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Rabbi Boteach defends Adelson’s ‘glib’ nuking comment, PR firm calls it ‘innocuous’

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Richard Joel, Miri Adelson, Sheldon Adelson, Bret Stephens, Shmuley Boteach, and Boteach's daughter. Woman at left unknown

Richard Joel, Miri Adelson, Sheldon Adelson, Bret Stephens, Shmuley Boteach, and Boteach’s daughter. Woman at left unknown

Shmuley Boteach is angry about what he calls misrepresentations of comments made at his panel the other night at Yeshiva University. He is defending Sheldon Adelson in the Jerusalem Post for  urging Obama to fire an “atomic weapon” into Iran rather than negotiate. He’s released full video of the event.

The PR firm Richard Rubenstein also released a statement in Boteach’s name on Adelson’s comments calling them “innocuous”:

RABBI SHMULEY BOTEACH RESPONDS TO MEDIA REPORTS ABOUT SHELDON ADELSON’S COMMENTS AT “WILL JEWS EXIST?” FORUM ON EXISTENTIAL THREATS CONFRONTING JEWS WORLDWIDE

NEW YORK– OCTOBER 24, 2013 – Following Tuesday evening’s forum titled “Will Jews Exist? Iran, Assimilation, and the Threat to Israel and Jewish Survival,” one comment from Jewish philanthropist Sheldon Adelson on Iran made headlines.

In response to a question posed by moderator Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on what actions the U.S. should take in order to prevent Iran from creating a nuclear device, Adelson made an innocuous comment that a bomb being detonated in a desolate Iranian desert as a warning would “not hurt a soul, except for a few rattlesnakes.”…

In the JPost, Boteach walks back the innocuous claim. He says that Adelson’s “glib” and hyperbolic comment was intended to goad liberal critics into attacking him and thereby call attention to their hypocrisy re the Hitlers in Iran. When you read that analysis, remember that Boteach is a good friend of liberals Senator Cory Booker and UN Ambassador Samantha Power. I.e., the lobby has enchanted our political discourse.

Likening Iran’s leaders to Hitler, Boteach writes:

Whatever Hitler said, nobody took him seriously. They treated his rantings as a tasteless form of benign political posturing. They found him darkly amusing.

I’m not sure that’s accurate. The rabbi and the billionaire are pictured, above, at the event. More from the column:

In response to my question as to what the United States should do to show Iran that we are serious about preventing them from getting a nuclear device, Sheldon said that an atomic bomb should be detonated in an empty Iranian desert as a warning to the regime of the lengths to which we will go to stop them from obtaining nuclear weapons. The nuclear demonstration in a desert wasteland should “not hurt a soul, except for a few rattlesnakes,” but should serve as a shot across their bow.

Asked the next day how earnest Sheldon had been, Ron Reese, his spokesman, said, “As one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs, Mr. Adelson was using hyperbole to make a point that — based on his nearly seven decade-long experience negotiating business deals — actions speak louder than words.”

But whether media commentators saw Sheldon as being serious or purposefully using exaggeration in order to make the larger point that the United States must go to extremes to ensure that Iran never gets a nuke, I found the reaction to his statement illuminating as to the double standards that are often employed on matters relating to Israel.

In 2005 when former Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, suggested that Israel must be wiped off the map, with the murder of the six million Jews who live there being the precondition of such erasure, he somehow managed to get invited to speak at Columbia University and, repeatedly, from the rostrum of the United Nations where he reiterated his genocidal intent against the Jewish state. And yes, Ahmadinejad’s comments of course provoked outrage. But his stated intention of perpetrating a second holocaust still did not get him barred from receiving prestigious invitations from the likes of the Council on Foreign relations.

Sheldon’s glib comments about nuking rattle snakes seemed to rattle many of the bloggers who were at our event even more than Ahmadinejad’s threats.

