A Discussion of Israel, Iran and Issues of our Time

I had the pleasure recently of attending a brilliant discussion about Israel, Iran, and America.

Although I have had my issues with Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue, it appears they are learning. The Rabbi got off to a very good start when he warned the crowd to behave, and made it clear that while some of what we would hear would be “terribly uncomfortable, hearing things that are terribly uncomfortable can lead to learning, which is good.”

The moderator of the panel was David Suissa of the Jewish Journal. he is considered politically conservative by Jewish Liberal Journal standards, which means nothing. Nevertheless, he was a fair moderator and asked valuable questions.

The title of the discussion was “Iran, Israel, and issues of our time.” It was divided into three parts. First came the discussion of Israel, followed by a conversation about America. The last part of the event was a dialogue about Iran.

What made this discussion so fascinating was that there was an extra participant.

The politically conservative perspective was offered by my friend Larry Greenfield. Larry is a fellow at the Claremont Institute and the Executive Director of the Reagan Legacy Foundation.

The liberal perspective was offered by a gentleman from the group “Peace Now.” I have to apologize to readers for being unable to remember his name. I refer to him throughout this article as “Lefty.” Again, this is not meant as a slap in the face. This event was several weeks ago, and I will fill in his name when it is brought to my attention.

(It was brought to my attention. He is David Pine. He shall remain lefty so as not to confuse anyone with the other David, the moderator.)

While Peace Now is a self-loathing Jewish group that has Islamists celebrating at night, this event was not a left vs. right debate.

A third participant gave the event a unique flavor. His name is Sam, and politically he brought the centrist perspective to the event. More importantly, he brought his Persian cultural heritage.

Too many discussions about Iran involve a Neocon on the right and a peacenik on the left, but both of the guys are usually (and in this case) white Americans. It was refreshing to hear a Persian American discussing Iran. Sam is Jewish, as were Larry and Lefty. Yet for Sam, Iran is every bit as personal as Israel and the United States.

One expression I learned from a Persian fellow awhile back was that “A Persian is a Persian is a Persian.” What these means is that whether Jewish or Muslim, in the United States Iranians have a strong bond with each other that transcends religion. They all hate the mullahs. They love America, but want their birth nation to be a source of pride. Right now, it is a source of shame due to the ruling Mullahs. This dichotomy is what Sam brought to the table.

With that, I present some of the discussion about Israel, America, and Iran by Larry, Sam, and Lefty, and again moderated by David (We are on a first name basis today). Opening remarks began the evening.

Larry: “I had the pleasure of spending the day with legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. I took him to the Reagan Library. He had never been there before. What we learn from Coach Wooden is that first principles and eternal verties still count. I offer a view not of mere hope, but of reality.”

Lefty: “At Peace Now, we have a love for Israel. We want Israel to be secure and to live the Zionist dream as a Jewish state.”

Sam: “For Iranian Jews, the Iranian flag is part of our identity. This is a startling notion to some, since Iran is a threat to Israel and the United States. Yet I am proud to be an American, proud to stand with Israel, proud to be a Zionist, and proud to be an Iranian.”

David: “Can you have an enjoyable dinner with people where there is strong political disagreement?”

Larry: “Try being a conservative in Los Angeles. I don’t let politics interfere with my friendships.”

Lefty: “I love debate and discussion. It has to be two ways though.”

Sam: “Passions are good. I get heated with apathetic or fatalistic people.”

David: “What has been the number one mistake by President Obama regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict?”

Larry: “The mistake is the entire world view of Barack Obama. He wanted engagement. He picked a fight from the get-go. Palestinians offered nothing. Israel got criticized when they built second floor apartments. There is no more policy.”

Lefty: “The Obama settlement freeze is the exact same as under George W. and the Road Map. Barack Obama did go too far in believing he could bring the two sides together. It is in Israel’s interest to stop the settlements.”

Sam: It is not every day a Persian is asked about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Persians are not a monolithic voting bloc. I personally am center-right. I did not vote for President Obama, but I hope he succeeds. One dangerous development I see is what is taking place on college campuses and editorial boards. As far as President Obama, I did not like that when he went to Cairo, he compared the Holocaust to Palestinian suffering.”

David: “So maybe we should do something different?”

Lefty: “Peace Now is a goal, not an expectation. We are pragmatic. We deal with reality. The ends must be achieved politically. They cannot be imposed. There is no military solution. Deterrence is always there. We should negotiate.”

