got to give Israel's leaders credit for creativity, if for nothing
else. They never run out of new excuses for their violence, each more
imaginative (and imaginary) than the last. Prime Minister Benjamin
just gave his official
the Israeli people for the deaths on the Mavi Marmara. And guess whose
fault it was. (Are you ready for this?) Iran!
we shouldn't be surprised, since Netanyahu and most of Israel have
been obsessed with Iran as the source of all evil for years now. But
how did he make such far-fetched connection? Simple: "Iran is continuing
to smuggle weapons into Gaza. It is our obligation to prevent these
weapons from being brought in by land and sea. ... If the blockade had
been broken, dozens and hundreds more ships carrying weapons could have
chocolate for kids to missiles for terrorists, just like that. It's
an easy leap for minds trapped in a sense of powerlessness and
that "is nothing less than pathological." That's how Henry Siegman,
former head of the American Jewish Congress, described the twisted logic of Netanyahu, whose
message is always "that the whole world is against Israel and that
Israelis are at risk of another Holocaust" -- especially if Iran gets
even one nuclear weapon, Israel's PM insists at every opportunity.
this is a particularly infelicitous time for Netanyahu to be raising
the imaginary specter of an Iranian nuclear weapon -- which doesn't
exist and may very well never exist -- for two reasons.
the world is starting to pay much more attention to Israel's nuclear
weapons, which certainly do exist, in great quantity. (The best
run as high as 200.) Press
coverage of the recent Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference,
even in the U.S. mass media, highlighted the issue. At the conference,
all NPT members called for a 2012 meeting to begin turning the Middle
East, including Israel, into a nuclear-free zone. That would mean
Israel's nuclear arsenal and making sure it is dismantled. Even the
agreed to the call,
hoping to gain wider support for stopping Iran's supposedly menacing
who should really be afraid of nuclear attack? That brings us to the
second reason Netanyahu might want to keep the spotlight off Iran and
the nuclear issue. Three Israeli submarines are heading to the Persian
Gulf, where they will be stationed permanently, just off the coast of
Iran. They can stay at sea for about 50 days and stay submerged
for at least a week. They're equipped with cruise missiles that can
reach any target in Iran. And some of those cruise missiles are equipped
with the most advanced nuclear warheads in the Israeli arsenal.
was reported by
the Times of London and several Israeli newspapers, it got little if
any notice in the U.S. mass media. And now that all eyes are on the
terrible attack at sea, it's not likely to get any notice. Perhaps
that's why Netanyahu could risk giving Iran such a central role in
his concocted version of the Mavi Marmara tragedy.
one is paying attention to the central fact: Even if Iranian missiles
were being smuggled into Gaza, they would be mere firecrackers compared
to the nuclear missiles that Israel plans to keep permanently in range
of Teheran and every other city in Iran.
does the Israeli justification of the attack on the Mavi Marmara tell
the Iranians? It was self-defense, Netanyahu insisted; Israel has the
right to use any violence necessary to stop ships from coming into Gaza
harbor. His defense minister, Ehud Barak, agreed, telling
the commandos who
carried out the attack that "we
live in the Middle East, in a place where there is no mercy for the
weak." And a top Israeli Navy commander warned
that Israel will
use even more aggressive
force to prevent future ships, like the MV
from breaking the blockade
I were an Iranian military planner, I would be listening to all this
very closely. It's all about self-defense, right? Well Iran is in
infinitely more danger than Israel. Barak himself recently said
now, Iran does not pose
an existential threat to Israel." But three submarine loaded with
nuclear-armed missiles certainly pose an existential threat to Iran.
And according to Barak, Middle Eastern nations should show no mercy
to the weak.
I were that Iranian planner, my conclusion would be obvious. I would
do everything I could to find those subs and find a way to attack them.
I would destroy them if I could. I'd play by Israel's rules and
show no mercy.
that make perfect sense, you might ask Barak or Netanyahu. Aren't
you just asking for it? Do you expect the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
to throw up his hands and say "I surrender"? Of course not.
You know that you are throwing more fuel on an already incendiary
You know that Iranian leaders are bound to make some new threatening
gestures in return. And indeed the London Times story reported this
response from an Iranian admiral: "Anyone who wishes to do an evil
act in the Persian Gulf will receive a forceful response from us."
no, the Israeli leaders would reply. You don't get it. We can't
do an evil act. We are the good guys -- by definition. When we say
Easterners show know mercy, we're talking about our enemies. They
are out to destroy us -- by definition. So they'll pounce on us as
soon as we show any sign of weakness. That's why we have to keep on
ratcheting up our show of strength, even if it's bound to ratchet
up the conflict and criticism against us too. We're terrified (they'd
say, if they were honest) of appearing weak.
the pathology Henry Siegman was talking about. Israel has immensely
more military power than anyone else in the Middle East. Yet in their
imaginations, most Israeli Jews -- and many Jews in other nations --
still picture the Jewish state as a powerless victim, the most
people in the world.
fact the London Times story, written by an Israeli reporter in Tel Aviv,
ended with this telling punch line: "Tel Aviv, Israel's business
and defence centre, remains the most threatened city in the world, said
one expert. 'There are more missiles per square foot targeting Tel
Aviv than any other city,' he said." What? The Israelis can now
drop as many nukes as they want on Teheran or any other Iranian city.
But it's Tel Aviv that is "the most threatened city in the world"?
Give me a break.
as long as our most well-respected mass media continue to present the
pathological story of Israeli weakness as if it were fact, they'll
give headlines to
Netanyahu's "self-defense" story, as if that should be taken seriously.
Meanwhile they'll ignore Israeli nuclear submarines stationed
off the coast of Iran. It would all be funny if it were not so
Israelis seem to be trapped in their pathological fear of weakness.
That in no way justifies or excuses their egregious violence. But it
does go far to explain why they seem so incapable of taking even the
smallest steps toward peace.
only force strong enough to move them is the government of the United
States. I know how frustrating it is to try to change U.S. policy.
Believe me, I know. I've been working at it for nearly four decades.
But now every terrible act by the Israeli government gets much more
scrutiny that it used to. Now is not the time to stop pushing.
is time to heed Henry Siegman's conclusion: "The conflict continues
because U.S. presidents -- and to a far greater extent, members of the
U.S. Congress, who depend every two years on electoral contributions
-- have accommodated a pathology that can only be cured by its
is time to defy the Israeli government, and put pressure on the U.S.
government, by explaining to everyone, everywhere, the difference
genuine threat -- the kind of threat posed by submarines carrying
missiles -- and the pathological stories spun by the likes of Barak
(This text was corrected on 06/03/10 to include links.)