Shows the archive for juli, 2015

Uri Avnery: Israel and The Treaty with Iran

Uri Avnery
July 18, 2015

AND WHAT if the whole drama was only an exercise of deception?

What if the wily Persians did not even dream of building an atomic bomb, but used the threat to further their real aims?

What if Binyamin Netanyahu was duped to become unwittingly the main collaborator of Iranian ambitions?

Sounds crazy? Not really. Let’s have a look at the facts.

IRAN IS one of the oldest powers in the world, with thousands of years of political experience. Once they possessed an empire that spanned the civilized world, including our little country. Their reputation for clever trade practices is unequaled.

They are much too clever to build a nuclear weapon. What for? It would devour huge amounts of money. They know that they would never be able to use it. Same as Israel, with its large stockpile.

Netanyahu’s nightmare of an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel is just that – a nightmare (or daymare) of an ignorant dilettante. Israel is a nuclear power with a solid second-strike capability. As we see, the Iranian leaders are hard-boiled realists. Would they even dream of inviting an inevitable Israeli retaliation that would wipe from the face of the earth their three-millennia-old civilization?

(If this capability is defective, Netanyahu should be charged and convicted for criminal negligence.)

Even if the Iranians did deceive the whole world and build a nuclear bomb, nothing would happen except the creation of a “balance of terror”, such as saved the world at the height of the cold war between America and Russia.

The people around Netanyahu pretend to believe that, unlike the then Soviets, the Iranian mullahs are crazy people. There is absolutely no evidence for that. Since their 1979 revolution, the Iranian leadership has not made one single important step that was not absolutely rational. Compared to American missteps in the region (not to mention the Israeli ones), the Iranian leadership has been thoroughly logical.

So perhaps they traded their nonexistent nuclear designs for their very real political design: to become the hegemon of the Muslim world.

If so, they owe a lot to Netanyahu.

WHAT HAS the Islamic Republic ever done in its 45 years of existence to harm Israel?

Sure. Tehran crowds can be seen on television burning Israeli flags and shouting “Death to Israel”. They call us, not flatteringly, “the Little Satan”, as compared to the American “Great Satan”.

Terrible. But what else?

Not much. Perhaps some support for Hezbollah and Hamas, which were not their creation. Iran’s real fight is against the powers that be in the Muslim world. They want to turn the region’s countries into Iranian vassals, as they were 2400 years ago.

This has very little to do with Islam. Iran uses Islam as Israel uses Zionism and the Jewish Diaspora (and as Russia in the past used communism) as a tool for its imperial ambitions.

What is happening now in this region resembles the “religious wars” in 17th century Europe. A dozen countries fought each other in the name of religion, under the flags of Catholicism and Protestantism, but in reality using religion to further their very earthly imperial designs.

The US, led by a bunch of neocon fools, destroyed Iraq, which for many centuries had served as the bulwark of the Arab world against Iranian expansion. Now, under the banner of the Shia, Iran is expanding its power all over the Region.

Shiite Iraq is now to a large extent an Iranian vassal (we’ll come back to Daesh). The leaders of Syria, a Sunni country ruled by a small semi-Shiite sect, depend on Iran for their survival. In Lebanon, the Shiite Hezbollah is a close ally with growing power and prestige. So is Hamas in Gaza, which is entirely Sunni. And the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are Zaidis (a school of the Shia.)

The status quo in the Arab world is defended by a corrupt bunch of dictators and medieval sheiks, such as the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf oil potentates.

Clearly, Iran and its allies are the wave of the future, Saudi Arabia and its allies belong to the past.

That leaves Daesh, the Sunni “Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq. That is also a rising power. Unlike Iran, whose revolutionary élan long ago exhausted itself, Daesh is radiating revolutionary fervor, attracting adherents from all over the world.

Daesh is the real enemy of Iran – and of Israel.

PRESIDENT OBAMA and his advisors realized this some time ago. Their new alliance with Iran is partly based on this reality.

With the advent of Daesh, realities on the ground have changed completely. The shift reaffirms the old British maxim that one’s enemies in one war can well become one’s allies in the next, and vice versa. Far from being naïve, Obama is building an alliance against the new and very dangerous enemy. This alliance should logically include Bashar Assad’s Syria, but Obama is still afraid of saying so aloud.

Obama and his advisors also believe that with the lifting of the crippling sanctions, Iranians will concentrate on making money, lessening their nationalist and religious fervor even more. That sounds reasonable enough.

(Netanyahu thinks the American people are “naïve”. Well, for a naïve nation the US has done quite well in becoming the world’s only super-power.)

One by-product of the situation is that Israel is again at loggerheads with the entire political world. The Vienna treaty was signed not just by the US, but by all leading world powers. This seems to create the situation described by a jolly popular Israeli song: “The whole world is against us / But we don’t give a damn…”

Unfortunately, unlike Obama, Netanyahu is stuck in the past. He continues demonizing Iran, instead of joining it in the fight against Daesh, which is far, far more dangerous to Israel.

