No War on Iran and No First Strike

March 7, 2012   ·   0 Comments

Source: Tikkun

No War on Iran

By Michael Lerner:

[Note: Ad and text of ad are below this note.]

Today, our ad saying “No” to a first strike (preemptive attack) by either Israel or the U.S. on Iran, appeared in the New York Times (in the National Edition it is on page A19).

The media has distorted what has been going on between Obama and Netanyahu, representing it as Obama standing up to Netanyahu and being a hero for peace. But actually what happened is that Obama legitimated a first strike and preemptive attack on Iran, arguing with Netanyahu about the timing of such an attack, seeking to allow coercive economic sanctions to work first, but stating explicitly that Israel should not be constrained in any way to follow what it decides to be in its best national interest in regard to a strike on Iran. That’s why AIPAC gave him a standing ovation when Obama addressed them a few days ago.

Obama has now fully embraced the militarist position of George W. Bush who argued that it was legitimate for the U.S. to take a preemptive attack on Iraq based on the suspicion that they had nuclear weapons, just as Obama two months ago gave the green light to legislation that allows the US to imprison for life without a trial U.S. citizens the govenrnment suspects to be cooperating in some way with terrorists, and just as he has taken the lead in developing drone technology aimed at civilians (which Pentagon militarists say may soon be used inside the U.S.). The media ignores this significant tilt toward militarism in the policies and rhetoric of Obama, and its potential for building even more support for the right wing policies that were once considered extremist in US politics. In so doing, Obama has set a lasting precedent that can be cited by other countries in the future should China, Russia or India ever get to the point where they have sufficient military advances to use the strategy of preemptive attacks against Israel or even the U.S. The ethical foundation for this has been set by Obama’s AIPAC speech and his green light to Israel to attack Iran should they feel the need to do so. His caution of restraint is only about the timing, not about the legitimacy of first strike or preemptive attack.

The media has blocked this position out of public discourse. Our own attempt and the attempt of other peace groups to raise this issue through op-eds and public statements has been totally ignored. That’s why we had to buy the ad in the NY Times, and why we now need to continue this campaign against preemptive strikes by taking similar ads in Israeli and US media. We need your help (and your understanding that we will make these points but may frame some of the sentences differently to make the ad feel up to date by the time we’ve raised enough money to publish it in Israel and in US media). Would you help us do that by donating for this ongoing media campaign at [ ], or at least by adding your name to the 2,700 people who signed the ad by the morning of March 7. You do NOT have to donate to add your name, though the donations will help us spread this message beyond the NY Times!

Of course, if you have any influence with local or national media, please contact them and ask them to write about our perspective and interview some of the signatories. As we had indicated in an earlier note, those who gave $300 or more were listed on the ad, but the other thousands couldn’t fit on the page even if we had had nothing but names on the ad, so we had to simply give the email link and could not feature some of our important signatories like Cornel West, Rabbi Philip Bentley, Rabbi Everett Gendler and Dr Mary Gendler, Rev. Tony Campolo, or most of the rest of you to whom I’m writing this note. Yet everyone who signed and/or donated deserves the credit for having made this ad possible. And the rest of you could still help NOW by donating or signing the ad so that we can continue this campaign. Supporting this ad is a form of non-violent political action. And as we say in the ad, “The only path to peace is a path of peace and non-violence; our means must be as holy as our ends.”

If you haven’t done it yet, please send a note to everyone on your Facebook, Twitter, and your largest email lists, including all your personal friends, inviting them to sign and donate to the ad, and explaining why you want them to sign it at [ ]

So, THANK YOU for helping us take the leadership in this struggle for the ethical and spiritual well-being of the U.S. and Israel. As we say in the ad: we need our leaders to “break the cycles of violence thathave physically, ethically and spiritually wounded the human race for so much of its history.” And yet, as we say in the ad after affirming “a strategy of generosity” as depicted in our Global Marshall Plan (have you downloaded the full version of it at and read it through?), “We offer this in a spirit of humility, knowing that no one can be sure of what is going to happen in the future, but certain that what has happened in the past with the domination approach to the world’s problems has often led to worse disasters than whatever it was designed to forestall.”

Warm regards and blessings,

Rabbi Michael Lerner


This ad appeared in the March 7 NY Times National Edition, page A19

Ad and text:

No, Mr. Netanyahu, No, President Obama: No War on Iran and No First Strike

Some of us who signed this ad believe that even a nuclear Iran—faced with the certainty that its first aggressive use of nuclear weapons would engender a massive retaliation sufficient to kill most of the people of Iran—would not dare take a first nuclear strike against Israel or the United States. Americans once perceived the Soviet Union to be equally evil, irrational, and driven by ideological fundamentalism—yet the Soviet Union, armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, was constrained by the possibility of mutually assured destruction. The same is likely to be true of Iran should its ideologically driven fundamentalist leaders ever decide to develop nuclear weapons.

