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Iran a concern for everyone

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Why is the Jewish Council for Public Affairs making
a nuclear-armed Iran its principal concern in the year to come? Keeping
Iran from developing nuclear weapons is a goal that unites people of
diverse races, ethnic backgrounds, nationalities and religions. Not
only in the United States, but also in Germany, Great Britain, France,
Russia and Japan, 82 percent to 97 percent of people polled expressed
opposition to allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons, according to a
June 2006 survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project.Moderate Arab
states, too, are extremely worried about the destabilizing influence of
Iran’s determination to develop nuclear weapons capability.[photo MartinRaffel align=left]But
for American Jews, it is the profound threat to Israel posed by a
nuclear-armed Iran that is galvanizing a growing activism. Iran’s support of terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah, its role in
supplying improvised explosive devises to insurgents in Iraq
and the outrageous statements of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad –
including the assertion that Israel should be “wiped off the map” –
make the prospect of a nuclear Iran terrifying and intolerable.Our
heightened apprehension on behalf of the Jewish state, however, does
not make this a Jewish issue or an Israel issue. It is a world issue.
The Jewish community must be part of, even leaders of, efforts to apply
the strongest possible pressure on Iran – but we must not stand alone.The
Jewish community relations field is uniquely positioned to educate and
engage a broad array of organizations and community leaders –
religious, ethnic and civic – in calling for diplomatic, political and
economic measures to halt Iran’s progress on nuclear weapons
development. Many of these leaders already see the importance of
stopping Iran, but may not feel the urgency that resonates in the
Jewish community.Some may not yet recognize the critical stage Iran
has reached in producing enriched uranium. It is vital that leaders in
the Jewish community relations field reach out now to our allies, and
even to our adversaries on some issues, in order to build the broad
coalition essential to taking effective action.This is not new
for us. For more than half a century, JCPA and local Jewish community
relations councils have forged relationships with counterparts
in other religious, racial and ethnic communities in order to build
support for Jewish community issues, gain insight into the concerns of
other groups and present a united front in areas of common cause.From
civil rights to immigration to Darfur, the Jewish community has stood
with others in demanding social justice, civil liberties and
humanitarian aid. Now we must encourage our colleagues and friends to
stand with us, to educate their constituencies, and to encourage
America’s political leaders and nations around the globe to take
strong, unambiguous actions to end Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. The JCPA, whose capacity has been
greatly augmented by the United Jewish Communities/JCPA Israel Advocacy Initiative, is
developing educational programs, convening regular conference calls,
identifying speakers, conducting media briefings, preparing talking
points and model Op-Ed pieces, and offering guidance on divesting
pension funds and other assets from companies doing business in or with
Iran.JCPA’s Web site, www.jewishpublicaffairs.org, includes a separate
section on Iran with suggestions for action, news stories and other
resources, among them JCPA’s new online publication, the Iran Monitor.
All of these activities are intended to support the work of our
national and local member agencies.At the local level, JCRCs
have begun reaching out to non-Jewish coalition partners to build
advocacy campaigns reflective of the widespread concern about Iran’s
actions. The Boston and Chicago JCRCs have produced comprehensive
strategic plans that include enlisting the active involvement of
elected officials, along with civic, ethnic and religious leaders and other
non-Jewish influentials; a media strategy that encourages Jewish and
non-Jewish community leaders to write Op-Ed pieces and letters to the
editor, call in to radio talk shows and monitor news coverage of Iran;
support for sanctions, divestment and other economic measures; and
outreach to key foreign governments through visits or communications
with consuls general. Momentum is building in the United
Nations and governments around the world to find a way to alter Iran’s
course. On March 24, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution
imposing increased economic sanctions on Iran. The sanctions are having
enough impact on the Iranian economy that some factions within the
country are beginning to criticize Ahmadinejad’s policies.But it is
not enough. The American government must keep the pressure on the United Nations,
and the American people must keep the pressure on our government. This
is a crucial moment in a critical fight. To win, the voice of the
Jewish community must be loud and clear, but only one among many.
Jewish community relations agencies can play the vital role of forging
the coalitions that bring together a wide range of voices singing one
song that Iran will be sure to hear. (Martin J. Raffel is the senior associate executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.)

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