NEW YORK Sarah Palin was disinvited from this weeks Jewish-sponsored Iran rally. The move follows two days of controversy for organizers of the rally to protest Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN on Monday, Sept. 22.
The controversy erupted after JTA reported that Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, had accepted an invitation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to speak at the event.
The news of Palins participation prompted Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), who had pledged several weeks earlier to speak at the rally, to announce she was withdrawing from the event.
Spokespeople for both Palin and Clinton proceeded to trade barbs over who was responsible for tainting the rally with politics.
A Clinton spokesperson said the senator withdrew because the rally had become a partisan political event.
Palin spokeswoman Tracy Schmitt took a shot at Clinton, saying the Republican nominee believes that the danger of a nuclear Iran is greater than party or politics.
The National Jewish Democratic Council defended Clintons decision not to attend and called for Palin to be disinvited, so as to preserve the nonpartisan nature of the effort to halt Irans nuclear ambitions.
On Sept. 18, the Conference of Presidents held a conference call for rally organizers in which the decision was made to limit participation in the rally to unelected officials, participants on the call told JTA.
Shortly afterward, organizers put out a statement saying, In order to keep the focus on Iranian threats and to ensure that this critical message not be obscured, the organizers of the rally have decided not to have any American political personalities appear.
The statement said Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and Israeli Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik would address the demonstration.
The controversy has sparked concern that the issue of stopping Iran has been politicized, undermining efforts to cast opposition to Ahmadinejads belligerence and nuclear ambitions as a broad bipartisan issue in the US.
Jewish organizers have labored to present the Iranian regime as a threat not only to Israel but to the US and the world.
The Presidents Conference issued a late invitation to the Obama campaign on Sept. 17. But reportedly irked by this, the Obama camp did not commit to sending a representative, even though Clinton had already been invited.
Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference, told JTA earlier last week that the invitation to speak at the rally was extended to Clinton several weeks ago.
He also said that once Clinton accepted, organizers did not want to supersede her by bringing in someone from the Obama campaign.
Fred Zeidman, a leading Jewish backer of Republican presidential nominee John McCain, told JTA he was approached about helping secure a speaker around the time of the Republican National Convention at the beginning of September in Minnesota.
Zeidman said he forwarded the request to the campaign last week with a recommendation that it cooperate.
I remember saying to our guys, Hillary Clinton is representing the other side, Zeidman said. Weve got to really take this seriously.
In a statement last week, the McCain campaign noted its participation in the rally and derided Obamas stated willingness to negotiate with the man being protested.
Instead of pressuring Senator Clinton to withdraw and pressuring the events organizers to disinvite Governor Palin, we hope Senator Obama will consider lending his own voice to this cause, McCain-Palin spokesman Michael Goldfarb said in a statement on a Washington Post campaign blog, The Trail.
And if [the] Senator subsequently wishes to clarify any remarks that might be misconstrued, he will have the opportunity to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions after he speaks at the UN the following day.
Clinton advisers said the senator dropped out of her own accord, not due to any pressure from the Obama campaign, according to the Washington Post.
The rally is not and will not be a partisan event, Hoenlein said before his group decided to cancel the invitation to Palin.
The organizers reached out to a wide spectrum of people. Hillary accepted early in August. We also asked numerous Republicans. Some we approached couldnt make it, and since Governor Palin was coming to the UN to meet world leaders, her staff agreed to have her speak.
Ira Forman, the NJDCs executive director, said it is the McCain campaign that was guilty of politicizing the rally with its partisan statements.
Along with other Jews involved in organizing the event, Forman also laid blame with the Presidents Conference, saying it bungled matters either by inviting Palin at all or by failing to notify the Clinton camp promptly that it had secured Palins participation.
Forman praised the decision last week to cancel Palins appearance.
It was a wise decision to make, he said.
It depoliticizes an event that fundamentally needs support from everybody and shouldnt be part of the political circus this year.
Jewish Republicans agreed that the organizers blundered but said the mistake was disinviting Palin.
This is one of the biggest black marks on our community that I can remember in more than 20 years of working in the Jewish community, Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, told JTA.
I think it is absolutely outrageous that we allow people with a partisan political agenda to hijack an event that is designed to send a message to Iran and the rest of the world of the USs commitment to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.
The fact that we cant put partisan differences aside to come together on something like this, its sad and its disappointing.
Some Jewish leaders worried that an event intended to display unity in the face of the Iranian threat was crumbling.
I do think thats unfortunate, said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism.
The point here obviously is to show broad bipartisan support for the need to stop a nuclear Iran.
We dont want the message to be diverted by internal political considerations.
It doesnt make sense to me as an American Jewish policy matter, and as an American matter, to let one party or the other off the hook over what is going to be, objectively in our view, the most serious foreign policy issue of the next administration, said David Twersky, a senior advisor on policy, international affairs and communications at the American Jewish Congress.
Its not a good policy for the Jews.
Below is the complete text of the speech Palin would have delivered at the rally.
I am honored to be with you and with leaders from across this great country leaders from different faiths and political parties united in a single voice of outrage.
Tomorrow, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will come to New York to the heart of what he calls the Great Satan and speak freely in this, a country whose demise he has called for.
