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.
Itsik Heyman says
We know he is mad, now for sure.
I must have listening to another speech …
The international community cannot afford to be complacent about Israel’s nukes apparently. I think the members of NPT need to take urgent action to bring Israel on board pronto given nuts like this getting the attention of Israelis (the permanent victims.) Certainly, this international community has failed Big Time to protect Palestinian people from the deadly assault of political Zionism, so this would –by his logic — justify Arabs at least becoming nuclear powers, wouldn’t it?
And if Iran is intent on an extermination program for Jews, why haven’t they started already by “ethnically cleansing” Iran of Jews? Shoval is the criminal projecting himself on his victim and this is standard fare apparently in Israel. He is the bloodthirsty one, it is transparent.
This guy is lunatic.
… and people say the ‘hawks’ are in Tehran.
It’s unfortunate that no-ones keeping a tab on how many times an American or Israeli has stated to ‘nuke’ Iran. Iran’s tally so far on dropping a bomb on Israel: still zero.
Nir Katz says
There is no way Kahane would have been even elected to Israeli Knesset today. Look at the results for the 2013 election. Power to Israel (which is the extreme-right party that participated in the election) did not manage to put a single member in the Knesset. In addition our Supreme Court does has banned Kahane like parties in the past (and will in the future).
@lifelong – Iran did not say it will nuke Israel because it does not have the bomb (yet). But if you will listen to their (and their ‘friends’ Hezbollah and Hamas) speeches in Arabic you will see that they want to destroy Israel.
I do agree that this Shoval person is nuts and does very bad service to Israel. In addition he is wrong about why Israelis request foreign passports, it simply helps you bypass lines in Airports and work privileges.
Richard – I will pay for this comment (and others) at the end of the month.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Nir Katz: Of course Kahane would be elected to Knesset & a minister in this govt if not PM. By now, he would’ve moved over to Likud & with his charisma & fiery nature would’ve taken over the party (think Moshe Feiglin). Those who espouse precisely the same views as he did are now not just MKs but ministers. Even Bibi himself might as well be a Kahanist. He’s just slick enough to talk reasonably and sound moderate (though he isn’t). On 2nd thought, Bibi is a little too slick to make it as a Kahanist. Shall we say he’s a Kahanist in “sheep’s clothing?”
I expect no less!
Itsik Heyman says
Feiglin and his likes are indeed a greater threat to the deteriorating Israeli democracy than any extreme party, yet still, when looking at the results of the last elections, we can feel relatively secure – very few votes to extremists still. And Likud is still not extreme as Feiglin would like.
Not very reassuring but not as bad as it looks. A party based solely on promoting the peace process [Livni] got in, and the extreme Power to Israel did not.
Richard Silverstein says
Ultra nationalist Settlerism essentially dominates all the levers of political & military power in Israel. Arguing whether a moderate party entered Knesset or saying that not too many extremists were elected is beside the point.
BARRY Lando says
Though I knew little of Im Tirzu, an almost identical group plays a key role in the mystery novel I’ve written, “The Watchman’s File,” about Israel’s most closely guarded secret (not the bomb). I’m frankly amazed at how closely reality follows fiction. For those interested, check out some excerpts from that novel, posted at http://barrymlando.com
The book is available at Amazon as soft-cover and Kindle edition. I’d be interested in your reactions.
What a terrific piece, Richard. Will Shoval’s op-ed appear in the English version of the Jerusalem post? Or is a different profile preferred for a foreign audience?
Richard Silverstein says
I don’t know how the Hebrew edition works, but I think it’s independent of the English edition.
I cannot abide by the fact that Netanyahu came to Washington Monday, when the country is having it’s own “hostage crisis” situation in Congress, with the intention of forcing his fear/war mongering fixation on the the administration and Americans!
Furthermore, I do not understand, why “at a time like this”, his scheduled visit to the White House was not cancelled. I do not think that it would have caused much alarm. The business of the government, is primarily, that of ensuring what is best for Americans, not Netanyahu.
His self centred “demands”, psychological projection and expectations presented, in Washington Monday, and at the U.N. disgust me.
I believe he has crossed over the line, himself, to maniacal grandiosity and self delusion.
I think Richard placed him over the line long ago.
Shoval is making one point that rings true. I have believed for some time that Iran’s nuclear program is an existential threat to Israel. Not because they have a nuclear weapons program (they don’t) or would attack Israel, but because of Israeli fear and paranoia. There are just too many Israelis with foreign passports who out of fear might just decide to emigrate. This could lead to the big demographic tipping point where Jews find themselves in a minority. It didn’t have to be this way but the Israeli people have been hit with unrelenting propaganda about the threat of the Iranian nuclear program for two decades now. Netanyahu’s successful political career has been built on playing up that threat and convincing fearful Israelis to vote for him.
The internal political process has created this existential threat and now that the Obama administration is poised to accept that the Iranians have the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes we will just have to wait and see if Israel’s political leaders can walk back that fear they have spread. If not we will see a lot of people running for the exits in coming years. Hitting Iran with nuclear bombs will not solve that problem, indeed it would just accelerate exodus of Jews from Israel.
Of course, nuclear war anywhere in the region would send the ruling class , with the means after all, to other continents. This could be just the ticket to a less racist more just Israel.
RE: “He [Shoval] 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.” ~ R.S.
MY COMMENT: The Dimona-Masada “Axis of Armageddon” scares the living hell out of me! ! !
Peter Principle says
So I take it this giy Shoval wants to use the nuclear weapons that Israel officially refuses to admit that it has? Well, glad we could clear that up.
what about helping the Iranian people to topple their oppressors?
Came across this new op-ed in the Jerusalem Post – Tackling leftist anti-Semitism by Rafael Castro.
I don’t know how to qualify this, best to file it under plain lunacy. Perhaps the article below attempts to answer who Castro really is.