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Friday, October 01, 2010

Back to the 1930's with Iran?

Daniel Gordis explains why all the second-strike capability in the world will not change the fact that Iran constitutes an existential threat to Israel.
What must be understood is that the threat to Israel is not that Iran will one day use the bomb. No, Iran merely needs to possess the bomb to undermine the central purpose of Israel’s existence—and in so doing, to reverse the dramatic change in the existential condition of the Jews that 62 years of Jewish sovereignty has wrought. The mere possession of a nuclear weapon by Iran would instantly restore Jews to the status quo ante before Jewish sovereignty, to a condition in which their futures would depend primarily on the choices their enemies—and not Jews themselves—make.

Many people are put off by the Israeli national affect, which they take to be a mix of arrogance and bravado. This is a misperception of an attitude that is born, in truth, out of collective relief: We Jews no longer live—and die—at the whim of others. That sense of security would evaporate the minute Iran had the weapon it seeks. Even if Israel does possess a second-strike capability, and even if the U.S. could be counted on to punish a nuclear attack on the Jewish state, the existential condition of the Jews would still have reverted to that experienced in pre-state Europe. It would mean that Jews by the tens of thousands could die because someone else determined that it was time for them to do so. No action that Israel could take in response would change that fundamental reality.

The dramatic change in Jewish self-perception that Israel has wrought can perhaps be best appreciated by recalling two photographs—each, in its own time, the iconic representation of what it meant to be a Jew. The first, taken in the Warsaw Ghetto, depicts a terrified young boy, his arms raised helplessly in the air, as a Nazi points a submachine gun in his direction. This little boy, a victim in every way, is dressed in his finest but seems likely to die. He is alone; no adults have come to his aid, and even if they chose to, of course, there would be nothing they could do in the face of the armed Nazis standing just feet away. To be a Jew is to be a victim.

Flash-forward to June 1967, when the Israeli photographer David Rubinger photographed three paratroopers at the Western Wall shortly after they had captured it from Jordan during the Six-Day War. It was the virtual undoing of the condition reflected in the Warsaw Ghetto photograph. The boy in the photograph is alone; these three men are surrounded by comrades. The boy is pure victim; the Israeli soldiers are victors. The gun in the former photograph belongs to the Nazi; there are no weapons in the 1967 picture, but had there been, they would have belonged to the Jews. The boy in the Warsaw Ghetto seems certain to die; the victory these soldiers had just wrought would breathe new life into the Jewish state, inspiring Soviet Jews (who almost immediately demanded permission to emigrate) and American Jews (who took a sudden great pride in the Jewish state and expressed it more openly and unabashedly than at any time before) to new heights of Zionism.

Interestingly, the paratroopers in this photograph have their heads uncovered, and they face away from the Wall, not toward it, as would be the case were they praying. There is one combat helmet, and though it is visible, it has been doffed. Rubinger’s is neither a religious nor a military image. It is, instead, the image of the “new Jew” that Israel had created, the Jew who could shape his or her own destiny rather than waiting for it to be shaped by others.


My son and his cohort, then and now, could stop the Soviet fighter aircraft the Egyptians used in 1967 and the Soviet tanks the Syrians used in 1973; they could act against those who fire Qassam rockets from Gaza at Sderot and (with increasing accuracy) neighborhoods in Ashkelon, and they could move into West Bank towns and build the fence that would bring an end to the Palestinian suicide bombers. But there is nothing these soldiers could do to stop an Iranian nuke on its way to Israel. There would be no time to stop it. Instead, Israel’s military deterrent against the greatest threat to its existence and the continued existence of the Jewish people would be intellectual, theoretical, a matter of international nerve and round-robin negotiations, the proffering of carrots, the hoped-for intervention of the “international community” to keep Iran sane. Israel’s safety and future would no longer rest in the hands of its people, its soldiers, its reservists, its young and its old. It would no longer be my son defending the homeland but something else—a “second-strike capability.” A worldwide attitude. An American threat that might well be hollow would be all we could rely on.
Read the whole thing.

In some of my more down moments, I wonder whether what God intends is precisely for Iran to have a nuclear weapon to be able to threaten us in this manner. What Gordis is describing is referred to in religious circles as taking the position that "kochi v'otzem yadi asah li et ha'chayil hazeh" (my strength and the might of my hand made this victory for me). It's considered a cardinal sin because it disregards the role of God in the Jewish people's military victories.

Could God be behind an Iranian nuclear weapon precisely because He wants us to recognize and appreciate His role in the creation and continued existence of a State of Israel as a safe haven for Jews? Let's say that I'm convinced that our grandparents and great-grandparents in Europe did a much better job of praying for the Jewish people as a whole (if not for themselves personally) than we do. How many of you asked God to save us from Ahmadinejad in your prayers on Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur? How many of you cried over the potential fate of the Jewish people (not yourselves individually) during those prayers?

Enough said. The (high) holidays have ended.


At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norway bans tests of Israel-bound subs in its waters


At 2:21 PM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

Anti-Jewish,anti-Israel kapo joos have enabled this situation to arise: look at monsters like George Soros, Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Anat Kam, Uri Blau, Olmert, groups such as Joos for palestine, Jstreet's ben Ami.

These people have all abandoned God, along with millions of other Jews. Abandoning God means abandoning life: we are justly being punished!

At 3:10 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

We must pray and ask G-d to sustain us.

All of us are ultimately nothing without Him.

And the Jews will perish from their land if they turn their backs to Him. Is that possible? Yes, if you look at the Torah, the Jews are not given anywhere an eternal right to inhabit the land. Instead, its a conditional privilege. The Jews act righteously and G-d will preserve them on it. They are wicked and rebel against Him and He will sweep them like tumbleweeds into the winds from it.

The Jews have an obligation. Iran is merely as we should say, a warning from Heaven for them to attend to it. That is what they must now do.

At 9:41 PM, Blogger muman613 said...

Juniper in the Desert. I am saddened you have such a defeatist attitude. Sure we Jews have received much punishment through the centuries... But it is your fault, and my fault, that this is so... We must all take personal responsibility for the current situation. I am mournful about this, but at the same time I am encouraged that Hashems promise is everlasting. The Covenent of Abraham is still in effect, and Jews are coming back to their faith. I am Baal Teshuva, and I know many others also who are coming back to the Jewish faith. I do not share the pessimism which is evident in your posting.


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