- Des émeutiers palestiniens attaquent la police sur le mont du Temple (Times of Israel) - "les manifestants avaient stocké des explosifs artisanaux, des pétards et des planches de bois à l’intérieur de la mosquée Al-Aqsa, avec l’intention d’attaquer des milliers de fidèles juifs réunis à proximité pour prier au mur Occidental pour Tisha Beav, un jour de jeûne et de deuil qui commémore initialement la destruction des premier et second Temples juifs".
- Le cheikh de Jérusalem explique aux enfants la gloire du martyre (Times of Israel)
"[...] Dans une vidéo de quatre minutes mise en ligne par l’institut de veille Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), le cheikh Khaled al-Maghrabi est en train d’enseigner à un groupe d’enfants, dont les plus âgés sont à peine des adolescents, que « le martyre est absous avec la première goutte de son sang ». Les enfants prenaient part à un soi-disant camp d’été de la mosquée Al-Aqsa, selon MEMRI. Le chef religieux a expliqué au groupe de petits garçons et de petites filles que « le martyre serait marié à deux vierges au paradis ». Au jour du jugement, le cheikh a ajouté, une personne qui décède en étant engagée dans le ribat – le concept musulman de défendre la foi, nommé d’après une structure ressemblant à une forteresse – serait capable de sauver 70 membres de sa famille. [...]"
- 70 virgins for Martyrs, preached to kids at Al-Aqsa Mosque summer camp (Vidéo 2mn)
- The UN lies about international law. What a surprise (Elder of Ziyon) - "In a normal world, this would be scandalous. But in the bizarre world where anything anti-Israel is OK and anything Israel does is defined as illegal before any legal analysis is done, this is par for the course". La suite de l'affaire "Sussiya"...
"Processus de paix"
- Lessons from Gaza (Jerusalem Post editorial) - "This has informed Israel’s insistence on maintaining control over the Jordan Valley as a condition for granting Palestinians more territorial autonomy on the West Bank. Israel does not want a rerun of South Lebanon, Gaza, or Sinai on the West Bank".
"Ten years after Israel evacuated the Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip and parts of northern Samaria, very few – whether on the Right or on the Left or in the Center – are willing to stand wholeheartedly behind what is referred to as “the disengagement.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog recently referred to the pullout as a “mistake,” as did Shimon Peres some time ago. And although Benjamin Netanyahu voted in favor of the disengagement plan on October 26, 2004, he resigned in protest on August 8, 2005, shortly before it was implemented, and has been a leading critic ever since.
Public opinion has shifted significantly over the past decade. If in the months leading up to the pullout polls consistently showed a strong majority in favor, at least one recent survey shows that the situation has changed. According to a poll conducted in July for the Begin-Sadat Center of Strategic Studies, 63 percent of respondents claimed they were against the evacuation at the time, while 51% said Israelis should move back to Gaza Strip. Clearly, some respondents lied about their past support for the pullout out of a feeling of regret.
It would be unfair, however, to claim that the disengagement brought only damage upon Israel.
From a demographic perspective, Israel ceased to be responsible for more than a million Palestinians in Gaza. Any discussion today of the “demographic time bomb” – the strongest argument against annexation or a one-state solution – leaves out of the equation Gaza’s Palestinians.
And though critics claim the pullout unleashed rocket and mortar fire, the reality is that Jewish towns both inside Gaza and in the surrounding areas came under attack repeatedly before the disengagement. The first Kassam missile was fired from Gaza in 2001. Much higher casualties – civilian and military – were sustained before the disengagement than after. Fewer than 9,000 Jews lived in the midsts of over a million Palestinians who violently opposed their very existence. Expecting the IDF to protect them over time was unreasonable.
Israel also reaped some diplomatic gains from the pullout. Perhaps the most significant was then-US president George Bush’s 2004 letter, endorsed by overwhelming majorities by both houses of Congress. Large settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria would remain an integral part of Israel in any two-state solution and Palestinian refugees would be settled in a future Palestinian state, not in Israel. The letter marked a major shift in American policy that had traditionally seen settlements as an obstacle to peace.
