Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not my cup of tea, to say the least. I look at him and see an Iranian version of one of our Shas politicians, and I don't like them, or their political-religious fundamentalism either. His human rights record isn't great; he is a lousy president; the Iranian people would do well to get rid of him.
So I am not going to defend him or make apologies for him – even though he has never threatened to destroy Israelis, and, needless to say, he has never threatened to wipe Israel off the map.
(If you don't believe me, read the wikipedia article Ahmadinejad and Israel – which is not, apparently, even disputed by the Hasbara-niks and the neo-cons.)
Of course Ahmadinejad wants the State of Israel to vanish from the face of the earth. Big deal. Reagan wanted the same thing to happen to the Soviet Union. Most Arab states, and all Palestinians I know, see no justification for a Jewish state in Palestine. Some are willing to make peace with it, but no Arab I know is a political Zionist (I realize that there are folks like that; the hasbara people trot them out, occasionally, or so I have been told.)
Ahmadinejad has never called for massacring Jews. As Roger Cohen points out, if he is another Hitler, then why doesn't he treat his Jews the way Hitler treated German Jews? Even if life isn't a picnic for the Iranian Jewish community, they have suffered less loss of property than have Palestinian Israelis, and much less than Palestinians under the permanent Occupation.
Given the fact that neither Ahmadinejad's anti-Zionism nor his Holocaust denial poses any sort of threat to Israel (except in the eyes of the Commentary crowd and some politicians), then the only rational grounds for Israel's sabre-rattling against Iran is Iran's support of Hezbollah and Hamas.
Now that makes sense. That's where Israel should be focusing its attention.
And yet, when Israel and its Jewish supporters (and an occasional politician courting Jewish votes) go bonkers over Iran, it is not over its support of Palestinian and Lebanese insurgent groups, but over its nuclear program.
Will somebody explain to me why Israel has the right to have nuclear weapons but Iran, or the Arab countries do not? (Besides, of course, the rights that your tribe has over other tribes, regardless of international law and conventions.) Israel is afraid that Iran would wipe it off the map? Hasn't an Israeli minister (Fouad Ben-Eliezer, I believe) threatened Iran with that? And doesn't Iran have more to fear from Israel than vice-versa?
In fact, it would take years, perhaps decades, for Iran to equal Israel's nuclear capability. Given that Ahmadinejad has proven himself (with the help of Bush-Cheney) to be an astute leader in terms of Middle East power politics, given that he is no Idi Amin (and not even a Mu'amar Qaddafi), given that he knows when to back off, why the cause of hysteria?
That there is Zionist hysteria cannot be denied. The affliction is particularly noticeable among the liberal hawks. Reporter Daniel Luban has a great piece about Jeffrey Goldberg's hysteria here. It should be must reading for anybody who wants to penetrate the psyche of the species.
Israel's own liberal hawk columnist, Ari Shavit, has produced an extraordinary rant, a scare-scenario with the typical, glatt kosher Israeli message to Obama (tinged with the customary Israeli condescension to African Americans). The message? Stop talking about dialogue with Iran; they may not be Arabs, but they sure act like them; they only understand force. If you don't act now, it will be the END OF CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT, or, at least, the END OF YOUR REGIME.
What are the sources of Shavit's hysteria? I think it has many sources: the Jewish fantasy (partly kabbalistic) that Jews are at the center of the universe; the Iron Wall philosophy of the political Zionists ("Morality is a luxury for Switzerland"; "This is the Middle East"; "We have to out-bastard the bastards.") Throw in some post-Holocaust trauma for the children of the survivors, but not, of course, for the actual survivors. And, of course, the galling fact that guys like Iran can even have a nuclear bomb. I mean, it was one thing when their film industry was doing better among international critics and festivals than Israel's. But nukes?
Anyway, Shavit's piece is worth reading for the psychological malaise that is essential to his type of Zionist. In fact, some of the other articles in Haaretz on Independence Day illustrate this well. When somebody has to write an "I-am-proud-to-be-a-Zionist," piece, a century after Zionism and 61 years after the birth of the Zionist state, you know that there is still a problem. Israel has not succeeded in getting rid of the question mark over its very legitimacy. Tribalists, of course, will attribute that to the "New Antisemitism." They will forget that the legitimacy of Israel was then, as now, predicated on finding an agreed-upon solution for both the Jewish and the Palestinian peoples, and that the little matter of ethnic cleansing of 700,000 Palestinians (all "cleansed," by the way, on the same day and at the same hour – when Israel passed its Nationality Law) has come back to haunt Israel
As long as one side is not free, neither side will be free.