After watching the crowd react to Sheldon Adelson’s proposal Tuesday evening to nuke Tehran, I started to visibly shake.  I haven’t been this upset in a while.  Maybe it is because one of the books I’m reading right now is Command and Control, by Eric Schlosser, about how close to accidental thermonuclear war we’ve sometimes come.

As appalling as Adelson’s statement was, what got me shaking was the incontestable fact that the audience applauded the following utterance, as the President of Yeshiva University, Richard M. Joel, JD, sat there mutely.  Here’s what Adelson was applauded for saying (emphasis added):

Boteach: So you would support negotiations with Iran so long as they first cease all enrichment

Adelson: No. What do you mean support negotiations? What are we going to negotiate about? What I would say is, ‘Listen, you see that desert out there, I want to show you something.’ You pick up your cell phone, even at traveling rates. You pick up your cell phone, and– what are they called?

Boteach: roaming charges.

Adelson: Roaming charges. You pick up your cell phone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say, ‘OK let it go.’ So there’s an atomic weapon, goes over ballistic missiles, the middle of the desert, that doesn’t hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever.

And then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development.

[Applause]

I was upset enough to call the office of President Joel.  I was told he had not responded to Adelson’s call for thermonuclear genocide.  So I wrote him the following open letter:

Mr. Richard M. Joel, JD
President, Yeshiva University
500 West 185th Street, Belfer Hall 1200
New York, NY 10033

Dear President Joel,

I have just finished watching a video segment posted on Youtube of part of a seminar in which you participated Tuesday evening, at Yeshiva University. One moment bothered me to the point I find myself distressed.

One of the participants in the event was Sheldon Adelson. He made the following statement (emphasis added):

Boteach: So you would support negotiations with Iran so long as they first cease all enrichment

Adelson: No. What do you mean support negotiations? What are we going to negotiate about? What I would say is, ‘Listen, you see that desert out there, I want to show you something.’ You pick up your cell phone, even at traveling rates. You pick up your cell phone, and– what are they called?

Boteach: roaming charges.

Adelson: Roaming charges. You pick up your cell phone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say, ‘OK let it go.’ So there’s an atomic weapon, goes over ballistic missiles, the middle of the desert, that doesn’t hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever.

And then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development.

[Applause]

+++++++

I am appalled that you so willingly sat there mutely as Mr. Adelson’s horrific statement and proposal, which would kill millions of people, was applauded so enthusiastically by students and guests at your institution.

I called your office today, Wednesday, October 23, to ask whether you had issued any sort of statement distancing yourself from Mr. Adelson’s suggestion of a horrific act of war against a sovereign nation with which we are currently negotiating. I was told you have not issued any such statement.

I am asking you to make such a statement soon, sir.

Very Truly Yours,

Philip Munger

I’ll let you know if the distinguished university administrator responds. Here is the video of the exchange, initially posted by Phil Weiss, at the blog Mondoweiss.  The troubling statement and response begins just after 5:15:

What would the media response have been had a prominent American Muslim been able to draw such applause from a university audience for recommending using a thermonuclear weapon on Tel Aviv?  The University would be castigated, the president who failed to condemn such a threat then and there, fired or forced to resign in disgrace.

If you want to write to President Joel, here is a link to his office email.