July 27, 2015
Jews Stood Up to the U.S. Government 40 Years Ago, and Should Again on Iran – Natan Sharansky (Washington Post)
- Like many Israelis and American Jews, I find myself in a precarious and painful situation. Those of us who believe that the nuclear agreement just signed with Iran is dangerously misguided are now compelled to criticize Israel’s best friend and ally, the U.S. government. As difficult as this situation is, however, it is not unprecedented. Jews have been here before, 40 years ago.
- In the early 1970s, Republican President Richard Nixon inaugurated his policy of detente with the Soviet Union, aiming to end the Cold War by normalizing relations. As Nixon moved to grant the Soviet Union most-favored-nation trade status, Democratic Sen. Henry Jackson proposed what became a historic amendment, conditioning the removal of sanctions on the Soviet Union’s allowing free emigration for its citizens. Jackson’s amendment sought to link improved economic relations to behavioral change by the USSR. The U.S. administration objected furiously.
- American Jewish organizations were reluctant to speak out against the U.S. government and appear to put the “narrow” Jewish interest above the cause of peace. Yet they realized that the freedom of all Soviet Jews was at stake, and they actively supported the policy of linkage. It was a Republican senator, Jacob Javits, who, spurred by a sense of responsibility for the Jewish future, helped put together the bipartisan group that ensured passage.
- In 1977, I was arrested and accused of high treason, allegedly as a spy for the CIA; in the indictment, Sen. Jackson was listed as my main accomplice. But in the end our cause was victorious and paved the way for the regime’s eventual collapse.
- Today, an American president has once again sought to achieve stability by removing sanctions against a brutal dictatorship without demanding that the latter change its behavior. And once again, a group of outspoken Jews – leaders of the State of Israel from the governing coalition and the opposition alike – are sounding an alarm. The U.S. can either appease a criminal regime or stand firm in demanding change in its behavior.
The writer, a human rights activist and former political prisoner in the Soviet Union, is chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
(Click on the article’s title to see the whole article…Ed.)