Sunday, April 15, 2012

Iran 3: Looking at Iran Through the Israeli Psychological Cross Hairs

Where's the Threat?
By Lloyd Agte

 My "Iran 1" and "Iran 2" articles suggest, that "easy" oil (good crude, not too deep and easily pumped and refined) is the U.S. Empire's main interest in Iran (along its continuing imperial unipolar world power scheme).  But less clear are the reasons Israel is so eager to bomb Iran, arming for war and why the Israeli government is psychologically preparing its citizens for a first-strike on Iran. 

Yes, some hawkish pro-military groups in the U.S have been actively supporting a military strike against Iran since their 1979 revolution, but in the last year we have seen a concerted, organized campaign for a massive strike headed by Israel.  The March 19, 2012 NYT states, "In all, pro-Israel political action committees and donors affiliated with them have given more than $47 million directly to federal candidates since 2000, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group."  Granted, Israel has regional ambitions, a need for oil, and a desire to eliminate any country that opposes their illegal confiscation of Palestinian land, but there seems to be an irrational, psychological element in Israel's paranoia toward Iran, which this Iran 3 article explores.

Despite the fact that AIPAC and the Israeli government constantly use the phrase "existential threat" when referring to the continuing insecurity of the Jewish State of Israel, no country in the world poses an actual "existential threat" to Israel. Nevertheless, the U.S. chimes in that "Israel has a right to defend itself" (and backs it up with three billion dollars plus a year) leaving out the unanswered question: "from whom?"  (And why do we never hear: "Iran has a right to defend itself?")

Oh, yes, Iran's President Ahmadinejad  did say a few years ago (quoting the Ayatollah Kohmeini that the current "regime" occupying "Jerusalem" (not Israel itself) would one day be "erased from the pages of time," which was initially mistranslated as "wipe Israel off the map." And oh, how the Israeli government and American Zionists harvested that translation error--Netanyahu and the Neo-Cons are still recycling it. Forgotten (or disremembered) in the U.S./Israeli media's erecting Ahmadinejad as "The Great Holocaust Denier" is one of Ahmadinejad's previous speeches wherein he said since Germany created the Holocaust, why did not Germany give up part of their land for a Jewish homeland, rather than making the innocent Palestinians suffer by giving up part of theirs.  Furthermore, it is the Ayatollah Ali Khameni who currently calls the shots in Iran, not Ahmadinejad, so making Ahmadinejad the Evil Tyrant of Iran is an exercise in ignorance or lying.

There is no imminent military threat to Israel from any country, certainly not from the Palestinians who live in ghetto-like conditions as the Israelis steadily steal their water and lands and wall them in/out.  So what IS Israel's problem with Iran?  Israel allegedly has over 200 nuclear weapons, one of the largest armies and air forces in the world, nuclear subs (Germany's recent sale to Israel of a 6th submarine capable of firing long range missiles sparked Gunner Grass' controversial poem "What Must Be Said"), drones, laser guided bombs, over 100 jet fighter planes, high-tech ground vehicles, an "iron umbrella" over Israeli cities to knock down incoming missiles, and so on.  Furthermore, as Atzmon notes below, neither Iran nor any other state has openly threatened Israel (except in defensive retaliation).

Pre-TSD: They Want to Kill Us All

Clearly, Israel could overwhelm anyone who might attack them, which practically eliminates the danger of a first-strike by any other country   So why is Israel still paranoid?  As a possible psychological explanation, I defer first to Gilad Atzmon, and his 2006 article Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder--A glimpse into Israeli Collective Psychosis (9-18-2006).

"While many may find it heartening or amusing that even an Israeli right winger cannot see a ray of light at the end of the Zionist tunnel, it is rather disconcerting to read that Israelis are already seriously contemplating their next Shoah [Holocaust]. I would argue here that it is exactly this form of deadly meditation that turns Israel, Israelis, global Zionists and Neocons into the gravest enemies of world peace.

"Indeed, a growing number of people want to see an end to Israel, the ‘Jew Only State’. Yet, no one around expresses any murderous or terminal plans against world Jewry or even against their Jewish State. No one in the political or the media spheres is calling for a homicidal act against the Jews or their Jewish State. Thus the well-established Judeocentric tendency to interpret almost any legitimate political and ideological criticism as a perpetration of an upcoming Judeocide should be comprehended as a severe form of paranoia verging on collective psychosis, which I define as Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Pre-TSD).

"Within the condition of the Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the stress is the outcome of a phantasmic event, an imaginary episode set in the future; an event that has never taken place. Unlike the PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in which stress comes as the direct reaction to an event that (may) have taken place in the past, within the state of Pre-TSD, the stress is clearly the outcome of an imaginary potential event. Within the Pre-TSD, an illusion pre-empts reality and the condition in which the fantasy of terror is focussed [sic] is itself becoming grave reality. If it is taken to extremes, even an agenda of total war against the rest of the world is not an unthinkable reaction."

