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Will Israel Attack Iran?
January 25, 2012 2:39 PM   Subscribe

After speaking with many senior Israeli leaders and chiefs of the military and the intelligence, I have come to believe that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012. Perhaps in the small and ever-diminishing window that is left, the United States will choose to intervene after all, but here, from the Israeli perspective, there is not much hope for that. Instead there is that peculiar Israeli mixture of fear — rooted in the sense that Israel is dependent on the tacit support of other nations to survive — and tenacity, the fierce conviction, right or wrong, that only the Israelis can ultimately defend themselves.
posted by Dasein (312 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, after all, Israel bombed Iran in 2009
and 2011 so of course they'll bomb them in 2012.

They only bomb Iran in years when Nouriel Roubini predicts there will be a crash.
posted by sien at 2:44 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is no benefit to the US in continuing to support this insanity.
posted by wuwei at 2:45 PM on January 25, 2012 [48 favorites]


Do whatever you want, you're big boys--just leave the United States the hell out of it.
posted by resurrexit at 2:47 PM on January 25, 2012 [12 favorites]


Wuwei: see also Bailout, Financial Industry; War, Afghanistan; War, Drug; War, Iraq; War, on Terror (generally).
posted by leotrotsky at 2:48 PM on January 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


The U.S. is already intervening in the situation. What we need to do is stop intervening.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:48 PM on January 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


This NYT article is a great example of talking through the press. It would be great to see an actual assessment of Iran's military nuclear capability. Do they have the know-how to build a nuclear warhead? Do they have the know-how to attach a war-head to a missile?
posted by KokuRyu at 2:52 PM on January 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


...only the Israelis can ultimately defend themselves.

That word, I do not think it means what you think it means.
posted by symbioid at 2:53 PM on January 25, 2012 [36 favorites]


Well, yes: Iran is and has always been moments away from nuclearizing, the view of the US & Israel (small excerpt):
October 1992: “Warning the international community that Iran would be armed with a nuclear bomb by 1999, Peres told France 3 television in October 1992 that ‘Iran is the greatest threat [to peace] and greatest problem in the Middle East … because it seeks the nuclear option while holding a highly dangerous stance of extreme religious militantism.’”
Source: Then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in an interview with French TV, as described in the book “ Treacherous Alliance .”

November 1992: “But the Israelis caution that a bigger threat to Middle East serenity — not to mention their own country’s security — lies in Teheran, whose regime they say is sure to become a nuclear power in a few years unless stopped.”
Source: New York Times, “Israel Focuses on the Threat Beyond the Arabs — in Iran” ...

1995: “The best estimates at this time place Iran between three and five years away from possessing the prerequisites required for the independent production of nuclear weapons.”
Source: Benjamin Netanyahu, in his book “Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat the International Terrorist Network” ...

November 1999: “Unless the United States pressures Russia to end its military assistance to Iran, the Islamic republic will possess a nuclear capability within five years, a senior Israeli military official said Sunday.”
Source: Associated Press, “Israeli official: U.S. must pressure Russia to end military cooperation with Iran” (via Nexis)

August 2003: “Iran will have the materials needed to make a nuclear bomb by 2004 and will have an operative nuclear weapons program by 2005, a high-ranking military officer told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.”
Source: Jerusalem Post, “Iran can produce nuclear bomb by 2005 – IDF” …
Now, in fairness, these views today are far from manifestly absurd, given, e.g., this warning from an IAEA official. But living under a perpetual perception of imminent Armageddon isn't really a good way to make sound long-term decisions.

A response to the original link here:
I don't think Ramberg believes his own argument. If he actually believed that Israel, a nation that has shown past restraint with its nuclear weapons when faced with an actual land invasion, has joined the ranks of nations with "insane" leaders who can't be trusted with nuclear weapons, he should be advocating for the west to join Iran's proposal for a completely nuclear-free Middle East, backed up with thorough inspections of both Iran and Israel to ensure compliance. The most charitable explanation I can offer is that he's tossing this scenario out either as one more reason the west "has to" invade Iran and remove its leadership, or in the hope that over-the-top rhetoric about "crazy Israel" will somehow lead to a cowed and pliant Iran, and thus doesn't care that his argument is detached from reality.
posted by ibmcginty at 2:55 PM on January 25, 2012 [21 favorites]


can we please, finally, please stop using the word "pre-emptive"? it serves no purpose but to legitimize aggression.
posted by facetious at 3:01 PM on January 25, 2012 [27 favorites]


The term is aggressive war and that was what the Nuremberg trials were about.
posted by empath at 3:06 PM on January 25, 2012 [17 favorites]


[Israel] Let's you and him fight!
[Obama] ...
posted by delfin at 3:07 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


No way, facetious. Pre-emptive strikes helped the US avoid imminent invasions by both Iraq AND Afghanistan.
posted by Hoopo at 3:07 PM on January 25, 2012 [30 favorites]


Unfortunately, there is probably no way back: Iran has the capability for nuclear development, and this started already before the revolution (meaning, we supported it while the shah was still in power). Thus, the question is: what is the threat? Is this worse than North Korea or Pakistan having the bomb? (We never seem to worry about France, or India).
My personal view isn't really interesting, but I would suggest that neither is Israel's. The Israeli government has an interest in over-dramatizing the threat from Iran, but for the rest of us, the real threat from Iran is limited. Iran is a country with severe economic problems. Even the incompetent current government knows they need to focus on productivity and growth, not war. The real threat is that the combination of an incompetent Israeli government and an incompetent Iranian government can agree on the concept that war is the perfect distraction from reality. The rest of us shouldn't engage in that type of speculation.....
posted by mumimor at 3:10 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can we just get by one year without getting into another pissing contest....?

*sigh*
posted by BlueHorse at 3:13 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


As we spoke, however, Barak laid out three categories of questions, which he characterized as “Israel’s ability to act,” “international legitimacy” and “necessity"

His categories miss the key qualification for preemption: imminence. There's a vast gap between Iran's bullshit grandstanding about "pushing Israel into the sea," even if they have nuclear weapons, and a clear and present attempt toward direct military mobilization against Israel. Barak is not talking about preemptive war, and the article does wrong to use that term. He's talking about starting yet another "preventive" war—or as they used to call it, "shooting first."

Interestingly, if the shitty standard of "imminent threat" we're going by is "nuclear-capable state that has openly stated that they have designs on invading," wouldn't this very article justify a preemptive strike by Iran against Israel?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 3:25 PM on January 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am of the opinion that the primary purpose of the Iranian program is to provoke an attack, preferably by Israel but the US is OK in a pinch. And if there is no attack? Hey, you've got a bomb! Definitely a win-win from the Iranian point of view...
posted by jim in austin at 3:26 PM on January 25, 2012


I am of the opinion that the primary purpose of the Iranian program is to provoke an attack,

And the purpose of this plan would be...?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:28 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's important to remember that at the higher levels of Israeli thought, there aren't many (any?) serious people who believe that Iran will attack Israel with Nuclear weapons without provocation. The issue is that the balance of power in the Middle East would dramatically change and swing immediately away from Israel, who holds the trump card. Right now, Israel can pursue basically whatever policies its wants without having to worry too much, but an Iranian bomb would change that completely. It would also ramp up the overall danger in the region by potentially driving other states to pursue nuclear weapons.
posted by cell divide at 3:28 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am of the opinion that the primary purpose of the Iranian program is to provoke an attack, preferably by Israel but the US is OK in a pinch. [...] Definitely a win-win from the Iranian point of view...

totally agree, look at how kick-ass being attacked turned out for iraq!
posted by facetious at 3:31 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


It would be great to see an actual assessment of Iran's military nuclear capability.

But WHO did the assessment? Because for any given "yes" there is a "no" from someone else. IAEA, retired military, retired ex-CIA can be pointed at as saying "no". And I'm rather sure you can find "yes" in that same set.

If MAD is a valid position - who cares if Iran gets a fission bomb?

Do they have the know-how to build a nuclear warhead?

It seems this is 'common' knowledge. Pakistan had it for sale, my primary school had books on the shelf with drawings of the 2 US bombs dropped on Japan.

Do they have the know-how to attach a war-head to a missile?

More interesting was the charges of radioactive waste with explosives that surfaced years ago - tied to dead Somali pirates. One doesn't need a bomb to do radioactive damage.

The ability to fling a missile about is dependant on machine tooling and a willingness to buy access to plans. The sellers are findable, just not via the yellow pages is all.

There is nothing I can do to stop the madness, and the attack will happen soon has been claimed for years. Just remember when oil price spikes and the economy takes a dive do ask if it was worth it.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:31 PM on January 25, 2012


Seymour Hersh has a new pen name?
posted by LarryC at 3:34 PM on January 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Do not forget the Saudis. They have a great fear and distrust of Iran.And then there is this

http://www.unitedjerusalem.org/index2.asp?id=1519209
posted by Postroad at 3:37 PM on January 25, 2012


As long as they keep the fight over there and there's nothing left of either country in the end, its fine by me.
posted by blaneyphoto at 3:38 PM on January 25, 2012


I am tired to my bones of Israel's aggression.
posted by EatTheWeak at 3:39 PM on January 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Man, I hate to say this, but that's a repugnant sentiment, blaneyphoto. A nuclear war between Israel and Iran would be an unprecedented disaster. If you were striving for funny, okay, sorry, I didn't get it.
posted by zomg at 3:40 PM on January 25, 2012 [15 favorites]


And the purpose of this plan would be...?

When you can get the other guy to hit first, you immediately gain the perceived moral authority of the attacked for a little while. That's why there was at least some support for the US going into Afghanistan (bin Laden was there and (for societal reasons) the Taliban was not giving him up), but considerably less for Iraq. So if Iran can get either the US or Israel to do a public first strike, then anything they do that's not a WMD-class attack appears to be from the moral high ground.

At this point, the hawks in both the US and Israel are demonstrating their rapid descent into madness, and probably require being taken out in back of the woodshed and given a padding, then sent to the corner to think about their crazy.

(the societal reasons? Reportedly, one of the reasons that the Taliban did not hand over Osama bin Laden was their cultural and religious tradition of hospitality; he was their respected guest and could not just be surrendered.)
posted by mephron at 3:41 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


As long as they keep the fight over there and there's nothing left of either country in the end, its fine by me.

I'm no fan of Israel, but "Yikes."
posted by codacorolla at 3:41 PM on January 25, 2012


One thing that might help avoid an air attack on Iran is geography. Will it be the Turks, the Saudis, the Syrians, and/or the Iraqis who say "oh, hey Israel, go ahead and send fully armed fighters and bombers over our airspace?"

The Saudis may not care much for Iran but they certainly don't care for Israel in the slightest. There are reports (denied by both nations) that the Saudis may give Israel passage in that instance, but I'll believe it when I see it.
posted by delfin at 3:43 PM on January 25, 2012


In such a circumstance the Saudis might tacitly support Israel's effort by simply not trying to shoot them down. Then officially protest later.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:48 PM on January 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


When you can get the other guy to hit first, you immediately gain the perceived moral authority of the attacked for a little while.

Chris Floyd:

... there is the hope that ever-tightening sanctions will provoke a violent response from the victim, thereby "justifying" a war of "self-defense" against the "unprovoked" attack. The series of escalating provocations being carried out by Washington and its allies, chiefly Israel -- including an increasingly open program of assassinations -- is clearly designed to goad the Iranians into a casus belli retaliation.
posted by Trurl at 3:50 PM on January 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


[Israel] Let's you and him fight!
[Obama] ... Our ironclad commitment -- and I mean ironclad -- to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history. (Applause.)

posted by formless at 3:53 PM on January 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


As long as they keep the fight over there and there's nothing left of either country in the end, its fine by me.

Most of people living in both Israel and Iran have done nothing to deserve this attitude.
posted by Dasein at 3:53 PM on January 25, 2012 [30 favorites]


An unprovoked strike on Iran would be a great way to upset the newly elected Muslim Brotherhood folks in Egypt who are already taking a skeptical look at the Camp David Accords.
posted by mullingitover at 3:54 PM on January 25, 2012


Just two groups of regular people who get up, go to work, worry about their kids, and pay their bills; both being led on both sides by the biggest sociopathic, homicidal assholes one can imagine. Let the guys in the turbans and robes, and the guys in the Brooks Brothers suits duke it out. We can watch on YouTube or something.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:56 PM on January 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't get what sort of air strike would be effective here? The article clearly states, several times that the weapons program is decentralized and in impregnable bunkers. The only way to dismantle the program, at this point, is a full, land based invasion. Everything other military option just delays it, and, furthermore, stirs up anti-West sentiment within Iran. This is just saber rattling.
posted by geoff. at 3:59 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let the guys in the turbans and robes, and the guys in the Brooks Brothers suits duke it out. We can watch on YouTube or something.

I suppose we could divide it up as ties versus no-ties or something.
posted by indubitable at 4:00 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


the notion that the US can simply let the two nations go at each other is absurd...we are in that region if for no other reason, the oil.

We keep piling sanctions on Iran, and just recently clamped down on their banks. But not to worryf, Iran gets around this! How, well our friend and ally buys oil using golod

http://wikiweird.org/?p=6611

and China is going to do this also
posted by Postroad at 4:01 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Back during WWII everyone was glued to their radios, following along with their own maps of Europe and North Africa and the Pacific, working nights and weekends to arm their husbands and fathers and wives and mothers, praying for peace. Now we finally have it and we keep inventing enemies that don't exist, and scaring ourselves into thinking that invading Guatemala and Nicaragua and Lebanon and Cuba and Iraq and Afghanstan and Iran will somehow prevent violence, when those nations lack the capability to invade even their next door neighbors. Most of them lack what can be considered an air force and navy.

It's time for the bullshit to stop. Show me Iran's delivery system. Show me their air force and navy, and how they're going to cross thousands of miles of land and ocean and dozens of countries' airspace and territory and put our way of life in jeopardy. Show me how a nation with a 300 billion GDP will pull this off when they lack the infrastructure to even process their own oil.

Show me how a nation that doesn't have a single aircraft carrier poses a threat to the American military.
posted by deanklear at 4:03 PM on January 25, 2012 [39 favorites]


I read this on the train home. Interesting article.
Barak went on: “The moment Iran goes nuclear, other countries in the region will feel compelled to do the same. The Saudi Arabians have told the Americans as much, and one can think of both Turkey and Egypt in this context, not to mention the danger that weapons-grade materials will leak out to terror groups.
Struck me for the reference to an tacit admission by Saudi Arabia that they would start a nuclear program should Iran complete theirs. It is an obvious conclusion, but the admission by SA (if true) is wild.

Also:
It is, of course, important for Ya’alon to argue that this is not just an Israeli-Iranian dispute, but a threat to America’s well-being. “The Iranian regime will be several times more dangerous if it has a nuclear device in its hands,” he went on. “One that it could bring into the United States. It is not for nothing that it is establishing bases for itself in Latin America and creating links with drug dealers on the U.S.-Mexican border. This is happening in order to smuggle ordnance into the United States for the carrying out of terror attacks. Imagine this regime getting nuclear weapons to the U.S.-Mexico border and managing to smuggle it into Texas, for example. This is not a far-fetched scenario.”
Seems a little far fetched to me, but is still chilling.
posted by rosswald at 4:09 PM on January 25, 2012


When you can get the other guy to hit first, you immediately gain the perceived moral authority of the attacked for a little while.

You do have the moral authority if the other guy attacks first. How would you not. "Hey, he made me attack him by his attitude and his stance, dammit!"
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:14 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Iran hasn't attacked its neighbors for over 200 years. If any nation can be trusted with nuclear weapons, it's them. Israel, on the other hand, engages in war crimes on a regular basis, and lies pathologically about their own nuclear stockpile. Can someone explain why aren't we disarming them?
posted by Matt Bird at 4:15 PM on January 25, 2012 [24 favorites]


Barak went on: “The moment Iran goes nuclear, other countries in the region will feel compelled to do the same. The Saudi Arabians have told the Americans as much, and one can think of both Turkey and Egypt in this context, not to mention the danger that weapons-grade materials will leak out to terror groups.

So Israel going nuclear isn't enough, but if Iran does, then look out?
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:15 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


It would be better for everyone if the Middle East was a nuclear free zone. No question.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:16 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]



Show me how a nation that doesn't have a single aircraft carrier poses a threat to the American military.


One nuke in Tel Aviv. Retribution triggers attacks from Turkey and Egypt. It gets messy and some ex-USSR states move towards western Europe. China makes a threat to Russia which is responded and uses the excuse of a broken satellite to threaten Alaska. Full on III.
posted by sammyo at 4:16 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


rosswald: "Seems a little far fetched to me, but is still chilling."

They could also do any of these things. The fact remains that they haven't actually launched any attacks on the US, and an act of nuclear terrorism would be the end of Iran as a nation (which they undoubtedly realize).

I think they learned a valuable lesson from North Korea, that nuclear weapons = security.
posted by mullingitover at 4:17 PM on January 25, 2012


It would be better for everyone if the Middle East was a nuclear free zone. No question.