And let’s not fool ourselves about Iran’s genocidal posture toward Israel even post-Ahmadinejad…

Indeed, when I sat with Sheldon on the podium and heard him make his remark, my initial thought was that his purpose was to goad his more liberal critics into attacking the policy so that their double standards on nuclear threats against Israel could be exposed. Would they show outrage at Sheldon’s comments about a nuke in an empty Iranian desert, but not be at least as enraged by Iran’s continued threats of annihilation of the Jewish state?…

When I read of the holocaust I often ask myself how Hitler was allowed to rise to prominence in the first place. After all, the world bore continuous witness to the hatred and venom that spewed from his speeches and writings against the Jews. So why didn’t they stop him?

But in light of Ahmadinejad being invited to address Ivy League Universities and the most prestigious think tanks in America amid his stated goal of exterminating the Jewish state, I now understand. Whatever Hitler said, nobody took him seriously. They treated his rantings as a tasteless form of benign political posturing. They found him darkly amusing. And it took the incineration of six million Jews and the destruction of much of Europe to discover that ultimately the joke was on us.

I would hope that the alarm engendered by Sheldon’s statement on the extent to which the United States should go to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon will at least engender a much stronger protest against its actual development. And if so, then at least, whatever the disagreement with Sheldon’s hyperbolic comments, he sure got your attention.

Update: This post originally stated that the PR firm is Howard Rubenstein. We were corrected. Apologies.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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37 Responses

  1. Reds
    October 25, 2013, 9:45 am

    Except of course Iran never said wipe
    Israel off the map.

    Under fair.org “now they tell us Iran never threaten to wipe Israel off the map” and the interview on Al J by a meme bet I Likud stated the same. They said Iran called Israel a cancer which just so happens the same Likud uses against there own African immigrants and African Jews.

    • Krauss
      October 25, 2013, 11:33 am

      Boteach is a such a camera hogger that it’s entirely possible he simply doesn’t care about any of these issues nearly as much as been seen in a controversy. Where is this ‘backlash’ he is acting as if he is responding too? Aside from specialized sites like this, there has barely been any discussion about the event at all.

      After losing his Congressional race, Boteach needs to find some way to stay relevant, and to ride on Adelson’s back is one way to do it.

  2. Reds
    October 25, 2013, 9:55 am

    Isn’t their some type of Godwin’s law on comparing Iran to Hilter ? Maybe another on %?Also where’s the ADL ? They call it anti-Semitic if any comparisons are to Israel yet see no problem with such against Iran. One would think such comparisons do a
    Disservice to the victims of the Nazi’s?

    Alan D. Was on radio boston last night spewing his crap about double standards yet in the interview made contrarian statements in his soft ball interview .

    I guess repeat the Iranian lie enough times the media will just believe it. But I do find it funny that on one hand Pro-Israeli supported will shout out how the Iranian president has no power or real control then shout out how the Iranian has all this power and control like Hilter did.

  3. William Burns
    October 25, 2013, 10:33 am

    Shmuley Boteach is at least admirably upfront about the fact that he’s kissing the ass of a rich donor. Way to stand in the tradition of the prophets, dude!

    • Hostage
      October 25, 2013, 12:10 pm

      Way to stand in the tradition of the prophets, dude!

      According to Jewish tradition, Ezra the scribe wrote the 24 books of the Tanakh from memory. Ezra and Nehemiah had no Divine sanction to return from the exile, exclude the people of the Land (Am Ha’aretz), or to rebuild the Temple. Neither man was a prophet.

      The Cyrus Cylinder provides evidence that the Persian King did not single out the God of Israel and his Temple for any special honor or treatment, as the author or redactor of the book of Isaiah had implied. So Isaiah may be the earliest example of Zionist propaganda in which someone took matters into their own hands in order to concoct a Messianic figure, end the exile, and promote emigration to Palestine. Most of the Jews chose to remain in Babylonia instead.

  4. pabelmont
    October 25, 2013, 10:55 am

    Many Israelis and their enablers in the USA do not want a shift away from the present apartheid system. They avoid a green-line 2SS as if it were an “existential threat” (the current magic buzz word meaning “we really, really don’t like this”) and they also cannot stomach a real 1SS democracy, even with ONLY a Palestinian 49% — and they fear a Palestinian majority ijn short order. They are fixed in vicious immorality (apartheid) by their twin fears, generated by their inconsistent desire for a large Jewish majority (a consistent and long-term desire) and their desire for a democratic state (an inconsistent, apparently dispensable desire, now being thrown out by the right-wing nuts who run the country).

