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.