It would be better if the world was, but who could enforce that?
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:18 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


When you can get the other guy to hit first, you immediately gain the perceived moral authority of the attacked for a little while.

“I think that we have to treat state-based covert activities as the equivalent of acts of war. And I think that we have to respond to that and create a level of pain which teaches people not to do it.” -Newt Gingrich

So in light of the targeted assassinations and Stuxnet virus wreaking havoc on Iran's nuclear program, Newt's logic has already justified Iran's swift and brutal retaliation to these acts of war?

It kind of freaks me out that the rhetoric spilling from the Republican candidate's lips is something I could more easily digest if it were coming from Ahmadinejad's.
posted by isopraxis at 4:18 PM on January 25, 2012


Iran hasn't attacked its neighbors for over 200 years.

While I understand the sentiment, the fact is, Iran has been a major player in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it has armed proxies in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:18 PM on January 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure I follow your reasoning, sammyo. Nuclear war in the Middle East wouldn't start a global conflict, but it would still be a nuclear war that could potentially kill millions of people, and open up a Pandora's Box of hatred that would never close.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:20 PM on January 25, 2012


They could also do any of these things. The fact remains that they haven't actually launched any attacks on the US, and an act of nuclear terrorism would be the end of Iran as a nation (which they undoubtedly realize).

And then, well...which do you think is a more likely scenario? Iran setting off a nuke in Texas, apropos of nothing? Or Iran setting off a nuke in Texas, after we helped Israel invade their country?

I fail to see why the possibility of a hypothetical Texas nuke would be a good reason for us to instigate a war.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 4:20 PM on January 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


It is an obvious conclusion, but the admission by SA (if true) is wild.

To me, the real reason for the U.S. and Israel to be concerned about an Iranian nuke is that it will almost certainly provoke a nuclear arms race among unstable regimes. The risk is that one of these regimes, once nuclearized, will at some point fall to an internal coup or uprising, and at that point there is a significant risk of the state loosing control of some of the nuclear weapons.

It would be better for everyone if the Middle East was a nuclear free zone. No question.

I think that without nuclear weapons, Israel would be significantly more aggressive against its neighbours, because it would be unwiling to tolerate an imbalance in conventional forces. Nuclear weapons kept the peace in Europe where there was an imbalance in conventional forces between the Warsaw Pact and NATO. I'm cautiously optimistic that if Iran does get nuclear capability, it will be a stabilizing influence in the short term (and possibly longer), which is probably one reason Iran wants nukes. I'm also not sure I share Barak's concern that a nuclear Iran would be able to credibly deter Israeli action against Hezbollah, for instance. Who's going to believe that Iran will commit national suicide over a Lebanese border skirmish?
posted by Dasein at 4:23 PM on January 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Nuclear war in the Middle East wouldn't start a global conflict

Right, neither would a minor shooting of a minor Count in a minor country.
posted by sammyo at 4:23 PM on January 25, 2012 [17 favorites]


The events in the Gulf these days remind me of the opening scenes of that awesomely depressing movie, Threads.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:23 PM on January 25, 2012


[Israel] Let's you and him fight!
[Obama] ...


My mind flashed over to Israel being Scrappy Doo and the US being Scooby. Scrappy is picking a fight he doesn't know he doesn't want, and Scooby really isn't in the mood to save his ass again.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:24 PM on January 25, 2012


It seems more like The Road Warrior to me. "For reasons long forgotten, two mighty warrior tribes went to war and touched off a blaze which engulfed them all..."
posted by Kevin Street at 4:29 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that without nuclear weapons, Israel would be significantly more aggressive against its neighbours

SHHHHHHHHHHH they're trying to be "ambiguous" about the nuke thing!
posted by Hoopo at 4:31 PM on January 25, 2012


Iran hasn't attacked its neighbors for over 200 years.

I see this around a lot, and yet it seems easily disprovable. As mentioned above, it is an open secret that Iran has killed US service-people in Iraq. And there are the alleged 80's bombings.
posted by rosswald at 4:36 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Iran's proposal for a completely nuclear-free Middle East, backed up with thorough inspections of both Iran and Israel to ensure compliance.

...what?! Is this actually a thing?
posted by threeants at 4:37 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's extraordinary that people here keep going on about Israel, Israel, Israel, when Iran's Arab neighbours have been begging the USA to restrain Iran for years, and Saudi Arabia is now publicly offering to bankroll much of the cost of a US attack.

I mean, seriously guys. Israel is not the only country in the world. This undergraduate analysis that portrays Israel as a shadowy puppetmaster is not only stupid, it's reminiscent of the worst sort of antisemitic propaganda.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:38 PM on January 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


Forgot this one Khobar Towers bombing
posted by rosswald at 4:38 PM on January 25, 2012


It is an obvious conclusion, but the admission by SA (if true) is wild.


Saudi Arabia doesn't have the infrastructure or know-how to go nuclear. Honestly, there's a much better chance of Egypt going nuclear. SA has the money to buy itself a program, but that would involve importing hundreds or perhaps thousands of scientists, and huge quantities of equipment and material that they don't have and can't build. Outsiders often have a very mistaken impression of Saudi capabilities given their wealth and per capita GDP. But they don't have anything like a modern economy or workforce. Stone age compared to Iran.

Apropos of the Saudis giving the go-ahead to the Israelis to attack Iran through their airspace, I would rate that quite realistic. If you read the wikileaks cables, it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly that the relationship between Saudi intelligence and the Mossad is very close indeed. You have to kind of filter out the public rhetoric about Arab Unity and the Zionist Enemy, but the love is there...
posted by jackbrown at 4:41 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is, of course, important for Ya’alon to argue that this is not just an Israeli-Iranian dispute, but a threat to America’s well-being. “The Iranian regime will be several times more dangerous if it has a nuclear device in its hands,” he went on. “One that it could bring into the United States. It is not for nothing that it is establishing bases for itself in Latin America and creating links with drug dealers on the U.S.-Mexican border. This is happening in order to smuggle ordnance into the United States for the carrying out of terror attacks. Imagine this regime getting nuclear weapons to the U.S.-Mexico border and managing to smuggle it into Texas, for example. This is not a far-fetched scenario.”

It's not far-fetched because it's completely implausible. It's pure and self-conscious fantasy, on the same level as a flotilla of Iranian gunboats invading San Diego. Nuclear explosions are completely trackable by the proportion of radioactive isotopes. An Iranian bomb exploded in the US would invite and in fact demand (according to US doctrine) a US nuclear response.

Ya'alon thinks his audience is gullible and he may be right.

Has no one mentioned that everyone knows that Israel is a nuclear power?
posted by ennui.bz at 4:43 PM on January 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


An interesting observation that has occurred to me: People seem to be taking the statements of the Israelis like Netanyahu and Barak at face value. People don't seem to be taking Ahmadinejad's statements at face value. Bibi says, we might attack Iran to keep them from getting nuclear weapons, and everybody goes "gasp, a threat!" Ahmadinejad says they're going to annihilate Israel, and everybody goes "meh, he says crazy shit all the time."

Perhaps they are right to do so, but I'm not sure what basis they have for making these judgements.
posted by zomg at 4:44 PM on January 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Do they have the know-how to build a nuclear warhead?

Building nuclear weapons isn't that hard. We did it nearly 70 years ago. This is the reason weapons grade fissionable are so closely monitored, because that's really the only hard part. Israel has a very large, and very secret, nuclear center in the Negev Desert near Dimona, and they've had a reactor running there since the mid 1960s. The place is so secret that the Isreal Army shot down an IAF fight that overflew it in during the Six Day war.

The chances of Israel not having enough weapons grade material for several dozen bombs is nil. Israel makes its own depleted uranium AP rounds for the Merkava, and guess where you get DU from? Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, thus, there are no inspections of any Israel nuclear site.

Now, what Israel doesn't have is a very long test program to shrink the size of their weapons, and you can't do actual weapons tests without *everybody* knowing that one has happened. Hiding the detonation is impossible, if you have enough resources, you could, theoretically, test it somewhere else ahem, but that's very hard to do once and very hard squared to do twice. The reason we know that India, Pakistan and North Korea are in the nuclear weapons game is because we've seen their tests. Isreal hasn't tipped that card.

However, Israel does have a very, very active intelligence effort, and given how easy the Soviets found it to get nuclear weapons designs from the US, I'm sure they've gotten several workable designs over the years -- and more importantly, they didn't have to deal with the gotchas that the US had to deal with in the Manhattan Project -- things like the multiple allotropes of Plutonium*, how to make weapons grade plutonium, and, of course, the knowledge that nuclear weapons work.

They may have had to build them conservatively, because they haven't tested them, but there are very few "unproven" things that are more certain that Israel having a number of nuclear weapons.




* Imagine, if you will. You're trying to machine a block of plutonium, and it suddenly changes density. Not slightly, either. Get it a bit warmer than room temp, and it changes from the α to the β allotrope, and drops from 19.86g/cm3 to 17.70g/cm3. Surprise! Mommy!! The Plutonium got bigger!!!

Between room temp and the melting point, plutonium has *five* allotropes, ranging in density from 19.86 to 15.92 g/cm3. Casting it is damn near impossible when pure, because the first transition lowers the density (which makes a given mass larger) and the other three transitions dramatically increase the density (which makes it smaller) and thus, casting would basically collapse. We spent a long time trying to find out how to deal with the seemingly ever-shifting metal, and it took a bit to realize that if we alloyed it with gallium, it would stabilize in the δ phase, which was the least dense, and most machinable, phase of plutonium.
posted by eriko at 4:44 PM on January 25, 2012 [44 favorites]


I think it's extraordinary that people here keep going on about Israel, Israel, Israel

It surprises me, too, that people are "going on about Israel" in a thread for a post about Israel attacking Iran. People here are absolutely crazy to do that.
posted by Hoopo at 4:46 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The chances of Israel not having enough weapons grade material for several dozen bombs is nil. I

I was wondering if Iran, not Israel had the capability to build a bomb, and then a delivery system for that bomb.

My assumption is that it's very, very difficult to do.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:48 PM on January 25, 2012


because they haven't tested them

That ... may not be true. Recall there were some 'false alarm' detections of explosions deep in the Southern Ocean by the US Vela satellites. One persistent rumor is that these were real explosions set off by the Israelis with help from the South Africans. I've no idea if this would have given the Israelis sufficient test data to do anything dramatic with their bombs, but anyway. It's safe to assume that they've got atomic weapons that will actually work and can be delivered by missile anyway.
posted by zomg at 4:49 PM on January 25, 2012


zomg: note that eriko actually linked to the same page you did under the word "ahem."
posted by koeselitz at 4:51 PM on January 25, 2012


aah thank you koeselitz, sorry eriko ;)
posted by zomg at 4:52 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


If they're getting support from the US it's entirely likely that they haven't tested their designs because they dodn't need to. They've already been thoroughly tested in Nevada decades ago.
posted by mullingitover at 4:52 PM on January 25, 2012


There are in fact international inspections of the Soreq centre, which is a civilian research reactor. I got to visit when I was 13 and saw the Cherenkov radiation in the pool.

As for testing advanced designs, no doubt Israel is doing what everyone else is and using supercomputers (1996).
posted by topynate at 5:01 PM on January 25, 2012


I'm not sure what basis they have for making these judgements.

I would say the basis might have something to do with Israel actually having bombed suspected nuclear sites in Iraq and Syria in the past.

"Annihilate Israel" seems to be mostly a slogan or rallying cry for leaders like Amedinejad rather than an actual threat. He knows what the consequences would be for such an attack; Iran would most certainly be destroyed. Similarly, Israel knows the consequences for bombing its' beligerent neighbours' nuclear sites would be nothing at all. One of them has significantly more credibility.
posted by Hoopo at 5:02 PM on January 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Israel knows the consequences for bombing its' beligerent neighbours' nuclear sites would be nothing at all.

You don't even have to read the damned article to know that's wrong: if it were true, then Israel would already have bombed Iran. Prima facie.
posted by topynate at 5:08 PM on January 25, 2012


Hoopo: ""Annihilate Israel" seems to be mostly a slogan or rallying cry for leaders like Amedinejad rather than an actual threat."

Not to Godwin the thread, but you need to excuse the Israelis for not agreeing with you and being a little jumpy around that kind of rhetoric.
posted by falameufilho at 5:09 PM on January 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


>Iran hasn't attacked its neighbors for over 200 years.

>>While I understand the sentiment, the fact is, Iran has been a major player in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it has armed proxies in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

>>>I see this around a lot, and yet it seems easily disprovable. As mentioned above, it is an open secret that Iran has killed US service-people in Iraq. And there are the alleged 80's bombings.

When it comes to the various security apparatuses of various nations, I suspect everybody kills and sabotages everybody else; the differences are matters of degree, frequency, and enthusiasm.

Will (not "would") Iran getting nukes change the security calculus in the Middle East?

Of course.

Ultimately, whether or not Israel attacks, the Iranians getting nukes is as sure as gravity.

What's less clear is whether the degree of rot in the U.S. polity is sufficient that the American government greenlights an Israeli attack.
posted by darth_tedious at 5:12 PM on January 25, 2012


Whoa! Back up, people. Ahmadinejad never threatened to push Israel into the sea, never threatened to annihilate Israel. And as for the nuke issue, even Panetta thinks that Iran is not trying to develop weapons.

Is it impossible to have reasonable discussion on this issue?
posted by fredludd at 5:13 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Regarding Israel's credibility with regard to Iran, as opposed to vice-versa: as interesting a point as that is, I'm not getting the impression that Barak finds Iran's actual threats to be credible or pressing enough. Hence the talk about terror nukes in Texas, and the what-ifs about "coveting and occupying another Gulf state." If Iran was presenting actual, immediate, plausible threats, why rest your argument on a slew of new hypotheticals?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:14 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


deanklear: "Show me Iran's delivery system."

Iran's delivery system is Hezbollah and Hamas.
posted by falameufilho at 5:16 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hezbollah, far from being a proxy in the imaginary strategy to destroy Israel, is better thought of as a national defense militia. From a Lebanese point of view, Israel is a terrorist organization. And Hamas is certainly no more of an existential threat to its keepers than are the prisoners in any other well-run concentration camp.
posted by fredludd at 5:22 PM on January 25, 2012


fredludd: "Ahmadinejad never threatened to push Israel into the sea, never threatened to annihilate Israel."

Is this the "Farsi is a language full of nuance" defense? Because sorry, but that's pretty much what he said.
posted by falameufilho at 5:22 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Iran was presenting actual, immediate, plausible threats, why rest your argument on a slew of new hypotheticals?

Consensus building?

And I will give you the Texas thing, but the Gulf state comment, while melodramatic, strikes at the core of the Saudi (Bahrain) fear. Everyone focuses on the Israel stuff, but Iran's comments on the Saudi Monarchy and the fate of Mecca are not particularly friendly.
posted by rosswald at 5:23 PM on January 25, 2012


Israel knows the consequences for bombing its' beligerent neighbours' nuclear sites would be nothing at all.

You don't even have to read the damned article to know that's wrong: if it were true, then Israel would already have bombed Iran. Prima facie.


Okay, the Israeli consequences would be several sternly-worded letters of protest (that might cause a paper cut!), a UN resolution that would be vetoed by the US, and the expense of several dozen bombs and a few hundred gallons of jet fuel. The consequences could, worst-case scenario, extend to the point that Iran shoots down one or more of the attacking aircraft, resulting in the loss of aircraft and air crew. So Israel's consequences aren't literally nothing at all.

They're just nothing at all compared to Iran's potential consequences: a retaliation by a more sophisticated military with twice the budget and potentially similar manpower, and that's just if the US ("ironclad" ally) stays on the sidelines. The consequences could, worst-case scenario, extend to a full-scale nuclear attack resulting in millions of deaths.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 5:25 PM on January 25, 2012


Israel and Iran currently both have right-wing governments which are weathering populist uprisings, a global recession, and multiple revolutions at their doorsteps. Their natural answer is to sabre-rattle harder than usual at each other, in the hopes that people will be distracted from the real source of their oppression and unite in fear of The Other. It's all pretty damn textbook; and somewhat ironic that they feign existential difference while being so mutually complicit.

I'd argue that the policy goal in the USA is pretty simple: getting China to sanction Iran. Follow the money. Iran is quite literally the gas in China's engine and what has allowed their ascension to superpower despite America's control of most of the rest of the world's oil reserves. This loss of bargaining power really chafes with Washington. Open conflict in the Middle East would be an accidental result of the desire for an Iranian incident justifying their full Cubanization; severing the Iran-China trade alliance would cause China to become doubly dependent on (and hungry for) the energy reserves in the American satellite state, Canada. Simply put, the China-Iran alliance has become too powerful for Western leaders' comfort, and they'll do anything to destabilize it. The deep irony is that the globe is relying on the sanity of Iranian leaders to not act on repeated provocation. Fortunately they are much more sane than we are being led to believe.

