The next Holo­caust will be dif­fer­ent

Benny Mor­ris, the prom­i­nent Is­raeli his­to­rian, warns that Iran will an­ni­hi­late his coun­try — and the world will let it hap­pen

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment & Analysis -

The sec­ond Holo­caust will not be like the first. The Nazis, of course, in­dus­tri­alised mass mur­der. But still, the per­pe­tra­tors had one-on-one con­tact with the vic­tims. They may have de­hu­man­ised them be­fore the ac­tual killing. But, still, they were in eye and ear con­tact, some­times in tac­tile con­tact, with their vic­tims.

The sec­ond Holo­caust will be quite dif­fer­ent. One bright morn­ing, in five or ten years’ time, a day or a year or five years af­ter Iran’s ac­qui­si­tion of the Bomb, the mul­lahs in Qom will con­vene in se­cret ses­sion, un­der a por­trait of the steely-eyed Ay­a­tol­lah Khome­ini, and give Pres­i­dent Ahmedine­jad, by then in his sec­ond or third term, the go ahead. The or­ders will go out and the Shi­hab III and IV mis­siles will take off for Tel Aviv, Beer­sheba, Haifa and Jerusalem, and prob­a­bly some mil­i­tary sites, in­clud­ing Is­rael’s half-dozen air and (re­ported) nu­clear-mis­sile bases. Some of the Shi­habs will be nu­clear-tipped, oth­ers dupes, packed merely with bi­o­log­i­cal or chem­i­cal agents.

Prob­a­bly four or five hits will suf­fice: no more Is­rael. A mil­lion or more Is­raelis will die im­me­di­ately. Mil­lions will be se­ri­ously ir­ra­di­ated. No Ira­nian will see or touch an Is­raeli. It will be quite im­per­sonal.

Some of the dead will in­evitably be Arab. It is doubt­ful whether such a mass killing of fel­low Mus­lims will trou­ble Ahmedine­jad and the mul­lahs. The Ira­ni­ans don’t es­pe­cially like Arabs, es­pe­cially Sunni Arabs, with whom they have in­ter­mit­tently warred for cen­turies. And they have an es­pe­cial con­tempt for the (Sunni) Pales­tini­ans. Be­sides, the Ira­nian lead­er­ship sees the de­struc­tion of Is­rael as a supreme divine com­mand, as a her­ald of the Sec­ond Com­ing, and the Mus­lims, dis­patched col­lat­er­ally, as so many shi­hada (mar­tyrs) in the noble cause.

A ques­tion may nev­er­the­less arise in the Ira­nian coun­cils: What about Jerusalem? Af­ter all, the city con­tains Is­lam’s third-holi­est shrines (af­ter Mecca and Me­d­ina), Al Aksa Mosque and the Mosque of Omar. But Ali Khamenei, the supreme spir­i­tual leader, and Ahmedine­jad most likely would re­ply that, by God’s grace, in 20 or 50 years’ time the city would re­cover. And it will be re­stored to Is­lam (and the Arabs). And the deeper pol­lu­tion will have been erad­i­cated.

Ahmedine­jad is a man ob­sessed. He shares this with the mul­lahs: all were brought up on the teach­ings of Khome­ini, a pro­lific anti-Semite who of­ten ful­mi­nated against “the Lit­tle Satan”. He is will­ing to gam­ble the fu­ture of Iran or even of the whole Mus­lim Mid­dle East in ex­change for Is­rael’s de­struc­tion.

No doubt he be­lieves that Al­lah, some­how, will pro­tect Iran from an Is­raeli nu­clear re­sponse or an Amer­i­can coun­ter­strike. Al­lah aside, he may well be­lieve that his mis­siles will so pul­verise the Jewish state, knock out its lead­er­ship and its land-based nu­clear bases, and de­mor­alise or con­fuse its nu­clear-armed sub­ma­rine com­man­ders that it will be un­able to re­spond.

And, with his deep con­tempt for the weak-kneed West, he is un­likely to take se­ri­ously the threat of Amer­i­can nu­clear re­tal­i­a­tion. Or he may well take into ac­count a coun­ter­strike and sim­ply be will­ing to pay the price.

Is­rael’s deputy de­fense min­is­ter, Ephraim Sneh, has sug­gested that Iran does not even have to use the Bomb to de­stroy Is­rael. Sim­ply, the nu­cle­ari­sa­tion of Iran will so over­awe and de­press Is­raelis that they will lose hope and grad­u­ally flee, and po­ten­tial for­eign in­vestors and im­mi­grants will shy away.

