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American Jewish Community Is Not Represented by Those Urging War with Iran

Allan C. Brownfeld
Special Interest Report
April 2012

The annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington in March was dominated by talk of Iran’s nuclear program and the need to combat it. Covering the conference for The Washington Post (March 6, 2012), Dana Milbank headlined his report: “AIPAC Sounds Its War Cry.”  
He writes: “It’s beginning to feel a lot like 2003 in the capital. Nine years ago ... there was a similar feeling of inevitability — that despite President George W. Bush’s frequent insistence that ‘war is My last choice,’ war in Iraq was coming. Now Israel is moving toward a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear program, and American leaders are coming before AIPAC ... to give their blessing. ... There is little talk about the Palestinian conflict at the AIPAC gathering this year ... Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s executive director, told the crowd that ‘time is running out quickly.’”  
At the AIPAC meeting, attendees admired an armored personnel carrier, a surface-to-air missile and a model of an Israeli drone. Addressing the group, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu compared Iran to Nazi Germany and declared that, “Never again will the Jewish people be powerless.” He repeatedly referred not to the State of Israel and its citizens, but to the “Jewish people,” believing that he has the right to speak in behalf of millions of men and women who are citizens of the U.S., England, France and other countries.  
In fact, AIPAC is hardly representative of American Jewish opinion, although it often promotes itself as the voice of the Jewish community. In a full page ad in the New York Times (March 7, 2012), headlined, “No, Mr. Netanyahu, No, President Obama: No War on Iran and No First Strike.” Tikkun, a liberal Jewish journal, together with the Network of Spiritual Progressives and the Shalem Center, declares: “Some of us who signed this ad believe that Even a nuclear Iran — faced with the certainty that its first aggressive use of nuclear weapons would engender a massive retaliation sufficient to kill most of the people of Iran — would not dare take a first nuclear strike against Israel or the U.S. America once perceived the Soviet Union to be equally evil, irrational and driven by ideological fundamentalism — yet the Soviet Union, armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, was constrained by the possibility of mutually assured destruction. The same is likely to be true of Iran should its ideologically driven leaders ever decide to develop nuclear weapons.”  
The ad continues to note that, “Some of us believe Israel could actually work out peaceful relations with Iran and enhance its own security and U.S. security by ending the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Helping the Palestinian people create an economically and politically viable state, taking generous steps to alleviate the humiliation and suffering of the Palestinian people and the people of all the surrounding states, is far more likely than military strikes against Iran ... to provide a safe and secure future for Israel.”  
In Israel itself opinion is sharply divided over Mr. Netanyahu’s call for preemptive war. Many respected Israelis believe that such an attack on Iran would be a serious mistake and would do Israel major long-run harm. Political scientist Yehezkel Dror, an Israel Prize winner and founding president of the Jewish People Policy Institute, for example, says that with regard to Iran, “Assuming you attack, then what? In five years, they will recuperate with absolute determination to revenge. The idea that an Israeli attack will make Iran into a peace-loving country is not on my horizon. I don’t know anything like it in history. I know the opposite from history ... Iran has a very low probability of being a suicidal state. They have a long culture, a long history, and they are more involved in the Sh’ia-Sunni conflict than in the Israeli side-issue. I think no one has any doubt that if Israel’s future existence is in danger it will use mass killing weapons.”  
The Jerusalem Report (March 26, 2012) reports that, “Three men once most closely involved in Israeli efforts to stop Iran — former Mossad chiefs Meir Dagan (2002-2011), Efraim Halevy (1998-2002) and Danny Yatom (1996-1998) — all see a lone Israeli attack as a last resort, to be avoided if at all possible.”  
According to the Report, “Efraim Levy says Israel should recognize that it is a regional power and act like one. He says the country is too strong to be destroyed and the Israeli people should not have existential fears about Iran or anything else ... Israel’s strategy should be to work with its allies to convince the Iranian regime to change course without force coming into play. In Levy’s view, this is achievable since the Iranian regime is dedicated primarily to its own survival and will likely back down if it feels threatened by even more crippling sanctions.” •

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