Who is Afraid of the Iranian Bomb? Not Israel.

Summary: Team Trump plans to increase tensions with Iran (as with Russia and many other nations). Our news media tell us only what the hawks want us to know. Here Israel’s most famous peace activist tells us the rest of the story — giving us a perspective on Israel’s geopolitical situation and strategy that is seldom seen in US media.

“Without Fear, Without Prejudice”.
— Official slogan of Haolam Hazeh magazine.

Who is Afraid of the Iranian Bomb?

By  Uri Avnery at the website of Gush Shalom, 4 November 2017.
Posted with their generous permission.

I HATE self-evident truths. Ideals may be self-evident. Political statements are not. When I hear about a self-evident political truth, I immediately doubt it.

The most self-evident political truth at this moment concerns Iran. Iran is our deadly enemy. Iran wants to destroy us. We must destroy its capabilities first.

Since this is self-evident, the anti-nuclear agreement signed between Iran and the five Security Council members (plus Germany) is terrible. Just terrible. We should have ordered the Americans long ago to bomb Iran to smithereens. In the unlikely event that they would have disobeyed us, we should have nuclear-bombed Iran ourselves, before their crazy fanatical leaders have the opportunity to annihilate us first.

All these are self-evident truths. To my mind, all of them are utter nonsense. There is nothing self-evident about them. Indeed, they have no logical basis at all. They lack any geopolitical, historical or factual foundation.

NAPOLEON ONCE said that if one wants to understand the behavior of a country, one has to look at the map. Geography is more important than ideology, however fanatical. Ideologies change with time. Geography doesn’t. The most fanatically ideological country in the 20th century was the Soviet Union. It abhorred its predecessor, Czarist Russia. It would have abhorred its successor, Putin’s Russia. But lo and behold – the Czars, Stalin and Putin conduct more or less the same foreign policy. Karl Marx must be turning in his grave.


War between Israel and Iran

When the Biblical Israelite people was born, Persia was already a civilized country. King Cyrus of Persia sent the “Jews” to Jerusalem and founded what can be called the “Jewish people”. He is remembered in Jewish history as a great benefactor.

When the State of Israel was founded in 1948, David Ben-Gurion saw in Iran a natural ally. It may now sound strange, but not so long ago Iran was indeed the most pro-Israeli country in the Middle East. Ben-Gurion was an out-and-out realist. Since he had no intention whatsoever to make peace with the Arabs, a peace which would have prevented the original small State of Israel expanding without boundaries, he looked for allies beyond the Arab world.

Looking at the map (yes, he believed in the map) he saw that the Muslim Arabs were surrounded by a number of non-Arab or non-Muslim entities. There were the Maronite Christians in Lebanon (not Muslims), the Turks (Muslims, but not Arabs), the Kurds (Muslims but not Arabs), Iran (Muslim, but not Arab), Ethiopia (neither Muslim nor Arab) and more. Seeing this, Ben-Gurion devised a grand plan: a “partnership of the periphery”, an alliance of all these entities surrounding the Arab world and which felt threatened by the emerging pan-Arab nationalism of Gamal Abd-al-Nasser and other Sunni-Muslim-Arab states.

ONE OF the greatest enthusiasts for this idea was the Shah of Iran, who became Israel’s most ardent friend. The “King of Kings” was a brutal dictator, hated by most of his people. But for many Israelis, Iran became a second home. Tehran became a Mecca for Israeli businessmen, some of whom became very rich. Experts of the Israeli Security Service, called Shabak (Hebrew initials of General Security Service) trained the Shah’s detested secret police, called Savak.

High-ranking Israeli army commanders traveled freely through Iran to Iraqi Kurdistan, where they trained the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in their fight against Saddam Hussein’s regime. (The Shah, of course, did not dream of giving freedom to his own Kurdish minority.)

This paradise came to a sudden end when the Shah made a deal with Saddam Hussein, in order to save his throne {e.g., part of which was the 1975 Algiers Agreement}. To no avail. Radical Shiite clerics, who were very popular, overthrew the Shah and established the Shiite Islamic republic. Israel was out.

