Thursday, May 3, 2012

Is Israel-Iran rapprochement possible?


By: Shraga Elam
29 April 2012

On war and peace: is Israel-Iran rapprochement possible? And on the banality of the “good”.
For several weeks now I have been trying, with my weak voice, to initiate a campaign to call for a meeting between Ahmadinejad and Netanyahu similar to the one between Sadat and Begin in 1977. Although this idea seems fantastical at first glance, it has received important support from none other than a fairly official Iranian source that should be taken seriously, for it signals a surprising openness to the initiative in Tehran.
After the storm surrounding the embarrassing poem with racist overtones by the German writer Günter Grass, that harms the cause of peace, I wrote in my blog an entry in German in which not only did I attack that German opportunist who lacks any moral authority and the harm he was causing (even though not everything he says is incorrect), but at the end I called for a 6-point peace initiative (see below).
Because for years now I have been occasionally interviewed by Iranian radio in German it was only natural that I should also propose the initiative to my regular interviewer there. To my great sorrow there was no space for the short peace plan in the interview that was broadcast on 14 April and the broadcast focused on my critique of Grass. However, Radio Iran in German filled in the missing part when it posted on its Internet website my entire article, including the campaign I proposed. I have no doubt that it was no simple matter for my interviewer to get permission to publish it and so it evidently took some time before it happened. And it is inconceivable that it did not require the authorization of somebody on a high level.
Here is a translation of the relevant part of my article:
Peace and the lowering of tensions are possible.
The neutralization of the volatile situation [between Iran and Israel] is not only an urgent necessity, but also possible. I do not mean by this only the recognition that an Iranian nuclear bomb, to the extent that it is really created, while certainly not being a welcome development, would not substantially change the existing situation. For already today a balance of terror (what is correctly referred to in English as Mutual Assured Destruction – MAD) prevails between Israel and Iran, and the leadership of Iran is behaving in a much more rational way on this issue than its fiery rhetoric would cause one to assume (see my article: “Better an Iranian A-Bomb in the Basement than missiles on the roofs of Tel Aviv”)
Not only is it necessary to stabilize and even to expand this balance so some lunatic does not get the idea of pressing the wrong button, but Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should also be called upon to adopt the model of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s 1977 visit to Israel and meet in Tehran, Jerusalem or in any other place.  
And they definitely have much to talk about. For example, the following subjects:
  • Declaration of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East (free not just of nuclear weapons but also of nuclear power for “peaceful” purposes)
  • Institutionalization of the trade that has been going on between the two countries for many years. For example, until not long ago Israel imported oil from Iran, and maybe still does (see for example the visit of oil tankers owned by the Ofer brothers to Iranian oil ports), and Israel also markets know how and goods to Iran.
  • Payment of the money that Israel has owed to Iran since the time of the Shah. Even Ariel Sharon, as Foreign Minister in the 1990s, was willing to do that in order to bring about a reduction of tensions. 
  • Cancellation of the sanctions against Iran and a joint call against boycotts of Israel. 
  • Significant Israeli concessions regarding the Palestinians. 
  • The beginning and strengthening of the process of democratization in Iran and in Israel (especially regarding the Palestinians).
Any support of this initiative will be accepted with pleasure!

