“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr., April 16, 1963
The rhetoric used in recent speeches by top Iranian officials has garnered much attention in the mainstream media. In addition to the outrage expressed over the statement that the Israeli governmental system and guiding Zionist ideology is an “insult to humanity,” comments that the “Zionist regime” is a “cancerous tumor” have also met fierce condemnation.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has compiled a list of recent reported statements made by Iranian officials. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told the press that the United States government “strongly condemn[s] the latest series of offensive and reprehensible comments by senior Iranian officials that are aimed at Israel,” adding, “The entire international community should condemn this hateful and divisive rhetoric.”
Rabbi David Wolpe took to the pages of The Los Angeles Times to specifically condemn the cancer analogy. Wolpe incidentally did so by presenting a litany of outrageous statements of his own. He writes that the “state of Israel” is 3000 years old, thus absurdly conflating an ancient Biblical minority community with a modern, settler-colonial nation-state. He insists Israel is not expansionist, a claim that doesn’t stand up to even the most cursory awareness of basic facts, the historical record and current aggressive Israeli policy.
Wolpe also states that the cancer analogy “leads inevitably, inexorably, to the prospect of genocide,” which he obviously follows up by invoking the Holocaust and asserting that “Iran eagerly pursues nuclear weapons,” thereby ignoring the consistent conclusions of U.S. intelligence and IAEA inspections. He concludes by suggesting that, were Israel not to maintain such a destructive military capability, segregationist occupation infrastructure, rampant legal discrimination, and a two-tiered justice system, the result would be the “wholesale slaughter” of Jewish Israelis, presumably by vengeful Arab hordes.
Such a characterization recalls the ludicrous fears that beset the vast majority of white South Africans just years before Apartheid ended, many of whom were consumed by “physical dread” at the prospect of equality and their loss of racial dominance and superiority and foresaw a future full of “violence, total collapse, expulsion and flight.” Even in 1987, as Apartheid was becoming increasingly untenable, about 75% of white South Africans feared that their “physical safety…would be threatened” as a result of “black rule.” Nearly 73%, including over 85% of Afrikaners, believed “white women would be molested by blacks.” Incidentally, as recently pointed out in Ha’aretz, in 1987, “Israel was the only Western nation that upheld diplomatic ties with South Africa” and was one of the last countries to join the international boycott campaign.
Southern whites in the antebellum United States nurtured the same irrational apprehension, fearful that the violent and successful 1791 slave rebellion in Haiti would be replicated across the Gulf of Mexico, especially in states like South Carolina where slaves outnumbered whites two to one. Following emancipation, and in reaction to the Civil Rights Act of 1866, southern states enacted “black codes” restricting the voting, land ownership, and speech of former slaves. Whites feared that their loss of racial dominance and an enslaved labor force would not only ruin the southern economy, but also that the newly-freed black population would seek revenge on their masters and rape white women; this led to numerous race riots and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan that same year.
In April 1868, Alabama newspaper editor Ryland Randolph praised the Klan for opposing what he called the “galling despotism” of the federal government over the southern states, which he “deemed a fungus growth of military tyranny” with the goal of “degrad[ing] the white man by the establishment of negro supremacy.”
Forrest G. Wood writes in Black Scare: The Racist Response to Emancipation and Reconstruction:
Although white men certainly feared for their jobs and income, they were more alarmed by the threat to their physical safety that the “savage African” presented… Pointing to the absence of an advanced (by Western standards) African civilization, extremists described the Negroes as primitive, barbaric, and cruel… Freedom, the white supremacist now asserted, would stimulate the black man’s worst passions, leading him to crimes of arson, murder, and rape.
Newspapers often deliberately published grossly exaggerated or wholly fictitious stories of criminal acts and violence committed by blacks, stoking even more fear in the racist white population. For these white supremacists, rape was “the most frightful crime which negroes commit against white people” and the accusation of sexual assault (or even consensual interracial relationships) was a surefire way to spark a lynch mob.
Just this past Spring, Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that many Israeli women have been raped by African migrants and refugees, “but do not complain out of fear of being stigmatized as having contracted AIDS,” insisting that “most of the African infiltrators are criminals.” At an anti-African rally, Tel Aviv resident Carmela Rosner held a sign that read: “They rape girls and elderly women, murder, steal, stab, burglarize. We’re afraid to leave home.”
