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Monday, August 3, 2015
Friday, July 31, 2015
The Iranian deal: Let’s look at the facts
David R. Adelman
The discussion relating to the Iranian nuclear agreement has become a debate of political rhetoric, where one side continues to blast the president with exaggerated and offensive comments and the other side accusing those against the deal as warmongers. The rhetoric, on both sides, distracts from the conversation the American public deserves. A public debate on the merits of the agreement and its close scrutiny by Congress is healthy if the focus is on the facts.
Between July 11 and 19, I traveled to Israel with a group of progressive leaders from Iowa and New Hampshire. The trip consisted of discussions with elected officials at the Knesset, traveling into Ramallah to meet with Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat, and meeting with regular Israeli Arabs and Jews. On July 14 the Iranian nuclear agreement was announced. Our group listened to a wide spectrum of views and opinions on issues ranging from the Palestinian peace process, high-tech innovation and social/cultural norms. However, the morning after the announced agreement there was uniformity in thought about the framework (details had not yet been published) of the agreement. Regardless of whether we spoke with Israeli Jews or Arabs from the right or left of the political spectrum, a sense of panic had descended on Israel.
The concern that transcended both the Jews and Arabs we spoke with was the fact America’s allies (Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia) were not at the table during these negotiations and the Iranian government/Revolutionary Guard has acted and has stated they will continue to act against these U.S. allies in the region by destabilizing areas like Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Libya. The framework did not include any language requiring the Iranians to cease these activities or curb their military prowess.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry expended extraordinary efforts in crafting this agreement. The diplomatic and economic pressures applied were successful in bringing Iran to the negotiating table. If the deal is rejected by Congress, it will force the Iranians back to negotiate with an understanding the American people are serious about a better deal.
The agreement does have some positive points, which include suspending the Iranian nuclear program. The reactor in Arak, the facility in Natanz and Fordow will stop threatening the world in the next decade. Reducing the number of centrifuges and the amount of enriched uranium and monitoring the known sites — these are all substantial achievements. However, from the very moment of the deal’s announcement, Iranian leaders have directly contradicted U.S. positions and denied their key commitments.
Among my concerns with the agreement are that Iran is reaping huge rewards for giving up something it denied in the first place. The deal fails to provide adequate oversight and enforcement. It does not provide for “anytime, anywhere” inspections and allows the Iranians to take their own soil samples.
The agreement strengthens the Iranian regime and its support of terrorism by freeing up billions of dollars, allowing Iran to bolster its support for Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist organizations destabilizing the region. On July 21, Iran’s deputy foreign minister said the nuclear deal did not include limitations on Iran’s weapons capabilities and Tehran would keep arming its regional allies. On July 28, Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, reiterated his desire to eradicate Israel and the Jewish people. Further, the deal legitimizes Iran as a nuclear threshold state as it leaves the majority of Iran’s extensive nuclear infrastructure intact, and allows virtually instant “breakout time” after 15 years.
Those who believe in a stable Middle East and recognize Israel’s right to exist should be opposed to the deal, as a statement of values and principles.
Congress must create the opportunity for a better deal. The agreement does not satisfy the requirements Congress has set in the areas of inspections, possible military dimensions, phased sanctions relief, duration, and dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Rejecting the Agreement avoids locking in the negative consequences of a bad deal. We would avoid legitimizing Iran’s path to a nuclear weapons capability and providing up to $150 billion within months to the leading state sponsor of terrorism. Throughout history, Congress has successfully insisted on improvements to agreements negotiated by the executive branch.
The right approach is to reject this deal and renew efforts to reach an agreement that will verifiably block all Iranian paths to a nuclear weapon. It is uncomfortable to oppose an agreement that purports to promote peace, but I believe we are at a monumental crossroads. The United States can appease a regime that is the foremost state sponsor of terrorism, continuously threatens to eliminate Israel, chants death to America, has killed American troops during the war in Iraq, holds four American hostages, and executes more political prisoners than any other nation per capita. Or we can stand firm in demanding change in its behavior while creating stability in the region.
DAVID R. ADELMAN is president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines. Contact: email@example.com
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
An Action Alert: Please contact the Iowa-MFSA by email and express your opinion on this matter.
