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On Iran, U.S. Jewish leaders will defend Israel down to last drop of our blood

If you think Israeli leaders are hawkish on Iran, listen to what some of these American Jewish leaders had to say at their get-together in Jerusalem.

The number one team of machers (big-time operators) in organized American Jewry – the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations – were in Israel this past week, and just for a hate fix, I went to a panel discussion on Iran – not to listen to the Israeli panelists, but to the machers. There were about 100 of them in Jerusalem’s Inbal hotel, and as expected, the ones who spoke up were much, much more gung-ho than the Israelis onstage.

The best question came from from Rabbi Basil Herring, executive vice president of the (Orthodox) Rabbinical Council of America. Noting the difficulty in destroying Iran’s underground nuclear installations, Herring asked if Israel would consider “the use of tactical nuclear weapons in areas that aren’t so populated, or in the open desert? To show the Iranians that their lives are on the line, that Israel won’t go quietly?”

Before anyone could answer, the Israeli moderator, eager to keep the discussion sane,  jumped in and said that since Israel doesn’t acknowledge having nuclear weapons, this was an awkward question for the panelists, better left alone.

The panelists – Uri Lubrani, an old Iran/Lebanon hand; Sima Schein, an Iran expert from the government; and David Menashri, an expert from academe – agreed that Iran shouldn’t be allowed nuclear weapons, but they were also very wary about starting a war. Their preferred solution (mine, too) was that the Iranian reform movement oust the regime. Menashri, especially, said some good things.

“A military attack on Iran may take longer that we think. It won’t be over in six days. What if it lasts two or three months? Israel cannot go into a big war,” he said.

He didn’t like the constant references to Iran’s nuclear program as an “existential threat” to Israel, either, or all the comparisons of Iran to Nazi Germany and Ahmadinejad to Hitler. “Kaddafi was Hitler, Arafat was Hitler, Nasser was Hitler and now Ahmadinejad is Hitler,” he pointed out.

This didn’t go down well. Ken Abramowitz from American Friends of Likud insisted that there was no such thing as overstating the case for Iran’s being an existential threat to Israel, the U.S. and everyplace else. Then came Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the New York political fixer who tried last May to stop playwright Tony Kushner from getting an honorary doctorate because of his views on Israel. Comparing Iran to Nazi Germany and making sure everyone knew that he was the son of Holocaust survivors, Wiesenfeld said, “The Iranians can’t sell their oil, they have no consumer goods on their shelves, the mullahs are fighting with each other, so now’s the time they gotta kill the Jews.” Then some man whose name I didn’t catch asked in this irritating, arch tone: “Is it a fact or an aphorism that no Israeli prime minister can live with a nuclear Iran? Is it a fact or an aphorism that Israel cannot rely on another country to ensure its survival?”

The only line from the panel that got any applause was from Lubrani, when he said, “I’ve given up on America” since it didn’t help the masses of Iranian protesters knock over the ayatollahs three years ago. The applause, I’m pretty sure, was not for the Iranian protesters’ cause, only for the idea of giving up on America under its current president.

In the lobby afterward, I asked Wiesenfeld, a loud, glad-handing, Yiddish-sampling New York type, if I could interview him. (When it comes to hating American Jewish chickenhawks, I am a stone junkie.)

He starts telling me that it’s not enough for Israel, or America, or Israel and America to bomb Iran’s nukes. “Israel can’t go on living with 200,000 missiles pointing at it,” he said – they had to be destroyed, too. I saw no use in mentioning Israel’s deterrent power, or questioning the morality of war as a means of arms control, so I asked Wiesenfeld how Israel could survive the wars that would follow its attacks on Iran, and Syria, and Lebanon, and Gaza, and the other countries that have missiles aimed our way.

“It’s going to happen sooner or later,” he replied.

And when the missiles are falling on Israel, would he come here with his family and sit it out?

“At that point,” he said, “Jews will be targets all over the world. There won’t be any difference being in Tel Aviv or Times Square.”

One of the very few liberals in the group told me he knew of three organizational leaders who sounded like they wanted to use tactical nuclear weapons on Iran “right now.” A number of them think Netanyahu is being too soft on the Iranians. As a whole, he said, the visitors were a little shocked at all the relatively dovish talk they were hearing from some of the Israelis on these panels.

He said that when he was leaving the hall after the presentation on Iran, he overheard a few people complaining that Lubrani, Schein and Menashri had been too cautious about using military force. The Americans, said their liberal colleague, were making the point that bombing Iran “is like selling a stock – you want to sell right when the stock is at its peak, just before it starts to go down, but if you try to cut it too close, you may be too late.'”

How can you not love these people? The most gratifying words came from the permanent macher of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, who assured me that if and when the war starts and missiles are falling on Israel, the group will return for a solidarity mission.


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    1. aristeides

      Those machers are determined to shed not only Israeli blood in this crazy venture, but US blood as well. They’re already pressing their Liebermans and Schumers in the US Congress to declare war on Iran. Except that it won’t be a drop of their own blood shed. You won’t see them putting on a US uniform and climbing into the cockpit of a bomber, and you won’t see their kids there, either.

