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Netanyahu is the wolf in wolf’s clothing

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This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

The President of Iran left the United States yesterday after a telephone conversation with President Obama.  The good news is that some kind of nuclear agreement may be forthcoming.

Good news for the world may be bad news for Israel.  Unless Israel is posturing.  It could be that Israel is condemning Iran’s initiative in public while breathing a sigh of relief behind closed doors.

The world waits with bated breath to see if Prime Minister Netanyahu will once again bring his (literal) cartoon rendering of the world to the United Nations on Monday.  With or without cartoons, he won’t be forthcoming about justice for Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s soliloquies are tiresome, shameful and playing to an increasingly limited audience.  If anyone is listening outside a regressive Jewish minority, hawkish Tea Party members, Christian evangelicals and the peculiar alliance of right wing Republicans and liberal political elite bought by AIPAC, contact your nearest Israeli Consulate.  You will be showered with affection.  Political donations will be forthcoming.

So it is.  The Iranian leader is painted by the Jewish establishments in America and Israel as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Internationally, Netanyahu is seen as a wolf in wolf’s clothing.

No one should think Iran – or President Rouhani – is innocent.  Iran has national interests in the Middle East and pursues them.  If a few eggs have to be broken in the process, Iran does it without a second thought.  Israel is no different than Iran.  Both Netanyahu and Rouhani speak as if their nations are innocent.  They aren’t.

What should be said about the political rendering of the Holocaust as Rouhani leaves and Netanyahu arrives?  Time is on Rouhani’s side.  His evocation of the Holocaust as condemnable, reprehensible and a crime against humanity when the victims were Jews and when the victims were non-Jews should be applauded.

Rouhani’s parsing of the Holocaust and the dislocation and suffering of Palestinians is correct.  This is how the international community understands it.  This is how Jews should understand it.  Jews of Conscience are already there.

Does this mean that the Holocaust for Jewish life is less important because Rouhani correctly points out that the Nazi conflagration engulfed millions of non-Jews as well?  No.  It means that the memory of the Holocaust has to be demilitarized.  Using the Holocaust as a weapon against others – against Palestinians, against Iran, against Jewish dissidents, against Christians who break their silence on Israel’s abuse of Palestinians, against supporters of BDS – is wrong.

In the end, Holocaust warriors will lose their battle.  They already have.

Rouhani’s representation of the Holocaust means that using Israel as wedge of Jewish defense against another Holocaust, if it was ever more than rhetoric, is time-bound.  Its shelf life has expired.  Israel is not a shield against another Holocaust.

Likewise, denying the Holocaust for political reasons or simply turning back the question of whether the Holocaust occurred by invoking Palestinian suffering, Rouhani’s predecessor’s way of hitting at Jews, Zionists, Israel and their fellow travelers, may be over, too.  Good riddance.

However the Holocaust has been misused by the Jewish community in America and Israel, however expansive the suffering was in the Nazi era, playing around with the Holocaust for political reasons demeans everyone involved.  No matter how the politician or individual argues the case – separating individual Jews from the historical event of the Holocaust or, in another situation, distinguishing Judaism and Zionism as an absolute division – usually it’s about Jews and the claims Jews make about their importance in the world.  The politics of resentment is dead end stuff.

With that proviso, it remains true that Israel has made it more dangerous to be a Jew.  As Netanyahu speaks at the United Nations – without or without cartoon renderings – it should be remembered that rather than a protector, Netanyahu’s rhetoric and policies place Jews in danger.

Does Israel always have to be a dangerous place for Jews?  No.  That would ascribe fate to a political process that could change the Jewish, Israeli, Palestinian and Middle Eastern equation.

What are the odds that Netanyahu will take up Rouhani’s offer to really change the face of the Middle East?  It would require an about-face for Netanyahu, Israel and the mainstream of Jewish life.

This is precisely what Jews desperately need.

Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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32 Responses

  1. Kathleen on September 28, 2013, 1:24 pm

    “Israel is no different than Iran” In fact Israel is far more aggressive and threatening than Iran. Can you point out any Israeli scientist Iran has gotten away with knocking off ? Israel is very different. They have a massive nuclear, biological and chemical stockpile that go unchecked by the international community. Iran signed the NPT and has pushed for a nuclear free middle east. Israel refuses to sign the NPT and has threatened Iran endlessly as well as pushing the U.S. to threaten Iran repeatedly. Huge differences

    • just on September 28, 2013, 1:31 pm

      Yes Kathleen.


      “No one should think Iran – or President Rouhani – is innocent.”

      Just what exactly are Iran and the President guilty of??????????

      • Kathleen on September 28, 2013, 1:38 pm

        Pushing for a nuclear free middle east. Being signatories to the NPT.

      • Justpassingby on September 28, 2013, 2:10 pm

        I also wonder about that weird line..

      • Shingo on September 28, 2013, 5:30 pm

        Just what exactly are Iran and the President guilty of??????????

        I asked that question too.

        Sometimes Ellis’ writing can become quite trite mundane.

      • just on September 29, 2013, 4:37 am

        Thanks for your thoughts, Shingo. I am still flabbergasted @ the statements of Professor Ellis:

        “If a few eggs have to be broken in the process, Iran does it without a second thought. Israel is no different than Iran. Both Netanyahu and Rouhani speak as if their nations are innocent. They aren’t.”

        I wonder who has ‘broken” eggs! Obviously, perhaps only to me, myself, and I– Iran has endured unimaginable torment with remarkable patience and restraint (always mindful of and heeding international law) while witnessing the nauseating and ongoing violence by Israel and the US. I will never, ever understand nor ever give or expect a belligerent, offensive nation (including my own) a pass. Never. How many people have we (or our fellow ‘democracies’ killed, displaced, disenfranchised, brutalized, hoodwinked) for our own purposes?

        It suckith.

      • ziusudra on September 29, 2013, 5:26 am

        Greetings just,
        35 yrs of unbearable punishment of global sanctions simply for not accepting a puppet Shar of the US & UK!
        No unilateral act of Aggression against one of its neighbors in 300 yrs.
        We, the US is barely 200 yrs old & have been an empire in the western hemesphere & now global after WWII.
        PS Look to No. Korea & Cuba after 60 yrs of Degradation.

      • Kathleen on September 29, 2013, 1:06 pm

        Totally agree. Iran has demonstrated great restraint while Israel and the U.S. have bullied, poked, killed Iranian scientist, Stuxnet etc etc. Some of the poking have actually been acts of war

      • Kathleen on September 29, 2013, 1:11 pm

        Totally agree. Iran has demonstrated great restraint while Israel and the U.S. have bullied, poked, killed Iranian scientist, Stuxnet etc some of these being acts of war. Would make you want to turn around and punch the living fuck out of Israel and the U.S. But then you know you can not really fight back (ok covertly) because these bullies will come back and flatten your country

      • pabelmont on September 29, 2013, 4:19 pm

        I think the “no omelet without breaking eggs” idea as to Iran means Iranian support for PROXIES such as Hezbollah and Hamas. I’m not sure I regard either of those as “bad” (or as “egg breakers”) but there certainly are those who do.

        Of course, Israel used to support the Maronites in Lebanon, and we had Sabra and Shatilla as one result, so Israel also uses PROXIES to “break eggs” but Israel also uses DIRECT ATTACK (Lebanon, Gaza, Mavi Marmara, Iraqi nuke, so, so many) and is a well-known violator of rule against aggressive warfare — right up there with the USA in fact.

        Hard to imagine any supporter of Israel (rationally) objecting to breaking eggs to make an omelet (think of 1948!).

      • john_manyjars on September 29, 2013, 2:21 am

        Agreed, I think this is a false comparison. As another poster has pointed out, Iran hasn’t been aggressive (indeed suffering an invasion facilitated in no small part by the US) and I don’t remember Iran sinking a US intelligence ship, and murdering our sailors. A slightly different ending than was experience by Tehran’s hostages in ’79.