One does not have to go back to Cyrus the Great (6th century B.C.) to realize that Iran can be a close ally. In the relations between nations, geography trumps religion. Not so long ago, Iran was Israel’s closest ally in the region. We even sent Khomeini arms to fight Iraq. The Mullahs hate Israel not so much because of their religion, but because of our alliance with the Shah.

The present Iranian regime has long since lost its revolutionary religious fervor. It is acting according to its national interests. Geography still counts. A wise Israeli government would use the next ten-or-more years of a guaranteed nuclear-free Iran in order to renew the alliance – especially against Daesh.

This could mean new relations with Assad’s Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas too.

BUT SUCH far-reaching considerations are far from the mind of Netanyahu, the son of a historian, who is devoid of any historical knowledge or intuition.

The fight is now going to Washington DC, where Netanyahu will be fully committed as a mercenary of Sheldon Adelson, the owner of the Republican Party.

It is a sorry sight: the State of Israel, which has always enjoyed the full unblinking support of both American parties, has become an appendix of the reactionary Republican leadership.

One victim of this is the legend of the “invincible” pro-Israeli lobby. This crucial asset has now been lost. From now on, AIPAC will be just one of the many lobbies on Capitol Hill.

AN EVEN sorrier sight is Israel’s political and media elite on the morrow of the signing of the Vienna treaty. It was almost incredible.

Almost all political parties fell in line with Netanyahu’s policy, competing with each other in their demonstrations of abject loyalty. From the “leader of the opposition”, the pitiful Yitzhak Herzog, to the voluble Yair Lapid, everybody rushed to support the Prime Minister at this crucial hour.

The media were even worse. Almost all prominent commentators, left and right, ran amok against the ’disastrous" treaty and heaped their uniform disgust and contempt on poor Obama, as if reading from a prepared government “list of arguments” (as indeed they were).

Not the finest hour of Israeli democracy and the much lauded “Jewish brain”. Just a despicable example of all-too-common brain-washing. Some would call it presstitution.

One of Netanyahu’s arguments is that the Iranians can and will cheat the naive Americans and build the bomb. He is sure that this is possible. Well, he should know. We did it, didn’t we?

Uri Avnery: -The Second Battle of Trafalgar

Uri Avnery
July 4, 2015

A MIGHTY naval battle took place this week on the waves of the Mediterranean. It will go down in history as the equal of Salamis or Trafalgar.

In a daring move, the navy of the State of Israel intercepted the enemy, consisting of the trawler Marianne and the 18 people aboard. Israel naval commandos captured the ship and towed it to the harbor of Ashdod.

The admiral who commanded this glorious action has so far modestly remained anonymous. Therefore we cannot honor him with a column in the center of Tel Aviv, like Admiral Horatio Nelson’s column in London’s Trafalgar Square. Pity.

However, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lauded the courage of the victors in glowing terms, expressing the gratitude and admiration of the nation for their gallant deed.

I WOULD continue in this vein, but even sarcasm has its limits.

The whole affair was a masterpiece of stupidity.

Five years ago, several boats tried to reach Gaza, as a symbolic act of support for the beleaguered enclave, and were let through by the Israeli navy. No one mentioned them again.

Then there came the “Turkish flotilla”. Several boats were led by the larger Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara, with hundreds of Turkish and international peace activists on board. This time, Netanyahu and his minions were determined to show the world that Israel rules the waves. He ordered an attack on the flotilla.

Israeli naval commandos were lowered onto the deck of the Marmara from a helicopter, and in the ensuing mêlée nine Turks (one of them also an American citizen) were killed. A tenth died later from his wounds. All of them were unarmed but resisted violently.

The other boats were captured without violent resistance. All were brought to Ashdod harbor.

The international reaction was immense. For many, the Marmara became a symbol of Israeli brutality. The propaganda catastrophe compelled Netanyahu to release all the imprisoned activists and crew and send them on their way home.

Altogether, what could have been a negligible incident, soon forgotten, turned into a great victory for the activists. The entire world paid attention. The Gaza blockade became the center of international interest.

EVEN WORSE were the political consequences. Turkey became an enemy.

For many years, Turkey – and especially the Turkish armed forces – had been a staunch ally of Israel. Secret relations between the two non-Arab Middle Eastern powers were woven. During the reign of David Ben-Gurion, a “peripheral theory” became the cornerstone of Israel’s regional policy. Accordingly, Israel established an unofficial alliance with the non-Arab states that surround the Arab world: Kemalist Turkey, the Shah’s Iran, Ethiopia, Chad and so on.

Israel sold arms to the Turks. Joint army maneuvers were held. Eventually open diplomatic relations were established.

All this came to an end with the Marmara affair (except the military part, which continues in secret). Emotions were aroused. Turkish public opinion reacted with fury. Israel refused to pay the high indemnities demanded for the bereaved families. (Negotiations about them are still going on.)