Yishai said that Africans, “along with the Palestinians, will bring a quick end to the Zionist dream,” while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the growing population of African immigrants “threatens our existence as a Jewish and democratic state,” as well as “the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity.” Palestinians in Israel along with their actual and potential offspring are regularly referred to as a “demographic threat” and a “demographic bomb,” a racist construction that exposes the discriminatory and supremacist nature of Zionism itself.
The Israeli Education Ministry is currently attempting to overturn a district court ruling that “migrant children… be fully integrated in the municipal school system and not be taught in a separate school.” The state appeal in favor of segregation claims that the education of Israeli children will suffer if done alongside the children of African immigrants. Meanwhile, extremist Jewish groups continue to try to “rescue” Jewish Israeli girls who date Palestinian men and threaten Palestinians with violence if they flirt with Jews.
In 2008, a Jewish Israeli woman filed a police report after discovering that a man she had just had consensual sex with was Palestinian and not Jewish, as she had assumed. After spending two years under house arrest, an Israeli court convicted the man of “rape by deception” and sentenced him to 18 months in prison. A former senior Justice Ministry official was quoted as saying, “In the context of Israeli society, you can see that some women would feel very strongly that they had been violated by someone who says he is Jewish but is not.”
This is to be expected, as The Palestine Center‘s Yousef Munayyer explains: “An ideology that seeks to build a society around a certain type of people defined by ethnicity or religion is inevitably going to feature racism, supremacy and oppression—especially when the vast majority of native inhabitants where such an ideology is implemented are unwelcomed.”
Unsurprisingly, commentators who routinely denounce cancer analogies when they come from Iranian officials blatantly avoid addressing the use of the identical rhetoric by Israelis themselves when referring to the growing presence of non-Jewish communities within areas controlled by Israel. When IDF chief Moshe Ya’alon referred to Palestinian babies as “cancerous manifestations” and Likud Knesset member Miri Regev called African migrants and refugees “a cancer in our body,” they were silent.
While calling the government and founding ideology of a state a “cancerous tumor” is certainly not a nice thing to say and supporters of that state’s policies have every reason to take offense to such a description, it is quite obviously a political statement. Iranian rhetoric attacks a political entity, namely the “Zionist regime“, which systematically discriminates against and oppresses people based solely on their ancestry and religious affiliation. In contrast, Ya’alon and Regev’s statements employ the cancer analogy to defend the concept of ethnic-religious exclusivity and have everything to do with people, whether Palestinian or African, who somehow threaten the continued dominance of a deliberately demographically engineered and maintained state.
To be sure, regardless of its intended target, this kind of rhetoric is purposefully harsh and often gratuitous. Yet, like Ahmadinejad’s “insult to humanity” line, the cancer analogy is neither new nor original. While Iranian officials have been employing it since 2000, it has long been wielded for the express purpose of condemning a political system or ideology one vehemently opposes.
In the 1820s, former president John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson that “slavery is a cancer to be isolated.” On October 16, 1854, in an stridently abolitionist speech in Peoria, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln likened the Constitution’s vague references to slavery to a “cancer,” hidden away, which an “afflicted man… dares not cut out at once, lest he bleed to death; with the promise, nevertheless, that the cutting may begin at the end of a given time.”
A New York Times article from September 8, 1863 quoted then-Tennessee Governor Andrew Johnson as telling a Nashville crowd in late August, “Slavery is a cancer on our society, and the scalpel of the statesman should be used not simply to pare away the exterior and leave the roots to propagate the disease anew, but to remove it altogether.” Johnson endorsed the “total eradication” of slavery from Tennessee.
In the final chapter of the first volume of Das Kapital (1867), entitled “The Modern Theory of Colonization,” Karl Marx excoriated British politician Edward Gibbon Wakefield for his efforts “to heal the anti-capitalistic cancer of the colonies.”
The 1968 platform of Bermuda’s first political party, the Progressive Labor Party, proclaimed, “No government can be either responsible or democratic while under the rule of another country, ” adding, “Colonialism is a cancer.”
A February 23, 1962 article in Time Magazine profiled U.S. General Paul Donal Harkins, the commander of a newly created U.S. Military Assistance Command in South Vietnam, which is described as “the first step in a more broadly based anti-Communist campaign.” Harkins is quoted early in the piece as defining his mission as “doing all we can to support the South Vietnamese efforts to eradicate the cancer of Communism.”