So if government spokesmen keep telling a populace an enemy could annihilate them at any moment, it is reasonable to see how Pre-TSD could set in.  And if it is constantly preached (without evidence thus far) that Iran's legal and sanctioned peaceful nuclear power activity is actually a program to build a nuclear weapon to obliterate Israel, it is reasonable to see how a "get-them-before-they-get-us" syndrome would set in.

Conscious/Unconscious Conditioning

While the Atzmon essay seems quite a novel approach to Israel's motivations, and while PreTSD is a legitimate syndrome, it still seems a bit fanciful, almost a humorous exaggeration of Jewish "worrying" jokes (Jewish telegram: "Start worrying.  Details to follow").  But after examining Uri Avnery's article below, "Pour Out Your Wrath," it would seem that the syndrome is induced at least in some part by a religious heritage, an "indoctrination," he calls it, that does not fit the modern age.

Uri Avnery's piece on the spring season's Jewish myths and rituals he says comes from a Friday-before-Passover "reflections" he wrote in April of this year.  He first discusses the Haggadah, which tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt.  Then he discusses the rituals of the Sedar and its appeal to the senses and thus the repeated event's fond place in every Jewish family's memory. 

He says it is not a great literary masterpiece.  Nor does The Haggadah "have anything to do with real history."  For, he notes, "the Exodus never happened, nor the wandering in the desert, nor the conquest of Canaan."  The Egyptians were great chroniclers, he notes, and if 600,000 people fled, as the Bible says, or even 6000 it, would have been recorded by the Egyptians, not to count the failure of the annals to record the drowning of an entire Egyptian military contingent in the Red Sea; and furthermore, the Egyptians were ever alert to a possible invasion of Canaan and would have recorded such had it happened.  Furthermore, after the last hundred years of frantic digging in archeological sites in Israel and Palestine, no evidence has shown up of the conquest of Canaan, or of the Kingdoms of Saul, David, or Solomon.  While Avnery does not mention it, neither has any archeological evidence of an Egyptian exodus turned up in Israel/Palestine of Egyptian artifacts that the fleeing Israelites would have had with them: clothes, cooking ware, utensils, tools, jewels, art, etc.

For all this, Avnery is not disparaging the myth.  Rather he embraces it as something that "grips the human imagination, a myth that is the basis of great religion, a myth that directs the behavior of people to this very day.  Without the Exodus story, there would probably be no State of Israel today--and certainly not in Palestine."   In the next section, The Glory, he extols the power and beauty of the myth. He sees it as an inspiration "for all downtrodden peoples" and cites the U.S. Pilgrim Fathers as being inspired by it.

Then Avnery shifts to his next category: The Other Side. Without the "religious blinkers," he says, there is a whole different perspective.  Such as why were the entire Egyptian people punished because of the misdeed of a tyrant Pharaoh?  Why would God pollute their water with blood, bring on the locusts and destroy their food supply?  And what kind of god would send an angel to murder every Egyptian firstborn child?  Then on leaving Egypt they were encouraged to steal their neighbor's property.

On arriving at Canaan, Avnery notes, God told them to kill the people living there, commit genocide, and ordered the Israelites to totally eradicate the people of Amalek.  Avnery concludes The Other Side by putting the writings in historical context.

"Of course, these texts were written by people living in times long past, when the ethics of individuals and nations were different, as were the rules of war. But the Haggadah is recited - today as before - uncritically, without any reflection on these horrible aspects. Especially in religious schools in Israel today, the commandment to commit genocide against the non-Jewish population of Palestine is taken by many teachers and pupils quite literally."

Avnery's next section is Indoctrination, which he calls "the real point of these reflections."  I quote him at length so as not to distort his commentary.

"There are two sentences in the Haggadah that always had – and still have – a profound impact on the present.

"One is the central idea on which almost all Jews base their historical outlook: ‘In every generation they rise against us to destroy us.’

"This does not apply to a specific time or to a specific place. It is regarded as an eternal truth that applies to all places, all times. ‘They’ is the entire outside world, all non-Jews everywhere. Children hear this on Seder evening on their father’s knee, long before they are able to read and write, and from then on they hear or recite it every year for decades. It expresses the total conscious or unconscious conviction of almost all Jews, whether in Los Angeles, California, or in Lod, Israel. It certainly directs the policy of the State of Israel.