    Yuval Diskin, former Shin Bet chief, deplores the death of the 2SS because he sees the 1SS as an “existential threat .

    We are approaching a point of no return regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, it may be that we have already crossed it.

    The issue may not seem as urgent to the Israeli public as the Iranian nuclear program, which has become, with the help of our leaders, a central focus of discussion at the expense of other pressing issues. To my regret, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has yet to reach a prominent place at the top of our list of priorities, nor has it become the second-, even third-most important issue.

    However, this subject has a place in our essence, in our identity, in our souls, in our security, and in our perception of morality – as a society or nation that has come to rule another nation.

    * * *

    As for the Palestinians, I believe that in the long term they will not lose from the disintegration of the two-state option and the shift to a nearly inevitable outcome of the one remaining reality – a state “from the sea to the river,” in other words, “one state for two nations.”

    When we get there, we will face an immediate existential threat of the erasure of the identity of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and in a few years, the reality of the country’s demographics will lead to a Palestinian- Arab majority and a Jewish minority, with all that entails.

  5. Annie Robbins
    October 25, 2013, 11:22 am

    what i thought was interesting was boteach avoided any mention of what adelson said after the rattlesnake comment. about the next one aimed at tehran. hmm

    Then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development.

    our way or the highway.

    • DICKERSON3870
      October 25, 2013, 8:17 pm

      For some strange reason, when Sheldon Adelson suggests (glibly, or not) that the U.S. threaten to nuke a metropolitan area containing as many as 14 million people (according to Wikipedia), it brings to mind Philip Roth’s novel, The Human Stain!
      Go figure! ! !

  6. marc b.
    October 25, 2013, 11:39 am

    it’s difficult to overstate the case of their dishonesty and racist, military death fixation. adelson’s commentary was anything but ‘glib’. it perfectly mirrors the hypothetical analysis made by historians regarding the bombing of Japan, i.e. should the atomic bomb have first been displayed on an uninhabited stage before dropping it on an enemy population. and there is no confusion over the translation of his commentary, as opposed to the serial, intentional mistranslation of Iranian commentary. adelson proposed that a nuclear-armed power consider the use of an nuclear bomb on a population of tens of millions as part of a strategy to change that country’s state of mind. (that’s some radical psycho-therapy.) yet another idiot savant who equates his bank account balance with intelligence, and the groups of amen-idiots who worship them.

  7. DICKERSON3870
    October 25, 2013, 11:45 am

    RE: “Sheldon said that an atomic bomb should be detonated in an empty Iranian desert as a warning to the regime of the lengths to which we will go to stop them from obtaining nuclear weapons. The nuclear demonstration in a desert wasteland should “not hurt a soul, except for a few rattlesnakes,” but should serve as a shot across their bow.” ~ Boteach

    MY COMMENT: Adelson further said* (glibly, or not) that the U.S should essentially threaten to wipe Tehran off the map (with an “atomic weapon”). The audience at Yeshiva U. applauded this (glibly, or not). According to Wikipedia, Tehran has a population of around 8.3 million people and surpassing 14 million in the wider metropolitan area.

    * SHELDON ADELSON:

    “. . . So there’s an atomic weapon, goes over ballistic missiles, the middle of the desert, that doesn’t hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever.
    And then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. . .'” ~ Adelson, 10/22/13

    SOURCE – http://mondoweiss.net/2013/10/adelson-nuclear-negotiate.html

    P.S. FOR A POSSIBILITY OF WHERE SHELDON ADELSON MIGHT BE GETTING SOME OF HIS IDEAS, SEE:
    “Lieberman and Wiping Countries off the face of the Map”, by Juan Cole, Informed Comment, 04/02/2009

