View from Washington: Those obscene Holocaust analogies

To assume we need to trigger the apocalypse so as to prevent it is nothing short of nuts.

mjrosenberg88 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Is it possible to discuss Iran and Israel without invoking the specter of another Holocaust? It seems that it isn't. Israeli officials, US presidential candidates and journalists all invoke the possibility of a second Holocaust with reckless abandon. Reckless it is, too. Once the possibility of another Holocaust is posited, there can be no alternative but to take action, no matter how extreme, to prevent it. Historian Benny Morris is so hysterical about the Iranian threat that he would use nuclear weapons to prevent it. That's right. On July 18, in perhaps the most ridiculous op-ed I've ever seen in The New York Times, Morris called for a conventional military strike to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb and inflicting a holocaust on Israel. He predicted the strike would fail, and concluded that the only alternative left would be a nuclear attack against Iran. In other words, he called for a holocaust to prevent a holocaust. The approach taken by Morris is not only hysterical, it also negates the existence of the State of Israel. After all, if Jews today remain so vulnerable to annihilation - by a second-rate power like Iran, no less - then who needs Israel? If Israel's existence cannot protect Jews from holocaust, then why was Israel created in the first place? A LITTLE Holocaust education is in order. The Holocaust took place because the world's second most powerful nation made the destruction of the Jewish people its number one priority. The Final Solution almost succeeded in destroying all the Jews of Europe, some six million men, women and children. The reason total annihilation almost succeeded was because Europe's Jews were defenseless. They had no country of their own, no army and - it goes without saying - no weapons. They had no ability to fight back. The Nazis were able to kill them, but the Jews could do nothing or - during the course of several revolts - very little in response. The Nazis were able to destroy the Jews of Europe with near total impunity. Imagine for a minute if the Jews of Germany, Poland, Hungary and the rest could have fought back. Imagine if they somehow had hugely powerful weapons that could destroy Berlin and Frankfurt and Munich. Imagine if they had an army, air force and navy that was powerful enough to inflict on the Nazis what the Nazis were inflicting on them. What would have happened then? Simple. There would have been no Holocaust. If the Jews had the power to take the Nazis down with them, the Final Solution could not have occurred. It is only because the Jews could not fight back - because they had no army, no weapons and, above all, no state of their own - that the Holocaust could happen. And that, as everyone knows, is why the State of Israel was created. That is what "Never Again" means. It means that never again will a defenseless, stateless Jewish people be led to slaughter. It means that any power considering annihilation of the Jews will pay a fatal price. That is why all this talk about another Holocaust is so insulting to Israel. There cannot be another Holocaust. A powerful nuclear-armed Israel is the ultimate deterrent. THOSE WHO insist that another Holocaust is imminent believe that this form of deterrence - known as "mutually assured destruction" - would not work with Iranians. Unlike say the Nazis, Soviets, North Koreans and pretty much everyone else on the planet, Iranians are said not to care if their own civilization is destroyed in the process of destroying their enemy. Here's Benny Morris in The New York Times: "Given the fundamentalist, self-sacrificial mindset of the mullahs who run Iran, Israel knows that deterrence may not work as well as it did with the comparatively rational men who ran the Kremlin and White House during the cold war. They are likely to use any bomb they build... Thus an Israeli nuclear strike to prevent the Iranians from taking the final steps toward getting the bomb is probable. The alternative is letting Teheran have its bomb. In either case, a Middle Eastern nuclear holocaust would be in the cards." In other words, the only way to prevent a nuclear war is to initiate one. NOW I may be naïve, but I have yet to hear of any civilization that would choose to go down in flames just to take out the enemy. The Imperial Japanese were as fanatical as any people on the planet, but once they saw the destructive power of the atomic bomb, they surrendered. The Soviets, under Stalin ("comparatively rational," according to Morris) knew they could not defeat the United States, so they decided on coexistence, preferring a cold war to a suicidal hot one. The Red Chinese, in their fanatical mode, developed nuclear weapons at a moment when they considered themselves in a life-and-death struggle with both the United States and the Soviet Union but chose not to use them. The same goes for the Indians and Pakistanis who have been engaged in a bloody struggle for 50 years. They both have nuclear weapons. Iran is different, the hawks say. Sounding like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad describing the Jews, Transportation Minister and candidate for prime minister Shaul Mofaz says that "the Iranians are the root of all evil." Morris agrees. There is no one like the Iranians. Only Iranians are willing to give up their cities, their children and their civilization to destroy the enemy. (Believing that one's adversaries don't love their children is nothing new. In every war it is said that the other side is willing to sacrifice its own kids which proves that they - unlike us-are essentially not human.) I don't buy it. I don't believe that the Iranians would sacrifice Teheran to take out Tel Aviv. Yes, they would sacrifice soldiers at the front (look at the mass carnage of the Iran-Iraq War) but not their civilization. And certainly not their children. Those who insist that they would are precisely the same people who told us that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that, in the words of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, we must invade Iraq rather than wait for a "smoking gun" which would likely be a "mushroom cloud." It's hard to believe that anyone would heed these people twice. THERE CAN be no doubt that the Iranian threat has to be addressed. Although President Ahmadinejad has to answer to the mullahs, his obscene threats need to be taken seriously. But that means using every means at our disposal to contain the Iranian threat, starting with diplomacy without preconditions. The worst thing that can happen is that no agreement would be reached and other plans would have to be made. But to assume, as Morris does, that we need to trigger the apocalypse in order to prevent it is nothing short of nuts. I'm not saying Morris wants a nuclear war, only that he thinks that there are worse things - like diplomacy, an option he dismisses in his op-ed. Here is what he says about nuclear war: "It is in the interest of neither Iran nor the United States... that Iran be savaged by a nuclear strike, or that both Israel and Iran suffer such a fate. We know what would ensue: a traumatic destabilization of the Middle East with resounding political and military consequences around the globe, serious injury to the West's oil supply and radioactive pollution of the earth's atmosphere and water." "Traumatic destabilization." "Serious injury to the West's oil supply." And "radioactive pollution of the earth's atmosphere and water." That's all! He doesn't even mention the dead. Imagine this is what a noted historian thinks is preferable to talking to Iran. As for Israel, the Promised Land to which Jews have dreamed of returning for 2,000 years, it supposedly would survive both nuclear devastation and the world's awareness that it triggered nuclear war. What planet does Morris live on? The good news is that there is a Jewish state. It is strong. It has nuclear weapons. And it isn't going anywhere. Declaring otherwise to advance the same neoconservative agenda that has already done America, Israel and the world so much damage is inexcusable. And this time it's not working. The writer is the director of Israel Policy Forum's Washington Policy Center.