Stony Brook Film Festival
view counter
Media Watch: The Guns Of August

Media burns with talk of an Israel-Iran war.

08/17/10
Associate Editor
Photo Galleria: 

In 1938, Vladimir Jabotinsky, who advocated an “iron wall” of Zionist self-defense, warned European Jews that they “were living on the edge of the volcano,” but those Jews were essentially helpless. Now Jabotinsky’s spiritual grandchild, Prime Minister Netanyahu, whose father worked for Jabotinsky, says, “It’s 1938 and Iran is Germany.” The difference this time, says Netanyahu, is Israel isn’t helpless.

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has for years been promising to annihilate Israel. One thing all students of Jabotinsky learn is to take someone at their word when they say they’re going to kill you.

War is coming, as surely as 1938 turned to 1939. A pre-storm wind is kicking up, with a swirling of articles and blogs predicting war by this weekend, perhaps before the leaves fall, almost certainly before another summer.

War by this weekend? Arutz Sheva (Aug. 17) quoted former U.N. ambassador John Bolton pointing out that Russia announced that on Aug. 21 it will start loading nuclear fuel and specialized fuel rods into Iran’s Bushehr reactor. Once that happens, an attack on the reactor, which happens to be above ground, would unleash radioactive material, hurting civilians.

“If Israel wants to do something against the reactor in Bushehr, it must do so in the following eight days,” says Bolton, but “I fear that Israel has lost this opportunity.”

On the front page of Iran’s Tehran Times (Aug. 17) there is the ominous headline: “Iran to test-fire new missiles on Aug. 22,” the day after the nuclear installation.

Bolton told the National Review, on the right, “Despite White House spin, the sanctions have had no effect.” In The Nation, on the left, Robert Dreyfuss says, “virtually no one, including the proponents of sanctions, thinks they can work,” except to “inflict real suffering on ordinary Iranians.” Pres. Obama, he adds, “has run out of ideas about how to handle Iran.”

The one article that’s galvanizing the conversation is Jeffrey Goldberg’s “The Point of No Return” in The Atlantic (Sept.). “One day next spring,” he writes, Israel will inform Washington that the Israeli air force is flying toward Iran “because a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people.”

In dozens of interviews, across the spectrum and across borders, Goldberg asked for predictions and was given a consensus answer: “there is a better than 50 percent chance that Israel will launch a strike by next July.”

As for Obama, writes Goldberg, “Israelis are doubtful that a man who positioned himself as the antithesis of George W. Bush… would launch a preemptive attack on a Muslim nation … If the Israelis reach the firm conclusion that Obama will not, under any circumstances, launch a strike on Iran, then the countdown will begin for a unilateral Israeli attack.”

According to one Israeli official, “the only reason [Netanyahu] would place Israel’s relationship with America in total jeopardy is if he thinks that Iran represents a threat like the Shoah.”

Obama may have many Jewish aides, friends and supporters, writes Goldberg, “but philo-Semitism does not necessarily equal sympathy” for Netanyahu’s dilemma. One Israeli official told Goldberg, if Obama is a “J Street” person, “we are in trouble,” J Street being the lobby representing “liberal American Jews who say, ‘If we remove some settlements, then the extremist problem and the Iran problem go away.’ ”

And yet, writes Goldberg, far from J Street, “some Israeli generals, like their American colleagues, questioned the very idea of an attack,” it would be too difficult, too risky.”

George Will, writing in The Washington Post (Aug. 15), sees Netanyahu believing that stopping Iran’s nuclear program is integral to stopping the worldwide campaign to reverse 1948, the year of Israel’s independence, returning everyone to that darker time, says Netanyahu, when a Jew “couldn’t defend himself -- a perfect victim.”

The attempted undoing of 1948, writes Will, can be seen in the persistent campaign “to delegitimize” one Israeli military action after another “in order to extinguish [Israel’s] capacity for self-defense.” Says Will, with italics for emphasis, “Any Israeli self-defense anywhere is automatically judged ‘disproportionate.’ Israel knows this as it watches Iran.”

War talk has been strong in Europe, and for quite a while. Germany’s Spiegel, back in December, headlined, “It's 1938, and Iran Is Germany,” with the sub-head, “Israel's patience with Tehran wearing thin.”

The left, in blogs and papers, has attempted to discredit Goldberg: “A neo-con preps U.S. for war with Iran,” while “cauldrons are still boiling in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

In The Washington Post, Ezra Klein, admits, “I don't even know if there actually is an Iranian nuclear-weapons program,” but an Israeli attack would only “make the Arab world… hate Israel even more. It would also hurt Israel's standing in the world… Is that worth it? I’m skeptical, to say the least.”

