New Israeli Math and the Return of the Holocaust Analogy: Steinitz: Iran “Equal to 30 Nuclear North Koreas.”
At the second annual Jerusalem Post Conference, held in New York City on Sunday April 28, a number of former and current Israeli officials offered new estimates about Iran’s nuclear progress, issued threats of war and pretended Israel is more powerful and militarily capable than it really is.
In other words, it was just another day of shameless and shameful Israeli propaganda; pathetic, jingoistic bluster meant to appeal to hawkish American donors, puff up Israel’s inflated sense of self, and attempt to boost its already non-existent credibility.
Former IDF intel chief Amos Yadlin said, “Even though Iran is on the way to crossing the line of Netanyahu, that doesn’t mean that they have the bomb,” which might be the most tediously self-evident comment made in recent memory, despite also relying on fact-free speculation. He also said that Israel could weather the consequences of a potential unilateral military assault on the Islamic Republic, but that, before that happens, “we must give more time for the other strategies that nobody takes credit for,” an apparent reference to Israeli-led covert murder operations and cyberwar.
Meanwhile, former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi also told the mouth-breathing attendees that Israel can effectively attack Iran and sustain the inevitable blowback. “We cannot allow this regime to have the bomb,” he said, before insisting that a recent multi-billion dollar U.S. arms sale to Israel “sends a signal” to Iran about Israel’s military capabilities and intentions.
The best comments of the day, however, were made by Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz. Calling an Iran with an atomic arsenal “equal to 30 nuclear North Koreas,” Steinitz’s stand-up routine didn’t disappoint. Not only was a “nuclear Iran” an “existential threat” to Israel, he said, it would also pose a “terrible threat” to all of the Middle East, Europe and the United States. Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, Africa, Australia and Antarctica would apparently be spared the devastating scourge, however.
“Iran is problem number one of our generation,” Steinitz declared. He then launched into an embarrassingly repetitive rant about how Iran is the new Nazi Germany, an analogy so stupid and played out that even its most ardent champion Netanyahu hasn’t used it in a while. After praising Winston Churchill for his actions in the 1930s (which garnered a healthy round of applause from the crowd), Steinitz implicitly condemned other powers and political leaders for their past follies and failures, evoking the tired bromide equating diplomacy with appeasement.
“We shouldn’t repeat the same mistakes again,” he said, continuing:
This was Nazi Germany, a secular regime with a fanatical ideology. And here we are speaking about the Shiite Ayatollahs of Iran. Totally [religious] fanatical regime. There it was Europe, here it’s Iran. The Nazis spoke about the final solution for the Jewish people in Europe. They [Iranian leaders] are speaking about destroying the Jewish State in the Middle East. There are some differences. We have to learn from history. And so it never repeats itself exactly. And if there’s a lesson to learn from history, it’s not to repeat the same mistake again. And not to allow, come what may, the nuclearization of Iran.
He wasn’t finished.
Once at full capacity, the Iranian nuclear program, he claimed, will be able to produce 20 to 30 nuclear bombs each year and somehow decided that, “if Iran gets the first few bombs, in a decade or so they will have 100 nuclear bombs.”
This was “not an intelligence estimate,” he was quick to note, but rather was based on statements by the Islamic Republic itself, which makes literally no sense since Iran has never once stated any intention to build or acquire a single nuclear weapon.
For good measure, Steinitz also tossed around phrases like “global ambitions” and “a new era of Islamic hegemony,” because things like that – regardless of their sheer stupidity – play well with ignorant, racist audiences like the one assembled Sunday at the Times Square Marriott.
Dismissing sanctions as insufficient “to achieve our goal,” Steinitz demanded that “a very clear military threat” be made to Iran (ignoring, of course, that this is an undeniable violation of the UN Charter), “a credible threat that will make it crystal clear that they are paying something for nothing.”
“If there is a chance to resolve this problem without military action,” he said, it will only be because opponents of Tehran’s nuclear program “choose a big enough stick and wave it in their faces,” appealing to the Orientalist conception that Middle Eastern leaders only understand the language of force and will only kowtow to Western and Israeli demands when sufficiently fearful of potential violence.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who also spoke at the conference, tried to temper such alarmist rhetoric and dispel the notion that Iran poses an existential threat to Israel, one worthy of constant hysteria and attention.
“I think that we have exaggerated, for a long time, the potential threat of Iran possessing nuclear power,” he told the crowd.
Predictably, Olmert’s comments did not receive a positive reception; instead, he was heckled and booed.
The United States agreed on Wednesday to extend its $4 billion loan guarantee program to Israel until 2016, a gesture that shows continued commitment to the Jewish state less than two weeks before the American presidential elections.
The move allows the United States to provide up to $3.8 billion in future loan guarantees, as part of a $9 billion commitment made by the US in 2003.
The program was meant to expire this year.
