Iran, Israel & American Jews

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IsraeliFlagsBy Murray Polner, Contributing Editor

The struggle over the Iran Agreement reminds me of the seventeen years I spent as editor of Present Tense, a liberal Jewish-oriented magazine, published by the American Jewish Committee.

In 1990, we featured a detailed investigative piece, “Speaking for the Jews.” Our cover blurb read: “A growing number of American Jews, including many inside the Jewish establishment, are fed up with the hard-line views of Jewish leaders whom they did not elect and who, in any case, do not speak for them.” Some members of The Lobby were quite upset and Present Tense was shut down soon after for debatable reasons. Even so, the article’s writer, Robert Spero, and the magazine’s editors, were absolutely on target in 1990 and even more so today. In short, the Israel Lobby doesn’t speak for American Jews.

In addition to the fabrications and fantasies concocted by PM Netanyahu’s Israel and endlessly repeated by his followers, it is that for the first time in memory a foreign country –Israel— is publicly fighting an American president’s foreign policy on American soil. Israel’s allies include Obama-hating Republicans, intimidated, largely Jewish, Democratic politicians, and Bibi-supporting Jewish and Christian Zionist lobbies — none of whom have ever offered any lucid or rational alternatives, and many of them empowered by a few mega-rich and hawkish American Jews.

The truth is that the core of the Iran Agreement is that Iran and six nations decided that Teheran had accepted stringent restrictions for ten years on its nuclear activities and international inspectors will be allowed full access.

Polls indicate that American Jews largely support the Iran Agreement and do not accept that American foreign policy in the Middle East should be determined by Israeli lobbyists or that of any foreign government. Nor are Israelis completely united against the deal. Former officials of Mossad and Shin Bet, the ex- deputy director-general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, and many in Israel’s national security establishment, as the [Jewish]Forward’s J.J. Goldberg has reported, have broken with Netanyahu on the Iran Agreement.

“As unanimous as the politicians are in backing the prime minister,” he wrote, “the generals and spymasters are nearly as unanimous in questioning him. Generals publicly backing Netanyahu can be counted on–well—one finger.”

To reject the Iran Agreement means that sooner or later the hopes and prayers of American uber-hawks that the U.S. would be drawn into a war with Iran may well be answered. For those who love the idea of fighting such a war with sons and daughters not their own, the old saw still applies: “If they loved Iraq, they’ll love Iran.” Meanwhile, no one has yet dared to utter a word about Israel’s vast array of uninspected nuclear bombs.

But for American Jews like me, it’s “Ein Breira,” meaning there is no alternative.

Murray Polner wrote “No Victory Parades: The Return of the Vietnam Veteran“; “When Can I Come Home,” about draft evaders during the Vietnam era; co-authored with Jim O’Grady,  “Disarmed and Dangerous,” a dual biography of Dan and Phil Berrigan; and most recently, with Thomas Woods,Jr., ” We Who Dared to Say No to War.”  He is the senior book review editor for the History News Network.


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