The Early Days of a Better Nation

Ξ March 22nd, 2007 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Politics and Society |

The lone and level sands

In 2002 I was in Cracow as a guest of the Polish national SF convention, who had put me up in a newly-opened hotel in the Old Jewish Quarter. The quarter was quite visibly becoming the new happening place, and - most hearteningly - a new Jewish quarter, with kosher delis and Israeli cafes sprucing up its neglected streets. The big pre-war synagogues are still there, and open. I think it was the sight of them that gave rise to a premonition I'd never had before. Something very bad is going to happen. Nothing I'd seen in Poland had given any occasion for gloom. Quite the reverse. But my unease had nothing to do with Poland, and it remained. I tried to shake it off as a side-effect of sombre hindsight: it's hard to look at those massive, ornate synagogues without thinking of the fate of those who once worshipped there, and of how little they must have suspected of what was to come. And maybe gloomy hindsight is all it was. At that time, the confrontation with Iraq was a cloud no bigger than a man's hand.

I'm no prophet, and nor are you, but you know what I'm going to say next.

Yes, Iran. Israeli historian Benny Morris claims it is preparing a second Holocaust: it is striving to acquire nuclear weapons and when it does, it will nuke Israel. (Via.) Morris acknowledges that this would mean nuking Palestine, and destroying or contaminating some of Islam's holiest sites, but believes Iran would go ahead and do it anyway. The Iranian leadership consists of mad mullahs, fanatical and undeterrable. Not even the prospect of an Israeli counterstrike would stay their hand.

Israel might not have the capability to retaliate anyway. The US wouldn't retaliate and the rest of the world would do essentially nothing. Millions of Jews would die and the world would shrug it off. So the only thing to be done is to nuke Iran before it nukes Israel. Morris's only worry is that the Israeli leadership isn't up to the job.

Iran's own Jews don't seem to believe they're living under a Jew-hating regime, if their reluctance to leave (via) is anything to go by. Morris's evidence that the Islamic Republic of Iran has such a heinous intent as to nuke Israel amounts to little more than the familiar litany of Ahmadinejad's rants and stunts: the Holocaust cartoon competition, the Holocaust denial conference, and the infamous remark that 'Israel must be wiped off the map'. The fascinating story of that alleged remark has been traced in some detail by Arash Norouzi - an apparently liberal artist and no fan of the Iranian president - and is well worth reading, both for its demonstration that Ahmidinejad did not in fact say it and its explanation of how the mistranslated phrase went around the world. But whatever about that, Ahmadinejad's undoubtedly provocative and reactionary antics are a somewhat inadequate basis for advocating a nuclear attack on Iran. The very fact that they are constantly cited is evidence enough that the Islamic Republic has not actually threatened Israel with nuclear attack. Meanwhile, far more representative and responsible voices in Israel and the United States most definitely have threatened Iran with nuclear attack.


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