    [EXCERPTS] Avigdor Lieberman, the Moldovan night club bouncer, is now foreign minister of Israel. The world has had a lot of fun laughing at the pronouncements of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who stands falsely accused of threatening to wipe Israel off the face of the map. But Ahmadinejad has protested that it would be wrong to kill large numbers of civilians.
    In contrast, Lieberman has threatened (glibly, or not) to wipe at least two countries, Egypt and Palestine, off the map. Monstrously, he suggested bombing the Aswan Dam, which would have the effect of murdering all 80 million Egyptians and sweeping them into the Mediterranean in a vast continental African tsunami. . .
    The The Electronic Intifada lists “Some of Avigdor Lieberman’s infamous statements [“glib”, or not – J.L.D.]”:

    In 1998, Lieberman called for the flooding of Egypt by bombing the Aswan Dam in retaliation for Egyptian support for Yasser Arafat.
    • In 2001, as Minister of National Infrastructure, Lieberman proposed that the West Bank be divided into four cantons, with no central Palestinian government and no possibility for Palestinians to travel between the cantons.
    In 2002, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth quoted Lieberman in a Cabinet meeting saying that the Palestinians should be given an ultimatum that “At 8am we’ll bomb all the commercial centers … at noon we’ll bomb their gas stations … at two we’ll bomb their banks …”
    In 2003, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Lieberman called for thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel to be drowned in the Dead Sea and offered to provide the buses to take them there. . .

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://www.juancole.com/2009/04/lieberman-and-wiping-countries-off-face.html

  8. LanceThruster
    October 25, 2013, 12:52 pm

    Yeah, Shmuley…and Michael Jackson was good with kids.

  9. piotr
    October 25, 2013, 12:56 pm

    How a visitor from Mars can discern who HAS to be taken seriously and who CANNOT be taken seriously? The preposition that Adelson and Lieberman cannot be taken seriously has some sense, but why Ahmedinejad has to be taken seriously?

    Now, if Adelson cannot be taken seriously, why bother inviting him, selling tickets, videotaping etc?

    Concerning Ahmedinajad, one has to pay attention who said what and when. Imam Khomeini said that “regime in al-Quds” will vanish. He did not say why or how — to my recollection. However, Ahmedinejad was a bit more specific. For example, he had a speech at the beginning of Ramadan urging Iranians to observe all restriction etc. which would be beneficial not only to their souls but various other desired mundane outcomes like the liberation of Palestinians from the “regime in al-Quds”. If this is confusing to some of you, leaders of Shas were opposing an attack on Iran on very similar grounds: while the demise of the regime in Tehran is desirable, the proper way is pray, study Torah, observe Halacha etc. and thus improve the favor of the Almighty.

    My impression was that this messianic prescription was more realistic that the prospects of success of a unilateral strike on Iran. More interestingly, Ahmedinajad got into serious trouble with the clerical leaders, obviously including Khamenei on the account of his overly enthusiastic messianism, more precisely public predictions that the Hidden Imam (Shia figure that is analogous to Messiah) will emerge in our lifetime. Clerics did not like a lay official making any predictions of religious nature, and those predictions in particular. Some aides of Ahmedinejad were actually arrested over that issue.

    Back to Adelson, it would be nice to know what is his applauded speeches was not a gross and reckless exaggeration (more crude than glib).

  10. a blah chick
    October 25, 2013, 12:58 pm

    “Adelson made an innocuous comment that a bomb being detonated in a desolate Iranian desert as a warning would “not hurt a soul, except for a few rattlesnakes.”

    And as we all know nuclear fallout doesn’t travel.

  11. Nevada Ned
    October 25, 2013, 1:18 pm

    Last night (Thursday) Chris Hayes (MSNBC) ran a 10 minute segment on Adelson. Hayes played the video from Yeshiva, so everyone heard Adelson’s words. (And saw the words, too, because Hayes ran subtitles because the audio quality was not ideal).
    The Hayes commented, that nuclear bombing of Iran would be a war crime. And he made the point the Adelson doesn’t want peace.

    It’s not that Hayes made brilliant points. But he made them in the mainstream media.

