Sunday, April 21, 2013

My Message to Israeli Jews

I am an American Jew. Since I don't live on the front lines and I am not putting my son into the army for three years, I don't feel that I have the right to impose my opinions or ideas upon you. But I do want to share my opinions, thoughts, and ideas with you. You should make the decisions for your country. But since the Jews are all one nation, I feel that as a Jew in the diaspora I have a stake in Israeli politics.

I support you unconditionally regardless of any policy differences I may have with you. I tend on balance to be more hardline than most Israeli Jews on the Palestinian Arab issue and more open-minded when it comes to relations with the Arab world and Iran. I realize that Israeli Jewish leftists share my commitment to Zionism even though we differ dramatically on our proposed methods for implementing Zionism.

I have spent over 12 years studying and analyzing the political conditions in the Arab world and Iran. For this reason I feel qualified to share my commentary and analysis on the Arab world and Iran with you. And my approach is to encourage Israeli Jews to think outside the box when developing your policy toward Iran and the Arab world.

Obviously Israel has every right to defend itself against a regime which is building nuclear weapons with the publicly stated genocidal intention of destroying the Jews, by military means if necessary. But Israeli policy should focus less on containing the current regime than on working with Iranian secular democrats to promote regime change.

Many Iranian secular democrats in exile share your deep moral revulsion against the Islamist regime's open commitment to the destruction of Israel and the Jews. The Iranian secular democrats are your natural allies in the struggle against the Islamist regime in Iran. A free and democratic Iran is in the interests of the Iranian people and the Jews alike. Israeli Jews need to realize that this regime's virulent anti-Semitism does not represent the opinions of the majority of Iranians either inside or outside of Iran. They should not become afraid of the Iranian people simply because this regime is spewing hateful propaganda agaisnt the Jews.

Iranian secular democrats are seeking your support, and you should work with them to help remove this regime from power. You should be standing shoulder to shoulder with the brave followers of Ayatollah Boroujerdi, who are calling for peace and challenging the moral legitimacy of the Islamist regime from a Shi'ite Islamic perspective. You can learn more about Ayatollah Boroujerdi and his followers at

And you should remember that Iran before 1979 was a logical and natural ally of Israel under the Jews and that a post-Islamist Iran would return to a policy of either formal or informal diplomatic relations with Israel. Iran under the Shah had very positive relations with Israel, and a free and democratic Iran would resume this policy. So the current regime represents an aberration in Iranian history and not the dominant trend of Iranian religious and political thought toward Israel and the Jews.

In addition, your policy approach to Egypt needs to take into account the fact that Israel and the Jews do have followers in Egypt. Egypt has had a peace treaty with Israel since 1979, and in the past 30 years a new generation of Egyptian Arabs has grown up accustomed to living in peace with Israel and the Jews. For this reason Egypt has various wings of its own peace movement, including the pacifist struggle of Dr. Maikel Nabil Sanad and his followers. Sanad founded the No for Compulsory Service Movement in Egypt which aims to end the draft and related human rights abuses of the Egyptian military. Sanad also supports Israel and the Jews from a pacifist point of view and has spoken out consistently against anti-Semitism and anti-Israel incitement by both the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. He has supported the Jews under unimaginably dangerous conditions. You can read his articles here at

Sanad pointed out quite correctly that the Mubarak regime promoted virulent anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement and was not an ally of the Jews. For this reason, Sanad was one of the intellectual leaders of the struggle against the Mubarak regime. But after the fall of the Mubarak regime, Sanad was ruthlessly persecuted by the Egyptian military. He was imprisoned for 10 months from late March 2011 to January, 2012. He was originally sentenced to 3 years in prison for both challenging the military and for supporting Israel and the Jews. He was released following a four month hunger strike during which he almost died and twice went into a coma largely because he received extensive support from the German government and people.   The deliberate refusal of the Israeli and American Jews to support him on both an individual and institutional level was not only morally unconscionable but also strategically unwise. 

Sadly Sanad and his followers likely represent a minority of the Egyptian people, and the Muslim Brotherhood is certainly larger, better organized and more ruthless than Egyptian secular democrats like Sanad.  The MB has a longstanding and well-developed infrastructure which has been built over 80 years. The MB also has a huge strategic advantage over the secular democrats.  Why? Radical Islamists such as the MB have an obvious place to organize which is not available to the secular democrats: the mosques.  And the secular democrats were more ruthlessly suppressed than the Islamists during the military regime which began in 1952.  (Sadly even many secular democrats are anti-Israel and anti-Jewish.)

But the current Israeli policy of appeasing the MB and ignoring the secular democrats is a huge strategic mistake.  Israel is depriving itself of the opportunity to work with secular democrats such as Sanad who support it.  Israelis should realize that in the long run the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty cannot survive effectively as long as the radical Islamists are in power. A regime which discriminates against women, Coptic Christians, atheists,  and Shi’ites and violates basic human rights will not remain a genuine ally of Israel and the Jews in the long term.  The suppression of the secular democratic forces inside Egypt by the radical Islamists poses a grave threat to the peace process between Israel and Egypt.  For this reason, Israel has a stake in the internal political outcome in Egypt.  And an Israeli policy of appeasing the Islamists is short-sighted and undermines long-term Israeli interests. 

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