On a day when Bibi Netanyahu brayed yet again from a UN rostrum about the Iranian nuclear threat, Im Tirzu’s Ronen Shoval was busy at home reinforcing the message. Employing the classic Kahanist slogan (later adopted by figures as diverse as John McCain and others), ‘Never Again,’ Shoval penned a Jerusalem Post (Hebrew edition) op-ed advocating using Israeli nuclear weapons to destroy Iran’s nuclear program.
It’s a classic Kahanist manifesto, which argues that the non-Jewish world failed to defend Jews during the Holocaust and cannot be expected to protect what he calls the “Zionist enterprise” from Iran’s “2014 Shoah.” He juxtaposes today’s danger with the 1940 Shoah, saying that in the earlier tragedy the Nazis brought Jews from throughout Europe to extermination camps; but today “fundamentalist Muslims” will bring “Auschwitz to us.”
Here is the dramatic Israeli idyll he depicts brutally interrupted by the “Islamic bomb:”
We’ll wake up in the morning, drink our cup of coffee, drop the kids at school and on the way to work four Shihab missiles with nuclear tipped warheads will succeed in penetrating our air defense. Two will land in Gush Dan, one in Haifa and one in Jerusalem. Tens of thousands will die on the spot. Hundreds of thousands will follow in the proceeding months. I hate to imagine what will follow. It’s too scary.
I find pieces like Shoval’s fascinating because they reveal what Freud might’ve labelled the “psychopathology of everyday [Israeli] life.” He argues in all earnestness, that because Iran’s bomb (even the idea of Iran having a bomb–since it doesn’t have one) is so psychically disabling to Israelis that they are seeking to flee abroad en masse, that this gives Israel the right to nuke Iran. If that’s not psychopathology I don’t know what is. Read on:
[Ads in Israeli media show] that Israeli lawyers are prospering by offering their assistance to Israelis who seek foreign citizenship. This phenomenon testifies to a certain thought process common to many Israelis: anxiety for the fate of the Zionist enterprise and fear that on the fateful day [when Israel is under threat] the nations of the world will permit the Arab states to execute judgment upon us. Only he who has foreign citizenship will have a chance to be saved. We know well that Jews who do not have foreign passports will not be protected by any nation. Just as it was in the past [during the Holocaust]. A refugee camp will be a luxury for those who remain [behind without foreign passports]. It’s reasonable to presume that most Jews won’t even make it to one.
Thousand of Israelis have such thoughts [of getting foreign citizenship]. They justify this by claiming that the Zionist enterprise has lost its reason for being; that in the face of the Iranian threat it’s wiser to spread Jews around the world than to concentrate them in one place. That is, if one community in Argentina is attacked then those in America or Spain won’t suffer. The Iranian nuclear project intrudes upon our deepest existential fears, appearing to us in nightmares, and is part of the decisions we make in our everyday lives, damaging us despite the fact that the bomb hasn’t yet been complete.
One of the lessons Zionism learned from the Shoah, he opines, is that foreign states act according to their “interests” but not according to “values.” The implication is that Israel itself acts out of a sense of values but not self-interest. The implication of this belief is that the Israeli conviction that bombing Iran is necessary to prevent the destruction of the “Zionist enterprise” is a fundamental moral value rather than a national interest. Again,this is very dangerous pathology that can obscure many sins.
Shoval further argues that the Holocaust teaches there must be a “secure refuge for Jews” and an army powerful enough to guarantee its defense. This, he intones, is “the narrative embedded within us” like our genetic code.
In short, the only option Israel faces is to “go it alone.” To muster all the “spiritual resources” (Shoval’s phrase) at its disposal and use its nuclear weapons to put an end once and for all to the Iranian bomb (and possibly the Iranian regime, though he doesn’t make that clear).
His closing paragraph is the most frightening of all:
We must prepare ourselves to summon every spiritual and material resource in order to remove the Iranian threat. If we can’t get the nations of the world to destroy it, and if we can’t destroy the threat with conventional weapons, it’s appropriate to being to consider carefully, thoughtfully, and seriously the far-reaching consequences that we should be the first to use nuclear weapons to destroy the Iranian nuclear program.
The Samson Option, under which we would use nuclear weapons only after we ourselves are attacked with nuclear weapons is an anti-ethical choice: of what use is it for a handful of Jewish survivors to use nuclear weapons after the State of Israel is eliminated? Whoever discounts this idea a priori transforms nuclear arms into a weapon that can only be used after it is too late.
I’ve written many times here about the pathology of Jews who refuse to acknowledge that the Holocaust was a historical event rather than an ongoing existential threat to Jewish existence. If you see such threats around every corner, if you see every enemy or potential enemy as another Hitler, you cannot make rational choices for your country. Instead of facing reality, you face the Eternal Enemy. It isn’t that unlike the infamous anti-Semitic trope of the Eternal Jew. Just as anti-Semites are infected with pathological fears so Israelis are beset with a historical trauma that destroys their ability to live a normal life.
Returning to the notion of Shoval’s ravings paralleling those of classical anti-Semites, it’s interesting to note that an Israeli court last week dismissed the founder of Im Tirzu’s libel lawsuit against a group of Israeli peace activists who’d founded a Facebook group, Im Tirzu, Fascists. The defense, with the assistance of expert witness, Hebrew University Prof. Zeev Sternhell, argued successfully that the group does in fact reflect elements of fascist ideological principles. It’s evident in this op-ed as well.
A final note: Shoval is of course not the only prominent figure to suggest that Israel should use nuclear weapons in its battle to the death with the Iranian ‘devil.’ John Hagee implied as much in a speech he delivered to Aipac several years ago. Benny Morris said it even more explicitly in a NY Times op-ed. There may be a tendency to dismiss these ideas as the ranting of an extremist minority. But that isn’t the case. Im Tirzu is a powerful right-wing NGO with prominent allies both in senior government ministries and also among the Israeli corporate élite. Its ideas have a curious ability to become mainstream, aided by the fact that Israel’s far-right leadership values the storm-trooper nature of the group. That is, Im Tirzu, in much the same relationship that the Tea Party has with the GOP, stakes out ideological territory that is extreme even for the far-right leadership élite. But over time, these ideas enter the mainstream of right-wing discourse. That is why ideas Meir Kahane advanced in the 1980s which were viewed as offensive, racist, and extremist, are now commonly accepted by the Israeli mainstream. In fact, I’ve argued here that with only a small amount of tweaking, had he lived, Kahane could easily have become an Israeli minister or even prime minister.
For an Israeli (Hebrew language) critique, read Yossi Gurvitz’s blog post.