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an adroit politician, exploited the incident in order to change fronts and reestablish Turkish influence in the Arab countries which had belonged to the late Ottoman Empire.

What did Israel gain from this incident? Nothing.

DID THE Israeli government draw any conclusions from this debacle?

How could they? For them it was not a debacle at all, but rather an admirable demonstration of Israeli prowess and determination. This week’s incident was the inevitable outcome. More will follow.

In order to weigh up the results of a hostile encounter, one has to ask what each side wanted to achieve.

The organizers of the flotillas wanted to stage a provocation, in order to draw the world’s attention to the pernicious blockade. From their point of view, the Israeli reaction serves their purpose admirably.

Netanyahu wants to keep the blockade going, drawing as little attention to it as possible. From this point of view, the attacks are counterproductive. In short, they are stupid.

THE MAIN question is, of course: Why, for God’s sake, is there a blockade at all? What purpose does it serve?

Officially, the purpose is to prevent weapons reaching the Gaza strip, so as to prevent Hamas from attacking Israel.

If so, why cause the whole drama? Boats sailing to Gaza, purportedly to supply it with medicines and food, can be searched by mutual agreement in their harbors of departure. The organizers cannot object to this without arousing suspicion.

Alternatively, the boats can be stopped on the high seas, searched and released. Such a procedure is quite usual.

The Israeli government has rejected these possibilities, thereby raising the suspicion that the purpose of the blockade is quite different. It is to prevent any supplies from reaching Gaza in order to keep the overcrowded territory totally dependent on supplies coming from Israel, which lets through only the bare necessities of life.

The hidden purpose is to let the 1.8 million inhabitants, the majority descendents of refugees from Israel, vegetate on the brink of starvation, in order to induce them to rise up and overthrow the Hamas authorities. If so, it has been a miserable failure. On the contrary, under the cruel pressure, the inhabitants seem to draw ever closer to Hamas. After all, Hamas is not a foreign invader, but the brothers and sons of the inhabitants.

Leaving aside the question whether the blockade is legal under international law, it certainly has not fulfilled its promise. The rule of Hamas in Gaza seems to be as solid as ever.

THIS BEING so, one might raise the opposite option. Why not lift the blockade altogether? (Gasp!)

I can imagine a situation of open borders and open sea. Food, medicines, building materials and everything else, except arms, flowing into the Strip from all directions – by sea and by land from Egypt and Israel.

Why not let the Gazans build a harbor or obtain a floating harbor? Why not let them reactivate their airport? The beautiful building they once built near Dahaniya was destroyed by our armed forces. Why not build it again?

Simple logic dictates that the more the people of Gaza have to lose, the less will they be inclined to provoke another war. If we really want quiet and tranquility, that is the way.

Yes, but what about arms? Establish strict supervision by international inspectors. That has been done before in history. No problem.

BEHIND THE tactical stupidity of this whole affair there lurks a much larger strategic stupidity.

The air of the Middle East is full of rumors about an ongoing secret effort to forge an Israel-Hamas armistice, even a kind of alliance.

This is based on the disinclination of the Israeli government to re-conquer the Gaza strip, with its 1.8 million Palestinian Arabs. It’s not only a problem of security – a guerrilla war by Hamas would be certain – but something much worse. What really frightens all Israeli governments, right and left, is demography. 1.8 million more Arabs, multiplying all the time? A nightmare for Zionists!

In all the dreams about the annexation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip is always left outside. True, it is geographically and historically part of “Eretz Israel”, but who wants it? To hell with it!

Our present government, composed of extreme right-wingers, wants to eventually annex the West Bank, with as few Arab Palestinians as possible. Because of this, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is a far more dangerous enemy of Netanyahu and his ilk than Hamas. Abbas attracts international recognition. He enjoys growing UN and US support.

By this logic, Netanyahu could be expected to fight Abbas and support Hamas in creating a separate mini-state in Gaza. But he behaves like a child who has to choose between two sweets: he wants both.

So he tries to undermine Abbas while at the same time fighting his glorious battles on the high seas against Hamas. But he is also engaged in secret negotiations with his new friends, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, in order to forge a long-term armistice (“hudna”) with Hamas.

Complicated? Indeed.

SOMETHING PERSONAL: I have been asked why I was not on the boat that tried to run the blockade this week.

Frankly, I would have loved to go. I love the sea. I love boats. I would have enjoyed the company of the former Tunisian prime minister and the Arab member of the Knesset who were on the boat. Breaking the blockade would have appealed to me very much.

The trouble is that the organizers of these flotillas insist on a political program that negates the existence of the State of Israel. Much like the organizers of the BDS, they insist on the One-State chimera.

I believe in peace. Peace means peace between the two states: Israel and Palestine. I support the Palestinian struggle for independence as part of my struggle for a peaceful, democratic Israel.

So I missed the Second Battle of Trafalgar.