Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Incompatible moral universes: Despicable things are reasonable to Zionists. Reasonable things are outrageous.

I want to look at three statements that I consider true. If the continuation of majority status for about 5 million Jews in a state in Palestine requires the starvation of 1.5 million people, mostly children, in Gaza, then maybe there should not be a Jewish state. If a Jewish majority state requires 100 million people to live in pro-US colonial dictatorships, then maybe there shouldn't be a Jewish state. If a Jewish majority state requires policies that enrage the region so much that the US must occupy two nations two occupations are necessary to prevent retaliatory attacks on Western targets, then maybe there should not be a Jewish state.

The three statements share the same conclusion "maybe there should not be a Jewish state". Supporters of Zionism, essentially by definition, ultimately assert that there is no precedent, the three I presented or any other, for which that conclusion is true. A person who accepts the world-view that there must, at any cost, be a majority state for the 5 million Jewish people in Palestine has a drastically different view of the region than someone who does not accept that world view.

The Zionist moral system includes that there must be a Jewish state at any cost as a premise. The prevailing US Christian moral system, whose fundamental premise is that the Christian bible is unerringly true holds that the bible asserts that there will be Jewish rule of Palestine. We do have to be careful in not overstating the importance of the US Christian moral system in US politics. That abortion should be illegal, that homosexuality should be punished, that evolution is false and should not be taught to children are all propositions more central to the US Christian moral system than that the US should support Israel. In each case secular considerations easily override the US Christian moral system in US politics.

The currently prevailing Western moral system, that I've read described as humanistic individualism, is not compatible with the idea that great sacrifices or any sacrifices should be made to ensure a political majority for a particular ethnic group on a particular territory. The contradiction between humanistic individualism and the Zionist moral system is often resolved in the West, to the detriment of Western interests and especially contrary to the interests of the non-Jewish people of the region, by ethnic identification by Jewish Westerners and a kind of intimidation of discussion in which non-Jewish people in the West are threatened with false accusations of anti-Semitism.

If one accepts as a fundamental premise that there must be a Jewish state, then Hamas' refusal to accept a Jewish state renders Israel's policy of holding the population of Gaza on the brink of starvation reasonable. Zionists accept that premise. Westerners, including, for example, Barack Obama, too often accept that premise without consideration. Unfortunately generally they have come to feel uncomfortable examining the premise because of a steady and unchallenged presentation of the unreasonable idea, in many forms, that to examine the premise is anti-Semitic.

A weak Saudi Arabia is necessary in order to prevent its larger population and larger amount of resources that can be devoted to its military from giving the Saudis an option to render Israel as a majority state for 5 million Jewish people non-viable. A weak Saudi Arabia requires a contained Iraq. If the containment of Iraq requires sanctions that kill over 500,000 Iraqis, mostly children and the elderly then for someone who accepts the Zionist premise, it is worth it.

For someone who accepts that premise, any blame should be assigned to Saddam Hussein who did not go along with the Israeli need, transmitted through the United States and European countries, that Iraq be weak. For a person who does not accept that premise, who does not hold the Zionist moral system - whether instead the person holds the pre-emininent Western individualist moral system, or the Islamic value system - the blame should be applied on the parties that directly imposed the sanctions, knowing what their impact would be.

A person who accepts the premise that there must be a Jewish majority state, even if that person does not know he has accepted the premise, sometimes will not even understand the perception of the region of a person who has not accepted the premise.

Westerners often see non-Jewish people of the Middle East as evil. Or see US puppets as moderate. Most non-Jewish people who do not accept a Jewish state are not evil, they just do not accept a basic premise of US policy. A premise that actually contradicts Western values as much as it contradicts there. Non-Jewish people of the Middle East perceive the US as going out of its way to impose hardship on their people. This perception is accurate, but the motive is not hatred of them or of Islam, Western decision-makers often cannot see past the premise that there must be a secure majority state for the 5 million Jewish people in Palestine regardless of the impact of that proposition on non-Jewish people in the region.


Roger said...