The American Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner and Doron Cohen, the director general of the Israeli finance ministry, signed the agreement during a US-Israel Joint Economic Development Group meeting in Washington, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
“The loan guarantees agreement attests to the special economic relationship between Israel and US,” said Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s finance minister.
“I welcome the growing cooperation between the two countries, especially their treasuries,” Steinitz added while thanking Geithner.
The loan guarantees are independent of $10 billion in annual US military assistance to Israel and joint US-Israel missile defense projects. In 2007, US President George W. Bush agreed to a 10-year military aid package costing $30 billion.
According to a March 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service, Israel is “the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II.” The report alleges that Israel had received $115 billion from the United States to date, most of it in the form of military assistance.
The report also stated that US financial assistance to Israel is typically delivered within the first 30 days of the fiscal year, whereas most other recipients receive aid in installments.
Scandal surfaced in Washington earlier this month after 15 church leaders sent a letter to Congress asking for an investigation to ensure American military aid to Israel was not used to commit human rights violations against Palestinians.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs responded by canceling a long-planned interfaith meeting and by issuing an outraged public statement, in which JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow accused the enquiry of being part of “relentless attacks on the Jewish state” and a sign of “vicious anti-Zionism that has gone virtually unchecked in several of these denominations.”
Presidential incumbent Obama and his contender Mitt Romney have competed in displays of loyalty to the Jewish state over the course of the election campaigns, mentioning Israel dozens of times during the last presidential debate on Monday, which centered on foreign policy. The debate was devoid of criticism of Israel’s repeated human rights abuses against Palestinians.
Obama has hailed Israel as “a true friend and our greatest ally in the region,” later adding that he “will stand with Israel if they are attacked.” Meanwhile, Romney has expressed similar sentiments, his website going so far as to call Israel “a beacon of democracy and freedom in the [Middle East].”
In August 2010 Israel’s Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced a special 500 million shekel budget to improve higher education access for Arab and Haredi communities.
In the almost two years since their announcement, the only academic college located in an Arab community – Nazareth Academic Institute – has seen none of those funds, nor any of the standard public funding awarded to other academic colleges in the region.
Over the past week, both Steinitz and Sa’ar have thrown their support behind Ariel College’s bid for university status, including a pledge of 50 million shekels in additional higher education funding to make the shift feasible, while NAI continues to wait. All of which begs the question: What does it say to Arab citizens of Israel that a settlement university will likely be approved and funded before any public investment in the only Arab college?
NAI has struggled for more than a decade to establish an institution of higher education in the Arab community, initially applying for accreditation as a branch campus of Tel Aviv University and later operating as a branch of the US-based University of Indianapolis. It finally opened as an independent, though unfunded, institution in 2010. The government has been mildly responsive, with officials from former Minister of Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman to Sa’ar himself giving lip service to the importance of Arab development, but not actually investing in it through NAI.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development issued a call for public investment in NAI through its 2011 Report on Higher Education in Regional and City Development for the Galilee. Continued disparities between Arab and Jewish community development are “a threat to the long-term sustainable development of Israel,” the report said, suggesting that increased educational investment in Arab communities would boost the regional economy as soon as the medium term.
However, the report argued that all prior attempts at higher education expansion for the Galilee had happened in predominantly Jewish areas and maintained majority Jewish enrollment, sometimes as high as 90 percent of the student body. “Considering the current under-representation of Arab population in tertiary education, steps should be taken to support NAI, which is the first comprehensive Arab higher education institution in Israel,” the report said.
The OECD report was published last year, yet no discernible action has been taken in the nearly eight months since. What does it say when the government ignores OECD recommendations for a region within Israel in favor of a massive investment in permanent infrastructure on occupied land?
Meanwhile, much of the recent debate on universal service legislation has focused on the rights versus obligations of Arab citizens, on an idea that all of Israel’s citizens should share in carrying the weight of the nation. Yet the Ariel decision suggests that no matter how long Arab citizens toil within the system, no matter how much money they pay in taxes and no matter what promises have been made to them around provision of resources, Jewish communities will always take precedence — even when they lie outside of the nation’s recognized borders.
The move by Israeli ministers to support Ariel favors subsidies for Jewish settlers in occupied territory over equitable support for Israel’s minority communities. It favors expansionist politics over a pragmatic investment in the state’s future. It is a move against both moral imperatives and practical judgment.
In short, it is a great shame.
But the move is not simply a blow to ethnic equality within Israel. It also sends a strong message about this government’s view of the prospects for peace. For the rebuff here is not simply against NAI as the only Arab college within Israel — though that would be bad enough. It is also against the only college jointly managed by Israel’s Arab and Jewish citizens in favor of one whose association with the settlement movement negates any sense of partnership. This government has chosen a college whose very existence relies on a continued military presence over the only college to require a core education in peace and multicultural studies.
The message I take from that is ominous indeed.
Susan Drinan is the chairman of Nazareth Academic Institute’s international board of trustees.