In early June 1983, just a few months after Ronald Reagan delivered his “Evil Empire” speech in which he declared his belief that “Communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written,” Illinois Representative Henry Hyde told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that, because “Communism is a cancer,” Congress should support covert action and assistance to Contras and anti-Sandinista forces in Latin America in an effort to “fight for freedom.”
Hamas reportedly used “Communism is a cancer inside the nation’s body and we will cut it out” as a political slogan in opposition to Fatah soon after its establishment in the late 1980s.
Perhaps most applicable, however, are the comments made by South African Reverend Allan Boesak who, in 1983, formed the United Democratic Front, a legal umbrella organization for hundreds of anti-Apartheid groups. In his opening address to the UDF, Boesak stated:
Apartheid is a cancer on the body politic of the world. A scourge on our society and on all human kind. Apartheid exists only because of economic greed and political oppression maintained by both systemic and physical violence and a false sense of racial superiority. So many have been forced into exile. So many have been thrown into jail. Too many of our children have been shot down mercilessly on the streets of our nation.
In the same speech, Boesak called Apartheid “a thoroughly evil system” that “can never be modernized or modified, it must be totally eradicated” and, in 1985, denounced the white South Africans who continued to support Apartheid as the “spiritual children of Adolf Hitler.”
In 1988, Jim Murray echoed Boesak in the Los Angeles Times, writing that “apartheid is a cancer on the world body politic–to say nothing of its soul. You combat it the best way you can.”
Just as many others, including numerous Israelis, have described the state of Israel as practicing Apartheid, Boesak himself has endorsed such a comparison, and has gone even further.
In a November 2011 interview, Boesak reaffirmed his statement that the oppression of and discrimination against Palestinians by Israel is “in its practical manifestation even worse than South African apartheid,” adding, “It is worse, not in the sense that apartheid was not an absolutely terrifying system in South Africa, but in the ways in which the Israelis have taken the apartheid system and perfected it, so to speak; sharpened it.”
He cited the physical barriers, travel and employment restrictions, and the “two separate justice systems” for Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank as examples of why “in many ways the Israeli system is worse.” He offered his wholehearted support for the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions to impel Israel to comply with international law.
When asked whether Palestinians could ever be expected to recognize Israel as a “Jewish State,” Boesak replied:
They can’t. There is no such thing as a specifically Jewish state. You can’t proclaim a Jewish state over the heads and the bodies and the memories of the people who are the ancient people who live there. That is Palestinian land we are talking about. Most of the Jews who are there come from Europe and elsewhere and have no claim on that land and we mustn’t allow it to happen to the Palestinians what happened to my ancestors who were the original people in this land (South Africa) but now there are hardly enough of them to be counted in the census. That is Palestinian land and that should be the point of departure in every political discussion.
Similarly, official Iranian state policy maintains that the international community must “allow the Palestinian nation to decide its own future, to have the right to self-determination for itself” and that in “the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and the fundamental principles enshrined in it… Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians [must] determine their own fate themselves through a free referendum. Whatever they choose as a nation, everybody should accept and respect.”
Hysteria over Iranian phraseology (rhetoric with a long political history) relies solely on the presumption – repeated ad nauseum by politicians and the press – that the nation’s leadership has threatened to attack Israel militarily and wipe it off the map. But Iran has never made such threats. Quite the contrary.
Speaking to Wolf Blitzer in April 2006, Iran’s representative to the IAEA, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh directly addressed claims that Iran seeks the physical destruction of Israel (whatever that means). Blitzer asked, “Should there be a state of Israel?,” to which Soltanieh replied, “If Israel is a synonym and will give the indication of Zionist mentality, no. But if you are going to conclude that we have said the people there have to be removed or they have to be massacred, this is a fabricated, unfortunate selective approach to what the mentality and policy of Islamic Republic of Iran is.”
In a June 2006 letter to The Washington Post, a spokesman for the Iranian Mission to the United Nations wrote, “Iran’s position is very clear: We have not threatened to use force nor have we used force against any country or government in the past 250 years. We’ve never done that in the past, and we’ll never do it in the future,” adding, “We wonder whether Israel or the United States can make the same statement.”
The letter also noted that, the same month, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared that “We have no problem with the world. We are not a threat whatsoever to the world, and the world knows it. We will never start a war. We have no intention of going to war with any state.”
