Normally, the kerfuffle over Republican presidential nomination aspirant Dr. Ben Carson suggesting that President Obama is anti-Semitic:
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson says he believes some of President Barack Obama’s actions are anti-semitic.
“I think anything is anti-Semitic if it’s against the survival of a state that is surrounded by enemies and by people who want to destroy them and to sort of ignore that and to act like everything is normal there and that these people are paranoid is anti-Semitic,” Carson said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Carson did not specifically mention the Iran nuclear agreement, but said during a recent visit to Israel he could not find a single person who “didn’t think this administration has turned its back on Israel.”
wouldn’t interest me and I’d just ignore it. However, since it ties in with themes I’ve mentioned here before, I thought I might comment on it. Presumably, the logic goes something like this. The Iranians are determined to build a nuclear weapon. The president’s Iran deal leaves Iran on the path to building a nuclear weapon, either covertly now or, after the deal’s expiration date, in fifteen years time. Iranian possession of a nuclear weapon is a threat to the existence of the state of Israel whether now or in the future. Threatening the existence of the state of Israel is synonymous with anti-Semiticism. Consequently, President Obama is anti-Semitic.
I doubt that President Obama shares any of those assumptions. I don’t think that he believes that the Iranians are determined to develop nuclear weapons, that Iran’s thirst for nuclear weapons won’t be moderated with the passage of fifteen years, or that allowing a persistent threat to the state of Israel is ipso facto anti-Semitic. I have no idea what his views on the state of Israel are or whether he believes that Iranian possession of a nuclear weapon is an existential threat to Israel. I suspect that he is sincere in the claim that he has made any number of times that the deal that has been negotiated leaves Israel safer than it would be without it.
I think that the president makes the same error in dealing with the Israelis that he does in dealing with the Republicans (does that mean he is “making common cause” with the Iranians?): he dismisses the Israelis’ concerns as illegitimate and frivolous rather than taking them seriously. Disagreement with him about the Iranian deal is not provably wrong any more than it is necessarily emblematic of reflexive partisan opposition to the president’s policy positions.
It is possible for intelligent people to have different assumptions, different preferences, different appetites for risk, and it should be possible for them to disagree without being accused of bad faith. Let’s curb the accusations of anti-Semiticism and of purely partisan motives. They’re not persuasive; they’re barriers to persuasion.