Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ari Shavit, Defining Chutzpah

In a new NYT op-ed, Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit does his level-best to throw a scare into everyone over Iran's nuclear ambitions.  The scenarios he lays out are scary.  If Iran gets the bomb, then countries around the whole world will buckle down to get their own nukes.  If Israel decides to bomb Iran (which, he says, will have to happen no later than this summer, after which point Iran's facilities will be "immune" to such bombing), then it will unleash a regional war, the spin-off from which many have predicted, but none can know for sure.

In either instance, as Shavit says, "the world will change."

Would that he had left it at that.  

Instead, Shavit closes his piece by rearing up, thrusting a big finger forward, pointing it at the West, and saying, in effect: If Israel has to do this horrble thing, has to bomb Iran, then the rest of the world - and the US in particular - has no one else to blame but itself.  

For a regional war in which Israel would have struck the first blow? Possibly thousands killed in Iran and beyond?  The world economy shoved to the edge, or even over it?  All because Israel feels "existentially" threatened by an Iran that - even Israel's own intelligence experts say - cannot be proved to be working on building a nuclear weapon, and even if it were, is still years away from achieving that?!

Israel is willing to incite a catastrophe, risk sending the lives of thousands of people down the tubes, on the basis of what Iran might do?  And then Israel will feel justified in turning around and telling the rest of us: "Hey, don't blame us.  You screwed yourselves"?!

How about this instead?

If Israel takes the foolish, destructive course of a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities,

  • the United States and Europe should turn their backs on Mr. Netanyahu, distance themselves from his actions immediately and as far as possible, impose sanctions on the purchase of Israeli technology and products, and offer to rush humanitarian aid to the stricken people of Iran - many of whom may be suffering from radiation poisoning.
  • Sensible Israelis should understand that Netanyahu will have opened a Pandora's box that ensures that the nation of Israel will remain a pariah for the foreseeable future.  Israel will be able to expect neither friendship nor accommodation from the community of "civilized nations" of which it claims to be a member.
  • Sensible Israelis should further understand that Netanyahu's decision may indeed have made emigration from Israel the most prudent and life-affirming option for themselves and their children.  The consequences of such an unprovoked attack on Iran (which will take years to play out) will have earned Israel potentially millions more enemies (and not just among the Iranian people).  The likelihood of Israel ever achieving national security in such circumstances would be rendered next to nil.
  • Or . . . sensible Israelis should insist that their leaders immediately seek to re-create Israel into a secular, binational democratic state, in which Jews and Arabs alike share fully in the risks and rewards of trying to rebuild a viable future.  Along the way, they might insist that their leaders disclose and then proceed to dismantle Israel's nuclear arsenal.

Sound harsh, even drastic, Mr. Shavit?  Well, should what I've just outlined be the course of action that needs to be taken, well . . . Israel will have - truly - brought that on itself.

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