But perhaps the biggest lesson to learn from the disengagement is also its biggest flaw: the pullout proved once and for all the utter folly of unilateral territorial concessions. The scenario played out following the IDF’s 2000 unilateral pullout from South Lebanon brought about the rise of Hezbollah, which repeated itself in Gaza. Less than two years after Israel evacuated the Strip, Hamas, in a bloody coup, ousted Fatah and seized control.
This is in large part because the pullout was seen, at least in the eyes of Palestinians, as the result of the success of Hamas’s terrorism and rocket fire. Where negotiations had failed to achieve territorial concessions, argued Hamas supporters convincingly, violent struggle had succeeded.
Hamas’s success in smuggling into Gaza larger and more deadly rockets, with increasingly longer range, taught Israel the importance of maintaining control over borders in any future territorial concession to Palestinians. The same lesson can be learned from the Sinai Peninsula – returned to Egypt as part of the Camp David Accords – which has under Egyptian control deteriorated into anarchy and been overrun by violent Beduin tribes and groups connected with al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
This has informed Israel’s insistence on maintaining control over the Jordan Valley as a condition for granting Palestinians more territorial autonomy on the West Bank. Israel does not want a rerun of South Lebanon, Gaza, or Sinai on the West Bank.
Though public opinion has shifted over the past decade since the 2005 pullout from Gaza and northern Samaria, it is wrong to claim that the disengagement was a complete failure. But perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from the disengagement is the potential danger of territorial concessions. Any future two-state solution must be reached through direct negotiations with the Palestinians and must include iron-clad security arrangements. We must keep this in mind as we mark a decade since the disengagement."
- PA: Jerusalem never had a Jewish Temple (PMW) - "Today, on Tisha B'Av, Jews mourn the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem (586 BCE and 70 CE). However, the Palestinian Authority denies that there ever was a Temple, consistently referring to Solomon's Temple as "the alleged Temple." Moreover, the PA also teaches its people that there was never a Jewish history in Jerusalem".
- Arabs fear UNRWA might actually help refugees because of its budget shortfall (Elder of Ziyon) - "If you read between the lines, this unnamed official is saying that Palestinian Arabs have no right to attempt to become citizens of their host countries, since their leaders fear the idea that they may be resettled elsewhere and therefore cannot be used as excuses to vilify Israel for coming generations"; "In short: Palestinian Arab leaders continue to actively work to keep millions of people stateless. And they are afraid that UNRWA might revert to its original mandate to reduce the number of refugees, not perpetuate them".
- Egypte : 18 policiers blessés par une bombe dans le Sinaï (AFP) - "L’attaque s’est produite aux abords de la ville d’Al-Arich, chef lieu du Nord-Sinaï, ont indiqué des responsables de sécurité, précisant que 18 hommes avaient été blessés dans l’explosion de la bombe, déclenchée à distance au passage d’un bus les transportant en vacances".
Liban, Syrie & Hezbollah
- Syrie : cinq enfants tués par un tir des rebelles à Alep (AFP) - "Les quatre petits frères, ainsi que leur cousine, avaient tous moins de 14 ans" ; "La roquette lancée par les insurgés s'est abattue sur leur maison dans le quartier de Chahba al-Jadida".
- Nasrallah : « La tumeur cancéreuse » d’Israël sera effacée (Times of Israel)
"Le chef du Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, a declaré qu’« Israël, la tumeur cancéreuse, doit être anéanti. » Selon al-Manar, Nasrallah a dit qu’Israël tirait partie des troubles dans la région pour renforcer les liens avec les Etats arabes modérés. « L’entité sioniste profite des événements qui se déroulent dans notre région dans le but de normaliser ses relations avec plusieurs pays arabes, » a-t-il affirmé. [...]"
- Yémen : une ONG dénonce «un crime de guerre» (AFP) - la coalition arabe a tué au moins 65 civils (dont dix enfants) en un seul raid aérien, et on n'en parle quasiment nulle part dans nos médias. A comparer avec la couverture médiatique très importante, même un an après les faits, des quatre enfants tués involontairement par Tsahal sur une plage de Gaza.
