Saturday 24 Feb 2018 | 14:43 | SYDNEY
Saturday 24 Feb 2018 | 14:43 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: What's at stake for Israel



25 August 2008 12:51

Antony Lowenstein responds to Alex Duchen's post of last week about possible Israeli action against Iran's nuclear program (my response follows):

It's astounding that the Western media continually falls for this idea that the Jewish state's very existence is threatened. It's not. Ervand Abrhahamian* said the following in September 2007:

And the question is, then, why is basically in American politics so much focused on Ahmadinejad? I think he serves the function that Saddam Hussein played. He's an easy person to demonize...One can call Ahmadinejad many things, but a dictator he is by no means. He can't even—he doesn't even have the power to appoint his own cabinet ministers. It's a presidency with very limited power. And to claim that he is in a position to threaten the United States or Israel is just bizarre, frankly.

Indeed. So, why, therefore, are we constantly hearing about so-called 'existential' threats to Israel? Iran's regime is undoubtedly brutal and authoritarian — something I saw first-hand last year during my visit there — but the tendency for the aggressive, Zionist narrative to strike first, ask questions later, is a worrying sign of moral decay. The Islamic Republic offered the US in 2003 — after helping Washington unseat the Taliban in Afghanistan — a grand bargain on the nuclear issue and its support of 'terrorism.' The US refused to even consider it.

Don't buy into the rhetoric coming out of Tel Aviv or Washington. A military strike against Iran would be illegal under international law, likely to cause a massive death toll and rally support for the leadership. Besides, no evidence has been presented that proves Iran is building a nuclear weapons program. Engagement is the only answer. And this is something Israel and the US refuse to accept.

I assume Antony means to provoke when he first describes Israel as being in 'moral decay' and then puts Iran's support for terrorism in inverted commas.

But let us ignore that bait and go straight to the substance of Antony's argument, which seems to be that Iran does not represent a threat to the very existence of Israel. The apparently clinching quote Antony supplies to prove this proposition actually says nothing about the issue. It refers instead to the relative powerlessness of President Ahmadinejad. But although good judges agree that real power resides with Iran's supreme leader, I don't see how that addresses the issue of existential threat. It's not as if Ahmadinejad has been alone in threatening Israel's existence.

Let's be clear: Iran at present does not represent a threat to Israel's existence. But given Israel's physical size, perhaps six or ten Iranian missile-mounted nuclear weapons could, in fact, physically destroy the state of Israel. Antony may still be right that the only good response to this threat is engagement, but let's at least be fair dinkum about the stakes. If Iran were allowed to develop nuclear weapons, Israel would be at realistic threat of more or less instantaneous annihilation.

* Ed note: Antony Lowenstein attributed this quote to Trita Parsi, who contacted us to note that this is an incorrect citation, and that the quote was in fact made by Ervand Abrahamian. We have changed the citation. The quote seems to come from this presentation involving both Abrahamian and Parsi.

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