I just wish I could envision a future where the Enbridge pipeline wasn't inevitable. Sorry about that, British Columbia.
posted by mek at 5:27 PM on January 25, 2012 [16 favorites]


falameufilho: there seems to be a bit more nuance even in that Wikipedia article than you appear to have noticed
posted by fredludd at 5:27 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Homeboy Trouble - so why hasn't Israel attacked yet?
posted by falameufilho at 5:28 PM on January 25, 2012


fredludd, this is the key quote: 'All official translations of Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement, including a description of it on his website, refer to wiping Israel away. Sohrab Mahdavi, one of Iran's most prominent translators, and Siamak Namazi, managing director of a Tehran consulting firm, who is bilingual, both say "wipe off" or "wipe away" is more accurate than "vanish" because the Persian verb is active and transitive.'
posted by falameufilho at 5:30 PM on January 25, 2012


Ahmadinejad never threatened to push Israel into the sea, never threatened to annihilate Israel

Hard to say, for certain (cf. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Israel).

A lot of what we've read in the press has been the media's translation or stenography of the US and Israeli respective governments' translations, so it's probably hard to say, for sure.

What is less arguable is that Iran's leaders do not think much of what they believe Israel is doing in the region. The language on that seems fairly clear.

If you're tasked with defending your country from potentially nuclear aggressors, then your ears probably perk up at words that may or may not involve violent removal of your people from existence.

I don't have much sympathy for Israel given what it has done to Palestinians over the last several decades, but I don't think they are too out of line to be concerned about Iran. Ahmadinejad is among the worse of the dictators the world has seen, and Ayatollah Khamenei seems happy to keep him around. Iran has been aggressive with its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, though recent sabre-rattling may be because of the deep US-Saudi relationship.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:30 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


My assumption is that it's very, very difficult to do.

I think you're getting hung up on the word "build". It depends on what you mean.

It isn't hard to assemble a nuclear weapon once you have all the materials. And most of the materials are not hard to get. A few of the materials are extraordinarily difficult to get.

So if by "build" you mean "is it hard to put the thing together", no it is not. But you have to get the weapons grade radioactives before you can put it together. And that's friggin' hard.
posted by Justinian at 5:30 PM on January 25, 2012


Homeboy Trouble - so why hasn't Israel attacked yet?

I can only assume due to the eternal commitment of the Israeli leadership to furthering the cause of total peace in the Middle East.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 5:33 PM on January 25, 2012


falameufilho: you're derailing the thread with exactly the argument you didn't want to have. Shut it down.
posted by mek at 5:34 PM on January 25, 2012


An interesting observation that has occurred to me: People seem to be taking the statements of the Israelis like Netanyahu and Barak at face value. People don't seem to be taking Ahmadinejad's statements at face value. Bibi says, we might attack Iran to keep them from getting nuclear weapons, and everybody goes "gasp, a threat!" Ahmadinejad says they're going to annihilate Israel, and everybody goes "meh, he says crazy shit all the time."

For me, it's because Israel has already bombed and invaded multiple neighbors, has already bombed a neighbor they suspected of developing nuclear weapons, has suggested recently that the assassinations of Iranian scientists and Stuxnet are "unnatural" events that the Iranians should expect to continue, and the United States has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a covert war in Iran since 2007. That's in addition to the fact that the United States has already once overthrown the Iranian government, and spent a good portion of the 80s paying and training Saddam Hussein to kill Iranians, and even got him off the hook for using chemical weapons as a special thanks (until they remembered the same event in 1990).

The United States spends more on their military that the rest of the world combined, and our allies in the middle east — Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel, and the UAE — spend 85 billion a year.

Meanwhile, Iran's military budget is 7 billion a year and they show off powerboats as part of their naval fleet.

Does that mean it would be a walk in the park if we invaded? No, it would pretty much look like Iraq: we'd pretend to be in control for a decade, lose a few trillion dollars, a few hundred thousand civilian lives, as well as the lives of our own troops, and leave the region worse off than when we started.

Iran can't do much except make crazy speeches, and funnel some fairly insignificant resources to people in the region. Even so, the amount of violence and money we pour into the region is several orders of magnitude higher.
posted by deanklear at 5:35 PM on January 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh, as to delivery systems; Iran has the Shahab-3 ballistic missile which is capable of carrying nuclear warheads. It has a range of between 800-1200miles which doesn't threaten the USA or much if any of Europe but does cover the entire Middle East and over into India.

But you can always stick the thing in the back of a truck and drive it somewhere if you don't trust your missiles.
posted by Justinian at 5:35 PM on January 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


And Hamas is certainly no more of an existential threat to its keepers than are the prisoners in any other well-run concentration camp.

Stay classy!
posted by FeralHat at 5:40 PM on January 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


Israel really does face a serious threat. The immediacy and risk of the danger to Israel are far greater than the exaggerated threat to the US from Iran and Afghanistan in the last decade.

The exact translation of Ahmadinejad's words is besides the point. There really exist significant populations in all neighbouring states, who just want to kill Israelis. These populations include many political leaders.

Israel pulled its settlements and troops out of the Gaza strip at some cost to its citizens. The liberal cause within Israel was dealt a great blow by the Palestinian response. Hamas and associated forces pushed as close as possible to the new border and begun launching rockets into Israel indiscriminately.

I was in Tel Aviv in 2011, and spoke to a close friend who is a liberal. After the withdrawal from Gaza, the feeling of being under siege is complete. Everyone feels that no matter what Israel does the world will hate them, and the neighbouring countries will want to destroy them. The only possible feasible response is to become as strong as possible.

It's very difficult for that tiny country with a tiny population to feel anywhere near safe.
posted by yoz420 at 5:40 PM on January 25, 2012 [12 favorites]


yoz420 makes a number of points that resonate profoundly in the lived experience of Israelis and are too often lost in this discussion.
posted by Dasein at 5:46 PM on January 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


you need to excuse the Israelis for not agreeing with you and being a little jumpy around that kind of rhetoric.

Absolutely, and don't get me wrong -- threats like this from a hostile neighbor are not something to be taken lightly. I'm just pointing out this "destroy Israel" rhetoric has come from a lot of leaders in the area over the years, and I could be wrong but I suspect it has something to do with scoring political points domestically. It's not something I take as a credible threat from a country like Iran, for whom taking any such action would be suicide.
posted by Hoopo at 5:47 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


so, serious question. how do you square ahmadinejad's rhetoric aimed at israel with the contention that "Ahmadinejad has been a vocal supporter of Iran's nuclear program, and has insisted that it is for peaceful purposes. He has repeatedly emphasized that building a nuclear bomb is not the policy of his government. He has said that such a policy is "illegal and against our religion." (Wiki). Which one is false, and how would I know the difference?
posted by facetious at 5:49 PM on January 25, 2012


>It's very difficult for that tiny country with a tiny population to feel anywhere near safe.

Israel really is not safe; unless it pacifies the Palestinians and better assimilates its own Arab population, it's doomed by its own demographics.
posted by darth_tedious at 5:50 PM on January 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ahmadinejad is just one man in Iran's government. There are other sources of power, influence and control.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:55 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


facetious: "Which one is false, and how would I know the difference?"

You don't know which one is false. You just look at who is making the threats, their set of beliefs and how they behave against their own people, and that would drive you to assume and prepare for the worst.
posted by falameufilho at 5:58 PM on January 25, 2012


Iran hasn't attacked its neighbors for over 200 years.

Well, there was the Iran-Iraq war, which lasted for eight years and killed hundreds of thousands of people. Iraq was nominally the aggressor, but Iran was calling for a Shiite revolution in Iraq and sponsoring secessionist groups there. And it had abrogated treaties made under Iran's pre-revolutionary government, and claimed that it owned bits of Iraqi territory. Oh yes, and after Iraq sued for peace Iran kept on attacking for six years and actually invaded Iraq - do you remember reading about the waves of teenage of unarmed teenage soldiers they sent to explode minefields? It turned out that Iraq had a lot of mines, and poison gas, otherwise Iran would probably have won.

Oh yes, and there were the attacks on foreign shipping in the Tanker War.

And have you heard of Hezbollah? It's Iran's client and it occupies the southern half of Lebanon. It maintains its position in Lebanon through its private army and was apparently responsible for assassinating Rafic Hariri.

So when Iran's neighbours beg the USA to contain Iran, it's very likely that they know what they're doing. Iran is easily the most aggressive state in the Middle East and, unlike Israel, could realistically hold on to its neighbours territory.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:59 PM on January 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was floored by this interview, and so not surprised that it received close to zero attention from American media.
Jon Stewart: Won't the extremists just find another excuse? Isn't there always another excuse? Won't they then say, "Well, actually, we were talking about Kashmir; that was the problem"?

King Abdullah II: But it no longer becomes global. What happens is that, if you have a settlement between Israelis and the Palestinians, Al Qaeda, which is an international organization, becomes a domestic issue, because what is their rallying cry? Just as Iran, the plight of the Palestinians and the future of Jerusalem. If they make peace, which allows 57 Arab and Muslim countries to have normal relations with Israel — that's a third of the world — then they have no longer a soapbox to stand on. What happens then is Al Qaeda will be an extremist organization in your country, trying to take over your nation. It becomes a domestic issue, and not an international issue. And that's the big difference. Iran, also: how could Iran — you know, where is Iran now? It has its influence in Iraq, it has an influence in Afghanistan, through Hezbollah they're involved in the Mediterranean, they have good relationships with Hamas, so they're sitting on the Mediterranean because of the Israeli-Palestinian cause. If we solve that problem, they no longer become the big —

Jon Stewart: And that's the largest foundation that we can pull out from underneath them? That's the largest rug we can pull out?

King Abdullah II: You then put them back in their box, you put Al Qaeda back in their box, and all the other boxes. Evil will still persist.

Jon Stewart: It has a way of popping up every now and then, it does.

King Abdullah II: Unfortunately, yes, but it becomes then a localized issue, which then governments, I think, will have to address, and that is reform and restructuring the way the Middle East deals with its people.
Until Israel is serious enough about peace to stop settlements, I don't see any reason to stick our own necks out for it.
posted by deanklear at 6:00 PM on January 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


We're all gonna die.
posted by a shrill fucking shitstripe at 6:00 PM on January 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


My girlfriend and I spent a few weeks in Iran backpacking this summer, afterwards in India and Nepal we met and befriended lots of Israelis - so many of them travel after their military service. I actually don't think I'd ever met an Israeli before, needless to say they were fascinated to hear about everyday Iranian life and attitudes, and we're now richer for having made friends in both countries. When I read of this seemingly inevitable march to war it upsets me so much. It sounds naive, but do people out there actually stop and think of each other as people - as brothers and sisters? Why can't we remember that these actions and rhetoric have human consequences: there are normal people just like you who are just trying to live their lives that will suffer so as to assuage international egos. So maybe be a little more humble before conducting armchair hectoring from far away, thinking somehow you have the right to condemn the innocent on both sides. Maybe couple your dose of real-politik machismo with a few minutes of empathy and see if you feel the same way. In Tel Aviv and Isfahan there are young people in cafes with a lot more in common than the world gives them credit for.
posted by nfg at 6:02 PM on January 25, 2012 [19 favorites]


We're all gonna die.

Well, yes. Eventually.
posted by Dasein at 6:03 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's very difficult for that tiny country with a tiny population to feel anywhere near safe.

I'd suggest Israel is unsafe because it continues to violate international law itself and violate the security of its neighbors. Israel is an "outlaw" nation that knows that it cannot appeal to any treaty or institution in its defense. And now that this line has been crossed there's likely no going back. Criminals end up paying for the crime, one way or another.

Let's drop any childish sentiment about how Israel "feels"; the idea that Iran poses an existential threat to Israel is nonsense. There is no avenue of attack that Iran could pursue that would not result in its own total destruction. Zero. This has been studied very, very, very carefully and I assure you if Iran did pose a legitimate threat to Israel we would not be discussing the possibility of an attack.

The best thing, and the logical thing, is for Israel to sit back and do nothing. A nuclear Iran would, in reality, work to Israel's tremendous benefit. It would likely mean the total isolation of Iran and the transformation of Iran into a true, North Korea-style pariah state. At that point the US might even be justified in blockading the country. We already have it surrounded but China and India, which get a lot of oil from Iran, might object to such an action. And this is the key: a nuclear Iran is really only a danger to the US, precisely because it sets up an immediate challenge to US hegemony. It would mean, in very immediate and clear terms, partition the Middle East. Some might say this partition already exists but it's a very soft, fuzzy thing. An openly defiant, nuclear Iran would have very real diplomatic consequences, to say the least, though it might not actually change various threat profiles. A nuclear Iran might also essentially take over Iraq, reducing that broken country into a proxy, something that would be particularly humiliating to the American military-industrial elite who feel they "paid for" Iraq and are so heavily invested in Iraqi democracy.

So the awful reality is that Israel might indeed attack Iran not out of any real concern for its own self-defense but for America's benefit. That is, after all, what proxy states are really for.


So when Iran's neighbours beg the USA to contain Iran, it's very likely that they know what they're doing.


This is extremely naive or really just dishonest. There's an entire centuries-long, religious context that you're conveniently forgetting to mention that might explain why Iran's neighbors behave the way they do. But this does highlight that it's really Iran that is in such a precarious state; surrounded by enemies and constantly threatened. It's difficult to say for sure whether Iran is really gunning for the bomb (and they'd have to be gunning for it, it's not the sort of thing you do casually) but if they are you certainly can't blame them. If there's any country that might legitimately "feel unsafe" it is the Iranians.
posted by nixerman at 6:11 PM on January 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Iran is easily the most aggressive state in the Middle East and, unlike Israel, could realistically hold on to its neighbours territory.

By body count, the most aggressive state in the middle east is the United States. Israel is currently holding on to their neighbor's territory by continuing to occupy parts of Palestine, and is currently building settlements in occupied territories in the Golan Heights as well as in the West Bank, at least according to the UN.
posted by deanklear at 6:11 PM on January 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


You don't know which one is false. You just look at who is making the threats, their set of beliefs and how they behave against their own people, and that would drive you to assume and prepare for the worst.

absolutely no disrespect intended, but you've changed the subject. the contention expressed repeatedly in this thread is that israel needs to defend itself against iran because iran wants to wipe it off the map. that's the entire rationale behind bombing iran's nuclear facilities. so one or the other of the two alternatives i mentioned is false. if iran has no intention of using nuclear force against israel, that means israel's expressed fears are not based on reality. i'm asking, how do you know what's true? i would also like to point out that your entire statement can be read ironically - right now, as far as i can tell, it's israel that is making the threats, and if you consider the residents of the west bank to be israel's people, etc... you see how easy it is to devise an argument purely rhetorically - it's effortless...so i'm asking for something more than a rhetorical response, if possible.
posted by facetious at 6:12 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, Syria and Palestine.
posted by deanklear at 6:12 PM on January 25, 2012


Everyone feels that no matter what Israel does the world will hate them

The expression of that, policy-wise, has seemed to be, "So, we'll do whatever we want."

That's the part people do not like. It's fine for Israel to be concerned about Iran, it's less fine when Israel starts moving toward a preventive invasion of Iran. Israel is a small country with a small population—and a disproportionately huge military (including, probably, nukes), and cocksure, military-careerist leaders.

Which is not to mention that us in the US are still trying to get out of the last two bullshit preventive wars we started in Asia, and are not looking to get on board with a new one.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 6:18 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


deanklear: "Israel is currently holding on to their neighbor's territory by continuing to occupy parts of Palestine"

I'd like to remind you that when Israel occupied that territory, it was previously occupied by Jordan. It wasn't taken from Palestine.

facetious: "so i'm asking for something more than a rhetorical response, if possible."

I don't think I understand the question. You can't know for sure what's going on the minds of the Iranian leadership. You can only make assumptions, and Israel assumed the worst.
posted by falameufilho at 6:22 PM on January 25, 2012


A wee too much Israel bashing here. Anyone recall Operation Opera?
posted by pallen123 at 6:24 PM on January 25, 2012


The Germans mistreated the Jews because they hated them; later, they hated them because they mistreated them. - C.S. Lewis
posted by Trurl at 6:24 PM on January 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is such a bunch of bullshit by the Israeli leaders. The Israeli and Iranian leaders are so fucking dramatic. I mean seriously Obama sent a not very secret note to the Iranians suggesting that perhaps we could find a way to cool it out and work out a deal. Now Israel is sending hints through the NY Times that we shouldn't be talking to that bitch or she'll smack them. Our alliance with Israel is beginning to resemble a bad high school relationship.
posted by humanfont at 6:25 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The only possible feasible response is to become as strong as possible.

But what can that mean? Israel is already better armed, and is already the regional nuclear power. It already uses its secret service to carry out murder on foreign soil, its airforce to dominate foreign skies. The perception you describe has been around for at least as long as I have been alive, and its preconditions for as long as Israel has. Acting on the perception has never made Israel one whit safer, or the Middle East one jot more stable. I'm not saying it that the perception you describe isn't real, I'm saying that Israel can only hope to survive by ending the collective delusion that it can arm itself to security.

There really exist significant populations in all neighbouring states, who just want to kill Israelis. These populations include many political leaders.

