Cutting through the bullshit.

Friday, 26 January 2007

The next Holocaust

Last Thursday, Benny Morris published his essay ‘This Holocaust will be different’ in the Jerusalem Post. I found out about it from the interesting post on Lenin’s tomb. Now that I’ve read it, I thought I’d try and draw out a few points.

If the name is unfamiliar, Benny Morris is widely regarded as the first of Israel’s ‘New’ or ‘Revisionist’ historians. His 1988 Birth of the Palestinian refugee problem opened discussion of the ethnic cleansing that made a Jewish majority possible in the new Jewish state. Another of the New historians, Ilan Pappé, criticizes Morris for relying too heavily on Israeli military archives. Also in 1988, he did time for refusing to serve in the occupation forces in Nablus. So it came as a bit of a surprise when in a 2004 interview with Ari Shavit in Ha’aretz, he articulated sentiments like,

There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing. I know that this term is completely negative in the discourse of the 21st century, but when the choice is between ethnic cleansing and genocide—the annihilation of your people—I prefer ethnic cleansing.

That was the situation. That is what Zionism faced. A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on.

…If Ben-Gurion had carried out a large expulsion and cleansed the whole country -- the whole Land of Israel, as far as the Jordan River. If he had carried out a full expulsion -- rather than a partial one -- he would have stabilized the State of Israel for generations.

After that, it’s not a big shock that he has now let his fevered imagination run rampant.

One bright morning, in five or 10 years, perhaps during a regional crisis, perhaps out of the blue, a day or a year or five years after Iran’s acquisition of the Bomb, the mullahs in Qom will convene in secret session, under a portrait of the steely-eyed Ayatollah Khomeini, and give President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, by then in his second or third term, the go-ahead.

The orders will go out and the Shihab III and IV missiles will take off for Tel Aviv, Beersheba, Haifa and Jerusalem, and probably some military sites, including Israel’s half dozen air and (reported) nuclear missile bases.

He studiously avoids the word genocide throughout his piece, but it is clear that he equates the destruction of Israel as equivalent to the destruction of the Jews even while acknowledging that as many non Jews as Jews would die in the attack,

Some of the dead will inevitably be Arab - 1.3 million of Israel’s citizens are Arab and another 3.5 million Arabs live in the semi- occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

He writes of Ahmedinejad as ‘a man obsessed’, and that’s as may be, but perhaps it takes one to know one. He attributes to Ahmedinejad a willingness

to gamble the future of Iran or even of the whole Muslim Middle East in exchange for Israel’s destruction...

Or he may well take into account a counterstrike and simply, irrationally (to our way of thinking), be willing to pay the price…

For these worshipers at the cult of death, even the sacrifice of the homeland is acceptable if the outcome is the demise of Israel.

Morris doesn’t mention how he comes by these profound insights into the innermost depths of the Iranian President’s mind, but I think it is clear it all arises from Iran radio’s mistranslation of his ‘page of time’ remark.

Morris is far from alone in his paranoia, although he appears to have a more vivid imagination than some of his mates. Certainly in his keynote address at the Herzliya conference yesterday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert left no doubt how he came by his information, or what he planned to do about it,

When the leader of a country announces, officially and publicly, his country’s intention to wipe off the map another country, and creates those tools which will allow them to realize their stated threat, no nation has the right to weigh its position on the matter. This is an obligation of the highest order, to act with all force against this plot.

A little later,

The Iran of today, whose leadership is motivated by religious fanaticism and ideological extremism, has chosen a policy of confrontation with us and threatens to wipe Israel off the map of nations. It supports terror and undermines stability in the region. The Iranian regime, in its aspiration to regional hegemony, bears responsibility for the riots perpetrated by the Hizbullah today to bring down the Lebanese government.

Not to be outdone by Morris in the fevered imagination department,

Threats, hostility and fighting are not our way. Our aspiration was, and will always be, to live in peace with our neighbors, near and far. We will never reject a hand, offered in all sincerity, towards genuine peace, by any nation. For this we yearn.

Moreover, he is prepared to take action,

To turn a blind eye now, while ignoring reality, dragging one’s feet, and attempting to reach dangerous compromises while avoiding taking clear steps, those of us who wish to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power will, down the road, not be left with any choice but to take much more severe steps in the future.

And he is much more explicit than Morris that

The Jewish people, on whom the scars of the Holocaust are deeply etched, cannot allow itself to again face a threat against its very existence. In the past, the world remained silent and the results are known. Our role is to prevent the world from repeating this mistake.