      • Shingo on September 29, 2013, 4:49 am

        Not to mention the Iranian passenger plane shot down over Iranian air space by the US navy, killing all 296 passengers.

      • pabelmont on September 29, 2013, 4:21 pm

        But that shoot-down was a weapons-test (or demo?) and so it doesn’t count as aggressive warfare. No, no, no! We USAers don’t do that sort of thing, as is well known.


    • Citizen on September 28, 2013, 2:05 pm

      @ Kathleen
      Not to mention Iran has not started a war in centuries, while Israel has started everyone it’s been in since its birth in 1948, the birth itself a product of Jewish aggression and land theft.

    • David Nelson on September 28, 2013, 7:45 pm

      Yes Kathleen, exactly right. The propaganda has been piled on so thick over the decades we may need some paint stripper to clean up the discourse. No equivalancy in actions at all between Israel and Iran, none.

  2. Obsidian on September 28, 2013, 4:10 pm

    Rouhani returned to Iran and was pelted with eggs and shoes.

    I think the wolves are in Teheran, not Tel Aviv or Washington, D.C.

    • eGuard on September 28, 2013, 5:21 pm

      Wolves are animals, they are fair. For example, they don’t throw shoes or eggs, ever. I don’t know about creatures in Tel Aviv.

    • Shingo on September 28, 2013, 5:32 pm

      Rouhani returned to Iran and was pelted with eggs and shoes.

      Did you see that on one of Bibbi ‘d cartoons?

      I think the wolves are in Teheran, not Tel Aviv or Washington, D.C.

      LOL. Washington and Tel Aviv is where they breed them.

    • Ecru on September 28, 2013, 6:26 pm

      @ Obsidian

      From the New York Post:

      Hundreds of Iranians cheered President Hassan Rouhani on his return from New York on Saturday after his historic phone call with U.S. President Barack Obama but a smaller number of hardliners shouted “Death to America” and threw eggs and shoes at his official car leaving the airport, Iranian media reported.

      Now remind us all, what happened to the last Israeli Prime Minister who actually tried (well, for an Israeli) to find a solution to the I/P conflict? You know, all the way back in 1995. He got a bit more than some eggs and shoes didn’t he? Lead slugs wasn’t it?

      You’re right though, no wolves in Tel Aviv (I wouldn’t so insult such a lovely animal) they’re more like rabid hyenas. And to be honest I feel a bit bad insulting the hyenas.

  3. DICKERSON3870 on September 28, 2013, 4:34 pm

    RE: “The Iranian leader is painted by the Jewish establishments in America and Israel as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” ~ Marc Ellis

    MY COMMENT: As to the Jewish establishments in America and Israel painting Rouhani as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, this appears to be yet another instance of ‘psychological projection’* by them!

    “How Israel Out-Foxed US Presidents”, By Morgan Strong (A Special Report),, 5/31/10

    [EXCERPT] ● Secret Nukes and JFK
    . . . Even as it backed down in the Sinai [following its invasion in 1956], Israel was involved in another monumental deception, a plan for building its own nuclear arsenal.
    In 1956, Israel had concluded an agreement with France to build a nuclear reactor in the Negev desert. Israel also signed a secret agreement with France to build an adjacent plutonium reprocessing plant.

