When Both Putin and Trump Salute the Jews

It probably makes no sense to submit a blog post to the Times of Israel challenging David Horovitz’ analysis of current events.

As I have learned to my bitter consternation, the Times of Israel’s market place of ideas is not quite the open market it portrays itself to be.  In the past 10 months, T of I’s open market twice slammed its doors shut on my blog posts:  First, it refused to publish an essay entitled “It’s Islam Stupid” – nothing more than a paraphrase of Bill Clinton’s winning 1992 slogan “It’s the Economy Stupid,” – where I argued that Islam’s failure to accommodate to modernity is the root cause of the Arab Spring and its attendant violence.  And more recently, it rejected an essay about the politics of Israeli basketball where I was called out for serendipitously noting that the demographic consequences of the nationality rules of the Israel Premier Basketball League favors putting Jewish ball players on the basketball court over non-Jewish ball players.

But as a relentless devote of democracy I continue to believe that an open market place can be penetrated even by those who trumpet the unconventional, even when the unconventional challenges the wisdom of the market’s gatekeeper.

And so, here is my challenge to David Horovitz’ essay first featured in the Times of Israel on 9 May 2018 and still being featured as of this posting.

According to Mr. Horovitz, Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA and to re-impose strict sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran will probably make Iran even more dangerous than before.  In fact Mr. Horovitz contends that this week’s political and military events – Trump’s stark warning to Iran of the awful consequences that will ensue if it resumes its nuclear activities; Netanyahu’s very successful 12 hour trip to Russia; and Israel’s flawless attack on Iran’s military assets in Syria – will compel Iran “to hit back.”  As Horovitz puts it, “these are challenging days for the ruthless Iranian regime … [w]hich may well make it all the more dangerous.”

David Horovitz is of course correct.  The ruthless mullahs in Teheran are deeply frustrated at having been mousetrapped by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s remarkable foreign policy successes.  Within the span of just a few days, so few that they are better calculated in hours, Netanyahu convinced both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin that this time it pays to side with the Jews and not with the Muslims if only because this time it is the Jews and not the Muslims who wield the lion’s share of the power.  And if there is one thing that both Donald and Vladimir find persuasive it is the authority of power.

But the ruthless rulers in Teheran also respond to the persuasive logic of power.  Indeed, that is precisely why Mr. Horovitz calls them ruthless rather than stupid.  As such the beating which the IDF inflicted last night on Iranian assets deployed in the ruined state of Syria, surely drove home the point that the mighty forces of the Iranian Shi’a are utterly impotent against the power of Israel, as impotent against the “little Satan” as they are against the “great Satan.”

In other words, since David Horovitz is correct and Iran is even more dangerous now than it was on Sunday if only because of the humiliations to which Trump and Putin and Netanyahu have subjected it, it seems to me that Horovitz, but not only Horovitz, ought to ask the following question:  Now that both the great Satan and the little Satan are immunized from an attack by the mad mullahs of Teheran, who will become the target of their furry?

The answer to this question is as simple as it is rhetorical.  The target of the frustrated and even more dangerous Shi’a will be the placid and forthcoming Sunni, first and foremost, the moderating if not downright progressive Wahhabis of Riyadh.

And this outcome will raise a harrowing question for Israel that David Horovitz knows he is not competent to answer:  When the Shi’a of Iran attack the Sunni of Saudi Arabia how should Israel respond?  Should the sovereign Jewish State send its soldiers – both male and female; both Jewish and non-Jewish – into harm’s way in order to defend the Sunni fundamentalists from the Shi’a fundamentalists?  Or should the sovereign nation-state of the Jewish people declare that it takes no position on internal Islamic rivalries.

Or maybe David Horovitz knows that he is just plain wrong.  Maybe Iran’s mounting problems have not made the ruthless Iranian regime more dangerous but less dangerous.  Maybe Israel’s overwhelming military power which has been forthrightly saluted by both the world’s only active super power, the United States of America, and its only lapsed super power, Russia, has turned Iran into a docile dependent whose regime is so thoroughly unhinged that it does not know which way to turn.  And last night’s pathetic performance of the Iranian forces occupying southern territory in the ruined Syrian State – 20 rockets fired and zero hits – makes this assumption highly credible.

But then Israel would be bereft of enemies, deprived of every existential threat to its sovereignty.  And the consequences of this fact – Israel’s unfettered victory over its enemies – are even more unpalatable to Mr. Horovitz, but not only Mr. Horovitz, than having to decide if Israeli soldiers should be sacrificed in order to save Wahhabi Islam from the wrath of the frustrated Shi’a.  Why?  Because with its enemies defeated, Israel will have no choice but to finally confront the great conundrum at the heart of its national identity:  The consequences of its demographic definition of Jewish nationhood; the odious task of counting the number of citizens with Jewish mommies.

And when that happens, nobody will want to be the gatekeeper.


About the Author
Avi Berkowitz teaches history at the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University, and serves as the Rabbi of the Minyan HaVatikim in the Rimon section of Efrat. He holds a PhD from Columbia University in International Relations, with a specialty in Middle East studies and received his Rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchick. Prior to coming on aliyah, he served as the rabbi of the Community Synagogue in Manhattan's East Village, taught history at the Ramaz Upper School, and was an adjunct Assistant Professor of political science and Middle East studies at CUNY