âIf we take out the Iranian nuke facilities, sure, theyâll strike back at us,â Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said yesterday. âBut if every American stays in their home when the Iranian rockets start falling, well, it will be uncomfortable. It wonât be a picnic. But we wonât have 220,000 Americans killed. Not even 22,000. So letâs stop the fear-mongering. Weâve got vital interests to protect.â
âNot 500 deadâ in Israel, Barak assured his people, which translates proportionally into 22,000 Americans. The words âstay in their homes,â âuncomfortable,â âno picnic,â âfear-mongering,â and âvital interestsâ were Barakâs. And he clearly implied that a few hundred Israeli deaths would be perfectly acceptable.
Such a cavalier attitude might have sounded shocking in the U.S. But in Israel it wasnât any big news. Haaretz, Israelâs leading liberal newspaper,Â ran the story for a few hours buried far down on its website homepage. Yedioth Aharanoth, the nationâs largest and very centrist paper, didnât put it on the homepage at all.
Nor, according to the reports, did the interviewer bother to ask Barak what âvital interestâ would justify such massive death and suffering. The answer was taken for granted: Iran must never, ever have even one nuclear weapon. Barak assumes that Israelis are ready to pay the price he sketched out in exchange for crippling the Iranian nuke program.
No matter that Israel, the Middle Eastâs only nuclear power, already has an arsenal measured in the hundreds. One Iranian nuke on Tel Aviv would trigger those hundreds falling on Iran. When the Israelis justify their anti-Iran hysteria by saying that even one Iranian nuke would trigger a regional nuclear arms race itâs a coded way of saying: For every nuke you make weâll make many more, and weâre ready to use them all; if you attack us youâre committing national suicide.
Itâs an article of faith for most Israelis that Iranian leaders are perfectly ready — some say eager — to do just that. The commonly assumed (though rarely articulated) explanation: The Iranians, like all Jew-haters, are irrational. Theyâll pay any price to kill Jews.
Of course the real irrationality is the idea that the Iranians would commit suicide. If they are working on a nuke, itâs not to be used but to be publicly brandished. Like North Korea, Pakistan, and India, Iran may want to join the nuclear club because itâs the only way for a regional power to be taken seriously on the world stage. Since the early days of the cold war, nations have pursued nukes more forÂ their symbolic value than any practical value they might have.
Israeli leaders surely understand this, even if many of their voters donât. If we could ask Barak what âvital interestâ would justify such massive slaughter in Israel, and if he answered honestly, heâd say that there is no practical interest involved. Itâs all in the realm of symbolism.
An essential motive of Zionism from its beginning was a fierce desire to end the centuries of Jewish weakness, to show the world that Jews would no longer be pushed around, that theyâd fight back and prove themselves tougher than their enemies. There was more to Zionism that that. But the âpride through strengthâ piece came to dominate the whole project. Hence the massive Israeli military machine with its nuclear arsenal.
But you canât prove that youâre stronger than your enemies unless youâve also got enemies — or at least believe youâve got enemies — to fight against. So there has to be aÂ myth of Israelâs insecurity, fueled by an image of vicious anti-semites lurking somewhere out there, for Zionism to work. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran has gradually risen to the top of Israel oh-so-necessary enemies list. Iranophobia is rampant in Israel, as oneÂ Israeli scholar writes, because âIsraelÂ needs an existential threat.”
Anyone who has grown up in Israel, or in the U.S. Jewish community (as I did), and paid attention knows all this. Maybe thatâs one reason U.S. Jews areÂ so likely to support the Obama administrationâs moves toward Mideast peace.
But the U.S. mass media still frame the story within the myth of Israelâs insecurity. Barakâs words get presented by ourÂ leading newspapers as serious, sober analysis, with no comment on their sheer absurdity and callous disregard for human life. His own admission (in that same interview) that Israel faces no threat to its existence is ignored. So most Americans are left assuming, as they have for so long, that Israel is a brave tiny nation fighting for its life against anti-semitic fanatics bent on destroying it. This tale of Israelâs insecurity, like any powerful myth, is immune to facts and reason.
A leading Israeli scholarÂ now argues that most Americans readily accept the myth because it reflects Americaâs cherished frontier myth: supposedly civilized white guys endlessly fighting off the crazed violent savages. That sense of shared mythos, he suggests, is the strongest basis for the long-standing âspecial relationshipâ between the U.S. and Israel.
If so, itâs not surprising that Republicans, who are most likely to embrace the frontier myth, are more likely than U.S. Jews toÂ support the hawkish Israeli government as well as the calls to attack Iran, whatever the costs.
As long as this mythic view dominates the discussion of Israel here in the U.S., our government will continue to block reasonable moves toward Mideast peace, which must include a Palestinian state with full membership in the U.N. And weâll continue toÂ hear more talk about the U.S. permitting an Israeli attack on Iran, which would bring death and destruction to the attacker as well as the victim without any tangible benefit for anyone.
- Iran Missile Base Blast: Annals of Israeli Terror Redux (irannewpearlharbour.wordpress.com)
- Israeli minister: Strike possible on Iran – CBS News (cbsnews.com)
- Israel Divided over Attacking Iran (irannewpearlharbour.wordpress.com)
- Striking Iran: Israel’s War Wager (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli minister warns Iran strike is possible (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Israeli minister warns Iran strike is possible (ctv.ca)
- Israel is tight-lipped with US over Iran intentions (telegraph.co.uk)
- Guardian describes Iranian blast, which killed missile program architect, as “dangerous Israeli escalation” (cifwatch.com)
- IsraelÂs defence minister warns Iran of possible strike (theglobeandmail.com)
- Obama Regime is concerned that Israel will NOT warn them if it decides to attack Iran. Obama orders enhanced spying on Israel. (barenakedislam.wordpress.com)
- Israel and Iran: Covert Warfare Raises Risks of Retaliation, and Conflagration (irannewpearlharbour.wordpress.com)
- Israel refuses to tell US its Iran intentions (ikners.com)
- The Real Risks of a Covert War Between Israel and Iran (globalspin.blogs.time.com)
- Israel and Iran: Covert Warfare Raises Risks of Retaliation, and Conflagration (globalspin.blogs.time.com)
- Israeli Minister Stresses Military Readiness (nytimes.com)
- CIA operations in Iran underway to take out Tehran bigs in mission to dismantle weapons program (arcanaintellego.wordpress.com)
- UN report: Iran work `specific’ to nuke arms (sfgate.com)
- Israeli minister warns Iran strike is possible (sfgate.com)