Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, and Virginia congressman Eric Cantor, the only Republican Jewish member of the House of Representatives, delivered a pair of addresses yesterday at the opening of the Jewish federation system’s annual three-day General Assembly meeting, held this year in Washington. More than 3,000 people involved with the federation system—the 155 local Jewish community agencies throughout the United States and Canada, and the second-largest charitable network in North America—heard both men play Cassandra on Iran rather than to wade into the stickier questions of what, exactly, is happening with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and what might happen later today, when President Barack Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the subject.
Cantor drew a stark comparison between Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the Holocaust, warning the audience that “it may be too late” to halt Iran from developing nuclear weapons that could annihilate both Israel and the United States. “Have we not been down this road before?” he asked. He argued the Iranian question wasn’t a Jewish cause or an Israeli one but an American one, and asked the audience to “discard ideology,” as well as political correctness, and move toward—well, it wasn’t clear whether he wanted sanctions or something a little tougher. Oren, for his part, was explicit about what he wants, at least as a first step: “Ask for synagogues and your schools and community centers, alongside those banners proclaiming an end to the genocide in Darfur, an end to the AIDS epidemic in Africa, there must also hang banners declaring support international sanctions and stop the Iranian bomb.”