Ahmadinejad may choose his words carefully, but underneath all of the rhetoric is an agenda that threatens all who seek a safer and freer world. We gather here today to highlight the Iranian dictator’s intentions and to call for action to thwart him.
He must be stopped.
The world must awake to the threat this man poses to all of us. Ahmadinejad denies that the Holocaust ever took place. He dreams of being an agent in a Final Solution the elimination of the Jewish people. He has called Israel a stinking corpse that is on its way to annihilation.
Such talk cannot be dismissed as the ravings of a madman not when Iran just this summer tested long-range Shahab-3 missiles capable of striking Tel Aviv, not when the Iranian nuclear program is nearing completion, and not when Iran sponsors terrorists that threaten and kill innocent people around the world.
The Iranian government wants nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency reports that Iran is running at least 3,800 centrifuges and that its uranium enrichment capacity is rapidly improving. According to news reports, US intelligence agencies believe the Iranians may have enough nuclear material to produce a bomb within a year.
The world has condemned these activities. The United Nations Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend its illegal nuclear enrichment activities. It has levied three rounds of sanctions. How has Ahmadinejad responded? With the declaration that the Iranian nation would not retreat one iota from its nuclear program.
So, what should we do about this growing threat? First, we must succeed in Iraq. If we fail there, it will jeopardize the democracy the Iraqis have worked so hard to build, and empower the extremists in neighboring Iran. Iran has armed and trained terrorists who have killed our soldiers in Iraq, and it is Iran that would benefit from an American defeat in Iraq.
If we retreat without leaving a stable Iraq, Iran’s nuclear ambitions will be bolstered. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons they could share them tomorrow with the terrorists they finance, arm, and train today. Iranian nuclear weapons would set off a dangerous regional nuclear arms race that would make all of us less safe.
But Iran is not only a regional threat; it threatens the entire world. It is the number 1 state sponsor of terrorism. It sponsors the world’s most vicious terrorist groups, Hamas and Hezbollah.
Together, Iran and its terrorists are responsible for the deaths of Americans in Lebanon in the 1980s, in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, and in Iraq today. They have murdered Iraqis, Lebanese, Palestinians, and other Muslims who have resisted Iran’s desire to dominate the region. They have persecuted countless people simply because they are Jewish.
Iran is responsible for attacks not only on Israelis, but on Jews living as far away as Argentina. Anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are part of Iran’s official ideology and murder is part of its official policy. Not even Iranian citizens are safe from their government’s threat to those who want to live, work, and worship in peace. Politically-motivated abductions, torture, death by stoning, flogging, and amputations are just some of its state-sanctioned punishments.
It is said that the measure of a country is the treatment of its most vulnerable citizens. By that standard, the Iranian government is both oppressive and barbaric. Under Ahmadinejad’s rule, Iranian women are some of the most vulnerable citizens.
If an Iranian woman shows too much hair in public, she risks being beaten or killed.
If she walks down a public street in clothing that violates the state dress code, she could be arrested.
But in the face of this harsh regime, the Iranian women have shown courage. Despite threats to their lives and their families, Iranian women have sought better treatment through the One Million Signatures Campaign Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws.
The authorities have reacted with predictable barbarism. Last year, women’s rights activist Delaram Ali was sentenced to 20 lashes and 10 months in prison for committing the crime of propaganda against the system.
After international protests, the judiciary reduced her sentence to only 10 lashes and 36 months in prison and then temporarily suspended her sentence.
She still faces the threat of imprisonment.
Earlier this year, Senator Clinton said that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is in the forefront of that effort. Senator Clinton argued that part of our response must include stronger sanctions, including the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization. John McCain and I could not agree more.
Senator Clinton understands the nature of this threat and what we must do to confront it. This is an issue that should unite all Americans. Iran should not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. Period. And in a single voice, we must be loud enough for the whole world to hear: Stop Iran!
Only by working together, across national, religious, and political differences, can we alter this regime’s dangerous behavior. Iran has many vulnerabilities, including a regime weakened by sanctions and a population eager to embrace opportunities with the West. We must increase economic pressure to change Iran’s behavior.
Tomorrow, Ahmadinejad will come to New York. On our soil, he will exercise the right of freedom of speech a right he denies his own people. He will share his hateful agenda with the world. Our task is to focus the world on what can be done to stop him.
We must rally the world to press for truly tough sanctions at the UN or with our allies if Iran’s allies continue to block action in the UN. We must start with restrictions on Iran’s refined petroleum imports.
We must reduce our dependency on foreign oil to weaken Iran’s economic influence.
We must target the regime’s assets abroad; bank accounts, investments, and trading partners.
President Ahmadinejad should be held accountable for inciting genocide, a crime under international law.
We must sanction Iran’s Central Bank and the Revolutionary Guard Corps which no one should doubt is a terrorist organization.
Together, we can stop Iran’s nuclear program.
Senator McCain has made a solemn commitment that I strongly endorse: Never again will we risk another Holocaust. And this is not a wish, a request, or a plea to Israel’s enemies. This is a promise that the United States and Israel will honor, against any enemy who cares to test us. It is John McCains promise and it is my promise.
Read the related blog entry on Rocky Mountain Jew.