Monday, November 25, 2013

Iranian Nuclear Deal is "Peace in Our Time"

I am currently reading I Shall Bear Witness: The Diaries of Victor Klemperer. These diaries are the extraordinary personal account of the only Jew to have survived The Holocaust and to have recorded his experiences from the date Hitler came to power to the end of the Second World War. The books should be compulsory reading for every high school student as they give a true insight into what Hannah Arendt called 'the banality of evil.' Klemperer records how friends, neighbours and even Jews themselves, stood idly by and watched the evil of Nazism as it encroached on, and then destroyed, the lives of so many millions of European Jews and other minorities. 

Which brings me to Israel. What, I hear you say, isn't that a leap of logic? Well, I don't think so. I don't believe you can consider 'the Israel question' without considering The Holocaust.

I'm not a Zionist - I don't believe the Jews have some God-given right to occupy the land of Israel any more than I believe the Queen of England has a God-given right to occupy her throne. I don't even think they have a particularly strong historical right and, incidentally, Kemplerer didn't either. But I do think humankind owes the targets of its most bloodthirsty tribalism a safe harbour. The historical reality now is that that safe harbour is Israel. It's there, so get used to it.

And that brings me to Iran. The ayatollahs and successive presidents of the Islamic Republic have pledged to destroy Israel and its people and I think it would be a huge mistake not to take them seriously. I think President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have got this wrong and I believe their deal with the Iranians will turn out to be their version of Neville Chamberlain's "peace in our time". I think there is a very good chance that the consequences of the deal will be an all-out, probably nuclear, war in the Middle East that will make the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan look like curtain-raisers. Obama and Kerry are taking an enormous gamble and the worst thing is they is gambling with the lives of Israelis rather than Americans.

Victor Klemperer described in his diary how Germans and the international community did not believe until it was too late that Hitler's intentions were wholly malevolent. Hitler, like successive Iranian leaders, made no secret of his aims, but the more blatant he became, the less people believed what he said. The only difference today is that the Jews in Israel have the means to defend themselves. Every Israeli prime minister since David Ben Gurion has had six million ghosts looking over his shoulder and Benjamin Netanyahu is no different. When faced with a clear and present existential threat to Israel, he will push the button.

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