OPINION FROM ISRAEL:
The Night After: An Israeli’s Thoughts about the War
After the end of hostilities in Iraq, the world will be faced with two decisive facts:
First, the immense superiority of American arms can beat any nation in the world, valiant as it may be.
Second, the small group that initiated this war—an alliance of Christian fundamentalists and Jewish neo-conservatives—has won big, and from now on it will control Washington almost without limits.
The combination of these two facts constitutes a danger to the world, and especially to the Middle East, the Arab peoples and the future of Israel. Because this alliance is the enemy of peaceful solutions, the enemy of the Arab governments, the enemy of the Palestinian people and especially the enemy of the Israeli peace camp.
It does not dream only about an American empire, in the style of the Roman one, but also of an Israeli mini-empire, under the control of the extreme right and the settlers. It wants to change the regimes in all Arab countries. It will cause permanent chaos in the region, the consequences of which it is impossible to foresee.
Its mental world consists of a mixture of ideological fervor and crass material interests, an exaggerated American patriotism and right-wing Zionism.
That is a dangerous mixture. There is in it something of the spirit of Ariel Sharon, a man who has always had grandiose plans for changing the region, consisting of a mixture of creative imagination, unbridled chauvinism and a primitive faith in brute force.
Who are the winners? They are the so-called neo-cons, or neo-conservatives. A compact group, almost all of whose members are Jewish. They hold the key positions in the Bush administration, as well as in the think-tanks that play an important role in formulating American policy and the op-ed pages of the influential newspapers.
For many years, this was a marginal group that fostered a right-wing agenda in all fields. They fought against abortion, homosexuality, pornography and drugs. When Binyamin Netanyahu assumed power in Israel, they offered him advise on how to fight the Arabs.
Their big moment arrived with the collapse of the Twin Towers. The American public and politicians were in a state of shock, completely disoriented, unable to understand a world that had changed overnight. The neo-cons were the only group with a ready explanation and a solution. Only nine days after the outrage, William Kristol (the son of the group’s founder, Irving Kristol) published an “Open Letter to President Bush,” asserting that it was not enough to annihilate the network of Osama bin Laden, but that it was also imperative to “remove Saddam Hussein from power” and to “retaliate” against Syria and Iran for supporting Hizbullah.
Following is a short list of the main characters. (If it bores you, skip to the next section).
The Open Letter was published in the Weekly Standard, founded by Kristol with the money of ultra-right press mogul Rupert Murdoch, who donated $10 million to the cause. It was signed by 41 leading neo-cons, including Norman Podhoretz, a Jewish former leftist who has become an extreme right-wing icon, editor of the prestigious Encounter magazine, and his wife, Midge Decter, also a writer, Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Studies, Robert Kagan, also of the Weekly Standard, Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, and, of course, Richard Perle.
Perle is a central character in this play. Until recently he was the chairman of the Defense Policy Board of the Defense Department, which also includes Eliot Cohen and Devon Cross. Perle is a director of the Jerusalem Post, now owned by extreme right-wing Zionists. In the past he was an aide to Senator Henry Jackson, who led the fight against the Soviet Union on behalf of the Jews who wanted to leave. He is a leading member of the influential right-wing American Enterprise Institute. Lately he was obliged to resign from his Defense Department position, when it became known that a private corporation had promised to pay him almost a million dollars for he benefit of his influence in the administration.
That Open Letter was, in effect, the beginning of the Iraq war. It was eagerly received by the Bush administration, with members of the group already firmly established in some of its leading positions. Paul Wolfowitz, the father of the war, is No. 2 in the Defense Department, where another friend of Perle’s, Douglas Feith, heads the Pentagon Planning Board. John Bolton is State Department Undersecretary. Eliot Abrams, responsible for the Middle East in the National Security Council, was connected with the Iran-Contra-Israel scandal. The main hero of the scandal, Oliver North, sits in the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, together with Michael Ledeen, another hero of the scandal. He advocates total war not only against Iraq, but also against Israel’s other enemies: Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority. Dov Zakheim is comptroller for the Defense Department.
Most of these people, together with Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, are associated with the “Project for the New American Century,” which published a White Paper in 2002, with the aim ‘to preserve and enhance this ‘American peace’—meaning American control of the world.
Meyrav Wurmser (Meyrav is a chic new Israeli first name) is Director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Hudson Institute. She also writes for the Jerusalem Post and is co-founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute that is, according to the London Guardian, connected with Israeli Army Intelligence. MEMRI feeds the media and politicians with highly selective quotations from extreme Arab publications. Meyrav’s husband, Davis Wurmser, is at Perle’s American Enterprise Institute, heading Middle East Studies. Mention should also be made of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy of our old acquaintance, Dennis Ross, who for years was in charge of the “peace process” in the Middle East.
