There are plenty of reasons to try to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Nuclear non-proliferation should be the Mom-and-apple-pie of international relations because nuclear weapons are dangerous even in the “safe” hands of a nation like ours.
However, protecting Israel is not and should not be the driving reason to engage with Iran on this issue. I say this not because I am unconcerned with the lives of those living in Israel, Palestine, and elsewhere, but precisely because I am concerned—and I believe that Iran shares those concerns, too. There is no chance that Iran will drop a nuclear bomb on Israel. There, I’ve written it. (Again.) Nope, not even a small chance. There are three reasons for this.
First, and most importantly, both Israel and the surrounding region are filled with Muslims, including many Shia Muslims. Millions of them. Many more Muslims than Jews, in fact! Whatever animosity there exists between the (Persian) Iranians and the Arabs, Iran is not going to drop a nuclear bomb on a region where the potential for Muslim deaths are even higher than Jewish deaths.
Second, a bomb on Israel almost by definition risks seriously affecting Jerusalem, one of Islam’s holiest cities. Sure, the Iranian government is playing a “long game” in all of this (quite effectively), but there is no evidence that this includes the several generations it would take for the radioactivity to subside.
Third, as relates to the prior two points: the Iranians are not crazy. Bombastic, antagonistic, polarizing, crafty—pick a word. But they are not crazy. And a nuclear attack on Israel would be suicidal for Iran. If you think Iran is concerned about an Israeli counter-attack, the odds are they are even more concerned about an attack coming from the combined quarters of the world’s Arab countries plus Turkey, who would likely use this as a pretext for overthrowing an Iranian government they do not like. And then there’s the potential for involvement by the United States, which Iran certainly does not wish to trigger, even if they (rightly, I suspect) recognize the degree of reluctance on our part to get mixed up in another war.
Given all this, the question that naturally arises is: why, then, are the Israeli government and its AIPAC partner still working so hard to try to manipulate President Barack Obama, the US Congress, and American (Jewish) public opinion? Well, this whole Iranian nuclear issue is a marvelous distraction from the more terrifying and disturbing reality that the Israeli government would prefer not to face. That reality includes:
- Israel’s morally degrading and financially unsustainable 45 year occupation of what should be the nation of Palestine;
- a bi-directional demographic crunch, coming from both the Arabs within and outside of Israel AND the ultra-Orthodox communities within Israel and the West Bank, who are breeding at significantly higher rates than the less observant Israelis who help sustain the Israeli military and the economy;
- evidence that despite significant initiatives such as Birthright Israel and other programs, Diaspora Jews are not deciding en masse to make Aliyah and relocate to Israel, which means that the demographic problem Israel faces is not going to be resolved as a result of Jewish migration
- and, of course, the potential spread of democracy throughout the Arab world, which undermines Israel’s claim as the region’s only democracy—a claim that has long been meaningless but to which Zionists around the world have clung as the last justification for do-or-die support for Israel.
It’s time. Time to pull back the curtain on this farce, and time for the American Jewish community to reject the emotional and financial manipulations of AIPAC, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, and others. We should support President Obama’s efforts to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons—but not because of Israel, and not because of some threat by Israel to bomb Iran themselves. And while we’re at it, we should start pushing harder on Israel to address its own issues, most critically the illegal occupation of the West Bank and the continued construction of settlements. Again, it’s time.