Writer and journalist Roya Hakakian, recalling her own Jewish childhood in the Iran of the 1960s and 1970s, reminds us of the historical bonds shared by Jews and Iranians. Jewish Iranians were instrumental in building the modern infrastructure of the country, she wrote recently in The New York Times, while Iranian officials helped save many Jews during the Shoa. She might have gone back millennia earlier, when the destiny of Jews and Persians was linked in a story retold as the Book of Esther. It is a powerful story — part political thriller, part fairy tale — about a Persian king, a Jewish queen, and a slaughter averted by their relationship.
Hakakian suggests that Israel and Iran might avert war if only they “were aware of their depth of indebtedness to each other.” Would that were so. Unfortunately, Iran’s belligerence and subterfuge continue to suggest that its leaders prefer confrontation to accommodation. While inspectors and intelligence agencies disagree over whether Iran is ready and/or willing to create a nuclear bomb, Iran continues to behave in ways that invite the deepest suspicion.
In the absence of certainty, and heeding the threatening rhetoric of Iran itself, Israel and the Jewish people have no choice but to confront the possibility of real danger. Ignoring the consequences of a nuclear Iran, or suggesting the issue is a distraction being drummed up by a handful of hawks, just won’t cut it. A nuclear Iran is not just a danger to Israel. Other regional powers have threatened an arms race, further destabilizing an already volatile region.
It’s no longer enough to say, “I’ll leave it to the experts” or “That’s someone else’s conflict.” At the very least, all members of the Jewish community owe it to themselves to learn about the issues and stakes. Their first stop can be the Stop Iran Now Campaign, a project of the Community Relations Committee of MetroWest and Central NJ. Its website offers backgrounders, links to the latest news, and suggestions for taking action.
Israel has not chosen this conflict with Iran. And we have no choice but to support its efforts to end it.