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Thursday, February 22, 2007

One Idea For Averting Apocalypse

We are seemingly faced with no win situation in Iran, aggravated and emasculated by our bungled and/or mistaken commitment in Iraq (and I am pro Bush). Moreover, the erstwhile world acceptance of the existence of Israel as a 'given' is now a 'maybe' to almost every country except America.

Natan (nee Anatoly) Scharansky has a possible solution in a JPost column named "Mobilize Now, Save The World" (unfortunately now in archives for which the Jerusalem Post charges).

Scharansky has been somewhat of a hero of mine ever since the Soviet Jewry movement, and my subsequent reading of his great book "Fear No Evil".

His proposal involves two parts forming a pincer: (1) Giving Iran the "Soviet Treatment". This means:
  • No Iranian mission (including sports and cultural delegations) should be able to travel without being "accosted by protests and hostile questions". Scharansky admits this will not in/of itself change behavior, but it is 'critical' to creating a balanced climate in the eyes of Westerners.
  • Public pressure should be put on governments and companies that provide Iran with refined oil, huge trade deals and military and nuclear assistance to end their complicity with a regime that is "racing to genocide".
  • Pension funds should divest of all companies trading with or investing in Iran
  • All parties to the Genocide Convention, and Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (significantly funded and staffed by Jews) should seek the indictment of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide.
(2) At the same time, support for Israel should constitute the second half of the pincer, by boycotting universities providing podiums for Holocaust deniers, and large demonstrations, a la the Soviet Jewry ones, for Israel.

Scharansky admits that changing Iran's course may seem a hopelessly difficult task, but he points out the internal sensitivity of the externally brutal USSR to bad PR, as well as the case where one individual women, a student, took on Harvard University for accepting a $10,000,000 'gift' from a Saudi Sheik. Harvard backed down, showing that "moral clarity, unapologetically and passionately expressed, can change seemingly unassailable ideas".
Sharansky concludes that morality, and Israel have friends who do not yet know they are friends, but "if we build it (a movement) they will come".

Of course for us chareidim, there are two problems with all of this:
The first is the tznius aspect of public demonstrations. It seems, however, at the recent demonstration at Ahmadinejad's UN appearance that the Gedolim have found a solution in the form of a separate section for chareidim, segregated by sex.

The second is that during the Soviet Jewry movement, many Gedolim, with the influential éminence grise of the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l , held that public demonstrations could be counterproductive by damaging Jews trapped behind the Iron Curtain.

In retrospect documents and accounts indicate this pressure, together with Helsinki Watch and the like, was useful in hemming in and pressuring the former Soviet Union which needed Western good will, aid and technology. At the same time, the absence of chareidim from the public forum may have given them some degree of leverage behind closed doors.

At any rate, there are not millions of Jews trapped inside Iran as there were in the former USSR, and though there are some thousands of Jews living there, the stakes for Jews worldwide are higher now than in the sixties and seventies. We are no longer talking about 'do gooding' but about possible or even likely pikuach nefesh mamesh.

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