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Israelís Crude Behavior
Israel - Middle East
Friday, July 29, 2011
Alf Cengia

I often wonder at how we can all look at a set of circumstances or a single event and often come away with entirely different perceptions. Sometimes these differences can be so far apart that one wonders whether the other person is actually viewing the same situation.

I’ve just read a column piece by Professor of International Affairs Sreeram Chaulia, writing for Asia Times Online.  I happen to disagree with him on a few points (not all) regarding one of my favorite subjects – Israel.

Sometimes I cheat and read the last page of a book or the last chapter/conclusion of an article to get an idea or decide whether to read the rest. Prof. Chaulia’s concludes his essay this way:

“Answers to these policy conundrums will reveal whether Israel can decisively overcome the might-is-right philosophy, which has become untenable in the context of an international consensus that rewards smart diplomacy and penalizes crude behavior.” (Emphasis mine)

Expressions such as “crude behavior”, “Gaza siege breakers”, “ugly assassinations”, “unconscionably gung-ho foreign policy”, “belligerence and war-like maneuvers” – you get the picture - serve to set Israel up as an entity that over-reacts to admittedly real provocations.

While he believes that Israel may be rethinking its “macho foreign policy” by reverting to covert sabotage operations as in the latest Flotilla incidents, he also adds that:

“Bumping off targeted individuals or raining firepower on densely populated localities is not going to help Israel ward off the unpleasantness of a unilateral declaration of independence that secures a two-thirds majority at the UN. Smart power calls for subtler responses, including a willingness to come to terms with the Palestinians before the diplomatic dice gets loaded even more unfairly against Israel.”

At least Prof Chaulia acknowledges the existence some unfair diplomatic aspects against Israel.  But, according to him, it’s a mixed bag.  Israel has genuine issues to contend with but it’s simply not approaching them in the right manner.

Me, I’m simple minded.  The way I see it is that Israel has to do whatever it takes to survive in a situation where the only other way to a peaceful solution is its total destruction, or departure from the region.

While I certainly won’t argue for the moral right to bump off “targeted individuals” that may or may not be involved in developing weapons designed to destroy Israel; it’s predictable that certain media jumped on the latest Iranian assassination and automatically pointed the finger at Israel and the U.S.

"Yesterday's U.S.-Zionist terrorist act that targeted one of the elites of Iran is another instance demonstrating the U.S. hostility (toward Iran)."

In the past Iran has also blamed Britain for links to assassinations:

“Iranian state media reported that four men it said were paid by a man based in the UK to carry out five assassinations in Kurdish areas had been arrested.”

Of course Britain stringently denied it.  Likewise Russia would also have to carefully choose its words lest it be accused of hypocrisy – as FrontPageMag’s Jacob Laskin points out about its involvement in the assassination of former Chechen guerilla Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, and a couple of journalists.

But Iran itself has had a somewhat questionable history regarding the assassination of its own civilians and dissidents for political purposes.  Writer, Muhammad Sahimi, lists the long and ignoble history of “chain murders” in Iran.  Regarding one spate of incidents he states:

“During the entire time that these murders were taking place, Khamenei insisted that Iran's enemies, and in particular Israel, had a hand in them. But on December 20, 1998, a statement was issued in Tehran by a shadowy, previously unknown group calling itself Fadayaan-e Islam-e Naab-e Mohammadi-ye Mostafa Navvab (Pure Mohammadan Islam Devotees of Mostafa Navvab) claiming responsibility for the killings.”

So, did Israel do it?  I don’t know.  Was it right?  I don’t want to go there.  The details are murky.  First reports claimed the victim was the latest in a string of assassinated nuclear scientists.  Then the story changed:

“The government of Iran has revised earlier reports of a nuclear scientist’s assassination, saying the murdered man was a university student, and not a nuclear physicist, as it was first announced.”

Moreover, while several Iranian officials “saw a foreign hand in the assassination”, intelligence minister Moslehi stated that, "We have not seen any sign which could demonstrate that the attack had been carried out by foreign services."   

It’s all very intriguing.

If Israel did do it, then they were able to pull off a coup within Iran - though certainly not as elaborate as the Stuxnet virus delivery.  One would think that the intelligence that went into these covert operations would also be able to ascertain whether Iran is, in fact, seeking nuclear weapons; which they (mostly) deny. 

Why is a nuclear scientist or an electrical engineer targeted for assassination?  If Israel did it, perhaps they’re buying time by killing off intelligentsia.  Yet somehow that doesn’t sound convincing to me.  It just feels too crude after Stuxnet, and a little too late.  But if it wasn’t Israel then what was the purpose for the assassination?

Whatever the case, people will continue to perceive hegemony or barbarism whenever Israel acts and despite what it does.  They’ve been conditioned to do so.  The wall built to keep out suicide bombers (murderers) becomes the “Berlin Wall” of apartheid.  The land won from enemies who tried to destroy it becomes “illegally occupied territory”.

An interesting case of labeling was brought to my attention recently.  Glenn Beck was accused of being an anti-Semite by journalist Michelle Goldberg writing for Daily Beast. No kidding!

Of course, the reason Beck got called an anti-Semite was because he went after George Soros, who just happens to be an ethnic Jew.  No one really believes Beck is anti-Semitic. B eck’s ideological interest in Soros isn’t race related and Goldberg knows that.  She doesn’t care.

Beck’s problem is that he’s on the political right and Goldberg is the polar opposite.  Branding him an anti-Semite is a useful device that serves the purpose to negatively affect people’s perception of him.  Attaching labels on people or a nation’s policies are effective techniques that help steer people into thinking in a particular way.

The people who do the branding and labeling often know better.  But it serves their purpose to do so.

Further reading:  Iran: ‘We Have No Option but to Destroy Israel’

About Alf Cengia

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