Published by The Freeman Center

The Maccabean Online

Political Analysis and Commentary
on Israeli and Jewish Affairs

"For Zion's sake I shall not hold my peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I shall not rest."


by Morris J. Amitay 

Column for January 3, 2006

There have been some recent glaring examples which prove that some Jews may not really be that smart when it comes to acknowledging their own self interest.

Writing in Ha\'aretz, (the Israeli equivalent of the New York Times when it comes to undermining national security), an Israeli academic suggested that the solution to Iran\'s acquisition of nuclear weapons is for Israel "to initiate nuclear disarmament". By undertaking this "diplomatic initiative", according to the learned professor, "Israel could bring real international pressure to bear" on Iran. This reminds one of the black sheriff in Mel Brooks\' classic "Blazing Saddles" holding a gun to his own head and threatening to shoot himself if the hostile racist crowd did not disperse. Only in the movies, would a threat of suicide convince the sheriff\'s enemies to let him escape. In the real world, Iranian threats to annihilate Israel must be taken seriously.

Whether is was Saddam Hussein in 1991 admitting that he did not put chemical warheads on the SCUDs that hit Tel-Aviv fearing Israeli nuclear retaliation, or Egyptian plans not to advance too deeply into the Sinai in 1973, for the same reason, Israel\'s Arab foes have taken Israel\'s nuclear arsenal into their calculations. But in December 2001 former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani publicly proclaimed that a single Iranian nuke could completely devastate Israel, but Iran, with its 70 million people, could sustain an Israeli nuclear retaliatory strike. More recently we have heard Iran\'s current President calling for Israel to be wiped off the map. These unequivocal statements of intent were made while Iran is going full speed ahead with its covert efforts to develop nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. While there is considerable ferment in Iranian society which! could eventually lead to regime change - it is a safe bet Iran\'s mullahs will have their nukes long before this happens. Given these circumstances, for Israel to set a good example by relinquishing its nuclear deterrent gives new meaning to stupidity. What we could hope for over time, in the best of circumstances, is that norms of civil society, genuine democracy, religious reforms and modernity slowly seep into most of the Arab and Muslim world, therby lessing the threat to Israel and the region. But until then, it is better for stability in the region that Israel\'s foes acknowledge the terrible destructive power of provoking an Israel nuclear response.

Other voices, ! equally disingenuous, have counseled that Israel can learn to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, with the same kind of balance of terror that prevailed during the Cold War between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Wrong! The calculations of religious fanatics are simply not the same as those were of cold-blooded commissars. Israel, by necessity, is reportedly developing a "second strike" capability utilizing its small number of Dolphin submarines armed with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. However, given Israel\'s small size and concentrated population, upon completion of its retaliatory mission, these undersea craft would have very little to return to following any successful nuclear detonation in Israel. Also, there is the possibility of the acquisition of a nuclear device by an amorphous terrorist group which might claim responsibility for the attack on Israel, thereby raising the dilemma of whether Israel obliterates a dozen Iranian cities in response.

It is precisely because of these uncertainties that any abandonment at this time - and for the foreseeable future given attitudes in too much of the Muslim world - of Israel\'s nuclear deterrent would be unmitigated

folly. There might indeed be a day when the offspring of Ahmadinejad, Zarquawi, Bin Laden and Assad sit around the campfire with future Israeli leaders and sing Kumbaya - but then again - we should all live so long. The inevitable conclusion is that Iran must not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons - by whatever means.

Closer to home, there is also reason to question the wisdom of some of our co-religionists. The American Jewish Committee\'s recent poll results showed that 70% of Jewish Americans disapporving of the war in Iraq, with some 60% unhappy with the way the Government is handling the campaign against terrorism - the assumption being that this 60% doesn\'t think we should be tougher! At the same time, however, 79% in the poll stated that "caring about Israel" was a very important part of their Jewish identity. Something must be missing here. Isn\'t it the goal of the Islamofacist terrorists to end Israel\'s (and America\'s) existence? Didn\'t the removal of Saddam Hussein from power eliminate a very real threat to Israel and create the opportunity for greater democracy to spread in the Middle East? Wouldn\'t all this be considered "good for the Jews"?

This glaring inconsistency might be attributed by the fact that the largest percentage of those polled identified themseles as either Reform Jews or "just Jewish". This would fit in with the Reform movement\'s recent public call for "a clear exit strategy with specific goals for troop withdrawl" from Iraq. The Union for Reform Judaism\'s titular head, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, seems obsessed with having to frequently burnish his liberal credentials at Israel\'s expense. The Union\'s positions on a variety of issues it deems to be "Jewish" concerns only reinforce the impression that Yoffie\'s particular brand of Judaism could aptly be described as "the ultra-liberal wing of the Democratic Party - with holidays". And following suit, the head of the Union\'s Washington office has expressed his "great concern" over what he questionably ca! lled "domestic spying".

The damage created by these misguided policy statements, ostensibly on behalf of all those belonging to Reform Congregations, goes beyond disproving the notion that Jews are smart enough to know what is good for them. At a time when Islamic terrorism remains a threat to our nation, and American troops are fighting and dying in Iraq, this slavish adherence to a brand of secular humanism and to the sentiments expressed by the Howard Dean/Cindy Sheehan wing of the Democratic Party sends a terrible message to Israel\'s staunchest friends in Washington. It is also a source of shame for those Jewish Americans who want our nation to prevail in the struggle to bring freedom to Iraq, and who support effective actions to prote! ct us from future terrorist attacks. What this means is that we must do a better job of teaching more Jewish Americans to be both more thoughtful Americans and more thoughtful Jews. The two are not incompatible.

Morrie Amitay, a Washington attorney, is a former Executive Director of AIPAC and founder of the pro-Israel Washington PAC.