David: “Yes but is it true that the more forward you push, the more backward you go? Is there a backlash?”

Larry: “The breech occurred after Oslo in the 1990s. Yassir Arafat said one thing in Arabic and another in English.  Israel’s position is now worse. The far left demanded peace when there is no partner for peace. All we have done is taught academics, Arabs, and leftists that Israel is disunited.”

David: “What would you do if you were President Obama?”

Larry: I don’t want to be an honest broker between our democratic allies and tyranny. Israel must have secure and defensible borders. America must be on offense in the War on Terror. Arabs will come to the table only if and when they see that I can’t be pushed. Gorbachev resopnded to Reagan’s strength. Peace through strength works.”

David: “Didn’t President Bush try that? Didn’t we see that it didn’t work?”

Larry: “It did a lot of good. We gave Israel the space to clear out the terrorist infrastructure. Meanwhile, Europeans chose leaders who are more Pro-Israel. Sunni Arab states now realize that their enemy is not Israel, but Iran.”

David: “Does Peace Now need to do any soul searching?”

Lefty: “We must always evaluate and question. Has the peace camp been naive? Should we be crushing them? I don’t see the world responding favorably. We have peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. Ariel Sharon and Ehud Ohlmert both came to the understanding that compromise was necessary. The occupation has brought Jewish suffering.”

David: “Is Peace Now naive?”

Sam: “Israel made peace when a partner came to the table. The conditions are not right now for the Peace Now approach. The Goldstone Report was praised by the U.N. We at this table have common goals, but different approaches.”

David: “The West Bank economy has increased significantly in the past decade. Hasn’t Abbas fulfilled his obligations?”

Larry: “Any improvement is due to the security fence. There are still daily attempted attacks. Hate speech from Mosques continues. Tearing up the terror infrastructure works. Palestinians lie. Israeli control of the West Bank is due to Arab intransigence.”

Lefty: “There was the settler extremist letter threatening Israel’s Defense Minister. It was an anonymous letter. This is a violent conflict with no easy solutions.”

David: “Should the Israeli Prime Minister declare an impasse with the Palestinians? Should he declare a stalemate and say now is not a good time for peace talks?”

Lefty: “If he did that, I would vote him out. Israelis don’t believe this. They have hope and want solutions. They don’t want complacency. They would respect his honesty, but would still vote him out.”

Larry: “Bibi could list years of failed peace process attempts. We’ve tried and tried again. Bibi would be a hero, a Churchillian leader. It would be like Reagan after Carter.”

David: “What about Prime Minister Netanyahu taking this approach regarding Iran?”

Lefty: “Peace Now is focused on Israel. We are a U.S. organization. The Iran threat exists. Keeping them from getting arms should be our number one goal. We just need a ‘smart policy.’ Crippling sanctions are not a smart policy. Engagement has brought some success. We need to combat the rhetoric and fear.”

Larry: “Ahmadinejad’s statements are unacceptable and criminal. They are an incitement to genocide. His words violate genocide conventions. Sanctions have not worked. As Charles Krauthammer pointed out, ‘We didn’t just lose a year. We lost this year.’ The Iranian young people want to know if President Obama backs them or the regime. Sanctions are leaky. We can consider a quarantine. A quarantine is like a blockade except a blockade is an act of war. Persians get it. Persians invented chess. Like in speed chess, the clock is ticking.”

Sam: “This is about the competing momentum of two trains. There is the nuclear train and the human rights train. 70% of Iranians are under 30. How does sanctioning the country impact human rights? The Iranian Revolutionary Party Sanctions Act (IRPSA) could have a cataclysmic effect. It is stalled in the Senate by John Kerry at the request of Barack Obama. We need to target the Revolutionary Guard. Iranians are looking at Iraq and asking ‘Where is my vote?’ They are chanting ‘Death to Khatami!’ and ‘Death to China and Russia!’ They are not chanting ‘Death to America!’ Economic sanctions did get Libya to give up its weapons.”

David: “What if sanctions don’t work? What if Israel bombs the Iranian reactors?”

Lefty: “Where do we bomb? How do we even know how much they have?”

Larry: “Iran has been at war with Israel and the United States since 1979. There should be no divergence between our nations. What we have is an ideological split between the approaches of Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan.”

David: “Is there a divergence between America and Israel regarding Iran?”

