My first instinct was to write about the tremendous mistake being made our government, under Prime Minister Netanyahu’s leadership, in its continued clumsy attempts to interfere in the United States’ elections. Netanyahu’s speech at the UN (while not as bad as some of his recent remarks in this regard), could clearly be considered critical of President Obama. MK Dani Dannon (the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset) in his recent article in the Jerusalem Post, “The Obama Admistration and the Diplomatic Tsunami“, is not the slightest bit circumspect in his attacks on Obama. Attacking the US President is never a smart policy. However, now that Obama is heavily favored to be re-elected, this policy seems ever more disastrous in practice. This weekend I read two articles regarding the above mentioned situation: The first in Ha’Aretz by Don Futterman, “When a prime minister plays kingmaker“; and the second piece in the Jerusalem Post by Daniel Gordis” Abortion, Gay Marriage, Gun Control…and Israel.” Frankly, these two gentlemen said it all. I have no need to repeat it, no matter how salient the message remains.
Instead, I would like to address instead the continued undermining of the very meaning of Zionism, both by Prime Minister Netanyahu and others. I am sure they would be aghast at the accusation I level at them, but that is exactly what they have been doing for many years.
How have they been doing this? Their constant statements comparing Iran now or terrorists, previously, to Nazis weakens the very fabric of Zionism. Lately, that rhetoric has reached new heights, both at the UN and in other appearances, as Prime Minister Netanyahu has labored– with some success– to concentrate the world’s attention to the dangers of a nuclear armed Iran. Netanyahu achieved some success but recently, the way he has been going about influencing this conversation has undermined the whole success of the Zionist state.
Israel was created to be a strong homeland of the Jews. Israel was meant to be the place where Jews could defends themselves, and develop into the nation we always dreamed we could become. In fact, over the course of the last 64 years much of that dream has been fulfilled. While our full potential as a nation has not yet been realized, not to mention our many remaining domestic challenges, for the past 45 years no one in the world questions our ability to defend ourselves. Both militarily and economically we are clearly the strongest nation in the Middle East. Yet our leaders have been declaring widely to the world that we are back at 1938; with the Nazi regime of today (Iran) growing stronger. They warn that if the world does not learn the lesson of the Appeasement of Munich we will once again face a “Nazi-like threat”, (a threat in which the defenseless Jewish people could once again face a holocaust).
There is something very wrong with that picture. We are not in 1938. Israel is not a collection of defenseless Jewish people. Iran is not a superpower like Nazi Germany. Israel’s military and technological superiority is far advanced to those of Iran. For two decades Iran has been struggling to build a bomb. If Iran decides to actually build a bomb, it will be a Hiroshima-style bomb. According to foreign reports Israel has had that bomb for over 40 years. Israel has some of its best scientists at work in Dimona for 50 years. Does anyone really believe that at this point all we have are Hiroshima style bombs?
Yes, we need to do all we can to force Iran to quit its nuclear program. However, we need to take a different tactic. A nuclear Iran is no more of a threat to Israel than it is to the rest of the world. In fact, despite its rhetoric that we will be wiped off the face of the earth, Iran is indeed less of a threat to us than to other countries. We have the Chetz anti-missile system. Soon the Chetz III will come online. We will be the only nation on Earth to have an operational anti-ballistic missile defense systems in place. Israel, as opposed to Saudi Arabia and most other countries, has the certain ability to respond to any Iranian attack in such a way as to bring an end to the Iranian nation. That does not sound like the Jews of Europe of 1938 and a country that has taken 20 years to develop a nuclear bomb does not sound like Nazi Germany of 1939.
It is time to stop the rhetoric that simultaneously negates the singularity of the Holocaust, while at the same time undermines our own security. We need to continue to be the world-class scientific powerhouse that we have become. We need additional international investments in our R&D. We need to grow and keep our best minds living and creating at here at home. We need to keep turning out innovations both in military and civilian technology. You can not accomplish this by continually claiming there is a holocaust around the corner, or that there are “red lines” this spring. As one prominent Israeli economist said to me after hearing Netanyahu’s speech, “What do you think is going to happen to foreign investment next Spring?”
Every threat cannot be the next holocaust. Jews have indeed been persecuted for two milleniem but the Holocaust was a singular event in our history, and comparing the threat of Iran or the Arab terrorism to the Holocaust denigrates the very memory those who were slaughtered in the Holocaust.
We have a long list of serious social economic problems in this country that will once again fail to be addressed because we have a foreign boogeyman. Yes, Iran is a threat. If we did not have any existential physical threats we would not have to spend what we do on defense. But by making the problem much greater than it is, we undermine the very essence of our existence here. We are strong. We can defeat an Iranian threat in many different ways. By stoking our fears, Prime Minister Netanyahu may be ensuring his re-election in the upcoming elections, but he is weakening us. Our true strength is our inner conviction that we are back in our homeland to stay, our army is strong enough to defend us, and threats from a madman in Teheran will not stop our high-tech industries from developing the next best and greatest in the day and our grown children from partying in the clubs of Tel Aviv by night. It is only we who can defeat ourselves. The politics of fear may make sense in the voting booth, but stand in the way of our national destiny.