I used to live in Lebanon, and we go there every year, dividing our time between Beirut and the Beqaa. The Lebanese I know (including military and politicians) want, more than anything, not to fear their neighbours too. Israel is, of course, a major part of that. There are minorities that truly hate Israel, just as there are Israelis who truly hate their neighbours, but the real cause of hostility toward Israel is fear. Israel's neighbours are terrified of it, and often their reactions aren't terribly rational.

I wonder why that sounds familiar.
posted by howfar at 6:26 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


It wasn't taken from Palestine.

I'm talking about the Golan Heights and the occupied Palestinian territories, as defined by the UN. There are 300,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, and 20,000 in the Golan Heights.
posted by deanklear at 6:31 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


(And please know that all of my vitriol is directed towards the governments of all of these nations involved... the majority of people want peace, we just have a bunch of greedy children occupying our statehouses.)
posted by deanklear at 6:35 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, yes, I do think this story is propaganda. An attack on Iran would have severe economic consequences such that politicians might end up losing their jobs. And we certainly can't have that. So we're likely good until the election. Also, frankly, the cost/benefit of continually threatening Iran is much, much more attractive than actually executing an attack and risking the possibility of total chaos. The US and Israel could actually achieve total isolation of Iran without having to ever drop a single bomb.
posted by nixerman at 6:35 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's drop any childish sentiment about how Israel "feels";

Like the rest of the Israel bashing, this tries to minimize the very real issue of national identity. That the area is not just an ancient homeland, but the last refuge where would several million, ahem, Jews, go if they were 'pushed into the sea'?

But the perception of that population "feeling" backed against a wall, fighting for not just individual but cultural lives makes the perception that they are very dangerous. I suspect the Israelis use that.

But it wouldn't be the first time Iran has been bombed. And the amount of rhetoric about how terribly that was was actually pretty light, so if it does happen expect a couple days of condemnation until Anjolina tries to adopt one of the poor war orphans from the bombing and everyone is distracted.
posted by sammyo at 6:39 PM on January 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


but the real cause of hostility toward Israel is fear

I do realize Hezbollah doesnt necessarily equal Lebanon, but Hezbollah does sometimes equal Lebanon.
posted by rosswald at 6:41 PM on January 25, 2012


I'm talking about the Golan Heights and the occupied Palestinian territories, as defined by the UN. There are 300,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, and 20,000 in the Golan Heights.

It's worth understanding that these are very different situations. The Golan Heights were seized from a country that attacked Israel without provocation. They have been formally annexed by Israel. Israel had the right in international law to conquer that territory. Nevertheless, Israel has been clear that it will return the Golan as part of a peace treaty with Syria, and there aren't the issues of religious fanaticism surrounding its possession of the Heights.

Jordan also attacked Israel without provocation, but the West Bank was only a protectorate, and has never been annexed by Israel. The Palestinians were not citizens of an aggressor nation, and don't deserve to be displaced. Further, the logic of land-for-peace has been tragically sabotaged up by the religious right in Israel and settlement-building. The occupation of the West Bank has resulted in moral outrages too numerous to mention - which cannot be said of Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights. They're very, very different situations.
posted by Dasein at 6:44 PM on January 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


It sounds naive, but do people out there actually stop and think of each other as people - as brothers and sisters?

It isn't naive at all, and the Israelis and Iranians I know certainly do see it that way. You will find very few Israelis who are as chipper about the prospect of war with Iran as, say, al Fox News pundit. The Israelis, after all, are the ones who would have to fight in such a war; and every man, woman, and child in Israel is either a soldier or a close relative of a soldier.
posted by escabeche at 6:47 PM on January 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Israel had the right in international law to conquer that territory.
For another viewpoint, see Wikipedia: Right of conquest
posted by fredludd at 6:49 PM on January 25, 2012


We're all gonna die.

You forgot the Whoopee!
posted by jamjam at 6:55 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I do realize Hezbollah doesnt necessarily equal Lebanon, but Hezbollah does sometimes equal Lebanon.

When? Presumably whenever the Israeli government says it does, or maybe when it suits Hassan Nasrallah to trick them into saying it? The assertion that Hezbollah equalled Lebanon at that point is really not supportable. I'm not sure how much you know about Lebanese politics, but it is a complex and deeply fractured country, and the inclusion of two Hezbollah ministers in the government does not make every Lebanese personally responsible for what is done by an independent militia.

I've actually no idea what bringing up the war has to do with my points, but if you want a good example of the foolishness of Israeli fighting for peace, you could do worse than start there. Hezbollah won that war in every sense they could've hoped for, because Israel pursued a self-defeating policy of collective punishment.
posted by howfar at 6:56 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


and every man, woman, and child in Israel is either a soldier or a close relative of a soldier.

It's more immediate than that. Every person is Israel would either be fighting or sheltering in a bunker if Israel attacked Iran. I think that people in the West fail to understand the sheer physical vulnerability of Israelis as a consequence of their geography. Every Israeli is within missile range of his enemies. Israel at its narrowest point is as wide as the length of the Yonge subway line in Toronto. There's not a lot of room for error when it comes to security. I'm not saying that this justifies an attack on Iran - I think it would probably be a disaster for Israeli security - or that it justifies occupying the West Bank - which I think has been a strategic disaster for Israel, especially in recent years. But the combination of physical insecurity with the history of a people who have found that for two thousand years those who profess to believe that Jews should be killed mean exactly what they say means that I can understand where the Israeli unwillingness to put up with an Iranian bomb comes from, even if I think it's ultimately a misreading of the Iranian threat.
posted by Dasein at 6:58 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


sammyo writes "Like the rest of the Israel bashing, this tries to minimize the very real issue of national identity. That the area is not just an ancient homeland, but the last refuge where would several million, ahem, Jews, go if they were 'pushed into the sea'? "

I'm seeing your point but it's obvious that the US would set their printing presses on fire cranking out green cards for Israelis if Israel was ever over run.
posted by Mitheral at 7:07 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hezbollah equalled Lebanon at that point is really not supportable

Unless the Lebanese government gets Hezbollah to disarm, then yes, Hezbollah attacks on another country are part of Lebanese de-facto foreign policy.
posted by rosswald at 7:07 PM on January 25, 2012


Unless the Lebanese government gets Hezbollah to disarm, then yes, Hezbollah attacks on another country are part of Lebanese de-facto foreign policy.

You know when I said I didn't know how much you knew about Lebanese politics? You can scratch that. I now know exactly how much you know about it. Have fun blundering about in the dark.
posted by howfar at 7:10 PM on January 25, 2012


Until Israel is serious enough about peace to stop settlements...

I just wanted to see that again.




Okay, carry on.
posted by jeanmari at 7:13 PM on January 25, 2012


howfar: Well at least I am trying to argue my views in good faith. Be a jerk if you want, my point was that the confilcts in recent years have originated from the Lebanese side of the border.
posted by rosswald at 7:17 PM on January 25, 2012


my point was that the confilcts in recent years have originated from the Lebanese side of the border.

No it wasn't. It was that Hezbollah = Lebanon. When challenged, you offered me a justification that takes no account of Lebanese politics, sectarianism or recent history. It irks me when people give reductive and simplistic accounts of complex problems. The power structure of Lebanon can only be understood in terms of a process of negotiation between separate groups for coexistence in a shared space. This was, for better or worse, built into the constitution and, more importantly, is built into the makeup of the territory itself. Examples of what happens when this process goes wrong litter the last 40 years of Lebanese history.

You may have been arguing in good faith, but if you're going to make bland assertions about what "the Lebanese government" should do, in a way that suggests a very limited appreciation of how that entity is actually composed and functions, I'm not sure how surprised you can be when I respond dismissively. However, you are correct that it was bad form on my part to sink to sarcasm, and I apologise for that.
posted by howfar at 7:32 PM on January 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Until Israel is serious enough about peace to stop settlements, I don't see any reason to stick our own necks out for it.

The threat of war, the threat of attack, the threat of pre-emptive strike, etc... These are very, very useful tools for any number of regimes operating in the region, including the United States.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:37 PM on January 25, 2012


It would likely mean the total isolation of Iran and the transformation of Iran into a true, North Korea-style pariah state.

India didn't. Pakistan Didn't.

Yes, South Africa and North Korea were pariah states, but both were such *before* they developed nuclear weapons.

(Aside. As far as we can tell, South Africa is the only nation to have developed nuclear weapons that has completely renounced them and disarmed.)

At that point the US might even be justified in blockading the country.

Hmm. Putting down an explicit casus belli against a nuclear armed power. One that controls a significant fraction of the world's oil output. One that controls a significant fraction of China's oil imports.

Hmm. Good idea. Can you wait until I'm dead to try it?
posted by eriko at 7:41 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that people in the West fail to understand the sheer physical vulnerability of Israelis as a consequence of their geography.

I get it. What I don't get is why the Israeli government isn't even willing to halt new construction to enter into negotiations. If the answer is that nothing will change, what's their next proposal? Continuing to build new settlements that absolutely guarantee more violence is the strangest path to peace I can imagine.
posted by deanklear at 7:44 PM on January 25, 2012


howfar: "the inclusion of two Hezbollah ministers in the government does not make every Lebanese personally responsible for what is done by an independent militia."

There's a point after which an attack from a nation's territory is indistinguishable from an attack from that nation. Hezbollah and Lebanon crossed that point many times over.

Mitheral: "it's obvious that the US would set their printing presses on fire cranking out green cards for Israelis if Israel was ever over run."

It may be obvious today, but it wasn't obvious in 1938. Can you say it will still be obvious 10 years from now? 50? 100?
posted by falameufilho at 7:45 PM on January 25, 2012


Reread my post. I said sometimes Hezbollah equals Lebanon, with a link to a distinct incident in which Hezbollah started a war with Israel.

It irks me when people give reductive and simplistic accounts of complex problems.


Obviously, except you are deliberately taking the most uncharitable reading of what I said to lambast me for a view I don't hold. I know enough about Lebanon to know that its tragic history and deficiencies aren't a defense from having an unchecked militia on the border. Its a tragic situation, for both the Lebanese and Israelis.
posted by rosswald at 7:51 PM on January 25, 2012


The bigger question 50 years out is what happens when 50% of the population is Arab. How does Israel stop turning into Lebanon?
posted by humanfont at 7:53 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Like the rest of the Israel bashing, this tries to minimize the very real issue of national identity. That the area is not just an ancient homeland, but the last refuge where would several million, ahem, Jews, go if they were 'pushed into the sea'?

I don't think that has much to do with "national identity." The largest identity questions facing Israel don't regard several million Jewish-Israelis (and 1.5 million Arab-Israelis, while we're at it) "being pushed into the sea," which isn't about to happen. Israel has to reconcile its history as a 20th-century-style nation state, with its nature as a religious state, with its status as a democracy, with the demographics of a population that includes Sephardim, Arabs, Ethiopians, and other non-Ashkenazi Israelis, with its military (and militia) history.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:56 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why so many here are a-ok with MORE nuclear weaponry in the world. Focusing on the geopolitical consequences and the history of Middle East relations is nice and all but to me that's all mostly side commentary to the fact that yet another state has the capacity to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians with a single bomb.

More nuclear weaponry means a greater chance of one of them (or many of them) being used, correct? Is anything really worse than this? Shouldn't it be stopped? I am anti-war in pretty much every other circumstance but I'm being serious when I say that I DO NOT understand those who don't care about this.
posted by Defenestrator at 8:09 PM on January 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


"reminiscent of the worst sort of antisemitic propaganda"

Dear god, can we please agree that criticizing Israel does not make one an anti-semite? What a cowardly line of bullshit, and pretty much an admission that you got nuthin'.

If Israel doesn't want to be treated as a pariah state/rogue nation, it needs to stop acting like one. Simple as that.
posted by bardic at 8:13 PM on January 25, 2012 [12 favorites]


"I think that people in the West fail to understand the sheer physical vulnerability of Israelis as a consequence of their geography."

If only the world's remaining superpower shoveled shit-tons of cash and arms to poor little Israel every year, then they would be safe from those dirty mooselmen.
posted by bardic at 8:15 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


More nuclear weaponry means a greater chance of one of them (or many of them) being used, correct?

No, not correct. A state that can use nuclear weapons without fear of nuclear retaliation is more likely to do so.
posted by Dasein at 8:20 PM on January 25, 2012


I am ever so thankful that I do not feel an irrational emotional attachment to land or culture or religion. WTF, mass slaughter for that shit? Thanks, no.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:27 PM on January 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's a point after which an attack from a nation's territory is indistinguishable from an attack from that nation. Hezbollah and Lebanon crossed that point many times over.

So you assert. I notice you're not actually trying to justify that.

I know enough about Lebanon to know that its tragic history and deficiencies aren't a defense from having an unchecked militia on the border.

Nobody was offering a defence, the existence of Hezbollah is a reality, and it is not one that can be solved by waving a wand. Do you suggest the LAF mobilise against Hezbollah? Can you imagine anyone sane opening that particular doorway to Hell? Do you even think it would be in any way in Israel's interest if they did? More generally, do you think that the nuance and complexity that must be applied to understanding Israeli politics doesn't apply outside its borders? The point to my argument is that, if you're actually interested in a solution, you look at the problem and its causes, rather than trying to cast one party in the role of villain who needs to reform before progress can be made. The real tragedy of Israel and its neighbours, summed up in one sentence, is that everybody knows shared guilt to be a fact, and no-one can or will act upon it.

you are deliberately taking the most uncharitable reading of what I said to lambast me for a view I don't hold

You have, I believe, said very little and supported it rather meagrely. But us bickering about the assertion that Lebanon should do a vague something about Hezbollah is really a waste of both of our time. I'm not interest in blame shifting or occupying the nonexistent moral high ground, I'm interested in the politics and future of the region. When you point the 2006 war out to me, I see an example of what is going wrong between Israel and Lebanon, and I am concerned by the systemic and structural aspects of both countries that led to that war. I also see that, in allowing themselves to be lured into playing Hezbollah's game and attempting collective punishment, a weak and frightened Israeli leadership made a serious and significant tactical error from the point of view of their own regional interests.

What you presented it as, however, was as an example of "Lebanon as Hezbollah", the very trap the Israeli government themselves fell into. In doing so, I think you give me fairly strong justification for making a somewhat uncharitable assessment of the level of dialogue you were looking to engage in, and of the sophistication of your understanding of the particular issues you raised. I have no particular wish to fall out with you, however, and I'm sure that there are plenty of issues we could have an productive discussion about. The nature and history of Lebanese-Israeli relations is, I fear, not one of those issues.
posted by howfar at 8:29 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dasein, bardic: You're being a super depressing example of intractable negotiations. Not passing judgement to be mean, just making an observation.
posted by deanklear at 8:43 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Take a look at your promised land. Your deed is that gun in your hand. Mt. Zion's a minefield. The West Bank. The Gaza strip... Soon to be parking lots for American tourists and fascist cops. Fuck zionism. Fuck militarism. Fuck americanism. Fuck nationalism. Fuck religion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPpXY1aWKgI
posted by symbioid at 8:52 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


bardic: "Dear god, can we please agree that criticizing Israel does not make one an anti-semite?"

Nope, we can't. Not every criticism of Israel is antisemitism, but some are. As a general rule (there are many exceptions) criticism of the state's actions is OK. Criticism of the state's existence is not OK.
posted by falameufilho at 9:05 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Israel should not exist and neither should Sweden. Nations should not exist.

This message is brought to you by your local anti-semetic anti-nordic committee.
posted by Avenger at 9:47 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


[A couple of namecalling comments deleted; let's back off the personal attacks, please.]
posted by taz at 9:48 PM on January 25, 2012


More nuclear weaponry means a greater chance of one of them (or many of them) being used, correct?
------
No, not correct. A state that can use nuclear weapons without fear of nuclear retaliation is more likely to do so.



I agree, but is that general idea enough to argue that an Iran with nukes makes the chances of a nuke being used at some point somewhere by someone more unlikely (or of the same likelihood)? I can't imagine so.
posted by Defenestrator at 10:05 PM on January 25, 2012


So I am thinking early April, after the NE thaws, but perhaps May? People tend to be happier in May -- graduations, weddings, some early traveling, planning for the Summer. May seems promising.
posted by Shit Parade at 10:06 PM on January 25, 2012


One nuke in Tel Aviv. Retribution triggers attacks from Turkey and Egypt. It gets messy and some ex-USSR states move towards western Europe. China makes a threat to Russia which is responded and uses the excuse of a broken satellite to threaten Alaska. Full on III.

John Milius, is that you?
posted by Sandor Clegane at 11:09 PM on January 25, 2012


One nuke in Tel Aviv. Retribution triggers attacks from Turkey and Egypt. It gets messy and some ex-USSR states move towards western Europe. China makes a threat to Russia which is responded and uses the excuse of a broken satellite to threaten Alaska. Full on III.

John Milius, is that you?


I immediately thought Matthew Broderick.

