It is difficult to conceive an appropriate response to the Tehran conference on the Holocaust.
Among the items I have received are:
A suggestion that prominent Americans demand the expulsion of Iran from the United Nations; and failing that insist that the United States quit the world organization and cease all funding of it.
A cartoon in which a Holocaust survivor shows his tattoo to a young friend, and explains it as a reminder about the dangers of extremism. The organizer of this mailing asks that it be forwarded again and again so that at least six million people see it.
A request from the Simon Wiesenthal Center to make a contribution that will support the production and distribution of "an important DVD, 'Witness to the Truth' in order to share the courage and tenacity of 50 Survivors, who each told their stories in 5 minutes, with schools and universities in North America and abroad."
A request from Scholars for Peace in the Middle East to sign its petition to the United Nations which states, among other things, "If no one will stop Ahmadinejad, no one can blame Israel for exercising the right and obligation it has to defend itself and solicit all the support it can get in doing so. Ahmadinejad has made his intention crystal clear since his rise to power. He must be stopped and the international community must insure that the atrocities being predicted by him must be stopped by all diplomatic, economic and other ways to prevent further tragedies in the region." The Scholars for Peace in the Middle East would also appreciate a donation to help with its good works. Those include opposition to academic boycotts of Israelis from the UK and Ireland, and presentations about crazy academics in North America.
Israeli media has devoted considerable airtime to the conference. Implicit in the coverage is the question, "Why?" Condemnation from civilized governments is widespread. The presence of ultra-Orthodox rabbis at the conference is bizarre. Among the hypotheses are:
Iran wants condemnation to give it an excuse in order to admit that its peaceful nuclear program must, after all, be used to produce weapons in order to defend itself against a hostile world.
Iran wants to strengthen its claim that it is the leader of the Muslim world, and the only member willing to stand up against the Israel-centered source of evil that has stolen Palestine and done other abominations.
One is tempted to ignore the Iranians as mad, but that was a view held of Hitler and his minions until they seized power and began to march elsewhere.
Will it be useful to continue a mass mailing of a cartoon, make a contribution to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, sign a petition and contribute to Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, or to organize the expulsion of Iran from the United Nations when it seems unlikely that the Security Council (crucial to the expulsion effort) can even impose meaningful sanctions?
Meanwhile, the Israeli Supreme Court has issued a long delayed ruling that targeted assassinations are acceptable, providing they are well targeted in a way to be sure that the target deserves the assassination, and that there is a minimum of collateral damage. Predictably, Palestinians concerned about civil rights are claiming that the ruling only proves the crime of the Israeli justice system. Their own conception of justice, apparently, is to lynch a person accused of collaborating with Israel in a public place. Or, as more recent events indicate, simply to kill those Palestinians affiliated with a rival political organization.
One of my close friends is an attorney who has worked in behalf of civil rights for Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, and others. I have watched his son grow up from a little kid to a hefty young man who played aggressive games of football and basketball in the school yard alongside our home. Now he has signed up for one of the most active of the IDF combat units, and is about two months through a training program that will consume about one year of his three years active service. The parents are not yet worried about him. That will begin in another 10 months.