By the way, another element of the “Periphery” broke away too. In 1954 Ben-Gurion and his army chief, Moshe Dayan, hatched a plan to attack Lebanon and establish a pro-Israeli Maronite dictator there. The then Prime Minister, Moshe Sharet, who knew something about the Arab world, nixed this adventure, which he considered stupid. Thirty years later Ariel Sharon, another ignoramus, implemented the same plan, with disastrous results.

In 1982, the Israeli army invaded Lebanon. It duly installed a Maronite dictator, Basheer Jumayil, who signed a peace agreement with Israel and was soon assassinated. The Shiites, who populate the South of Lebanon, welcomed the Israeli army enthusiastically, believing that it would help them against the Sunni Muslims and withdraw. I was an eye-witness: driving alone in my civilian car from Metullah in Israel to Sidon on the Lebanon coast, I passed several Shiite villages and could hardly extricate myself (physically) from the embraces of the inhabitants.

However, when the Shiites realized that the Israelis had no intention of leaving, they started a guerrilla war against them. Thus Hezbollah was born and became one of Israel’s most effective enemies – and an ally of the Shiite regime in Iran.

Israel and Iran love

BUT IS the Shiite Iranian regime such a deadly enemy of Israel? I rather doubt it. Indeed, when the religious fanaticism of the new regime in Iran was at its height, a curious business occurred. It became known as “Iran-Contra” affair. Some conservatives in Washington DC wanted to arm rightist insurgents in leftist Nicaragua. American laws prevented them from doing so openly, so they turned to – who else? – Israel. Israel sold arms to the Iranian Ayatollahs (yes, indeed!) and gave the proceeds to our Washington friends, who transferred them illegally to the Nicaraguan rightist terrorists, called “Contras”.

The moral of the story: when it served their practical purposes, the Ayatollahs had no qualms at all about making deals with Israel, the “little Satan”.

Iran needed the weapons Israel sent them because they were fighting a war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. It was not the first one. For many centuries, Iraq served the Arab world as a bulwark against Iran. Iraq has a large Shiite population, but the Iraqi Shiites were Arabs and had no real sympathy for their fellow-Shiites in Iran. They still have little.

Israel helped Iran in that war because it feared Saddam Hussein. Therefore, Israel helped to convince the US to invade Iraq. The invasion was highly successful: Iraq was destroyed, and the historic bulwark against Iran disappeared. So it was Israel which helped to remove the main obstacle to Iran’s hegemony over the Middle East.

Sounds crazy? Is crazy. Ben-Gurion’s grand design has been stood on its head. At present, the “periphery” of Lebanon and Iran, supported by Turkey, is our mortal enemy, and the Sunni bloc of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Egypt are our open or half-secret allies.

HERE I hear the impatient reader shout: “Cut the bullshit, what about the nuclear danger? What about the mad ayatollahs obtaining atomic bombs and annihilating us?”

Well, I am not afraid. Even if Iran obtains nuclear bombs, I shall sleep well. Why, for God’s (or Allah’s) sake? Because Israel is well provided with nuclear weapons and a second-strike capability. Bombing Israel would mean the annihilation of Iran, the multi-millennial civilization, the proud heritage of innumerable philosophers, artists, poets and scientists. (The very word “algorithm” is derived from the name of the Persian mathematician al-Khwarizmi).

The current Iranian rulers may be fanatics (I doubt it) but they are not suicidal. There is not a single indication in that direction. On the contrary, they seem eminently practical people.

So why do they clamor against Israel? Because their aim is to become the dominant force in the Muslim world, and cursing Israel is the obvious way. As long as Israel does not make peace with the Palestinians, the Arab and Muslim masses everywhere hate Israel. Iran’s current leaders are very good at cursing the Little Satan.

Experts report that Islam has recently been losing strength as the main force in Iran, while Iranian nationalism has been gaining. The cult of Cyrus, who preceded Muhammad by more than 1200 years, is gaining ground.

SINCE THE nuclear bomb was invented, no nuclear-armed country has ever been attacked. Attacking a nuclear-armed country simply means suicide. Even the mighty USA (the “Big Satan”) does not dare to attack little North Korea, whose endeavor to obtain a nuclear strike force is far from irrational.

So I shall sleep soundly even if Iran goes nuclear. Though perhaps with one eye half open.