I met an Iranian kid in my grad program, we had the same advisor and became good friends. He's one of the sweetest people I know, kindest to the utmost degree. I think he's heading home after school, even though he could probably have any tech job he wants here. He has family and friends back home and misses them.

I've also made wonderful friends out here in Seattle with several Jewish friends. We have an ongoing weekly social commitment, a kind of "30s support group" where we get together and share our week, talk and in general just let out steam. It's informally held together by a Jewish social worker who is also one of the sweetest people I know.

One thing I want in life is to make friends with more wonderful people like them. And go to more dinners together, to share drink and food and laughs and stories.

What I'm trying to say is, if Israel or Iran fuck up my dinner plans, I will be very pissed. And sad.
posted by formless at 11:31 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]



I agree, but is that general idea enough to argue that an Iran with nukes makes the chances of a nuke being used at some point somewhere by someone more unlikely (or of the same likelihood)? I can't imagine so.


The only time a nuclear weapon has ever been used in war was when only one country on earth had them.
posted by empath at 11:32 PM on January 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Nope, we can't. Not every criticism of Israel is antisemitism, but some are. As a general rule (there are many exceptions) criticism of the state's actions is OK. Criticism of the state's existence is not OK.

Well, if you scroll up, you'll notice that what was being called "reminiscent of the worst sort of anti-semitism" was solely the very idea that Israel was the focus of the discussion. In a thread about the possibility of Israel attacking Iran. And believe me, this isn't the first time this particular charge gets bandied about in threads about Israel, where granted, tempers can and do run high. In this case, though, it wasn't even about criticism, but merely mentioning the country in the discussion. Which does make the anti-Semitism charge strange, wildly inaccurate, and serving no other purpose than to get people on the defensive.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:39 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Marisa - I didn't check the specific case being discussed, I was only responding to the comment above making a broad statement that criticizing Israel is not antisemitism. There are cases where it is and it's an important distinction.
posted by falameufilho at 11:46 PM on January 25, 2012


Really? I thought when people referred to "Israel" they were talking about a nation; not a race or religion, and so criticism of that nation's foreign or domestic policies was not in itself anti-Semitic. It's when people decide to bring their own opinions about the Jewish people into the discussion that things can get anti-Semitic. That's the important distinction - criticizing a nation's policies is not necessarily indicative of bigotry towards the people living there, but expressing bigotry towards the people living there is, well, bigotry.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:54 PM on January 25, 2012


Marisa - you're repeating what I said, basically. Of course, the devil is in the details.

I'll repeat my rules of thumb from above, bulleted for clarity:

- A criticism of the actions of the state of Israel generally does not constitute antisemitism
- A criticism of Israel's right to exist pretty much constitutes antisemitism.

There are exceptions to these rules, though. But they basically cover most of the I/P discussions that take place in good faith.
posted by falameufilho at 12:20 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only time a nuclear weapon has ever been used in war was when only one country on earth had them.

True, but I don't think that therefore means that "the more countries that have nukes the better." I understand mutual assured destruction but I'm not entirely comfortable living in a world with more nukes that are there to make sure we don't nuke each other. Accidents happen. Non-nationalist terrorists could happen. Crazies could happen.
posted by Defenestrator at 12:32 AM on January 26, 2012


- A criticism of Israel's right to exist pretty much constitutes antisemitism.

Let me complicate that for you: "A criticism of policies the state of Israel devises that are deemed by it to be necessary to ensure its continued existence." Anti-semitism (Yes / No)?
posted by mek at 12:52 AM on January 26, 2012


Is it impossible to have reasonable discussion on this issue?

Sure seems that way.

I don't understand why so many here are a-ok with MORE nuclear weaponry in the world.

Does America have laws on its books with a goal of stopping "more nuclear weapons"? If so, are these laws being followed?
posted by rough ashlar at 1:02 AM on January 26, 2012


"A criticism of policies the state of Israel devises that are deemed by it to be necessary to ensure its continued existence." Anti-semitism (Yes / No)?

Define Semite:

Definition of SEMITE
1
a : a member of any of a number of peoples of ancient southwestern Asia including the Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs b : a descendant of these peoples
2
: a member of a modern people speaking a Semitic language

So anti-semite would include Arabs, Akkadians, Phoenicians and Hebrews. Yet, who thinks of the Akkadians and Phoenicians?
posted by rough ashlar at 1:10 AM on January 26, 2012


Rough Ashlar: The term "antisemitism" really does mean "hatred of Jews". It was popularised someone who hated Jews and used "semitism" to describe Jewish characteristics. There is no word which means "a hatred of Arabs, Jews, Phoenicians and so forth."
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:53 AM on January 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Does America have laws on its books with a goal of stopping "more nuclear weapons"? If so, are these laws being followed?

Yes, we do, as a signatory party to the NPT. But most nuclear weapon components have other uses, which is why inspections are so important.

The one thing that we really do are damnedest to keep control of is weapons grade uranium and plutonium - which is why nascent nuclear states generally have to make it themselves. Primarily the NPT controls are making sure that you don't develop caltons or gas centrifuges for uranium purification, and long in-reactor time for nuclear fuel, which creates too much Pu239 in the plutonium to be useful for weapons.

Of course, nascent nuclear states are going to, well, let's just say be flexible when it comes to getting machinery and materials.
posted by eriko at 2:50 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why do we never learn? It's never a good idea to start a war. We need to sever ties with Israel if they're threatening to start World War III.
posted by candasartan at 5:54 AM on January 26, 2012


- A criticism of Israel's right to exist pretty much constitutes antisemitism.

That's not because it happens to have an ethnically Jewish citizenship. It's because Israel is the only state in the world whose purpose is to maintain an ethnic majority of one ethnicity.

Let's say a racial civil war started in South Africa, and after the white minority suffered massive casualties, they managed to reconquer one half of the country. After they chased out most of the non-whites, they made it illegal for them to return, seizing their land without compensating anyone. Then the now white majority passed laws saying that only whites could own land by a certain percentage, keeping a small population of non-whites (with limited rights). Then the white majority started a massive immigration campaign, paying whites to move there and settle in disputed territories, periodically responding to predicted border violence with helicopter gunship airstrikes, special forces, tanks, mass arrests, and bulldozing the homes of blacks without any legal recourse for the people losing their home. Is that a state you would support?

The question is, should we support states that exist to maintain one ethnicity? As a general rule, I say no, but I still believe we should make an exception for Israel, if they are willing to stop the madness of starting new settlements. If someone doesn't support that exception for Israel, they aren't anti-Semitic, and you should stop saying that they are.
posted by deanklear at 6:27 AM on January 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


"I think that people in the West fail to understand the sheer physical vulnerability of Israelis as a consequence of their geography."

If only the world's remaining superpower shoveled shit-tons of cash and arms to poor little Israel every year, then they would be safe from those dirty mooselmen.

What a thoughtful response, bardic.

Dasein, bardic: You're being a super depressing example of intractable negotiations. Not passing judgement to be mean, just making an observation.

Seriously false equivalence.
posted by Dasein at 6:36 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, we do, as a signatory party to the NPT.

And are these laws being followed? Are there Nation-States which are not declared nuclear powers and yet get foreign aid?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:58 AM on January 26, 2012


A criticism of Israel's right to exist pretty much constitutes antisemitism.

Regarding Israel's "right to exist" as a standard for anti-semitism, I'm going to say that's not a great definition. First off, "right to exist" can be interpreted in a number of ways. Does support for the contemporary existence Israel, but criticism of its founding as a colonial enterprise, based on antiquated ideas about nation-statehood, constitute anti-semitism? As mentioned above, if the Israeli government insists that it is taking actions necessary to defend its "right to exist," is any criticism of those policies anti-semitism? Is it the "right to exist" whatsoever, or as is, settlements and all?

Second, Israel is not the same thing as the Jewish people—and while we're at it, "the Jewish people" isn't a monolith. There are more Jews in the diaspora, or in just the US, than in Israel. And not every Jewish person sees the state of Israel as representative of themselves culturally or politically, in any way, shape, or form.

It's because Israel is the only state in the world whose purpose is to maintain an ethnic majority of one ethnicity.

A lot of states struggle with tensions created because their national identity was traditionally defined by one ethnicity, and have governing groups whose stated or implicit policy is to maintain a traditional ethnic majority: aside from the awful-civil-war type places, France, China, and the United States come to mind.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:21 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ahmadinejad Says Iran Is Ready for Nuclear Talks

Mr. Ahmadinejad told students in the southern city of Kerman that he is ready for new talks, The Associated Press reported. But he added that the new sanctions, which target its oil industry, would not force Iran to give in to demands by the Western powers to end its nuclear enrichment program, The A.P. said...

While Thursday’s comments on negotiations were the first by the Iranian president, they did not appear to bring Iran closer to resuming negotiations with Europe and the United States. The previous round of negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program broke down over a year ago after Iran presented conditions considered unacceptable to the West.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:53 AM on January 26, 2012


The US and France don't care what ethnicity you are, they want to maintain their culture. (Maybe you're right about China, but you'd have to provide some reference.) I'm unaware of any limitations that currently limit any ethnicity specifically from owning land or property.

Israel, by law, does not allow Palestinians to buy land while the same land is offered to all ethnically Jewish people. If you know of similar laws in the US and France, please provide some citation.
posted by deanklear at 7:53 AM on January 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


That's not because it happens to have an ethnically Jewish citizenship. It's because Israel is the only state in the world whose purpose is to maintain an ethnic majority of one ethnicity.

It's not even about ethnicity. It's about religion. And its a project that's probably doomed to failure. Israel is eventually going to have to engage in ethnic cleansing or become (more of) an apartheid state, or both, to remain an explicitly Jewish state in the face of the current demographic trends.
posted by empath at 8:04 AM on January 26, 2012


evidenceofabsence: "Does support for the contemporary existence Israel, but criticism of its founding as a colonial enterprise, based on antiquated ideas about nation-statehood, constitute anti-semitism?"

Yes.

"As mentioned above, if the Israeli government insists that it is taking actions necessary to defend its "right to exist," is any criticism of those policies anti-semitism? "

It depends. What's the specific action, or the specific threat it is responding to? Is the criticism devoid of a double standard in which other nations would be perfectly excused to take such actions while Israel is condemned for doing so?

"Is it the "right to exist" whatsoever, or as is, settlements and all?"

It depends. I am personally very against the additional building of settlements in the West Bank so make of that what you will.
posted by falameufilho at 8:45 AM on January 26, 2012


Oops - Is the criticism devoid of laden with a double standard in which other nations would be perfectly excused to take such actions while Israel is condemned for doing so?
posted by falameufilho at 8:47 AM on January 26, 2012


Falameufilho, in my experience people who criticise a state's "founding as a colonial enterprise, based on antiquated ideas about nation-statehood" will typically not hold double standards about the founding of Canada, the USA, India, Israel and any number of other former colonial states. At least in terms of how a nation-state treats people that inhabited those lands prior to "colonial enterprise". It doesn't seem exclusive to Israel, although Israel, as a much more fresh endeavour, has gone through the process in times when international norms like the self-determination of peoples as well as a general aversion to colonialism is more commonplace and widespread. I think it's a bit simplistic to chalk up any such criticism as rooted in a hatred of Jewish people.
posted by Hoopo at 9:16 AM on January 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Out of the points I discussed above, the first one has nothing to do with double standards. Looking at the last, say, 1000 years of history of the Jewish people and then referring to Israel as a "colonial enterprise" is antisemitism, regardless of what is your opinion of other actual "colonial enterprises".
posted by falameufilho at 9:37 AM on January 26, 2012


Looking at the last, say, 1000 years of history of the Jewish people and then referring to Israel as a "colonial enterprise" is antisemitism, regardless of what is your opinion of other actual "colonial enterprises".

There is no double standard. America was a colonial enterprise when it started colonizing what we now call America. The modern state of Israel became a colonial enterprise when it started colonizing — yes, immigrating and taking over land that was in the possession of other people — what we now call Israel. It's a colonial enterprise that I happen to mostly support, but that doesn't mean that people who disagree with me are anti-Semitic.

Your argument literally makes no sense. Here's a similar argument: 'Looking at the last, say, 1000 years of the history of Anglo Saxons and then referring to America as a "colonial enterprise" is racism, regardless of what your opinion is of other actual "colonial enterprises."' If you are making an exception for Jewish people, you are the one applying different standards to different ethnicities.

Jews and Israelis are not the same thing, and if you claim that they are, you're conceding the entire argument.
posted by deanklear at 10:15 AM on January 26, 2012


I'm not sure how an organized effort to have people settle in a foreign land doesn't constitute a form of colonialism (Israel in particular is often referred to as an example of "settler colonialism"), and I think it's possible you are the one maintaining double standards here. But I suppose I'd better defer to your authority because you seem to have figured out scientifically a way to conclusively determine who hates Jewish people.
posted by Hoopo at 10:24 AM on January 26, 2012


We're going to have to agree to disagree, falameufilho. I'm sorry, but for me, there's a huge difference between ethnic hatred of Jews, and having issues with the way Zionism unfolded over the last, say, 100 years. It probably doesn't make a difference, but yeah, like Hoopo said, I also think it's fair to criticize the colonial nature and history of other states, including the United States. I don't think that means I hate Americans.

The US and France don't care what ethnicity you are, they want to maintain their culture.

When "maintaining your culture" takes the form of apoplexy over immigration, the line between "maintaining a culture" and "maintaining a traditional majority" gets pretty blurry. As goes China, I was thinking mostly of the incentivization of Han migration into the west.

Israel, by law, does not allow Palestinians to buy land while the same land is offered to all ethnically Jewish people. If you know of similar laws in the US and France, please provide some citation.

I didn't mean to say that the situation in Israel is identical to that in the US, France, or China. I just wanted to point out that a lot of countries (including western democracies) are having to question what it means to be a nation-state, as the power of their traditional nationality is challenged either centrally or regionally.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:26 AM on January 26, 2012


having issues with the way Zionism unfolded over the last, say, 100 years

There was more room for criticism in this regard among those that first conceived of a State of Israel than there apparently is today.
posted by Hoopo at 10:52 AM on January 26, 2012


I just wanted to point out that a lot of countries (including western democracies) are having to question what it means to be a nation-state

You know I was about to disagree with you, but when you consider the laws on the book for our own native cultures, there are laws preventing land purchases in some cases based on ethnicity. Different situation, but you're right, we've got our own problems.

It doesn't change my unwavering support for the rights of native cultures and people, but it's a good point nonetheless.
posted by deanklear at 11:28 AM on January 26, 2012


evidenceofabsence: "I also think it's fair to criticize the colonial nature and history of other states, including the United States. I don't think that means I hate Americans."

Sure it is fair. However you're ignoring a fundamental difference when these terms are used in respect to Israel.

When people discuss the colonial history of the United States, that discussion never leads to requests for dismantling the Union and replacing it with something else. The fact that the United States is here to stay is a given, nobody in their right mind is calling for the extinction of the US.

On the other hand, when people refer to Israel as a "colonial enterprise", it is to denounce its supposedly foreign, parasitic and more importantly, transient nature. Not a Jewish state but an occupying "zionist entity", something that should, you know, "vanish from the pages of time".
posted by falameufilho at 11:37 AM on January 26, 2012


Hoopo: "But I suppose I'd better defer to your authority because you seem to have figured out scientifically a way to conclusively determine who hates Jewish people."

I apologize if I accused anyone of being antisemitic. I probably expressed myself poorly. This is one of those "what someone did/said" versus "what someone is" situations.

Certain things said about Israel are antisemitic even if the people saying and doing those things do not hold a deep hatred of Jews in their hearts.
posted by falameufilho at 11:48 AM on January 26, 2012


more importantly, transient nature

Not necessarily, "settler colonialism" generally refers to permanent settlements rather than transient ones. I can agree that the term "colonialism" has a lot of baggage to it, but the criticism of Israel I've encountered that uses this language generally does not require any kind of transient nature to its statehood or a "parasitic" nature of the State of Israel. The criticism is more typically levelled at the idea that like other colonies, the foundation of the State of Israel involved granting rights to a foreign population at the expense certain native populations. It is not helpful or accurate to assume anyone using this language is hoping Israel would "vanish".
posted by Hoopo at 11:50 AM on January 26, 2012


On the other hand, when people refer to Israel as a "colonial enterprise", it is to denounce its supposedly foreign, parasitic and more importantly, transient nature. Not a Jewish state but an occupying "zionist entity", something that should, you know, "vanish from the pages of time".

So where does that leave someone like deanklear who says "It's a colonial enterprise that I happen to mostly support"? He is not referring to Israel in that way for the reasons you give, but because it is what he believes? Is he lying? Deluded? Or is your account flawed somehow?
posted by howfar at 11:52 AM on January 26, 2012


too many questions!
posted by howfar at 11:53 AM on January 26, 2012


Deanklear, the article you link to is tendentious and full of lies. For instance, it asserts that "Jewish people from any part of the world can be housed anywhere they choose within Israel and West Bank". How could that possibly be true when 41% of the West Bank is governed by the Palestinians?

