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Israel, Iran And The Diversion Of Death: Revisiting a Terrible ‘Fantasy’ (First of Two Parts)


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This article was written and first published by Professor Louis René Beres in The Jewish Press in March 1996. It is being reprinted here because the issues have now become far more immediate and urgent. These informed speculations on a “terrible fantasy” will appear in the pages of The Jewish Press in two parts, exactly as they appeared originally thirteen years ago. My sincere hope is that our new American president and Israel’s new prime minister will both discover some essential insights herein – insights that could still have some pertinent, direct and redemptive foreign policy implications for us all.

Louis René Beres

First of Two Parts

Iran may be a state like no other. Founded upon the particular Islamic promise of conquering death – a promise bestowing ultimate power upon those who “submit” – it may ultimately do whatever it must to divert death in other directions. As an object for this existentially critical diversion, Israel, the Jewish State, is assuredly the perfect doctrinal choice.

Currently, military experts and strategists who study regional power balances from the Israeli perspective are generally not too worried about Iran. Even if the Islamic Republic should acquire nuclear and other unconventional weapons, they reason, its belligerent intentions will likely be modified by altogether plausible fears of an unspeakably destructive Israeli retaliation. Yet, leaving aside the implicit assumption of Iranian rationality in such deterrence matters, an assumption that is more or less problematic, this reasoning focuses too exclusively on classical military factors.

For those who would protect Israel from Iran, it is now time to look elsewhere, beyond the standard variables of conflict and geopolitics to something far less tangible, but certainly no less important. To preserve Israel, friends of Israel must now seek to glimpse the innermost “soul” of Iran, to look beyond the dominant orthodoxies of popular strategic calculations and into that country’s guiding spirit. Such spirit, no less significant because it defies precise measurement, lies at the authentic core of Iranian power. This spirit, therefore, is presently a key to understanding the Iranian threat to Israel.

In world politics, all things move in the midst of death, and it is death – not singular political or military setbacks – that is the prototype of all injustice. Iran, as the very juridical expression of Islam, seeks above all else to avoid death. This power-maximizing objective, its leaders recognize, can be served by bringing death to others, but it can only be optimized by bringing death to Jews. Naturally, a state comprised of Jews, a self-declared Jewish State, represents unambiguously the supremely favorite object of Iranian mass killing.

In March 1992, following its bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Islamic Jihad, the Iranian-backed terrorist group, declared: “The war is open until Israel ceases to exist and until the last Jew in the world is eliminated…. Israel is all evil and should be wiped out of existence.” This view, which is also the view of the terror group’s patron state, stems from alleged and presumably irremediable historical misdeeds of Jews against Islam, the revival of blood libel by Muslims, Islamic denunciations of the Talmud and the carefully contrived demonic image of a ruthless Jewish State. Now promulgated daily by Iran, this hatred makes no distinctions between Jews and Israel. All are seen as part of a vast global conspiracy to create an insufferably alien presence in the heart of dar al-Islam, the Muslim world.

For Iran, Israel is a “cancer” not because of its particular policies on land, the Palestinians,1 etc., but because it is a Jewish State. Short of promising not to exist, there is nothing Israel can possibly do now to make peace with Iran. Israel’s “crime” is simply that it refuses to disappear.2 For the leaders in Teheran, policy toward Israel must always be determined by Mohammed’s linkage of salvation, that is, freedom from death, to war against the Jews: “The hour (salvation) will not come until you fight against the Jews; and the stone would say, ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew behind me: come and kill him'”

Copyright © The Jewish Press, March 20, 2009. All rights reserved.

(To be continued)

[1]For the moment, however, the “Palestinian problem” provides Iranian surrogate terror groups with an opportunity for Jihad. According to the Hamas Charter, for example: “There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad…. In order to face the usurpation of Palestine by the Jews, we have no escape from raising the banner of Jihad…. We must imprint on the minds of generations of Muslims that the Palestinian problem is a religious one, to be dealt with on this premise… ‘I swear by that who holds in His Hands the Soul of Muhammad! I indeed wish to go to war for the sake of Allah! I will assault and kill, assault and kill, assault and kill…'” Hamas, of course, is the acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement – Harakat Muqawama Islamiyya – meaning, literally, “zeal,” “fanaticism.” Regarding relationships with the PLO, the Hamas Charter says the following: “The PLO is among the closest to the Hamas, for it constitutes a father, a brother, a relative, a friend. Can a Muslim turn away from his father, a brother, his relative or his friend? Our homeland is one, our calamity is one, our destiny is one and our enemy is common to both of us….”

[2]Of course, an attendant “crime” alleged by Islamic fighters is inevitably sexual aggression and defilement. Article 28 of the Charter of Hamas (“The Charter of Allah: The Platform of the Islamic Resistance Movement, HAMAS”) states, inter alia: “We cannot fail to remind every Muslim that when the Jews occupied Holy Jerusalem in 1967 and stood at the doorstep of the blessed Aqsa Mosque, they shouted with joy: ‘Muhammad is dead, he left daughters behind.’ Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims. ‘Let the eyes of the cowards not fall asleep.'”

* * * * *

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is the author of many books and articles dealing with nuclear strategy and nuclear war. The Chair of “Project Daniel,” he is also Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for THE JEWISH PRESS, where this article was first published thirteen years ago.

About the Author: Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is professor of political science and international law at Purdue University and the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and strategic studies.


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