Add new comment

Submitted by martin on Wed, 17/09/2008 - 23:56

1. Moshe Machover's interpretation of the Hopi policy (and as I understand it he wrote it) is that "the only just demand" is for a nuclear-free Middle East, i.e. it is not "just" to demand Iran stops developing nuclear weapons so long as Israel has them (though it would be ok to demand Iran foreswear nukes if only the USA, Russia, Britain, etc. had nukes).

2. Whatever Jason's speculations about what Sean's article "strongly implies", the article actually stated the issue as the development not being "definitively ended", abandoned, renounced. Not as the development being "on the brink" of complete success.

3. Obviously we oppose an Israeli strike on Iran. That is not the issue.

4. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, religion is not just one of many things that may motivate "particular members of the ruling class". It is the all-shaping principle of the regime. Political Islam is, for example, what explains Iran's hostility to Israel (in rational terms of "geopolitics", Iran and Israel are natural allies, as powers on the edge of an Arab world much larger and richer than either, just like Turkey and Israel, or the Kurds and Israel).

5. Most Muslims would consider "destruction of the Jews" "a great sin". Much of the anti-semitism that has seeped into strands of modern Islam is taken over from 20th century European (often Christian) anti-semitism, rather than ancient Islamic sources.

But the Muslim religion, like all others, is not just whatever its more benign adherents make of it. Try telling George Bush that Christianity is a religion of "blessed are the meek"! For many political Islamists, destruction of the Jews is very religious indeed. Take the Hamas covenant, for example:

"The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees..."

6. I don't know whether Jason goes along with this, but it's certainly common on the British left to hear Israel described as a state where politico-religion plays a role comparable to what it has in Iran. This is wrong.

Even the most right-wing Israeli chauvinist leaders have generally been secular (sometimes atheist, like the founder of Revisionist Zionism, Ze'ev Jabotinsky). The two big blocs of Zionism, Labour Zionism and Revisionist Zionism, were predominantly secular. Religious-Zionist groups were always a minority in the Zionist movement, and religious Jews were generally more reluctant to adopt Zionism than non-religious.

The influx since 1948 of usually-religious Jews from Arab countries into Israel has changed the balance in the population; most Israeli governments since 1948 have had religious parties as minor coalition partners, "bought in" by extensive tampering with Israel's supposedly secular constitution; even secular or atheist Israeli leaders have usually to some extent used, or deferred to, religious customs as unifying "cultural" symbols.

Even so, Israel remains one of the world's more secular countries, with as high a proportion of avowed atheists as secularised European countries. An avowed atheist can get to be prime minister in Israel - not in Britain, yet.

Secularism and atheism do not, of course, exclude aggressive nationalism and chauvinism, and there is certainly plenty of chauvinism in Israel. But, in the ruling class especially, it is usually chauvinism of a brutally "realistic", calculating sort.

Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom comments on the likely new Kadima leader, Tzipi Livni: "Her world view is centred around the concept of a Jewish State. Jewish in the old Jabotinsky way of thinking: not in a religious sense (Jabotinsky was quite secular) but in a 19th century nationalistic one..."

Martin Thomas

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.