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The Crucible of American Indian â€¦
Massacre in Chiapas
Power to the (Malayalee) People
Richard w. franke and barbara h. Chasin
I'm Sick of Cultural Awareness
GLOBAL ROGUE STATE
A Tale of Two Stories
THE BEST OF 1997
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Israel has an estimated 60 to 80 nuclear warheads. They are pointed at every Arab capital, and at nuclear facilities in Pakistan and some states of the former USSR. Absent a Chernobyl-like accident at the Israeli nuclear instillation at Dimona, another horrific possibility for the weapons' use is a hijacked launching by messianists along the Gush Emunin line, in the fevered belief that God will protect them, as Jews, from the ensuing holocaust. A particularly mortifying eventuality is their use by the Israeli Security State as a "last-minute option" in a losing war against the Arab states, a "denial of victory" by the "destruction of Arab civilization." Regarding this last happenstance, Israeli human rights activist Israel Shahak believes that "Israel has contingency plans for cases of extreme emergency which envisage a devastation by nuclear weapons of a considerable number of Arab urban centers and such crucial installations as the Aswan Dam" and that "even among the relatively sane" Israeli leaders such a contingency might be supported. The apocalyptic capabilities of Strangelovian military leaders are brought into harsh relief by the example of Israel, a regional superpower with the ability to slaughter millions, and an ideology developed in the course of justifying its existence that has made such events more and more likely.
This overriding ideology and Israeli's military capability are the subject of Shahak's Open Secrets: Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policies. Shahak, a retired chemistry professor, Holocaust survivor and Israeli citizen, is a man Edward Said has called "one of the most remarkable individuals in the contemporary Middle East". Open Secrets is collection of reports on contemporary Israeli affairs to non-Israeli interested parties (e.g., Noam Chomsky, Christopher Hitchens ... ). The view presented is that of a man intimately familiar with his subject. The work extracts the representative views of the Israeli elite from the Hebrew press, concentrating on the elite's military numbers. Because, as Shahak writes, "The opinions of the Israeli Security System may mean something different from what they say. But this doesn't detract from their importance."
As a study of a free press with restricted movement, as the Israeli news media might be described, Open Secrets contains a bit of a tribute to the writers who communicate well under constraints "for the benefit of those who care enough to read newspapers between the lines." The paradox from which the title is drawn is that, as one Israeli commentator put it, "in Israel, the underlying principle is that all public information is secret, except if it has been authorized for publication." Building on dropped clues from censored journalists, a little conjecture (always identified as such), and his own informants, Shahak provides a picture of Israel's rulers and their vision of the Middle East like nothing else in the English language.
The vision is grim. The most terrifying and despair-inducing aspects of the Israeli state are distilled into this slim volume. A crisp image of a nation bent on achieving total regional domination emerges. A nation deeply distrustful of all--including its allies. This dire mix of driving power-hunger and well-cultivated paranoia--and its position as a military behemoth, due largely of course to US beneficence--results in a state unstable because of both its endless repression of all its neighbors and the short-sighted anti-democratic laws within its own borders.
Shahak moves quickly to the gist of the situation: "[T]he most important part of Israeli policies is not concerned with the Palestinians... Rather, that oppression is only the first step toward the establishment of Israel as the nuclear power in the Gulf; supposedly to secure the Gulf States, really to acquire a hegemony over them." From India to former USSR satellites, Afghanistan to Mauritania, is the breadth of this envisioned conquest. As is the prerogative of super states, any other real power poses a threat--thus even Egypt and Turkey, the two regional states with their arms also deeply extended into the U.S. honey jar, must be lessened.
On the other end of the political spectrum, Israel is spearheading world-wide slander campaigns against Iran, with the objective of crushing the Islamist government and cleansing regional memory of a radical regime that resisted Western markets (think of Iran as a Middle Eastern Cuba). And indeed, violent attacks from Israel have proved the cost of being a nation strong enough to challenge it, with Iran apparently being the most likely "rouge state" next in line to receive such a punishing.
All this points to another essential issue: the Israeli government is completely disinterested in genuine efforts at regional denuclearization. Instead, what they want, like with all their "peace" efforts, is exclusive power and control, a "peace" among unequals. In the nuclear realm, this means maintaining their current position as the only nation in the Middle East capable of waging nuclear warfare.
The economic gains to Israel of regional domination are many. Shahak deems Arab trade with Israel, though officially boycotted by Arab states, "an important prop for the Israeli economy." The trade is an estimated multi-billion dollar a year annual affair, weapons included. There is such a high level of active complicity and collusion of Arab leaders in Israeli-Arab trade that Shahak is driven to conclude: "the more an Arab state is or pretends to be hostile towards Israel, the higher are its purchases of Israeli-made goods and the closer are its covert relations with Israel. The reverse also holds true"--Jordan and Egypt have actually barred almost all Israeli imports. He perorates: "The Israeli-Arab trade rests on deceit and corruption on both sides."
The string of occupations of southern Lebanon takes on a strong economic motive: the easy funneling of Israel items--such as vegetables and manufactured goods--across a border where no real border still exists. In this light "the 'Peace for Galilee' War was to a large extent a trade war, comparable with, say, the Opium Wars or the trade wars of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries."
