Rattling the Cage: The Iranians are coming, the Iranians are coming
It's considered our patriotic duty to be scared to death of Iran, and it's our leaders' responsibility to keep themselves and us at the end of our wits.
By LARRY DERFNER
I don't want to get overconfident, but there were glimmerings of sanity on the subject of Iran from not one, but two leading Israeli politicians this week.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak: "We are not the Jews of Europe. The State of Israel is the strong one here. I don't see anyone annihilating it."
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni: "(T)he connection to the Holocaust... is wrong, both with regards to the Holocaust itself, and also with regards to the correct ethos of our nation, from the perspective of its strength."
What should we make of this? It might be that Barak and Livni were just getting in a dig at their rival, Prime Minister Binyamin ("It's 1938 and Iran is Germany") Netanyahu, but maybe they meant what they were saying. Maybe they really think the balance of power between Iran and Israel is more than a little different from what it was between Nazi Germany and European Jewry. They may even think Iran's leaders actually aren't looking forward to dooming their ancient civilization to nuclear extinction at the hands of Zionists.
Taking Barak and Livni at their word, those are some pretty daring statements to be making in 21st-century Israel. To suggest that we are living through anything but a reprise of the European '30s is considered either fatally naÃ¯ve or subversive. It's considered our patriotic duty to be scared to death of Iran, and it's our leaders' responsibility to keep themselves and us at the end of our wits. And we're all doing a great job. We've come up with all sorts of doomsday scenarios that don't even require the Iranians to use nuclear weapons against us; they can destroy Israel just by having them, we're convinced.
"THE FIRST-STAGE Iranian goal, in the understanding of Netanyahu and his advisers, is to frighten Israel's most talented citizens into leaving the country," wrote The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg after an interview with the prime minister. Michael Oren, just before being named ambassador to the US, wrote in Commentary that if Iran goes nuclear, "Israel will swiftly find itself in a profoundly unstable nuclear neighborhood prone to violent revolutions and miscalculations leading to war. As former Labor Party minister Efraim Sneh says, under such circumstances, all Israelis who can leave the country will."
What? Where do they get this idea? There are tens of thousands of enemy missiles pointed at Israel at this moment; the Iranians, the Syrians and who knows which other Muslim countries have chemical weapons and maybe biological weapons as well - and is any Israeli running away?
Did any Americans flee the US during the Red Scare? Did any Reds flee Russia? Has India become depopulated in the decade since Pakistan got The Bomb? Are the Pakistanis emigrating en masse in fear of nuclear-armed India?
What is this craziness? Israelis are going to leave the country if Iran builds nuclear weapons? Actually, they might, if people keep telling them that Hitler's back and this time he's got nukes and he's going to turn the country into one big Auschwitz. With that sort of message dripping into our brains day after day, maybe this place really would empty out if Iran got nukes.
MORE LIKELY, of course, this brainwashing by popular demand will cause us to attack Iran - unless Barack Obama stops us, which I think he will. But then who knows? If you take Netanyahu at his word - a dicey proposition, I know - he's going to do whatever's necessary to keep The Bomb out of Iran's hands, no matter what price he or Israel has to pay. What is Obama, what is America, what is anything when you're convinced your country is on the brink of destruction?
And again, destruction wouldn't have to come from falling Iranian nukes - according to leading-edge opinion around here, Iran's mere possession of nuclear weapons would cause not only mass emigration but a flight of foreign capital, too. The economy would dry up!
What's more, Hamas, Hizbullah and the other Islamic fanatics would come under the protection of an Iranian "nuclear umbrella." They'd feel free to attack us and we'd be afraid to hit back because if we did, Iran would nuke us. Israel would be overrun by jihadists!
In short, the thinking here is that even though we have a nuclear, biological and chemical arsenal that Iran couldn't match in a million years, the emergence of an Iranian nuke, even if it's never fired, will turn Israel into something like Darfur.
These are the stories we tell ourselves.
Naturally, I'd feel safer if Iran didn't get The Bomb. But what scares me more than the ravings of Ahmadinejad is the bad nerves and Holocaust fixation of this country, starting with Netanyahu. I think that what Israel might do out of fear is a greater threat to all concerned than what a nuclear Iran might do out of religious fanaticism or anti-Semitism.
Yes. That's how far I think our paranoia has gone. Our number one strategic goal, as far as I'm concerned, is not to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but to calm the hell down. It's the Iranians who should be scared - and they are. It's we who don't have to even use our nuclear weapons - it's enough just that we have them.
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