Jewish Advocates of War on Iran Criticized
- Jewish Advocates of Pre-Emptive War with Iran Come Under Increasing
Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
January - February 2008
An array of Jewish organizations are in the forefront of promoting
pre-emptive action against Iran and are coming under increasing
criticism by other voices in the Jewish community.
A fund-raising letter from the World Jewish Congress declares that,
"Iran poses the greatest danger to the Jewish people since the Nazis
came to power in the 1930s." An Anti-Defamation League appeal declares
that, "ADL has taken a tough and principled stand against those who
deal with demagogues like (Iran president) Ahmadinejad ... We've put
it to the world that Ahmadinejad must be isolated." A letter from the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) reads: "Today the
threats to Israel have never been greater ... Iran is speeding up its
nuclear weapons program. Now that the Iranians have the capability to
enrich uranium, they have constructed more than 2,000 centrifuges and
plan to have more than 8,000 centrifuges in operation by the end of
this year ... Do your part to stop Iran's rapidly accelerating nuclear
weapons program ..."
Norman Podhoretz, author of the recently published book World War IV:
The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, and long-time editor of
Commentary now promoting his book before Jewish audiences across the
country argues that Iran poses an imminent threat. In an essay in
Commentary, he depicted President Ahmadinejad as a revolutionary,
"like Hitler ... whose objective is to overturn the going
international system and to replace it ... with a new world order
dominated by Iran ... The plain and brutal truth is that if Iran is to
be prevented from developing a nuclear arsenal, there is no
alternative to the actual use of military force."
In The New York Times of September 25, the Anti-Defamation League paid
for a full page ad about a nuclear-armed Iran, while an American
Jewish Congress resolution advocated that "military action" against
Iran "be considered."
In his column in The Forward (Nov. 9, 2007), Leonard Fein writes:
"Podhoretz wants to use force now. Others, including a disturbing
number of major Jewish organizations, endorse `merely' the threat of
force, loudly proclaiming that `all options' must be on the table. Is
such a threat a useful deterrent, or does it instead increase Iran's
very real sense of vulnerability, thereby encouraging precisely the
behavior it is meant to deter? And is not such talk a way of creeping
toward war? Another real war just now? Madness. Yet this is the risk
being pressed upon us. Why must Jewish organizations be and be seen as
the loudest drum-beaters of all? Why can we not bring ourselves to say
that military intervention is not on the table at all? Why not stash
it under the table, out of sight, and mount instead a diplomatic
assault? Germany, 1938? The more relevant and equally cautionary
precedent is Iraq, 2003 and counting."
In his recently published memoir Man in the Shadows, Efraim Halevy,
the former head of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, says that
rather than constantly escalating the rhetoric of confrontation with
Iran, the U.S. and Israel should be looking for ways to establish a
Interviewed by David Ignatius of The Washington Post (Nov. 11, 2007),
Halevy said that while Iranian President Ahmadinejad may boast that he
wants to wipe Israel off the map, Iran's ability to do so is
"minimal." He declared that, "Even if the Iranians did obtain a
nuclear weapon, they are deterrable; because for mullahs survival and
perpetuation of the regime is a holy obligation. We must be much more
sophisticated and nuanced in our policies toward Iran."
Halevy argues for a combination of increased economic pressure and a
diplomatic opening that attempts to speak to Iran's "national
aspirations" and its shared interests with America and the West and
even Israel. "Iranians, including those in government, know that
acceptance of Israel is not just something they have to accept but
something that may bring their deliverance," Halevy maintains.
In Halevy's view, Ahmadinejad's fiery rhetoric masks a deep split
within Iran over the country's future: "I believe that behind their
bombastic statements there is a desperate fear that they are going
down a path that would have dire consequences. They don't know how to
extricate themselves. We have to find creative ways to help them
escape from their rhetoric ... A creative and constructive approach
... might move them to see that their self-interest would be better
served by taking alternative paths ... Sensible Iranians are not in
short supply ..."
Martin van Creveld, a professor of military history at the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem, is critical of those who urge a pre-emptive
attack upon Iran and who, in his view, overestimate its potential
danger. He writes in The Forward (Sept. 28, 2007), "Though rich in
oil, Iran is a Third World country with a population of 80 million and
a per capita income of $2,440 ... Its annual defense budget stands at
about $6.3 billion a little more than half of Israel's and a little
less than 2 percent of America's. Iran, in fact, spends a smaller
percentage of its resources on defense than any of its neighbors
except the United Arab Emirates."
Van Creveld notes that, "Iran may have some Shihab III missiles with
the range to hit Israel, but their number is limited and their
reliability uncertain. Should the missiles carry conventional
warheads, then militarily speaking the effect will probably be close
to zero. Should they carry unconventional ones, then Iran to quote
former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, speaking not long before the
first Gulf War will open itself to `awesome and terrible
retaliation.' ... General John Abizaid, the former commander of the
U.S. Central Command, is only the latest in a long list of experts to
argue that the world can live with a nuclear Iran. Their views deserve
to be carefully considered, lest Ahmadinejad's fear-driven posturing
cause anybody to do something stupid."
Washington Post (Oct. 23, 2007) columnist Richard Cohen urges that,
"Rather than enhancing Ahmadinejad's standing in his own country,
rather than put Iran up against a wall and dare it to back down,
rather than make Iran the hero of anti-Islamists everywhere, why not
attempt to engage in direct talks and treat the country not as a
pariah ... but as a fellow state? Why not, as it were, treat Iran as
we once did the Soviet Union or we now do in China. We talked to the
former; we talk to the latter."
In December, 2007, the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was
released and said, with "a high degree of certainty," that Iran
abandoned its nuclear weapons quest in 2003. In response, reports The
Forward (Dec. 7, 2007), "In a conference call hurriedly arranged by
the umbrella body of Jewish organizations, community leaders decided
to immediately send letters to the presidential candidates from both
parties, urging them to continue pushing for sanctions against Iran."
Washington Times (Jan. 6, 2008) columnist Arnaud de Borchgrave notes
that, "The NIE was a decisive blow to neoconservative and ...
administration hawks who have long advocated a pre-emptive aerial
bombardment against Iran."
The fact is, argues Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International,
that, "The American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to
reality ... Norman Podhoretz has written that Iranian President
Ahmadinejad is `like Hitler' ... Last year, Princeton scholar Bernard
Lewis, a close adviser to Bush and Vice President Cheney, predicted in
a Wall Street Journal op-ed that on Aug. 22, 2006, Ahmadinejad was
going to end the world. The date, he explained, `is the night when
many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the Prophet Muhammad on
the winged horse Buraq, first to the farthest mosque, usually
identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back. This might
well be deemed an appropriate date for apocalyptic ending of Israel
and if necessary of the world.' This would all be funny if it weren't
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