Cutting through the bullshit.

Saturday 20 January 2007

Off the map

A reader emailed me with some thoughts on the ‘Page of time’ piece I wrote yesterday:

It seems to me that Ahmadinejad *did* mean "wipe off the map" - in the same sense as the USSR has been wiped off the map.

The problem is that there are only two forces which can do that:

(a) One or more Arab States, with the support or acquiescence of the US; or

(b) The Jewish & Palestinian workers of Israel/Palestine.

One of those will require a whole lot of bloodshed. The other one won't.

To which I replied, in part (with a correction or two):

I'm not sure what Ahmedinejad actually meant, nor does it much matter. As the linked article makes clear, the damage is done. That mistranslation, apparently attributable to Iran radio in the first place, has become one of the justifications for the buildup against Iran. But I doubt he meant for it to break up into lots of smaller successor states as did the erstwhile USSR?

I totally disagree with you about the forces. Of course any country or countries backed up by the US could probably defeat Israel militarily once the US withdraws its military support for Israel. But that wouldn't necessarily erase it from the map. Lots of countries have suffered military defeat and lived to fight another day.

As for the workers of historic Palestine uniting, well, that would do the trick, but I regard it profoundly implausible, bearing in mind the history of Jewish workers' organization, and the Histadrut in particular, all along, and the level of racism that persists among Jewish Israelis to this day if poll results are any indication.

Far more likely is a pan Arab revolt that will sweep aside all the US client regimes in the region, although I'm not 100% confident that could overcome the Jewish state without literally driving the Jews into the sea. In any case, I regard it as a scenario no more likely than the global anticapitalist revolution, which is what I think is really the only force that can solve the 'MidEast crisis', and as I say, is no less realistic than the alternatives.

That said, the scenario I expect to play out over the near term is the completion of the wall, leading to the Gazafication of the WB, and support for Abu Mazen's militia's, unless they get too strong, in which case, there may be support for Hamas, whatever it takes to keep the pressure cooking. I can certainly imagine a systematic attempt at genocide, or driving all the Palestinians into Jordan. But I think they'll want to shed the Israeli Arabs first, a la Lieberman. Or maybe they have a better idea.


When I wrote that, I hadn’t yet read this article by Jonathan Cook, which outlines some scary scenarios were Palestinian Israeli citizens can be stripped of their citizenship for visiting relatives on the West Back or calling for a state of all its citizens. In case you missed it, you should definitely check out that Flashpoints interview I linked to on leftwrites yesterday morning, Cook sounded very pessimistic, as did the rappers form Dam. They are all anticipating a lot more bloodshed.


  1. Comment by Ablokeimet

    January 20, 2007 @ 9:54 pm |edit This

    Since Harry has been so kind as to print my reply to him and his reply to me, I’m posting my reply to that up here (edited slightly for publication).

    When I set out the two forces which could wipe Israel off the map, I wasn’t saying that either scenario was at all likely. I was just saying that there were no other possible ones.

    In relation to the first scenario, I think that a victory by one or more Arab States over Israel would necessarily be total. They couldn’t leave the possibility of Israel using its nuclear weapons. In relation to the second scenario, I’m glad Harry agrees with me – and I agree with him that it doesn’t look very likely. At the very least, it will only follow a workers’ revolution elsewhere.

    The Pan-Arab revolt Harry mentions (or what some Leftists call “the Arab Revolution”) will not solve the problem, which can be expressed on the abstract level as being that Israel can only be destroyed from the inside or the outside. A Pan-Arab revolt can change what is going on outside Israel, but it can’t destroy it. For that, it would need to be followed either by war (i.e. destruction from the outside) or by revolt inside Israel. The only possible way for a Pan-Arab revolt to lead to revolt inside Israel is if that revolt was a workers’ revolution. No other political force could defeat the revanchist & communal Arab nationalism which would “solve” the Israel problem by driving the Jews into the sea.

    On the topic of what Ahmadinejad meant, it’s clear to me he meant the disappearance of a political entity. Maybe it’s only that clear because, when Leftists chant a slogan like “US Out of the Middle East” or “US Out of South-East Asia”, Anarchists like me add “US Out of North America”.