In October 2006, President Ahmadinejad stated, “Nuclear weapons have no place in Iran’s defense doctrine and Iran is not a threat to any country… We are not a threat to anybody; even our solution to the Zionist regime is a referendum.” The following year, Ahmadinejad was asked by the Associated Press whether Iran “would ever make a first strike against Israel.” He replied, “Iran will not attack any country,” and insisted Iran has “always maintained a defensive policy, not an offensive one” and has no interest in territorial expansion, something Israel could never seriously claim.
In a 2008 CNN interview with Larry King, Ahmadinejad stated bluntly that “we don’t have a problem with the Jewish people,” and added, with specific reference to Israel, “We are opposed to the idea that the people who live there should be thrown into the sea or be burnt.”
The same year, at a news conference during the D8 Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Ahmadinejad told reporters that because he believes the Zionist enterprise of ethnic cleansing and colonization is “inherently doomed” to failure, “there is no need for Iranians to take action” to hasten the inevitable political outcome in Palestine. He also assured the press, “You should not be concerned about a new war.”
He also made his position clear in an NPR interview, saying, “Let me create an analogy here — where exactly is the Soviet Union today? It did disappear — but exactly how? It was through the vote of its own people. So therefore in Palestine too we must allow the people, the Palestinians, to determine their own future.”
During an October 2011 interview, Ahmadinejad told Al Jazeera that Iran “will never enter any war against the U.S. or against any other country. This is our policy… We have never attacked anybody. Why should we do that? Why should we start a war?”
This past July, Mohammad Khazaee, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations said, “We will react if there is any provocative act from the other side. We will not initiate any provocative steps.”
Official assessments by both Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, Director of Defense Intelligence Agency have affirmed that “Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict or launch a preemptive attack.”
The alarmism that inevitably follows boilerplate speeches by Iranian officials serves an agenda of decontextualized demonization that paints the Islamic Republic as a genocidal, eliminationist aggressor and Israel as a victim, just one spinning centrifuge away from eradication. In fact, it is Israel that consistently threatens Iran with an illegal military assault, not the other way around.
But it is not a military attack that actually threatens the future of Israel, it is exactly the kind of struggle undertaken by those like Allen Boesak, who fought against an unjust system of ethnocentrism and supremacy and prevailed.
Were Israel to finally respect international law, put an end to decades of racism, occupation and Apartheid, and begin to consider each and every human being as equal and worthy of the same human rights and dignity, freedom of movement and opportunity, it would no longer be subject to the harsh analogies that have for so long been directed at the most oppressive and inhumane ideologies the world has ever known.
- Rabbi Warns Of Similarities Between Ahmadinejad And Hitler (raptureimminent.wordpress.com)
- Some Notes on Ahmadinejad’s “Insult to Humanity” Comment (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Last Friday the notorious ‘punk-group’ Pussy Riot was sentenced to two years in prison by the criminal court in Moscow. For the last weeks the destiny of three mediocre Russian clown-girls has been the focus of public attention worldwide. Galaxies of world celebrities and officials from McCartney to German Bundestag have wasted their time writing letters demanding their release. Dozens of head-masked hot tits were shown in public places to support their Russian pairs. Most likely the hysterics around Pussy Riot will be fed for some more time. Meanwhile, the sober analysis of this scandal is obviously pending.
The chronology of the story for those who luckily didn’t follow it from the beginning: Last February a group of young women and their supporters entered the majestic Christ the Savior Cathedral in the very heart of Moscow. They came closer to the ambon, quickly put up fancy cloaks and balaclavas and started shaking legs and shouting obscene and blasphemous verses. In formal language they were intentionally offending the worshippers. The performance lasted for less than a minute while rioters’ support group was filming the action on mobile phones and their security crew was busy repelling the attempts of churchmen to stop them. Later that day a mounted video-clip of the ‘performance’ with an overlapped music track appeared on YouTube.