"Human Rights Watch (HRW) a estimé aujourd'hui que le raid aérien de la coalition conduite par l'Arabie saoudite qui avait fait vendredi 65 morts parmi les civils à Mokha, dans le sud-ouest du Yémen, s'apparentait à un «crime de guerre». «Avec l'absence évidente d'objectif militaire, cette attaque s'apparente à un crime de guerre», écrit dans un communiqué Ole Solvang, responsable de HRW pour les cas d'urgence. HRW a indiqué avoir visité le site de l'attaque un jour et demi après le raid et n'avoir constaté la présence d'aucune position militaire proche.
Le raid a visé un quartier résidentiel réservé aux employés d'une centrale électrique. Des sources médicales yéménites avaient fait état de 35 civils tués, tandis que les médias des rebelles chiites Houthis avaient affirmé deux jours après le raid que le bilan était de quelque 70 morts parmi les civils. HRW a indiqué avoir obtenu du directeur de la centrale électrique, Bagil Jafar Qasim, une liste de 65 civils tués dans l'attaque, dont 10 enfants. L'organisation de défense des droits de l'Homme basée à New York a déploré que la coalition n'ait pas mené d'enquête à la suite de ce raid et d'autres attaques ayant fait des victimes parmi les civils au Yémen. [...]"
- Une nouvelle trêve humanitaire vole en éclats au Yémen (AFP) - "Au moins 1.895 civils figurent parmi 3.984 personnes tuées en quatre mois de conflit, selon les estimations de l'ONU. Environ 80% de la population -soit 21 millions de personnes- ont besoin d'aide ou de protection, et plus de 10 millions ont du mal à se nourrir ou à trouver de l'eau".
- Obama presents a false dichotomy on Iran, Frederick W. Kagan (director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute) - "Opposing the current deal is thus not in any way equivalent to favoring war. It is not a rejection of the idea of a peaceful resolution of this conflict, nor is it a refusal to negotiate with Iran".
"President Obama and his supporters have done a terrific job of framing the debate over the Iran nuclear agreement as a choice between taking the deal or opting for war. They continually challenge critics to articulate an alternative to the deal, claiming that there isn’t one. This is a superb debating technique, and it has put critics on the defensive. But it is a false dichotomy. The choice might conceivably be between a deal and war, although that is by no means certain — the Cold War, after all, ended with neither a deal nor war. But the choice at hand is between accepting this deal now or continuing to press and negotiate for a better deal later. Many critics of this particular agreement, including me, believe that it would be far preferable to sign a good deal with Iran than to go to war with Iran — but also believe that this is a very bad deal indeed.
There is historical precedent for thinking about the issue in this way. The Nixon administration signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) in 1972, and the Senate ratified it. The agreement did not have the desired effect. The Soviet nuclear stockpile expanded dramatically in subsequent years, and the period of detente supposedly ushered in by that agreement ended with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. That invasion came five months after the conclusion of another poor nuclear arms deal from the U.S. standpoint, SALT II. The Senate refused to ratify SALT II, ending the SALT process.
But war between the United States and the Soviet Union did not ensue. Both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan instead increased the pressure on the Soviet Union dramatically, including with enhanced economic sanctions and significant increases to the defense budget — begun by Carter — that forced the Soviet Union to spend more on its own military. Within a few years, Soviet leaders came to the conclusion that major internal reform was necessary and that a thaw in relations with the United States was desirable.
Moreover, the end of the SALT process was not the end of negotiations. NATO adopted a “dual-track” approach of deploying U.S. intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Europe and simultaneously trying to negotiate the elimination of all such weapons, including the Soviets’, from the continent in November 1979. Negotiations began in 1980, and formal talks started the next year. These talks were difficult, and the Soviets walked out in 1983 and 1984 as the United States followed through with the deployment of missiles to Europe and the development of Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, to which the Kremlin was violently opposed.
