Bryan Schwartz
Law Professor, Author of "Consoulation: A Musical Mediation"
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An open letter to American Jews

Can today’s Jewish voter possibly prefer an old-fashioned and earnest mensch over a postmodern hipster?

I am a Jewish citizen of Canada.

My own government has denounced in the most forceful terms the evil and menace of the current the Iranian regime, including its grave violation of human rights and its genocidal threats against Israel.

Many of you may think it presumptuous for an outsider like me to even comment during your election. I do not flatter myself that I will have much influence anyway. But the peril to Jewish survival is so stark that I feel I must speak.

A fascist and fanatic government in Tehran is accelerating its nuclear weapons program.

Its leaders deny the Holocaust. They threaten another one. The call Israel a “cancer” and predict it will be “wiped off the map.” Hitler used to make such predictions – before he made them come true.

The regime in Tehran murders Jews in Israel through its terrorist friends in Gaza and Lebanon.

And not only Israelis in Israel. The latest round of murders included Israeli vacationers in Eastern Europe.

And not only Jews who are Israeli. You think you are safe in the United States? The Iranian regime sponsored the bombing of Jews at their community center in Buenos Aires.

Would anyone of any faith be safe in the West if the regime in Tehran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrors, could transfer them to the likes of Hezbollah?

Perhaps you were born Jewish, but you no longer identify with Israel, or even the Jewish people.

Still, you have emerged from a chain of survivors, persevering and courageous ancestors, whose survival enabled you to come into this world.

Might you still feel some loyalty to the fragment that wishes to continue that civilization, even as you leave it? To a nation and faith that proclaimed radical ideas of equality and freedom in ancient times? To a people that in modern times finally emerged from its subjugation to produce a brilliant burst of creative energy in the arts and sciences?

Perhaps you reply that Israel warrants no special concern on the part of the United States, even though Israel shares your country’s democratic ideals and has been a steadfast ally. But if Israel deserves no more from America than any other nation, doe it deserve less? What should your government do when any people is threatened with genocidal extinction?

Not to worry? Iran can be deterred even if acquires nuclear bombs and missiles to deliver them?

You want to bet your life, or that of an entire nation, on that?

As Bernard Lewis, the preeminent modern historian of the Islamic world, says, for the apocalyptic leaders of Iran, mutually assured destruction can be an inducement, not a constraint.

Potential calculation in Teheran:

We destroy Israel; dying Jewish remnant retaliates; even then, we are big enough to survive; the messianic era begins. Even before then, our menace will demoralize and paralyze Israel. It will not be able to defend itself vigorously from the missile attacks and suicide bombers.

Iran can be more readily and safely deterred from acquiring nuclear weapons in the first place.

Potential calculation in Teheran, faced with a red line from the United States:

A strike against our facilities at the development stage would humiliate us leaders, while Israel survives.

President Obama, in the meantime, displays his contempt for the elected leader of Israel. He rejects a request to meet with the prime minister of Israel, coming to the United Nations to plead for his country’s survival. A “schedule conflict.” Obama appears instead on a fawning David Letterman’s nightly clown show.

But perhaps he loves Israel even if he disdains its elected leaders?

Has he visited Israel during his presidency?

Or, after taking office, did he not make a clear and public effort to distance himself from Israel? His speech at Cairo University disregarded the most basic realities of the Jewish experience in the Middle East, from ancient through modern times.

Now, in the face of critical peril to Israel’s very survival, he delays and vacillates.

Iran’s tyrants are malevolent and menacing, but not stupid or unobservant. They see Obama supplicate tyrants and adversaries while he humiliates traditional allies. They know it is easy enough for Obama to order drone strikes. They know he had to be repeatedly implored by advisers before finally sending in Seals to kill bin Laden.

They know it would require far more resolve for this president to draw a red line against their Iranian bomb program — and mean it.

The regime in Teheran must doubt that Obama can recognize or acknowledge how far along its program really is. They see an obviously pre-planned terrorist attack in Benghazi kill four Americans, including an ambassador, on the anniversary of 9-11. Obama’s administration ignored prior intelligence warnings beforehand. After the horror, they peddled the preposterous story that it was a spontaneous response to an obscure video.

Mitt Romney made it a priority to travel to Jerusalem during his campaign. I ask you to listen carefully to what he said there. He promised that America would not look away in the face of the Iranian threat. It is the same message he has conveyed for many years. Read his speech at Yeshiva University in 2007. Look for yourself into the record of his warm connections with Israel throughout his life as a business leader and political leader.

But is Romney just another one of those Christians in the Republican Party who really just want Israel around so it can host their own version of the apocalypse?

Or maybe the simple and decisive question is this: Can today’s Jewish voter possibly prefer an old-fashioned and earnest mensch over a postmodern hipster?

The Talmud says the temple was destroyed because of baseless factionalism within our community. Nowadays, I wonder whether we will survive our baseless failure to appreciate and support the minority of people in a hostile world who admire us, love us, and are willing to stand with us.

About the Author
Bryan's Jewish-themed musical "Consoulation: A Musical Mediation" premiered in the Spring of of 2018; Bryan Schwartz graduated with a doctorate in law from Yale School and holds an endowed chair at the University of Manitoba Law School. He is the author or editor of over twenty books and collections of essays. He also created and helps to deliver an annual summer program at Hebrew University in Israeli law and society, now in its ninth year. . As a practising lawyer, Bryan has argued a number of cases at the Supreme Court of Canada, advised governments, and served as an arbitrator at the provincial, national and international level.