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No, Mr. Netanyahu! We Won't Let You Drag the U.S. into War With Iran!

02/23/2015 07:48 am ET | Updated Apr 25, 2015

American Jews are Asking Our non-Jewish Neighbors To Stand With us Against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's alliance with American Militarists.

We have a big problem: the Israeli Prime Minister wants to drag the US into a proxy war for Israel against Iran, and Jews are likely to get the blame when that war turns out be an even bigger disaster than the US war in Iraq.

We need our non-Jewish neighbors to help us get out the message that Netanyahu does not speak for us and his policies are actually the opposite of what most American Jews support.

The problem is intensified, because the media continually quotes the leaders of the 20% of our most reactionary Jews rather than those who are more in tune with the 70-80% of liberal and progressive American Jews. That is one reason why I want you (our non-Jewish neighbors as well as Jews) to sign and donate to an ad we will take in major American media to make our case and not let the militarists drown out our voice.

Help us buy a full page ad in the NY Times to get our message to the decision makers. Click to see the ad here. And send info to everyone on your email lists and place this whole article on your Facebook or other social media, tweet about it, and let people know: there is something you can do besides containing your anger as the reactionary Congress gives him standing ovation after standing ovation. You can get a different voice heard-- by getting everyone you know to sign and support this message: "NO, Mr. Netanyahu! We won't let you drag the U.S. into war with Iran.

More on the media ads below, but first let me explain the situation.

A few weeks ago, after having arranged with House Speaker Boehner to address a joint session of the newly minted Republican-dominated Congress while intentionally snubbing the normal protocol of first approaching the U.S. President, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu claimed to speak for all of the world Jews.

Yet all the polls of American Jews resoundingly reject the politics that Netanyahu has followed. Netanyahu doesn't speak for us. He did everything possible to undermine US sponsored peace negotiations with the Palestinians--yet the American Jewish majority supports the creation of an economically and politically viable Palestinian state. While he rejects policies that would alleviate the extreme disparity between rich and poor in Israel, among the worst in the advanced industrial countries, most American Jews believe that governments should be doing more to bridge this gap. While he believes that Jews can never be safe anywhere but Israel, meanwhile pursuing policies toward Palestinians that have made most Israelis feel less safe than ever in this past year, most American Jews believe that we can count on the goodness and fairness of the American people and do not need to prepare an escape route to Israel.

Most importantly, while he is coming to align himself with American militarists in both parties with the aim of pressuring President Obama to make demands on the Iranians that will be impossible for them to meet, and then pushing the U.S. into military action against Iran, most American Jews support President Obama's attempts to negotiate a peaceful path that would allow Iran to develop nuclear power for peaceful purpose but would prohibit it from developing nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu's strategy is clear and clever. If he can push the Obama policymakers to stick with demands that Iran will find impossible to accept, essentially asking of them to give up any form of nuclear power, a demand we do not make on most other countries in the region (not China, not India,not Pakistan, and certainly not Israel), Netanyahu will set the stage for the failure of those negotiations. If Netanyahu has his way, the Republican Congress will insist on higher and higher levels of sanctions, which will further entrench the most militaristic elements in Iran who will insist that the US and Israel are clearly hankering for a military confrontation and that Iran's only protection is to develop nuclear weapons. And once Iran starts in that direction, the direction that Israel has pursued for the past forty years, Israel will appeal to the American people to save it from "another Holocaust"--and many decent Americans, remembering the failure of the Christian world to come to our defense when the Nazis were murdering us Jews by the millions, will feel inclined to support a military strike against Iran, which will in turn lead Iran to strike at Israel (as the U.S.'s nearest proxy), and from there the U.S. will be dragged into yet another impossible-to-win Middle East war, achieving Israel's goal of wiping out Iran as a Middle East power.

I am one of many American Jews who would be happy to see the mullahs nonviolently replaced by a democratic and human rights regime in Iran. The human rights violations of the Iranian regime are among the worst in the entire world. The U.S. has its own dirty hands when it comes to torture (we are still kept from reading the entire torture report developed by the Senate last year, and we still have a CIA filled with people who have used and continue to defend torture). The U.S. contnues to support human rights-abusing regimes around the world, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Moreover, when we see what happened with U.S. intervention in Iraq, similarly motivated by the Republican militarists' lie that Iraq had nuclear weapons, we don't see an outcome of democracy and human rights triumphing, but rather the emergence of more primitive forces coming to the fore in the form of ISIS (the Islamic State). U.S. military intervention cannot be counted on to improve human rights.

The most likely outcome of a war with Iran will be the strengthening of the most extreme Islamic forces and the further curtailing of human rights, or the emergence of forces like the Islamic State through even larger swaths of the Middle East. Faced with increasing sanctions that have transparently been imposed by Israeli influence over US foreign policy, Iranians will be less likely to support moderation, more likely to take seriously the kind of anti-Semitism that the previous Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tried to foster, but was repudiated at the polls in the last Iranian election.

Most Americans have indicated in recent polls that they do not support the way Netanyahu and the Republican Congress have created this scenario. Most Americans support a path of negotiations and do not want those negotiations derailed by militarists in both political parties, some of whom are responding to the most right-wing elements in the Jewish world, others to the Christian fundamentalists who mistakenly believe they are serving the interests of the Jewish people when they back the repressive policies of the Netanyahu government.
Yet should Netanyahu and the militarists prevail--and those some militarist forces have prevailed over and over again in setting US policy even while a majority of Americans sought another path--the resulting disaster will almost certainly result in growing distaste for Israel and might even lead to the surfacing of anti-Semitism as a returning force in American politics where it has been underground since the Holocaust and the US war with the Nazis made it "poor taste" to articulate the anti-Semitism that continues to resonate in some passages of the New Testament.