"The second sentence, which complements the first, is a cry to God: ‘Pour out your wrath upon the nations that do not know you…for they have devoured Jacob and desolated his home…Pour out your wrath on them! May your blazing anger overtake them! Pursue them from under the heavens of the Lord!…’

"The word ‘nations’ in this text has a double meaning. The Hebrew word is ‘goyim’, an ancient Hebrew term for ‘peoples’. Even the ancient Children of Israel were called a ‘Holy Goy’. But over the centuries, the word has taken on another meaning, and is understood to refer to all non-Jews, in a very derogatory way. (As in the Yiddish song 'Oy, Oy, Oy, / Drunk is the Goy.')"
Avnery then notes that the original text and its use "was written as a cry from the heart of a defenseless, persecuted people who had no means to take revenge on their torturers. To raise their spirits on the joyful Seder evening, they had to put their trust in God, crying out to Him that he should take revenge in their stead."

 Avnery in the final section, The Lesson, gets to the heart of his concern with the comforting yet dangerous lessons of the Haggadah:

"In the Diaspora, this craving for revenge was both understandable and ineffective. But the founding of the State of Israel has changed the situation completely. In Israel, Jews are far from being defenseless. We don’t have to rely on God to take revenge for the evils done unto us, past or present, real or imagined. We can pour out our wrath ourselves, on our neighbors, the Palestinians and other Arabs, on our minorities, on our victims.

"That is the real danger of the Haggadah, as I see it. It was written by and for helpless Jews living in perpetual danger. It raised their spirits once a year, when they felt safe for a moment, protected by their God, surrounded by their families.

"Taken out of this context and applied to a new, completely different situation, it can set us on an evil course. Telling ourselves that everybody is out to destroy us, yesterday and most certainly tomorrow, we consider the grandiloquent bombast of an Iranian bigmouth as a living proof of the validity of the old maxim. They are out to kill us, so we must – according to another ancient Jewish injunction – kill them first."

So Altzmon and Averney are not that far apart.  The former's collective psychosis and the latter's unconscious indoctrination are both convenient explanations for Israel's rabid eagerness to attack another non-threatening nation. 

Psychological Projection

Psychological Projection, according to Wikipedia is "a defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people. Thus, projection involves imagining or projecting the belief that others originate those feelings." Since no one voices a call to throw the Israelis into the sea or to nuke them, one can argue that the Israeli inclination to blame Muslims and Arabs for holding murderous tendencies toward themselves might be understood in terms of projection.
"What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs," the head of an IDF rocket unit in Lebanon said regarding the use of cluster bombs and phosphorous shells during the war. Quoting his battalion commander, the rocket unit head stated that the IDF fired around 1,800 cluster bombs, containing over 1.2 million cluster bomblets." 
Of these approximately 500,000 remain on the ground unexploded.  Is there a way to live with such guilt other than projecting the evil onto others?
The Israeli mantra that the Arabs want to "drive us in to the sea" is a phrase I have heard constantly since about 1970 (and I accepted it on faith in those early days). According to a 2009 documentary on Link TV recently, Jaffa, The Orange's Clockwork (Palestine Film Foundation, 2009), the expression evolved from the1936-1939 Arab Revolt in Palestine attack on the port city of Jaffa during an Arab strike over the Jews (many recent immigrants) and the building a competing port at Tel Aviv to bypass the Arab port of Jaffa.  The British Army, according to one citizen who was there, fired 4000 artillery shells on the city of Jaffa, literally driving the Arab citizens into the sea, where they escaped in small and medium-sized boats. The Jewish community, according to the film, immediately seized their property.  According to a local resident interviewed in the film, the city of 150,000 Arabs (in 1918 census) was reduced to 30,000.  So is this another classic case of projection?  Is the vicious treatment of the Arabs in the British terrorist strikes on Jaffa, which drove the Arabs into the sea and resulted in Jewish confiscation of their property now projected onto the intentions of all Arabs' (past, present and future) to "drive the Israelis into the sea"?   Is that why the phrase now exists as a mythology of never-ending Israeli victimization of an ever-besieged Israel?  Extrapolating from this mythology, is it too much of a stretch to reason that many Israelis harbor in their hearts a murderous desire to crush and exterminate Persian Iran, which they project as being Iran's intention toward them?  Are they also ascribing their own evil intentions onto Iran?  And are they also projecting onto the Palestinians their own daily vicious theft of Palestinian water and land?

According to a March 17, 2012 New York Times article, there has been no evidence that Iran's is building a nuclear weapon.  This was corroborated in a March 23, 2012 Reuters report stating "The United States, European allies and even Israel generally agree on three things about Iran's nuclear program: Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead."  The National Intelligence Estimate in 2007 concluded that Iran had given up its nuclear program in 2003 (following the end of the Iraqi threat after the U.S. deposed Saddam Hussein).  What did change was Yukiya Amano, a U.S. sycophant appointed in to head the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2009 and who cooked the books in 2011 to make it appear that Iran was indeed building a bomb. The report has since been discredited, though it remains a handy rallying cry for Neocons and Zionists championing a war.

