While it is well known that Israeli politicians, in and out of government, are pushing for a hard line on Iran, the role of American Jewish groups on this issue is less clear.
The Jewish Daily Forward reported last Friday that “American Jewish groups have also stepped up their advocacy efforts regarding Iran, though they generally press for aggressive diplomatic steps without pushing for military action. These groups have lavishly praised the Bush administration in recent days, after the U.S. Treasury Department banned an Iranian bank from doing business with American entities.”
The bank in question is the state-owned Bank Sepah, described by a Treasury official in remarks to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as “the financial linchpin of Iran’s missile-procurement network.”
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Vice Premier Shimon Peres have raised the possibility of an Israeli military retaliation against Iran should it attack Israel. And they have gone further, pointing out that Israel is equipped with a nuclear arsenal.
Former Democratic presidential candidate General Wesley Clark — who is likely to run again in 2008 — threw himself into a political storm when he told Arianna Huffington, “New York money people” are pushing the U.S. into war with Iran, noting, “you just have to read what’s in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided, but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers.”
“The phrase ‘New York money people’ struck unpleasant chords with many pro-Israel activists,” the Forward reports. “They interpreted it as referring to the Jewish community, which is known for its significant financial donations to political candidates.”
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Forward, “He is a friend of Israel and is not an antisemite,” adding, “but some of the things he said are very, very unfortunate.”
Clark followed up with a letter to Foxman saying, “I will not tolerate antisemitic conspiracy webs to permeate the honest debate Americans must have about how best to confront Iran.”
Clark made a point in the last campaign of noting his pride in the fact his own father was Jewish.