In our 2007 Biennial resolution Support of Targeted Divestment from Iran,
we delineated the threats posed by Irans nuclear weapons program to
Israels security, to United States and Canadian interests, and to the
stability of the Middle East. We
detailed, as well, the increased danger of such technologies falling into the
hands of a nation led in part by a President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has
called for wiping out Israel and has denied the truthfulness of past efforts to
Since that time, the situation has worsened, increasing the urgency of our longstanding efforts
to halt nuclear proliferation and to reign in Irans aggressive posture in the
region. Ahmadinejad has been reelected and continued his anti-Israel,
anti-Semitic rhetoric as recently as his September 2009 address to the United
Nations General Assembly accusing "Zionists" of seeking to
"establish a new form of slavery, and harm the reputation of other
nations, even European nations and the U.S., to attain its racist
ambitions." Iran has cracked down
further on human rights, religious freedom and as evidenced by the recent contested
election, on political opposition.
Most alarmingly, it has continued unabated its efforts to develop its nuclear capabilities.
Experts estimate that Iran could achieve ballistic nuclear weapons capability
between 2010 and 2014. There is clear evidence that Irans ongoing enrichment
of uranium has the potential to produce material that could be the foundation
of a nuclear warhead. This activity is conducted in defiance of international
law and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The recent discovery,
and Irans admission, of a secret nuclear plant near the city of Qum,
strengthens the supposition that Iran is building a network of nuclear
facilities beyond IAEA supervision or oversight. Such activities heighten the
urgency and seriousness of an already disturbing situation and demand a swift
and effective response from the international community.
The Dangers of Nuclear Proliferation
The threat posed by Iran must also be seen in the context of broader nuclear non-proliferation
efforts. Experts agree that if current trends continue, the next two decades
will see a number of unstable states and non-state actors, including terrorist
groups, obtain nuclear weapons. Indeed,
if Iran today halted its own development and wished to purchase the technology
for weapons, it could likely do so.
The danger posed by an Iran with nuclear military capabilities is amplified by the possibility
of it providing such capabilities to unstable states and terrorist groups. Iran
is a key sponsor of Hezbollah and Hamas and supports the efforts of other
international terrorist groups. For
example, Irans Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini spoke openly of sharing such
technologies with Sudan, stating, The Islamic Republic is ready to transfer
this experience and the technology and knowledge of its scientists." Further, as Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of
the Union for Reform Judaism, said in October 2009, if Iran becomes a nuclear
power, some Arab states will quietly drift into Irans orbit, while others will
move quickly to acquire nuclear weapons of their own. In these circumstances,
any possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian peace will evaporate.
Our concern about nuclear proliferation generally is also rooted in Jewish values and
Jewish interests. The biblical commandment to seek peace and pursue it
(Psalms 34:15) and Jewish rules on warfare, which eschew weapons that would
kill indiscriminately or create long-term damage to the environment, have
inspired decades of Reform Movement activism against nuclear weapons
proliferation. Such weapons pose a threat to the life and health of humanity
and the earth. In a 1981 resolution, we
asserted our support of policy that would impose a moratorium on the transfer
of nuclear technology to those nations that have not demonstrated the ability
or intention to use that technology responsibly, until such time as genuinely
effective safeguards can be established. This remains a major priority for the
Reform Jewish Movement and seems to be gaining attention and momentum.
At the United Nations General Assembly meetings in September 2009, President Obama presided
over a unanimous Security Council vote designed to deter withdrawal from the
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and stem the development of nuclear weapons.
The United States leadership on this vote was critical and recognizes that no
matter our economic or social advances, the world remains at grave risk if we
continue to allow the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The Current Situation
Talks in October 2009 between the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany
and Iran were an important diplomatic effort to meet the challenges before us.
Yet, such discussions have yielded few concrete results to date. Iran responded
to the United Nations draft nuclear fuel deal with amendments and reservations
that weaken the proposal. President Ahmadinejad continues to insist that [a]s
long as this government is in power, it will not retreat one iota on the
undeniable [nuclear] rights of the Iranian nation. The international community
remains divided on the most effective means of addressing the potential threat
of a nuclear Iran.
Taking A Stand Against A Nuclear Iran
The Union for Reform Judaism has spoken out on these many threats posed by Iran. We have condemned
the senseless deaths, unlawful
arrests, and violent repression of Iranian citizens and others
protesting the contested presidential election. We have also worked with the
broader Jewish community on several major rallies against Irans policies at the
United Nations. Our Religious Action Center helped plan the Inter-Agency Task
Force on Irans September 2009 Washington DC fly-in, where members of
Congress and the Administration were urged to adopt strong sanctions
legislation, increase pressure on Irans leaders, and clarify the steps Iran
must take to ease these restrictions. And the URJ has long been the leading
major Jewish organization in nuclear non-proliferation efforts.
In the URJs 2007 Resolution in Support of Targeted Divestment from Iran, we expressed our
support for the use of personal, state, and national divestment efforts and
targeted economic sanctions as diplomatic tools. Strengthened legislation
toward those goals is moving through Congress with broad bi-partisan support.
While our 2007 resolution focused on targeted divestment, Irans failure to change policy has
led the United States and Canada to explore tougher pressures. The Iran
Sanctions Enabling Act (ISEA) of 2009, introduced by Representative Barney
Frank (D-MA), gives states the necessary tools to choose to divest from Iran
without worrying that such measures could be struck down as unconstitutional.
Targeted economic sanctions against, and divestment from, Iran augment our
diplomatic efforts and are necessary until there are significant assurances
that the government of Iran has ceased efforts to develop nuclear weapons
capability.This legislation is important because much of the divestment
work is carried out on a local level. We are proud that many of our congregations
have played an active role in mobilizing successful divestment efforts on a
state level. In October 2009, the House overwhelmingly passed the ISEA, and the
companion legislation, S. 1065, is currently under consideration in the Senate.
Economic sanctions are another powerful method to make clear to the Iranian government
that the continued development of a nuclear weapons program is unacceptable.
The Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (H.R. 2194 and S. 908), introduced by
Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) and Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), would
strengthen the President's authority to impose sanctions limiting Iran's
ability to import and produce refined petroleum products.
In the Canadian House of Commons, MP Irwin Cotler has introduced the Iran Accountability Act,
which would address human rights violations and
nuclear arms development.
The Canadian delegation also led the boycott of President Ahmadinejads
offensive speech at the United Nation General Assembly in September 2009.
The urgency of a nuclear Irans potential impact on the international
community and the political situation within Iran demands that we continue to
speak out and act.
THEREFORE, the Union for Reform Judaism resolves to:
to advocate for effective sanctions and divestment legislation against Iran
until it cooperates with international authorities by ceasing development of
nuclear capabilities that could be used for military purposes and thereby pose
a grave threat to international peace;
on U.S. and Canadian governments to continue diplomatic efforts and mobilize
international support for economic and political pressure on Iran;
all URJ congregations to participate in the vital work of local, state, provincial,
and national Iran divestment campaigns;
on congregations in the World Union for Progressive Judaism to advocate for
such pressure from their own governments;
nuclear non-proliferation efforts both in the context of Iran and in halting
the spread of nuclear weapons worldwide and encourage other Jewish
organizations and faith communities to join in such efforts.
with governments, NGOs and faith communities to promote efforts that will
guarantee human rights, religious freedom, and civil liberties for the people