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Zunes, however, assured his audience that, “they are unlikely to have a single deployable nuclear warhead for four or five years. In other words, there’s plenty of time.”
His repeated insistence that Iran’s violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty are “no different” than those of other signatories failed to account for Iran’s open hostility toward the Jewish state, its sponsorship of terrorism across the world, or the threats of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to obliterate Israel—a threat he reiterated twice just this month.
Zunes mocked Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s concerns that Iran may give small nuclear weapons to Hezbollah, its proxy in South America:
[Hezbollah] will bring them into Latin America and smuggle them over the Mexican border and set them off in an American city—there’s all kinds of crazy scenarios. . . . This is how desperate people are to justify an attack.
In fact, there is ample evidence to support this scenario. Iran and Hezbollah have long had a foothold in South America, and America’s porous southern border provides ample opportunity for Hezbollah to team with Mexican drug cartels and move northward. Ilan Berman has argued that had Iran succeeded in its October, 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. with the assistance of a Mexican drug cartel, it “would potentially have killed scores of U.S. citizens in the nation’s capital in the most significant terrorist event since 9/11.”
Despite decades of Iranian-sponsored global terrorist attacks, Zunes claimed that Iran’s ties to international terrorism are overstated. He would only concede that there are some “pretty sketchy groups that would be willing to attack Americans and their interests worldwide.” “Pretty sketchy groups” is an understatement.
During the question and answer period, a member of the audience asked, “What is the rationale for resolutions against Iran in the American Congress?” to which Zunes responded:
The concern about Iran getting the bomb is not about Israel being nuked, but that Iran will have deterrence so the United States can’t throw its weight around. They aren’t going to bomb Israel.
Zunes’s absolute certainty might be weakened were he on the receiving end of the Iranian regime’s constant threats. He then ranted about xenophobia and “privilege” in the U.S., providing a glimpse into his own personal demons in the process:
There is fear of having our privilege taken from us, that we are no longer exceptional. I come from the South. On my mother’s side were slave owners. They were afraid of the slaves. That’s why that [family] side is so dysfunctional . . . it’s fear of the unwashed masses—they will take our privilege. Fear is useful: Israel burning; images of the Holocaust; terror milked by politicians; internalized Jewish terror of anti-Semitism that is exaggerated for political reasons; the burning; the ovens. Fear is definitely a big piece.
For Zunes and his audience, however, fear was definitely not a factor. Neither, for that matter, was reality. He can rationalize mortal danger all he likes, but it won’t make it go away. There are challenges that even “social justice” can’t solve.
Berkeley resident Rima Greene co-wrote this article with Cinnamon Stillwell, the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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