It is still arguable whether the decision to prosecute the blasphemers was right. They have lost freedom – but for a while gained a worldwide ‘fame’. No doubt it was not a single spontaneous act by a group of dissolute individuals but an episode of a much wider global campaign to shake and eventually ruin traditional societies and institutions. It is being carried out by the same powerful circles which inspired — e.g. offensive caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper in 2005. The international brain-washing media machine has turned a paltry incident in Moscow into a scandal of global scale. These three women, previously known in Russia exclusively for a public act of group sex in the Zoological Museum of Moscow back in 2008 (those not too fastidious can see a photo of that orgy), were chosen as a symbol of ‘civil protest’ and ‘abuse of power’ in Russia! For the Russians that is a ridiculous and even crazy endeavor. However, for the cosmopolitan post-modernists busy shaping future global societies it is apparently not.
It is an open secret that avant-gardism became popular in the West in the 1950-1960s thanks to unprecedented support from the CIA and was used by the United States as a powerful ideological weapon. Donald Jameson, a former CIA case officer, confessed to the Independent in 1995:
Regarding Abstract Expressionism, I’d love to be able to say that the CIA invented it just to see what happens in New York and downtown SoHo tomorrow! It was recognised that Abstract Expressionism was the kind of art that made Socialist Realism look even more stylised and more rigid and confined than it was. And that relationship was exploited in some of the exhibitions.
Nelson Rockefeller (1908-1979), who used to serve as the Special Assistant to the US President for Psychological Warfare and director of the New York Museum of Modern Art in the 1950s, clearly understood that modern art is not just business but a powerful tool forming human conscience in due (projected) direction. By the way, the Board of Trustees of the museum included high-ranked CIA officers William Paley (a close friend of Allen Dulles) and Henry Luce (creator of Time/Life Media Empire).
No wonder that such a respectful patronage of Modern Art (naturally together with huge sponsor injections) have soon brought some smelly fruits. In 1961 a scandalous Italian sculptor Pietro Manzoni shocked the public with a new masterpiece, called “The Artist’s Shit”. He explained the idea the following way: “If a collector wants to get something where the artist has put himself entirely, let him get his shit which is 100% personal.” So he did sealing his excrement in the cans labeled ‘Merda d’Artista’ in Italian, English, German and French languages. He had managed to produce 90 autographed cans before a myocardial infarction buried him two years later. The devastating reality is that he used to sell these 30-gram cans for the same measure of gold. In 2000 the famous London Tate Gallery bought can #4 for 22,300 pounds, and in 2007 another masterpiece was sold at Sotheby’s for 124,000 Euros! Indeed, contemporary art is not quite an Art, but a symbol of political ideology embodied in certain artifacts. Its value is proportional to the rating of the ideology being propagated. Since 1950s the global cultural degradation has been one of the most lavishly paid projects in the West. These seeds have been grown even in Russia as the excremental Pussy Riot shows. The outrageous public reaction on the ‘Western modern art’ which suddenly spewed from the radical underground to the Cathedral’s ambon was natural and understandable. The consequent response of the authorities to such challenges should be smarter next time.
To illustrate the Russian public reaction on pussy-provocation we are posting a fragment of the open letter to Sir Paul McCartney written by a Russian priest. (He replied to the recent touching message of the British star in support of the ‘rioters’).
“Dear Sir Paul,
Some months ago Russia witnessed an act of evil. We, Russian believers, perceive this event in this way. In the church, built in honor of freeing Russia from Napoleon’s invasion, in the church which for us is the greatest national shrine, four young girls began to dance right before the altar swearing, singing sacrilegious songs and offences to Patriarch, who is for all of us the spiritual leader and honorable man. All this Bacchanalia was filmed and blown the world. Needless to say what a shock and spit in the soul we, Russian orthodox religious people, had experienced.
Several weeks before this event Pussy Riot tried to do something similar in another Moscow church. They were politely asked out without giving this public utterance. They conducted a similar action in the Red Square, just exactly where you, dear Sir Paul, gave your concert. …
Sir Paul, I would like to ask you whether you consider these actions normal? What could happen in future if these so called punk rock performers who in reality have nothing to do either with punk movement or with rock music were not stopped? … There exist some norms of moral, decency, ethic, good and evil, not necessarily connected with this or that religion, which nobody can neglect…
… I am sure that you and other famous musicians were misled as to the essence of this latter event and came out for Pussy Riot without knowing these details. That is why I ventured to let you know the position of Russian believers. In your letter addressed to Pussy Riot you struggle for the freedom of art and self-expression. Nobody is against. Everything – freedom, art and self-expression – are elementary rights which God gave every man. …
And in the present Russia our desire to be free is multiplied by that life experience in totalitarian communist state which we, Russians, had. Sir Paul, please note that the Russian Orthodox Church did not call upon to punish Pussy Riot: judicial proceedings took place upon the court petition of private persons who had been deeply offended by their act…
Probably the sentence for Pussy Riot is somewhat severe. But it was passed by the judiciary bodies. Wishing these young women good, please understand also us, orthodox believers. To nobody we wish ill, prison, long time in prisons, but at the same time we wish that our shrines for which not in so far past out fathers and grandfathers spilled blood, were subjected such an affront. It was not us who pitched the members of Pussy Riot group but it were they who plunged into our church and insulted deeply the present people and thousands of Internet users, which saw the movie with this sacrilege…
With all due respect,
Hegumen Sergy (Ribko),
Rector of Moscow Church of Holy Spirit, in the 1970s – drummer of a rock-group and member of hippies movement.”
