While Ben Gurion University professor Neve Gordon is attacked and threatened by university and government officials for supporting a boycott of Israel in the Los Angeles Times, the oppositional work of Haggai Ram, another faculty member of Ben Gurion Univ., has just been warmly reviewed in Dawn, the largest, most influential English-language daily in Pakistan. The review, by Joel Gordon, of the University of Arkansas, placed on the first page of the Books and Authors section of Dawn, says, "Iran's revolution appears to hang in the balance. … Yet the Israeli government, as if stuck in a time warp, continues to publicly promote its right — and ultimate readiness — to launch an attack against the Islamic republic." Critiquing this stand and offering a nuanced analysis of its context and history, "Haggai Ram's provocative, even 'blasphemous' study confronts the 'logic' — or illogic — of Israel's 'obsession' with the Islamic republic."
"Are fears of 'nucleotheism' engendered to perpetuate a national myth of perpetual holocaust and exploit western terror of international jihad?" Gordon asks. Ram and his book, he says, suggest "that the end game is a body politic that is distracted from more pressing unsolved local issues."
End of the affair
Reviewed by Joel Gordon
Sunday, 23 Aug, 2009 | 07:00 AM PST |
Iran's revolution appears to hang in the balance. As rifts within the ruling elite are played out in the streets, the world watches with anticipation, not least the United States which struggles to walk a fine line between encouraging dissent and forging a new understanding with the clerical regime.
Yet the Israeli government, as if stuck in a time warp, continues to publicly promote its right — and ultimate readiness — to launch an attack against the Islamic republic. Israelis may well have reason to look upon Iran with suspicion, even apprehension. Yet the 'rising tide of anxiety' amongst average citizens is, according to the author of Iranophobia, 'utterly irrational and exceedingly disproportionate' to any threat that may emanate from Tehran.
Haggai Ram's provocative, even 'blasphemous' study confronts the 'logic' — or illogic — of Israel's 'obsession' with the Islamic republic. An Israeli historian of Iran who is tied to neither the defense establishment nor intelligence community — a rare commodity — Ram is well positioned to place Israeli-Iranian relations in context, to dismantle persistent mythologies, and to even suggest that Israel's worst nightmares are rooted deeper within its own changing society and polity than in Iran's aggressive intentions or capabilities.
If the Islamic revolution has run out of energy, as many asserted well before recent elections, Ram recalls it as a central moment in the 20th century. Israelis, much like discontented Iranians, especially those too young to recall the Peacock throne, have fallen victim to the 'art of forgetting' history. Israeli Iran experts, perpetuate this by engaging in 'massive self-censorship.'
In the early days of the revolution they sought to convey 'the complexity of events' and the diversity of social forces that toppled the Pahlavis. Some even celebrated the popular uprising — at least until it turned in Khomeini's favour, after which it became all too common to bemoan Iran's turn from the Shah's modernisation project, however brutal, back to the 'dark ages.'
Not all to be sure. Ram recalls one Iran hand calling on the Shah to save his throne by massacring his own people. He reminds his readers just how close Israeli-Pahlavi ties were. As an emergent nation Israel successfully positioned itself as an ally of other 'third world' Afro-Asian states, but Iran was always special.
The Zionist and Pahlavi nation-building projects shared a desire to stand outside and above the wider Arab and Muslim world in which they found themselves trapped, to produce 'new' Jews and Iranians who were 'deracinated replicas of Europeans.'
Israel's 'unqualified endorsement' of the Shah's 'oppressive modernity' translated into a relationship with SAVAK, the secret police, which was second only to the Americans'. The recollections of a 'wondrous love affair' that Ram has read in the memoirs of secret agents, diplomats, and businessmen, is of course understood differently by many Iranians.
Israeli anxieties regarding the course of Iran's revolution cut much deeper than the loss of trading privileges and non-Eastern cultural affinity. Ruhollah Khomeini's power grab paralleled a revolution in Israeli politics; the rise of Menachim Begin's right-wing Likud coalition, fueled by the rage of Israel's disenfranchised 'Oriental' Jewish population.
To the European secular socialist Zionist pioneers who founded the state, the foreign, overwhelmingly religious crowds that carried Begin on their shoulders and anointed him 'king' looked strikingly similar to the rebellious Iranians who embraced Khomeini and the mullahs. Shimon Peres bid them 'go back to Persia'; the leftist Meretz party, standing against the threat of a state ruled by religious law, proclaimed that Israel was 'not Iran.'
In recent years Iranophobia is clearly focused on Iran's resurgence as a regional power, particularly in light of links to local antagonists in Lebanon and Palestine. Is Iran merely a scapegoat for Israel's inability to defeat Hizbollah in 2006 — an offensive war depicted as a defensive campaign versus Iran — and Hamas last winter?
Are fears of 'nucleotheism' engendered to perpetuate a national myth of perpetual holocaust and exploit western terror of international jihad? Ram downplays conspiracy theories, but suggests that the end game is a body politic that is distracted from more pressing unsolved local issues.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 'may very well be a despicable anti-Semite,' but he deserves to be quoted properly. Rather than threaten to 'wipe Israel off the map,' he has asserted that Zionism has — as many argue about his own revolution — reached an historical impasse.
The ongoing attachment of Iranian Jews to their ancestral homeland, the unwillingness of so many to leave Iran in the early years of Israeli statehood, and their vocal support for Iran's nuclear programme and its attachment to Palestinian nationalist aspirations challenges the Zionist 'redemptive' narrative and raison d'etre of the Jewish state.
Ram sees a glimmer of hope in growing reluctance to blindly accept state dogma regarding Iran (recent polls suggest that most Israelis no longer favour military action). If his book is read and not simply dismissed as blasphemy, Israelis might better understand and question their complex relationship with an old ally.
Joel Gordon is a professor of history at the University of Arkansas
Iranophobia: The logic of an Israeli obsession
By Haggai Ram
Stanford University Press, CA
Jewish Peace News editors:
Sarah Anne Minkin
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
Jewish Peace News archive and blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to http://www.jewishpeacenews.net