Yes, the newest Persian threat to all of Judaism came to New York and spoke at Columbia University. My rabbi actually spoke about it right before Mussaf on Yom Kippur, and urged the congregation to attend the rally at the UN.

I’m not a member of the Achmadinejad fan club, of course. I think that his statements about Holocaust denial are unacceptable, but they are far less extreme and offensive, in many ways, than the opinion, commonly held throughout the Muslim world, that 9/11 was a Zionist plot. After all, 9/11 happened only six years ago, and was perhaps the most-covered event in human history to date.

I’m not an expert on Iran, but it strikes me as obvious that Iran has not a single thing to gain from accepting the Holocaust narrative as it is told in the West. Moreover, whatever Antisemitism you may wish to impute to Iran, there is no question or doubt that it, almost alone among its neighbors, is accepting of the Jewish faithful within its borders. There aren’t any Jews in Saudi Arabia. Though some have cast Achmadinejad as Hitler II, or perhaps Haman II, Jews have lived peaceably in Iran for generations.

Not only does Iran have little to gain from accepting the Holocaust, and implicitly then, the modern basis for the State of Israel, Iran has no incentive for getting along with the US. Unlike Egypt or Jordan, Iran doesn’t need money. With Iraq gone, Iran has no significant conventional military threat facing it. With its long-range missiles, Iran has a fair deterrent power and relatively long arm, and while I do not have confirmation that Iran possesses chemical weapons, I find it hard to believe that it could not get its hands on them.

What can the US offer Iran other than cultural hegemony? Iran doesn’t want our Wal-Marts and our McDonalds, our Vogue magazine and our MTV. And they want recognition as one of the great empires and cultures of history. And of course, with nuclear-armed neighbors all around them, including Pakistan, India, Russia, and, of course, Israel, Iran’s wondering on what grounds it is to be fairly restrained from acquiring those weapons.

As many of us know, Achmadinejad is himself a figurehead, who stands in for the Ayatollah, who is the real power in Iran. And unlike Achashverosh or old, or Hitler, the Ayatollah is not motivated by an obsessive hatred of Jews. I think that we need to acknowledge that the Ayatollah has a love for Islam and for Persian identity. We need not paint Iran and its leaders in black and white. Iran is powerful, and potentially dangerous, but not necessarily so. Neither the US, nor Israel, nor the Jewish community, should paint themselves into an untenable corner. Iran is certainly funding terrorists and engaging in a sort of Cold-War conflict with the US and Israel, but let’s not forget that the threats Iran faces, whether from the US troops across its border, or the Israeli planes and missiles parked not very far away, are much greater than those it presents.

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