  12. LanceThruster
    October 25, 2013, 1:23 pm

    It seems the argument is that certain people can be trusted with the proper use of nuclear arms…and certain other people cannot.

    “Well, isn’t that SPE-CIAL?!”

  13. Edward Q
    October 25, 2013, 1:33 pm

    Adelson’s comment is grotesque and I am glad there is outrage against it, but the fact is people in the Bush and Obama administrations have proposed using nukes against Iran in the past. This idea has been out there for a while, unfortunately,and for some reason hasn’t attracted much opprobrium. Of course, the Obama administration does so many outrageous things where do you even start with them.

  14. justicewillprevail
    October 25, 2013, 3:37 pm

    What a demonstration of the kind of tortured logic and fact-dodging justification that rabid zionist supporters are forced to indulge in. Does anybody buy into this deeply addled reconstruction of events? What do you have to smoke to believe this attempt to tell us how wonderful emperor adelson’s new clothes are? And this guy is in charge of an educational institution? Does he need funds so bad that he is prepared to jettison the rudiments of logic and syntax? Really, his self-abasement is pitiful. No shame.

  15. seafoid
    October 25, 2013, 3:53 pm

    Boteach reminds me of those small fish that swim with sharks and take bits of food out of the gaps between their teeth in return for protection.

  16. Citizen
    October 25, 2013, 4:48 pm

    And you say, see that desert out there? And you nuke it as a warning shot, then tell Iran: the next shot goes into Tehran if you don’t do as we say. Chris Hayes says Adelson was confusing a nuclear bomb with a beebee gun. And what Adelson said would be a 1st rate war crime if done. And this show went out to the liberal audience of MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.com/all-in

    And, I guess nobody told the rabbi the former Iranian leader never said he wanted to wipe Israel off the map.

  17. Shmuel
    October 25, 2013, 5:07 pm

    The PR firm … also released a statement in Boteach’s name on Adelson’s comments calling them “innocuous”

    If he needed a PR firm to call them “innocuous”, they probably weren’t.

  18. tree
    October 25, 2013, 5:34 pm

    I found this statement by Adelson’s spokesperson quite telling:

    Asked the next day how earnest Sheldon had been, Ron Reese, his spokesman, said, “As one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs, Mr. Adelson was using hyperbole to make a point that — based on his nearly seven decade-long experience negotiating business deals — actions speak louder than words.”

    The man is not just a right wing bigot re Palestine, he’s a disgustingly vile and ruthless business person who’d probably be more than willing to nuke a few union organizers to “make a point”.

    He has no expertise on the question at hand. He is there because he is rich and is willing to dish out money to those who cater to his whims.

    • Woody Tanaka
      October 25, 2013, 5:44 pm

      Well, Addledson’s PR agent is right that actions speak louder than words. I mean, the israelis have babbled on and on about yearning for peace but their actions have been the political equivalent of an execution-style gunshot to the back of the head, so we know that they’re nothing but a huge pack of liars.

  19. Katie Miranda
    October 25, 2013, 5:44 pm

    If Rouhani made a comment about bombing the Negev “as a warning”, I wonder how “innocuous” Boteach or Adelson would find it.

    • The Hasbara Buster
      October 25, 2013, 6:18 pm

      They would be fine as long as the bomb is dropped on a Bedouin unrecognized village.

    • DICKERSON3870
      October 26, 2013, 3:28 am

      I doubt that Boteach and/or Adelson would pass off a comment made by Rouhani about bombing the Negev as merely being “glib”!

  20. The Hasbara Buster
    October 25, 2013, 9:29 pm

    In 2005 when former Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, suggested that Israel must be wiped off the map, with the murder of the six million Jews who live there being the precondition of such erasure, he somehow managed to get invited to speak at Columbia University[.]

    Maybe he was invited because he never said that Israel should be wiped off the map. But Boteach takes the lie to a new extreme when he adds that Ahmadinejad explicitly called for the murder of six million Jews.

    This is the same man, however, who opposed the building of a mosque near Ground Zero, thus implying that over 1 billion Muslims were somehow responsible for the 9/11 attacks. That such a clown should be taken seriously and granted ample space in the media is yet another proof of the Lobby’s power.

