Open Letter to Rabbi Boteach

Dear Rabbi Shmuley Boteach,

I write to call on you to categorically reject the deplorable comments made by Sheldon Adelson in which he said, at an event you convened, that the U.S. should nuke Iran. I was shocked that, instead of denouncing these comments, you embraced them, led a public defense of them, and even labeled his words as "innocuous."

Adelson's extreme comments are not innocuous, they carry great consequence. They carry political consequence given that Mr. Adelson is a major donor to many politicians, Middle East-focused think tanks and advocacy groups, and prominent Jewish organizations. Similarly, your acceptance and defense of these comments is not innocuous either, it carries great moral consequence. As a rabbi, your defense of these comments place such deplorable, violent rhetoric within the realm of morally acceptable discourse. As not just a religious leader, but a person of considerable influence in the Jewish community, policymaking circles, and the broader American public, your words are bound by moral responsibility. As such, I call on you to end this brazen shirking of your moral responsibility and to reject Adelson's deplorable comments and to support dialogue and peaceful solutions.

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's hate-filled rhetoric against Israel was also far from innocuous, and it was rightly condemned by many -- including myself and many influential members of the Iranian-American community. Thankfully, his disastrous presidency is over and nobody is more pleased than Iranians and Iranian Americans who have borne the brunt of the Iranian government's repression.

Now is not the time for more hate speech. It is time to turn the page on decades of enmity and seize the moment for serious dialogue and diplomacy with Iran to resolve our concerns -- including the security concerns of the people of the United States, Israel, and Iran.

I have long argued that peace between Israel and Iran is possible, but requires that political leaders -- as well as moral and religious leaders -- demonstrate the courage to forge a new path. Instead of perpetuating the rhetoric that has haunted American, Israeli, and Iranian relationships, you have a duty to help our communities embrace common bonds and forge a new path forward. Instead, you have decided to stand by Sheldon Adelson's comments; your defense of these comments recapitulate the hate-filled past.

I urge you not to surrender the moral high ground: Instead of standing by Adelson's radical comments, I urge you to strongly reject all violent and hate filled rhetoric.


Trita Parsi, Ph.D.
National Iranian American Council

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