The Arrow of History

Thanks to the US administration of Barack Obama, the State of Israel has perhaps eight to ten years to prepare to win a war of advanced weapons of mass destruction. In order for that victory to take place, Israel will need a defensive missile shield unparalleled in world history. Instead of an era of peace as described by the prophets of ancient Israel, modern Israel is well on its way to achieve such an anti-ballistic missile system. This dangerous scenario was never anticipated by early Zionist thinkers. However, it represents a reality as witnessed through the prism of the anti-Semitic rhetoric and actions of the many and varied enemies of Jewish self-determination located in the very heart of the Muslim world.

The eschatological (end times) essence of Judaic theology throughout history has always been represented as an era of time devoted solely to peaceful pursuits. This era of time has never had a doomsday or apocalyptical component, like Islam and Christianity, and therefore does not mean the end of natural human history. On the contrary, the redemption of history in Jewish thought — meaning the absence of the institution of inter-state war and violence — is to be the beginning of a second and distinct period of human history (her story), whereby the human race (and the planet it inhabits) can slowly become a proper vessel in order to eventually encounter the Divine Creator.

In order for the State of Israel to survive, however, either the end times concepts of their Muslim neighbors must change, or Israelis must hold their courage and prepare their defenses for a second nuclear era — a nuclear era that will certainly be far more dangerous than the first. Yes, Israel was threatened by nuclear attack before. Israel’s first nuclear era began in 1956. During the Suez crisis Soviet Russia warned Israel to leave the Egyptian Sinai or risk an escalation beyond the mere conventional. The US administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower did not lift a finger to protest the Soviet threat. Given this reality, and within a decade or so, Israel developed its own nuclear program. This program has advanced tremendously and now includes a triad of defensive capability. But the future of warfare in the Middle East has not remained static as Israel’s enemies have also attempted (and continue) to build nuclear arsenals of their own.

Iran and Iraq are at the center of Shiite power within the Middle East. Iran holds a theological position that Jewish self-determination — in the territory named “Palestine” by pagan Rome six hundred years before the birth of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad — is religiously invalid. Israel has also been described by the Iranian leader as “a cancerous tumor” at the heart of the Middle East. Iran holds the political position that Israel should cease to exist as a nation-state. But Iran also believes that politics alone cannot hope to remove such a “tumor”, and that only force could achieve such a result.

I have heard of no one in Israel who believes the American fantasy that the Obama-Iranian nuclear deal will hold in perpetuity. This American position simply does not correspond to reality. Yet the Jewish state and the Jewish people (like all people) must prepare for reality. Hence, Zionism and Judaism have once again departed ways. Zionism was created as a rebellion against a spiritualized Judaism which believed in a Divine-centered Messianic Age, and that such an age would be delivered by G-d alone.

Zionism has meant that this historical deliverance — the re-establishment of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel — has now happened within a distinctly human and material context. Instead of a Messianic state, a secular state has been achieved as an example of the dire necessity for Jewish self-protection. Simply put: In the very shadow of centuries of European hatred, culminating in the Holocaust, the Jewish People could no longer wait for the Messiah to achieve at least some semblance of deliverance. Instead, the Jews acted without the direct and perceivable blessing of G-d, and for the first time in two thousand years, the Jewish people resorted to violent methods when attacked.

Until the Iranian revolution, Israel’s main enemy was Sunni Arab nationalism. But Arab nationalism was defeated decisively, both in the war of 1967 and again (not so decisively) in 1973. It was during the Yom Kippur War of 1973 that Israel’s nuclear arsenal proved extremely useful. The very threat of its use proved to halt a successful Egyptian advancement. In fact when Egypt had the momentum, many Israeli troops were still up in the Golan. The nuclear arsenal (and the threat of its use) also ensured an all-important US government re-supply of weaponry. This eventually happened but not until after the US administration of Richard M. Nixon wavered in Israel’s hour of need. Without an adequate re-supply or a necessary Egyptian pause, the Jewish state could have been put in jeopardy.

Israel’s victories meant not only the demise of Arab nationalism but also the deep and abiding humiliation of another end-time scenario, the distinctly militarized version of Sunni Islam’s eschatological narrative. Unlike the spiritual (but still apocalyptic) reappearance of a hidden 12th Imam within historic Shiite theology, Sunni Islam has no institutional end-times narrative other than an anarchistic return to the earlier age of conquest and victory. However, with the advent of the Iranian revolution, the competition between Shiites and Sunnis for religious dominance directly challenged the Sunni end-time narrative. Sunni conquest was being usurped not only by the Jews in Israel, but by the Shiites in Iran as well.

But it wasn’t the Shiite end-time narrative which pushed revolutionary Iran toward the goal of regional hegemony; instead it was a hybrid fusion of religion and politics whose goal is to conquer Israel in the name of Shiite Islam. In other words, a Shiite form of religious imperialism whose impact on the Sunni Arab world held negative consequences for Sunni victory and the entire Sunni-military eschatological enterprise. A Shiite Caliphate, stretching from Persia to Palestine, would be a direct assault on the very history of the Arab-Islamic Middle East. The entire Arabian Peninsula as well as the Levant and Egypt could fall sway to Iranian-Shiite advancement.

