Monday, May 29, 2006

Israel, Nuclear Weapons and the Rest of Us

In many respects, this is the central issue of our times. If we do not resolve this situation peaceably, it will lead to the destruction of our world as we know it.

We are inhibited of talking about Israel because any criticism is instantly, and overwhelmingly, greeted by cries of Anti-Semitism. This has been a successful cudgel in the past, we cannot afford to submit to it when our very existence is at stake. In any case, the definition of "Semite" is:
1 a : a member of any of a number of peoples of ancient southwestern Asia including the Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs b : a descendant of these peoples
2 : a member of a modern people speaking a Semitic language (emphasis added)
Arabs! Arabs are Semites???

The problem is not that Israel has 100-200 nuclear weapons, the problem is that Israel shows every indication of using those weapons. Even trying to ascertain the situation under which Israel would launch an attack on another country is almost impossible.

For the past number of years, my country has been under the inordinate influence of the Israel lobby. If you doubt this, please read the excellent article by Michael Massing in the New York Review of Books: The Storm Over the Israel Lobby. This article summarizes and critiques the scholarly article by John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government published in the March 23, 2006, issue of the London Review of Books. While he finds many faults, and at least one factual inconsistency in this article, Massing does not in any way dispute the central contention of the article that "the centerpiece of US policy in the Middle East has been its unwavering support for Israel, and that this has not been in America's best interest."

(an indication of how scary the situation is can be found in the NYRB article where multiple sources request not to be mentioned by name for fear of reprisals!)

I certainly am not qualified to parse the multiple issues raised in the articles, from billions of dollars in foreign aid to tacit support for Israel's annexation of Palestinian land. I do note that this is repeatedly justified on the basis of the genocide that the Jews of Europe suffered over 60 years ago during the Third Reich. That this tragic event should become the hinge upon which the fate of my country swings is one of the ironies of history.

While it does not go in detail, it is clear that the United States has been complicit in Israel obtaining and deploying nuclear weapons. We have made no effort to control them and we are going to pay for this mistake.

What about first use of these nuclear weapons by Israel? Wouldn't we want the United States, joined at the hip as she is with this State, to at least be able to say when and how they would be used? To suggest this will, of course, bring the immediate charge, again, of anti-Semitism. But what do the Israelis say about first use? Well, there was a Pugwash Conference on this in London in 2002. At this conference, an Israeli, Ariel Levite, presented a paper on Preliminary Reflections on No First Use Doctrine for the Middle East. (This author claims that one has obtain prior written consent to disseminate information in the article; this is strange, it is on the Web, it is open access; he also claims not to represent the Israeli Government. Since we don't have the official position of the Israeli Government, and since they are so quick to jump on anybody that in the least way parts from their orthodoxy, I suspect that this is pretty much what they are thinking.)

There are several intriguing items in this presentation, Mr. Levite states that although many believe that Israel uniquely possess nuclear weapons (most definitely) that "quite a few" other states in the region have weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This is interesting since Iraq would have been the candidate state and we now know that they had nada. No nuclear, no chemical and no biological weapons. So, Mr. Levite, argument is hogwash (at Pugwash).

A second item is his argument that Egypt, Libya and Iraq have all used chemical weapons against their own people. So, to Google we go and we find, yes, Egypt did use poison gas:
Egypt was "the first country in the Middle East to obtain chemical weapons training, indoctrination, and materiel." (Egypt may or may not have been motivated by Israel's construction of the Dimona nuclear reactor in 1958.)

Egypt was also the first Middle Eastern country to use chemical weapons. It employed phosgene and mustard agent against Yemeni Royalist forces in the mid-1960s, and some reports claim that it also used an organophosphate nerve agent. (emphasis added)
There is no evidence that Egypt used poison gas in its multiple conflicts with Israel, where one would have thought it might have. If Egypt continues with a chemical warfare capacity, it is most likely only as a deterrent to Israel. The condemnation of Egypt's use of chemical weapons in the mid 1960's, while approriate, is particularly specious since one of the arguments Israel uses to counter the contention that Israel was created, in part, by terrorists (e.g. the Irgun and the Stern Gang) is that "Oh, that was in 1948. So long ago."

Oh, and:
According to the same DIA study, Israel developed its own offensive chemical weapons program in response to a perceived Arab chemical-weapon threat. In 1974, Lt. Gen. E. H. Almquist told a Senate Armed Forces Committee that the Israeli program was operational. The 1990 DIA study reports that Israel maintains a chemical warfare testing facility. Newspaper reports suggest the facility is in the Negev desert.

Actually, the midEast is crawling in chemical weapons. Many in response to Israel's development of chemical and, especially, nuclear weapons.

In any case, chemical and biological weapons are much less "weapons of mass destruction" than are nuclear weapons (many arguments for this on the Web, I'll refer you there). In addition, they also turn on their users as many learned in the First World War when the wind changed direction.

Mr. Levite then makes the astounding statement that there is a "political culture" in many of the States surrounding Israel that is "tolerent of deceit." I won't even go there.

The central argument in this document is that Israel should not agree or be bound by a No First Use of nuclear weapon agreement because this would violate Israel's long standing policy of "not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East." This committment, according to Levite, has weathered the test of time, crises, and changes in Israeli government.

Once again, hogwash.

The problem is, in my opinion, that Israel as a country, and therefore many Israeli's as individuals (though not all) feel that they are different, separate, and exceptional. This probably arises from the fact that they are a religious state in a secular world and their religion is based on the credo that they are the "Chosen Race." In spite of their size (six million vs six billion+ in the World) they do not feel bound by any external stricture, particularly with respect to nuclear weapons. They are not part of the nuclear non proliferation treaty and, while a member of the U.N., do not feel obligated to follow its resolutions.

To all appearances, they continue to believe in the Old Testament policy of an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.

Therefore, if Israel is attacked, or even if it is threatened (learning this from George W. Bush), I have no doubt that they will resort to nuclear weapons. There is literaly no assurance that Israel can give, and they certainly have no intention of doing so in any case, that would lead us to believe that they won't use nuclear weapons, even if it means the destruction of the rest of the world.

In many ways, the State of Israel is psychotic.

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