The Lessons of Purim and Iran
“Do not think that you will escape [the fate of] all the Jews by being in the king’s palace… And who knows if it is not for just such a time that you reached this royal position.”
According to the Book of Esther, these were the words Mordechai said to Queen Esther when he appealed to her desperately for help. He had just discovered Haman’s plan to wipe out the Jews of Persia. Haman had even chosen a date: the 13th day of the month of Adar.
Fast forward 2,500 years: Iran’s Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the leader of modern-day Persia, brags of his country’s unabated nuclear program despite ongoing international negotiations, and proposes practical measures to eliminate the State of Israel. Supplementing these aims, the country arms militant groups that are similarly and openly committed to the destruction of the Jewish people. Meanwhile, international negotiations are poised to legitimize Iran as a nuclear threshold state by March 24, 2015.
When Mordechai learned of Haman’s plot those 2500 years ago, he ventured out into the city in sackcloth and ashes, crying loudly and bitterly before the palace gates. Esther heard of the racket and, before discovering its cause, rushed to send her uncle fresh clothes.”You’re embarrassing yourself,” was Esther’s implicit message to her uncle. “Why are you making a scene?”
From her view in the palace, Esther had not seen the threat facing her people.
Today, as international negotiations with Iran approach the March 24 deadline, pockets of the Jewish community are making a scene.
With little time to spare, these pockets are speaking up against Iran’s illicit nuclear program, its advanced ballistic program, and its standing as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Though a deal is reportedly in the bag, the date picked and set, they are nonetheless decrying a very real danger. For although the Purim story seems remote, it parallels the Iranian threat today.
To some, Iran’s repeated and outspoken genocidal ambitions seem too outlandish to constitute a realistic threat. And yet ex-Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s infamous calls to “wipe Israel off the map” are not ancient or unserious. These threats are parroted by Iran’s Supreme Leader today, and complemented by reports of underground nuclear sites, breaches of Iran’s responsibilities under the international Joint Plan of Action (JPA) agreement, and repeated admissions by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it cannot conclude Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful.
If we don’t take Iran’s genocidal claims seriously, its leaders certainly do.
Meanwhile, today’s P5+1 negotiations do not promise a deal that definitively curtails Iran’s nuclear ambitions. On the contrary, the negotiations are set to normalize Iran’s nuclear ambitions and usher the country onto the nuclear stage, to the tune of self-congratulating fanfare and applause for achieving a ‘historic deal.’
Before the JPA negotiations, the UN repeatedly emphasized that Iran does not have the right to develop a nuclear program at all. Today, that ‘right’ has been unceremoniously and inexplicably accepted as fact.
So what now? When reading of the Iranian threat, it is tempting to excuse ourselves from a position of responsibility. It is tempting to read the headlines, close our eyes, and claim helplessness. And yet Mordechai’s last-ditch appeal to Esther applies now more than ever. With six million Jews as citizens of one of the most powerful countries on Earth, can there be any doubt that we are in a unique position to act? Of all the Jews in the world, is there any group better poised to intercede?
Here in the United States, we may feel happily removed from the Iranian threat, but to feel this way would be unwarranted. Iran’s enmity towards the U.S. is well-documented and ongoing, with Iran’s allegedly ‘moderate’ President Rouhani declaring as recently as May 2013: “Saying ‘Death to America’ is easy. We need to express ‘Death to America’ with action.”
As recently as last week, Iran used a model U.S. aircraft as a target for the country’s military exercises. These repeated acts of animosity have been repeatedly glossed over as the international community races towards its ‘historic deal.’
The time to speak out is not imminent; it is overdue. And despite what we may tell ourselves, we are each in a unique position to address it. We are in a position to demand a safe, responsible, international deal – one that safeguards the United States, Israel, and our allies from a nuclear armed Iran. We are poised to remind our representatives that a deal that achieves anything less is not a momentous diplomatic victory, but a devastating and historic failure.
Contact your representatives, and when you do, mention support for Corker (R-TN) and Menendez (D-NJ)’s Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015″‹”‹. As Mordechai said to Esther, “who knows if it is not for just such a time that you reached this royal position.
Julie Shain is a research analyst at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI).