ARTICLE 2: SHUAIB MANJRA – Israel, Iran and the Nuclear Question – A response to Eric Marx

It is imperative that we pursue a future where peace, justice and freedom reign as supreme values predicated on equal respect for all peoples, nations, national sovereignty and the rule of law – not least because we live in an interdependent world with common interests and a shared future. This demands that that any disagreement between nations must primarily be resolved within a peaceful framework. It is within this context that the issue of Iran, its nuclear ambitions and those who oppose it must be seen. But it is also within this context that we should seek to eradicate nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction and non-conventional weapons. Of course in the light of the enormous power of the arms industry attempting to eradicate all weapons would be a futile exercise.

Iran is a peaceful and remarkable nation with a history, culture and civilisation going back many millennia. Speak to anyone who has been to Iran and you face a reality which is far from the demonic, fanatical caricature painted by those who not only want to demonise it, but also destroy it – as they have done with vibrant,  dynamic and largely secular Iraqi and Syrian societies, in the guise of eradicating despotic rulers. Iran has a sizeable Jewish population, with civil and legal equality and an active religious life, with representation in Parliament in excess of its numbers. In fact it is easier to find a synagogue in Teheran than a Sunni Mosque. It is instructive that Iran has not launched a conventional war of aggression against another state in all of modern history. On the other hand it has been the recipient of numerous aggressive threats, wars and the overthrow of a democratically elected President, Mohammed Mossadeq by the CIA. But Iran is not a perfect state: it subscribes to an aberrant democracy characterised as a theocracy. A superior body vets candidates’ suitability for office based on their character, values and history, and also vets laws to ensure that they are in keeping with its Islamic ethos. It is also a repressive regime that commits human rights abuses against its critics and some minority communities. And from time to time it is blessed with idiotic leaders.

Yes, Iran is a patron of Hezbollah and occasionally Hamas and the Palestinians, and a shadow player in the civil wars of Lebanon and Syria. But both Hezbollah and Hamas are national liberation movements that seek to end Israeli occupation of Lebanese and the Palestinian Territories respectively. Similarly Iran has supported progressive movements around the worlds for many years and continues to foster relationships with left-wing governments in South America particularly.

Iran has made its nuclear ambitions clear – it wants to develop nuclear technology for peaceful civilian purposes. It is a right which each and every country possesses and one that should be respected. Even Obama avers, when he said at the UN, “we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy”.  Yet Iran is not permitted to pursue this technology simply because of invented suspicions, by its adversaries that it could produce nuclear weapons. Such adversaries have shown an aversion to this state since the overthrow of the Shah’s oppressive regime and its escape from the clutches of imperial power. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Iran is producing, on the brink of producing, or has intentions to produce nuclear weapons –  either from the IAEA, the USA or Israeli intelligence. Netanyahu’s own Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, Israel’s chief of staff Benny Gantz, and Mossad chiefs have admitted that Iran has not decided to initiate a nuclear weapons program or build a bomb. Claims come only from propagandists including Benjamin Netanyahu and his coterie of war-mongers and has a transparent agenda: the first is to maintain the façade that Israel is the pre-eminent victim in the world facing an existential threat; the second is to ensure a continued supply of the most up-to-date military hardware and intelligence from its supporters,  pre-eminently the USA; thirdly to use fear mongering as an electoral ruse, and fourthly to create a ruse to launch an attack on Iran.

 It is worth remembering that during Iran’s 8-year war with Iraq (supported by Western powers), where 20 000 Iranians were killed, over 100 000 injured and where Iraq extensively used chemical weapons against Iranian citizens, the Ayatollah Khomeini refused permission for Iranians to produce or use chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. This religious edict still holds and is confirmed by his successor Ayatollah Khamenei when he said:

“The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.”

Shia theology would require a monumental shift to abrogate Khomeini’s fatwa.

Having established that Iran has the right to pursue its civilian nuclear programme, let us confront another question: if for argument sake Iran wants to transform its peaceful nuclear technology to nuclear weapons, why should it not be permitted to do so? What law or principles guides which state should be in the nuclear club and who should be excluded? Why should the USA have nuclear weapons but not South Africa; why should Pakistan have nuclear weapons and not Bangladesh; why should North Korea have nuclear weapons and not South Korea? Why should those in the nuclear club be its gatekeepers? Why should Iran not be permitted to have nuclear weapons when many of the countries surrounding it have? The rule of reciprocity should ensure that either no one country has a nuclear weapon or all countries have that right. Whether they decide to exercise that right is another matter altogether. Failing that we will have an unstable world where the powerful continue to dominate the weak. Opening the option of nuclear weapons for all nation states would result in a ‘balance or terror’ and consequently in a balance of power between such nations. All would be constrained by the fear of mutual annihilation in a nuclear war. This may just be the perfect antidote to those who refuse to act on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Without this ‘balance of terror’ imperial hegemony and hubris will continue to proliferate.

