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November 19, 2013 11:24 am

Samantha Power and the Iranian ‘Problem From Hell’

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avatar by Shmuley Boteach

Samantha Power. Photo: Eric Bridiers

No Jewish leader came out more strongly in support of Samantha Power’s nomination as Ambassador to the UN than I did, and no one came out as early. No one paid a bigger price in the pro-Israel community, given Samantha’s critics, and few, therefore, have a more vested interest in seeing Samantha succeed than I do.

I supported Samantha not because she is a friend, although friendship has its place. And I did so not because I believed that Samantha is a genuine supporter of Israel, although she has proven since taking office that her support is real.

Rather, I supported Samantha because she is the world’s foremost voice against genocide. And if the Torah can claim credit for establishing, at the very beginning of Genesis, the infinite value of every human life, then the Jewish community must be at the vanguard of promoting those oppose mass murder.

But the same values that motivated my support for Samantha now warrant my public questioning of recent actions and statements that are disconcerting.

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My confusion began with the Administration’s inaction on Syria following evidence of Bashar al Assad’s use of chemical weapons on his own civilian population. If MSNBC can punish Alec Baldwin with the suspension of two episodes of his TV show for using an anti-gay slur, then surely the United Nations can enact a fitting punishment for Assad gassing-to-death hundreds of children. Yet, to date, he has paid no price.

If Samantha were still a journalist, she would have been at the forefront of condemning an administration that allows a mass murderer of children to go unpunished. And make no mistake. Taking away Assad’s chemical arsenal does not constitute a personal penalty in the slightest, just as confiscating the guns of Nidal Hasan would not have removed his death sentence for the mass murder of 13 soldiers at Fort Leavenworth in 2009. To take away Assad’s weapons without any further prosecution would be as absurd as the United States shutting down death camps in Germany without conducting the Nuremberg Trials.

But Samantha’s interview with the CBS Early Show last Friday, where she said that Iran “had to be tested,” is more puzzling still. She further told Charlie Rose that reaching a comprehensive deal with Iran at this stage is “not realistic.”


Samantha Power wrote the book on genocide and the history of American inaction. “No U.S. president has ever made genocide prevention a priority, and no U.S. president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence,” she wrote in the preface. “It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on.” Given Samantha’s own adamant view on genocide, one would think that the only moral way to proceed with Iran would be based on four, non-negotiable conditions:

  1. For Iran to cease and repudiate all genocidal incitement against the Jewish state. Not only the statements of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also the statements of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who is the real person in charge.
  2. For Iran to end the financing of any and all international terrorism, particularly its funding of groups that target Jews for murder, like Hezbollah and Hamas. For over three decades, Iran has acted as a central banker for Middle East terrorism, perpetuating instability in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan by providing monetary and logistical support to terrorist organizations. The State Department’s own website says that Iran “arms militants, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and continues to play a disruptive role in sustaining violence in the region, particularly Syria.”
  3. The cessation by Iran of any kind of military involvement in the war to keep mass-murderer Bashar Assad in power in Syria. Although Iran continues to deny any participation in Assad’s two and a half year crackdown on dissent, CBS News recently aired video footage of Iranian Revolutionary Guard soldiers fighting alongside Assad’s forces.
  4. The cessation by Iran of any and all enrichment of uranium, stopping the heavy water reactor used for creating plutonium, and the dismantling of its entire nuclear program. Period. Iran is an oil superpower and holds roughly 10 percent of the world’s total proven petroleum reserves. Its insistence on a need for nuclear energy is fraudulent and laughable.

It’s bad enough that John Kerry has been reduced to America’s supplicant-in-chief, begging the Iranians, French, Saudis and Israelis to agree to a weak deal that would allow Iran to merely dilute its stock of highly enriched uranium. One can only hope that a moral voice like Samantha’s will not join Kerry’s misguided appeal.

There are those personalities who are created by their office. Though no doubt they were devoted public servants, few today remember the names of Samantha’s predecessors as UN Ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad or John Danforth. Others, however, are not created by their office but enhance it, like Adlai Stevenson, who as US Ambassador at the UN during the Cuban missile crisis famously demanded of the Soviet Ambassador, “You are in the courtroom of world opinion right now and you can answer yes or no. … I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over.”

Samantha is firmly in the latter tradition, having arrived as a Pulitzer-Prize winner who sounded the clarion call on American inaction in the genocides that took place in Turkey, Nazi Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Bosnia and Kosovo. Should she become part of a government that continues that shameful tradition of inaction she risks being diminished by her office and part of the “problem from hell” that she has so valiantly derided.

Iran, whose Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini has called for the extermination of Tel Aviv and Haifa as recently as this March, and for the removal of Israel as a “scab on the world” as recently as last November, remains a leader with self-declared genocidal intent.

Will Samantha follow the Administration’s line that negotiating with Iran before they have repudiated their goal to exterminate Israel is acceptable, or will she stick to her message that genocide can only be remedied by courageous governments who act forcefully against murderers?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom Newsweek and The Washington Post call “the most famous rabbi in America,” has just published “The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging G-d in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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