A preemptive attack on Iran? US Jews are deeply divided.
The AIPAC conference in Washington elicited one hawkish pronouncement after another from US leaders. But American Jews are deeply split over how to deal with Iran's nuclear aspirations.
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In the middle of this are many Jews who feel the issue has reached a sensitive moment and is delicately balanced. One of those is Rabbi Aryeh Feigenbaum of Congregation Ohr Ha Torah in Dallas.Skip to next paragraph
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“I would say that most of the Jewish community is not separate from the general community in that terms of being afraid of a nuclear Iran and also going to war,” he says in an interview. But, he thinks most Americans agree “a nuclear Iran is crossing the red line for the world. Israel would be the first to be attacked and we cannot let that happen.”
Last Saturday, Rabbi Feigenbaum told his congregation “the fear is real,” and it was time “to renew our prayers.”
The heated internal dispute in the American Jewish community started getting more attention in the media after March 1, when a group called the Emergency Committee for Israel ran a full-page ad in The New York Times attacking two liberal Washington-based think tanks, the Center for American Progress and Media Matters, for their views on the issue. Included in the ad were the names of phone numbers of key funders for both organizations.
The Emergency Committee ad was particularly critical of Jewish columnist M.J. Rosenberg of Media Matters, who used the term “Israel-Firster” to refer to those American Jews who want to go to war to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
Mr. Rosenberg, who was not available to comment, still works for Media Matters.
Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee, says in an email that the Center for American Progress has “conceded the phrase ‘Israel-Firster’ is anti-Semitic" and “claims to have taken steps to deal with inappropriate rhetoric by their staffers – though we do not believe they’ve done enough.”
He says the phrase implies that pro-Israel Jews are not loyal and patriotic Americans. “Media Matters has done nothing to address the problem,” he writes.
For its part, Media Matters says it is an organization dedicated to accuracy and fairness in news coverage. “We have a long track record of holding those who hold anti-Semitic views accountable,” says Ari Rabin-Havt, executive vice president of Media Matters. “The kind of claim made in the ad is ridiculous.”
In a column in the Huffington Post, Mr. Rosenberg said his comments really were about those who support Mr. Netanyahu. “The people I call ‘Israel Firsters’ are, in fact, Netanyahu Firsters,” he wrote.
"After all, if they were putting Israel first, they would not be promoting policies (such as war with Iran or the perpetuation of the occupation) that could very easily lead to Israel's destruction or, at least, to its losing its Jewish majority.”
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