    Finally, Cook’s article is pretty scary. The genocidal logic of Zionism has historically been held in check by an appreciation of political reality internationally. What Lieberman is saying has actually been made possible by the emergence of US Protestant fundamentalists as unconditional supporters of Israel. This has changed US policy from one where rock-solid support for Israeli security was tempered by restraint of much of the ambitious Zionist agenda (although that restraint was itself tempered by wider calculations) to a virtual blank cheque for Israel whatever it did. Now, confident of US backing, Zionists are finding it possible to follow the logic of their ideology to its conclusion.

    Of course, the US could stop this tomorrow, if it felt like it. All is has to do is attach conditions to the massive military and economic aid it gives Israel and without which it would find its garrison State unaffordable. This is not to say that the Left should start giving Uncle Sam advice on how to run the State Department, but it is a demonstration of the degree of US complicity with Israel’s crimes.

    Perhaps the only positive thing I can see in the whole debacle is that there is now a public debate in the US about Israel. It is true that the Zionists are going for the jugular in trying to shut down critics of Israel and get them shut out of the mainstream media, but in the past there was no access to the media for these critics anyway.

    One of my fears is that the US could actually change sides. It is necessary to remember that the Protestant fundamentalists who today support Israel unconditionally are actually anti-Semites who are only providing that support in order to hasten the approach of Armageddon – where Christ will return and send the Jews (& other sinners) to Hell for their wickedness. I could readily imagine that, if Israel became inconvenient to Uncle Sam, the fundamentalists could fix upon a Zionist atrocity to rediscover the supposed wickedness of the Jews and turn their agitation around 180 degrees.

    The atrocity which springs most readily to mind is the one that is most discussed in Israel – “transfer”. Of course, Israel wouldn’t “transfer” the Palestinians unless the Israeli government expected Uncle Sam to go along with it – just like Saddam Hussein expected Uncle Sam to go along with his invasion of Kuwait, after a discussion with April Glaspie:

    The Sparts describe Israel as a “death-trap for Jews”. I’m afraid the chance of them being correct is far from infinitesimal.

  2. My response:
    ‘US out of North America’ is a catchy slogan, but will it play in Cincinatti?

    You’re right to bring up the Israeli nukes, which seem to have slipped my mind. In the scenario of neighbouring Arab states launching an attack on Israel, it would be imprudent to rule out ‘The Samson option’, as Seymour Hersh called it in his 1991 book. I can’t really imagine a government coming to power in the Jewish state tat would not give this serious consideration. And even if I could, it’s the kind of situation where the military might very well go its own way, if there’s any difference. Of course if Israel reduced itself to a heap of glowing rubble, it wouldn’t be on the map.

    That’s one way of making a political entity disappear. Another way is to divide into small pieces, like Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union. I think what Ahmedinejad probably meant was for it to become part of something else.

    A pan Arab revolt, like a global revolution, would necessarily be both inside and outside Israel. Indeed, improbable as any real solution seems, the ones that are really out of the question are either exclusively inside or exclusively outside.

    What Lieberman is saying is not new, and in fact is implied in the discussion of mutual exchange of territory inherent in every incarnation of the two state ‘solution’ that I wrote of somewhere recently. Many Israeli politicians have adopted at least superficially much harsher approaches to the indigenous Palestinians. What’s new about Lieberman is that he’s saying this as a cabinet minister.

    It would really surprise me if the US christian Zionists were as influential as you suggest. The US’s support for Israeli treatment of the Palestinians has been pretty unconditional all along. Ironically, I think what has restrained Israeli governments from rounding up all the Palestinians and deporting or gassing them has been Israeli public opinion. Everyone remembers the Holocaust, especially in Israel, and I would expect a very strong reaction from Israeli Jews if they actually believed they were the Nazis. Perhaps I give them too much credit. What they see in the here and now if they’re paying attention isn’t all that different from the Warsaw Ghetto, for example, if not quite Auschwitz yet.

    Furthermore, although I certainly don’t expect moral consistency or anything from the christian Zionists, my understanding is that their prophecy is that the second coming awaits the return of ALL the Jews to Palestine. So I’m not anticipating the kind of volte face you mention. And even if it were possible, I seriously doubt that they would regard wholesale ethnic cleansing, or even genocide, as an atrocity. I think they’d welcome it.

    But I don’t really expect the ‘final solution’ to be the kind of dramatic and sudden action that would alarm ‘the international community’. Ilan Pappe ( is openly calling the current activities ‘genocide’ – ‘it is the only appropriate way to describe what the Israeli army is doing in the Gaza Strip’, and he envisages a more gradual approach. The steps Cook describes are part of this process.