The organized Jewish community of Iowa has its letter in today’s Des Moines Register bringing to light the issue involving a sub-group within The United Methodist Church.
The letter was signed by virtually all our top echelon of Jewish leaders in Iowa: our pulpit rabbis, our congregation presidents, our Federation officials, and additional leaders: from Hillel and UNI’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education. [ See list of signatories at bottom.]
The essence of what is commonly agreed on may best be expressed informally as follows: Divergent opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one thing. The use of antisemitism, however, is not a legitimate means of criticism. Its use is unacceptable and dangerous.
***Action Alert: Please express your opinion on this matter directly to the Iowa Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action’s Coordinator, Eloise Cranke, at firstname.lastname@example.org with a cc: to email@example.com. And encourage friends and colleagues to do the same!
---Thank you for your support ----
// For the Jewish Federation, Mark Finkelstein firstname.lastname@example.org
Methodist group must repudiate anti-Semitism
In a response seemingly supportive of anti-Semitism, the leadership of the Iowa Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action (I-MFSA) has chosen not to distance the group from anti-Semitic remarks made by their keynote speaker before her participation in its June 6program.
Janet Lahr Lewis, a missionary with the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, was keynote speaker for the I-MFSA program held in conjunction with the Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in Des Moines.
In a message posted to the official Global Ministries website on May 20, Janet Lahr Lewis called for boycotting Holocaust museums in anger over Israel. But targeting Jews everywhere for what Israel allegedly does is anti-Semitism.
She alleged that Israel was committing an ongoing holocaust of the Palestinian people. The analogy is false and defamatory. The charge implicitly likens Israelis to Nazis. Demonization of Israel is not criticism of Israel’s policies. It is anti-Semitism.
Lewis further implied that Jews were blocking the commemoration of genocides other than that of the Holocaust. This is not true.
Iowa-MFSA was alerted in advance about Lewis’ remarks as was Iowa Methodist Bishop Julius C. Trimble. Bishop Trimble, in a letter now online at http://bit.ly/1ELxSRKrebuked the anti-Semitism. By contrast, in a letter dated June 3, I-MFSA irresponsibly evaded the issue.
This is not about I-MFSA’s point of view on the Middle East conflict. It is solely about anti-Semitism, which cannot legitimately be used to further a political agenda. I-MFSA must repudiate the anti-Semitism of the keynote speaker. Until they do, the moral character of their organization will remain blemished, their silence passively abetting the promotion of anti-Semitism.
It is often said that “All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing.” We call upon the I-MFSA and its supporters to now do the right thing.
[Affiliations noted for identification purposes only. No endorsement by one’s organization is implied.]
- Mark Finkelstein – JCRC director, co-chair of Iowa Council for Holocaust Education
- Prof. Stephen Gaies, Director of the University of Northern Iowa Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education; co-chair of Iowa Council for Holocaust Education
- Rabbi David Kaufman, Temple B’nai Jeshurun
- Rabbi Leib Bolel Beth El Jacob Synagogue
- Rabbi Steven Edelman-Blank Tifereth Israel Synagogue
- Rabbi Yossi Jacobson Lubavitch of Iowa, Des Moines
- Rabbi Henry Jay Karp Temple Emanuel, Davenport
- Rabbi Jeff Portman Agudas Achim, Iowa City
- Rabbi Guy Greene, Sioux City
- Rabbi Rob Cabelli, Grinnell College
- Rabbi Stanley Rosenbaum, Emeritus, Sons of Jacob Synagogue, Waterloo
- Rabbi Todd Thalblum, Temple Judah, Cedar Rapids
- Sidney Jacobson Beth El Jacob Synagogue
- Judy Shkolnick Temple B’nai Jeshurun
- Dr. Phil Bear – co President, Tifereth Israel Synagogue
- Dr. Harvey Giller – co President Tifereth Israel Synagogue
- Ron Jackson, Ph.D., Ames Jewish Congregation
- William ‘Jake’ Jacobs Temple B’nai Jeshurun Community Relations Chair
- Allan Ross, Executive Director, Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities
Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines
- Jule Goldstein, President
- David Adelman, incoming President
- Stuart Oxer, Executive Director
- Jarad Bernstein, Chair of JCRC [ Jewish Community Relations Commission of the Jewish Federation]
- Gil Coosner, incoming Chair of JCRC
- Dr. Jon Fleming, President, Iowa Jewish Senior Life Center
- Jerry Sorokin, Ph.D., Executive Director, Hillel at the University of Iowa
- Barb Hirsch-Giller immediate past president, Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines
- Harlan ( Bud) Hockenberg past president, Jewish Federation
- Debbie Gitchell past president , Jewish Federation
- Sharon Goldford immediate past president, Temple B’nai Jeshurun
- Alan Garfield, Temple Beth El, Dubuque
- Barbara and Steve Feller, past co-presidents, Temple Judah, Cedar Rapids
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Statement from the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines June 2, 2015 Contact: Mark Finkelstein email@example.com
Antisemitism draws rebuke from the Methodist Bishop of Iowa
When presented with an example of blatant antisemitism authored by a United Methodist staff member, Iowa United Methodist Bishop Julius C. Trimble responded quickly and authoritatively. As a bridge-builder for peace, the bishop acknowledged and denounced the antisemitism as evidenced.
