Jeffrey Goldberg’s feature article in the Sept. issue of The Atlantic is provocatively entitled on its cover, “Israel Is Getting Ready To Bomb Iran: How, Why and What It Means”; but he is examining the issue, not actually advocating war. A NY Times article, published around the same time, although framed to cool down speculation over the need for a quick decision regarding Iran, actually affirms the conclusion that Iran is a year away from getting the bomb, as Goldberg has written.
Goldberg’s recent blog post defending Imam Rauf, the Sufi spiritual head of the proposed downtown Manhattan Muslim community center, shows that he’s neither right-wing nor anti-Muslim, despite efforts by Trita Parsi, Juan Cole and MJ Rosenberg to characterize him as such, and to condemn him as part of a “neoconservative” war-mongering campaign.
Prof. Cole is particularly obnoxious in this regard, referring derisively to the journalist, because of his stint as a young recruit in the IDF, as “Cpl. Goldberg.” Goldberg’s experience as a military prison guard over 20 years ago, during the first intifada, motivated him to pursue personal relationships with Palestinian prisoners, and a friendship with one in particular, thereby obtaining insights he shared with the world in a highly-regarded book (“Prisoners: A Muslim and A Jew Across the Middle East Divide“).
I’ve already written on how Goldberg’s initial skepticism of Jeremy Ben-Ami and J Street has evolved into a respectful relationship.
Although the temptation for Israel to preempt Iran’s extreme Islamist regime from going nuclear risks a nightmare scenario, it is perfectly understandable. The Islamic Republic of Iran constantly threatens Israel (couched in language that nastily predicts Israel’s demise or the end of “Zionism”) and has a president who infamously denies the Holocaust. This is a regime that has sacrificed many thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of its own youth in human wave assaults during the 1980s war against Saddam Hussein—after Iraq had been driven back onto its own soil and had sued for peace; adolescents charged Iraqi trenches with plastic “keys to paradise” dangling from their necks.
What is especially worrying, by way of hinting at Iran’s worst possible intentions, is the 2001 statement of Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani—a former Iranian president who has sided with the reformers in the past year against Ahmadinejad. He is quoted by Goldberg (and he’s not the only one who has cited this) that Iran could afford a nuclear exchange with Israel: “The use of an atomic bomb against Israel would destroy Israel completely while [a nuclear attack] against the Islamic countries would only cause damages.” Iran has ten times Israel’s population and many more than ten times its area.
Even so, I share the doubts of skeptics that Iran is truly suicidal in desiring nuclear war with Israel, and I dread the dire consequences of Iran’s retaliation for an Israeli attack (e.g., massive bombardments by Hezbollah and Hamas, terrorist attacks on Jews and Americans worldwide, etc.). Still, I can’t blame Israelis for seeing Iran’s nuclear program as an existential issue and planning accordingly.
Goldberg’s article does not downplay the negative consequences. Nor does he actually advocate an attack on Iran, which you would think is the case from his hysterical, name-calling critics. I agree with Goldberg that it may be wise from a diplomatic standpoint that Iran sees a military strike by Israel and/or the United States as a real possibility, if it continues on its reckless course toward nuclear arms. If an attack is credibly on the table, hopefully cooler heads may yet prevail in Iran.
Instead of railing against Goldberg, attacking the messenger, for carefully documenting the pros & cons from supporters & nay-sayers for an attack on Iran, his critics would do well to demand an end to Iran’s insane hostility toward Israel, and of its devious resistance to international efforts to insure that its nuclear program be used for peaceful purposes.
Dealing with Iran is a quandary. The Holocaust makes it very plausible for Jews to again fear annihilation. Goldberg’s critics could at least have the decency of acknowledging this, and pointing out that it’s Iran that’s been provocative all these years in threatening Israel.