Yet negotiations began again in 1985, now including not only intermediate-range ballistic missiles but also a more comprehensive discussion about reducing — rather than limiting — strategic weapons. Reagan had announced his desire to pursue a Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in 1982, but the Soviets only took it up three years later, after Mikhail Gorbachev took power. Reagan and Gorbachev announced a basic agreement regarding intermediate-range missiles at the Reykjavik Summit in 1986, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed the next year. That agreement paved the way for additional negotiations that culminated with the signing of the START pact itself in 1991. These treaties, taken together, dramatically reduced the size of nuclear arsenals on both sides and accomplished far more than either of the SALT treaties to eliminate nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
Historical analogies are always perilous, and supporters of the deal with Iran have been quick to argue that Iran has not lost a war and so cannot be expected to sign too disadvantageous an agreement. It is true that Iran has not been defeated in war, but neither had the Soviet Union when Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty. Iran, moreover, has never had the military power the Soviet Union possessed even in 1991 as it collapsed — which included the ability to obliterate the United States and NATO with nuclear weapons. The lesson of Cold War arms reduction negotiations is not that good deals require defeating an enemy in war but rather that walking away from bad deals does not inevitably lead either to war or to the end of negotiations.
Opposing the current deal is thus not in any way equivalent to favoring war. It is not a rejection of the idea of a peaceful resolution of this conflict, nor is it a refusal to negotiate with Iran. One can quite rationally oppose this deal without opposing any deal. Given how bad this deal is, in fact, that is the only rational position to take."
- The Iran Deal and the Rut of History, Leon Wieseltier (The Atlantic) - "We need to despise the [iranian] regime loudly and regularly, and damage its international position as fiercely and imaginatively as we can, for its desire to exterminate Israel".
"“The president said many times he’s willing to step out of the rut of history.” In this way Ben Rhodes of the White House, who over the years has broken new ground in the grandiosity of presidential apologetics, described the courage of Barack Obama in concluding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the Islamic Republic of Iran, otherwise known as the Iran deal. Once again Rhodes has, perhaps inadvertently, exposed the president’s premises more clearly than the president likes to do. The rut of history: It is a phrase worth pondering. It expresses a deep scorn for the past, a zeal for newness and rupture, an arrogance about old struggles and old accomplishments, a hastiness with inherited precedents and circumstances, a superstition about the magical powers of the present. It expresses also a generational view of history, which, like the view of history in terms of decades and centuries, is one of the shallowest views of all.
This is nothing other than the mentality of disruption applied to foreign policy. In the realm of technology, innovation justifies itself; but in the realm of diplomacy and security, innovation must be justified, and it cannot be justified merely by an appetite for change. Tedium does not count against a principled alliance or a grand strategy. Indeed, a continuity of policy may in some cases—the Korean peninsula, for example: a rut if ever there was one—represent a significant achievement. But for the president, it appears, the tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. Certainly it did in the case of Cuba, where the feeling that it was time to move on (that great euphemism for American impatience and inconstancy) eclipsed any scruple about political liberty as a condition for movement; and it did with Iran, where, as Rhodes admits, the president was tired of things staying the same, and was enduring history as a rut. And in the 21st century, when all human affairs are to begin again!
Obama’s restlessness about American policy toward Iran was apparent long before the question of Iran’s nuclear capability focused the mind of the world. In his first inaugural address, he famously offered an extended hand in exchange for an unclenched fist. Obama seems to believe that the United States owes Iran some sort of expiation. As he explained to Thomas Friedman the day after the nuclear agreement was reached, “we had some involvement with overthrowing a democratically elected regime in Iran” in 1953. Six years ago, when the streets of Iran exploded in a democratic rebellion and the White House stood by as it was put down by the government with savage force against ordinary citizens, memories of Mohammad Mosaddegh were in the air around the administration, as if to explain that the United States was morally disqualified by a prior sin of intervention from intervening in any way in support of the dissidents. The guilt of 1953 trumped the duty of 2009. The Iranian fist, in the event, stayed clenched. Or to put it in Rhodes-spin, our Iran policy remained in a rut.
But it is important to recognize that the rut—or the persistence of the adversarial relationship between Iran and the United States—was not a blind fate, or an accident of historical inertia, or a failure of diplomatic imagination. It was a choice. On the Iranian side, the choice was based upon a worldview that was founded in large measure on a fiery, theological anti-Americanism, an officially sanctioned and officially disseminated view of Americanism as satanism. On the American side, the choice was based upon an opposition to the tyranny and the terror that the Islamic Republic represented and proliferated. It is true that in the years prior to the Khomeini revolution the United States tolerated vicious abuses of human rights in Iran; but then our enmity toward the ayatollahs’ autocracy may be regarded as a moral correction. (A correction is an admirable kind of hypocrisy.) The adversarial relationship between America and the regime in Tehran has been based on the fact that we are proper adversaries. We should be adversaries. What democrat, what pluralist, what liberal, what conservative, what believer, what non-believer, would want this Iran for a friend?
When one speaks about an unfree country, one may refer either to its people or to its regime. One cannot refer at once to both, because they are not on the same side. Obama likes to think, when he speaks of Iran, that he speaks of its people, but in practice he has extended his hand to its regime. With his talk about reintegrating Iran into the international community, about the Islamic Republic becoming “a very successful regional power” and so on, he has legitimated a regime that was more and more lacking in legitimacy. (There was something grotesque about the chumminess, the jolly camaraderie, of the American negotiators and the Iranian negotiators. Why is Mohammad Javad Zarif laughing?) The text of the agreement states that the signatories will submit a resolution to the UN Security Council “expressing its desire to build a new relationship with Iran.” Not a relationship with a new Iran, but a new relationship with this Iran, as it is presently—that is to say, theocratically, oppressively, xenophobically, aggressively, anti-Semitically, misogynistically, homophobically—constituted. When the president speaks about the people of Iran, he reveals a bizarre refusal to recognize the character of life in a dictatorship. In his recent Nowruz message, for example, he exhorted the “people of Iran … to speak up for the future [they] seek.” To speak up! Does he think Iran is Iowa? The last time the people of Iran spoke up to their government, they left their blood on the streets. “Whether the Iranian people have sufficient influence to shift how their leaders think about these issues,” Obama told Friedman, “time will tell.” There he is again, the most powerful man in the world, backing off and bearing witness.
If I could believe that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action marked the end of Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon—that it is, in the president’s unambiguous declaration, “the most definitive path by which Iran will not get a nuclear weapon” because “every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off”—I would support it. I do not support it because it is none of those things. It is only a deferral and a delay. Every pathway is not cut off, not at all. The accord provides for a respite of 15 years, but 15 years is just a young person’s idea of a long time. Time, to borrow the president’s words, will tell. Even though the text of the agreement twice states that “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop, or acquire any nuclear weapons,” there is no evidence that the Iranian regime has made a strategic decision to turn away from the possibility of the militarization of nuclear power. Its strategic objective has been, rather, to escape the sanctions and their economic and social severities. In this, it has succeeded. If even a fraction of the returned revenues are allocated to Iran’s vile adventures beyond its borders, the United States will have subsidized an expansion of its own nightmares.
But what is the alternative? This is the question that is supposed to silence all objections. It is, for a start, a demagogic question. This agreement was designed to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. If it does not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons—and it seems uncontroversial to suggest that it does not guarantee such an outcome—then it does not solve the problem that it was designed to solve. And if it does not solve the problem that it was designed to solve, then it is itself not an alternative, is it? The status is still quo. Or should we prefer the sweetness of illusion to the nastiness of reality? For as long as Iran does not agree to retire its infrastructure so that the manufacture of a nuclear weapon becomes not improbable but impossible, the United States will not have transformed the reality that worries it. We will only have mitigated it and prettified it. We will have found relief from the crisis, but not a resolution of it.