A keynote speaker at an upcoming program of the Iowa Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, United Methodist staff member Janet Lahr Lewis recently called for a boycott of Holocaust museums in protest of an alleged Palestinian holocaust by Israel.
In a column posted by Ms. Lewis to The United Methodist’s General Board of Church & Society website, she wrote: “ Don’t visit a Holocaust museum until there is one built to remember the other holocausts in the world: the on-going Palestinian holocaust, the Rwandan, the Native American, the Cambodian, the Armenian…You could be waiting a long time.” Ms. Lewis serves as the Peace and Justice Program Associate at the General Board of Church & Society, and is a missionary with the Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.
As analyzed by the Jewish Federation, the problems of Ms. Lewis’ statement are as follows:
1. Ms. Lewis implies that it is solely up to the Jews to memorialize the genocides of history – and that the Jews are somehow blocking the memorialization of other genocides. Outside of the fact that Holocaust museums, especially the major ones, do in fact recognize, study, memorialize and call for action against genocides worldwide, the questions arise: Why are the Jews uniquely responsible for this, and how are Jews blocking others from doing so? Singling out Jews in this manner is antisemitism.
2. Contending, as Ms. Lewis does, that Israel is committing genocide or a holocaust against the Palestinian people is not only inaccurate in analogy, but is also defamatory. It is a charge that demonizes Israel by insinuating that the intention of Israel is to annihilate the Palestinian people and casts Israelis as Nazis. Demonizing Israel is antisemitism.
3. Finally, by advocating that Methodists boycott Holocaust museums, Ms. Lewis is targeting Jews and not Israel. When people take out their anger at Israel by targeting Jews in general, that is antisemitism.
When presented with what a staff member was advocating, Bishop Julius C. Trimble issued a message of assurance in response to our concerns. In his letter, which is now available online at http://bit.ly/1ELxSRK in order that he not be taken out of context, the bishop reaffirmed that his denomination denounces all acts and expressions of anti-Semitism, along with all forms and expressions of hatred, racism.
The bishop implicitly advised that it is unwise to promote the boycotting of Holocaust museums. “I have visited the Holocaust Museum in Israel and Beachwood, Ohio on several occasions. I have found them to be deeply moving, education and painful experiences. Knowing the history of the Jews, and many others who were killed and their lives before the Holocaust, serves to deepen my own desire for peace.”
Bishop Trimble asserted, quite rightfully, we believe, that “we cannot build bridges between communities by comparing atrocities…but we can denounce hatred, racism and anti-Semitism wherever it surfaces.”
In accordance with his stated guideline, Bishop Trimble then proceeded to note: “Accusing Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinian people is anti-Semitism; that is wrong, because it is defamatory.”
We thank Bishop Trimble for his forthright evaluation of the hurtful sentiments expressed by Janet Lahr Lewis, and we call upon Ms. Lewis to desist from using such defamatory means to promote her agenda.
We moreover request the Iowa Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action to publicly repudiate their keynote speaker’s use of antisemitism.
Antisemitism cannot be used as a political tool. It cannot legitimately be used to advance an argument.