Sam: “Many people have influence. Rahm Emanuel is a Zionist. Joe Biden is a friend of Israel. Dennis Ross is a  friend. We have lobbies like AIPAC and J-Street. I was concerned about Zbignew Brysienski’s remarks.”

David: “What about containment?”

Lefty: “Containment? There is always the concern of divergence. Zybrienski is not an Obama adviser. That is a lie. There is nuance. There is reality. There is no victory. The United States and Israel are friends. The daylight is not scary. Ahmadinejad has no power. If Israel attacks, what happens the next day? If Iran drops a bomb, isn’t that suicide? Would they?”

David: “Do harsh measures have the opposite effect?”

Larry: “There is no peace without victory. Either we clear out the enemies, or there has to be internal regime change. A protracted war resulting in many more casualties is more likely if we do not clear out our enemies.”

Sam “I just wish that the Iranian anthem and flag inspired us. Jews were in Iran for 2500 years.”

(Some in the audience failed to grasp what Sam was saying. He was not saying we celebrate Iran in its current form. He was saying that in the same way he has pride when he sees an American or Israeli flag, he looks forward to the day when Iranian flags can fly high in America and be seen as a positive sign. He totally understands why expressing pride in Iran right now is a non-starter, and looks forward to the day when the Iranian flag will be welcomed along with Italian, Irish, and Israeli flags alongside American flags. This was a very important point that needed to be emphasized.)

David: “With regards to trading land for peace, should we give Encino (in Los Angeles) to the Native Americans?”

Lefty: “The territories are not officially Israel. We should take the West Bank and Gaza, make a state out of it, and secure Israel.”

David: “What about prisoner swaps?”

Larry: “Exhaustion has set in. Israel began by compromising. The strategy seems to be wish it away, and hope they will be nice. Palestinians then do it again and kidnap more Israelis. This is the typical Obama mindset. If we release enemy combatants from the Guantanamo Bay military facility, they go back to train and hit us again from Yemen.”

David: “I would like to see something different happen. I would like to see any future prisoner swaps be a straight up one for one trade. If the Palestinians object, the Israeli Prime Minister can ask the Palestinian leader, ‘Don’t you value human life? Aren’t Arab lives just as valuable as Jewish lives? Then we wait for the response.”

Sam: “One thing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger did is sign the Iran Divestment Act for California pensions.”

Lefty: “The incitement issue needs to be dealt with. Yet the settlements are a problem.”

I was very interested in what Sam had to say. I have heard Larry many times. He is brilliant. As for Lefty, lefties is as lefties does. The issue is not of left vs. right but of idealism vs. realism.

Yet Sam turned this from a standard debate where all the issues have been hashed and rehashed into a discussion with a perspective that was new to me.

I have always said that we should listen to people who know their communities best. This does not mean Sam is right about everything. He evens aid himself that he does not represent all Persians. Yet if we are going to have discussions about the volatile issue of Iran, we really should have Persians on the discussion panels! In fact, I would like to see and hear diverse Persian opinions from left to right.

Overall, this event was very well done, and the big winners were those in attendance.


8 Responses to “A Discussion of Israel, Iran and Issues of our Time”

  1. Dav Lev says:

    I’ll make this brief for right now, but there is no middle ground when it
    come to Iran.

    The world MUST ASAP take out Iran’s nuclear sites. (Some experts
    say 9 would be enough..the main plant, the uranium sites, etc.
    Others want all 31 sites bombed back to the stone age.

    Iran is theatending to wipe the racist, Zionist, state off the map
    almost daily. This comes from Ahmad, the head of the Rev Guards
    and of course the head mullah in charge.

    Iran has, for about 2 years now, trying every which way to deligitmize
    Israel, in the eyes of the world. It has ignored 3 UNSC resolutions

    Iran is, as I post, beating up protestors now in jail and has been executing many.

    Iran will, in my opinion, nuke Tel Aviv and the surrounding cities
    as soon as it is capable. It matter little that Israel will retaliate and strongly. Iran lost over 1m people fighting a fellow Muslim country,
    killing 300,000 Iraqs. A few hundred thousand Israelites mean nothing
    to them, incinerated under a mushroom (or two) clouds. They are
    willing to lost up to 30 m of their own ( predicted by a former
    retired US general before Congress).

    In 1933, Hitler could have been stopped dead. He wasn’t.
    The world was tired of war, and who can blame them.
    In the end, 70m people died, many more wounded, before
    the 1,000 year Reich was destroyed (in 12 years).

