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February 9, 2015 0

Time to Stop the Circus and Focus on Iran

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

I have recently writ­ten about the enor­mously high stakes involved in get­ting the Iran nuclear issue right. There is a broad con­sen­sus on this and on the dan­gers of a nuclear armed Iran. Yet, as the clock winds down on nego­ti­a­tions between Iran and the P-5+1, impor­tant dif­fer­ences in just how to effec­tively accom­plish the goal have emerged.

These dif­fer­ences are not about whether diplo­macy is the best way to resolve the issue — all agree it is.

It is not sur­pris­ing that Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu assesses the risks to Israel, the region and, ulti­mately, the world through a dif­fer­ent lens than Pres­i­dent Obama and some other world leaders.

Israel is directly in the cross-hairs of Iran­ian ambi­tions for regional dom­i­na­tion, as are the Gulf states, Egypt, Jor­dan and oth­ers. Pres­i­dent Obama and many among the Amer­i­can peo­ple are rightly wary of entan­gling the U.S. in yet another Mid­dle East war and Euro­pean lead­ers are focused on their fal­ter­ing economies, which would ben­e­fit from the reopen­ing of full trade with Iran.

This is pre­cisely the moment when there should frank, direct and open dis­cus­sion of the dif­fer­ent perspectives.

Now is exactly the time when Israel’s leader should be hav­ing those dis­cus­sions with all who have a say in shap­ing pol­icy out­comes on this issue, includ­ing the U.S. Con­gress. And the views of America’s clos­est ally in the Mid­dle East should be heard, so pol­i­cy­mak­ers and the Amer­i­can peo­ple will have the ben­e­fit of hear­ing directly from Netanyahu how he sees what is at stake and what he believes is the best way to reach an agree­ment with Iran that will ensure the long term safety of Israel, the region and the world.

Yet, this point has been nearly oblit­er­ated by the waves of con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the invi­ta­tion to the prime min­is­ter to address Con­gress. I have called it a tragedy of unin­tended con­se­quences — and it is.

Instead of stay­ing laser-focused on the very real, very com­plex and very dan­ger­ous con­se­quences of the out­come of the nego­ti­a­tions with Iran, the pub­lic dis­course is now being hijacked by pol­i­tics.

It is being dom­i­nated by mock­ing come­di­ans, moan­ing pun­dits and manip­u­lat­ing politi­cians all talk­ing about who is insult­ing whom, who will and who won’t be in the cham­ber for the speech, who may or may not be pun­ished for not show­ing up, who will get an elec­toral advan­tage from the appear­ance, and who won’t.

These are absolutely the wrong ques­tions, and this is absolutely the wrong time to be rais­ing them.

As time grows shorter, there needs to be a pause in the uproar to enable every­one involved to find the way to get back to talk­ing about what really counts — Is Iran ready to give up its nuclear plans or must the West revisit its whole approach?

The venue for the dis­cus­sions on this weighty ques­tion mat­ters much less than actu­ally hav­ing the con­ver­sa­tion — and hav­ing it sooner rather than later. Now is a time to recal­i­brate, restart and find a new plat­form and new tim­ing to take away the distractions.

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August 9, 2013 1

An Apology For Discrimination – And A Lesson For The Future

August 10 marks the 25th anniver­sary of the enact­ment of the Civil Lib­er­ties Act, which pro­vided a for­mal apol­ogy for grave mis­treat­ment of Japanese-Americans dur­ing World War II. civil-liberties-act-manzanar-relocation-center

The sur­prise attack on Pearl Har­bor in Decem­ber 1941 incited wide­spread fear and inse­cu­rity across the coun­try.   In response to the par­tic­u­lar fear that Amer­i­cans of Japan­ese ances­try might pose a threat to the U.S., Pres­i­dent Franklin Roo­sevelt signed Exec­u­tive Order 9066 on Feb­ru­ary 19, 1942, the first step in the forced relo­ca­tion and incar­cer­a­tion of 120,000 Japanese-Americans.

Japanese-Americans who were incar­cer­ated in the camps through­out the west­ern United States were forcibly uprooted from their com­mu­ni­ties, sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies and their homes and lost their per­sonal lib­er­ties and free­doms until the end of the war – with­out any con­crete evi­dence of their alleged dis­loy­alty to America.

Unfor­tu­nately, a bad sit­u­a­tion was made worse when Con­gress enacted a law in March 1942, autho­riz­ing a civil prison term and fine for a civil­ian con­victed of vio­lat­ing a mil­i­tary order.  The con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of these acts was chal­lenged in two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, Hirabayashi v. U.S. and Kore­matsu v. U.S.   But the wartime Supreme Court upheld the con­vic­tions, writ­ing that forced dis­place­ment and incar­cer­a­tion of Japanese-Americans were within the war pow­ers of Con­gress and jus­ti­fied by the need to pro­tect America’s national security.

In 1981, the Com­mis­sion on Wartime Relo­ca­tion and Intern­ment of Civil­ians held hear­ings to inves­ti­gate the treat­ment of Japanese-Americans, and it pub­lished its report, Per­sonal Jus­tice Denied, in 1983.  At that time, Kore­matsu, Hirabayashi and a third Japanese-American cit­i­zen, William Hohri, peti­tioned for for­mal review of their con­vic­tions.  ADL filed an ami­cus brief in Hohri v. United States, urg­ing the Court to reverse these con­vic­tions so as to pre­vent future civil lib­er­ties vio­la­tions by the government.

The Civil Lib­er­ties Act of 1988 for­mally rec­og­nized and apol­o­gized for these ter­ri­ble wartime injus­tices, and paid repa­ra­tions to an esti­mated 60,000 sur­viv­ing Japanese-Americans who were affected. ADL tes­ti­fied in sup­port of the leg­is­la­tion. The Act set an impor­tant stan­dard for account­abil­ity and for tak­ing national respon­si­bil­ity for past injustices.

Now, 25 years after the pas­sage of the Civil Lib­er­ties Act, the League has updated a com­pre­hen­sive class­room cur­ricu­lum on the wartime treat­ment of Japanese-Americans, includ­ing video his­to­ries of Japanese-American internees, and back­ground resources on Exec­u­tive Order 9066 and the Civil Lib­er­ties Act.  

The anniver­sary pro­vides a teach­able moment to reflect on how our nation can address past injus­tices – and an oppor­tu­nity to reded­i­cate our­selves to the ongo­ing work to con­front the dan­gers of stereo­typ­ing, dis­crim­i­na­tion, prej­u­dice, hate vio­lence, and racial pro­fil­ing.  Espe­cially as we con­front these and other daunt­ing chal­lenges today, it is clear that all Amer­i­cans have a stake in remem­ber­ing – and learn­ing lessons – from the past.

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