Are Pussy Riot’s famous supporters aware of the fact they are loosing popularity in Russia by supporting a marginal porno-‘punk’ group? Probably not. But would such an awareness downgrade the well-paid international media campaign? Unlikely. We are afraid the price of the shit-cans would be just several times higher. The puppeteers of Modern Art and Cultural Terrorism keep carrying out their mission.
- What Madonna Doesn’t Get About Russia’s Punk Protest (bloomberg.com)
- Riot Grrrls and Followers Ride the Bernays Highway (Aletho News)
Israeli media and press circles were predicting an all-out civil war in Lebanon this week as fighting continues to rage in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.
The violence in the port city has so far killed 15 people, including women, children and religious leaders.
“The Syrian civil war has indeed and unprecedentedly infiltrated into Lebanon, and this time it appears to last. It will not stop so long as the Syrian crisis continues,” Channel 10 of Israeli news quoted unnamed Israeli political sources as saying.
“The fall of Assad’s regime would lead to a new era in Lebanon which will fluctuate between civil war and semi-stable security,” the source added.
It’s an oft-repeated prophecy told by Israeli politicians, particularly since the assassination of Lebanese political giant Rafik Hariri in 2005, which propelled the country into sporadic bouts of turmoil.
Lebanon’s civil war of 1975 to 1990 provided fertile ground for Israeli intervention, with the Jewish state invading the country from 1978 until well after the civil war in 2000. The Israeli occupation covered half the state at its peak in 1982.
A new study released by the National Security Studies Center in Tel Aviv concluded that “it would be inaccurate to consider that Lebanon survived the Arab spring, and regional shifts have definitely taken their toll on the country”.
Noting that Syrian events “which are unlikely to end any time soon, affect Lebanon negatively on many levels including economy, security and national unity”.
“The fall of Assad’s regime would certainly weigh heavily on Lebanon, since the departure of Assad and his group from the political scene would reshape the political map in Lebanon, and give those who led the Cedar Revolution, new-found strength and confidence,” the study added. … Full article
On August 17, America’s two leading newspapers featured strikingly similar opinion pieces, providing further evidence of a coordinated effort by Israel and its American partisans to induce the United States into waging another disastrous Middle East war. In the Washington Post, former chief of Israeli military intelligence Amos Yadlin helpfully suggested “5 steps Obama can take to avert a strike on Iran”; while President Obama’s former top Middle East advisor Dennis Ross advised readers of the New York Times “How America Can Slow Israel’s March to War.” Perhaps the most notable difference between the two op-eds was that the latter proposed a mere four steps Washington supposedly needs to take in order to appease the allegedly trigger-happy Israelis.
Yadlin and Ross both begin by citing recent Israeli statements such as Benjamin Netanyahu’s warning that “Time to resolve this issue peacefully is running out,” conveying the impression that Tel Aviv’s patience with diplomacy is wearing thin, and that, as a consequence, this autumn, as Yadlin put it, “all the boxes will be checked for an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.” Three months ago, Ross admitted during a panel discussion with Yadlin on “U.S.-Israel Relations in a Changing Middle East” at a conference held by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where he is now a counselor, that such alarmist public pronouncements by Israeli officials should be understood not as an indication of the Jewish state’s likelihood to strike the Islamic Republic but as a ploy “to motivate the rest of the world to act.” Now, however, he confidently asserts: “The words of Israeli leaders are signaling not just increasing impatience with the pace of diplomacy but also Israel’s growing readiness to act militarily on its own against Iranian nuclear facilities.”