As for your belief that "Israel, by law, does not allow Palestinians to buy land" in fact it's the other way around. Both Jews and Arabs can and do buy land within Israel, but Arabs (even Israeli Arabs) who sell land to Jews face the death penalty under Palestinian law. This law isn't unique to the Palestinian Authority; it was based on a Jordanian law which I understand is still in place. I don't know whether Jews can buy land in other Arab countries but it's a moot point in most of them: no Jews are allowed to live there.

Your article also identified East Jerusalem and Gush Etzion as "illegally-occupied ... settlements". Gush Etzion was a Jewish village until it was ethnically-cleansed by Jordan in 1947; much of East Jerusalem had a Jewish majority, but the same thing happened to its residents. I have no hesitation in saying that Jordan's actions were illegal under international law; can you do the same? Or do Jews not have human rights?
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:09 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


When people discuss the colonial history of the United States, that discussion never leads to requests for dismantling the Union and replacing it with something else. The fact that the United States is here to stay is a given, nobody in their right mind is calling for the extinction of the US.

The question was rather decided when Americans massacred the Native Americans, destroyed their nations, and stole all their land.

The Israelis can probably decide the Palestinian problem the same way, but they shouldn't feel good about it if they do.
posted by empath at 12:15 PM on January 26, 2012


the foundation of the State of Israel involved granting rights to a foreign population at the expense certain native populations

Arab Rejection of ’47 Partition Plan Was Error, Palestinian Leader Says


Or do Jews not have human rights?

Let's tone this down a little please.
posted by rosswald at 12:15 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The fact that the United States is here to stay is a given,

Is it? Some of the land as it now exists used to exist under a different set of rules and there was an attempt to have a break-away at one point.

Given enough time, all nation-states have 'failed' - why is the US of A gonna beat the track record?
(and, if there is a constitutional amendment - does that mean the old US of A stops existing and there now a new one under new rules?)

nobody in their right mind is calling for the extinction of the US.

"We will bury you" - not quite "extinction" but a desire to see an end sure seems to be there. The ricin plotters mentioned this month on the Blue are charged with wanting to see an end to the US of A government as presently implemented - so is that an 'extinction'? What if you want to drown the government in a bathtub?
posted by rough ashlar at 12:32 PM on January 26, 2012


Ashlar, please don't selectively quote me and argue against things I didn't say.

howfar: "So where does that leave someone like deanklear who says "It's a colonial enterprise that I happen to mostly support"?"

How am I supposed to know? From my point of view it's just a misguided statement.

Hoopo: "Not necessarily, "settler colonialism" generally refers to permanent settlements rather than transient ones."

I haven't seen anyone that calls Israel a "settler colonial" state that is also a supporter of a two-state solution. Everybody (academics, politicians) who I have seen referring to Israel as a colonial state users the term "colonial" to signify foreign and transient. Please correct me if I am wrong.

And I haven't even touched on the crux of the colonial claim, which is the denial of the biblical and historical connection of Jews with the land of Israel, as if Jews have no business being there.
posted by falameufilho at 12:52 PM on January 26, 2012


And I haven't even touched on the crux of the colonial claim, which is the denial of the biblical and historical connection of Jews with the land of Israel, as if Jews have no business being there.

That's an uncharitable inference. How about the notion that no one religion should have legally decreed privileges over a nation?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:59 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


biblical AND historical
posted by falameufilho at 1:07 PM on January 26, 2012


On the other hand, when people refer to Israel as a "colonial enterprise", it is to denounce its supposedly foreign, parasitic and more importantly, transient nature. Not a Jewish state but an occupying "zionist entity", something that should, you know, "vanish from the pages of time".

Actually, when I said "colonial enterprise" ("Does support for the contemporary existence of Israel, but criticism of its founding as a colonial enterprise, based on antiquated ideas about nation-statehood, constitute anti-semitism?") I did not do so to denounce Israel as foreign or transient, or suggest that it should vanish from the pages of time. Hence the "support for the contemporary existence of Israel" part.

I was specifically referring to the fact that the establishment of Israel took place in the historic context of colonialism (in this case, Europeans obtaining and settling into a chunk of British mandate), and rested heavily on then-prevalent idea that states should represent a single national (i.e., ethnic) group. I think the particular way Zionism played out set the state of Israel up for future strife, and resulted in some open questions about identity that are still being answered. That doesn't mean that I think Israel should "vanish from the pages of time."

What if you want to drown the government in a bathtub

On reading that, I pictured the entirety of Congress bathing together in the National Mall's reflecting pool. I don't want to drown anyone, I just want to burn that image out of my memory.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:07 PM on January 26, 2012


biblical AND historical

Yeah and? The point still stands. A person can take the position that it doesn't matter what it says in the Bible OR what happened in history - that no country calling itself a democracy should afford legal privileges to people based on religion.

In fact, it seems that the entire basis for your anti-Semitism charges is based on guesswork of motivations. Like this for example:

On the other hand, when people refer to Israel as a "colonial enterprise", it is to denounce its supposedly foreign, parasitic and more importantly, transient nature. Not a Jewish state but an occupying "zionist entity", something that should, you know, "vanish from the pages of time".

I mean really? That's the only option? I don't doubt that there are people that think this way, but it is certainly not the only stance to take if you think the state of Israel, in its present form, needs to become something else entirely.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:10 PM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


And I haven't even touched on the crux of the colonial claim, which is the denial of the biblical and historical connection of Jews with the land of Israel, as if Jews have no business being there.

The biblical claims are trash (and in any case, the biblical Israelites were genocidal rampagers).

Historically, the Palestinians have just as much right to be there.

I'm not particularly sympathetic to historical claims either. You have to look at who is there today, right now, and how they live, and how they are treated. And Gaza is a living nightmare.
posted by empath at 1:13 PM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


the denial of the biblical and historical connection of Jews with the land of Israel

I think the idea of laying an ancestral claim to land only makes for problems—besides which, there are multiple biblical and historical claims to that land. Any solution needs to deal with the current situation, not with thousand-year-old claims.

And for what it's worth, I support a two-state solution.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:16 PM on January 26, 2012


evidenceofabsence: "I was specifically referring to the fact that the establishment of Israel took place in the historic context of colonialism (in this case, Europeans obtaining and settling into a chunk of British mandate)"

You can also argue that the Jewish nation was established in a context of de-colonization, with the British on the way out and other Arab states having been recently established after the fall of the Ottoman empire and the exit from western colonial powers - but within borders basically defined by those external forces. The Jewish nationhood claim only made sense once colonialism went out the window.

Any solution needs to deal with the current situation, not with thousand-year-old claims.

I agree the current situation is what matters, but the historical Jewish ties to the land need to be kept into perspective. Palestinian and Arab figures go out of their way to claim Jewish historical presence in Palestine is a myth. There's a reason for that.
posted by falameufilho at 1:25 PM on January 26, 2012


biblical AND historical

Historical records can be introduced in court because many are contemporaneous and by 1st hand observers.

Do name the biblical references which would not be bounced in a court of law.

Ashlar, please don't selectively quote me and argue against things I didn't say.

I either quoted what you said or I did not. Either way, I believe that is what metatalk is for. Feel free to take the complaint there.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:37 PM on January 26, 2012


The Jewish nationhood claim only made sense once colonialism went out the window.

As did Palestinian nationhood, but for some reason only the Palestinians are claimed to be an 'invented people'.
posted by empath at 1:38 PM on January 26, 2012


Jewish historical presence in Palestine is a myth. There's a reason for that.

Because it is?

But hey - do show how the claims would stand up to modern court testimonial standards.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:39 PM on January 26, 2012


Palestinian and Arab figures go out of their way to claim Jewish historical presence in Palestine is a myth.

That's exactly why I don't think ancient claims should be taken into consideration, whatsoever. It's a rabbit hole that distracts from the issues at hand.

Anyhow, my original point was that I don't particularly like "criticism of Israel's right to exist" as a standard for anti-semitism, because it is a slippery definition (there are plenty of people for whom criticism of Israeli foreign policy is tantamount to questioning Israel's right to exist), and because I really don't like it when people conflate Zionism and Judaism.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:41 PM on January 26, 2012


The sooner everyone recognises that the Canaanites were there first, the better.
posted by Wataki at 1:43 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


How could that possibly be true when 41% of the West Bank is governed by the Palestinians?

If you have to be told that, this whole topic is a bit over your head.

As for your belief that "Israel, by law, does not allow Palestinians to buy land" in fact it's the other way around. Both Jews and Arabs can and do buy land within Israel

You're lying by purposefully omitting a lot of criteria. Only 6% of land in Israel is private, and only half of that is owned by Arabs.
The Israel Land Administration, which administers 93% of the land in Israel (including the land owned by the Jewish National Fund), refuses to lease land to non-Jewish foreign nationals, which includes Palestinian residents of Jerusalem who have identity cards but are not citizens of Israel.
I have no hesitation in saying that Jordan's actions were illegal under international law; can you do the same? Or do Jews not have human rights?

We're discussing the legality of Israel's settlements in occupied Palestine. If you want to have a separate discussion about why Israel is allowed to ignore international law, that's fine, but don't conflate the two issues.
posted by deanklear at 1:44 PM on January 26, 2012


As did Palestinian nationhood, but for some reason only the Palestinians are claimed to be an 'invented people'.

Not sure why you are bringing this straw-man argument into it. There are equally offensive remarks on both side. So what? Plus, all of the proposals I have seen from 1947 to 2012 involve a Palestinian state, so your claim isn't even factual.
posted by rosswald at 1:45 PM on January 26, 2012


If you have to be told that, this whole topic is a bit over your head.

Sorry, that sounds accusatory. I mean to say, any educated reader knows that implicitly. There's no use in inventing red herrings.
posted by deanklear at 1:46 PM on January 26, 2012


empath: "As did Palestinian nationhood, but for some reason only the Palestinians are claimed to be an 'invented people'."

What are you talking about? The 1947 UN partition plan included a Jewish and a Arab (i.e. Palestinian) state, side by side.
posted by falameufilho at 1:49 PM on January 26, 2012


Gingrich.
posted by empath at 1:50 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Appropriate I guess, since he does look like an overstuffed straw man.
posted by rosswald at 2:05 PM on January 26, 2012


Deanklear, the article you cited says "Jewish people from any part of the world can be housed anywhere they choose within Israel and West Bank". But they obviously cannot be housed within the Palestinian Authority, right? So this fundamental claim is false. And you don't do yourself a lot of favors by conceding that the minority population of Israeli Arabs own half the privately-held land.

You refer me to a Wikipedia link that says the Israeli Land Administration "refuses to lease land to non-Jewish foreign nationals". So in fact Arab citizens of Israel can and do lease ILA land. In fact it leases land to citizens as well as anyone eligible to immigrate under the Law of Return, Jewish or not. I'm not sure what part of this you have a problem with - the fact that foreigners aren't allowed to lease state land? Or the fact that some foreigners are privileged? Because this sort of thing is extremely common: due to my ancestry and family connections I have legal rights in four or five countries besides Australia, rights that most foreigners don't have.

We're discussing the legality of Israel's settlements in occupied Palestine. If you want to have a separate discussion about why Israel is allowed to ignore international law, that's fine, but don't conflate the two issues.

Gush Etzion. In the article you cited. A village built by Jews in the 1920s on land they purchased themselves. The article calls it a "settlement" and that it is "illegally occupied", presumably because Jordanian forces expelled or massacred its inhabitants in 1947. Do you stand by the article you cited?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:17 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Americans are an invented people with no historical claim to their land.
posted by humanfont at 3:38 PM on January 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


A village built by Jews in the 1920s on land they purchased themselves.

Keep in mind that due to the legal structure of the Ottoman empire, the people who actually lived on the land and had lived there for centuries as tenant farmers couldn't afford to buy it from the landowners who often lived in Turkey or elsewhere.

It's not like they wrote a check to the guy who was living on the farm. They bought the land, then evicted the tenants.
posted by empath at 3:39 PM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Empath wrote: It's not like they wrote a check to the guy who was living on the farm. They bought the land, then evicted the tenants.

Really? From whom did they buy it? Whom did they allegedly evict, and under what terms? And if that is what happened, so what? Why was it wrong for Jews to buy land? Would it have been wrong for Arabs to buy land too? And finally, I am astonished that anyone would respond to the ethnic cleansing of an area and massacre of its inhabitants with the observation that the owners had evicted the tenants. It's morally vacuous.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:22 PM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


He never said it's wrong for Jews to buy land and I think you ought to dial back the shrill a bit.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:28 PM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, when people refer to Israel as a "colonial enterprise", it is to denounce its supposedly foreign, parasitic and more importantly, transient nature. Not a Jewish state but an occupying "zionist entity", something that should, you know, "vanish from the pages of time".

You're just flat out wrong. I think it would have been better not to create Israel in 1947. I also think Israel is here now, and they have a right to defend themselves.

I just wish Israel would defend itself in a way that contributed to its longevity, rather than its own undoing.
posted by spaltavian at 4:30 PM on January 26, 2012


But they obviously cannot be housed within the Palestinian Authority, right?

It's pretty obvious to everyone else that when we talk about occupied Palestine, we're not talking about unoccupied Palestine.

Because this sort of thing is extremely common: due to my ancestry and family connections I have legal rights in four or five countries besides Australia, rights that most foreigners don't have.

If there's any other democracy in the world where 93% of the land is available to people only of one ethnicity, I'll buy a hat and eat it.

Gush Etzion. In the article you cited. A village built by Jews in the 1920s on land they purchased themselves. The article calls it a "settlement" and that it is "illegally occupied", presumably because Jordanian forces expelled or massacred its inhabitants in 1947. Do you stand by the article you cited?

When I cite something, that opens up the discussion to whatever is in the article instead of the issue at hand for what reason? We're talking about whether Israel being a threat to their own peace because they refuse to cease construction of settlements, and how that relates to the wider tension in the middle east. If you want to have a discussion about why you think Israel is immune from international law — which would only make sense if they're guilty of breaking it — then state your case.
posted by deanklear at 5:02 PM on January 26, 2012


When I cite something, that opens up the discussion to whatever is in the article instead of the issue at hand for what reason?

Um, yes? I mean, not "instead" of, but there would be no point of citing something if we couldn't then analyze the source and the veracity of the argument it makes.
posted by rosswald at 5:11 PM on January 26, 2012


The 1947 massacre was carried out by the Arab legion and Jorian army; not some upwelling of recently evicted peasants. The settlement in question was 25+ old at the time.

Ottoman land ownership rules and tenant farmer evictions played a role in earlier riots and killings. It is important to remember from the 1880s until 1947 was a very long time. Lots of shit happened.
posted by humanfont at 5:26 PM on January 26, 2012


Look, guys, I need to sleep at some point, so when you've settled this important and totally relevant game of "no THEY started it", can you send the email to the various leaderships yourselves, so that they can abide by your decision and resolve their differences? I'm sure that there being a baddie and a goody is the problem, and if you just point that out, everything will be fine.
posted by howfar at 5:57 PM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Deanklear wrote: It's pretty obvious to everyone else that when we talk about occupied Palestine, we're not talking about unoccupied Palestine.

You cited an article that says "Jewish people from any part of the world can be housed anywhere they choose within Israel and West Bank". Surely nobody is meant to read this as "anywhere they choose except the places they are not allowed to choose".

If there's any other democracy in the world where 93% of the land is available to people only of one ethnicity, I'll buy a hat and eat it.

I suggest you go out and buy a hat because 100% of the land in both Jordan and the Palestinian authority is reserved for non-Jews. In Israel, on the other hand, the article that you yourself linked to says
79.5% [of land in Israel] is owned by the government (this land is leased on a non-discriminatory basis), and the rest, around 6.5%, is evenly divided between private Arab and Jewish owners.
In other words, your very own source says that 86% of land in Israel is available to people of any ethnicity. The remaining 13% (rounded down) belongs to the JNF and was purchased by private donations specifically for the purpose of encouraging Jewish migration to Israel.

I prefer primary sources, so here's a link to the US government's 2005 Report on International Religious Freedom, which says:
In 2000, the High Court ruled that the State may not allocate land to its citizens on the basis of religion or nationality .... In January 2005, the Attorney General ruled that the Government cannot discriminate against Israeli Arabs in the marketing and allocation of lands it manages ...
And back to Gush Etzion, which you keep avoiding. Is "Israel being a threat to their own peace" by building houses there? Surely any "peace" is a nonsense if it means that Jews must be ethnically cleansed from land purchased nearly a century ago.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:27 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Surely any "peace" is a nonsense if it means that Jews must be ethnically cleansed from land purchased nearly a century ago.

Any peace that involves giving up Gush Etzion is a nonsense? Goodness me, you just don't care about people at all. As long as you're safe and sound on the other side of the world eh? Enjoy your peace mate.
posted by howfar at 6:51 PM on January 26, 2012


empath writes "The only time a nuclear weapon has ever been used in war was when only one country on earth had them."

