From Iran's Nuclear Ambitions to Online Hate

Published: August 20th 2010
in News » Local

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center

Rabbi Abraham Cooper was in Toronto this week to address members of the Simon Wiesenthal Center on a range of issues of importance to the Jewish community.


Speaking with Shalom Life, Cooper, the Associate Dean of the center, noted that Toronto has 24,000 Simon Wiesenthal Center members out of a total of 400,000 worldwide.


“Canada’s grassroots support is very loyal. I wanted to give them a perspective and update,” he said.


One of Cooper’s biggest concerns at the moment is Iran’s nuclear program. He recently met with a senior official of the White House’s National Security Council to address a Congressional vote on the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty in which Israel was named for the first time, but Iran was not mentioned.


In terms of what to do to ensure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons, he said, “Everyone’s hoping and praying that the sanctions that are in place, at least on paper, will have an effect.”


He also believes that efforts have to “ratcheted up” to make sure that overseas subsidiaries of companies don’t use loopholes to continue trading with Iran. For instance, there was a recent report that German firms are continuing to help the Iranian regime even though they are not supposed to.


It’s perfectly understandable to focus on the existential threat of a “homicidal maniac like Ahmadinejad and the mullahs who want to do in Israel and the Jews,” said Cooper. However, he and his colleagues have visited the United Arab Emirates twice where they met with top government officials and the UAE is just as worried about Iran as Israel is. He explained how from the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai, you can see the three islands of Abu Moussa, Greater Tunbs and Lesser Tunbs, which are currently are under Iranian control (the UAE believes that these Persian Gulf islands belong to them).


Just across the water, the “Iranian threat is an existential threat to [the UAE’s] very nice world order where oil is an ATM machine to them and the United States has provided cover all of these decades.”


The message Cooper heard from UAE officials: If the bomb isn’t stopped, they are going to have to make a deal with the devil.


“They are not sleeping at night; this has nothing to do with Israel,” he said. “In fact, they are hoping that the United States and Israel and others will get together to take out that threat.”


According to Cooper, many American diplomats, journalists and experts are way off course when they say, “What would be so bad if Iran gets the bomb? It will make Israel behave and make the Arabs thank us so what’s the big deal?”


“This is an issue that much more profound because when they go nuclear, so does Egypt, so does Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE will have no problem with their chequebook to do the same. Can you imagine a Middle East in which every zip code has nuclear weapons? Nobody there who we spoke to wants to do it, everyone there will do it. So the stakes are much higher and go far beyond our concerns for our families and friends in Israel. It’s the whole region.”


He would have liked to see President Barack Obama up the pressure on the Ahmadinejad government a lot earlier. Right now, however, he “seems to be on it.”


He also mentioned that the US government needs to do much more to support the pro-democracy movement in Iran, saying that in the past the American government has always used its power to support dissident movements – for example, with Voice of America broadcasts –in places like the former Soviet Union.  


Cooper also touched on digital hate crime. Each year, the Simon Wiesenthal Center puts out a report on Digital Terrorism.


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