By: Arel Levkovich  | 

Deal With Iran: Worry Remains While Activists Continue Their Efforts

On July 14th, the nuclear agreement - officially dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - arranged between Iran, the European Union, and the United States and its fellow P5+1 nations was signed in Vienna. However, the deal must still officially pass through Congress in order for it to be completed. For the past couple of months, media throughout the country have been focused on reactions to the deal and its potential implications. While many Americans approve of the deal, a recent CNN poll shows that opposition to the deal has increased since it was first negotiated. For instance, telephone interviews with 1,001 American adults conducted by ORC International from August 13-16 showed that 60% of the respondents disapprove of the way Obama has been handling the U.S. relationship with Iran, while 56% want Congress to reject the deal, percentages that were lower earlier in the year.

Here at Yeshiva University, both faculty and students have been closely monitoring the situation – and concern certainly exists. On August 24th, the day before start of the fall semester, Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Vice President for University and Campus Life, sent out a university-wide email offering people a chance to register for a live broadcast later that week of a special address by President Obama, in which Obama spoke to North American Jews about the Iran deal. In Rabbi Brander’s email, he explained that “the challenge of the Iran deal to the safety and security of Israel and the West brings a threat that is unparalleled.” He added that “we have responsibility to call our members of Congress and Senators and share with them our feelings on this deal with Iran.”

On a similar note, leaders of the Israel Club - who work with Israel advocacy groups and interact with prominent governmental figures – organized an important event on campus regarding the deal with Iran, which featured Shimon Mercer-Wood, the spokesperson for the Consulate of Israel in New York. The event, which took place on September 2nd in Weissberg Commons gathered more than 200 people. Shlomo Anapolle (YC ’17) who runs the Israel Club on the Wilf campus, stated: “We very much appreciate Mr. Mercer-Wood taking the time to inform the students about the Israeli government's position on the deal and what we as a Jewish community can do to create change.” In particular, Mr. Mercer-Wood discussed the details of the current deal, why it will have severe negative effects, better alternatives, and why it is necessary for us to continue protesting against it. He added, however, that despite the disagreements between U.S. Administration and many Jews, we must still remember that the enemy is the Iranian regime – and it is therefore essential that the bond between the U.S. government and the Jewish population, and Israel specifically, remains strong.

Social media has also become a popular resource to encourage people not to sit idly by. Over the past few months, many students have posted the phone numbers and emails of Congressmen, urging their friends to dial in. One of the university’s most-used Facebook groups, Yeshiva University: In the Know, even included a message notifying students that the website was initiating a demonstration on August 26th in front of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney's New York office encouraging her to vote in favor of the Iran deal, and that in response, students should show up and push for her to remain steadfast in her opposition to the deal. Additionally, in another YU-related Facebook group, Matix Axel (Syms ’16) pointed out that a gathering on September 1st would be taking place on the corner of 49th Street and Third Avenue in order to thank Senator Schumer for his position on the deal and express disappointment with Senator Gillibrand’s decision, with the goal of prompting her to change her vote and garner the votes of others around the globe. An email sent out by a different student reinforced the message.

It is important to note that even before the fall semester began, students in YU had been taking action. Harel Kopelman, a recent graduate of YC (’15) who is adamantly against the Iran deal, was one of thousands of individuals to have attended a summer rally in Times Square. Kopelman is “skeptical of this deal because it seems to completely ignore Iran’s past behavior. Iran’s continued use of proxies to wreak havoc in the Middle East only makes the prospect of it gaining nuclear weapons more frightening.” Kopelman continued, “That’s why I, as an American not to mention Israeli citizen, am doing whatever I can to make my voice heard.” Zach Neuman (YC ’16) shared a similar sentiment and pointed to the deal’s inspection details surrounding Iran’s facilities as most troubling to him. “It is shocking that Iran will be allowed to have its own people inspect its sites, which could lead to biased reports,” Neuman asserted.

While nobody can predict the future in terms of how the Iran deal, if approved by Congress, will affect Israel’s security or other nations worldwide, the worries people have are legitimate. While President Obama says the deal “will remove the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran, an outcome in the national security interest of the United States and Israel,” as he told Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu in a phone call hours after signing the deal, Netanyahu vehemently disagrees, calling Iran a “rogue regime” that shouldn’t be trusted.

As it stands, AIPAC and other lobbying organizations have been coordinating efforts to sway each and every Congressional vote possible, against the deal. Given President Obama’s promise to veto any congressional vote against the deal or bill to maintain sanctions on Iran, opponents of the deal recognize that they need 67 votes in the senate to strike a fatal blow to the deal. However, in recent weeks, at the behest of the Obama administration's entreaties, many Democratic senators have expressed their support for the deal. On September 2nd, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) voiced her support for the accord, making her the 34th senator to do so, virtually denying the deal’s opponents a chance to override the president.

Yet, the deal’s opponents have still steadfastly continued to rally people against the deal, organizing more rallies and urging people to call their elected representatives to have their voices heard. At an event on September 1st, Evan Ribbot, the AIPAC field organizer for YU gave a presentation against the deal and then opened the floor to questions. In response to queries about the possible failure of AIPAC’s efforts, he strongly affirmed that every vote in opposition to the deal, regardless of the final tally, is a vote expressing a segment of the country’s disapproval of the deal. He also stated that every vote against the deal will strengthen opponents of the deal efforts going forward, as they try and mitigate the potential negative outcomes it may have. It is this same sentiment that has overtaken many in the YU community, and, until the vote is held, it seems many students will continue to advocate their beliefs and rally as much opposition against the deal as possible, all while hoping for the best.