Talking About Chamberlain

Disagree with the Iran talks? Then use informed 2015 arguments, not the 1938 Munich analogy! (Courtesy of Courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles @ cartoonkronicles.com.)

Disagree with the Iran talks? Then use informed 2015 arguments, not the 1938 Munich analogy! (Courtesy of Courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles @ cartoonkronicles.com.)

Many politicians and advocates use the specter of Nazi appeasement to scuttle an Iran deal.

Certainly Chamberlain’s 1938 Munich Agreement handed over the Sudetenland in exchange for empty promises and paved the path towards World War II.

However, what would have happened if the Munich Agreement had resembled the currently proposed agreement with Iran?

Imagine if Germany had not be given control of any new territory, but only allowed normal trade with the rest of the world. Suppose further if Germany had agreed to:

  • Destroy or sell abroad 97% of their tanks, armored transports and aircraft – just as Iran agrees to dispose of 97% of their enriched uranium.
  • Destroy or sell abroad 60% of their guns including all of their machine guns and high caliber weapons – just as Iran agrees to dispose of 60% of their centrifuges leaving only the most primitive ones based on 1970s technology.
  • Allow international observers to be stationed permanently at all military bases, weapon warehouses and weapon factories – just as Iran agrees to allow monitors of their nuclear program from the mines, to the processing, and the storage.
  • Place tracking devices on all military officers – just as Iran agrees to have GPS tracking of their nuclear scientists.
  • Allow international observers to be sent to any location based on any intelligence found – including information from these tracking devices – just as Iran agrees to do.
  • Immediate and verifiable halt to the rocket program being researched by Werner von Braun and others – just as Iran agrees to halt their research into a possible plutonium weapon, now being undertaken at Arak heavy-water reactor.

If Germany had made all of these agreements, Europe would likely have remained at peace and perhaps there would never have been a World War II.

Such an agreement would not have been a panacea. Such an agreement would not have improved the prospects of life for the Jews in Germany itself no more than a nuclear deal with Iran is likely to turn that country into a Western-style democracy tolerant of all religions and sexual orientations.

Nevertheless the deal is a step forward, and I hope it is signed, ratified and implemented by both countries.

This Week’s 5 Most Important Questions

— by Steve Sheffey

  • Does Israel spy on the US?
  • Will the US prevent a nuclear-armed Iran?
  • Is J Street pro-Israel?
  • Does Marco Rubio understand global warming science?
  • Is the #BringBackOurGirls campaign working?

Read the answers after the jump.
I strongly recommend that you read this fascinating exchange between former US ambassador to Israel Michael Oren and Foreign Policy’s David Rothkopf. It’s somewhat long, but it eloquently addresses many of the questions and concerns that trouble thoughtful friends of Israel.

Chuck Hagel defended Israel against spying allegations.

In response to a Newsweek report quoting unnamed US officials accusing Israel of espionage, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that “I’m not aware of any facts that would substantiate the report.” Hagel, on a three-day trip to Israel, also affirmed the strong bond between the US and Israel and noted that US aid to Israel is at record levels.

We will prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

Many critics of the interim agreement with Iran refuse to acknowledge that its purpose is not to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Its purpose is to delay progress on Iran’s program so that we can negotiate an end to Iran’s nuclear weapons program without Iran using the time during negotiations to make significant progress.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice said on May 12 that (emphasis mine):

Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. As President Obama said in Jerusalem, “America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.” As the United States and our P5+1 partners engage in negotiations with Iran on a long-term, comprehensive agreement that resolves the world’s longstanding concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, we all have a responsibility to give diplomacy a chance to succeed. But America won’t be satisfied by mere words. We will only be satisfied by verifiable action from Iran. Put simply: if we are not, there will be no deal. And, as these negotiations progress, we continue to consult closely with Israel every step of the way.

The J Street Challenge.

My regular readers know that I’m a strong supporter of AIPAC, and I explained why in my report on AIPAC and J Street. But the disagreements we have with J Street do not negate the fact that J Street is a pro-Israel organization. If you’re really concerned about J Street and the fanciful charges that have been leveled against it, you owe it to yourself to read Setting the Record Straight, by J Street’s founder and Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami.