Some of us fear that electoral pressures have pushed President Obama and many Democrats in Congress to abandon the strategy of containment used with all the other nuclear powers and instead to coerce Iran into not developing nukes. We agree with the goal of non-proliferation, but believe that the only way to restrain the development of nukes by other states like Iran, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt is for the current nuclear powers—including the U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China, North Korea, India, Pakistan, and Israel—to disarm their own nuclear weapons. President Obama: show some leadership by making dramatic advances in negotiating the universal elimination of nuclear weapons contained in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty instead of only taking seriously the parts of that treaty calling for others to not obtain such weapons!

Unfortunately, President Obama made clear when he spoke to AIPAC on March 4 that he and Netanyahu only disagree about how long to use economic coercion (creating suffering for ordinary Iranians) before they revert to military attacks. Yet many of us who signed this ad believe that coercion is not in the best interests of the U.S., Israel, the Jewish people, or world peace. The only path to peace is a path of peace and non- violence. Our means must be as holy as our ends. President Obama: please show some leadership by affirming the value of non-violence even when dealing with a state like Iran. Break the cycles of violence that have physically, ethically, and spiritually wounded the human race for so much of its history. We know the outcome of the strategy of domination and violence. It’s time to use a fundamentally different approach.

Some of us believe that Israel could actually work out peaceful relations with Iran and enhance its own security and U.S. security by ending the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, helping the Palestinian people create an economically and politically viable state, taking generous steps to alleviate the humiliation and suffering of Palestinian refugees, and supporting Palestinian membership in the United Nations. Those steps, done with a spirit of openhearted generosity toward the Palestinian people and the people of all the surrounding states, is far more likely than military strikes against Iran or endless assaults on Hamas to provide a safe and secure future for Israel.

Similarly, if the United States were to apologize for its role in overthrowing the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953 and ushering in the Shah’s dictatorial regime, it would strengthen the hands of those in Iran who seek an overthrow of the even worse Islamic fundamentalist regime that now terrorizes the people of Iran.

Why might this work better than military attacks? Some who have signed this ad believe that the best path to homeland security is through rejecting the old-fashioned “domination strategy” of exercising power against those whom we fear. Domination strategies elicit fear, resentment at not being treated as a people who deserve respect, and then a desire to strike back. Instead we believe that what spiritual progressives call a “generosity strategy” based on caring for the other, compassion, and genuine respect for differences is likely to prove the most effective way to achieve long-term safety. The more the U.S. detaches from its previous role as the military champion of Western economic selfishness toward other countries in defense of their own global corporations, the more our influence will increase.

The Global Marshall Plan introduced to Congress as House Res. 157 by Hon. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)—a plan developed by Tikkun magazine and the Network of Spiritual Progressives—offers a concrete vision for such a strategy of generosity. Please read it at We offer this in a spirit of humility, knowing that no one can be sure of what is going to happen in the future, but certain that what has happened in the past with the domination approach to the world’s problems has often led to worse disasters than whatever it was designed to forestall.

None of us who sign this statement accept as legitimate the denial of human rights in Iran, the pretense of democracy, the oppression of the Bahai, the denial of the Holocaust, or the right of Iran to verbally threaten the existence of the State of Israel. Our opposition to a war does not come from support for the Iranian regime. The path of generosity outlined above will likely enhance, not weaken, Israeli, American, and global security, whereas an attack on Iran will make it hard for the democratic forces in Iran that oppose the current dictatorial regime to withstand nationalistic pressures to unite behind its current leaders against a foreign invader (Israel or the U.S.).

The signers of this ad do not agree on all of the statements above. Whatever the diversity of our perspectives, here’s what we do all agree upon:

No war. No preemptive first strikes on Iran.

We call upon our fellow citizens to

1) Send this ad to your congressional representatives, members of your state legislature and city council, and ask them to endorse the strategy of generosity reflected in the Global Marshall Plan ( and introduced to Congress as H. Res. 157;

2) Refuse to vote for any candidate who supports first strikes against Iran or any other nation state;

3) Donate at or by sending a check to Tikkun at 2342 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704, so that we can spread this message in U.S. and Israeli media.

This ad was developed by Rabbi Michael Lerner and circulated by Tikkun magazine and its interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP). NSP includes all religions plus atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists who support a world based on love, non-violence, and caring for “the other.” We unite people who are ready to affirm the possibility of a world based on these principles. If you wish to know more about our perspective on how to build peace in the Middle East, please read Tikkun editor Rabbi Michael Lerner’s 2012 book: Embracing Israel and Palestine: A Strategy to Heal and Transform the Middle East available through or on Kindle from This ad is cosponsored by the Shalom Center ( under the direction of Rabbi Arthur Waskow. This ad has been signed by clergy, opinion shapers, social change activists, spiritual progressives from every religious community, and citizens like you. You can add your name by following the instructions below. You can send us your ideas on how YOU would like to help us in building a movement along the lines specified in this ad by writing to [email protected]


Readers Comments (0)


Reload Image

More in IRAN, NYT ADVERTISING (66 of 98 articles)