The Iranian nuclear threat from a Purim perspective
The Iranian nuclear threat from a Purim perspective

Today, as in the times of Esther and Mordechai, Jews are being threatened with annihilation. Esther requested a preemptive attack to save the Jews. Should Israel learn from Esther and orchestrate a preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities to protect Jews from a nuclear holocaust? 

On February 24, 2018 Rabbi Shubert Spero wrote in the Jerusalem Post "In 539 BCE, the Achaemenid emperor Cyrus conquered Babylon and issued his famous declaration permitting the Jewish exiles to return to their land and to rebuild the Temple. A number returned under Zerubavel, and the foundations of the Temple were laid. Plotting by the Samaritans and other peoples who had occupied the land led to an interruption of the Temple-building, and continual harassment of the Yishuv throughout the reign of Cambyses (530-522 BCE).

"Under Darius I (521-485 BCE) and after the prompting of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, building was resumed and the Temple completed in 515.

"Under the next kings, Xerxes (485-465 BCE) and Artaxerxes (465-424 BCE), the conspiracies and persecutions by the well-organized enemies of Jewish resettlement continued, creating severe economic and security problems until Ezra and Nehemiah came up from Persia-Babylon with royal authority and stabilized the Yishuv by completing the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem in the year 444."

Regardless of whether we identify Ahasuerus with Cambyses or with Xerxes (Kishayarsha in Persian), the point is that the struggle between Haman and Mordechai is to be seen as being related to the larger struggle between the Jewish community in Judea and their enemies in Judea-Samaria, who had supporters in the Persian capital.

The 127 satrapies that Ahasuerus governed “from India to Nubia” included Judea and Jerusalem. Thus when Haman engineers an edict “to destroy, to slay and to cause to perish all Jews both young and old... in all the King’s provinces,” the olim in Judea are included.

Since the return from the Babylonian captivity and the establishment of the second commonwealth came about not through conquest as in the days of Joshua but through statesmanship and the good will of the nations, the period of consolidation was not a series of battles and wars as recorded in the Book of Judges, but intense infighting involving influence, diplomacy and intrigue within the Persian court.

While the objectives were in Judea, the crucial battles took place in the capital in Susa (Shushan) or in the royal summer residence at Ekbatana.

This is clear from the Book of Ezra: “And the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judea... and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus even until the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Ahasuerus in the beginning of his reign they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.”

This was the nature of Judea’s political basis throughout the two centuries of Persian rule. Mordechai, therefore, must be seen as another heroic Jew of the Diaspora who, like Zerubavel before him and Ezra and Nehemia after him, acted to prevent and preserve the developing but threatened dream of the Return by employing the resources at his disposal in the Persian court.

In the Midrashic literature, explicit associations are made between Haman and the king’s general plan of genocide and their specific opposition to the rebuilding of the Temple and the resettlement of Judea, some of which are incorporated by Rashi in his commentary on the Book of Esther.

In  light of all this, the story of Purim must be retold with the following emphasis: even before Haman was elevated to high position, he was known in the Jewish community for his implacable opposition to Jewish resettlement efforts in Judea. The term “tzorair hayehudim” – enemy of the Jews, applied to Haman, is to be associated with a similar term in the Book of Ezra – “tzarai yehuda” which carries the specific connotation of opposition to the resettlement of Judea. The sudden elevation of Haman clearly spelled trouble for Judea sooner or later.

The refusal of Mordechai to bow to Haman is to be interpreted as a deliberate, calculated risk by Mordechai to force the foes of Zionism to make their move.

Mordechai’s calculation was simple. He realized that it was to his advantage to act immediately while, unknown to Haman, the Jewish community was holding two trump cards: a Jewish queen was the king’s favorite and a Jewish nobleman had just saved the king’s life. 

Mordechai refuses to bow and makes sure that Haman knows he is a Jew – “...for he had told them that he was a Jew.”

Haman’s charge to the king that the laws of the Jews “are diverse from those of every people, neither keep they the king’s laws” must also be seen as based upon the long campaign of vilification of the Jewish people carried out by their enemies. In the Book of Ezra we are told that the Jewish settlers are denounced to the Persian court for contemplating rebellion, scheming to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem when the royal permit spoke only of the Temple, not paying taxes and imposts, and harboring ambitions to crown their own king.

We today are familiar with the mechanics by which a statement without foundation in fact, if repeated long enough, will be believed and accepted.

Most important, however, is the new insight we gain regarding the seemingly harsh request of Esther for another day in which the Jews of Shushan might “defend” themselves. While it may be granted that Mordechai’s objective here was not merely survival, nevertheless neither was it senseless bloodletting, or revenge. He saw in the favorable turn of events an opportunity to be rid of those organized parties in the Persian capital who were constantly  plotting the destruction of Judea.

Thus in Shushan and in Judea primarily, the Jews went on the offensive in a preemptive strike, rooting out the terrorists in their home bases and the hate-peddlers in their downtown headquarters.

It is for this reason that the day celebrated as a holiday is not the day of the theoretical miracle of salvation but the day “when the Jews had rest from their enemies.” For this was the important achievement of Purim, gaining for the weakened community of Judea a period of relative peace and security."

And today?

On March 4, 2020 Fox News reported  "Iran has nearly tripled its stockpile of enriched uranium since November in violation of its deal with world powers, U.N. atomic watchdog agency said Tuesday, while raising new questions about possible nuclear-related activities and undeclared nuclear material at three locations.

The International Atomic Energy Agency made the statement in a confidential report distributed to member countries that was seen by The Associated Press. The agency said as of Feb. 19, Iran's total stockpile of low-enriched uranium amounted to 1,020.9 kilograms (1.1 tons), compared to 372.3 kilograms on Nov. 3, 2019, noted in its November report. 