Israel's Shift to the Right

Unfortunately, official reports that there is no evidence that Iran is not moving toward building a bomb are overshadowed by the Israeli and U.S. right wing war drum beating, for an April 10 Washington Post survey found that 84% of the U.S. public believed that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon.  41% favor bombing, but 53% were opposed, Republicans nearly twice as hawkish as Democrats.  In another survey by the Israeli Newspaper Haaretz, 62% of Jewish voters in the U.S. would vote for Obama whereas 30% would like to see a Republican candidate win. Only 4% list Israel as the most important issue influencing their vote.  90% see Palestine as Israel's major problem, whereas 83% think it is Iran. So clearly there is no solid "Jewish block" in the U.S.

But the above poll of American Jewish preferences also reveals how far the Israeli political establishment has moved to the right. For President Obama to say he will launch a war if Iran builds a bomb is a total shift in foreign policy, seemingly driven by the hawkish, extreme right wing Likud party in Israel. In the March 12, 2012 New Yorker magazine, Editor David Remnick documents this radical rightward shift in his editorial article entitled "Threatened," writing that starting with the occupation of Palestinian Territories and "the subjection of Palestinian men, women, and children--that has lasted for forty-five years," Israel has evolved such that it now has "a profoundly anti-democratic, even racist political culture that has become endemic among much of the Jewish Population in the West Bank, and jeopardizes Israel proper."

Remnik goes on to cite a catalog of evidence of Israel's movement to the right in politics. 

"Peter Beinart, in a forthcoming and passionately argued polemic, The Crisis of Zionism, is just the latest critic to point out that a profoundly anti-democratic, even racist, political culture has become endemic among much of the Jewish population in the West Bank, and jeopardizes Israel proper. The explosion of settlements, encouraged and subsidized by both Labor and Likud governments, has led to a large and established ethnocracy that thinks of itself as a permanent frontier. In 1980, twelve thousand Jews lived in the West Bank, ‘east of democracy,’ Beinart writes; now they number more than three hundred thousand, and include Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s wildly xenophobic Foreign Minister. Lieberman has advocated the execution of Arab members of parliament who dare to meet with leaders of Hamas. His McCarthyite allies call for citizens to swear loyalty oaths to the Jewish state; for restrictions on human-rights organizations, like the New Israel Fund; and for laws constricting freedom of expression."

It is with a sense of grief that Remnick continues his litany of atrocious political examples:

"Herzl envisioned a pluralist Zionism in which rabbis would enjoy ‘no privileged voice in the state.’ These days, emboldened fundamentalists flaunt an increasingly aggressive medievalism. There are sickening reports of ultra-Orthodox men spitting on schoolgirls whose attire they consider insufficiently demure, and demanding that women sit at the back of public buses. Elyakim Levanon, the chief rabbi of the Elon Moreh settlement, near Nablus, says that Orthodox soldiers should prefer to face a ‘firing squad’ rather than sit through events at which women sing, and has forbidden women to run for public office, because ‘the husband presents the family’s opinion.’ Dov Lior, the head of an important West Bank rabbinical council, has called Baruch Goldstein—who, in 1994, machine-gunned twenty-nine Palestinians at the Cave of the Patriarchs, in Hebron—‘holier than all the martyrs of the Holocaust.’ Lior endorsed a book that discussed when it is right and proper to murder an Arab, and he and a group of kindred rabbis issued a proclamation proscribing Jews from selling or renting land to non-Jews. Men like Lieberman, Levanon, and Lior are scarcely embittered figures on the irrelevant margins: a hard-right base—the settlers, the ultra-Orthodox, Shas, the National Religious Party—is indispensable to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition."

Remnick ends by noting that Netanyahu knows that young American Jews are split, but that he cares only about the Orthodox community that supports him.  Remnick calls Obama a "philo-Semite" for his close relationship with Jews in Chicago and with a number of liberal rabbis. But Netanyahu, cares no more for Obama and the rabbis than he cares for the liberal U.S. Jews.   Israel, Remnick concludes, is in danger that its democratic dream is being deferred, perhaps "fatally."

Obama does not want to bomb Iran (though he is prepared to do so) and while he tells Israel that he has its back, he has made it clear he does not support a first strike by them.  Thus the U.S. has engineered rigid economic sanctions on Iran to force them to totally abandon even their peaceful nuclear program.  But as Julian Cole points out, an economic war with the world's third largest oil producer presents its own hazards.  As the beat of the war drums intensify, and when a greater world oil shortage is created by the sanctions, or if Israel in a fit of hubris makes a first strike on Iran, dragging the U.S. into WWIII, the estimated extra twenty-five cents a gallon we are now paying for gasoline due to the current Israeli/U.S saber-rattling over Iran will seem really, really cheap.  And if there is a military attack on Iran, the resulting global economic meltdown will make the economic meltdown of 2008 seem like a golden age of prosperity.