A resurgence of anti-Semitism would seemingly provide validation to the Netanyahu-style Zionists who insist that Jews should leave their countries of birth and move to Israel as the only place they can be safe. We saw that play out in the past month when some Jews were killed in France, and then In Denmark, and Netanyahu then appealed to all French and Danish Jews to move to Israel.

But there is nothing inevitable about this scenario. While President Obama has capitulated to the militarists over and over again in his presidency, the apparent rudeness and disrespect publicly demonstrated by Netanyahu gives us peace forces a unique opportunity. What is needed are two things by liberal and progressive forces: 1. An alternative strategy, and 2. The means to communicate that to the American people.

We at Tikkun magazine and our interfaith and secular-humanist-and-atheist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives have the strategy. We are calling upon the liberal and progressive forces to challenge the central paradigm of politics and economics in the Western world, namely, the view that teaches that the only way we can ever achieve "homeland security" is through military, economic, cultural, political and diplomatic "power over" others (I call it "the Strategy of Domination").

Instead, we must advocate for a "Strategy of Generosity" as the best path to security--a path in which we show others that we genuinely care about them and their well being, respect their culture or religion (while acknowledging that their religions, like Western religions, have both a generous side and a domination side, so we don't have to pander to the domination side as a sign of value-free 'respect'), and that we can acknowledge that Western-sponsored capitalist corporations and the culture, economics and politics they promote has played a destructive and destabilizing role in much of the global south and global east, most particularly in the Middle East.

So the Global Marshall Plan proposed by Tikkun (please download and read the full version of it at www.tikkun.org/gmp) avoids the pitfalls of previous attempts to provide aid, insists on putting local indigenous people and not their national leaders in charge of rebuilding locally viable economies, and requires the US and other Western powers to abandon trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA, and the now secretly negotiated TTP Trans Pacific Partnership and replace them with trade arrangements that foster those local economies rather than benefit Western multi-national corporations. Environmentalists are teaching us that we must abandon the capitalist vision of endless growth and struggle to dominate the world--and that change is precisely what is needed to develop a foreign policy that can create the groundwork for international environmental sanity as well as genuine security for the peoples of the world.

But how do we get this idea better known? For that we need financial support (know anyone in liberal foundations who can think beyond short-term "results" and imagine supporting a long-term consciousness-transformation approach?), organizing skills, and the media savvy to build a large popular movement. Will you help us? I hope it's clear by now that being part of this process is not something exclusively for Jews--it is for people of every possible ethnic, religious, and national background who wants to build a world of love and justice, generosity and caring for each other and the planet. This is precisely what our interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP) is all about. Our central goal is to change public discourse and imagination so that we can get people to adopt "a New Bottom Line" in which institutions, corporations, government polices, our educational system, our legal system, our health care system and even our personal behavior is understood to be efficient, rational or productive not primarily to the extent that they maximize money, power, growth, or power over others (the Old Bottom Line) but to the extent that they maximize our capacities to be loving, caring, kind, generous, generating environmentally sustainable behavior, and capable of transcending a narrow utilitarian or instrumental way of seeing others ("what can they do for me") and the earth ("what can I use it for to advance my own interests") so that we can respond to others as embodiments of the sacred and to Nature with awe, wonder and radical amazement at the grandeur of the universe. That way of thinking is the defining aspect of being a "spiritual progressive"--you don't have to believe in God or in any New Age woo-woo to be a spiritual progressive, only to want this New Bottom Line.

First step? Sign and donate to the ad we are hoping to raise enough money to put into the New York Times this week around the time Netanyahu comes to the U.S. March 3rd. The ad proudly proclaims in the name of Jews and our non-Jewish allies that "NO Mr. Netanyahu, you don't speak for American Jews" and "Americans Don't Want A War With Iran." If you want to see what the ad will look like, go to https://org.salsalabs.com/o/525/images/Netenyahu_NYT_Mar.4%20(1).pdf

If you'd be willing to help us put this ad in the New York Times and other media in the U.S. and Israel, please go to www.tikkun.org/peaceproject to use your credit card to donate, or do it on the phone by calling Leila at 510 644 1200 9-5 Pacific Standard Time M-F or by sending a check to Tikkun at 2342 Shattuck Ave, Box #1200, Berkeley, Ca. 94704.

Please put this ad and this message on your own social media (Facebook, etc.), tweet about it, put on your home page and ask your friends to read and sign it, please!!! Don't let the conservative voices dominate in public discourse and drag the week kneed Administration into a disastrous path that leads to war. Sign and donate to the ad! If you give at least $300 your name will appear in the NY Times ad. If you give less, it may still appear (though of course you can opt out by telling us that you just want to donate, but not have your name appear).

And for the long-run, please join our NSP--Network of Spiritual Progressives and be part of the movement for a New Bottom Line, support the Global Marshall Plan and support our proposed ESRA Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (read them all and join at our home page www.spiritualprogressives.org). When you join the NSP at $50 or more you'll get a one year subscription to Tikkun magazine (and you can opt to have it come electronically if you don't want it on paper).

All this sounds unrealistic? Well, what I've learned in the 51 years since I became a social change activist is this: you never know what is realistic until you begin to put your energies behind what is desirable. That is the main lesson of the struggle to end segregation and apartheid, overcome 10,000 years of patriarchy, acquire marriage rights for gays and lesbians! Don't be realistic!!! Put your energies behind your highest dreams for the world you really want. And help us make that world possible step by step by step!

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun Magazine, co-chair with India's environmental activist Vandana Shiva of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley, Ca. and author of 11 books,including two national best sellers: Jewish Renewal:A Path of Healing and Transformation and The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right. He is happy to hear from anyone who has signed and donated to the ad: rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com