From The Desk of Rabbi Steven Weil, Senior Managing Director

Confusing the Victim with the Perpetrator

Tiny little Israel. Such a small and inconsequential piece of land should logically be ignored and forgotten. She is content to be the small Jewish homeland that welcomes and absorbs people of all faiths. She does not seek the world’s attention; she seeks the world’s persecuted and broken and offers assistance and refuge. She does not ask for special treatment, but democratically asks for and grants rights, privileges and freedom to all of her citizens. Her one claim to fame is the disproportionate share she contributes to the intellectual, scientific and cultural advancements of the world. But she doesn’t want fanfare. All she wants is to live in peace with her neighbors.

Yet time and time again, tiny little Israel is viewed front and center stage as an aggressor, an oppressor, an antagonist and the source of all the evil that is happening in the Middle East and beyond. Terror attacks, boycotts, divestments, sanctions, hate conferences and countless UN resolutions have all been aimed at Israel, punishment for her “crime” of survival. The international community seems to thrive on making her government, her occupation, her military maneuvers, her self defense and her pre-emptive strikes the problem.

But here’s the problem—Iran. A nuclear capable Iran.

The world should not be focused on whether or not Israel will attack Iran in a lifesaving effort to prevent that country from acquiring nuclear capabilities. Israel is not the problem. The world should be focused on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities. Not for Israel’s sake, but for the sake of the world. A nuclear Iran would create an untenable situation and have devastating and incalculable effects on the world’s safety and economy. A nuclear Iran would cause the cost of oil to permanently skyrocket due to its ability to intimidate and control fellow members of OPEC. Iran will share nuclear technology with its proxies all over the world. Groups like Hamas and Hezbollah (who already have 50,000 rockets that we know of) could conduct nuclear terror activities anywhere in the world, including here in the United States. This past January, Jerome Hauer, commissioner of New York State’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, met with representatives of over sixty Jewish institutions here at the OU. At the meeting, he expressed his greatest security concern: a “dirty bomb” hidden in a parked car that could instantly destroy thousands of lives.

Countries allied with Iran—Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia—could also gain from Iran’s nuclear capabilities and bring a nuclear threat to this continent, closer to American shores. If Iran develops nuclear capabilities, it will set off a round of nuclear proliferation in the entire Middle East. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and others will all race to develop their own nuclear capabilities in order to keep a balance of power. A nuclear Middle East will inevitably lead to nuclear terrorism, and nuclear terrorism is a game changer for the entire world.

In the 1930s, Winston Churchill was perceived as a warmonger because he warned the world that military action needed to be taken against Hitler. But after World War I, the world was tired of fighting and instead engaged in capitulation and appeasement. This emboldened Hitler, and enabled him to follow through on what he told the world were his intentions all along. The Iranians have not been shy about sharing their intentions. They have used “talks” and “negotiations” over the past twenty years to cheat and deceive the West. They continue to push the envelope. And every day they get closer to acquiring nuclear capabilities. Yes, we are tired after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and yes, there will be dire consequences if we take military action against Iraq; oil prices will rise, sleeper cells will be roused. But the world needs to have no doubt that not stopping Iran will pose the most devastating consequences of all.

Israel is at the most immediate risk. A nuclear Iran poses an existential threat to Israel, who is in close proximity to Iran, has limited capabilities to defend herself against a nuclear attack and has been demonized by the Iranian government. Israel has too often been forced to defend herself against existential threats alone, and she will do so now if it becomes necessary. This is Israel’s issue and Israel’s prerogative.

The world’s problem is not tiny little Israel. The world’s problem is Iran and its ability to wreak havoc on the world if it is not stopped soon. No one desires war, and that is why we are working on creating crippling sanctions to shut down the Iranian economy. However, if sanctions and international pressure don’t work, the world does not have the option of tolerating a nuclear Iran. We need to convey the message that Iran is the problem and not Israel. We need to articulate that no one dare confuse the victim with the perpetrator. Unfortunately, many in the media and in other circles lack an understanding of the facts and a sense of moral clarity. We cannot allow a repeat of what happened in the 1930s. Our responsibility is to be as proactive as we can in helping to clarify where the problem lies, and to pray to the Almighty that the world does not have to endure a nuclear Iran.

This article was featured in the Summer 2012 issue of Jewish Action.
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