Uri Avnery

About the author – his life is a history of Israel

The following is an excerpt from the autobiography on his website, slightly edited. It’s worth reading in full. See his website for more about his publications and his work.

Uri Avnery is a peace activist, journalist, and writer. He was a founding member of Gush Shalom (peace bloc) in 1993, publisher and editor-in-chief of HaOlam Hazeh news magazine from 1950-1990 (see Wikipedia), member of the Knesset (three terms: 1965-1969, 1969-1973, 1979-1981), and a founding member of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace (1975).

He arrived with his family in Israel in November 1933. In 1938, just before turning 15, he joined the Irgun underground (Irgun Tsvai Leumi – National Military Organization; see Wikipedia), to fight against the British colonial regime. He served for three years, but left the Irgun in protest against its anti-Arab and reactionary social attitudes and terrorist methods.

in 1946 Avnery founded the Eretz Yisrael Hatzira (“Young Palestine”) movement. They believed that the Jewish community in Palestine constituted a “new Hebrew nation” within the Jewish people, and that this nation belongs to Asia and is a natural ally of the Arab national movements.

The idea of a partnership between the two national movements – the Hebrew and the Arab – became a cornerstone of Avnery’s world view, and constitutes, in his view, his main contribution to Israeli thought. In September 1947, on the eve of the Israeli-Arab war, Avnery published a booklet entitled “War or Peace in the Semitic Region”, which called for a radically new approach: an alliance of Hebrews and Arabs for the liberation of the “Semitic Region” (a term coined by him so as to avoid the colonialist term Middle East) from imperialism and colonialism, to create a Semitic community and common market, as a part of the emerging third world.

At the outbreak of the war, Avnery joined the army (Givati brigade) and later volunteered for “Samson’s Foxes”, a motorized commando unit on the Egyptian front which soon became legendary. He took part in dozens of engagements, became a squad leader, and was severely wounded in the last days of the war at Iraq al-Manshiyya (the present Kiryat Gat). His life was saved by four soldiers of his squad, new immigrants from Morocco, who rescued him under murderous fire and enabled him to reach hospital in time. There, a part of his intestines was cut out.

In 1949  the editor of Haaretz, Gershom Shoken, invited him to join his staff as a writer of editorials. After one year Avnery quit, protesting that he was not allowed to express his opinions freely, especially about the mass expropriation of Arab lands by the Ben-Gurion government. In April 1950, together with some of his war comrades, he bought a moribund family magazine and turned it into a unique Israeli institution. He served as its Editor-in-Chief for exactly 40 years, until 1990.

In April 1950, together with some of his war comrades, he bought a moribund family magazine and turned it into a unique Israeli institution. He served as its Editor-in-Chief for exactly 40 years, until 1990.

Haolam Hazeh was a combination of mass-circulation news magazine, similar in style to Time Magazine or Der Spiegel, and mouthpiece for aggressive political opposition to the establishment, with exposes of political and economic corruption and advocacy for a radically different national policy. It also created a new Hebrew style, now adopted by all Israeli media, and served as a school for many of the young men and women who became outstanding Israeli journalists. Its official slogan, which became an Israeli byword, was: “Without Fear, Without Prejudice”.

Haolam Hazeh was an apparent paradox: a mass-circulation paper attacking the most sacred beliefs and myths of the masses. Because of mounting financial difficulties, it folded in 1993.

The chief of the secret service in the 50s, Issar Harel, later testified that the Ben-Gurion establishment considered Avnery and Haolam Hazeh the “Public Enemy Number 1”. This may explain why attacks on Haolam Hazeh were often violent. Its editorial offices and printing facilities were bombed several times and some employees injured; Avnery was ambushed and both his arms broken after he criticized Sharon’s infamous Qibya massacre (1953). In 1975, he was the victim of an assassination attempt by a person officially declared mad. Avnery escaped with severe knife wounds to the chest. The offices of Haolam Hazeh and its invaluable archives were completely destroyed by arson in 1972.

In 1956 he created, together with ex-Stern Group chief Natan Yellin-Mor and others, a movement called “Semitic Action”, which advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state and an Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian federation. Some years later he set up the “Israeli Committee for a Free Algeria” and established contacts with the underground FLN leadership.