    Israel is considered a cancer in the M.E. among the Arab nations.
    Islamic fascism simply cannot allow the Jewish state in their midst.

    Please everyone, read “WW4” by Norman Podhoretz (editor of
    Commentary magazine and now a roving editor).

    He believes unless we stop Iran, and soon, the world will see WW4
    at a level never before witnessed.

    If Iran hits Israel, Israel will strike Egypt, Syria, Iran, Hamas and
    Hezbollah with it’s 400 nukes.

    There is still time folks. Please write your legislators..and for heavens
    sake to not vote for anyone who wants to “talk”, “engage” and resort to diplomacy.

    For insight, see “Inglorious Bastards”, the movie. It was made 70 years
    too late..but not too late for Ahmad and his thugs.

  2. Micky 2 says:

    “The territories are not officially Israel. We should take the West Bank and Gaza, make a state out of it, and secure Israel.”

    My problem with this has always been that if you have neighboring nation still being supported or influenced by a genocidal/suicidalregime such as Iran the problem only becomes more sigificant as that fledgling nation prospers, grows, and establishes such things as a more viable military.
    Do you really want a stronger more viable Palestinian state right next to Israel with the same proxy BS coming via Iran/Hamas ?
    Some people just cant be neighbors no matter how high the fences.
    As has been proven over and over again in the case with the Palestinians

  3. I’ve heard and read many of Sam’s points from other similar perspectives (you guys would too if you just got your information from sources – it stuns me that his perspectives are somehow new to you). It’s something I’ve been saying around here for a while: The Iranian people are not our enemy. This is vitally important. If we start a bloody fight with them – especially a sleazy “preemptive” war – we could very well turn them against us. Unlike some other people around the world who reside in unfriendly states, the Iranaian people have a high regard for America and Americans. This is great. This is what we had with the Chinese, and Nixon parlayed that into what became eventual relative friendship and real peace. Reagan knew this too, and that’ swhy he would never have gone into Iraq, for example. Larry’s God-Idol Reagan never started any unnecessary wars (just one really silly one), and he never dared impose our presense in the Middle East, because he knew how INTENSELY STUPID that would be. The point is that we could win Iran over with engagement. It will just take time and patience.

    The nuclear problem with Iran, however, is just getting worse evry day. I don’t know what’s going to happen with that. Though you’d have to be a moron to believe Iran would ever fire a nuke at Israel, just the thought of an unstable Islamic regime with nukes is quite disconcerting. What happens if the theocrats are ever overthrown? Might they take everyone down with them? What happens is some screw ball sells materials, or even a working nuclear munition, to a terrorist group for some proxy attack on Israel? What happens if the Sunnis rise back up in Iraq and make trouble with Iran again? All these pictures are unpleasant. I haven’t heard any realistic answers from anyone yet. There may be none.


  4. Micky 2 says:

    As usual you begin your diatribe with your smuggness and discounting others because your sources are some how so much greater yet you hardly ever produce any to validate a statement.
    The anwers is to destabalize Irans ability to produce a nuke by blowin the sht out every suspect facility and then having them assimilate the Palestinians into their society since they’re so sympathetic to them.

  5. Micky, only in Comic Book World would that be an answer.


  6. Micky 2 says:

    Ah yes, the ole reliable condescending “comic book” line.

    As opposed to the love stories you guys have been reading about a unified Israel and Palestine ?
    Pfft, liberals, “why cant we all just get along”

    Besides, its a hell of a lot more and realistic than anything you’ve ever offered.

    If a nutjob like Khadafi get sit you know Iran takes the cakeif they dont get it by now. Deal with Iran and the Palestinian problem is halfway solved.

  7. Micky, I know in Comic Book World everything is all one way or another – black or white, good or evil, bomb everything or “why can’t we all just get along.” No one is talking about dealing anything with Iran. Khadafi sat down with the US because the Libyians were getting tired and restless from being broke and cut off from the world. So he made this “government oil for the people” deal and in order to do so he had to make nice-nice with the West again. You should try following international events instead of just listening to rightwingnut spin on everything.


  8. Micky 2 says:

    “No one is talking about dealing anything with Iran.”

    What load of crap.
    Obamahas done everything except bow to these guys offering them open arms an all that crap… gimme a break. What / you think you can just say anything ?

    ” Khadafi sat down with the US because the Libyians were getting tired and restless from being broke and cut off from the world.”

    yeah, but when he saw us b*tch slap Saddam he was very expeditious in disarming… it was almost funny

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