Iran, Israel, Torah, & the H-Bomb

Many Israeli and US military and security professionals are far more cautious about using military force to coerce Iran than such politicians as the US “neo-conservatives” and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who claimed that conquering Iraq would be a cakewalk. No surprise that those who actually have experienced “the fog of war” might have a more accurate sense of its pitfalls than prating politicians who hope to win more votes by ginning up an atmosphere of fear and rage.

It’s ironic that the Grand Ayatollah of Iran has ruled that Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon would violate Islam.  While some rabbis & other Jewish teachers have suggested that the use of  an H-bomb (by the US,  Israel, and anyone else) would violate Torah, including the Noachide laws, no Jewish person or body as broadly authotitative as the Ayatollah is in his own country (perhaps there could be none) has set forth such a view  — let alone a prohibition on even possessing H-Bombs.

In the 1980s, when The Shalom Center was focused on the nuclear arms race, we did come close to such a view  — talking about the danger of a nuclear holocaust in Torah terms by using the framework of the Mabul shel Aish, a Flood of Fire, as rabbinic midrash  warns.  We pointed out that an arms race might conceivably make sense in the context of planning for an impending “conventional” war, since the nation with the most amd most effective weapons  would be likelier to “win.” But in a Flood of Fire, adding more fires burns everyone.   Rabbi Ira Chernus, a professor of religion at the University of Colorado (see <http://spot.colorado.edu/~chernus/> did in those days set forth a remarkable analysis, suggesting that the physical existence of an H-Bomb fit the biblical and rabbinic definitions of an idol— Moloch itself, murderer of the world.

This is perhaps a deeper way of looking at the danger of an Iranian H-Bomb, and raises the question whether serious Jewish religious thought might not be directed at the importance of a world without nuclear weapons. President Obama has proposed that vision but has done almost nothing to achieve it.  There have been proposals from various sources for a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East, which would mean putting an end to the Israeli nuclear arsenal as well as projects in any other country toward creating one.

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