Barney Frank made a good point last week:

I have long noted an interesting phenomenon in the opinion of some American Jews that criticism of particular Israeli government policies from a more liberal position are a betrayal, while even harsher attacks on efforts by Israeli governments to pursue peace talks are entirely legitimate.


John Oliver and Bill Nye show the world how to debate with climate change deniers.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) denied global warming science.

Rubio proved that he is both ignorant of science and eminently qualified to be a GOP candidate for President by denying the reality that global warming is caused by human activity. Jeffrey Kluger explains why Rubio is wrong on climate change. This is the same Marco Rubio who, when asked the age of the earth, said “I’m not a scientist, man.” No kidding.

Kluger’s article is a great article to send to anyone who still doesn’t get it on climate change, but Carl Hiaassen’s approach works too.

#BringBackOurGirls.

I wonder if those mocking #BringBackOurGirls would have mocked the “Save Soviet Jewry” posters many synagogues put on their lawns not too long ago. The point of the “Save Soviet Jewry” signs was not that the signs themselves would free Soviet Jews, but that by constantly calling attention to their plight, we would make action more likely and more likely to succeed.

Hashtags are today’s signs. No one thinks that hashtags on Twitter are a substitute for action, but they are helping focus the world’s attention on the plight of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls. Zach Beauchamp explains why #BringBackOurGirls is making a difference for Nigeria.

Click here to sign up to Steve Sheffey’s newsletter.

My Republican Haggadah: An oldie but goodie

Editor’s Note: This “Republican Haggadah” first appeared in the Huffington Post in 2012. However, except for the references to the 2012 Presidential election the humor is timeless. Enjoy!

— by Steve Sheffey

Jewish history is littered with sects, groups of people kind of like Jews who celebrate the same holidays and have many of the same customs, yet are somehow different.

Today’s sect is known as “Jewish Republicans,” few in number but very loud. Like most Jews, they celebrate Pesach, but they’ve got their own Haggadah. The differences between their Haggadah and ours are instructive.

After drinking the first cup of wine, most Jews wash their hands, but the Republicans stay seated and wait for the water to trickle down.

Most Jews then eat a green vegetable, but the Republican Haggadah follows the ruling of Rabbi Reagan that ketchup qualifies as a vegetable. Ketchup is not green, but green is the last thing any Republican would want to be. (Reagan does have this in common with Moses: Neither ever set foot in the land of Israel.)

More after the jump.
Next we break the middle of the three matzot. Most Jews break the middle matzah into two roughly equal pieces, replacing the smaller piece on the Seder plate and hiding the larger piece as the afikoman. The Republican Haggadah asks the leader (or in Republican parlance, the Seder CEO) to keep 99 percent of the matzah for himself and let the other participants share the remaining 1 percent.

The Torah speaks of four sons, but the Republican Haggadah speaks of four candidates: The simple candidate (Santorum), the wicked candidate (Paul), the candidate who does not know how to answer (Romney), and the simple candidate who thinks he’s the wise candidate (Gingrich). They have no wise candidates.

The highlight of the Republican Haggadah is its version of “Dayenu” — “it would have been enough.” The Republican motto when it comes to President Obama is “nothing is enough” — no matter how much President Obama does for Israel, it’s never enough for some of our Republican friends:

President Obama has called for the removal of Syrian President Assad.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama ordered the successful assassination of Osama bin Laden.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama has done more than any other president to stop Iran’s illicit nuclear program.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama restored Israel’s qualitative military edge after years of erosion under the Bush administration.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama increased security assistance to Israel to record levels.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama boycotted Durban II and Durban III.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama has taken U.S.-Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama cast his only veto in the U.N. against the one-sided anti-Israel Security Council resolution.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama opposed the Goldstone Report.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama organized a successful diplomatic crusade against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama immediately intervened to rescue Israelis trapped in the Egyptian embassy.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama gave orders to give Israel “whatever it needs” to put out the Carmel fire.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama maintained the U.S. policy of ambiguity on Israel’s nuclear weapons.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama has repeatedly condemned Palestinian incitement against Israel and attempts to delegitimize Israel.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama pulled out of joint exercises with Turkey after Turkey excluded Israel.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

There’s probably nothing President Obama can do to convince some Republicans that he’s pro-Israel. If President Obama split the Sea of Reeds and walked through it dry-shod, they’d accuse him of not being able to swim. They made their mind up before he was elected that he could not be trusted and they ignore everything that contradicts their biases.

