Tag Archives: Israel

Cassandra Unheeded

If you do not know who Cassandra was, allow me to introduce her to you. She was loved by Apollo who gave her the power to foretell the future. He later turned against her because she refused his love. Angered by unrequited love, he wanted to revoke his gift. However, once a divine gift was given it could not be taken back. But the gods had a way of getting around problems like that. Since he could not deny her the gift of prophesy, he made it worthless: no one would ever believe her. Among her unheeded prophesies was her warning that Greek warriors were hidden in the wooden horse.

I think a lot about Cassandra these days. I think about her when her prophetic voice is muffled by the din of goose-stepping men pounding asphalt in robotic unison. I think of her when I see aggressive military parades in Iran and North Korea reminiscent of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

But mostly, I think of her when I hear apologists for Ahmadinejad (including himself) provide us with convoluted interpretations of what he meant to say about the holocaust and the fate of Israel. He and his apologists now claim that the Jews were merely one of many groups that were targeted by Nazi Germany and that there is no proof of a holocaust, i.e., concentration camps, genocide, and so on. Regarding the fate of Israel, the official word is that Ahmadinejad has been misquoted because of a misleading translation of his words from Farsi to English (see below). The word from Iran is that he is not advocating the literal destruction of Israel but is simply restating the position of the Ayatolla Khomeini who said:

The regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.

More to the point, Ahmadinejad states:

Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury.

That sounds literal to me. Whatever the difficulties in translation, there can be no doubt that Ahmadinejad is not referring to a regime. His provisionary prediction clearly implies the literal destruction of Israel.

But wait! His apologists provide us with an alternative explanation for the Iranian president’s threatening words, especially those that were first published by The Islamic Republic News Agency (!), wherein the published quote was, “[Israel] will be wiped off the map.” The IRNA happens to be the official propaganda agency of Iran. It is also the agency that escalated the word ‘map’ to ‘the face of the earth’ and then ‘the surface of earth,’ thereby exacerbating the world’s indignation. According to Ahmadinejad’s apologists, the IRNA seriously misquoted their leader because of a language barrier. Observing the enormous disparity between ‘regime’ and ‘map’ (let alone, ‘the face of the earth’), I think it’s quite a stretch to accept the claim that the misquoted words are purely a matter of translation.

But…okay, suppose I believe them; suppose I thoroughly accept their version of what happened. After all, I don’t know Farsi. But there is a problem. This is a time when worldwide communication is rapid and largely expressed in concise headlines. If Ahmadinejad means something other than what the world is hearing from him, he can easily clear any misunderstanding about his alleged misquotes. The whole world will listen.

Instead, when he is asked by major news agencies whether or not he literally wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, he never answers the question. Instead, he pointedly evades a direct response and provides the interviewer with political ‘talking points.’

The Iranian leadership states its policies and grievances quite clearly to the rest of the world in fine detail. No one is in a better position than Ahmadinejad himself to clear any questions about what he meant by the inflammatory quotes attributed to him. He has only to call a press conference attended by fine bilingual translators. If he were to disavow those translations himself rather than rely on obscure websites like mine, he would put to rest the alleged unfairness of Western journalism.

I cannot help but think that despite the good intentions of his apologists to clear the issue online, the Iranian leadership, along with Ahmadinejad as Iran’s secular head, may tacitly be taking advantage of the alleged misleading quotes in order to keep Ahmadinejad’s threats alive. In effect, he is predicting the annihilation of Israel. I mention this only because he repeatedly dodges the crucial question.

On the other hand, there is no question about Netenyahu’s meaning when he tells the world that he will not allow Israel to be destroyed. There is no doubt that he is predicting a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear sites.

The only thing the two men have in common is that most of the world doesn’t believe them. 

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Letter to a Soldier

Dear Gilad:

Together with millions of others, I rejoice at your safe return to the free world.

A trade of 1,027 men for one man is a significant and inspiring event. It is significant because it has occurred in an ambiance of bitter conflict. It is inspiring because it exemplifies the fundamental distinction between totalitarian and democratic states: the value of an individual in a sea of others.

Over a period of five years, you were at the center of the perennial dichotomy of collective vs. individual rights. That dichotomy was exacerbated by the intense life-and-death urgency created by your perilous captivity. Inevitably, the issue of your ransom was elevated from a matter of policy to that of conscience.

