with deep 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.