Is the maintenance of a zionist, jewish majority state in Palestine racist and morally bankrupt? yes!! But Arnold you have beaten this horse to death by raising it in every post. What is the way forward given the realistic, bleak assessment that this is the policy of not just the world's only superpower with 50% of the world's military budget, but also the European Union.
As an Iranian, I am deeply concerned about the effects on my country of championing the Palestinian cause at the expense of Iran's national interest. It reminds me of the fatal mistake Mosaddegh made in nationalising oil, thereby creating the enmity of Britain - which led to his downfall - instead of concentrating his efforts on strengthening Iran's institutions such as the judiciary, agriculture, education and many other fields at which he was having such tremendous success. You argue correctly that US's support of Israel has costs for the US. But you fail to mention that Iran's support of Palestinians has been proportionately far more costly for Iran. There are other racist genocidal regimes in the world beside Israel. Why should Iran champion the Palestinians over, say, Christians in Sudan or muslims in Cambodia? You must agree that were Iran to acquiesce to Israel's "reality" (similar to Turkey's, Malaysia's, or - for that matter Germany's - acceptance of Israel, even though obviously they are equally aware as you are of the repugnance of it)then Iran would have a more realistic chance of being allowed to survive and flourish, build its democracy and economy, and develop the nation.
Personally I would be willing to sacrifice the Palestinian cause, and even if necessary the nuclear fuel cycle project in a Grand Bargain with the west that protected Iran's independence which is the most important fruit of the 1979 revolution. If you take a fresh look at the West's offer of incentives in exchange for stopping uranium enrichment (together with the implied ending of support for Hamas and Hezbollah), and built in sufficient security guarantees such as ending support for secessionist groups, liberal trade in goods, investment in the oil sector, support for regional gas pipelines transiting Iranian territory, etc.... it is a package that I could support.
Is this a Faustian bargain with the devil for the sake of Iranian national interest? Admittedly and unhappily, yes.

Lysander said...

Hello Roger! I will try to address your points, though probably not in quite the same way Arnold would.

First let me say I accept your premise that Iran should without any shame or remorse, pursue its own interests above the interests of others. Iran's responsibility towards the Palestinians is certainly no greater than Egypt's.

I no longer believe a "grand bargain" with the US is possible on terms that even the most moderate Iranians would accept. Recognition of Israel is not enough. Ending pursuit of nuclear technology is not enough.

The dispute between the US and Iran is not exclusively about Israel. It is about who will be the greatest power in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.

For US policy makers, that power must be the United States and by extension its local dependency known as Israel. Iran, assuming we accept the premise above, must want it to be Iran.

And potentially it can be. Were all sanctions to be lifted on Iran then within a decade, or two at the most, it would be. With Iran's oil, natural gas, natural gas, abundant water and arable land, large land mass, strategic location, and most of all a sophisticated population with a tradition of science and scholarship, Iran is the region's natural powerhouse. It wouldn't even be a contest.

So, from the US point of view, supposing a grand bargain were reached with Iran and now Iran has a democratic government? Even if Iran recognized Israel today, who is to say it will do so tomorrow? Who can promise the US Iran will not decide its national interests don't lay in an alliance with China? Who can promise it will not destabilize Saudi Arabia's Shiite population? Do you think the US will simply take your word for it?

No. It will not. The US will want to take out some insurance. Meaning, The US will want to "train" Iran's army. It will want to decide which officers get promoted and which ones do not. Who will be the chief of staff? It will be the US' decision not yours. The US will need a very large embassy because it will have a lot of work to do. That embassy will need to decide who will be the interior minister. Who will be chief of police. Who will be chief of intelligence.

And because there is a substantial population of Iranians who are hardcore believers in Islam and that it cannot countenance a foreign occupation of Muslim lands, something will have to be done about them. Extra-democratic means will be required to deal with them. The SAVAK was there for a reason after all.

Even that will not be enough. The US will want a veto on what technologies Iran will pursue and which ones it will not.

And beyond all that, even if Iran were largely docile, the existence of a Muslim country much more powerful than Israel would be alarming to Zionism.

There may come a time in the next decade or two when the US will be prepared to accept a grand bargain at a lesser cost to Iran. But for now, it is not.

Roger, I hope you will have time to read my comment and respond. I'm eager to hear your point of view on all this.

Anonymous said...

Quite candid, Lysander.

And Roger, there is no way this issue can be "beaten to death", given the fact that such logic receives so very, very little attention and traction here in the West.

Keep it up, Arnold.