Prof. Bernard Lewis, of Princeton University, is also quite certain that

Ahmedinejad truly believes in the apocalyptic message he is bringing. This makes him very dangerous. The “Mutual Assured Destruction” is not a deterrent, but an inducement to him.

Richard Perle of the American Enterprise Institute agrees.

Current policy will not lead the Iranians to abandon their program. If we continue doing what we are doing, Iran will be a nuclear state. Iran with nuclear weapons will not be so easily deterred and detained… If the Israeli government comes to the conclusion that it has no choice but to take action, the reaction of the U.S. will be the belief in the vitality that this action must succeed, even if the U.S. needs to act with Israel in the current American administration.

Prof. Israel (Robert) J. Aumann, Nobel Prize Laureate; Center for the Study of Rationality, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, begs to differ.

One danger known to all of us stems from Iran's nuclear armament program, which threatens to erase the State of Israel from the map. We cannot underestimate the importance of this danger. However, in my humble opinion, it is less threatening than it appears at first glance…unfortunately, there is a different danger in Iran's nuclear armament—more tangible and more threatening, although more indirect. This danger is hidden in the possibility that nuclear technology will be transferred from Iran to terrorist groups such as Al Qa'ida or others

Presumably, this is where the study of rationality gets you.

It might be worth reiterating a little context at this point. All the speakers I’ve quoted represent countries that actually have nuclear weapons and, as some of those quotes evidence, have actually threatened to use them against Iran. Israel is not party to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and the US has violated its commitments to reduce its arsenal and so forth under the NNP since it signed. Iran is party to and in full compliance with the NNPT. Its uranium enrichment program is in the very earliest stages and the IAEA and the CIA have reported no evidence of a weapons development program. And the only threat Iran has made turned out to be just a bad translation. Ahmedinejad has not made repeated threats to wipe Israel off the map. The media have just grabbed hold of that one mistranslation and repeated it so often that it seems to be a repetition. But it’s just an echo, not a repetition. Finally, note that amid all the ructions over Iran, which does not have a nuclear capability, or probably a program to develop one, there are two other non NNPT countries that do have nukes, but somehow do not inspire the dread that Iran does.

At the moment demographers are at loggerheads over conflicting reports of the number of Jews in the US. According to the American Jewish Committee press release,

A new American Jewish Year Book survey estimates that there are 6.4 million Jews in the United States. The survey, published by the American Jewish Committee and conducted by Professor Ira Sheskin of the University of Miami and Professor Arnold Dashefsky of the University of Connecticut, is based on a tally of individual Jewish communities across the country.

Significantly higher than the figure of 5.2 million provided by the 2000–01 National Jewish Population Survey, this estimate also indicates that American Jewry remains the largest Jewish community in the world, surpassing the Jewish population of Israel.

This is incredibly important to know, because if the higher estimate is correct, then the plurality of the world’s some 13 million Jews still resides in the US. If the lower figure is correct, then the largest Jewish population in the world may be in Israel. I haven’t managed to work out why that matters, apart from the long term objective of the Zionist project – to segregate all the world’s Jews in the promised land. If there really are people with the kind of animosity to Jews that these maniacs ascribe to Ahmedinejad, of course, having us all in the one place would be a gift. It would save them having to track us down in all the far flung corners of the globe that we get to. Fortunately, there’s not much chance of that happening. Everyone who’s paying attention knows that Israel is already the most dangerous place in the world to be a Jew. Including the Iranian Jews, as I wrote the other day, as well as tens of thousands of yordim, Jews who emigrate from Israel for greener, and safer, pastures.

In any case, whether there are more Jews in Israel or the US, there is nothing like an actual majority of Jews in Israel. So even if Ahmedinejad really and truly did intend to nuke Israel regardless of the consequences, there is just no way that it would constitute a threat to our ‘very existence’ as an ethnic group. It would probably pose a greater threat to the Palestinians. Indeed, according to my calculations, a nuclear attack on Israel would probably wipe out in the vicinity of up to 35% of the world’s Jewish population and almost 85% of the Palestinian population, assuming it killed those in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, or some 48% if it only killed those in Israel and the occupied territories.

The real point, however, is that Olmert, Morris, and many, many others have so internalized the utterly racist and anti-Semitic assumption that identifies all Jews with Israel and Israel with all Jews, that to them the destruction of the Jewish state is identical to the destruction of the Jewish people.

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