The data set is way to sparse to be extrapolating like that.

falameufilho writes "And I haven't even touched on the crux of the colonial claim, which is the denial of the biblical and historical connection of Jews with the land of Israel, as if Jews have no business being there."

This is of course one of the problems with the region: many of the various inhabitants are using their contradictory magic books as justification of their position. It's loony. Biblically speaking if any of the assorted gods cared one way or the other surely they would have intervened by this point.
posted by Mitheral at 6:52 PM on January 26, 2012


Last month Israel demolished several Arab homes in East Jerusalem. A number of arab families were displaced. How many Palestinians born in what is today the state of Israel have been allowed to return to their homes? How many are still alive in refugee camps? How many Arab villagers were massacred by the Irgun?

If it is a moral right for the Jews to reclaim a scrap of farmland near Bethlehem that was the sight of some 75 year old war crime, then will you grant the same right to Arabs near Tel Aviv?
posted by humanfont at 7:04 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


You cited an article that says "Jewish people from any part of the world can be housed anywhere they choose within Israel and West Bank". Surely nobody is meant to read this as "anywhere they choose except the places they are not allowed to choose".

The article began with:
The yearly drive to encourage British Jews to emigrate to Israel culminated last weekend in the Israel Property Exhibition in a north London synagogue. "Make your dream come true with your own home or investment in Israel," it urged. Although most of the property for sale is in Israel itself, some is in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Stop trolling.
posted by deanklear at 7:05 PM on January 26, 2012


Humanfont: I think refugees have a right to their former property or compensation. I think running away from a war front is very sensible thing to do, and if I were an Arab I would definitely have gone towards the Arab-held territory.

This doesn't mean that refugees should have an automatic right to repossess the land they owned if other people have acquired rights over that land in the meantime. This doesn't just happen in wartime: people build houses on the wrong lots, or allow their neighbours to enclose part of the wrong property, or discover that a deed is faulty. Courts have to try to do what is just; and this may mean a change of ownership, or compensation, or recognising the status quo. It was inevitable that many injustices would occur during the special circumstances of Partition, but there is no excuse for ignoring them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:37 PM on January 26, 2012


you know, this crap makes for great stock trading - buy the bakken, long $KOG, long some uranium while you're at it - but stuff a sock in it, it's just drama.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 8:42 PM on January 26, 2012


Free Syrian Army shows video of alleged Iranian fighters abducted in Homs

posted by rosswald at 5:14 AM on January 27, 2012


Good points Joe.
posted by humanfont at 7:58 AM on January 27, 2012


...they want to maintain their culture.

For France, this statement may have a seed of validity. For the US, it is gibberish. If there is anything that characterizes the culture of the US, it is constant, rapid change, voraciously incorporating each new wave of immigration/importation. Noticed the taco places everywhere? John Adams never saw, much less ate one. And Ben Franklin's jazz skills were sorely lacking. In fact, this voracious cultural appetite is what is most endearing about US culture.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:20 PM on January 27, 2012


Stephen Walt: Israel's not going to attack Iran -- yet
posted by homunculus at 1:38 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sanctions v. negotiations on Iran
posted by homunculus at 1:43 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hormuz-Mania: Why Closure of the Strait of Hormuz Could Ignite a War and a Global Depression
posted by homunculus at 1:48 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Saudis Doing Their Part to Clear the Field for Iran Attack
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:29 PM on January 31, 2012


Leon Panetta does not deny a report that he think Israel will attack Iran in April to June of this year.
posted by Dasein at 4:42 PM on February 2, 2012


The Generals try to stop an Iran War
posted by homunculus at 12:16 PM on February 3, 2012


How an Israeli Strike on Iran could radically weaken Israel
posted by homunculus at 10:35 AM on February 6, 2012


Homunculus' last link makes much more sense when you remember that "Silkworm" is the name of a missile. But it's still pretty incoherent:
3. Hizbullah would likely launch rockets, causing at least severe inconvenience to some 1/4 of the Israeli public, which might well have to move house again, and possibly much worse if Hizbullah is able, as they claim, to target toxic gas storage in Haifa or even reactor at Dimona with modified Chinese silkworms.
In any event, yes, I think Israel is aware that Hezbollah is a tool of Iran and that it will undoubtedly attack Israel if Iran is attacked, even if Israel isn't involved. This is the logic of the Middle East: remember when Saddam fired missiles at Israel because the USA was liberating Kuwait?
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:33 PM on February 6, 2012


Iran’s Achilles’ Heel: Ending Iran’s influence in Syria would transform the Middle East.
posted by homunculus at 5:34 PM on February 8, 2012


Israel teams with terror group to kill Iran's nuclear scientists, U.S. officials tell NBC News
posted by homunculus at 12:56 PM on February 9, 2012


In other news: Iran reportedly blocks Google & all SSL sites on the eve of the revolution anniversary

Iran's Internet Crackdown Is Like Catnip to Hackers
posted by homunculus at 8:51 PM on February 10, 2012


Netanyahu's war wish. These months in the runup to the US election are going to be really hairy.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:44 AM on February 11, 2012


Israel and Proxy Terrorism
posted by homunculus at 2:03 PM on February 13, 2012


Iran War Would Cost Trillions: Will the GOP Pay More Taxes for That?
posted by homunculus at 2:06 PM on February 13, 2012


Car bombs 'target Israel envoys' in India and Georgia: Bombers have targeted staff at Israeli embassies in India and Georgia, officials say, with Israel accusing Iran of masterminding the attacks.
posted by homunculus at 2:33 PM on February 13, 2012


Blasts in Bangkok Add to Suspicions About Iran
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:32 PM on February 14, 2012


“The attempted terrorist attack in Bangkok proves once again that Iran and its proxies continue to perpetrate terrorism,” Mr. Barak said. “The recent terror attacks are yet another example of this.”

That's rich.
posted by empath at 1:55 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Empath, surely you can see a difference between assassinating someone (apparently) working on a nuclear weapon and randomly murdering civilians? The attackers in Bangkok had more than four tons of ingredients for preparing explosives. Why would you possibly wish to defend this?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:48 PM on February 14, 2012


Two bombs don't make a right.
posted by humanfont at 4:35 PM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think a wry "That's rich." qualifies as a defense. Not in the way I understand "defensive words", anyway.

I'd say it was a snark, not a defense. I'd consider it shorthand for a generations-old folkloric morality story, in the same spirit as "people who live in glass houses…" and "…remove the log from your own eye first".

But succinct, which is kinda nice, otherwise you end up with a tedious long missive like this, going on darn near endlessly about something most everyone understood already.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:53 PM on February 14, 2012


Why would you possibly wish to defend this?

He is pointing out the hypocrisy. Both sides are terrorists, is all. That doesn't mean "Iran is good", it means that Israel is really fucking disingenuous to be crying about terrorism - it is an ongoing part of their own MO.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:56 PM on February 14, 2012


Assassinations aren't terrorism, generally speaking; they're covert military acts. I can't see that an assassination intended to slow down Iran's nuclear program can be compared to, e.g., blowing up a Jewish community centre.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:30 PM on February 14, 2012


Four reasons why -- this time -- you should believe the hype about Israel attacking Iran.
posted by Dasein at 6:16 PM on February 14, 2012


Assassinations aren't terrorism, generally speaking; they're covert military acts. I can't see that an assassination intended to slow down Iran's nuclear program can be compared to, e.g., blowing up a Jewish community centre.

Oh, well, with the words all changed like that, I guess it's okay then. So as long as we call our drone strafing of civilians in Afghanistan "covert military acts," we're all good.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:58 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Assassinations aren't terrorism, generally speaking; they're covert military acts

That's rich.
posted by empath at 11:19 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


When Iran and Israel were friendly: As the two countries prepare for war, a forgotten history of collaboration
posted by homunculus at 12:56 PM on February 15, 2012


I can't see that an assassination intended to slow down Iran's nuclear program can be compared to, e.g., blowing up a Jewish community centre.

They're both murders of civilians.
posted by mek at 3:14 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mental Wimp wrote: So as long as we call our drone strafing of civilians in Afghanistan "covert military acts," we're all good.

Drone attacks were originally portrayed as a way of attacking highly important targets with great precision and without making an incursion into enemy territory. Since then the attacks have become vastly more common and we have had worrying reports about the accuracy of the strikes and the significance of the targets. Despite this, and despite the fact that I believe the current drone program needs to be reassessed, surely there can be no doubt that it is a military program, as are Israel's alleged attacks against the Iranian nuclear program.

Mek wrote: They're both murders of civilians.

The general rule by which military actions are assessed is proportionality: the military advantage gained relative to the humanitarian cost - and even an attack on soldiers is a human cost, you know. Attacks that kill civilians are not illegal per se: it would generally be legitimate to bomb a railyard though the workers were civilians; it would not be legitimate to use poison gas though the people affected were all soldiers. The question is fundamentally a utilitarian one.

When I was a kid the standard left-wing position was that the production of nuclear weapons was an aggressive act and a crime against humanity. They said that the people involved in their production were war criminals. It's hard to argue that Japan in WW2 would not have been justified in killing Robert Oppenheimer in 1944, or that the Soviet Union would not have been justified in killing Edward Teller in 1949 - that is from their perspective, of course.

Iran is apparently developing nuclear weapons. It would be easy enough for Iran to refute this if it were false, but in any event Israel believes it to be true. If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, particularly ballistic nuclear weapons, Israel would be tremendously exposed to a devastating attack from a dangerous and unstable country which seems obsessed with Israel and is in fact at war with it. Preventing this must be one of Israel's most pressing national objectives because an Iranian nuclear attack - or a conventional attack shielded by a nuclear umbrella - would be devastating, resulting in at least tens of thousands of deaths, perhaps national extinction.

In this context assassinating an Iranian nuclear scientist is absolutely proportional. I don't suppose that killing some random worker at the plant would be proportional, but a scientist is presumably a repository of skills and expertise that are necessary to producing a nuclear weapon. If assassinating him delayed the ultimate use of a nuclear weapon by even a single day then it has done vastly more good than harm, because that day is an extra day of life for tens or hundreds of thousands of victims. It might even give enough time for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:54 PM on February 15, 2012


Would you have felt the same if the Japanese or Germans had murdered Einstein or Richard Feynman, or Robert Oppenheimer?
posted by empath at 5:23 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Leaving aside the fact that WW2 was a war of German and Japanese aggression and that arguably every act in furtherance of that aggression was a war crime, yes, I would have felt that Germany was as justified in killing Feynman or Oppenheimer (*) as they were justified in killing an active Allied soldier: i.e., to the extent that they were justified in doing anything.


(*) Einstein wasn't part of the Manhattan project as far as I know.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:45 PM on February 15, 2012


Joe in Australia writes "Iran is apparently developing nuclear weapons. It would be easy enough for Iran to refute this if it were false, but in any event Israel believes it to be true."

How do you prove a negative?
posted by Mitheral at 6:32 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ok Joe but what about the Israeli relationship with the MEK. Those guys are pretty much textbook scary terrorists. It isn't like the guns they are giving to the MEK are only used against Iranian nuclear scientists.
posted by humanfont at 6:52 PM on February 15, 2012


Mitheral, Iran could satisfy the IAEA (which is the body tasked with monitoring nuclear proliferation, and has an excellent website on Iran's nuclear program) by complying with its requirements. It refuses to do so. Here's an excerpt from an interview given to the LA Times:
AMANO: Iran was implementing [Code 3.1, the agreement between the IAEA and Iran] in the past. Now, it is not implementing. I believe it is in the interest of Iran to implement it. Iran can enhance the confidence of the international community. Iran states that all activities are for peaceful purposes and in order to have confidence in that nature, the implementation of Code 3.1 is in the advantage of Iran. This is how I see it. This is not something we negotiate and find a middle ground.

In the case of Iran, we have the United Nations Security Council resolution, which is mandatory. It requests Iran to implement the Additional Protocol. So, in general terms the Additional Protocol is not a legal obligation to bring it into force. But in the case of Iran, on which there is a specific UNSC resolution, that is mandatory.

Humanfont wrote: Ok Joe but what about the Israeli relationship with the MEK.

From what I understand MEK and Israel would only be cooperating out of desperation. None the less, anyone with a grasp of history knows that the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend. I don't think it can end well.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:52 PM on February 15, 2012


And I guess Iran would have been justified in killing Israeli nuclear scientists or launching a first strike on Israel's nuclear facilities?
posted by empath at 9:36 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's probably too late for an attack against Israel's nuclear researchers to have any military justification. On the other hand, if Iran attacked Israel I think it would have good military justification for targeting Israel's nuclear facilities in order to reduce Israel's ability to retaliate. That doesn't mean that the attack would be justified in a moral or practical sense. For what it's worth, I think Iran has no reason to be at war with Israel and both countries would be a good deal better off if they made peace.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:03 PM on February 15, 2012


If assassinating him delayed the ultimate use of a nuclear weapon by even a single day then it has done vastly more good than harm, because that day is an extra day of life for tens or hundreds of thousands of victims. It might even give enough time for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

Israel has not given any indication in recent history of wanting to come to a peaceful resolution. Their "peaceful resolution to the crisis" needs how much time? All they seem to be doing with the time they are given (more than 50 years since the last land grab) is to build more settlements in the lands they seized, creating more obstacles to any peace other than Greater Israel and apartheid or ethnic cleansing.

Iran sees itself in a defensive position against a foreign invader that has been waging increasingly aggressive wars of conquest since the late 40s, with the active support and encouragement of the world's strongest power.

So really, it comes down to marking as "bad" or "wrong" or "terrorist" the side that you least sympathize with. I also think peace would be in everyone's best interests, Joe, but sadly neither of us have a seat at the (currently non-existent) negotiating table.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:47 PM on February 15, 2012


Attacks that kill civilians are not illegal per se:

No but attacks that deliberately target civilians certainly are, eg. the Iranian scientist assassinations. These scientists didn't accidentally die as a result of a tactical strike, they had bombs placed in their personal vehicles, etcetera. Your argument is cute, but it has absolutely nothing to do with what is being discussed.
posted by mek at 12:40 AM on February 16, 2012


Meatbomb wrote: Iran sees itself in a defensive position against a foreign invader that has been waging increasingly aggressive wars of conquest since the late 40s ...

Israel and Iran don't share a border. They don't even share a coast. They're about a thousand kilometers away from each other, with two other countries in between. I can't see how anyone could possibly imagine that Israel is in a position to invade Iran. It would be like Venezuala invading Canada.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:45 AM on February 16, 2012


More like America invading Nicaragua, or Nazi Germany invading the UK. Persia has been around a long time, long enough to repel Western threats from Rome to the Crusaders to... well, these new guys... let's not get all technical about the current borders eh?

If Cuba decided to occupy the Bahamas, you don't think the US would have some opinion about that? The US seems to have a stake in invasions and occupations half way around the world, and you want to get all technical about contiguous borders? Let's pretend there aren't spheres of influence, yeah?
posted by Meatbomb at 1:39 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meatbomb wrote: More like America invading Nicaragua, or Nazi Germany invading the UK.

Nazi Germany - an offensive analogy if there ever was one - failed to invade the UK even though it was occupying France and even though it could have reached the UK without passing through enemy territory or along an enemy coast and even though it controlled the resources of an entire continent. The USA's invasion of Nicaragua was in the 20s, a great industrialised power invading a tiny agricultural nation, and the USA was forced to withdraw around a decade later.

I think it would be useful to give some numbers here - Iran has ten times Israel's population. It has eighty times its area. Its army is the seventh largest in the world (Israel's is the 17th) and it held off Saddam's forces for a decade before finally defeating them. So let's suppose Israel decided to invade. First it would need to call up all of its reserves. It would split its army into two parts, leaving enough to defend itself against an inevitable counter-attack. Then it would ship the invasion force a thousand kilometers across two enemy states before reaching the Iranian border. Then the hard part would start - attacking a highly-militarised and well-embedded defensive force on its own terrain, without a supply line or reserves to draw on, and with a small fraction of Iran's troops. And then Israel would need to somehow occupy a vast and unfriendly country - again without a supply line or supplies, and with enemy states all around.

This is inconceivable. It is not merely unlikely; the suggestion is on par with a theory that the world is run by lizard-kings from Rigel. There is simply no way that Israel could ever invade Iran.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:17 AM on February 16, 2012


There is simply no way that Israel could ever invade Iran.

They're certainly planning on bombing the shit out of them, probably before this year is out. If you're an Iranian, I don't see what practical difference there is.
posted by empath at 6:18 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


A heavy bombing campaign would be (a) pointless; (b) very damaging to Israel itself; and (c) run into the same logistical problems as an invasion. My understanding is that Iran is at the extreme of Israel's bombing capacity as it is; are you suggesting that Israel's bombers can quietly fly back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, crossing two enemy states each way and dropping bombs over Iran without anyone noticing? Once again, this is the sheerest fantasy.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:47 PM on February 16, 2012


You think the USA won't allow them use of their many, many Air Force bases on Iran's borders?
posted by mek at 9:13 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have no knowledge of the "many, many Air Force bases on Iran's borders", but yeah, I'm pretty sure what the answer would be if Israel said "Hey, can we fly a few hundred planes over Iran and bomb the shit out of that place, and oh, we'll need to use your bases for refueling and loading bombs so that everyone will see a constant stream of bombers leaving your bases, crossing over into Iran, bombing it again and heading back". If the USA isn't going to "bomb the shit out of them" itself, why would they let Israel give that very impression?

