As it looks like Netanyahu and his supporters here are giving Obama a reprieve until after the election on attacking Iran, now is a good time to think about the “ideology” that drives them.
What is striking to almost all impartial observers about the proponents of bombing Iran is that they seem to believe that Iran will commit national suicide in order to kill a bunch of Jews. What gets these people to believe this about Iran?
We all know about the ideology of the anti Semite. I’d like to introduce the ideology of what I will call the “anti-anti-Semite.” To them anti-Semites have a disease. This disease is not curable nor can you reason with someone who has it. It is all encompassing; it motivates basically everything they do. There is no nuance in the anti-Semite. It is a fixation that is a waste of time to try to understand. It goes without saying that to these people anti-Semitism has nothing to do with perceived Jewish conduct.
Of course there are other ways to approach the phenomenon of anti-Semitism. Among others the historian Albert Lindemann wrote a history of modern anti-Semitism (Esau’s Tears) that attempted to treat anti-Semites as real human beings. They might be evil but they’re not aliens from another planet. This brought down the wrath of the anti-anti-Semites. Reviewer after reviewer lambasted him for trying to humanize the anti-Semite.
In the historiography of the Holocaust the historians who most closely share the views of the anti-anti-Semites are called “extreme intentionalists.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functionalism_versus_intentionalism
They believe there was a straight line of continuity between Hitler’s verbal threats in the 1920′s and 1930′s and the gas chambers. The most extreme of the intentionalists is Daniel Goldhagen who argues in his book “Hitler’s Willing Executioners” that the German population before World War 2 were “eliminationist anti-Semites” and ordinary Germans killed Jews “willingly and happily.” They were just awaiting the opportunity for an orgy of Jew killing. If I can use a little hyperbole, for Goldhagen understanding the Holocaust and anti-Semitism comes down to goyim hate Jews– and the Germans really really hated the Jews. When reading Goldhagen one comes away with the sense that the perpertrators of the Holocaust were caricatures of human beings. The noted Holocaust historian Raul Hillberg called the book “totally wrong about everything” and “worthless.” He summarized the outcome of the debate about the book “ in sharp distinction from lay readers, much of the academic world had wiped Goldhagen off the map.”
What does this have to do with bombing Iran?
The right wing leadership in Israel as well as well as their “amen corner” in the U.S share the same view of anti-Semitism as Goldhagen. The ideology of “anti anti Semitism” is so powerful that once labeled an anti-Semite one falls somewhere in the continuum of Hitler’s anti Semitism. Thus In 1982 Begin likened the blockade against PLO leader Yasir Arafat in Beirut to the siege on Hitler’s bunker. To the uninitiated this comparison seems absurd. Arafat was a Palestinian who believed that Israel was established on his people’s land. Whatever the merits of his case, what does that have to do with Hitler? Saddam Hussein also went through a period of being called Hitler. Lately it’s Ahmadinejad. Suppose the leaders of Iran used the same language about Turkey or Egypt that they use about Israel? Would the leaders of those countries consider for a minute that Iran would be willing to be destroyed just to drop a nuke on them? It’s only with the ideology of anti-anti Semitism that such a conclusion makes sense. Anti-semites are so irrational that there is no such thing as deterrence. And Iran should be deterred. Make no mistake about it: if Iran knows anything about Israel they’d be aware the retaliation will be severe. Iran will be punished not only for their own attack but for all of history’s attack on the Jews.
There is another seemingly perplexing thing about Israel. One would think that it would be in the interest of an Israeli prime minister to frequently give speeches aimed at the Arab world stating Israel’s interest in having good relations with her neighbors in settling the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, etc. To the outside observer there have to be many fair-minded Arabs who would be moved by such an appeal. The reason this is not going on is because to the right wing Israeli leadership, the Arab world is a mass of anti-Semites. Anti-Semites can’t be reasons with or swayed. In their view Israeli action or inaction has nothing to do with the attitude Arabs have toward Israel. And not only the Arabs. What to everyone else is self evident– that Israel’s behavior and misbehavior have a direct correlation to how Israel is viewed around the world–is somehow denied by the champions of Israel. That Europe looks askance at how Israel treats the Palestinians can’t be as straight forward as it is. Remember there is no relationship between the attitude “the world” has towards Jews (Israel) and their actions. So European criticism of Israel is just an example of European anti-Semitism. That Rabin was celebrated around the world for the Oslo accords is ignored.
Such is the power of the anti-anti-Semitism narrative that imagine the Israeli spokespeople explaining the havoc caused after an Israeli strike on Iran. What newscaster is going to challenge them when they say the Jewish people were not willing to suffer another Holocaust?
The anti-Semitism as a disease paradigm is not Just reserved for the anti-Semite. Jeffrey Goldberg is confounded by Glenn Greenwald’s lack of fondness for Israel. He theorizes
“based on the way he writes about Israel and American Jewish organizations, I often suspect that some really bad shit happened to him in Hebrew school.”
And on “self hating” Jews in general–
In my experience, those Jews who consciously set themselves apart from the Jewish majority in the disgust they display for Israel, or for the principles of their faith, are often narcissists, and therefore seem to suffer from an excess of self-regard, rather than self-loathing. “Self-hater” is a euphemism, then, for “auto-anti-Semite,” or some other such locution.
How tribal and ethno-centric is Goldberg. He can’t fathom that someone with Glenn Greenwald’s worldview is critical of Israel. After all Greenwald is still a Jew. Therefore he must have had some trauma as a kid to explain his criticisms of Israel. I’m quite sure Goldberg hasn’t wondered what psychological disorder has led Fouad Ajami to be pro-Israel.
What I have described above is an ideology. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide who the true believers are and who among the Jewish right are cynically using Jewish fears for Israel’s gain. Does Netanyau really believe that Iran would nuke Israel if they had a bomb or does he believe that an Iranian bomb would hamper Israel’s freedom of action? Or possibly a combination of the two.
There is no question that there is anti-Semitism in the Muslim world, but the first step in fighting it is to recognize that it is very much related to Israeli behavior. If by some miracle some future Israeli leader offers the Palestinians a state on terms they find acceptable and perhaps even apologizes for the harm Israel has caused them there is no question in my mind there will be a lot less hatred of Israel