The most determined attempt to silence Avnery was made in 1965, when the government enacted a special press law, openly aimed mainly against his magazine. This provided the final push for starting an operation which had been on Avnery’s mind for a long time: the creation of a new political party to fight for the principles advocated by Haolam Hazeh. The new party (which adopted the name of the magazine and called itself “Haolam Hazeh – New Force Movement”) came into being on the eve of the 1965 elections as a citizens’ volunteer movement. It astounded the establishment by winning a seat in the Knesset, at that time an unprecedented feat for a completely new party. In the 1969 elections it gained two seats.

in 1974, with the beginning of the change in the PLO line, Avnery established contact with senior PLO officials. These contacts were initially secret, but Avnery reported on them to the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. For Arafat, the contacts were conducted by the PLO representative in London, Said Hamami, who was murdered because of this in 1978 by Palestinian extremists. In 1975, Avnery himself fell victim to an attempt of his life. The would-be assassin missed his heart by a centimeter, was caught on the spot and declared mad. He was not prosecuted.

In 1993 he helped found Gush Shalom, and has led it since then.

For a better look at his beliefs and work, see his 2008 book Israel’s Vicious Circle: Ten Years of Writings on Israel and Palestine.

Gush Shalom

About Gush Shalom

Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) has become the leading (and often sole) voice in Israel calling for the creation of the State of Palestine in all the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the release of all Palestinian prisoners, the dismantling of all settlements and the recognition of Jerusalem as the joint capital of both states. Since its creation, it has organized hundreds of demonstrations, mostly together with Palestinian activists, and numerous other political actions. See Wikipedia. Also see their website.

Also see their website. Especially about Gush Shalom in action, Gush Shalom’s aims, Make a Difference, their Opinions, and their Campaigns.

For More Information

If you found this post of use, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Also see these about Israel, about Iran, about Iran’s nukes, and especially these…

The Land of Blood and Honey: The Rise of Modern Israel
Available at Amazon.

To better understand the story, read…

To understand how Israel came to such a point, see van Creveld’s The Land of Blood and Honey: The Rise of Modern Israel (2010). From the publisher …

“The definitive one-volume history of Israel by its most distinguished historian.

“From its Zionist beginnings at the end of the nineteenth century through the past sixty, tumultuous years, the state of Israel has been, as van Creveld argues, “the greatest success story in the entire twentieth century.”

“In this crisp volume, he skillfully relates the improbable story of a nationless people who, given a hot and arid patch of land and coping with every imaginable obstacle, founded a country that is now the envy of surrounding states. While most studies on Israel focus on the political, this encompassing history weaves together the nation’s economic, social, cultural and religious narratives while also offering diplomatic solutions to help Israel achieve peace. Without question, this is the best one-volume history of Israel and its people.”

5 thoughts on “Who is Afraid of the Iranian Bomb? Not Israel.”

