Steven Windmueller
Where Jews and Judaism Meet the Political Road!

A New Day in the Middle East: Unpacking Iran’s Actions

We awoke on Sunday morning to a new and clearly more dangerous Middle East. Despite being a long-standing enemy of the Jewish State, the missile attack on Israel by Iran, during the early morning hours of April 14th, would mark the first time that the Iranians have directly engaged militarily with Israel. This attack would mark the largest military action taken against the State of Israel since the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and would involve only the second time that sovereign state in the region would employ long range missiles against the Jewish State, the first being Iraq’s deployment of Scud missiles in 1991.

Lost in some of these unfolding events was the extraordinary capability of the IDF and military forces in effectively eliminating 99% of the reported 300 missiles launched against Israel over several hours. This moment would also see for the first time, the United States and its allies being directly involved in the defense of the State of Israel. The decision to launch a portion of this attack on Jerusalem and to target other high population areas inside Israel represents a particularly dangerous upgrade to the Iranian-Israel conflict.

One must see this event as an extension of the October 7th conflict as Iran has sought to expand its “ring of fire” against Israel, as it continues to exhort its various proxies to selectively attack Israel, disrupt merchant and naval traffic, and intimidate various Middle East and foreign opponents. These operatives provide the Iranians with strategic options in its effort to garner influence and control within the region. Lurking behind these current events is a much broader consideration, Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

As complicated and controversial as the Hamas War has been, the current situation will fundamentally shift both Israeli and global attention away from Gaza and redirect the diplomatic and military focus onto the broader concerns involving the emerging Israel-Iranian crisis. We should take note that the authorities in Tehran and their allies have warned that this conflict not only involves the “Zionist” entity but is also directed against Israel’s allies and the Jewish people.

Indeed, as many of us were able to follow these extraordinary events as they unfolded, we were able to share the emotional and physical trauma of such an experience with Israelis.  In some ways this dramatic encounter would remind us of the on-going military threats with which Israel must contend, as these missiles transformed the skylines of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv into a zone of conflict.

The potential and real dangers facing the Jewish State were once again dramatically and vividly laid out before us over the several hours of this military engagement. To Israel’s critics here in the West, hopefully there should be an acute awareness regarding the threats that Israelis face.

Israel’s situation has rapidly and radically changed because of these actions, just as America’s role and voice has also been altered. The IDF must contend with real and distinctive challenges from an array of Iranian-supported surrogates, all of whom are committed to the destruction of the Jewish State.

Israel’s actions directed against Hamas, over these past six months, should now be seen in a broader context, a concerted effort to remove one of these military antagonists, an appendage of the Iranian military campaign to eliminate Israel. If the international community was appalled by Hamas’ actions on October 7th and now by Iran’s flagrant attack on the land and people of Israel, then one should hope for a unified expression of solidarity with the Jewish State.  Nor can we ever forget the presence of hostages and the responsibility of Hamas and its supporters to ensure their safety as the international community seeks their freedom.

In its broadest context, this is a war against the West, as Iran along with its allies and global partners, seeks to undo American power and influence, reduce the presence of Christianity and Judaism within the region, and reframe the Middle East as a zone of Islamic fundamentalist control. Sadly, we are unlikely to see at the Security Council the passage of any meaningful resolutions or sanctions designed to isolate and condemn the actions of the government in Tehran.

The anti-Israel campaigns that have been waged over these past number of months, leading to BDS resolutions, attacks on Jewish students and their Zionist credentials, and the fierce criticism that Israel has endured in the international media, all would seem to have no place in this moment. Sadly, even as missiles were being launched, Palestinian and Muslim campus and political groups in the United States and elsewhere applauded the Iranian actions, as many of these anti-Israel players are seeking the destruction and end to the Jewish State.

In reality, the Hamas campaign may well become a footnote to the broader set of issues now at hand. In this new paradigm, where Iranian actions seek to directly engage with the State of Israel, the Jewish State’s sovereignty and security are being challenged.

There remains much for the pro-Israel community to achieve at this time. Five immediate steps seem evident. First, it is essential to applaud the Biden administration for its active support and assistance to Israel. In addition, we must reach out to our Israeli connections, family, and friends, lending them our love and support. Third, it is now imperative for the Congress to finally approve the Israel aid package that has for months remained stalled. A fourth action involves the opportunity to reframe the case for Israel against the backdrop of Iranian actions with various academic and campus audiences, social media platforms, and other key influential circles, and finally to actively provide information and support within our own community, in particular to our students, as well as our partners and allies.

About the Author
Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Prior to coming to HUC, Dr.Windmueller served for ten years as the JCRC Director of the LA Jewish Federation. Between 1973-1985, he was the director of the Greater Albany Jewish Federation (now the Federation of Northeastern New York). He began his career on the staff of the American Jewish Committtee. The author of four books and numerous articles, Steven Windmueller focuses his research and writings on Jewish political behavior, communal trends, and contemporary anti-Semitism.