Incidentally, the distance between Israel and the Iraq/Iran border is actually less than the distance between that border and the other edge of Iran. Iran's pretty darn big. The distance from the border to Tehran is around 500 km, and that's assuming you can leave from the nearest point. That's well within a bomber's range, but it probably means refuelling on every run.

Look, do you, Empath and Meatbomb actually believe this, or is it just some sort of D&D game with rockets?
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:16 PM on February 16, 2012


I have no knowledge of the "many, many Air Force bases on Iran's borders"

Well okay then.
posted by mek at 10:35 PM on February 16, 2012


Let me offer an analogy. Suppose someone said "The Vatican has many, many courtyards in which the Pontiff may commune with St Peter!" and I said "Well, I don't know how many courtyards the Vatican has, but I don't believe that the Pope and St Peter talk to each other."

Would you consider that my interlocutor's position was advanced by the fact that he could list the courtyards of the Vatican? Surely not. Similarly, the fact that the US does have bases in Iraq (something which is hardly a surprise) really does little or nothing to prove the existence of a plan so bizarrely incredible and pointless that it would be out of place in a Tom Clancy novel.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:54 PM on February 16, 2012


would be (a) pointless; (b) very damaging to Israel itself

That's never stopped them before, Joe. They've spilled plenty of blood in wars that are pretty debatable.

Look, do you, Empath and Meatbomb actually believe this, or is it just some sort of D&D game with rockets

Please try your best to assume good faith Joe? I was almost going to reply in a similar way to you a few posts back, but then thought better of it - because although it seems you are very firmly in the pro-Israel camp you are probably not a troll.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:57 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Israel planes have enough range to attack Iran, but it would be close. The Iranian air force is fairly modest and the readiness of their anti-aircraft defenses are questionable. They won't go through Iraq, or use American resources. It is more likely they will get help from Saudi Arabia.
posted by humanfont at 2:43 AM on February 17, 2012


Meatbomb: "That's never stopped them before, Joe. They've spilled plenty of blood in wars that are pretty debatable."

Er - has Israel ever done anything like that? I'm almost certain they haven't. America seems to love ill-advised adventures in faraway lands, but as far as I can tell the only strikes Israel has risked far from its highly disputed borders have been pointedly isolated bombing runs like the operation in Iraq decades ago. Regardless of what we may think of Israel's mistakes - and I do not hesitate to call them mistakes - it seems clear that one of the things we have been able to count on from Israeli leadership on this point was extreme caution in not directly provoking wars with larger neighbors.
posted by koeselitz at 4:59 AM on February 17, 2012


Regardless of what we may think of Israel's mistakes - and I do not hesitate to call them mistakes

Like when they "mistakenly" developed and built an arsenal of nuclear weapons? Doh!
posted by howfar at 7:16 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's really obnoxious when people act as though the word "mistake" is a minimization word.
posted by koeselitz at 7:59 AM on February 17, 2012


It is just an inaccurate word in this context, koeselitz. I wouldn't feel comfortable terming Iran's attempts to arm itself a mistake either. It's obviously not in the interest of the people yet the government do it anyway. Just like in Israel. A secret nuclear weapons programme is an undemocratic act and an abuse of government power. It is not a "mistake".

But yes, this discussion really shouldn't be about moral problems, it should be about practical solutions. Not going to happen. Sad, ain't it?
posted by howfar at 9:17 AM on February 17, 2012


Seems like having a nuclear weapon is a great way of preventing the US from attacking your country and invasions from the US tend to go poorly on the invaded citizens.
posted by Mitheral at 1:12 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Iran Nuclear Coverage Echoes Iraq War Media Frenzy
posted by homunculus at 2:44 PM on February 17, 2012


"…about a thousand kilometers away from each other…be like Venezuala invading Canada."

More like Florida invading Texas, no? Which, you know, they totally would if they knew where it was.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:48 PM on February 17, 2012


Suspects partied in Pattaya
During their stay in Pattaya, from Feb 8 to 13 according to their hotel's registration, Ms Nan and her friends hung out with the three men. In one group gathering, shown in a photo, they were winding down in a bar in a hotel. Ms Nan said they had drinks and played snooker together.
Police seek 2 more over blasts
Pol Lt Gen Winai said police had been put on alert, particularly in areas frequented heavily by Middle Eastern tourists including the Nana area on Sukhumvit Road and Khao San Road.
One of Bangkok's three synagogues backs onto Khao San Road; another synagogue is down the road from Soi Nana, about four kilometers from the terrorist's hangout.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:19 PM on February 18, 2012


Terrorists'.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:19 PM on February 18, 2012


Iranian warships enter Mediterranean
Iranian warships have entered the Mediterranean Sea after crossing through the Suez Canal to show Tehran's "might" to regional states, the country's navy commander has said. ... Israel said it will be watching the ship's movements closely to ensure they do not approach its coast.
An odd decision IMO; unless the frigate (?) Shahid Qandi is surprisingly well-armed the move will weakens Iran's defenses local defenses without doing much to project its power elsewhere.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:24 PM on February 18, 2012


howfar: “It is just an inaccurate word in this context, koeselitz. I wouldn't feel comfortable terming Iran's attempts to arm itself a mistake either. It's obviously not in the interest of the people yet the government do it anyway. Just like in Israel. A secret nuclear weapons programme is an undemocratic act and an abuse of government power. It is not a ‘mistake’. But yes, this discussion really shouldn't be about moral problems, it should be about practical solutions. Not going to happen. Sad, ain't it?”

People try to force it into the rubric of "moral problems" so that they can feel morally superior to those involved. It would be painful and frightening to admit that these huge, monstrous decisions that result in the deaths of thousands and sometimes even millions are, in fact, simply "mistakes." But in fact that's exactly what they are – a lack of wisdom. The old Likudniks and the neoconservatives weren't horrid monsters with evil designs; they were just plain wrong. They made mistakes.

The point of political philosophy is to try to understand those mistakes with the aim of knowing how to seek true justice.
posted by koeselitz at 9:25 PM on February 18, 2012


I do not see it as a mistake to acquire nuclear weapons. In both Israel's and in Iran's case it really is an existential issue.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:26 PM on February 18, 2012


sammyo: "Nuclear war in the Middle East wouldn't start a global conflict

Right, neither would a minor shooting of a minor Count in a minor country.
"

Don't forget his lovely wife Sofia!
posted by symbioid at 10:31 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meatbomb wrote: I do not see it as a mistake to acquire nuclear weapons. In both Israel's and in Iran's case it really is an existential issue.

I don't disagree with you: I think Israel's case is obvious and I also think Iran would be a good deal better off today if it had had nuclear weapons before Saddam attacked. The problem with Iran is that it is expansionist: it sponsors Hezbollah in Libya; it is associated with the Shi'ite push in Iraq; it has apparently decided that Syria's Alawites are close-enough to being Shia to work with them; and it even has something going on with Latin America that I don't really understand. This means that its push to achieve nuclear capability is a threat to its neighbours, many of whom have a Shi'ite minority that would be receptive to overtures from Iran.

Michael Totten makes an interesting point in this post:
Israel is supposedly the mortal enemy of the Arabs. Right? So how come no Arab state bothered getting nuclear weapons after Israel acquired the bomb? Either the Arab war against Israel is less serious than the conventional wisdom would have it, the Arab-Persian conflict is more serious than the conventional wisdom would have it, or both.
Of course he's not quite right: Syria tried to develop a nuclear capability, as did Iraq. The difference is that Saudi Arabia can literally buy a system off the rack, and they're scared enough to announce their intentions despite being allied to the US.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:30 PM on February 18, 2012


The problem with Iran is that it is expansionist.

It's not that it's expansionist, it's that it's isolated, and it's making whatever military and economic connections it can, mostly with other isolated states and non-state actors.
posted by empath at 11:40 PM on February 18, 2012


The old Likudniks and the neoconservatives weren't horrid monsters with evil designs; they were just plain wrong. They made mistakes.

I think it's possible to be immoral and mistaken at the same time, but I don't disagree in spirit, and this really isn't the hill I want to die on. I do think it is important to qualify "mistake" here, though. Two points.

Firstly, the American Middle-East hawks were (are) mistaken about ends as well as means. WMD (remember those) was not an intelligence mistake, except insofar as it was produced by pressure to get the "right" result. They believed that "American" interest lay with war in Iraq, but only to the extent that American interest signified their class interest. Death, destruction and misery were foreseen or reasonably foreseeable consequences, and were accepted on behalf of those who would suffer them, without consultation. The mistake, from their point of view, was that the hawks believed that power and amenable stability could be gained through war, with the purpose of sustaining and reinvigorating the American hegemony.

Secondly, the secret nuclear weapons programmes of both Israel and Iran are not "mistakes", but rational decisions made to further the ends of certain limited power groups within each country. Each may have convinced themselves that their interests and the interests of their countrymen overlap absolutely, and be mistaken in that, but it is not a mistake that arises from confusion, but rather one that arises from self-deception.

While undemocratic, self-interested elites continue to make decisions in Iran, Israel and the USA, we will continue to see the mistakes you talk of being made. People who confuse national power with the interests of a nation's people don't do it because they're stupid, they don't because it is in their interests to do so. This does not make them monsters, merely human, but it is a structural political problem which ensures that their mere humanity has such monstrous consequences.
posted by howfar at 3:52 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"they don't = they do it"
posted by howfar at 3:54 AM on February 19, 2012


Joe: how much territory has Iran occupied under the current regime? What about Israel? The current borders of Persia are the smallest they have been pretty much ever in history, so trying to build up connections to their friends and allies in their near-abroad does not really strike me as "expansionist". Israel, on the other hand, has doubled it's territory through wars and occupations, and does not seem too interested in a peace solution that doesn't involve Greater Israel.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:32 AM on February 19, 2012


An odd decision IMO; unless the frigate (?) Shahid Qandi is surprisingly well-armed the move will weakens Iran's defenses local defenses without doing much to project its power elsewhere.

The destroyer will improve Iranian chances of detecting the start of an Israeli airstrike. Also Israeli pilots have been training for a possible strike by flying down the Med towards Gilbraltar, so this helps me keep an eye on those practice runs. Iran could also use the destroyer to assist the Syrian government of Bashir Al Assad.
posted by humanfont at 7:13 AM on February 19, 2012


Iran Raid Seen as a Huge Task for Israeli Jets
Should Israel decide to launch a strike on Iran, its pilots would have to fly more than 1,000 miles across unfriendly airspace, refuel in the air en route, fight off Iran’s air defenses, attack multiple underground sites simultaneously — and use at least 100 planes.

posted by Joe in Australia at 1:23 PM on February 20, 2012


Assassinations aren't terrorism, generally speaking; they're covert military acts. I can't see that an assassination intended to slow down Iran's nuclear program can be compared to, e.g., blowing up a Jewish community centre.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:30 PM on February 14 [+] [!]


When it comes to war it is all the same really, from Sherman's march, Dresden, to Hiroshima, or I can go back and speak to the Melian dialogue. People are being really squeamish about what is and isn't acceptable when it comes to war but fail to recognize that these decisions are made by a cold, hard, greed and what is and isn't "right" is fodder for armchairists.
posted by Shit Parade at 9:02 PM on February 20, 2012


Shit Parade wrote: When it comes to war it is all the same really, from Sherman's march, Dresden, to Hiroshima, or I can go back and speak to the Melian dialogue.

If that were the case then we wouldn't worry about war crimes at all; but evidently we do or we wouldn't be arguing whether assassinations are a war crime. And if we're not going to worry about war crimes then why worry about crime, or even morality? It could all be reduced to personal advantage.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:29 AM on February 21, 2012


If that were the case then we wouldn't worry about war crimes at all

Welcome to the 21st century.
posted by mek at 12:32 AM on February 21, 2012


From Joe's link: "Earlier this month, a Bipartisan Policy Center report by Charles S. Robb, the former Democratic senator from Virginia, and Charles F. Wald, a retired Air Force general, recommended that the Obama administration sell Israel 200 enhanced GBU-31 “bunker busters” as well as three advanced refueling planes.

The two said that they were not advocating an Israeli attack, but that the munitions and aircraft were needed to improve Israel’s credibility as it threatens a strike.
"

WTF? I just don't understand these mental gymnastics...
posted by Meatbomb at 1:42 AM on February 21, 2012


I think it's the same logic as MAD. They're saying that Iran will only be scared of an Israeli attack on its nuclear program if they deem that threat to be credible. So the USA should supply refueling planes and advanced "bunker busters" in order to make a credible threat.

It's a weird argument, though, because Israel is not in a position to threaten anything except (possibly) an attack against Iran's nuclear program. So the threat is "stop the program or we will stop it for you". Iran's response would probably be "If we stop it ourselves, you win. But if we continue then you might not attack it; or you might attack it but fail to destroy it; or destroy it at a cost which means you have actually lost. So why should we stop it ourselves?
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:56 AM on February 21, 2012


Well Joe, the other part that has me confused is that the US doesn't want their foreign policy hijacked by Israeli adventurism... if the Israelis decided to pull the trigger the US would almost inevitably be dragged into war. So really wouldn't it be in their best interest for Israel to be unable to completely fuck up their foreign policy? I guess not everyone in the US gov't is on the same page.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:50 AM on February 21, 2012


I think it's a complete cluster fsck.

The Israelis aren't idiots. The upside to bombing Iran is small: they will have delayed the nuclear program by some amount. The downside is that Iran will have a casus belli at a time when the governments of both Syria and Egypt are anxious for a distraction. I presume that Hezbollah will attack Israel at Iran's direction; a response from Israel would likely lead to at least a remilitarisation of the Sinai by Egypt and possibly an explicit alliance between Hamas and the Moslem Brotherhood.

I suspect that Saudi "cut off the head of the snake!" Arabia has been heavily lobbying the USA to either strike Iran themselves or support an Israeli strike. The Israelis, knowing this, will simultaneously talk up the threat from Iran while downplaying Israel's ability to attack it. Saudi Arabia had already promised to counteract any rise in oil prices caused by the loss of Iranian production; the USA undoubtedly realises that behind the carrot lies the stick of potential oil price rises just before the US elections. If I'm right then look for a US attack on the Iranian reactors before the elections, say around July.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:48 AM on February 21, 2012


It is useful from a negotiating position to have the Israekis making a stream of threats. As long ad the sanctions keep tightening and forcing Iran to sell it's oil at a discount to the global price; then it seems that an actual attack would be counter productive.
posted by humanfont at 4:40 AM on February 21, 2012


Shocking news from Iran - Wife of Assassinated Scientist: Annihilation of Israel "Mostafa's Ultimate Goal" (via)
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:25 PM on February 22, 2012


Shit Parade: “When it comes to war it is all the same really, from Sherman's march, Dresden, to Hiroshima, or I can go back and speak to the Melian dialogue. People are being really squeamish about what is and isn't acceptable when it comes to war but fail to recognize that these decisions are made by a cold, hard, greed and what is and isn't ‘right’ is fodder for armchairists.”

Wait, what? You think Dresden was bombed out of greed? And Hiroshima? Greed for what, exactly?
posted by koeselitz at 2:48 PM on February 22, 2012


(Not to mention the Melian dialogue, which does not seem to me to have been at all motivated by greed.)
posted by koeselitz at 2:49 PM on February 22, 2012


invasion of Melian was prompted by a denial of tribute. The Japanese had a territorial war of agreement with the germans over a split of resources and dresden was a calculation to weaken germany's industrial capacity -- do you need a link to the gorge fest of ww2 peace negotiations by the allies over the spoils?
posted by Shit Parade at 10:35 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a massive, massive difference between something being "prompted by" a specific event and something being caused by that event. To say that greed caused the Melian atrocity is to ignore all the true causes - Athenian desire to defeat the Spartans, xenophobia, general hope of conquest. Dresden was indeed a calculated effort to destroy Germany's industrial capability because the United States wanted to win the war and more notably preferred to think of the Germans as subhuman. To ascribe that inane and irrational racism to a calculated strategem for making money is to be confused about what racism actually is.

It's possible, in a sort of bastardized-Marxism way, to pretend that all of these things come down to the desire for money, but I don't think that makes much sense in the end; human beings aren't nearly so intelligent as to be that focused, for one thing. I mean, for instance - do you think Hitler wanted to kill the Jews for money?

People fight wars for lots of reasons. It may be that all of those reasons are bad; I can see making a pacifist case for that. But all of those reasons are not money. If human beings only cared about money, they'd be much more rational, predictable, and sfe than they actually are.
posted by koeselitz at 10:46 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Two articles from Foreign Policy:

Would an Israeli strike on Iran be legal?

Is the Iranian regime rational?

posted by Joe in Australia at 11:05 PM on February 23, 2012


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