Lifting sanctions on Iran will finance terror against Israel - interview with Rep. Torres

“If we lift the sanctions, how are those dollars likely to be spent?" US Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) said in an interview.

 New Iranian "Kheibarshekan" missiles are seen in an undisclosed location in Iran, in this picture obtained on February 9, 2022.  (photo credit: IRGC/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS)
New Iranian "Kheibarshekan" missiles are seen in an undisclosed location in Iran, in this picture obtained on February 9, 2022.
(photo credit: IRGC/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS)

Lifting sanctions on Iran will fund terrorism against Israel and throughout the Middle East, US Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-New York) warned in an interview with The Jerusalem Post this week.

“I share Israel’s concern about lifting sanctions,” Torres said. “If we lift the sanctions, how are those dollars likely to be spent? I have no reason to think those dollars will be spent on an Iranian Build Back Better Act. I have every reason to think those dollars will likely finance acts of terrorism and proxy warfare and the Sunni Arab world.”

Torres also said he does not think that a majority of Congress would support lifting sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“If there was an ally of the US lifting sanctions on al-Qaeda in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, how would we feel?” he said, in making the case to Americans against lifting sanctions. “We would be outraged. That’s how Israelis feel about the lifting of sanctions on Iran and its proxies.”

For Americans, Torres said, lifting sanctions is an abstract idea, while Israelis will feel its concrete effects.

 Representative Ritchie Torres speaks during the House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, US, September 30, 2021.  (credit: Al Drago/Pool via REUTERS) Representative Ritchie Torres speaks during the House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, US, September 30, 2021. (credit: Al Drago/Pool via REUTERS)

“Unlike the US, which is surrounded by two oceans and peaceful neighbors, Israel is largely surrounded by hostile neighbors” – like Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon – “and essentially shares a border with Russia. Most of us in the US have no concept of the fragile security situation; none of us have had to live with rocket fire or live in neighborhoods where bus stops double as bomb shelters or have [had] the trauma of children running to bomb shelters.

“Nothing in the American experience is remotely comparable to the volatility Israel faces every day.”

Torres spoke out against critics “who pass judgment on Israel from the comfort of an American ivory tower, without going to Israel and seeing the facts with their own eyes. When you go to Israel, you realize reality is far more complicated than simple narratives on social media.”

Torres has taken it upon himself to convey that reality to Israel’s critics in the progressive movement, of which he calls himself a member.

He first visited Israel in 2014, and again in 2018, followed by another trip last month with the AIPAC-affiliated America Israel Education Fund.

The first visit, which Torres took as a member of the New York City Council, had a “profound effect” on him, and “crystallized for me the historical and moral necessity of Israel as a Jewish state.”

The trip also made Torres a target of BDS activists, who demonstrated against him on the steps of New York’s City Hall, accusing him of supporting apartheid.

“I met one activist in a shirt that said ‘Queers for Palestine,’ and I asked the activist, ‘What is your opinion of Hamas?’” recalled Torres, who is gay. “The response was shocking. She said she supports Hamas because ‘it’s defending the liberation of the Palestinian people.’

That moment had the beginnings of “an epiphany,” he said. “The fact that an LGBTQ activist would defend a terrorist organization that systematically and savagely murders LGBTQ people [shows the] stupidity and moral bankruptcy that the BDS movement injected into the progressive movement.”

TORRES SAID he considers BDS “poisonous to progressive politics,” soaked in “insidious antisemitism,” and that the American extreme Left “could be to the Democratic Party what Jeremy Corbyn became to the [UK] Labour Party.” Corbyn led the party to a third-place finish in the 2019 election, with its fewest number of seats since 1935.

“The attacks on Israel are qualitatively different from the criticism of every other country in the world,” said Torres. “Israel is the only country on Earth whose very existence is the subject of debate, which I find to be offensive and outrageous. It is one thing to be critical of a nation’s policies, practices and political personalities, but it is something else to question the right of a country to exist and the legitimacy of a country.”

Torres said he left his last visit to Israel more concerned about Israel’s security than before.

“Hamas fired over 4,000 rockets in the span of 11 days” in May, he said. “Hezbollah could fire infinitely more. They could easily fire 1,000 rockets in a single day and overwhelm the capacity of the Iron Dome. In a conflict with Hezbollah, there are not enough interceptors to interrupt every single attack.

“Hezbollah has 200,000 missiles at its disposal, more than every NATO country – except the US – combined, and unlike Hamas, it has precision-guided missiles. It would only take one missile targeting one piece of critical infrastructure to do irreparable damage to a country as small as Israel.”

As such, Israel would be forced to use its interceptors to defend critical infrastructure and leave more civilians exposed, said Torres.

The most inspiring moment of his recent visit to Israel with the America Israel Education Fund was an evening in which he met the ambassadors to Israel from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, along with a high-ranking Israeli official.

“The holy grail of normalization is Saudi Arabia,” Torres said. “My impression is that the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel is a matter of when, not if, and that the greatest stumbling blocks to immediate normalization seem to be coming from within the domestic politics of Saudi Arabia... I would not fault the Biden administration.”

Torres also said that Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas, who brought his Arab party into Israel’s governing coalition, left a great impression on him as well.

“At one point in [the] conversation, we asked him about the Amnesty report, and he emphatically rejected the label of Israel as an apartheid state, which he had done previously,” Torres said. “He recognized that there is nothing constructive in debating Israel’s right to exist.”

“I found him to be refreshingly pragmatic in his approach to politics. The Abraham Accords and Mansour Abbas represent the long-overdue triumph of pragmatism over ideology.”

Torres also met with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, a meeting that he called a “profound disappointment.”

“He kept repeating the libel that Israel is an apartheid state,” said Torres. “At one point in the meeting, he downplayed the thousands of rockets Hamas fired at Israel, and called it nothing more than fireworks.”

When asked about ending the “pay-for-slay” practice by which the PA pays terrorists and their families a monthly stipend, Shtayyeh was “noncommittal,” the congressman recalled.

“I left the meeting with a distinct sense that the Palestinian people, who deserve dignity and security, are poorly served by their political leadership.”