Sunday, June 08, 2008

Iran and the Jews

My position on war with Iran has been the same for some time -- I am against it. An American, NATO or Western-coalition attack on Iran would be a humanitarian disaster; militarily useless; and a catastrophic signal to the large segment of Iranians who are pro-Western and anti-totalitarian that the mullahs were right all along.

This is not mitigated or refuted by acknowledging the genocidal nature of Iran's theocratic war party, which is stridently represented by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But where there is a war party, there is some kind of peace party, and Iran's is significant. Iran has never initiated a conventional assault on any state and appears to respond rationally to diplomatic and military pressure.

Still the threat posed by the mullahs' millenarian Islam to Middle East Jewry must be acknowledged. It is -- I state with stoical restraint -- of interest to people of liberal sentiment. Iran has long fought a war against the Jews and the state where they ingathered after the Holocaust. It does this through millenarian proxies such as Hezbollah and more recently Hamas. If Iran eventually manages to weaponize uranium meant for its sham civil energy program, its nuclear arsenal will either back traditional or comprise a new breed of attacks on the Jewish state.

These are key reasons to vigorously confront the efforts of putatively anti-war campaigners, armed with the pseudo-scholarship of Juan Cole, to minimize or falsify Ahmadinejad's call for Israel's destruction at the 2005 World Without Zionism conference in Tehran. These are lies of an illiberal segment of the Left that, for a complex set of ideological reasons, privileges the well-being of Muslims over Jews.

Sadly there are reverberations of this among the liberal elite. A week ago, the New York Times Sunday Book Review published a survey of working writers' book recommendations for the Presidential candidates. This was before Hillary Clinton bowed out. The writer Junot Diaz addressed this to her:

Hillary: What to recommend to a driven, brilliant, flawed woman who has no problem threatening to obliterate Iran, should they attack Israel? I recommend Peter Balakian’s “Black Dog of Fate,” in an attempt to cure her of her genocidal impulses. Armenians know all about being “obliterated,” and perhaps that nation’s suffering and miraculous survival will crack Pharaoh’s heart. But don’t bet on it.

An exquisite pomposity inhabits allegorical writing as tone-deaf as this. Hillary’s promise to "obliterate" Iran was made in narrow reply to the hypothetical of its launching a nuclear attack on Israel. I shouldn't have to point out that this would result in the destruction of almost as many Jews as were killed by Nazi Germany. Diaz is oblivious to this. Robotically he likens Hillary to a golem -- mindless and bloodthirsty -- who targets innocent Iranians with her "genocidal impulses", and he does this by invoking Pharoah, Biblical captor of the Jews!

This is not the usual argument, in which people claim that irrespective of its ideological commitments and arsenal, Iran would not commit suicide by directly attacking Israel. Instead Diaz accepts that Iran has destroyed Israel and responds only by adducing the Armenians to speak truth to American power.

The Jews also know something about being obliterated, Mr. Diaz. It is knowledge that electrifies the machinery of real humanitarianism.

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