The ultimate message of the real Haggadah is hope (sound familiar?). Let’s hope that just as the vast majority of American Jews voted for Barack Obama in 2008, the vast majority of us will remember who we are and what we value and vote to re-elect President Obama in 2012.

Sanctions, Sabotage & Sangfroid: Turning Back Iranian Nukes

Before Obama took office in January 2009, the Iranian nuclear program was proceeding unabated and Iran was said to be months away from a nuclear weapon. Now, while there are those who claim that “Iran is four years closer to a nuclear weapon,” we actually have signs of progress in the effort to stop Iran.

In an interview with The Telegraph , Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak reports that:

“Iran has drawn back from its ambition to build a nuclear weapon but the respite is only temporary and Tehran will still have to be confronted by next summer…

An immediate crisis was avoided in the summer when Iran quietly chose to use over a third of its medium-enriched uranium for civilian purposes, delaying the moment when it could have built a nuclear bomb. Without this decision, Mr Barak told The Daily Telegraph, the situation would “probably” have peaked before the US presidential election…

Mr Barak said this decision “allows contemplating delaying the moment of truth by eight to 10 months”. As for why Iran had drawn back, the minister said: “There could be at least three explanations. One is the public discourse about a possible Israeli or American operation deterred them from trying to come closer. It could probably be a diplomatic gambit that they have launched in order to avoid this issue culminating before the American election, just to gain some time. It could be a way of telling the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] ‘oh we comply with our commitments’.”
Mr Barak added: “Maybe it’s a combination of all these three elements. I cannot tell you for sure.”

But this decision had probably avoided a crisis. Asked whether the critical moment would otherwise have arrived “about now”, Mr Barak replied simply: “Probably yes.”

The joint US-Israeli pressure against Iran has taken a number of forms:

  • Spies (presumably American or Israeli) have planted explosives on vehicles in Tehran and assassinated a number of key Iranian nuclear physicists instrumental to the success of the Iranian Nuclear Program while yet other physicists have been encourages to seek asylum.
  • Intense global sanctions have crippled the Iranian economy, causing the Iranian Rial to lose most of its value in recent months leading to strikes and popular unrest in the Iranian marketplaces.
  • Ahmadinjad’s personal photographer was enticed to seek asylum in the United States during the latest United Nations General Assembly. This is a real coup for US intelligence since he came to the US with two suitcases packed with recordings of visits by the Iranian president and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of top-secret nuclear facilities and Revolutionary Guards installations.
  • As a sign of the international community’s resolve to use force against Iran if necessary, a 26-nation fleet led by the United States and Britain held war games in the strategic Straits of Hermuz, simulating the kind of military cooperation which would be required to breach an Iranian blockade keep oil flowing through the Straits in case of war with Iran.
  • Similarly, the US and Israel just completed war games to demonstrate our ability to defend Israel from missile attacks. These war games were the largest ones that the US or Israel had ever taken part in.
  • DEBKAFile reports: “The sabotage of the Fordo uranium enrichment facility’s power lines on Aug. 17, gave Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu the extra leeway to move his original red line for Iran from late September 2012 – now – to the spring or early summer of 2013.”
  •  Stuxnet is believed to have been designed as a joint US-Israeli covert initiative. This computer virus infiltrated Iranian nuclear facilities, recorded sensor readings and then destroyed the Iranian nuclear centrifuges by causing them to spin out of control while false sensor readings were displayed in order to prevent the operators from being aware of what was going on.
  • The United States has supplied Israel with the powerful “bunker-busting” bombs necessary to penetrate Iranian defenses.
  • DEBKAFile reports that a secret Iranian missile base was struck by a triple blast just before Ahmadinejad arrived in Lebanon to declear that Israel was destined to “disappear”.

Cartoon reprinted courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen www.DryBonesBlog.blogspot.com.