President Obama assured influential leaders attending American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) last week that the Unites States has Israel’s back fighting efforts made to delegitimize the state. But how will America be positioned against Iran’s potential nuclear threat to Israel? The Up with Chris Hayes panel Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal), contributing writer at Newsweek; Jeremy Ben-Ami (@jeremybenami), founder & president of J Street; Leila Hilal, Middle East analyst at the New America Foundation; and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder & president of The Israel Project discuss the contentious relationship between Israel and Iran.
The discussion that took place on Up with Chris went a long way to dispelling some myths about Iran’s nuclear energy program and the rhetoric of its alleged quest for a nuclear weapon. Chris Hayes pointed out early that “the big contest” was over whether President Obama would say “nuclear Iran” or “the capability for a nuclear weapon” in his speech to AIPAC, he went with the later. That did not stop the panelists continued false equation with a “nuclear Iran” and an Iran with a nuclear weapon. There is gaping difference between the two. “Capability” has become the code word for “the bomb”. The reality is that capability can also mean peaceful uses for nuclear energy that includes electricity and medical research.
No one, not even Hayes, mentioned that the ruling Ayatollahs have condemned nuclear weapons, as well as, chemical/biological weapons, based on religious and moral grounds. Nor did anyone mention that Iran has signed the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel has not nor has Israel ever allowed inspection of its nuclear facilities by the IAEA and no one has dared demand it.
It was, however, good that Rula Jebreal the misstatements by Jennifer Mizrahi, founder of The Israel Project about Iran’s cooperation with inspections. Middle East analyst Leila Hilal and Mr. Hayes joined Ms. Jebeal had to correct her hyperbolic statements that the Iranians are “different” and not “rational actors” and stop her racist generalization of the Iranians. Ms. Hilal rightfully noted that there is conflation of Islamists saying that Hamas and the Iranians, because they’re Muslims, are going to act to attack Israel. In fact, it’s not Hamas or Iran but the Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Resistance that has been calling for Israel’s destruction and, however lightly, it was mentioned that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has become isolated from the ruling Ayatollahs and increasingly unpopular with Iranians.
It was Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder & president of J Street who made the best observation that the premise of Iran dropping an atomic bomb on Israel, then be wiped out itself, is ridiculous on its face. Yet, here we are with the President of the United States saying that while he wants diplomacy to work but still saying that he has “Israel’s back” and talking about “nuclear capabilty” while Benjamin Netanyahu continues to threaten bombing Iran and right wing US politicians demand it.
The discussion held by Chis Hayes was a step in the right direction to dispel myths and blatant lies and put the facts and reality on the table. The conversation still has a long way to go.