    Israel began constructing its nuclear plant in 1958. However, French President Charles de Gaulle was worried about nuclear weapons destabilizing the Middle East and insisted that Israel not develop a nuclear bomb from the plutonium processing plant. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion assured de Gaulle that the processing plant was for peaceful purposes only.
    After John F. Kennedy became President, he also wrote to Ben-Gurion explicitly calling on Israel not to join the nuclear-weapons club, drawing another pledge from Ben-Gurion that Israel had no such intention.
    Nevertheless, Kennedy continued to press, forcing the Israelis to let U.S. scientists inspect the nuclear reactor at Dimona. But the Israelis first built a fake control room while bricking up and otherwise disguising parts of the building that housed the plutonium processing plant.
    In return for allowing inspectors into Dimona, Ben-Gurion also demanded that the United States sell Hawk surface-to-air missiles to the Israeli military. Kennedy agreed to the sale as a show of good faith.
    Subsequently, however, the CIA got wind of the Dimona deception and leaked to the press that Israel was secretly building a nuclear bomb.
    After Kennedy’s assassination, President Lyndon Johnson also grew concerned over Israel’s acquiring nuclear weapons. He asked then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
    Eshkol assured Johnson that Israel was studying the matter and would sign the treaty in due course. However, Israel has never signed the treaty
    and never has admitted that it developed nuclear weapons. [For details, See “Israel and The Bomb” by Avner Cohen.] . . .


  4. eGuard on September 28, 2013, 5:18 pm

    Marc H. Ellis: It could be that Israel is condemning Iran’s initiative in public while breathing a sigh of relief behind closed doors.

    Israel will not be relieved, not even behind closed doors. Israel does not want another powerstate nearby.

    • Shingo on September 28, 2013, 9:55 pm

      I agree.

      I am surprised that Ellis would even consider this as a possible scenario.

      The Israeli leaders are not worried about Iran nukes. This has been a cynical exploitation by Israel’s leadership to push the IP conflict onto the back burner and to prevent the emergence of any regional rival emerging.

      And frankly, this whole BS about restraining Hezbollah has for to stop. We haven’t heard a peep from Hezbollah since 2006 (and yes, that included Bulgaria in which they played no part). Hezbollah exercise plenty of self restraint.

    • amigo on September 29, 2013, 11:04 am

      “Israel will not be relieved, not even behind closed doors. Israel does not want another powerstate nearby.”eGaurd.

      Why not, it means Iran will no longer have the privilege of topping the list of most hated states on Earth.

      Israel will have that honour.

      And look, it,s not EI or MW or Haaretz or any of those Jew hating rag mags.

      • seafoid on September 29, 2013, 3:21 pm

        Israel won’t stand another state with the ultimate weapon in the joint but Israel will have to get used to multipolarity, just the US has to. Sole possession of nukes was a disaster for Israel anyway. YESHA would never have happened on the scale it did without Israel thinking it was invincible.

  5. James Canning on September 28, 2013, 6:52 pm

    I think it actually will be a good thing for Israel if the US allows a P5+1 deal with Iran, even if only a partial deal.

    Netanyahu may well argue otherwise, of course.

    • piotr on September 29, 2013, 12:54 am

      I am not sure if Netanyahu is a wolf in wolf clothing. Apart from the sartorial considerations, he is more like Wile E. Coyote (and he was also compared to Elmer Fudd, the wabbit hunter).

      Obama is a very annoying opportunist, but he knows when he can be admirably courageous while also having his posterior completely covered. While many pundits are vehemently opposed to giving credence to Iranian government, the armchair warrior faction seems currently outgunned and public opinion polls are quite against them (and that matters, unlike the issue of rational arguments). It is already some time that it dawned on the public that never ending wars drain American resources with no gain to show for it. During the last election, foreign policy was the only issue that was giving an edge to Obama — economy is miserable and it is hard to tell whose policy make sense, ditto healthcare etc.

      Perhaps, and I am a dreamy optimist again, we see a good kind of domino effect. Once Obama “humiliated himself” on the issue of Syria only to be rewarded in the polls, negotiations with Iran offer an opportunity to continue that trend (and accidentally, they may follow a very rational policy; while you can successfully market crap, marketing good products is a bit easier). And Netanyahu and his legions of lobbyists and pundits will look silly once again. Of course, it is possible that the Administration will derail the agreement in keeping with its previous policies. But there is some reasons to be more optimistic. For example, Iranian president is a figurehead as far as military and foreign policy is concerned, so to some extend it does not matter if we negotiate with Ahmedinejad or Rouhani. However, an agreement requires lifting of sanctions which would give a success and the aura of a success to the president, and it is easy to demonize the agreement as strengthening the president — if the latter has sufficiently demonic PR.