A few observations about Günter Grass
Günter Grass is certainly no expert on the Middle East, as is quite clear from his poem I mentioned. The extolled writer has lacked any moral authority at least since he concealed the fact of his service in the Waffen-SS. True, he was then 17 years old, and it is perhaps difficult to judge him harshly for what he did at that age, but it is impossible to absolve him of moral responsibility, especially since he kept silent and lied for so many long years. And there are those who claim that he weakly disclosed it in 2006, only after it became known to him that it was going to be disclosed anyway. The very fact that he concealed that information arouses the serious suspicion that not all has yet been revealed.
And in in his new poem too he admits that he is a serial liar whose entire life is a big lie, and accordingly that he is definitely not a trustworthy person, but somebody who is evidently “hitchhiking” in his usual way, riding a very smooth wave. He essentially heroically kicked down a door that was wide open while thoroughly massaging his ego. He clearly found a winning recipe, as the whole world has come to a quite broad consensus that an Israeli military attack on Iran would endanger not only the peace of the Middle East including Israel itself, but also the whole world. In Israel too there are many who believe that, and so there was no need at all for Grass to come along and re-invent the wheel. In his ignorance, racism and lack of credibility he only succeeded in lobbing a softball at the warmongers in Israel and their supporters, who have suddenly raised their heads again.
When Grass described Ahmadinejad as a scarecrow (“loudmouth” in the English translation in The Guardian) and described only the Israeli side as in this conflict as endangering the peace of the world, he not only transgressed against the truth and provoked well-founded suspicion of an animus against Israel on racial grounds, but he also expressed contempt for Ahmadinejad as a toothless paper tiger with a big mouth. On the same racist note in a subsequent interview Grass expressed himself in similar terms about all the Arab leaders. It is certainly true that empty rhetoric is definitely no rarity in the Middle East, and for that matter it could be said that Netanyahu and his friends are not innocent of it, and in fact most politicians are in the habit of often using that perverse device.
The explanation that Grass himself provides at the end of the poem for his having joined those who break silence can be summed up this way: as long as Arabs/Muslims kill each other or Jews and the other way round, it does not particularly bother the pious writer, but when the matter endangers Europe, that’s different. In that light I think it would have been better if he had remained silent.
The storm surrounding him well expresses the unsuccessful way Germany has so far tried to come to terms with its Nazi past and its very problematic and hypocritical relationship with Israel. Those who know German culture and have also followed the responses to the poem understands that Grass did not pour out all the bitterness in his heart, and his sticky smelly declaration of love for Israel only adds oil to the fire. In effect Grass reflects the vast hypocrisy that prevails among quite large circles within the German elites who do not dare to say in public what they are thinking and when they do speak, usually something quite repulsive and disgusting comes out.
I do not want to join the compulsive professional hunt for Judaeophobes, as the inflationary brandishing of the ultimate weapon of “the sprouting of anti-Semitism” makes it difficult for many, including good people, to distinguish between real and imaginary Judaeophobia. But there are things that have to be said. Not everyone who is accused of Judaeophobia is a priori innocent. There is a need to examine each case individually.

I also have to point out that in 2002 I spoke out in defence of a member of the German parliament of Syrian origin named Jamal Karsli who was declared by all the mainstream media outlets to be a certified and leprous Jew-hater and few even dared to approach him and in public. Jamal’s “sin” was that he dared to repeat what the Israeli minister Tommy Lapid and the Israeli national singer Yaffa Yarkoni had said in Israel. They, like many others, had protested after Israeli soldiers marked numbers on Palestinian detainees and said that it reminded them of what the Nazis had done. The price Jamal paid for that “crime” was very high, and I too paid handsomely for defending him. I even underwent a little bloodletting at the hands of Guido Westerwelle who was not yet then the Foreign Minister, but being a consummate intriguer, he exploited the affair to take control of the party he belonged to. I added sin to crime when I also defended Jamal’s patron , former minister Jürgen Möllemann, who had dared to criticize quite moderately the then Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, as well as one of the leaders of the German Jewish community named Michel Friedman. All the German media were then hypocritically united in the opinion that a flyer that Möllemann had distributed was a terrible Judaeophobic text. Evidently none of those who expressed themselves on the matter in the media had bothered to read what was written, or they did not dare to tell the truth. The vast hypocrisy in Germany is a most troubling matter and it constitutes fertile soil for terrible racism. How did the King Alexander Yannai put it to wife Shlomzion? “Fear not the Pharisees or the Sadducees, but the hypocrites.”


Translated from Hebrew by George Malent



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