The administration’s apocalyptic rhetoric about the deal is absurd: The temporary diminishments of Iran’s enrichment activities are not what stand between the Islamic Republic and a bomb. The same people who assure us that Iran has admirably renounced its aspiration to a nuclear arsenal now warn direly that a failure to ratify the accord will send Iranian centrifuges spinning madly again. They ridicule the call for more stringent sanctions against Iran because the sanctions already in place are “leaky” and crumbling, and then they promise us that these same failing measures can be speedily and reliably reconstituted in a nifty mechanism called “snapback.” And how self-fulfilling was the administration’s belief that no better deal was possible? On what grounds was its limited sense of possibility determined? Surely there is nothing utopian about the demand for a larger degree of confidence in this matter: The stakes are unimaginably high. It is worth noting also that the greater certainty demanded by the skeptics does not involve, as the president says, “eliminating the presence of knowledge inside of Iran,” which cannot be done. Many countries possess the science but do not pose the threat. The Iranian will, not the Iranian mind, is the issue.
The period of negotiations that has just come to a close was a twisted moment in American foreign policy. We were inhibited by the talks and they were not. The United States was reluctant to offend its interlocutors by offering any decisive challenge to their many aggressions in the region and beyond; we chose instead to inhibit ourselves. This has been an activist era in Iranian foreign policy and a passivist era in American foreign policy. (Even our refusal to offer significant assistance to Ukraine in its genuinely noble struggle against Russian intimidation and invasion was owed in part to our solicitude for the Russian standpoint on Iran.) I expect that the administration will prevail, alas, over the opposition to the Iran deal. The can will be kicked down the road, which is Obama’s characteristic method of arranging his “legacy” in foreign affairs. Our dread of an Iranian bomb will not have been dispelled; we will still need to keep “all options on the table”; we will continue to ponder anxiously the question of whether a military response to an Iranian breakout will ever be required; we will again be living by our nerves. All this does not constitute a diplomatic triumph. As a consequence of the accord, moreover, the mullahs in Tehran, and the fascist Revolutionary Guards that enforce their rule and profit wildly from it, will certainly not loosen their grip on their society or open it up. This “linkage” is a tired fiction. The sanctions were not what cast Iran into its political darkness.
This accord will strengthen a contemptible regime. And so I propose—futilely, I know—that now, in the aftermath of the accord, America proceed to weaken it. The conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action should be accompanied by a resumption of our hostility to the Iranian regime and its various forces. Diplomats like to say that you talk with your enemies. They are right. And we have talked with them. But they are still our enemies. This is the hour not for a fresh start but for a renovation of principle. We need to restore democratization to its pride of place among the priorities of our foreign policy and oppress the theocrats in Tehran everywhere with expressions, in word and in deed, of our implacable hostility to their war on their own people. We need to support the dissidents in any way we can, not least so that they do not feel abandoned and alone, and tiresomely demand the release of Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi from the house arrest in which they have been sealed since the crackdown in 2009. (And how in good conscience could we have proceeded with the negotiations while the American journalist Jason Rezaian was a captive in an Iranian jail? Many years ago, when I studied the Dreyfus affair, I learned that there are times when an injustice to only one man deserves to bring things to a halt.) We need to despise the regime loudly and regularly, and damage its international position as fiercely and imaginatively as we can, for its desire to exterminate Israel. We need to arm the enemies of Iran in Syria and Iraq, and for many reasons. (In Syria, we have so far prepared 60 fighters: America is back!) We need to explore, with diplomatic daring, an American-sponsored alliance between Israel and the Sunni states, which are now experiencing an unprecedented convergence of interests.
But we will do none of this. We will instead persist in letting the fire spread and letting time tell, which we call realism. Wanting not to fight wars, we refuse to join struggles. Sometimes, I guess, history really is a rut."
Point de vue
- Short of a conspiracy theory? You can always blame the Jews, David Baddiel (The Guardian) - "for the conspiracy theorists, even the most appalling political and military machinations of Binyamin Netanyahu and the Israel Defence Forces – of Israel itself – are far less important than the creation of what David Aaronovitch, in Voodoo Histories, describes as a new kind of super-Jew: the Zionist".