  21. DICKERSON3870
    October 26, 2013, 3:22 am

    RE: “Rabbi Boteach defends Adelson’s ‘glib’ nuking comment, PR firm calls it ‘innocuous’”

    SAM SEDER’S TAKE (HINT: “MORON!”)
    Nuke Iran! says Major Republican Donor, Sheldon Adelson [VIDEO, 04:46] – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ds6HPPv_S8

  22. Mike_Konrad
    October 26, 2013, 3:45 am

    The Zionist regime will be wiped out soon – Ahmedinejad

    SHELDON ADELSON’S QUOTES DO LOOK SIMILAR.

    But dismissing them both as lunatics, and putting them both aside … IRAN IS STILL A MENACE!

    I do not want Iranian mullahs with nukes.

  23. DICKERSON3870
    October 26, 2013, 4:05 am

    RE: “Shmuley Boteach . . . is defending Sheldon Adelson in the Jerusalem Post for urging Obama to fire an “atomic weapon” into Iran . . .” ~ Weiss

    A POTENTAL SOURCE OF SOMETHING “DARK AND STICKY” INSIDE SHELDON ADELSON’S MIND/BRAIN:
    The Terence Davies Trilogy – Children [VIDEO, 04:46] – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apZUgbMzd5Y
    [Think of Adelson as a wee lad in the place of “Tucker” (the blonde lad) in the above clip.]

  24. Justpassingby
    October 26, 2013, 4:44 am

    If people didnt take Hitler seriously world must today, take sick warmongers like Adelson and Boteach seriously that want to exterminate iranians.

    • LanceThruster
      October 28, 2013, 4:45 pm

      Wasn’t there a church set on fire in Nazi occupied France? where the townspeople were locked in to “teach them a lesson” about collaboration?

      Maybe this is where Adelson learned this tactic.

  25. DICKERSON3870
    October 26, 2013, 7:28 pm

    RE: “Rabbi Boteach defends Adelson’s ‘glib’ nuking comment, PR firm calls it ‘innocuous’”

    IN ORDER TO APPEASE ISRAEL AND AIPAC, THE U.S. IS ALREADY MURDERING INNOCENT IRANIANS:
    “Are Western sanctions against Iran to blame for playwright’s death?”, By Reza Sayah, CNN, 2/25/13

    Tehran, Iran (CNN) — In July, Iran lost one of its most acclaimed playwrights and directors when Mahmoud Ostad-Mohammad passed away in Tehran at the age of 62.
    Scores of relatives, friends, and theater lovers attended his funeral ceremony that was adorned with pictures of Ostad-Mohammad — his trademark mustache and playful smile on display. Some wept while embracing copies of his famous screenplays.
    Among the mourners was Ostad-Mohammad’s daughter, Mana, who is convinced that Western sanctions against Iran were partly to blame for his father’s passing.
    “This was the doctor’s testimony,” said Mana Ostad-Mohammad. “This is based on my father’s medical tests.” . . .

    Through five decades, some of the most famous Iranian plays were brought to life by Ostad-Mohammad. Some were Iranian classics. Others were originals. All were stories about the loves and losses of everyday Iranians.
    Then in 2011, came a diagnosis of late-stage liver cancer. Surgery was not an option, but Ostad-Mohammad’s oncologist prescribed the cancer drug Nexavar. According to his doctor and medical tests, the drug appeared to stop the cancer from spreading. . .
    . . . But beginning last year — soon after Washington and Western powers imposed additional sanctions against Iran to rein in its nuclear program — Iranian doctors, pharmacists and patients say finding Nexavar and several other drugs that treated deadly diseases became increasingly difficult. . .
    . . . [L]ast March finding Nexavar became virtually impossible, she says.
    Medical tests then showed her father’s feto-protein level — an indicator of cancer — skyrocketed over the four months he went without Nexavar.
    On July 25, Ostad-Mohammad lost his fight with cancer. . .

    SOURCE – http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/25/world/meast/iran-sanctions-impact-sayah/

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