Sharansky: Mobilize now - save the world
Just over three years ago, at the first-ever global forum on anti-Semitism organized by the State of Israel, the essential task was to define the beast - the new anti-Semitism. Since then, as the fourth such global gathering meets this week, efforts to incorporate the "three-D" distinction between legitimate criticism of
These and other accomplishments, as important as they are, have been dwarfed by the quantum leap anti-Semitism itself has taken. It has leapfrogged from isolated attacks against Jews to incitement to genocide - the actual elimination of the Jewish state.
This shift has come in the form of a pincer movement. On one side, we have the Iranian regime, which is denying the Holocaust and calling for
We must recognize the fact that though sympathy for
Given this situation, it should be clear that we are beyond the stage of definitions. The Jewish world now must mobilize at a level no less than during the struggles to establish the State of Israel and to free Soviet Jewry. It is this latter struggle that presents the most potent model for action today.
Though both sides of the genocidal pincer are in quite advanced stages of development, the Jewish world remains mired in pre-mobilization debates reminiscent of the early stages of the Soviet Jewry struggle in the 1960s. This may be hard to recall in light of the subsequent success, but back then a debate raged among Jews over whether a campaign to free Soviet Jewry was "too parochial," and whether being out front risked making it too much of a "Jewish issue."
BEFORE THESE internal debates were resolved the Soviet Jewry effort could not be regarded as a movement, capable of attracting allies and moving governments. Nor were such debates easily, or ever fully, put to rest.
As late as 1987, when the by then mature and powerful movement organized the largest-ever Soviet Jewry rally on Washington's mall to coincide with Mikhail Gorbachev's visit, some Jewish leaders wondered if the community could be mobilized, and if such a rally would be counterproductive. They warned that only a few thousand souls would brave the winter weather, and that the Jewish community would be considered "warmongers" who were spoiling the recent warming of US-Soviet relations.
In actuality, over 250,000 people came to a rally that was pivotal in opening the floodgates, not just to 10,000 or 20,000 Jews, which seemed like a dream at the time, but to a million Jews who came to
Since it has been a while, a reminder is in order of what full mobilization looks like.
First, as Shlomo Avineri has recently proposed, Iranian officials should get the Soviet treatment. Just as no Soviet official, including sport and cultural delegations, could travel without being accosted by protests and hostile questions, so it should be with anyone representing the Iranian regime. As in the Soviet case, such protests will not themselves change Iranian behavior, but they are critical to creating a climate that will influence the policies of Western governments.
Second, an inventory of the governments and companies that provide Iran with refined oil, huge trade deals, and even military and nuclear assistance should be taken and public pressure be put on them to end their complicity with a regime that is racing to genocide.
Third, the pension funds of US states should be divested from all companies that trade with or invest in
Fourth, every country that is party to the Genocide Convention should be called upon to fulfill its obligation under that treaty and seek an indictment of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the charge of incitement to genocide, which is a "punishable offense" under Article III of that treaty.
Fifth, human rights groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which are heavily nourished by Jewish values, passion and funding, must stop squeezing both sides of the genocidal pincer. These groups must be challenged, on the one hand, to press for enforcement of the Genocide Treaty, to stand up for human rights in
JUST AS the two sides of the pincer themselves are connected, so too must be the efforts to combat them. All the above steps concern the Iranian side of the pincer. But combating the other side, the denial of
First, universities that provide chairs for professors who campaign against
This may seem a hopelessly difficult task, but it is not. After 9/11, one woman, a student, took on
We must stand for a basic principle: If denying the Holocaust can land a professor in jail, denying
Second, support for
The fight to support
Then, we successfully argued that the freedom to emigrate was not just a Jewish concern, but a universal one, and we were more right than we knew. The Jackson-Vanik amendment and the Helsinki Accords were critical factors in triggering the internal collapse of the Soviet empire. This collapse not only freed millions of Jews, but all the peoples behind the Iron Curtain, and ended a half-century-old superpower stalemate that threatened the entire planet.
NOW THE WORLD stands at a no less fateful watershed. The world's most dangerous rogue regime is on the verge of obtaining the ultimate weapons of terror. Already,
The moment before mobilization is always a lonely one, in which it seems that the obstacles to making a cause universal are insurmountable. Yet, as in the case of the Soviet Jewry movement, we are not alone. We are surrounded by potential allies who may not themselves know they are ready to join us until we create a movement for them to join.
Our leadership will give others the opportunity to act. If the Jewish world does not lead the way, who will? It is as true now as it was then; if we build it, they will come.
A decade after the wave of democracy that came with the fall of the
The writer is chairman of the Institute for Strategic Studies at the
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