Understandably, there were those who argued that acceptance of the terms would encourage Israel’s enemies to create other instances through which they might extort imbalances in prisoner exchanges. Others, took exception to implacable policy and were guided by their consciences.

They were right. You see, Gilad, warfare intensifies the moral fiber of a culture. Its individuals react to war in different ways. Some become more antagonistic to their country, others more patriotic. In my country, the former have gone so far as to carry placards that proclaim, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” The latter are as bonded to our soldiers as firmly as Israeli’s are to theirs. Most Americans and Israelis, whatever political parties they favor, share the hallmark of our two nations: the worth of an individual. Your experience is a symbol for the essence of democracy.

I hope you will live long enough to enjoy peace in your country. On a personal basis, you certainly have earned it.

Your American friend,


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Here We Go Again

Israel became a state within a week of my twenty-first birthday. I was a full-time student at NYU and worked part-time to pay for tuition. Too busy to closely follow world events in detail at that time, I was aware only of historic highlights. These included the jubilation of Palestinian Jews, and the attack on Israel by Palestinian Arabs on the same day that Israel was recognized as a state by the United Nations.

Listening to the radio just after the war began, I remember an ominous statement from a Palestinian top official who stated (I believe at the UN) that the Palestinians would never accept the UN resolution recognizing Israel as a state. So far, his warning has proved to be true.

Israel functions as a secular parliamentary democracynotwithstanding scholarly arguments that it is a theocracy. Its neighbors are an assortment of oligarchies, theocracies, and dictatorships, the antitheses of democracies. In tacit complicity with terrorist organizations, the official rulers of those countries help terrorists wage war against Western Civilization.

It is striking to note on the net that there is ‘no Internet consensus for the definition of terrorism.’ That’s one way to legitimize, even condone, terrorism. Only a political partisan would find it ‘impossible’ to define terrorism! Apparently, political partisans in the United States make no distinction between ‘terrorists’ and ‘freedom fighters’ or the difference between a battlefield and ground zero of the former World Trade Center or a marketplace frequented by civilians. Somehow, vociferous partisans, often exquisitely fluent in English, can find no words to define terrorism. At best, some of them are naive. Most are misguided by their partisanship.

Although oil factors heavily as the geopolitical source of conflict, Middle East turmoil is profoundly ideological. Theocratic Iran has a leader who claims the holocost is a hoax. Terrorist groups are being elevated to legitimacy as political parties within governing bodies of sovereign states. The United States is ‘the Great Satan, and Israel its whore.’ The militant cry is ‘kill all Jews and Americans.’ The leader of Iran openly states that Jihad’s principal intention is to wipe Israel off the face of the earth and establish Sharia Law globally. Echoes of Mein Kampf reverberate loud and clear on radio, television, and the Internet. There are disagreements and rivalries among Middle Eastern states, their tribal constituents, and terrorist organizations, but they are all one in their hatred against Western Civilization.

Although Americans have been attacked at home and abroad by terrorists, they are not faced with the constant threat of annihilation. Israel is lethally vulnerable to defense breaches because of its geography. Ideological sophisms and niceties have no place in the realities of the landscape of Israel. Relinquishing the West Bank and the Gaza strip is ‘national suicide,’ as Netanyahu puts it.

Given the circumstances, Pakistan’s indignant protests against taking out Bin Laden without deference to Pakistan’s sovereignty may have been necessary to avoid internal reprisals. Be that as it may, it is certain that if the Pakistani government had been informed of our intent, Bin Laden would have been moved out of the compound long before the arrival of a SEAL force.

There are those who argue that the Prince of Terrorism should have been captured rather than killed. Armchair strategy is okay for sports events, but it is unseemly when it is related to on the spot, real life or death situations. Besides, it takes an inordinately dull imagination not to have some sense of what a clandestine military operation is like.

At the official level, the United States violated international law. Israel also violated international law when it took out a nuclear facility in Iraq in little over one minute. Israel will soon take out another nuclear facility, this time in Iran. In the face of genocide, international law must be suspended, especially in the heat of a simmering third world war that threatens Western Civilization. 

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