On Iran, I Can’t Have an Opinion

Part One: ‘for’ or ‘against.’

I find myself surprised by how many people have a definitive opinion on ‘the Iran deal.’ I, for one, have found myself unable to formulate an opinion – to be either ‘for’ or ‘against.’

How can I be?

How can I have an opinion on an issue that I wouldn’t trust 80% of the Congressmen who applauded during Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to speak articulately about? The congressman representing the 8th District of Nebraska isn’t an expert in geopolitics or nuclear non-proliferation. My Facebook friends aren’t either. And most of the public figures who speak on the issue aren’t either. And yet everyone seems, somehow, to have their own very definitive opinion.

‘#Bibidoesntspeakforme.’ He also doesn’t ‘not speak’ for me. Lots of people speak and I try my best to make sense of it all. But I honestly have no idea. And that’s a really hard thing for me to say. It’s not easy for me to accept that I am utterly confused and uncertain about an issue that everyone keeps reminding me may impact the future of my peoples’ existence.

Part Two: ‘I am afraid.’

And so, in the absence of an opinion, I am left only with raw ‘fear’ – a fundamental emotion lost in the shadow of a discourse that allows us to call those who scare us ‘threats’ without allowing us to acknowledge the vulnerability we feel when threatened.

I am afraid.

I am not afraid that Iran will ‘possess’ nuclear weapons. I am afraid that they will use them. I am afraid that they will use them against the people I care about. Or, that the bomb will allow Iran to attack Israelis, at home or abroad, with impunity. I am afraid. I am afraid that President Obama will strike a bad deal ‘paving Iran’s way to the bomb’ and I am afraid that Prime Minister Netanyahu is turning something negotiable into a zero-sum gamble. I am afraid that President Obama is more concerned with the ceremony and legacy of a deal than with the substance of that deal. And I am afraid that Prime Minister Netanyahu is using fear and trigger imagery to market himself as the only leader who can protect the Jewish people. I am afraid because I don’t even know enough about Iran to speak intellectually about what scares me about President Rouhani’s intentions.

I am afraid because I really feel that pride and ‘manhood’ forbid our leaders from pursuing peace. I am afraid that we live in a world where unnecessary wars can withstand mass burials and mass protest and hindsight and congressional inquiries but accusations of cowardice and weakness can barely withstand the Op-Eds, let alone the front-pages – political death sentences. I am afraid that negotiations demand absolute secrecy because our leaders ‘can’t be seen’ making concessions. And I am afraid that our commanders-in-chief need to concern themselves with re-election. And coalitions. And Ayatollahs. And 2016. Legacies. The history books.

I am afraid when people say ‘Israelis want’ or ‘Iranians feel’ as if massive dissent doesn’t exist everywhere. I am afraid when conflicts are discussed and understood interchangeably because nuance is bad for ratings and advertisement spots would have to be cut to take the time necessary to explain why Iran is not Iraq is not Palestine is not ISIS is not al-Qaeda is not lone-wolf violence.

I am afraid that in some places ‘anti-Israel’ is the opiate of the masses. And that in some places ‘anti-Semitism’ is the antibiotic for all ills. And I am afraid that the distinction between the two terms is becoming blurrier – in ‘our’ discourse and in ‘theirs.’ I am afraid of the metaphors we use. Of the Holocaust. And Purim. And Churchill. Moses. I am afraid of biblical quotes taken out of context, chosen because they are engraved into convenient walls. I am afraid for the #activism and #support of my peers – for the 140 characters we’ve allotted ourselves to speak intellectually about complicated issues.

I am afraid for how easy it is to hide from our fears. To hide behind opinions.

I am afraid of retrospect: What if Prime Minister Netanyahu is right and we don’t listen? What if President Obama is right and we don’t listen? What if either option can work if we just allow it to…

About the Author
2013-4 Dorot Fellow. Lived b'Jerusalem for the culture v'TLV for its Jewish community. am 'that guy from that Jewish rap video.' - R. Lord J. Sachs. instagrams about this stuff too: @andrewlustigis e-mail me:
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