Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, was in Toronto earlier this month to meet with donors and supporters of the Toronto-based Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.
During his visit, Rabbi Hier, named the “Most Influential Rabbi in America” in a 2008 Newsweek article, spoke to The CJN about his organization’s stance on the recent deal between the United States and Iran regarding the latter’s nuclear program.
What is your stance on the recent agreement between the United States and Iran, that the United States will lift sanctions in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon?
We can’t trust Iran. Ten years [the length of the deal] is nothing in the history of the Middle East, and at the end of 10 years, they are going to have the bomb, and not only will they have the bomb, they’ll be rich in cash. And what will they do with that cash? They’ll fund Hezbollah and Hamas, as they’ve done in the past, and create havoc in the Middle East. They will destabilize the whole region. So it is very nice to kick the can down the road, but the can lands somewhere and it lands in Israel’s face.
We had 10,000 petitions sent to Congress, to the United States senators, to the congressmen and that was just the kick off of the campaign. There are other campaigns that are being launched in the country and right now, let’s put it this way, with many congressmen, the fact that President [Barack] Obama is operating full steam – he’s concentrating on nothing else right now – he’s worried. Imagine: the president of the United States made a deal and he can’t sell it at home, and he’s worried about the implications.
What do you think the impact this deal will have on the rest of the world?
There will be a few bad months, and then whatever happens in the United States, they’ll wake up to the reality. Who do they have in the Middle East that they can trust besides Israel? That is when it will be fixed.
Were the concessions made in the deal a surprise?
When it was announced, absolutely. The deal wasn’t a surprise, but it was a surprise how much the United States was willing to give away.
Do you think there is anything that those who oppose the deal can do to reverse it or amend it?
They’re not going to reverse course after they signed the deal, if you ask me. I think even if we can convince President Obama to change his mind to what he agreed with the P5+1 [a group of six world powers made up of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, plus Germany], he’s going to stick with the deal. There is no chance that they are going to reverse course.
The only chance we have now is either we kill the deal – that would be the best, because if the deal is killed, that shows that the American Congress weighed in and they heard from their constituents, and their constituents thought that this is a terrible thing for the United States – or if that doesn’t happen – let’s say they win – even if they win, they need to know that if anyone thought that we had trouble in the Middle East in the past, with the state of wars and attacks, we’ve seen nothing compared to what Iran is going to do with all the cash they get.
People will look back at this deal and they’ll ask where is the genesis of all this? It’s the deal that the United States signed with Iran. This is not just another anti-Semitic outbreak. This is for all the marbles.
I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Iran has 70 million people.” That is true. There are a lot of people in Iran, and not all of them are part of the Revolutionary Guard. You don’t need to be a member of the Revolutionary Guard. During World War II, not everyone was a member of the SS, and look what Germany did to the world. What matters is what does the Revolutionary Guard want to do to the world? We know what they want to do to the world, and they want to destroy Israel. And it is naïve to think that they are going to reverse themselves.
If you look, you’ll see that the United States has said many times, and the president specifically, that he has Israel’s back. But that’s not good enough here. You need someone who has Israel’s front, not their back. It sounds like, “If you get attacked, we’ll help you.” But we don’t want Israel to ever be attacked. Israel needs help in the front and not in the back.
Former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir once said, and she was right, that she knows for sure that if God forbid anything ever happened to Israel, the world would deliver the most beautiful eulogies. She said, sarcastically, “Keep your eulogies and keep Israel strong.”
Does the deal put more pressure on Israel to act aggressively?
I don’t think Israel is going to attack unless the United States is involved. I don’t think so. There are other ways. If you’re asking if I think Israel will launch a bombing attack, I can’t speak for Israel, but I think it would be tough for them to do that, but there are other ways.
The most important thing Canadians can do now is they can go to our website, www.wiesenthal.com/iran, and sign the petition. The White House will see that there are so many people weighing in against this deal.
Has there been too much damage done to Israel-U.S. relations that it will be hard to recover?
If you ask me, if I think this means their relationship will never be the same, I don’t think so. But when this is over, when the United States reassesses and asks, “Who can we rely on in the Middle East?” no other name will come to the forefront other than the State of Israel.
In Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been a great example and staunch friend of Israel, and it has been quite remarkable to see what he’s accomplished. When you compare some of the European leaders to Prime Minister Harper, he’s always been there for Israel and we appreciate it very much.
This interview has been edited and condensed for style and clarity.