In all the important papers there are people close to the group, such as William Safire, a man hypnotized by Sharon, in the New York Times and Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post. Another Perle friend, Robert Bartley, is the editor of the Wall Street Journal.
If the speeches of Bush and Cheney often sound as if they came from the lips of Sharon, one of the reasons may be that their speechwriters, Joseph Shattan, Mathew Scully and John McConnell, are neo-cons, as is Cheney’s Chief-of-Staff, Lewis Libby.
The immense influence of this largely Jewish group stems from its close alliance with the extreme right-wing Christian fundamentalists, who nowadays control Bush’s Republican party. The founding fathers were Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority, who once got a jet plane as a present from Menachem Begin, and Pat Robertson of the Christian Coalition and the Christian Broadcasting Network, which help to finance the Christian Embassy in Jerusalem of J.W. van der Hoeven, an outfit that supports the settlers and their right-wing allies.
Common to both groups is their adherence to the fanatical ideology of the extreme right in Israel. They see the Iraq war as a struggle between the Children of Light (America and Israel) and the Children of Darkness (the Arabs and Muslims).
By the way, none of these facts are secret. They have been published lately in dozens of articles, both in American and world media. The members of the group are proud of them.
The Zionist general.
He is no anonymous general who has been picked accidentally. Garner is the ideological partner of Paul Wolfowitz and the neo-cons.
Two years ago he signed, together with 26 other officers, a petition organized by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, lauding the Israeli Army for “remarkable restraint in the face of lethal violence orchestrated by the leadership of the Palestinian Authority,” which is certainly news to the Israeli peace forces. He also stated that “a strong Israel is an asset that American military planners and political leaders can rely on.”
In the first Gulf War he praised the performance of the Patriot missiles, which had failed miserably. After leaving the army in 1997, he became, not surprisingly, a defense contractor specializing in missiles. It was alleged that he landed non-competitive Pentagon contracts. This year he obtained a defense contract for $ 1.5 billion, as well as a contract for building Patriot systems in Israel.
Therefore, there can be no better candidate for the job of chief of the civilian administration in Iraq, especially at a time when contracts for billions of dollars for reconstruction have to be handed out, to be paid for by Iraqi oil.
A new Balfour declaration
The Balfour declaration of 1917, which promised the Jews a homeland in Palestine, had two parents. The mother was Christian Zionism (among whose adherents were illustrious statesmen like Lord Palmerston and Lord Shaftesbury, long before the foundation of the Zionist movement), the father was British imperialism. The Zionist idea allowed the British to crowd out their French competitors and take possession of Palestine, which was needed to safeguard the Suez Canal and the shorter sea route to India.
Now the same thing is happening again. Last year Richard Perle organized a briefing in which a speaker proposed war not only on Iraq, but on Saudi Arabia and Egypt as well, in order to secure the world’s oil heartland. Iraq, he asserted, was only the pivot. One of the justifications for this design is the need to defend Israel.
To bet on our life?
But this tendency troubles me. We are like a gambler who bets all his money and his future on one horse. A good horse, a horse with no current competitor, but still one horse.
The neo-cons will cause a long period of chaos in the Arab and Muslim world. The Iraqi war has already shown that their understanding of Arab realities is shaky. Their political assumptions did not stand the test: only brute force saved their undertaking.
Someday the Americans will go home, but we shall remain here. We have to live with the Arab peoples. Chaos in the Arab world endangers our future.
Wolfowitz and Co. may dream about a democratic, liberal, Zionist and America-loving Middle East, but the result of their adventures may well turn out to be a fanatical and fundamentalist region that will threaten our very existence.
The partnership of the neo-cons and the Christian fundamentalists may engender counter-forces in Washington. And if Bush is defeated in the next election, like his father after his victory in the first Gulf War, this whole gang will be thrown out.
The Bible tells us about the kings of Judea, who relied on the then-world power, Egypt. They did not appreciate the rise of forces in the east, Assyria and Babylon. An Assyrian general told the king of Judea: “Behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, upon Egypt, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand and pierce it.” (II Kings 18:21).
Bush and his gang of neo-cons is not a bruised reed. Far from it: he is now a very strong reed. But should we bet our whole future on this?
Uri Avnery is a former member of the Knesset and the Israeli Army. He is currently a driving force behind the Israeli peace movement, through the organization called Gush Shalom.
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This story was published on May 8, 2003.