Aviad Kleinberg, head of the history department at Tel Aviv University, says it is unclear whether Israel can withstand the death of a million people in an Iranian nuclear attack, but “it would not be the end of the Jewish State.”
As to Prime Minster Ehud Olmert’s claim that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a “psychopath,” Kleinberg says “I’m not at all certain that he's insane. I’m afraid he’s playing a much more complex game; and this is a dangerous game. One cannot simply assume that Ahmadinejad is bluffing. In certain instances you don’t have a choice but to assume that the other side is not bluffing.”
Kleinberg contends that the cultural need for an enemy is mutual: “Just as Hollywood picks out its enemies –whether it’s the Soviet crime cartels, the Chinese, communists, Bin Laden or Iraq - an enemy allows you to allocate resources; unite the ranks.”
“On the other hand there is the threat itself. In some cases it is almost fictive in nature. If we take Bin Laden, he is an example of a relatively mild threat. His current capabilities to produce terror are rather limited. His image is much stronger due to various reasons. However, Iran is not Bin Laden, nor is it Iraq. Iran has the capability of creating genuine threats. It is a society with money and technological know-how – it can cause severe damage.”
Kleinberg continues: “Ahmadinejad is trying to lead the Muslim world. He is trying to replace Bin Laden, his great rival, as the leading representative of extreme fanaticism.”
What is behind Iran’s denial of the Holocaust?
“Denying the Holocaust is a kind of defiance; it is like the skinheads in Sweden who yell ‘Heil Hitler’ even though they do not really believe in Mein Kampf.
Yoav Ben-Dov of the Cohn Institute for the History of Science at Tel-Aviv University says “Israel’s fear of an Iranian attack is related first and foremost to the Holocaust trauma, although it’s obvious that the security establishment has an interest in focusing on the Iranian threat.”
“There is something very strong in Judaism that preserves the trauma, and this trauma related directly to the fear of another Holocaust,” he says.