If the latest Guardian editorial about talk of war between Israel and Iran, ‘Israel and Iran: Lethal game of bluff‘, Aug. 14, represented your sole source of information about the conflict, you’d be forgiven for not knowing that Iran is the largest exporter of terrorism on the planet.
And, more relevant to the debate over Iran’s quest to acquire nuclear weapons, you’d also be able to plead ignorance regarding the fact Iran has been engaging in proxy wars against Israel on its southern and northern borders for years, representing the chief supplier of arms and training for both Hamas (and Iran’s other terrorist clients in Gaza) and Hezbollah – the former of which has launched thousands of rockets into Israeli territory.
You’d also be given a pass for not realizing that Iran’s top political, military and spiritual leaders have explicitly called for the annihilation of the Jewish state – the latter going so far as to openly publish a religious decree (fatwa) justifying the murder of Israel’s six million Jews on, yes, religious grounds!
In other words, the Guardian would have you believe that it is the Jewish state, and not the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is the military aggressor.
The strap line of the editorial says it all:
“The enthusiasm of Israel’s prime minister and defence minister for an air strike on Iran appears to have united their country’s defence and security establishment against them.”
The editorial begins, thus:
“The war drums have been beating – again – in Israel.”
Later, the editors write:
“The enthusiasm of Israel’s prime minister and defence minister for an air strike on Iran… depends only partially on Iran’s alleged actions, and the latest US intelligence assessment that Tehran now possesses 170 kilograms of medium-enriched uranium, from which it is relatively easy to produce bomb-grade material. Barak is worried that so many centrifuges are being hidden underground that they will soon be out of Israel’s military reach. After that point, Israel will have to rely on a US president it suspects will never order an attack .” [emphasis added]
So, while it almost seems like the Guardian, by acknowledging Iran’s progress towards achieving a nuclear threshold, inadvertently admits the rationale for war, they then pivot to a rhetorical spin akin to mere sophistry.
“Barak’s case for an airstrike now is peppered with inconsistencies – not least the calculation that if Israel attacked, Iran would be rational enough not to retaliate against US military targets in the Gulf and hence the regional war everyone feared would not materialise…”
“…to take Barak’s war-gaming at face value, if Iran were rational enough to contain its response, it would prove that deterrence works for a state Netanyahu continues to describe as an irrational actor motivated by Messianism. If Barak is right, the deterrence of mutually assured destruction would work all the more if Iran acquired a bomb, particularly as Israel has several hundred of them.”
I’ll attempt to unpack this.
First, contrary to the Guardian’s suggestion, an Iran “rational enough” to contain its response (and not cause a regional war) now would likely be inspired in their restraint by the fact that they don’t, as yet, have the capacity to do any real damage to either Israel or its allies – a military calculus which would necessarily change if they were nuclear armed.
Iran’s messianic desires are necessarily predicated upon the capacity for a truly apocalyptic war with Israel, which would require the military capacity currently, as a non-nuclear power, beyond their reach.
In other words, it’s not inconsistent of Israeli leaders to assume that Iran may be rational enough to know their current military limits, though malevolent enough to still, in time, seek Israel’s annihilation.
The specious logic of the Guardian’s op-ed then devolves, however, into something much darker.
“Loud talk of an impending airstrike could be no more than an attempt to twist Washington’s arm.If it is, nothing should stiffen Barack Obama’s resolve to prevent it happening more than the thought that Netanyahu is not just playing politics in his own country but in America too. Netanyahu foolishly dares Obama not to cast his veto, because if he did, Mitt Romney his Republican challenger would make hay with the idea that the Democrat in the White House endangers Israel’s security. [emphasis added]”
In addition to evoking the caricature of a manipulative Jewish state attempting to push the world’s greatest superpower unwillingly to war, the suggestion that the Prime Minister of Israel is not truly concerned for the well-being, indeed survival, of this country, but is merely playing cynical politics is a classic example of the imperiousness which continually informs the Guardian’s view of Jerusalem.
There’s nary a word in their polemical assault on Israel acknowledging the staggering amount of rhetorical, moral and spiritual energy expended by Iran, and it’s anti-Zionist allies around the world, beating their chests, begging their creator for the chance to annihilate the Jews. Islamic antisemitism is always, at the Guardian, the hatred that dares not speak its name.
Indeed, in the Guardian’s supreme moral inversion, what they feel “must be said” is that it’s not the Islamist reactionaries but, rather, the Jews who endanger peace, and lust for war.
As Efraim Karsh recently wrote:
“If prior to Israel’s establishment Jews had been despised because of their helplessness, they are now reviled because of their newly discovered physical and political empowerment.
For millennia, the Jewish people, in the words of the eminent philosopher Martin Buber, was a sinister, homeless specter. This people, which resisted inclusion in any category, a resistance which the other peoples could never become quite accustomed to, was always the first victim of fanatical movements and vile prejudice and branded as the cause of mass misfortunes.”
One need not be a political enthusiast of Binyamin Netanyahu to understand intuitively that there’s nothing “political” about the sober insistence of the current government in Jerusalem that a fanatical, racist movement which rises up against us can not be allowed the means to carry out their destructive designs.
Israel’s existence is a constant reminder that the Jewish people have categorically rejected the role which history has assigned to them as pitiful victim – the ethos of ‘Never Again’ in it’s most ethically urgent manifestation.