Then we confront another canard:  should Iran develop a nuclear weapon will it pose an existential threat to Israel? In a January New York Times article three leading Israeli security experts –  Mossad chiefs Tamir Pardo and Efraim Halevy, and a former military chief of staff Dan Halutz – all declared that a nuclear Iran would not pose an existential threat to Israel echoing Ehud Barak. The reasons for this is simple: the first is that since Israel has over 400 undeclared nuclear warheads it would most  certainly retaliate with excessive force as is historically evident, and second,  being a small country an attack on Israel would equally decimate the Palestinian population.

To reiterate – Iran has civilian nuclear ambitions which is within its rights and acknowledged by the international community; there is no evidence of any transformation of nuclear technology to military projects and finally even with nuclear military technology Iran would pose no threat to Israel.

So how do we view the op-ed piece by Eric Marx of the Israeli lobby group the SA Jewish Board of Deputies that is matched in its dishonesty only by its hypocrisy (Paper’s baffling stance on Iran, 27 April)? This explains why we have different moral categories for the fair minded that genuinely seek good, and those you use the ruse of objectivity to propagate evil. One would give some credence to Marx’s concerns if he was an independent observer rather than a lobbyist for an Israeli state that is a major nuclear power,  which refuses to open its facilities to IAEA inspection, nor sign the NPT – both of which Iran has agreed to. In addition Israel has a huge stockpile of non-conventional weapons including chemical and biological weapons. This state that Marx uncritically supports, unlike Iran, has aggressive invaded or attacked virtually every one of its neighbours and spread its terror beyond.  Israel aggressively invaded Egypt in 1956 and 1967, Lebanon in 1982 and 2006, Gaza innumerable times, Syria, Jordan, and has attacked Iraq – bombing its alleged nuclear plant. It continues to occupy and exert a repressive military rule over territory legally belonging to Palestine (West Bank and Gaza), Lebanon (Sheba Farms) and Syria (Golan Heights).  Most of Israel’s attacks were unprovoked and fit into its larger objective of a violent land grab for territorial expansion. It has engaged in terrorism worldwide, engaged in extrajudicial executions, and attacks on Palestinians on foreign soil. In its attack on the tiny Gaza strip – which is one of the most densely populated places on earth – Israel used more munition than the Western forces employed in the first week of the Iraq war, including chemical weapons. It is also one of the largest supplier of arms to conflict zones, including in many parts of Africa.

Marx’s paucity of argument is evident in that all he can resort to is fear mongering through obfuscation, innuendo and unsubstantiated Hasbara assertions. Of course he does not fail to include the discredited trope – that ex-President Ahmadinejad called for ‘Israel’s to be wiped off the map’. What Ahmedinejad has said has been deconstructed, debated and correctly translated:  what he said using Persian idiomatic expression was lost in translation and never meant that Iran is threatening to destroy Israel. But such niceties do not serve the purpose of Israel’s South African lobby.

The essential objective of the Israeli hysteria is a doctrine that simply means total Israeli military domination over its neighbours by formenting regional instability. With Iraq and Syria completely destroyed, and other dictatorships militarily of diplomatically emasculated, Iran stands as a beacon of opposition to Israeli and imperial interests in the region. Thankfully Obama has seen through Israel’s game and Netanyahu’s lies and seeks a peaceful resolution as he has done with Cuba. Of course the US President also sees a constructive role than Iran can play in curbing regional instabilities – including against ISIS and al Qaeda. Interminable conflict serves the interest only of Israel so that can continue to play victim and bolster its military. Hopefully Israel’s local lobby would one day see the bigger picture and seek world peace rather than continuing to support a war mongering state and become cheer-leaders for more war. Hopefully one day they will also support nuclear disarmament.

The Cape Times editorial should be applauded for its balance and its stated commitment to peaceful resolution of this issue rather another senseless war that Israel is seeking.

Shuaib Manjra

May 2015

Published in the Cape Times

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