There is no doubt that Israel and the Jewish people have a strong self-interest in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — although “self-interest” seems a pitifully inadequate term when the stakes include one’s very survival. Iranian leaders have been very specific in calling for the destruction of the Jewish state and have shown a propensity over the years for leading their own people into deadly conflicts that result in unimaginable body counts.
Nevertheless, the effort to stop the Iranian nuclear effort is an international one. Those efforts have entered a critical phase that will test, in the words of Wall Street Journal columnist Gerald Seib, “whether diplomacy will be sufficient to halt what some fear is an Iranian march toward nuclear-weapons capability.” As Iran continues to enrich uranium and build new centrifuges, diplomats are trying to hammer out a deal that would offer a number of carrots were Tehran to scale back its enrichment efforts.
Israel seems to doubt whether such diplomacy will work, and its leaders are heartened that the United States continues to insist that “all options are on the table.” That is tough talk, but it is not war-mongering. And any suggestion that only Israel or Jews are interested in the military option ignores the strategic interests of the United States, Iran’s fearful neighbors, and all nations who understand the destabilizing potential of a Mideast arms race.
Still, only last week Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun magazine sent out a fund-raising letter declaring “Don’t let AIPAC push the U.S. into war with Iran!” A Huffington Post columnist wrote that AIPAC “is promoting a neocon Republican agenda, openly lobbying for war.”
In both cases, the writers have taken an issue around which there deserves to be strong debate — how far should the United States go in confronting Iran? — and turned it into a polarizing suggestion that Jews are war-mongering.
Such suggestions not only play into old stereotypes of Jewish influence, but also divert the conversation from the real issue: Can the community of nations tolerate an Iranian nuke, and if not, what are they prepared to do about it?