Samuel Heilman
Distinguished Professor of Sociology Emeritus CUNY

Dangerous Iran: A Way Out

Make no mistake, the Iranians wanted and expected to inflict major damage on Israel and its citizens.  This was not simply a case of slowly traveling drones. Iran fired 110 of its fast flying 500 kilogram ballistic missiles that can cause huge destruction and take many lives.  These were aimed as well at population centers, not just military installations.  Thanks to the Mossad and Military Intelligence, Israel knew what was coming and how to prepare for it. This was no benign message from Iran to Israel, as some have suggested.  Had even a few of those missiles hit their targets, no one would been surprised that an Israeli response was necessary to deter another direct attack from the Iranian arch enemy, a fundamentalist government that has for years that its goal is “death to Israel.” Its promise to sooner or later annihilate the Jewish state and wipe it off what it calls “Dar al Islam,” the house of Islam, the parts of the world where Muslims were once in the majority and the rulers practice Islam, a place that these Islamists believe must never be again under the control by anyone other than believers, must be taken very seriously.  For the Mullahs and their Revolutionary Guards, this plan is not simply a political program but a religious mandate that they cannot ignore.  With support for the Iranian regime by large numbers of Iranians failing, this is not however an objective of many of those living under the heavy hand of the government.

There are still those who remember when, preceding the takeover of Ayatollah Khomeini and his revolutionaries, Israel and Iran were among the strongest allies in the Middle East. A former Iranian who is now an Israeli sent a message of friendship in Farsi to the people of Iran posted on Facebook and X, both of which received hundreds of thousand views. At the same time the Iranian government charged journalists who opposed the attack on Israel. This is clearly an effort to squelch any of the undoubtedly significant numbers of those who share sympathy for Israel or the Jewish people (many of whom had a long history in the country from as far back as the days of Esther and Mordecai).  But since 1979, Israel has become “the Little Satan” and America the “Great Satan,” while hostage-taking, terror attacks , and religious extremism have become religious expressions.  Surely, there is something that a true leader could find to lead us to something other than a cycle of attacks and counterattacks, even in the face of this committed enemy government and its proxies.

With the assault last Saturday night on Israel, coupled with the growth of nuclear capability, by the Iranian government has made its goals for Israel frightfully real, a fact that has reminded the Great and Little Satans that the our destinies when it comes to Iran are intertwined.  Alas, many supporters of the Ceasefire with Hamas, Iran’s disciples, without a release and accounting of Israeli hostages only encourages Iran in its despicable goals. Indeed, many of the Western Democratic countries understand that while Israel and America may be the primary targets of Iran, without the deterrence by these two states, Iran and those sharing its goals will aim at them too. France recalls the Carlie Hebdo attacks and the terror it inflicted on Paris. Throughout Europe, the reach of Iran’s destructive fundamentalism has been felt.  Yet they have also called for restraint and a new kind of reaction.

While right wing hacks like Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir have urgedr swift counterattacks, and unconfirmed reports suggest that even war cabinet minister Benny Gantz and his National Unity party colleague Gadi Eisenkot, an observer in the war cabinet, also both proposed striking back at Iran even as the Iranian attack was underway last night, cooler heads have called for something else.  Ignoring the advise of Israeli allies who urge us to take advantage of the remarkable success in thwarting the dastardly attack and use it for an exit from the cycle of useless war, these men have no plan for an exit.

In line with my earlier blog post, Major General (res.) Yair Golan offers an alternative response in which Israel can use this unique moment to shift the conversation and perhaps find a way out of this morass created by the Netanyahu government.  The former deputy IDF chief and ex-deputy economy minister, who has correctly asserted that “this government can’t set diplomatic goals, can’t bring the hostages home, and can’t save two areas of Israel that have been abandoned,” he continues. “The only thing they can do is look out for their political survival.”  He is now running to head the nearly moribund Labor Party, which proposes an exit plan from Gaza and also one for this government.  The man who while our current government was ineffective on the morning of October 7, took it upon himself after Hamas terrorists had invaded Israel to act, jumped into his small Toyota Yaris and headed for the area where — it would later emerge — more than 260 young people were being mown down in hails of gunfire. Using his intimate knowledge of the territory, he managed to find and rescue many of those who had fled on foot from the party and were hiding in fields and bushes — mainly on the basis of WhatsApp location messages sent to him by the youths or their parents.

Following my previous post, readers asked me if there was anyone who could replace the current wannabe pretenders for Bibi’s Premiership.  I think Yair Golan may be one.  He has shown personal integrity, leadership, and good ideas.  Educated at Harvard and Tel Aviv, he has called for an honest leader.  Maybe he can save us too.

About the Author
Until his retirement in August 2020, Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Queens College CUNY, Samuel Heilman held the Harold Proshansky Chair in Jewish Studies at the Graduate Center. He is author of 15 books some of which have been translated into Spanish and Hebrew, and is the winner of three National Jewish Book Awards, as well as a number of other prestigious book prizes, and was awarded the Marshall Sklare Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry, as well as four Distinguished Faculty Awards at the City University of New York.He has been a Fulbright Fellow and Senior Specialist in Australia, China, and Poland, and lectured in many universities throughout the United States and the world. He was for many years Editor of Contemporary Jewry and is a frequent columnist at Ha'Aretz and was one at the New York Jewish Week. Since his retirement, he and his family have resided in Jerusalem.
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