American Jews Should Not Forgive Supporters of the Iran Nuclear Deal
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to the United States to meet with President Obama, and no doubt did his best to mend fences after their nasty fight over the Iran nuclear deal. As prime minister, it is Netanyahu’s job to make the best of a bad situation and move past the disagreement in the interest of repairing relations with the Obama administration. American Jews, however, are not Israeli citizens and, as Americans, we should not be so quick to forgive the administration or the members of Congress who sided with the president, because our first concern must be standing up for Jewish and American values that are being flouted by Iran.
The concern with Iran is not limited to its nuclear program; we all should be appalled by Iran’s continuing violation of the human rights of Baha’is, gays, women, journalists and political dissidents. Furthermore, Iran routinely violates the Genocide Convention, to which the United States is a signatory, by its repeated genocidal threats and incitement directed against Israel.
Even if this administration isn’t willing to speak out (where are you, Samantha Power, former critic of genocide?) against all of these abuses, you would think the president would be outraged by the conviction of an American reporter and the arrest of another American, which are just the latest examples of the Iranian leadership showing contempt for Obama, to remind the world that Iran has no intention of changing its behavior in light of the nuclear agreement. As the Washington Post editorialized,
Obama has frequently suggested that the nuclear deal would prompt a relaxation of barriers between Iran and the West. So far, the opposite appears to be happening. While anticipating the collection of up to $100 billion in frozen assets, Iran’s military and security services are acting to ensure that there is no further detente. In that they have the support of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who on Tuesday celebrated the anniversary of the seizing of hostages at the U.S. Embassy by proclaiming that the slogan “death to America” will live forever. The Obama administration has reacted to these provocations, including the new arrests, with the equivalent of a shrug.
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I agree with the Post’s prescription that if the Americans are not soon released, new sanctions should be imposed on Iran — but this is not enough.
Our leaders — Obama and his supporters in Congress — betrayed us by putting political expediency ahead of American values and opposition to public calls for mass murder. By their words and deeds, they have legitimized Iran as a nuclear threshold state and given it license to threaten and instigate genocide. This is intolerable. We must send a strong message to our representatives that it is unacceptable to treat the vile Iranian regime as a partner in stabilizing the Middle East. Deal or no deal, Iran should be considered a pariah that merits ostracism and punishment rather than a financial and political windfall.
Obligations inherent in the deal should not deter us from imposing punitive measures against Iran based on its domestic human rights violations, sponsorship of terrorism and threats of genocide. If Obama will not act, Congress should: take steps to see that Iran’s leaders are prosecuted under the Genocide Convention for the crime of advocating genocide; cut off aid to UN agencies and other international bodies that allow Iran membership; call for a ban on Iranian participation in international sporting events (where Iranian athletes refuse to compete against Israelis); and sanction members of the Iranian regime involved in human rights abuses.
Congress should also call for arrest warrants against Iranians who participate in the illegal abduction and imprisonment of American citizens. Compensation for the victims, as well as reparations, should be deducted before any frozen assets are released to Iran as part of the nuclear deal.
We cannot simply forgive and forget those members of Congress, including our friends, who turned their backs on our principles when we needed them most. They must act now to mitigate the damage of the catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal and hold Iran accountable for its words and deeds. Only then should the pro-Israel community accept them back into the fold. And those who are not willing to atone and stand up to Iran’s genocidal intent against Israel and America should pay an electoral price. They should not receive financial backing from donors. Why would we support elected officials who vote to confer legitimacy on the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism — a regime that has also murdered hundreds of American soldiers? Those who stood beside us in this fight, like Senator Robert Menendez, Israel’s great friend from New Jersey, deserve our thanks and support.
Too many members of Congress take our support for granted, as we learned from the fight over the nuclear deal. That makes us politically weak, and such weakness can lead to the failure to protect Jewish and American values. And history has taught us that powerlessness can have devastating consequences for the Jewish people. As Jews, we believe in forgiving those who atone, but, to simply overlook those who played politics with Israel’s survival? We can’t.
I hope that Netanyahu gets what he asked for from the president in terms of military assistance for Israel. But no conceivable arms package can compensate for allowing Iran to remain an existential threat to the Jewish state. And no conceivable aid package can make up for legitimizing a government that brutalizes its citizens to an horrific degree. I also trust that President Obama will not force Netanyahu to make dangerous concessions to the Palestinians at the very moment when incitement by their leaders is once again making Jewish blood run in the streets. Instead, Netanyahu should consistently and adamantly demand that the president unequivocally condemn the Palestinians, lest the mullahs in Iran be given further evidence that this administration will not take sufficient steps to stop the murder of Jews and to stand up for democratic principles.