Anti-Semitic Echoes in Iran Deal Debate

Last month CAMERA noted the anti-Semitic implications in the coverage of the Times Square rally protesting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran deal. Regarding an Associated Press story:

Note the last sentence in the second paragraph reporting that the rally “consisted mainly of pro-Israel supporters, though organizers said it represents Americans of all faiths and political convictions.” Can’t “Americans of all faiths and political convictions” actually be “pro-Israel supporters”? There is no conflict. What is the AP implying?

As Congress has continued its review of the deal, the time-worn stereotypes of Jews as dual-loyalists, using their money and nefarious influence to incite wars have surfaced in various media. On Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” President Obama promoted the deal “despite the money, despite the lobbyists.” Some heard these terms as dog-whistles. An administration Twitter account set up to promote the Iran deal replied to a tweet from the blatantly anti-Semitic Web site, Mondoweiss.

Last week, President Obama delivered a speech about the Iran deal. The New York Times reported:

In a speech at American University, Mr. Obama denounced the deal’s opponents as “lobbyists” doling out millions of dollars to trumpet the same hawkish rhetoric that had led the United States into war with Iraq.

Now that New York Senator Chuck Schumer has announced his opposition to the Iran deal, this pattern has exploded not just on social media but on the news pages as well. A New York Times article about Schumer’s opposition used the word “Jewish” six times. The editors of the online magazine Tablet wrote about this troubling development:

What we increasingly can’t stomach—and feel obliged to speak out about right now—is the use of Jew-baiting and other blatant and retrograde forms of racial and ethnic prejudice as tools to sell a political deal, or to smear those who oppose it. Accusing Senator Schumer of loyalty to a foreign government is bigotry, pure and simple. Accusing Senators and Congressmen whose misgivings about the Iran deal are shared by a majority of the U.S. electorate of being agents of a foreign power, or of selling their votes to shadowy lobbyists, or of acting contrary to the best interests of the United States, is the kind of naked appeal to bigotry and prejudice that would be familiar in the politics of the pre-Civil Rights Era South.

While people can certainly differ on the merits of the Iran deal, the truth is that “Americans of all faiths and political convictions” actually do oppose it. The first members of Congress to publicly oppose the deal were all non-Jewish Democrats: Juan Vargas (CA), Grace Meng (NY) and Albio Sires (NJ). In so doing, they are not reflecting the interests of a foreign government but the sentiments of their constituents and their own views of U.S. national interests. Numerous polls indicate that opposition to the deal far outpaces support among Americans, by as much as two-to-one.

Some of the elements of the deal that Americans find troubling include:

  • The agreement would provide billions of dollars in sanctions relief to Iran, the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans from Marines in Lebanon in the 1980s to GIs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran would also be re-integrated into the global financial market and free to sell oil.
  • The deal would lift a conventional arms embargo, allowing Iran – already engaged in conflicts through proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen – to buy and move weapons more easily. Already, in defiance of an international travel ban, the head of Iran’s military Quds Force, Qassem Souleimani, traveled to Russia to discuss the delivery to Iran of surface-to-air missiles and other weapons.
  • The pact lifts sanctions over Iranian inter-continental ballistic missiles after eight years. ICBMs are only used to carry nuclear weapons. Iran does not need them to reach countries in the region, only to hit far off targets like the United States. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey stated last month, “Under no circumstances should we relieve pressure on Iran relative to ballistic missile capabilities.”
  • Even i
    f Iran follows the terms of the deal, it can still “break out” to nuclear weapons capability in a few months.

  • Since it does not eliminate Iran’s nuclear program, the agreement could lead to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East as Saudi Arabia and other states in the region have hinted they would acquire the same nuclear capabilities as Iran.
  • Though the administration promised “under this deal, you will have anywhere, any time 24/7 access as it relates to the nuclear facilities that Iran has,” Secretary of State John Kerry has since stated “there’s no such thing in arms control as anytime, anywhere.” Experts have said, “the verification regime… is starting to roughly resemble Swiss cheese.” Already, U.N. inspectors have been denied access to nuclear scientists and Iran has begun “sanitizing” suspected nuclear military sites. In addition, Iran will not allow Americans or Canadians to be part of the inspection team.

With these and other disturbing aspects to the Iran deal, it is unfair to denigrate opponents and ignore the facts. Moreover, it is bigoted to invoke anti-Semitic tropes to tar Jewish Americans or those who represent them in Congress. As Tablet editors declared:

Let’s not mince words: Murmuring about “money” and “lobbying” and “foreign interests” who seek to drag America into war is a direct attempt to play the dual-loyalty card.

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