Each year we close the seder with the declaration “Next year in Jerusalem.” I am beginning to wonder what that phrase will signify in coming years.
It seems that a good portion of the world would like to see Israel, as a state, be delegitimized, or worse, eliminated.
Much centers on Iran. In February, the Iranian government, through Alef, a website proxy with ties to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called Israel a danger to Islam and laid out the legal and religious justification for the destruction of Israel and the slaughter of its people. The website also called for wiping out Israeli assets and Jewish people worldwide.
With statements like these and with Iran seemingly striving towards the development and delivery of a nuclear bomb, is it any wonder that Israel considers a nuclear Iran an existential threat?
Negotiations between Iran and P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), scheduled to begin this weekend in Istanbul, have been on and off again. Iran objected to Turkey as the site for negotiations because Ankara supported Syrians opposed to President Bashir al Assad, an Iranian client. By Sunday evening, the talks were on.
Tensions have risen between the United States and Israel over Iran. While Israel is actively considering a preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities to slow down Iran’s nuclear progress, the United States is imploring Israel to give sanctions and negotiations a chance.
At last month’s AIPAC conference, President Obama said that his policy is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, by force if necessary, declaring, “I have Israel’s back.” However, events of last two weeks call this commitment into question.
Foreign Policy ran an article stating that “U.S. officials believe that the Israelis have gained access to airbases in Azerbaijan. Does this bring them one step closer to a war with Iran?” An unnamed U.S. intelligence officer let it be known that “we’re not happy about it.”
In a TV interview and in an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor, Ambassador John Bolton blasted the Obama administration, accusing it of intentionally leaking the information, saying it was part of “this administration’s campaign against an Israeli attack,” which is motivated by their opinion that “an Israeli attack is worse than an Iranian nuclear weapon.”
Bolton warned that if Israel doesn’t come around to the administration’s way of thinking, there will be more revelations — that is, leaks — from the White House. “Not only is this not the way to treat a close ally facing an existential challenge,” writes Bolton, “it is directly contrary to America’s national interests.”
Top Israeli officials share Bolton’s belief that security leaks coming from the United States are undermining Israel’s military options against Iran.
In a perverse way, priorities attributed to the administration by Bolton are shared by German Nobel prize winner Gunter Grass. Last week he published a poem, “What Must Be Said,” in which he warns of looming Israeli aggression against Iran. “Why do I only speak out now/Aged and with my last drop of ink:/Israel’s nuclear power is endangering/Our already fragile world peace?” Because, he writes, “tomorrow might be too late.” Grass’ equations of Israel with Iran drew condemnation from Israel and criticism from inside Germany.
Ben Stein eloquently spoke to the issue on a recent Sunday on CBS’ Sunday Morning. “At many [Passover] services in people’s homes and at synagogues, prayers will be recited which proclaim that in every generation, enemies of the Jews arise to kill the Jews, but God always saves the Jews in the end,” he said. “Sadly, this section is now obsolete.”
Stein points out that no one stopped the Nazis from annihilating one-half of the world’s Jews. “So, the Jews of this world know, as only a few other groups know, that the absolute worst that can be imagined can happen.”
Can Jews, like Blanche DuBois, afford to depend on the kindness of strangers? Stein notes Israel is now “threatened with another Holocaust as Iran races towards building a nuclear bomb and missiles to deliver it to Israel.” He concludes with what should be obvious:
“Israel is a tiny country, and one nuclear bomb detonated over Tel Aviv would indeed make another Holocaust. If you wonder why Israel may be planning to strike Iran preemptively, you have only to go back two generations — the wink of an eye. It is all fine to urge patience on Israel, to assure Israel that sanctions maybe will work. ‘Maybe’ is not good enough.”
Nevertheless, many American Jews do not care about what is happening in Iran. The Public Religion Research Institute recently released a survey gauging “Jewish Values.” When asked which qualities are most important to their Jewish identity, nearly half (46 percent) of American Jews surveyed cite a commitment to social equality, twice as many as those who cite support for Israel (20 percent).
More than twice as many American Jews believe “social equality” defines them as Jews than support of Israel.
Forget Obama — do American Jews have Israel’s back?