We shouldn’t be surprised that a study this week conducted by Leonard Saxe of Brandeis University found serious flaws in all of the major polls being touted by Jewish groups on various sides of the Iran deal. J Street has been citing a study that shows a near 60% approval for the deal in the American Jewish community. AIPAC has been including statistics from another study that shows almost the opposite in its literature and advertising. Professor Saxe, a sociologist, is suggesting that neither study can be trusted. Where does that leave us?
Well, for one thing, we should know by now this is more about propaganda than it is about facts, more a war of public opinion than a serious discussion of the actual issues. Here is what I suspect a truly honest broker would say, from either the right or the left, either pro or con: “I believe my side is right, and the course of action we are recommending is safer for Israel and the US. But I don’t know that for sure. I also know that the side I am fighting for has some serious potential flaws, and is far from perfect. And we won’t really know which side is right for another 5 to 10 years.” Wouldn’t that be a refreshing message to hear? Make your head snap around, wouldn’t it? Reminds me a bit of Bernie Sanders on the campaign trail. All of that truth telling makes people uncomfortable. But there is something compelling about it.
And of course part of the problem is that no one knows the truth here. They are all groping in the dark. The proponents for the Iran deal don’t know what the true intentions of the Iranians are, nor the unintended consequences of easing back on sanctions, nor how fully effective the inspections will be. The opponents don’t know that Iran will actually find its way to a bomb because of this deal, or that Iran won’t become more moderate, or that the inspections won’t be effective. It is all a best guess. And I understand how challenging it is, how disturbing even, to be making a best guess when so much is potentially at stake. But that is all they’ve got. Ain’t nothing more. And as they say, you have to play with the hand you are dealt.
One thing I do know is this. The Jewish community does not have one opinion about this issue. You can find some experts that think the deal is the best option, others who think it is terrible. You can find some rabbis who like the deal, and others who hate it. In any given congregation, on any given Federation board, you’ll find some supporters and some nay sayers. Sounds like the Jewish community to me. So if you’ve made up your mind one way or the other, you’ll find experts and communal professionals and clergy who will be right there with you. Pro or con. Right or left.
My advice? Study the issues and make up your own mind. Look at it from both sides. Read the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times. Listen to Barak and Bibi. You don’t need AIPAC or J Street to tell you what to think. You don’t need me or any other rabbi either. What we know is as much as what anyone else knows. And we are forming our own opinions. Our own best guesses. Some of us on one side, some on the other. And all of us, if we are being honest, knowing that we might be wrong.