Even if J Street was used loosely in the Goldberg story as a liberal Jewish catch-all, it’s clear that liberal Jews such as Klein will not support Israel if it went to war. As Klein explains, when “the Israeli government swings far to the right, elevates anti-Arab extremists like Avigdor Lieberman to positions of power, and focuses intently on bombing Iran while essentially mocking those who focus on the peace process, it becomes clearer and clearer that they have no solutions, and may not even be interested in solutions, to their underlying problems.”

Israel, adds Klein, is “willing to do dangerous things when they involve firepower — like attacking Iran or bombing Gaza — but not hard things when they involve fighting domestic battles to restart the peace process and reverse the settlements…”

Tikkun, a leftist Jewish magazine, asked, “Is war with Iran likely in the next 12 months?” One writer says, “as early as this month.” An editorial note in Tikkun hoped that something might “derail this terribly mistaken direction.”

Also on the left, Katherine Smith, in the Daily Kos, argues that “Iran, a country with a non-existent nuclear weapons capability and an air force that belongs in a museum, is not a threat to either nuclear power with a presence in the Middle East, the United States or Israel. The community of grassroots Iranian-American, Jewish-American, peace, and church groups have proven over and over, when we cooperate with each other we can make a difference,” even stopping a war.

Goldberg’s blog (theatlantic.com/jeffreygoldberg) has been offering a terrific ongoing conversation on the situation, with critics and advocates from all sides. Christopher Hitchens told Goldberg, on the blog, “I take Holocaust denial as Holocaust affirmation. People [such as Ahmadinejad] who say it didn't happen are people who wish it would happen again. I don't think there are any exceptions to that. This is not a fit person to be in command of nuclear weapons.”

Hitchens concludes, “The Iranian regime has several times publicly not just sworn but signed its name to [international] documents… that it has no ambitions to weaponize its nuclear capacity. If, after that, it is found that they have such impulses, then there is no such thing as international law anymore… we watched while that was contemptuously dismantled, trampled. In that case I see no reason not to take out the regime.”

Last Update:

08/19/2010 - 13:10

view counter

Comment Guidelines

The Jewish Week feels comments create a valuable conversation and wants to feature your thoughts on our website. To make everyone feel welcome, we won't publish comments that are profane, irrelevant, promotional or make personal attacks.

A simplistic scenario.... " a committed radical crminal, continually confronts you with eyes bulging. spittle splattering on your face and says. "I am going to wipe you , your wife, your children and your neighbors off the face of the earth. I am going to kill all of you!" Will your determination to talk "calmly & resaonably", appease the tormentor and change his mind? Or... will you take the necessary action to defend yourself,your family,children and neighbors? History unfortunately, has a distict and sometimes cruel way of repeating itself... GOD Bless Israel! May the wisdom of HIM prevail.
The time for Y'Srael to act is now! Iran has been preparing to attack Israel for years and is only waiting to act on the continual threats it's made. If anyone ACTUALLY believes the lies spewed from that modern-day Hitler, Ahmadinejad's, mouth that Iran has no ambition of weaponizing it's nuclear capacity, then they THEMSELVES don't believe that the Holocaust happened. Well, the Holocaust DID HAPPENED and the threat from Iran IS REAL! The time to remove Iran's nuclear capacity, which for Iran, is clearly motivated in a way that would help the onslaught of ANOTHER Holocaust, is now! I pray for the peace of Israel...of Jerusalem!!! May G-d continue to be with her!!!
I have only been able to visit Israel once, so far, and being a messianic Jew, I hope and pray for peace daily for the state of Israel. To often Idealism, and it's procrastinating abstanance encourages a more volital situation, then if we had attacked the notoriety in the first place. I agree with BB, when some one continues to threaten you and at this point make it a public mantra (!!!) Come on, the Americans are going out of thier continent, to protect our freedoms, Israel has a right to defend itself, and the life and life force it has created with the gift they have fought to protect for over 60 years now. I felt safer in Israel than I feel in Washington DC at night, or the day for that matter. May G-d continue to protect and defend the state of Israel. Just Imagine the people in the Gulf coming to Washington DC, and demanding washingtonians to give up their homes, and beginning to bomb the area, what would you do washington; graciously leave, and maybe even leave instructions for how to care for the place???
To deny history is to allow it to be repeated again. "The holocaust". Iran has repeatedly said "We will wipe Israel from the map" Therefore nuclear capability must be removed from them before 8/21/10... No matter the cost!
There is not a circumstance in the world where either Ezra or Joe Klein would line up behind Israel.

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.