Now, Israel faces an era of political Islam from both Iran and the Arab world. Fortunately, it appears impossible for these two examples of political Islam to be reconciled within the context of an overall war against the Jewish state (thanks G-d). But the Civil War within Islam is not only tragic from a religious viewpoint; it also holds the prospect of a nuclear apocalyptic end-game that is neither Jewish, Sunni nor Shiite. Talk about theological irony!

For Israel and the Jewish people, there is no turning back. Minority status as a potentially vilified outsider is not an option that any Jew can live with. The recent events of Europe are a prime example of the depths of anti-Semitism lurking around the historical corner within Western culture. Let us never forget that it was Western culture which gave us the Holocaust. Meanwhile, this event was justified by many leaders throughout the Islamic world. Obviously, assimilation into secular-European society still poses dire risks for Jews, while religious conversion means the very death of Judaism.

Escape to America is not an answer either. So many Jews in America have given up being Jewish, that such a voyage might only delay the assimilation process for one generation. It certainly can’t stop the process. For better or worse, the Jewish people have chosen the very heart of the Islamic Middle East to establish their future. Within a modern secular state, and as rebels against historic rabbinic Judaism, they have chosen a non-spiritualized form of deliverance. So for the first time in two thousand years, they have picked up the gun and have decided to take their destiny among nations into their own hands.

Zionism has been militarily successful. Israel cannot be defeated without its enemies risking nuclear war. And Israel should be prepared to win such a war using advanced defensive weaponry. Containment is hardly a viable strategy when you are outnumbered by over a billion people. Many of these very same Muslims believe in suicide as a weapon, especially against Israel. This deplorable act appears to be condoned in what is described, through Sharia Law, as defensive Jihad. The Divine promise to the Jewish people as recognized in both Torah and Koran — that Israel has a home at the very center of the Muslim-Arab world — has been ignored by the vast majority of Muslims. This must be a terrible affront to the L-rd.

But the Jewish people have not been left without resources. The priority now is that Israel develop a defensive missile shield which cannot be penetrated by any of its Middle East neighbors’ arsenals. Iran might be first to go nuclear, but others will also follow. Nuclear proliferation in the Middle East (and elsewhere) is a certainty, given that the arrow of history continues toward increased great- power competition, regional hegemonic aspirations, and advanced nuclear offensive and defensive upgrading.

It is time to face facts, the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) has failed. We are all now entering a new age of nuclear expansion. I call this age — the final age of misunderstanding. Thanks to the Americans, Iran will become a nuclear member of this new age sometime in the next ten or fifteen years. This will undoubtedly put the region of the Middle East in great peril. Furthermore, because the world’s great powers (all nuclear weapons states) have failed to achieve any semblance of a conventional balance or a new paradigm of peaceful understanding, and because these states have reneged on their commitment through the NPT treaty by not agreeing to disarm their huge nuclear arsenals, the world will remain a very dangerous place for as many decades as it takes to finally unwind these deadly systems.

The US alone is planning a one-trillion-dollar upgrade of its nuclear triad (bombers, submarines and missiles) over the next thirty years. Russia has already begun the upgrade process. Everyone else will follow suit. Given the revolutionary potential of anti-missile systems, along with the continued spread of the weapons themselves, this final age of misunderstanding will render MAD (mutually assured destruction) much more precarious a strategy than ever before. Don’t forget, it was in 1995 that Russia and the US came within a hair’s breadth of accidental nuclear war. Defensive systems, accidents, the absence of a true and lasting conventional balance, and the demise of the NPT with its promise of a total commitment by all nations to disarm — all these will certainly render the final age of misunderstanding far more dangerous than the Cold War itself.

China, Japan, India, Russia, Germany, France, the UK and the US must hold seats on a new UN Security Council dedicated to both conventional peace and nuclear disarmament. Only then can the proliferation of nuclear weapons be stopped. As the prophets of ancient Israel foretold: History can only be redeemed through peace. Without such a redemption, the alternative is far too risky to even contemplate. Israel (like all nations) must be willing to play its part, but not without a firm structure of peace throughout the region of the Middle East, and certainly not without a visible and viable effort by all the great powers mentioned above to relinquish their arsenals of mass destruction. This must also include a peaceful search for answers to their own regional hot spots and border disputes. No region or problem can be exempt from peaceful negotiations leading to a permanent global balance.

In our age of advanced technology, it is simply impossible to conquer the world without destroying the very home in which we and our children live. Islam can become the religion of peace (as its moderate proponents perceive it to be) or it can remain on the path of war against the outsider. The Jewish people are not going to go away. They believe that peace is not only possible, but that it is Divinely ordained. The Middle East has always been either a spiritual or physical home for the Jews. Now it is both, and three religious revelations affirm it.

But after the Holocaust of the previous century, the Jewish state will continue to keep its guard high in the sky. After two thousand years of exile, we have returned en masse to the Middle East. This is now a fact within the arrow of history. However, until this home is recognized by the entire Muslim world, the true direction of our religious prophesy will not be fulfilled. In the final analysis, religious belief has the potential to destroy nations or to redeem them. These are now facts with either grave military dimensions or the prospect of many generations of life in anticipation of the Divine presence on earth. Judaism chooses an end-time of peace, but Israel will be prepared for other potential arrows of history. We, as both Jews and Israelis, hope that Islam’s final decision will be life-affirming.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).