Th­ese to­gether will bring about the State’s demise. But my feel­ing is that Ahmedine­jad and his al­lies lack the pa­tience for such a drawn-out de­noue­ment; they seek Is­rael’s an­ni­hi­la­tion in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture, in their life­time. They won’t want to leave any­thing up to the va­garies of his­tory.

As with the first, the sec­ond Holo­caust will have been pre­ceded by decades of prepa­ra­tion of hearts and minds, by Ira­nian and Arab lead­ers, West­ern in­tel­lec­tu­als and me­dia out­lets. Dif­fer­ent mes­sages have gone out to dif­fer­ent au­di­ences — but all have (ob­jec­tively) served the same goal, the de­mon­i­sa­tion of Is­rael. Mus­lims the world over have been taught: “The Zion­ists/the Jews are the em­bod­i­ment of evil”, and “Is­rael must be de­stroyed”. And Westen­ers, more sub­tly, were in­structed: “Is­rael is a racist op­pres­sor state”, and “Is­rael, in this age of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, is an anachro­nism and su­per­flu­ous”.

The build-up to the sec­ond Holo­caust has been ac­com­pa­nied by an in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity frag­mented and driven by sep­a­rate, self­ish ap­petites — Rus­sia and China ob­sessed with Mus­lim mar­kets; France, with Arab oil; and the United States driven by the de­ba­cle in Iraq into a deep iso­la­tion­ism. Iran has been left free to pur­sue its nu­clear des­tiny, — and Is­rael and Iran to face off alone.

But an ul­ti­mately iso­lated Is­rael will prove un­equal to the task, like a rab­bit caught in the head­lights of an on­rush­ing car. Last sum­mer, led by a party hack as prime min­is­ter and a small-time trade union­ist as defence min­is­ter, and de­ploy­ing an army trained for quelling in­com­pe­tent, poorly armed Pales­tini­ans gangs in the oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries, and overly con­cerned about both sus­tain­ing and in­flict­ing ca­su­al­ties, Is­rael failed in a 34-day mini-war against a small Iran-backed guer­rilla army of Le­banese fun­da­men­tal­ists. That mini-war thor­oughly de­mor­alised the Is­raeli po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship.

Since then, the min­is­ters and gen­er­als have looked on glumly as Hizbol­lah’s pa­trons have been arm­ing with dooms­day weapons. Be­sides, the Ira­nian pro­gramme pre­sented an in­fin­itely com­plex chal­lenge for a coun­try with Is­rael’s lim­ited con­ven­tional mil­i­tary re­sources. At best, an Is­raeli con­ven­tional strike could de­lay the Ira­ni­ans by a year or two.

In short or­der, there­fore, the in­com­pe­tent lead­er­ship in Jerusalem would soon con­front a dooms­day sce­nario, ei­ther af­ter launch­ing their marginally ef­fec­tive con­ven­tional of­fen­sive or, in its stead, a pre-emp­tive nu­clear strike against the Ira­nian nu­clear pro­gramme. Would they have the stom­ach for this? Would their de­ter­mi­na­tion to save Is­rael ex­tend to pre­emp­tively killing mil­lions of Ira­ni­ans and, in ef­fect, de­stroy­ing Iran?

This dilemma had long ago been ac­cu­rately de­fined by a wise gen­eral: Is­rael’s nu­clear ar­mory was un­us­able. It could only be used too early or too late. There would never be a right time. Use it too early — mean­ing be­fore Iran ac­quired sim­i­lar weapons — and Is­rael would be cast in the role of in­ter­na­tional pariah, a tar­get of uni­ver­sal Mus­lim as­sault. And “too late” would mean us­ing its nu­clear weapons af­ter the Ira­ni­ans had struck. What pur­pose would that serve?

So Is­rael’s lead­ers will grit their teeth and hope that some­how things will turn out for the best. But af­ter ac­quir­ing the Bomb, the Ira­ni­ans will not be­have “ra­tio­nally”.

They will launch their rock­ets. And, as with the first Holo­caust, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity will do noth­ing. It will all be over, for Is­rael, in a few min­utes. Af­ter the Shi­habs fall, the world will send res­cue ships and med­i­cal aid for the lightly charred. It will not nuke Iran. For what pur­pose and at what cost? An Amer­i­can nu­clear re­sponse would last­ingly alien­ate the whole of the Mus­lim world — and would not bring Is­rael back. So what would be the point?

The sec­ond Holo­caust will be dif­fer­ent in the sense that Ahmedine­jad will not ac­tu­ally see and touch those he so wishes dead. But it will be a Holo­caust none­the­less.

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