      Once credibility of GoI among American public is shredded, Obama may proceed in putting a sufficient pressure into the peace process to truly revive it — as for now it is a sad, moribund zombie.

  6. Kathleen on September 29, 2013, 8:11 am

    Netanyahu is more like Snidely Whiplash. He does not give a rats ass about the human rights of anyone else but Israeli Jews. Or Jews in general. The man is a racist… Period.

    I’ill give him an Eddie Haskell at best

    • just on September 29, 2013, 9:22 am

      Eddie Haskell, irritating and disingenuous as he may be, is a veritable humanitarian compared to Netanyahu.

  7. American on September 29, 2013, 11:50 am

    ”What are the odds that Netanyahu will take up Rouhani’s offer to really change the face of the Middle East? ”>>>>>

    Slim to none. I’d say non existent. Please understand —-e..v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g Israel has, economically, militarily, diplomatically they have aquired on ‘holocuast sympathy and dire threats to the Jewish State and its diaspora helpers in other countries”.
    Israel cannot exist or last without those things.
    Peace and the removal of ‘threats’ to Israel means they lose the justifications for all the money, the aid, the favortism.
    Israel is a parasitic nation—–it has never been able to and cannot exist in its present state as anything else.
    The Zionist dont have to be told by the CIA reports that say Israel is not now or
    for the foreseeable future ‘self sustaining’. The Zionist know this. They know that Isr has to be ‘constantly fed’ to even maintain what it has now, much less attain the real power they’re after, so they will always, always try to create enemies and justifications to keep themselves going.
    Getting rid of the parasite or changing it imo requiries the same overwhelming
    public reaction to it as we saw in the publc’s reaction to the Syria bombing plan.
    Israel bombing Iran to draw in the US might set off that public reaction on the US-Isr scheme.
    I’d be all for Isr making that mistake if it wasnt for the number of people it would kill.

    Security Industry
    Israel starts campaign to boost U.S. military aid
    Published: Sept. 27, 2013 at 1:12 PM
    TEL AVIV, Israel, Sept. 27 (UPI) — Israel’s military chiefs are pushing for a bump in the $3.1 billion a year the Jewish state receives in U.S. military aid even though the 10-year agreement doesn’t expire until 2017 and America is struggling with domestic economic issues.
    Among other things, the Israelis are citing a 2008 U.S. law that for the first time legally committed Washington to maintain the Jewish state’s technological superiority — its Qualitative Military Edge, or QME, in military terminology — over its regional adversaries, particularly Iran, which has been pursuing nuclear technology.
    The QME, the cornerstone of the strategic alliance between the United States and Israel for the past few decades, was long viewed as a negotiating principle between the two allies, but was made law under the Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2008. The act requires U.S. military aid at all times ensures Israel is technologically capable of countering any array of hostile states and non-state combatants such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
    The $3.1 billion a year in military aid is by far the largest single package of its kind provided by the United States but the Israelis argue a new set of security threats in the Middle East — such as the Syrian civil war, the turmoil in Iraq and Egypt, and the increased danger from al-Qaida now operating in Syria and Egypt — justify an increase in foreign military finance, or FMF, grants.
    Military analyst Nathan Guttman said in preliminary talks now under way, Israel is laying out “the principles it would like to see guide the next aid package.”
    “One will aim to put a dollar sum on the cost of maintaining Israel’s QME. This estimate will take into account what it will take to ensure that Israel’s armed forces are always one step ahead of their adversaries — or those Israel argues are adversaries — in the region,” he wrote in the U.S. Jewish newspaper the Forward. “The second will be to include missile defense programs, currently funded through a separate Pentagon budget line, in the foreign aid program managed through the State Department’s budget.”

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