      I only wish they’d take their asses to Israel and sit under the missiles like they promise.

      Reply to Comment
    2. I M Knotfooled

      The writer is the hater. His only answer is to attack his fellow Jews

      Calling names and mocking others is a childish response.

      Derfner cannot be taken seriously…. He is consumed by hate…foolishly he tries to bring us with him. Misery loves company.

      Reply to Comment
    3. aristeides

      There are things that every sane and moral person must hate. War is at the top of the list.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Philos

      Zionism: bad for Jews and Israelis alike. I am of the opinion that Israel, ironically, will be the center of “anti-Semitism” when the Sabras will finally want to throw off the yoke of Zionism and kick out the “Jews.”
      Let’s face it. We’re all nuts.

      Reply to Comment
    5. These “machers” have heard Bibi talk of “existential danger” and believed him. They have practiced singing the national anthem of the USA’s Zionist gang, namely. “Oh, not another Holocaust, not again!” until they believe it. They have lost the possibility of thinking by the practice of mouthing and believing slogans. They live in a world thickly settled by Hitlers.

      More important, they cannot expect the Republican fellow-travelers to say such things if they do not also say them themselves.

      And what has politics to do with reality, anyhow? They are leaders, sir, leaders!, and must keep their followers scared.

      What worries me is not the last drop of Israeli blood, but that last drop of American money that these “machers” are willing to demand to be spent on a succession of mistaken wars fought in their fevered imaginations for the preservation of an Israel which doesn’t need defending but which — though militarily stronger than all its neighbors combined — refuses to make a decent peace with the Palestinians and refuses to agree to live as a neighbor in the neighborhood it chose to insert itself into — vi et armis — in preference to living peacefully in a democratic state in Palestine (in 1945-50).

      Reply to Comment
    6. sh

      How did Americans get this sick? Seriously.

      Reply to Comment
    7. aristeides

      SH – Zionism is a disease, that’s how.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Jazzy

      With respect – I don’t think that betting on the success of the Iranian pro-Democracy movement lends credibility to your overall strategic outlook.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Louis

      Larry – this needs to get in the Forward

      Reply to Comment
    10. John Yorke

      This could be seen as a convention for war lovers, only with some of the war weary in attendance as well.

      Will it all come down to a choice of ‘fight or flight’ in the end? Or is it simply a question of just who is going to blink first and then back down? At the moment, it’s a little difficult to tell what will be the result. And that is not a good place for any of us to be right now.
      It would be much better if some certainty were injected into this whole affair.

      As with all such demands for violent action against an enemy seemingly hell-bent on destroying one’s own way of life and people, perception is everything. Many wars have started off in much the same manner; a call to arms, given voice by self-serving convictions that remain held throughout the conflict by combatants and populace alike.

      How is Iran perceived by Israelis? What do Iranians see when they look at Israel?

      It can be assumed, and with some confidence, that there are those on both sides of the fence who fear and think the very worst of the other guy. These are dangerous mindsets to have in a situation which could be but a prelude to actual hostilities. Unfortunately, such is the nature of these things and, in the absence of any balancing factors, pressures to achieve that first, knock-out blow can all too easily escalate, allowing matters to reach a much higher level of irrational behaviour.

      So, can enough additional balance be created to counteract those seeking to undermine the current status quo?

      What is required here is provision for some powerful distraction, a means of pulling focus away from the present scenario and shifting attention onto one of more immediate concern and of decisive prospect.


      The ‘fight or flight’ response has a third option. It’s called the ‘freeze’ condition.
      And this may be a much better bet all round.

      Reply to Comment
    11. sh

      Aristeides, the disease is the ism, not Zion.

      Reply to Comment
    12. annie

      shorter mr. Knotfooled: lets nuke iran!

      and when everyone is furious with israel for nuking iran and starting WW3 the is-firsters will call us anti-semites. how reassuring/not.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Alexander Münch


      ‘Ultra-liberal Zionist’ answers to an ‘Ultra-Zionist Liberal’… the eternal question:- “Who is a Jew?”!…

      Reply to Comment
    14. JDE

      @I M Knotfooled: ‘The writer is the hater.”

      Right; objective reporting = hate.

      This is the reason I can’t read these things. There’s always some babbling idiot in the comment thread who thinks he’s the lone voice of reason – often several.

      Reply to Comment
    15. AVIVA


      Speaking of Forward, check out this piece of related awesomeness:
      “Choose your own apocalypse” for Iran pundits


      Reply to Comment
    16. hass

      Those Iranian Green Movement opposition types are actually more hardline on the Iranian nuclear program than the regime. Ahmadinejad was criticized by the Green leader Mousavi for considering a compromise on the nuclear fuel swap arrangement. See, as shocking as this may sound to some people, Iranians love their country too and have a long, long history of holding grudges against foreign powers that have historically similarly threatened Iran with bombings and sanctions etc. in the past (Russians threatened to bomb Iran if Iran built a rail road and Britain threatened to attack Iran if Iran nationalized its oil, for example, and imposed embargos. To this day, the Iranians resent the Russians and Brits. Now go add Israel to the list. Congrats.)