Shahak is good at not romanticizing victims. He includes important criticisms of Arab intellectuals and the Arab press, namely, their attribution to Israeli of "fantastic aims", while Israel's power grows with its real goals ignored. But, being a dedicated democrat, it can be inferred that Shahak also understands that much of this is due to the repressive dictatorships ruling the Arab world, which poison the critical discourses that lead to perceptive analysis.
His discussion of Israel's role as a keystone in the upkeep of the Arab world's pantheon of anti-democratic dirigeants is particularly revealing. Like US relations with its Latin American "backyard", the development of political strains deemed ideologically unsatisfactory inside the area Israel perceives as its sphere of influence--its demarcated "red line"--are unacceptable, and would merit quick and violent response, possibly nuclear. "Israel is preparing for a war, nuclear if need be," believes Shahak, "for the sake of averting domestic changes not to its liking, if it occurs in some or any Middle Eastern country." In attacking a Middle Eastern country because of radicalization taking place within its borders, Israel would be doing Western powers a favor. Western states sometimes find the commission of such acts uncomfortable, due to the minimal levels of popular support which they require. "There can be no doubt that in Israel, where even the Knesset doesn't need to be consulted before an armed aggression, no analogous obstacles exist."
The "stabilization" of repressive regimes has another positive side effect: dictatorships are always weaker than democracies (and so are their armies, as dictators fear arming their own people). Keeping the
contemporary batch of aging autocrats in power means the countries stay a minor threat. The only way to contest these Israeli policies "is the implementation of democracy in general and freedom of expression in particular, because only in this way can real issues be analyzed and effective remedies devised." But unfortunately there seem to be no strong democratic voices in the Middle East, and area where civil society has been brutalized by decades by just the sort of foreign-supported domestic repression that Shahak describes.
Another means Israel employs to weaken its neighbors is by acting as a drug conduit. Passage to drug traffickers is traded for the military intelligence of those same bodies by a broad array of Israeli military organs: the intelligence is useful, as is augmenting the "disaffection of Middle Eastern masses with policies of their governments (Israeli and Arab alike) by encouraging drug addiction and thereby political apathy." Israeli "coddling of Palestinian drug dealers" is a clear cut example of this policy.
Shahak provides a useful service in sorting out the ever-complicating contradictory strains in the relationship between Israel and its ultimate benefactor, the United States. In Shahak's opinion: "the Israeli power has two components: one real, based on its own strength and its real influence within the US, and the other imaginary, based on its cultivation of anti-Semitic myths in various countries." Myths such as the Elders of Zion-hiding the fact that "the Jews do not rule over the US, but the US rules over the Jews" as one member of the Israeli news media put it--are played UP so that other states seeking US favor approach Israel sycophantically.
But US-Israeli relations are obviously not so simple. The overriding Israeli goal is to ensure safety for the Israeli "us" over the rest of the world "them." As such, it involves Israeli grating its good ties with the US government. An example of a souring is Israeli's dealings with North Korea, aimed at getting North Korea to sever its relations with Iran. These efforts miffed US diplomats who were at the same time in discussion with North Korea on nuclear issues--and in time a cessation of any links with Iran. But Israel perceived US handling of the Iran issue as inadequate, as the US's interest in sabotaging the Iranian regime isn't as overarching as its own.
"Israel, by skillfully exploiting its influence within the US, manages to steer very far from becoming an American satellite. Sure, the fact that Israel has its value for American imperial interests also contributes to the same effect. This explains why, in spite of Israel's financial, and now lesser political dependence on the US, Israel can often afford to provoke the US in a manner that may be crude and arrogant." This political independence is growing, as it does in good years when Israel is not as dependent on US military aid as it is in other times. An essential element of this formulation is that Israeli can largely neutralize the ire it raises in Washington by appealing to and mobilizing American "friends of Israel." It is for this reason--because of their necessity to the maintenance of power--that Shahak concludes: "The two crucial areas which Israel wants to maintain its independence from the US are its nuclear power and its influence within the US itself."
Shahak writes: "Far from proving that Israel is 'an alien body in the Middle East' as many Arab intellectuals like to claim, Israeli policies show that Israel is adapting remarkably successfully to what is worst in the Middle East and that it knows how to exploit it to its advantage." This includes a growing governmental autocracy.
And unfortunately, this anti-democratic tendency has grown overseas to become one of the most sustained attacks on American intellectual freedom since McCarthyism. It is "the totalitarian streak manifested by organized American Jews." The unconditional support for Israeli and Stalinist slander campaigns against those who critique it in the US and Canada is so extreme that "Israelis are well-aware that the chauvinism and fanaticism of organized Jews in those two countries in supporting Israel exceeds by far the chauvinism of the average Israeli Jew."
Again, it's a question of democracy. Of being able to think freely and critically, and of all the forces aligned against critical thought. The chauvinism of the organized American Jewry, and their affect of allowing Israeli policies to become more and more oppressive, is yet another reason that so-called "Friends of Israel," as Chomsky pointed out decades ago, are ushering in a form of eventual Israeli demise.
Shahak wrote in his 1994 Jewish History, Jewish Religion: "There are two choices which face Israeli-Jewish society. It can become a fully closed and warlike ghetto, a Jewish Sparta, supported by the labor of Arab helots, kept in existence by its influence on the US political establishment and by threats to use its nuclear power, or it can try to become an open society." These two choices remain the only real options Israeli society has. That the Israeli elite are so strongly leaning towards the former is disheartening. They certainly have the capability to destroy themselves. From Shahak's account, we see they will likely take the rest of the Middle East with them.