What would you do if someone was threatening to kill you? Imagine that this person not only hated you vehemently, but was thought to have killed many of his own family members in cold blood. You know for a fact he owns several weapons and strongly suspect he has been attempting to purchase more. On top of all that, he publicly proclaims his desire to kill you on a regular basis. Would you take his threats seriously?
The scenario I described might sound like the set up for a terrible summer movie, but it almost exactly parallels the behavior of Iran toward Israel and the United States over the past several years. Iran’s leaders—President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—have openly declared their intention to wipe “Israel off the map” on numerous occasions. Less publicized are statements like Ahmadinejad’s from 2008: “Today, the time for the fall of the satanic power of the United States has come, and the countdown to the annihilation of the emperor of power and wealth has started.” Their intentions toward the United States and Israel could not be clearer.
A growing body of intelligence suggests that the Iranians, who already possess a large arsenal of ballistic missiles, are in the process of building nuclear weapons. While they may not have the capability of striking the United States mainland from their own, they could certainly hit Israel or pass off a nuclear weapon to a terrorist organization. Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, due to meet with President Obama early this week, has openly threatened to strike Iranian nuclear facilities rather than allow them to attain nuclear capabilities on his watch. I think most reasonable people can understand why he would make this threat.
An Israeli strike on Iran is a serious matter, one which would at very minimum disrupt an already unstable oil supply. So it is understandable that the White House would want to avoid an Israeli strike if possible. Yet openly disagreeing with the Israeli threat to strike has two effects: it lessens the deterrent force of such a possibility, and it treats Israel and Iran as morally equivalent parties in a conflict. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Israel is a democracy, like the United States, which respects the rights of individuals to freely practice religion and live as they choose under the law. There are many Muslims and Christians as well as Jewish people living and working in Israel. Iran, on the other hand, recently condemned a Christian pastor to death for the crime of converting to Christianity. As of this writing, the fate of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is uncertain.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.