Both op-ed contributors also make it a point to stress that the United States shares Israel’s strategic goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability, while noting that they only differ over, in the words of Yadlin, “the timeline for possible military action against Iran.” Like the former Israeli intelligence chief, Ross touts Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s “zone of immunity” argument that Israel must act while Iran’s nuclear facilities are still vulnerable to an Israeli military strike.
Framing their arguments as attempts to prevent, or at least postpone, an Israeli attack, Yadlin and Ross offer, respectively, their five- and four-point plans for “peace.” Yadlin, currently director of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, urges the Obama administration to take “five immediate steps to convince allies and adversaries alike that military action is real, imminent and doable,” which he assures are “key to making it less likely”:
First, Obama should notify the U.S. Congress in writing that he reserves the right to use military force to prevent Iran’s acquisition of a military nuclear capability. This would show the president’s resolve, and congressional support for such a measure is likely to be strong. Forty-four senators signed a bipartisan letter to Obama in June, urging him to “reevaluate the utility of further talks at this time” and focus instead on sanctions and “making clear that a credible military option exists.”
Second, Washington should signal its intentions via a heightened U.S. military presence in the gulf, military exercises with Middle East allies and missile defense deployment in the region. Media coverage of these actions should be encouraged.
Third, Washington should provide advanced military technology and intelligence to strengthen Israel’s military capabilities and extend the window in which Israel can mortally wound Iran’s program. This support would be contingent on Israeli pledges to give sanctions and diplomacy more time to work.
Fourth, U.S. officials should speak publicly about the dangers of possible Iranian nuclear reconstitution in the wake of a military strike. Perhaps the most cogent argument against a unilateral Israeli strike is that it would quickly lead to the disintegration of Western sanctions. Without the inhibitions of a sanctions regime, Iran could quickly reconstitute its nuclear program — this time bunkered entirely underground to protect against aerial strikes. If Iran sees military action by Israel or the West as an absolute end to its nuclear ambitions, it will be more reluctant to risk things.
Fifth, Obama should publicly commit to the security of U.S. allies in the gulf. This would reassure jittery friends in the region and credibly anchor the U.S. last-resort military option to three powerful interests: U.S. national security, Israeli security and the security of allied states.
Living up to his reputation as a reliable “advocate” for Israel, Ross presents his remarkably similar four-step plan which he claims is necessary in order “to extend the clock from an Israeli standpoint” as well as “to synchronize the American and Israeli clocks so that we really can exhaust diplomacy and sanctions before resorting to force”:
First, the United States must put an endgame proposal on the table that would allow Iran to have civil nuclear power but with restrictions that would preclude it from having a breakout nuclear capability — the ability to weaponize its nuclear program rapidly at a time of Tehran’s choosing. Making such a proposal would clarify whether a genuine deal was possible and would convey to Israel that the American approach to negotiations was not open-ended.
Second, America should begin discussions with the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany (the so-called P5+1) about a “day after” strategy in the event that diplomacy fails and force is used. This would signal to both Israel and Iran that we mean what we say about all options being on the table.
Third, senior American officials should ask Israeli leaders if there are military capabilities we could provide them with — like additional bunker-busting bombs, tankers for refueling aircraft and targeting information — that would extend the clock for them.
And finally, the White House should ask Mr. Netanyahu what sort of support he would need from the United States if he chose to use force — for example, resupply of weapons, munitions, spare parts, military and diplomatic backing, and help in terms of dealing with unexpected contingencies. The United States should be prepared to make firm commitments in all these areas now in return for Israel’s agreement to postpone any attack until next year — a delay that could be used to exhaust diplomatic options and lay the groundwork for military action if diplomacy failed.
While noting that these proposals may be seen as making war more likely next year, Ross claims “they are almost certainly needed now in order to give Israel’s leaders a reason to wait.” Similarly, Yadlin argues that “if the United States wants Israel to give sanctions and diplomacy more time, Israelis must know that they will not be left high and dry if these options fail.”
“A long-standing principle of Israeli defense doctrine,” Yadlin asserts, “is that it will never ask the United States to fight for it.” While it may be technically true that Tel Aviv never directly asks Washington to dispose of regional rivals on its behalf, these two op-eds attest that the Jewish state has more subtle ways of inducing America to do its dirty work for it.