Anonymous said...

Lysander puts it beautifully ie where would it end?,what Iran would in effect be giving up would be a large chunk of its independance and sovreignty in return for economic deals that would profit the west as much as Iran,it would in many ways be a giant leap backward.You only have to look at the other us backed regimes in the region to see how pitiful and powerless they are not to mention how out of touch with and afraid of their own citizens,the relationship the us has with these countries is not one of allies but one of lord and vassals.If there was ever a time for Iran to have even considered capitulation,and thats what the bargain would be make no mistake about it,it would have been after desert storm,the soviet union was on the verge of collapse and was cozying up to the west,this appeared to be the end of history with the obvious superiority of the west both idealogically/economically and tecnologically/militarily,the west had won and those who didn`t want to wind up like saddam or north korea had better realign themselves to the new world order quick fucking smart,that was then this is now and boy have things changed,the us and its few allies are bogged down in 2 unwinnable wars that have damaged them very badly politically and economically,the west has suffered one of its worst economic disasters in 80 years with world wide fallout,Russia is no longer cozy with the west far from it,Israel is no longer immune from critcism or condemnation for its crimes,and the thing that I think worries the us and holds promise for iran is the rise of the 2 new up and coming super powers both economic and military China and India,I have little doubt within the coming decade that both of them will venture into the gulf and will begin to displace the us in power and influence just as the us displaced the uk and france,both will have to do this to secure the oil to keep their economies running,personally I think an Iran/China grand bargain could offer a hell of a lot more and cost a lot less.In the short term some people may think the us nargain looks good but in the long term it could turn out like Lysander says to have a lot of very expensive hidden costs.You also ask why Iran should help the palestinians I think for the simple reason that its the right and moral thing to do

Arnold Evans said...

I think Lysander is exactly right about how expensive an accommodation with the US would be for Iran. Basically, if the US gives Iran better terms for acceptance than it gives the Saudis and Egyptians, those countries, in time will ask for and get the terms Iran gets. What Iran has to offer allies in the region other than Israel is exactly what you see in Egypt.

Now, there may be some Iranians who believe Egypt is better off than Iran, and Iran should take that. All I can say is that if there is a national consensus that Iran should relate to the US the way Egypt does, then Iran should follow its consensus. I also think Iran's government is flexible enough that it will follow a new consensus if it emerges.

One counterargument that you may propose is instead of Egypt, Iran can be like Turkey. Turkey does have more independence than Egypt. This is a new situation. Throughout the cold war, Turkey was not a democracy and its policies did not reflect the views of its people. Turkey's military, that was US-oriented, reserved and exercised the right to replace civilian governments. But the US had a specific reason that Turkey could not be de-industrialized and weak as Saudi Arabia or Egypt, as that would invite a Soviet capture of the country.

Iran is today too strong, too industrialized for US tastes. At least that's my assessment.

One of my strongest beliefs about countries is that countries should make and learn from their own mistakes. So if most Iranians disagree with me and think a deal with the US could be reasonable, I think Iran should make a deal with the US. As long as it's reversible, because another thing is that the US, openly under Obama, is happy with dictatorships if they support Israel.

So on that subject, I don't think a deal with the US would work for Iran, but I think Iranians have to make their own decision. From the polls I've seen there is not a consensus that Iran should make even the initial concessions the US would want for a deal. If they were to want a deal, I'd caution that they should be very careful to ensure the US is not able to go further and cancel Iran's democracy.

Now, to further what Pirouz says. I don't think people in or outside of the United States appreciate the degree to which US Middle East policy is driven by Israeli concerns and also the effectiveness of Israel's supporters in distorting the debate in the United States, and the ways they do it. I almost think I don't write enough about how it works, the role some sincere and some cynical almost always false charges of anti-Semitism play in shaping US policy.

Also, when I see outsiders communicate with America, they usually would be more effective if they understood better the exact but subtle ways in which the US thinks about and doesn't think about Israel. Explaining the US/Israel relationship is an important part of why I write these days, because it is very poorly understood.

My understanding is actually becoming more detailed and is significantly more nuanced than it was last year at this time I think, so this right now is a very interesting topic for me.

Anonymous is also right that the US would ask for the same things it was asking for when it was much more powerful than it is now.