In Israel, as the drumbeats of war grow ever louder, people are preparing with a mixture of dread, stoicism and determination for the long-feared, ultimate showdown with Iran.
After reported Iranian attacks on two oil tankers last month near the Straits of Hormuz, Iran also shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone. Following this, U.S. President Donald Trump said he had cancelled an airstrike on Iranian targets with only 10 minutes to spare because of last-minute concerns that the likely number of casualties would be disproportionate.
Earlier this week, Iran announced that it had breached the limit for low-enriched uranium set in the Obama-brokered 2015 nuclear deal. Last year, President Trump pulled the United States out of this deal and reimposed crippling sanctions that Britain and Europe, which still endorse the deal, have been trying hard to bust.
On Wednesday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani threatened further that Iran would increase its enrichment of uranium this Sunday beyond the level set by the nuclear deal—a move that could generate enough high-enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon.
Even the European Union has responded with horror to Iran’s breaches of the uranium limits. But the E.U. facilitated and still defends the shocking deal that facilitated Iranian terrorism and its regional power grab by funneling millions of dollars into this terror state, while paving the way for its genocidal and fanatically anti-Western regime to develop nuclear weapons.
Last year’s Mossad coup in raiding Iran’s nuclear archive produced conclusive evidence that Iran had constructed an elaborate pretense of peaceful nuclear development to conceal its nuclear weapons program. The International Atomic Energy Agency subsequently discovered numerous Iranian violations of the deal.
Yet those in the Western intelligentsia and mainstream media who view events through the Orwellian prism of the enemies of the West and the Jewish people are blaming Iran’s belligerency on President Trump’s reimposition of sanctions, thus sanitizing and denying Iranian aggression.
There’s no doubt that the Iranian regime is feeling intense pressure from sanctions and is accordingly upping the ante to test Western resolve. So it’s vital that the West doesn’t blink. So far, however, Iran’s provocations and sabre-rattling have been no more or less than that.
Trump’s policy is to impose intolerable pressure through sanctions; this is already working and should be given time to work still further. Either the regime will (hopefully) implode under the strain or it will finally feel forced to overstep its belligerency. That would be the time for military action against it, not before.
But in this phase of shadow-boxing, actions have symbolic significance that send signals to the other side.
There is a close alliance between Iran and North Korea, which is suspected of helping Iran advance its nuclear weapon program. How President Trump acts towards North Korea therefore has significance not just for addressing that particular issue, but also for Iran, which is watching intently how the North Korea drama plays out.
So it was unfortunate that President Trump chose to take his much-ballyhooed step across the demilitarized zone into North Korea without his hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton, accompanied instead by Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Last month, Carlson called Bolton a “bureaucratic tapeworm” for whom war was “always good business.” Carlson later rationalized North Korean atrocities, saying that leading a country “means killing people.”
President Trump, meanwhile, dialed down his original demand for full denuclearization to the lesser requirement of a freeze on North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program. Significantly, a few hours after President Trump’s step across the line, Bolton tweeted that he was currently in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator, thus signaling that Trump’s foray was a strategic mistake that had nothing to do with him.
It is astonishing and alarming that the American president should so conspicuously elevate the advice of a blowhard talk-show host over a foreign-policy official as sober and experienced as Bolton.
It suggests that Trump is trapped by his own contradictions. On the one hand, he rightly saw through the appalling Iran deal and realized that the regime needed to be brought to heel through crippling sanctions.
On the other, he doesn’t seem to understand that there are some, like North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who, although they are not religious fanatics, are nevertheless psychopaths for whom a civilized deal is never possible. To stop their behavior, the only course of action is to undermine and destroy their unconscionable regime.
The twin issues of Iran and North Korea illustrate how the isolationist right and the universalist left march hand in hand. This alliance was on ugly display over the Iraq war, when both sides united in declaring that we were “taken to war on a lie” because of a conspiracy stretching from Jerusalem to the White House to do the bidding of the Jews and put the rest of the world at risk.
Given the ubiquity of this malevolent Jewish-conspiracy canard at the time, it is absurd that people now profess to be astonished at the current epidemic of Jew-hatred and Israel-bashing in Britain, Europe and America.
The indifference shown to this Jew-baiting over the past two decades and more has helped legitimize and embolden ever more unambiguous demonstrations of this deranged mindset, along with a wider cultural confusion.
Four months ago in Britain, upon learning that the best-selling novelist Richard Zimler was a Jew, two cultural organizations dropped their invitations to him to appear at their events. They said they feared protests by their members and others if they invited a Jewish writer.
Against the backdrop of a bill in the Irish parliament, the Dail, to boycott Israel, an Irish News columnist Brian Feeney wrote that Iran was “the only democracy in the region—no, Israel isn’t.”
After U.S. Rep.Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) demeaned the Holocaust by comparing detention centers on America’s Mexican border to Nazi concentration camps, political and cultural figures piled in to support her. When the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum voiced concern about using Holocaust analogies in this way, more than 430 scholars who research the Holocaust and genocides urged it to retract its criticism as “fundamentally ahistorical.”
In Britain, the government wants to build a Holocaust memorial next to the Houses of Parliament to combat Holocaust denial. Yet Britain is still an enthusiast for the Iran deal, even despite the recent discovery of a Hezbollah bomb factory in London.
Sweden, where the authorities notoriously turn a blind eye to rampant anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement, intends to hold a conference on anti-Semitism next year in Malmö. That’s quite a statement. For Jew-hatred in Malmö is so bad that last month the spokesman for its Jewish community said it might close down altogether in the coming decade.
This is the international background against which Iran is ramping up for war. In Israel, there’s a grim acknowledgement of a world which, while paying ever more extravagant lip service to the victims of the Holocaust, prepares to betray them at every turn.
More than half-a-century ago, the West fought off Nazism. That fight is what it really means by “never again.”
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for “The Times of London,” her personal and political memoir, “Guardian Angel,” has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, “The Legacy,” in 2018. Her work can be found at: www.melaniephillips.com.
Be a part of our community
JNS serves as the central hub for a thriving community of readers who appreciate the invaluable context our coverage offers on Israel and their Jewish world.
Please join our community and help support our unique brand of Jewish journalism that makes sense.