Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hu's On First? The Rally and the Reality

Hu's on First?

No, Chinese President Hu Jintao was not at the rally this afternoon at the UN, on the corner of First and 47th. I just couldn't resist using the line. (read the JTA report on the rally here)

Hu might have been out of place, but so was a group of protesters called the Cameroon Alliance for Democracy Movement that walked by. At times I felt out of place too. I thought what I was attending was a rally to show support for a nation facing an existential threat with zero hour approaching quickly. I was wrong. That must have been the other rally. This one was a festive yeshiva mixer.

Lots of people were there, though no more than I saw last year, making me wonder whether we have gotten Ahmadinijad fatigue. Have people been lulled by everyone's inaction, into a deadly silence?

Noticeably lacking among the hordes of texting and giggling day school and yeshiva students were Persians - even Jewish Persians. Maybe we should have held it in Great Neck.

This rally was billed as one defending the human rights of the Iranian people. Defending Israel the world from Iranian nukes seemed like an afterthought. Whoever thought up the brilliant idea of joining forces on this perhaps forgot to notify the Iranian protesters, who attended another rally yesterday. Undoubtedly, they decided that the last thing they needed to do to help their cause back home was to link it to the pleas of Israel's supporters. This gathering was almost exclusively Jewish.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. It was a mitzvah to be there, pure and simple. Sometimes showing up is all that matters. But back in the old days, protesting meant more than bringing your body to a place to increase the count. There was a passion behind it. Not much passion here, except among the students finding friends they hadn't seen since the last NCSY mixer. The speeches droned and were uninspiring, which was OK because no one was listening.

The slogans supported the Iranian people. Israel was an afterthought, but it didn't matter. The local media were chasing terrorists in a courthouse in Brooklyn. The President was headed to Pittsburgh. No one cared.

Maybe some miracle will occur between now and next year, so that this annual exercise in futility will not have to happen again. Or maybe the UN will be nice enough not to schedule this during the High Holidays! The other alternative, a rally that truly brings out passionate Jews by the tens of thousands, would require an event to occur that I don't want to imagine. What would draw us out in such numbers should never happen.

Come to think of it, boring rallies aren't so bad.

The latest headlines on Iran remind us about the gulf separating rally from reality. With news today of a secret nuclear facility, one can only hope that the world's eyes are finally awakening to the threat, even as the clock approaches midnight.

US, European powers: Iran must open secret plant to inspectors‎ - JTA

Obama: Iran Must Open Secret Nuclear Facility : NPR

The Clocks Are Ticking on Iran - Doyle McManus
On Oct. 1, the U.S. and other great powers will restart talks with Iran, a new round in a long and so far fruitless effort to stop Tehran's march toward nuclear weapons. How will the U.S. and its allies make this round different? First, by insisting on action, not words. Iran will have to slow its work on nuclear technology in some tangible way. "The measure of [the negotiating process] is that it affects their nuclear clock," a top U.S. official told me. Second, the negotiators will set a deadline for Iranian action: the end of the year, with no wiggle room. "The end of the year means the end of the year," the official stressed. That remorseless nuclear clock is very much on the administration's mind. U.S. officials say they believe Iran could achieve "breakout capabili ty" - the ability to quickly build a nuclear weapon - in one to three years. There's also an Israeli clock. When Iranian leaders say they'd like to remove Israel from the map, Israelis - a sensitive people when it comes to their existence - take it literally. The October talks are designed to enable the Western powers to start a clock of their own: action from Iran or else "crippling sanctions," in Secretary of State Clinton's words. (Los Angeles Times)

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