TEL AVIV – Israeli police beefed up security last week for the American ambassador, Dan Shapiro, after he received a series of death threats related to U.S. support for the Iran nuclear deal.
At least three explicit death threats were delivered in writing last Wednesday alone, following an undisclosed number in the preceding days to his home and the U.S. embassy. In addition, a threatening post appeared on his Facebook page calling him a “kapo,” the term for Jews who assisted Nazi concentration camp guards. The threats and police response were reported in the Washington political news site The Hill as well as numerous Israeli news outlets (here , here and here , for example).
The threats against the ambassador follow weeks of intense rhetoric from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials, accusing the Obama administration of concluding an Iranian nuclear agreement that could lead to Israel’s destruction and even a new Holocaust. Beginning in late July those alarms were augmented by accusations from American Jewish activists that the administration and its allies were using anti-Semitic innuendo to intimidate their critics into silence.
It may sound like a cliché, but Iran is not a monolith. Even amongst the hardliners, significant divisions exist on issues as ideologically critical as the Islamic Republic’s position on Israel.
The real Iran is very different from Netanyahu’s Iran. The Israeli prime minister’s depictions of Iran have become increasingly comical over the years, from claiming that Iran constitutes an existential threat to Israel (questionable at best as this is challenged by many senior officials in Israel’s security establishment ), to asserting that Iranians are not allowed to wear jeans (prompting Iranians to take to social media to post pictures of themselves wearing jeans to mock Netanyahu), to tweeting that Iran’s ultimate objective is to take over the entire planet, to presenting Iran as if it is as obsessed with Israel as Netanyahu is with Iran.
A single week in Iran was sufficient for Cohler-Esses to discover a different reality. A reality where Iranians stake their attitudes toward Israel more on Israeli policies than on Islamic ideologies. Where the desire to confront Israel can only be found among a small minority, overshadowed by the desire to be left alone, which is held by the majority. Where the venomous rhetoric against Israel coming from parts of the Iranian government does not translate into hostility toward a self-identified American Jewish journalist writing for a Jewish pro-Israel paper — not even from members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who let him cut through the line and use his camera where he wasn’t permitted to.
- ○ A Jewish Journalist’s Exclusive Look Inside Iran by Larry Cohler-Esses
Immigrant Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin, a member of the security cabinet, criticized a large group of American rabbis who sent a letter to Congressmen Tuesday urging that they support the Iranian nuclear deal.
Elkin, who is one of the politicians closest to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said he was disappointed that the rabbis have not joined efforts to persuade Congress to reject the deal next month when it votes on the controversial agreement.
“The American Jewish community has always been proud that it defends the State of Israel and represents it,” Elkin told Army Radio.
“If the Jews of America did not attain their strength [for this], for what else?” Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich said the US was a democratic country in which everyone had a right to their opinion. and downplayed the letter.
“It is clear to me that the overwhelming majority of American Jews oppose the deal and think as I do that it is dangerous for Israel,” Smotrich said.
The letter was signed by 340 rabbis from all streams of Judaism and sent to all members of Congress.
“The Obama administration has successfully brought together the major international powers to confront Iran over its nuclear ambitions,” the rabbis wrote. “The broad international sanctions moved Iran to enter this historic agreement. Should this agreement be rejected by the US Congress, those sanctions will end. There will be no new negotiations as the other member countries are fully in favor of this agreement and have no desire to renegotiate.”
The rabbis said they understand that the agreement does not deal with Iran’s support for terrorism, but they said that was never the purpose of the negotiations.