Joanne Palmer
Joanne Palmer

On civility

The arguments for and against the nuclear deal with Iran are real on both sides.

That the deal as proposed is deeply flawed is undeniable. That it could have been done better — although certainly not by us! — seems clear as well. That we were asked not to criticize it until it was finalized, and then told that it was too late for any criticism, is a simple fact. That we are stuck with it, that it must be voted up or down but cannot be amended, is a noxious fact.

But that people of good will, acting in good faith, who are secure in their proud identities as Americans and as Jews, deeply engaged in Israel, and profoundly committed to Israel’s security as well as to its continued existence as a Jewish state, genuinely can disagree on the deal without being idiots, or traitors, or hypocrites, is true as well.

We all are in danger of forgetting that.

The only way to know with certainty whether the deal as proposed will turn out to be better rejected than accepted — or the other way around — would be to use a time machine to see how it all worked out. Otherwise, there are strong arguments, convincing arguments even, but there is no certainty.

We all seem to agree that Iran’s leaders are malevolent, thoroughly foul men whose words we should believe only when they vow to kill us all — and whose words we absolutely should believe when they vow to kill us all. Certainly none of their actions give us any reason not to believe them on that subject, although we have every reason to disbelieve them on every other matter.

But the question of which decision will keep the world safer — whether the safeguards that the deal’s supporters say would keep us safe, at least for a decade or so, possibly could outweigh the dangers posed by Iran’s leaders funneling newly available funds to terrorists, thugs, and brutal murderers, as they already have and they know we will continue to so — is not as clear as advocates on either side insist. After all, they do not have that time machine, and the most adamantine certainties have a way of dissolving in the acid wash of history.

Does that mean that we should not have strong opinions, and not argue them forcefully? No, it absolutely does not. To cease to argue would be to cease to breathe. To accept without questioning would be to give up.

We at the Standard already have positioned ourselves against the deal in this column, and we continue to do so. But we should save our hatred for the Iranians who pledge death to Americans, Israelis, and all Jews.

There is no possible good that will or possibly could come out of hurling insults at people with whom we disagree. No one — not politicians, not civilians, absolutely no one — will be swayed by bullying and name-calling, except possibly in the other direction.

We cannot stand united in our reaction to the deal. Two Jews, 95 opinions, remember? But we can remember that we are one people. This deal will be accepted or rejected. We will continue to have to live with each other.

About the Author
Joanne is the editor of the Jewish Standard and lives in Manhattan with her husband and two dogs, so she has firsthand knowledge of two thriving and idiosyncratic Jewish communities. (Actually that's three communities, if you also count the dog people.)