The upcoming presidential election is about domestic issues, namely the health — or lack thereof — of the economy. But one foreign policy issue deserves top priority attention from the American people, and certainly from the Jewish community: Iran.
Here are five reasons why Jews, the American people, and all those across the globe who value peace and security need to make the issue of Iran a top priority:
1. Ahmadinejad and other regime officials regularly call for the destruction of Israel, a UN member state. Recently Ahmadinejad called Israel “a cancerous tumor,” calling for its disappearance. Many tell Israel not to take these comments too seriously, writing them off as “only words” by a crazy man playing to internal politics. But to say this reflects little understanding of Jewish history and psychology. The Jewish people have had madmen in the past threaten them with words, but have also seen them take action to fulfill their desires. Israel and Jews don’t have the luxury to brush off these threats.
2. The Iranian regime is seeking nuclear weapons capabilities. As Rabbi David Wolpe recently wrote in Time, Iranian nuclear capability allows for the possibility of genocide in an unimaginable way. Wolpe wrote, “There are two words that symbolize the terror of the twentieth century: Auschwitz and Hiroshima. An Iranian bomb threatens to combine them both.” Iran is saying what it wants to do and it’s actively working to attain the capability to act on its words.
3. Iran continues to violate international law in pursuing nuclear weapon capability. Led by the United States, France, and Britain, the world has made clear that it opposes Iran’s pursuit for nuclear weapons. UN resolutions, economic sanctions, and international laws make clear to Iran that they stand alone in their pursuit. Yet Iran has thumbed its nose at the international community, stalling negotiations and spewing rhetoric against these Western countries.
4. Iran is the single largest supporter of international terrorism. Many make the claim that if Iran did acquire nuclear weapons, it wouldn’t be crazy enough to use them, knowing the response from Israel and probably America would be overwhelming and potentially destroy Iran as we know it. Setting aside the argument that Iran might actually invite this apocalyptic scenario, the horrible impact of Iranian nuclear capability will be felt even if Iran never uses a bomb. Terror groups such as Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, and others receive funding, training, and weapons from Iran. Minimally, these terror groups would have a “nuclear shield” to their activities. Even worse is the real possibility of these terror organizations getting their hands on nuclear weapons. If, God forbid, Hizbullah smuggles a nuclear briefcase out of Iran and explodes it in northern Israel, does Israel retaliate against Iran? To what degree?
5. Iran is an extremist regime that terrorizes, threatens, and denies rights to its own citizens. The Iranian regime executes more people per capita than any other country in the world. The regime has rigged elections to maintain power, violently repressing opposition. It denies its citizens rights based on gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, and politics. Some make the argument that if Israel has nuclear weapons, then why shouldn’t Iran have the same right? The answer is that Israel is an open democracy which respects freedom, human rights, and opposition. The Iranian regime is a theocracy that calculates what is best for its own power and religious beliefs, not what benefits its population. In addition, Israel is not openly threatening to destroy another nation.
So what should we do about this threat? I offer three suggestions:
1. Support President Obama’s repeated promise that the United States will not allow Iran to produce a nuclear weapon. President Obama has not said he’ll try to stop Iran — he said it will not happen. We must strongly support this position and tell all candidates in the upcoming elections that this is a non-negotiable position and a red line that all candidates must support.
2. Support organizations that are publicly advocating and educating about this issue. The Community Relations Committee of Greater MetroWest NJ has a Stop Iran Now campaign that is actively educating the community and advocating to elected officials. My organization, Hasbara Fellowships, partnered with Iran180 to help students on 15 campuses protest Ahmadinejad’s visit to the UN this week. Campuses included Columbia, NYU, and Rutgers.
3. Talk with friends, family, and coworkers about the importance of this issue. If Americans are faced with a decision whether to support possible Israeli actions vis-a-vis Iran, it is imperative that those we can educate know the reasons to support and stand with Israel on this issue.
The situation with Iran today might be the defining issue facing our generation, both as Jews and Americans. Are we going to be able to tell our children and grandchildren that we did something to make a difference and stop Iran from threatening Israel, America, and the rest of the world?