Malcolm Hoenlein blasted those in the Jewish community “who seek to get attention by sowing discord” on the Iran issue.
“We need to put aside our differences and stand together” against the threat of Iran, said the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations as he moderated a panel at National Jewish Leadership Advocacy Day on Iran on Thursday.
Hoenlein did not specify who exactly he was referring to in his public remarks, and declined to do when asked by JTA, but he seemed to be reacting to a statement released the day before by Americans for Peace Now opposing “crippling” sanctions "that target the Iranian people, rather than their leaders" and backing "engagement" without "arbitrary deadlines." That statement contradicted the message of the Thursday event, during which leaders were calling for increased economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran and for the passage of the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, which would punish companies that help Iran import or produce refined petroleum.
The advocacy day was organized by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Iran, which is led by the Conference of President, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, UJC/Federations of North America and NCSJ: Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States and Eurasia. APN is a member of the Conference of Presidents.
Hoenlein stressed that there was wide unity in the community that increased pressure on Iran was necessary, citing the nine rabbinical and synagogue organizations which released a joint statement on the issue a few days earlier and the representation of a huge array of Jewish groups at Thursday’s event.
Hoenlein also noted that the term “crippling sanctions” in regard to Iran was actually first used by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this year, and said that such sanctions are “not targeting people.”
That was a point made by others at Thursday’s event. Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism director Rabbi David Saperstein pointed out in an interview that advocates looked at how past sanctions placed on countries such as Iraq worked before deciding how to handle Iran.
“These sanctions are much more targeted,” he said, and were selected because they were not aimed at the Iranian people.