The current stockpile puts Iran within reach of the amount needed to produce a nuclear weapon, which it insists it doesn't want to do...Ali Asghar Zarean, an aide to Iran’s nuclear chief, on Jan. 26 announced that Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile had exceeded 1,200 kilograms (1.32 tons).

“Iran is increasing its stockpile of the enriched uranium with full speed,” he said..."

On January 7, 2020 Yonah Jeremy Bob reported in the Jerusalem Post "...Olli Heinonen, former deputy director-general for safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency, has told The Jerusalem Post that, “If the recent performance numbers, average enrichment levels, and current inventories quoted by [Iran Atomic Energy Organization Director Ali Akbar] Salehi hold, the breakout time by the end of January will be around two months.”

On January 8, 2020 NBC reported "In a 10-minute White House speech, Trump vowed to keep up the pressure on Iran with "punishing" new sanctions on top of the heavy economic restraints already in place, but didn't suggest the U.S. would be taking any additional military action in response...Trump again criticized the Iran nuclear deal — from which he withdrew the U.S. in 2018 — and claimed that the financial incentives provided by the Obama administration to Iran under that deal financed the missiles used in the latest attacks...Trump also called on world powers, including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russian and China, to "break away from the remnants of" the deal..."

Although Trump's sanctions are helpful they will not prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. On november 19, 2019 the Jerusalem Post reported that Israel may be forced to act directly in Iran to stop the Iranians "Israel will likely need to attack Iran directly to stop it from developing nuclear weapons and a “ring of fire” around Israel, ex-national security council chief Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS) said on Monday.

Speaking at the INSS annual Arms Control conference in Tel Aviv, Amidror said, “there might come a situation where we will have to act directly in Iran to stop the Iranians. The world is not ready to act…not NATO, not the US…they prefer to close their eyes.”

Iranian leaders repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction. Iranian leaders refer to Israel as a ONE BOMB STATE because it is so small it can be destroyed with only one bomx reported about Khamenei’s Mein Kampf: “Supreme ruler Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran has published a book on how to destroy Israel, arguing that his position is based on “well-established Islamic principles.”

The 416-page book is entitled “Palestine,” The New York Post reports. An item on the books’ back cover describes Khamenei as “The flagbearer of Jihad to liberate Jerusalem.” …

From the outset, Khamenei makes clear that Israel does not have a right to exist as a state.

He crystalizes his argument with three key words throughout the book, according to the Post.

They are “nabudi,” which means “annihilation”; “imha,” meaning “fading out”; and “zaval,” which means “effacement.”

The ayatollah also described Israel as “adou” and “doshman” — or “enemy” and “foe,” the Post reports.

Khamenei called anti-Semitism as a European notion, according to the Post, and claimed that his perspective is based on “well-established Islamic principles.”

These include the idea that land that falls under Muslim rule, even briefly, can never again be ceded to non-Muslims.

“What matters in Islam is ownership of a land’s government, even if the majority of inhabitants are non-Muslims,” according to the report.

Khamenei also argues that Israel is a special case because the nation is a loyal “ally of the American Great Satan,” meaning the United States; because it has warred against Muslims on many occasions; and because Israel occupies Jerusalem, which Khamenei describes as “Islam’s third Holy City.”

Inaction has its price. When Obama signed the nuclear deal with Iran Bruce Thornton wrote in Frontpage Magazine that “The point is not...that full-scale war is the only alternative to stopping Iran. An incremental application of force in response to Iranian intransigence and stonewalling during negotiations––destroying the Arak nuclear reactor, for example––would have convinced Iran that there was a serious price to pay for their obstructionism, lying, and cheating on their obligations.

Those who preach “force solves nothing” should remember the 1988 Tanker War, sparked by Iran’s threats to disrupt oil shipments transiting the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war. Iran backed off when Ronald Reagan retaliated for a missile attack on an American warship by eventually destroying two Iranian oil platforms, two Iranian ships, and six Iranian gunboats...

Of course, there would be consequences to such military actions, and no doubt the “world community”... would complain––a contingency that doesn’t seem to inhibit Russia and China from brutally pursuing their national interests. But inaction has its consequences as well. In the coming years we will find out just what the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran will be.”

An incremental application of force today to stop Iran’s nuclear program is far preferable than a nuclear holocaust. What would be the consequences of inaction today? There are horrific casualties predicted if Iran attacks Israel with nuclear weapons. Nick Turse, an award-winning journalist  managing editor of and a fellow at the Nation Institute, wrote in that “The first nuclear attack on a civilian population center, the U.S. strike on Hiroshima, left that city “uniformly and extensively devastated,” according to a study carried out in the wake of the attacks by the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. “Practically the entire densely or moderately built-up portion of the city was leveled by blast and swept by fire… The surprise, the collapse of many buildings, and the conflagration contributed to an unprecedented casualty rate.” At the time, local health authorities reported that 60% of immediate deaths were due to flash or flame burns and medical investigators estimated that 15%-20% of the deaths were caused by radiation.

The number of fatalities at Hiroshima has been estimated at 140,000. A nuclear attack on Nagasaki three days later is thought to have killed 70,000. Today, according to Dallas, 15-kiloton nuclear weapons of the type used on Japan are referred to by experts as “firecracker nukes” due to their relative weakness…”

Trump's sanctions will not prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, an incremental application of force today to stop Iran’s nuclear program is far preferable than a nuclear holocaust. A limited war today would be preferable to a full scale nuclear war. The quantity of casualties killed in a limited strike today would be insignificant compared to the quantity of casualties in a nuclear war.

The choice has never been between war and peace, the choice is between a limited military strike now or a full scale Nuclear War.

Ezequiel Doiny is author of "Obama's assault on Jerusalem's Western Wall"