  1. As someone famous once said you can have your opinions, but you can’t have your own facts. While this is written by someone with an obvious angle, and is presented by someone with “an insider’s view) there are so many “facts” that are historically incorrect, that it is nearly impossible to start. If the Arab world and the Palestinians wanted peace with Israel, there could have been peace decades ago, there could have been a second state in the west bank and Gaza even in 1948, as those areas were controlled by Arab regimes, so where were the states, and why were the Palestinians not recognized as Palestinians until much later, and why were they never settled after the war as refugees are normally assimilated after essentially every war in the history of the world? Even now, in Gaza, when left to themselves, the Palestinians destroyed the entire infrastructure left behind by Israel, and turned it into an armed camp, neglecting its own people’s needs in order to build tunnels into Israel, and rocket factories to the point where even the population there (which still prefers ongoing fighting with Israel rather than peace according to whatever surveys are possible there) is finally tiring of its “rulers.” (Of course this is all Israel’s fault?) And, among many other things, the Israelis invaded Lebanon to stop the constant artillery bombardments and terrorist raids across its northern border by Palestinian “freedom fighters” who had created a “state within a state” in southern Lebanon (why the Shiite population welcomed the Israelis). He is correct that Iran (Persia) has a multi millenial history of civilization, but while Israel is not perfect, neither has been the history of the Persians. (and, by the way, yes the Persians sent the Israelites back to Israel, but that was NOT the start of Israel, they were sent back home after being dispersed by prior invaders and exiled to Babylon) And while he is quite correct that Iran (not an Arab country) was early on very friendly with Israel, the current regime is actually quite genocidal in its intent. And if intentions mean nothing, perhaps actions do. Multiple bombings around the world, especially the bombing of Jewish centers in Argentina (not to mention multiple attempts elsewhere) through the proxy handiwork of Hezbollah are evidence that the regime in Iran means business. (we don;t even need to go into their relationship with the US, and various bombings against US interests) Furthermore, statements like “Why didn’t we order them to do such and such” suggests that Israel, and “the Jews”, control a power that they neither possess, nor which is attributed to them ( a la Protocols of the Elders of Zion), and leans desperately close into the realm of anti-semitism, even when it comes from a Jew. (remember “facts” not “opinions”) While I generally applaud FM’s regular attempts to present factual information in a rather apolitical manner (even when I don’t necessarily agree with everything), if you are going to present information written by other sources as “fact” perhaps it would be worthwhile to fact check them and offer what should be real facts rather than individual writers opinions. (And yes i understand there is probably a “deep state” here which desires ongoing war in the world, but even there, it is a hard thing to prove as fact, and attributing all of this to Trump is also likely non-productive, since he is rather a loose cannon, and i am not even sure what HE stands for, but that is a digression from the discussion here.)

  2. The Man Who Laughs

    I’ll file this one under “if you don’t have a solution, you don’t have a problem.” Or maybe “What, me worry?” Israel probably hasn’t got the capability to do an Osirak on Iran, or Netanyahu would actually do one. He’s talked about it, but I suspect his Generals have explained the facts of life. So they’re basically down to hoping that MAD holds true here. Maybe it will, but given demographics, Iran is dead whether they go to nuclear war with Israel or not.

    As for that Israeli second strike, how do they deliver it after someone glassballs the whole country? I don’t think their Jerichos can even reach all of Iran anyway.

    For the record, I’m not advocating a preemptive strike on Iran. I don’t think the Israelis can do that, We could, although I’m far from confident that we could deal with what would come next. I’m not eager to find out how good our Navy, which keeps running into things, actually is at dealing with small boat swarm attacks and minesweeping.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      The Man,

      “I’ll file this one under “if you don’t have a solution, you don’t have a problem.””

      That is not correct. Israel has another option, which they have been employing: get the US to attack Iran. They have used their considerable propaganda resources, plus provided tilted or fake into to the always-gullible US intel agencies. This has had immense effect on US policy — as the sanctions have had a powerful ill effect on Iran.

  3. The Man Who Laughs

    “That is not correct. Israel has another option, which they have been employing: get the US to attack Iran.”

    I’ll modify my statement then. They have no military solution on their own resources. But just as Netanyahu’s Generals have done the math, I suspect ours have too. I could be wrong, but I don’t think we’ll ever actually strike Iran preemptively. That’s a testable prediction, and we’ll see how it pans out.

    This may turn out to be the limit case for mutually assured destruction, and the idea that nuclear armed nations basically don’t go to war with each other. with nuclear weapons and accurate missiles, Israel is a small target. Their airfields and nuclear sites can be blanketed, as can their cities. They don;t have ballistic missiles subs to give them as assured second strike capacity. They have some subs that can carry cruise missiles, and these may be nuclear capable. According to MissileThreat.org they have a 300km range. That won’t hit Iran from the Med. Unless they’re keeping them on station in the Gulf, they’re useless as a second strike weapon, and even if they are keeping them in the Gulf, it seems like a pretty feeble deterrent.


    If you think Iran might actually launch a nuclear first strike on Israel, then the options are preemption and deterrence. The Israelis probably can’t do either on their own. If you don;t think there’s even a possibility of an Iranian first strike, then we’re back to some version of “What, me worry?”

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      The man,

      “but I don’t think we’ll ever actually strike Iran preemptively.”

      We have struct Iran preemptively and powerfullly: by sanctions. In a 4GW world, military force is only one means of conflict.

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