Joe Biden and team pulled a fast-one. On Wednesday, after a month in office, he finally called Netanyahu for a "warm conversation". On Thursday, he announced he was rescinding the sanctions against Iran - emboldening the terrorist regime, and jeopardizing human rights and peace in the region.
02/19/21: Shabbat Shalom - Candle Lighting - 5:36 pm
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel observed that when he was younger he looked up to those who were clever. But as he got older, he looked up to those who were kind. How true on an individual basis. But what if we were to apply this thought on a state-to-state level, how different might our world be?
In my column in this week's National Post (link below) , I argued that the Middle East is a tinderbox on the edge of war. That Iran's strategy has been to create a ring of terror encircling Israel from Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, Iraq and even Yemen. With over 150,000 rockets and missiles pointing at Israel particularly from Hezbollah, its only a matter of time before Israel makes a pre-emptive strike against Iran and its proxies.
To put an end to this madness, I said, Israel's allies must immediately dis-embolden its adversaries by creating a Nato-like alliance of nations willing to defend each other against Iran and friends. Most importantly, I argued, Biden should unequivocally declare that all options are on the table should Israel's security be at stake.
But Biden hasn't done that. Instead, immediately following his "warm" call with Netanyahu, he pulled an Obama. His administration declared it's ready to join talks with Iran and world powers to return to the horrific 2015 nuclear deal. Speaking at today's Munich Security Conference, Biden said, “We must address Iran’s destabilizing activities across the Middle East,” Biden said. “We will work with our European and other partners as we proceed.”
Coordinating with France, the UK and Germany, his administration is reversing sanctions against Iran and eased travel restrictions against Iranian diplomats. In response to these developments, Israel correctly asserted that the US is paving the way to Iran having the bomb.
But Iran will have more than just a nuclear bomb. It will become a powerhouse.
Not surprisingly, the Iranians are feeling victorious, if not emboldened. According to the Tehran Times, President Hassan Rouhani urged "the Biden administration to make up for Donald Trump's mistakes...surrendering to law is not a fault. Do not shy away. What is bad is surrendering to force".
He should talk. Following the 2015 nuclear deal in which the Obama/Biden administration sent $1.5 billion dollars in cash, Iran used the funds to expand its terrorist activities and fund proxies. Just recently, it was reported one of its diplomats was arrested in Europe for smuggling bomb making material with the intent of murdering Iranian dissidents.
A return to negotiation with Iran is not merely about its nuclear development and its threats to Israel and the West. It should also be based on Western values of human rights and freedom. The Iranian people both at home and in the diaspora are suffering heavily from an oppressive and dangerous regime. Re-legitimizing this regime is plain wrong - if only from a human rights point of view.
The preservation of human rights and freedoms should be top of mind always for the West. It represents the foundational principles of our democracies. This is why, a global movement to declare the plight of the Uighur a genocide is so critical. Their horrific internment in camps; slave labour conditions; murder, rape and physical abuse; forced sterilization and so called "re-education" by the Chinese regime is unacceptable.
History will judge and if we are to look at ourselves in the mirror decades from now, how will we answer the questions that are sure to come? Where were you? Did you speak out? What did you say? How did you act? Did you continue supporting the abusive regime? We can no longer be silent. The free world must speak and act.
Indeed, under Canada's leadership, the free world did undertake a paradigm shift this week in an attempt to preserve freedom and protect human rights. It mostly flew under the radar, but Canada led the way with 59 nations joining, including Israel, with a bold declaration against arbitrary detention. In doing this, Canada was aiming at China specifically regarding its unlawful imprisonment of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.
The declaration seemed to have rattled China - as it came out in condemnation of the international declaration - which was also strongly supported by the United States and Israel. This was a good move. It must however be armed with a mechanism of enforcement, such as economic sanctions.
We think about human rights often from a micro framework. In Canada this week, a white nationalist was finally charged with hate speech, after posting a series of antisemitic and hateful videos. Justice against those who sow hate and discord is imperative. That same framework, under the same values and ethical code, should be applicable state-to-state.
In the West, we must have a principled code of conduct - for the sake of maintaining our own values. Dealing with Iran or China for that matter, on a level playing field reduces us to their level.
Rabbi Abraham Heschel was right. What our world needs is more kindness. And any self-respecting person who has matured in thought and intellect would apply this philosophy to global affairs. The world is filled with good people. We have to find them, embolden them and strengthen their ability to radiate that energy.
At the end of the day, what will win the day against the forces of hate is people to people peace initiatives that can build bridges of harmony and co-existence. The recent peace deals between the Gulf States and Morocco and Israel are an example of a unified front against hate. That optimism should be our primary focus.
- Shabbat Shalom
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Read My Article in National Post: The Coming War in the Middle East and How to Stop It