The debate over these topics has already lived on for many decades. One incident concerned the Jews in the Soviet Union. Recently, a conversation between American President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger from 1973 was published. It was revealed that both men did not consider it of any importance for the United States if Jews in the Soviet Union were to be sent to gas chambers. Kissinger has recently apologized for this statement.
At the beginning of this century, the outburst of new anti-Semitism – often cloaked as anti-Israelism - led to a revival of this discussion. In 2002, American columnist Ron Rosenbaum wrote that author Philip Roth had coined the term “The Second Holocaust” in his novel “Operation Shylock” written in 1993. Rosenbaum was of the opinion that sooner or later Arab radicals would hit Tel Aviv with an atom bomb. Writer Leon Wieseltier answered that Hitler was dead and there was no reason to worry.
This debate has lost its theoretical character for several years. The American government informed the Israeli government in August 2010 that Iran will have an atom bomb in another year. Since then, a computer worm in Iran’s nuclear installation has probably led to its delay. In Israel, a discussion is now taking place on when the Iranian bomb will be operational. Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon estimates that this will take approximately three years. Meir Dagan, until recently head of the Mossad, thinks that this will not happen before 2015.
The numerous and murderous threats by Iran’s highest spiritual and political leaders such as the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, his successor Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to destroy Israel, turn it into the main target of such a bomb. It is now clear that other countries are also worried. From documents leaked by WikiLeaks, we learn that Saudi Arabia had asked the United States to bomb Iran. The underlying thought is that Shiite Iran would encounter little risk in using an atom bomb against Sunni countries which can hardly retaliate.
The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi told US Air Force General T. Michael Moseley in 2007 that the waterways for oil transport from the Middle East would be threatened by an Iranian bomb. He asked the American army to stop Iran’s nuclear program “by all means possible.” The same request was made in 2009 by the King of Bahrain to US General David Petraeus.
Many Iranian leaders have an apocalyptic world view. Former Iranian President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said in 2002 that “the use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave nothing on the ground, whereas it will only damage the world of Islam.”
The Pakistani threat
The publicity around the threat of genocide is focused mainly on Iran. Another possible nuclear threat can manifest itself much faster. From documents exposed by WikiLeaks we know that authorities in the United States, Great Britain and Russia are worried that Islamic terrorists could come into possession of Pakistani atom bombs or fissile material.
American Ambassador in Karachi Anne Patterson informed Washington at the beginning of 2009 that it was not probable that an Islamic militant would steal an entire weapon. However, the probability existed that someone in the nuclear installations could slowly smuggle out sufficient material to make a bomb.
Last September, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari warned that the survival of his country was threatened by a combination of extremist forces and giant floods. If Pakistan disintegrates, the threat can suddenly become much larger because one doesn’t know into whose hands the atomic arsenal could end up falling.
Meanwhile, the US has recently begun to take nuclear threats seriously again. Emergency exercises have been planned to inform the public in big cities on how best to protect themselves in case of a nuclear explosion.
All this plays out in a world where uncertainty and vulnerability will surely increase in the coming years. Israel will have to try to protect itself as best as it can against apocalyptic desires for genocide in the Muslim world. However, what is often seen as an Israeli problem is never that exclusively. Many others would do well to realize that the scenario of a new genocide by way of an atomic explosion could develop differently than expected. Such a bomb could be blown up in many different places.
There is however another lethal threat against Israel which is far more complex. It can be the ultimate result of the ongoing de-legitimization of Israel. A large diversity of Jew- and Israel-haters in many countries participates in this demonization, pursuing an almost endless number of strategies. Boycotts, divestment and sanctions are only a limited part of their multiple tools. Such a fragmented threat is typical of a post-modern society. All these are part of the “method of the thousand cuts to delegitimize Israel,” as former Canadian Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler called it.
Once combined, all of this anti-Israel propaganda and related activities could lead to such huge political pressure that Israel would have no choice but to return to indefensible borders – those which Abba Eban once termed “the Auschwitz borders.” If this scenario comes to fruition, it increases the possibility of a - be it delayed - mass murder of Israeli Jews.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld has published 19 books, several of which deal with Israel’s international relations
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