There has been a loud, justified uproar over the fact that Sarah Palin was invited to speak at a rally of Jewish groups at the UN this Monday, an event prompted by the appearance of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the General Assembly. The invitation to Palin has been rescinded, but, as the Jewish Week put it, “A broad-based community rally urging tougher action against Iran turned into a political hot potato this week as some participants got cold feet over what they saw as the partisan skewing of the event.”
While it is disturbing that Palin was invited, I also have another concern.
What is the point of this rally? What, precisely, will it accomplish?
Are the organizers trying to show world leaders that Israel’s supporters in the U.S. are angry and worried about the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran? Jeez, what a surprise! Are they trying to demonstrate that American Jews are deeply offended by some of Ahmadinejad’s comments and threats? I think that point has been made very clearly (and loudly, and often) over the last few years, don’t you?
Is there anyone who follows global issues who does not know that the organized American Jewish community is mortified by the Iranian president, and that much of it wants tougher action on Iran?
One of the self-professed goals of the stop-Iranian-nukes movement is to show that this is not just an Israeli issue. That is a worthy goal. The security of other nations would be threatened if Iran developed nuclear weapons. I have made that point on this blog, while also expressing concern about the pre-emptive war fetishists who have their sights set on Iran. Diplomacy that includes more carrots and less bellicose public rhetoric is recommended by a good many sensible people. That does not negate the fact that trying to stop Iran from having nuclear-tipped missiles makes sense for the U.S, EU, Russia, Turkey, Jordan and Iran’s other neighbors, not just Israel.
But it is hard to believe that this message is the one that will be remembered from Monday’s rally, no matter how hard the organizers try to convey it. The Jewish Week notes that “thousands of people are expected to attend and give voice to deep concerns about Iranâ€™s militant threats against Israel.” Even if non-Jewish figures speak, even if the notion of a broad global threat gets repeated incessantly, the meta-message here is that American Jews–and a few non-Jews–who are worried about Israel are getting together and screaming at Iran’s president, nothing more.
On Monday, rally participants will feel that they are taking a stand that is worth taking, they will be raising their voices because…well, uh, it is important to raise their voices. They will be telling Ahmadinejad that they don’t like him because…well, uh…it is important to tell Ahmadinejad that they don’t like him. But, especially now that the presidential race has been drawn into it, the rally will turn the entire Iranian issue into an American Jewish-Israeli issue, rather than a matter that should be worrisome to everyone else. That doesn’t seem like a productive use of energy, noise and resources.