Local Jewish Leaders Voice Strong Concerns About Iran Deal


Members of Philly's Jewish community were quick to express their unease and displeasure with the Iran agreement.

After 20 months of negotiations, the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia reached an agreement Tuesday morning with Iran on its nuclear program. Members of the Philadelphia Jewish community were quick to express their unease and, in many cases, displeasure with the agreement.

According to the deal, Iran will reduce by two-thirds — from 19,000 to 6,104 — the number of centrifuges it operates for at least 10 years and impose new provisions for inspections of Iranian facilities, including military sites. Iran will also receive more than $100 billion in assets frozen overseas, and see an end to both the European embargo on its oil exports and various financial restrictions on Iranian banks. It places bans on enrichment at key facilities, and limits uranium research and development to the Natanz facility.

Steve Feldman, the executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Region of the Zionist Organization of America, said the agreement is a step in the wrong direction and does not benefit the United States or Israel. He added that the U.S. and its leaders should show the same level of commitment to combatting the Iranian regime as during the recent debate over taking down the Confederate flag over the South Carolina capitol building.

For Feldman, the agreement appears to still give Iran the opportunity to produce nuclear weapons — a truly frightening scenario, in his eyes.

“It’s really presenting a great danger to the entire state of Israel and the free world,” he said. “This isn’t in any way a moral victory for the free world. We hope that Congress can stop this.”

Ferne Hassan, the associate director of the Philadelphia region of StandWithUs, the pro-Israel advocay and education nonprofit, said her organization is also concerned about the deal. Not only does it give Iran access to billions in previously frozen assets, but it also mandates that unscheduled inspections are not allowed.

“The world cannot afford a nuclear Iran,” Hassan said. “If this could have been solved diplomatically, we would have been very pleased.”    

Hassan is taking her — and her organization's — opposition to the deal to the streets. StandWithUs will join numerous other organizations and an estimated tens of thousands of demonstrators attending a “Stop Iran” rally in New York City on July 22, where people will speak for peace and against Iran.

Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum said Congress must veto the deal, calling it “arguably the worst international accord not just in American history or modern history, but ever.”

Here is an excerpt of an article Pipes published on the Middle East Forum website on July 16, titled “How Israel Might Destroy Iran's Nuclear Program.”

“Obviously it will not be the American or Russian governments or any of the other four signatories. Practically speaking, the question comes down to Israel, where a consensus holds that the Vienna deal makes an Israeli attack more likely. But no one outside the Israeli security apparatus, including myself, knows its intentions. That ignorance leaves me free to speculate as follows. Three scenarios of attack seem possible:

Airplanes. Airplanes crossed international boundaries and dropped bombs in the 1981 Israeli attack on an Iraqi nuclear installation and in the 2007 attack on a Syrian one, making this the default assumption for Iran. Studies show this to be difficult but attainable.

Special ops. These are already underway: computer virus attacks on Iranian systems unconnected to the Internet that should be immune, assassinations of top-ranking Iranian nuclear scientists, and explosions at nuclear installations. Presumably, Israelis had a hand in at least some of these attacks and, presumably, they could increase their size and scope, possibly disrupting the entire nuclear program. Unlike the dispatch of planes across several countries, special operations have the advantage of reaching places like Fordow, far from Israel, and of leaving little or no signature.

Nuclear weapons. This doomsday weapon, which tends to be little discussed, would probably be launched from submarines. It hugely raises the stakes and so would only be resorted to, in the spirit of ‘Never Again,’ if the Israelis were desperate.”

Robin Schatz, director of government affairs for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, said diplomatic solutions are better than violent ones, but the federation needs more information about the agreement before staking out a position.

“It’s hard to say right now whether we are going to support it,” Schatz said.

Rabbi Howard Alpert, the chief executive officer of the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, said Hillel does not support the deal and it plans to talk to student leaders about the pro-Israel positions that are common in the American Jewish community.  

“I think that the deal is going to complicate the world,” Alpert said. “Many Americans trust the government's judgment, but many pro-Israel students are are now questioning that judgment.”

Contact Jason Cohen: 215-832-0747; jcohen@jewishexponent.com



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