      Reply to Comment
    17. delia ruhe

      I don’t know who’s more irrational: these wingnut Americans or Bibi. I hope they really mean it when they say they’re giving up on America because America’s non-Western competitors would love to see the US snuff itself out economically by launching yet another unwinable, super-expensive Middle East war.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Kibbutznik

      ” Aristeides, the disease is the ism, not Zion ”
      Thats deep sh .
      So deep that for the rest of us that are not as deep as you are, begs an explanation ?
      Pacifism , not Peace ?
      Communisim , not community ?
      Fascism , not Gush Emunim ????
      course not , its got no ” ism ” on the end .

      Reply to Comment
    19. Larry Snider

      Everyone who has done serious reading understands that this is not Iraq or Syria and that the threat to the region based on Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is larger as well as the outcome of military action by Israel with or without the United States. Unless the genie is somehow put back in the bottle I’m afraid there will be countless deaths and Israel, Iran and the whole Middle East will become engulfed in a regional war.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Richard Witty

      A well-written soberly emotional article.

      I liked the line (paraphrasizing). ‘When the rockets start raining down here, will you move to Israel then, or will you wait?’

      Reply to Comment
    21. Piotr Berman

      “Those Iranian Green Movement opposition types are actually more hardline on the Iranian nuclear program than the regime.”

      This is actually a part of a larger pattern: the scourge of moderation. To have a balanced political program and show broad-mindedness, you combine some opposites. Say … some sensible social programs and huge investments in national infrastructure like highways, and annihilation of some substantial portion of humanity. But that is actually not typical, of course. Nevertheless, to get the coveted mark of a “moderate”, a politician or a pundit should not be fanatic about being sane, but pick some insane policies too.

      An American liberal who is not an “ardent supporter of Israel” becomes an extremist. Israeli “centrist” balance “peace overtures” with bloody wars. And Mousavi is a quintessential moderate as well.

      In Israel, many moderates comment that “we have to make peace with Palestinians to make an effective attack on Iran”. It seems to me that the government actually agrees. Any way to cut it, a war with Iran is a trouble, but one has to have some good reason why not to do it (after years talking why it is necessary). Perhaps … intifada?

      Reply to Comment
    22. zayzafouna

      I hope that Obama delays this war talk after nov 2012 so he can get re-elected and then sign a peace accord with Iran. Then Iran and the US can put the zionists in their place. A nuclear armed Iran will encourage zionists to return home so the Palestinians can return home. There is no room for both thief and victim in Palestine

      Reply to Comment
    23. The headline is misleading. While the summary of the event may be correct it is worth noting that many American Jewish Organizations oppose war with Iran. We (J-Street, Americans for Peace Now, etc.)
      simply were not invited.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Richard McDonough

      It is so easy to sit in the US and rattle sabers while blood would flow half a world away. Chicken hawks like Lieberman disgust me. In all of this there is the incredible fact of Israel being immune from the illegal nuclear weapons argument. This while othersvare forbidden to develop arms of their own. I favor nuclear disarmament for all, but given the realities…
      I am left nearly without hope in this regard. Madness and demagoguery prevail.

      Reply to Comment
    25. IM Knotfooled

      Comment deleted

      Reply to Comment
    26. aristeides

      Zayza – another one duped by Obama rhetoric and wishful thinking to believe that he wants peace with Iran or could make it if he did.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Bill Pearlman

      Comment deleted

      Reply to Comment
    28. […] Iran, U.S. Jewish leaders will defend Israel down to last drop of Israeli blood. (+972) Tags Boy Scouts arson, Boy Scouts Israel, Deborah Feldman, Eli Valley, horse pogrom, Mad […]

      Reply to Comment
    29. Bill Pearlman

      Pablemont and Delia are off the “mondofront” website. Where Jews are satanic. And Hitler was the good guy.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Josh Boyaner

      All I can say is I hope the Iranian missiles don’t have the capability to reach Boca Raton.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Icantbelievethisshit

      let it be Israel’s blood Not American’s It’s there stupid war to increase the there territory

      Reply to Comment
    32. chet380

      A repost –

      If Israel were to attack Iran in the face of explicit US non-support and if Iran used its only feasible defensive weapons – anti-ship missiles – against US shipping in the Persian Gulf, there would most certainly be a significant loss of US servicemen’s lives. The “post-mortems” would unquestionably blame Israel for the loss of those lives and the “special relationship” would be severely damaged – IMO, this is why Israel would not attack without explicit US support. An increase in US anti-Semitism would follow if it was perceived that US lives were lost for only the pursuit of Israeli hegemony

      However (again IMHO), if the attack directly involved the US military or there was explicit support for an Israeli attack, the US MSM would rally behind the US military and concentrate on the demonization of Iran rather than explore that most taboo of subjects – AIPAC’s influence on US foreign policy. Without that scrutiny US Jews need not have a worry of increased anti-Semitism.

      Reply to Comment
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