In our 2007 Biennial resolution "Support of Targeted Divestment from Iran", we delineated the threats posed by Iran's nuclear weapons program to Israel's 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 destroy Jews.
Since that time, the situation has worsened, increasing the urgency of our longstanding efforts to halt nuclear proliferation and to reign in Iran's 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 Iran's 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 Iran's 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, Iran's 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 Iran's 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 Iran's policies at the United Nations. Our Religious Action Center helped plan the Inter-Agency Task Force on Iran's September 2009 Washington DC "fly-in," where members of Congress and the Administration were urged to adopt strong sanctions legislation, increase pressure on Iran's 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 URJ's 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, Iran's 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 Ahmadinejad's offensive speech at the United Nation General Assembly in September 2009.
The urgency of a nuclear Iran's 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:
1. Continue 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;
2. Call on U.S. and Canadian governments to continue diplomatic efforts and mobilize international support for economic and political pressure on Iran;
3. Urge all URJ congregations to participate in the vital work of local, state, provincial, and national Iran divestment campaigns;
4. Call on congregations in the World Union for Progressive Judaism to advocate for such pressure from their own governments;
5. Support 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.
6. Join with governments, NGOs and faith communities to promote efforts that will guarantee human rights, religious freedom, and civil liberties for the people of Iran.
 Address to J Street Conference, October 26, 2009