"Conspiracy theory, I said in my last standup show, is how idiots get to feel like intellectuals. I still believe this: conspiracy theory is primarily a way for people, mainly men, to appear in the know, to use their collection of assumptions, generalisations, straw men and false inferences to say, effectively: ah, the wool may have been pulled over your eyes, my friend, but not mine.
But there are other reasons why it’s so popular these days. It provides lonely men with an online community of like-minded lonely men. It’s comforting; it’s reassuring. It provides order in a disordered universe to imagine that shadowy forces organise horrific events, rather than to have to confront the terrible truth that death and destruction happen, all the time, apparently at random. And, as David Cameron pointed out this week in his speech on extremism, it creates a way into something else that’s becoming increasingly popular these days: antisemitism.
Why do so many conspiracy theories boil down to: it’s the Jews wot done it?
One simple reason is that Jews are quite hard to spot, compared with most minorities. This allows them to be unmasked, and unmasking – to be able to say, “I and no one else (apart from all my mates on abovetopsecret.com) have spotted something hidden” – is the principal drive of the conspiracy theorist. But more importantly, within racial stereotyping Jews occupy a somewhat unique position, with a two-pronged status – both low and high.
Although they can be described as stinking and dirty and vermin, and all the other unlovely appellations ascribed by racists to every ethnicity outside the mainstream, they are the only minority who are also secretly in control, pulling the strings behind the scenes, forever conspiring to promote their own hidden global agenda.
This doublethink, which has existed more or less since we made the silly mistake of preferring Barabbas, has in our own time been turbocharged by the existence of the state of Israel. Those who have always felt that Jews were powerful, controlling and out to destroy the world can now point in the direction of the Middle East and say: there you are.
But for the conspiracy theorists, even the most appalling political and military machinations of Binyamin Netanyahu and the Israel Defence Forces – of Israel itself – are far less important than the creation of what David Aaronovitch, in Voodoo Histories, describes as a new kind of super-Jew: the Zionist. This is not, for the conspiracy theorist, the straightforward hate figure of the left. Rather, it is a character, or more importantly a group, to which all western governments are secretly in hock: unbelievably rich and powerful, and dedicated unswervingly to its own project, which is nothing less than the complete control of the world. Yes: Zionists are basically Spectre.
Which makes the conspiracy theorist, to some extent, James Bond. So many conspiracy theories end up in some way to do with these particular imagined super-villains – even ones such as the “murder” of Princess Diana, which seem to have very little apparent benefit to the Zionists – that it’s clear some kind of antisemitism, even if unconsciously, is going on here. But that’s obscured by the self-image of the conspiracy theorist, who is, of course, the good guy, the lone hero, unmasking the secret powers of evil – even if unmasking the secret powers of evil in so many cases seems to involve saying: it’s the Jews.
If the conspiracy theorist is the good guy, this cannot be bad; therefore it cannot be racist. So we come to a position whereby for a lot of people, pointing at one small ethnic group and saying they’re responsible for all the worst things in the world is no longer racist. It’s fighting the good fight.
I’m talking mainly about how things are among the slightly absurd men on social media trading reasons for why the moon landings were actually faked (by the Zionists, I assume: Stanley Kubrick was Jewish – he probably filmed it). In the Middle East and much of east Asia, beliefs such as the idea that 4,000 notified-by-Israel Jews didn’t turn up for work in the World Trade Center on 9/11 (a fallacy: 9.25% of people who died in the Twin Towers were Jewish, roughly in proportion to the Jewish population of New York City) are, for many people, facts.
Our culture moves very fast now. When complicated and troubling events happen, easy answers are quickly sought and provided. There is an American standup I once saw whose first line went: I blame the Jews – it’s quicker that way.
Having said this, I have no idea how, without intense curbs on free speech (which won’t work – conspiracy theorists love the martyrdom of being muzzled), David Cameron will change anything. And frankly, if he tried to convince me that the world wasn’t actually controlled by a rich and powerful network operating on behalf of their own secret political and economic interests, I wouldn’t believe him either."
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