These neoconservatives, who like our own neoconservatives hide behind the rhetoric of patriotism, national security and religious piety, are not wedded to any discernable doctrine other than force. They, like all rabid nationalists, are stunted and deformed individuals, only able to communicate in the language of self-exaltation and violence.
"The nationalist is by definition an ignoramus," the Yugoslav writer Danilo Kiš wrote. "Nationalism is the line of least resistance, the easy way. The nationalist is untroubled, he knows or thinks he knows what his values are, his, that's to say national, that's to say the values of the nation he belongs to, ethical and political; he is not interested in others, they are no concern of his, hell--it's other people (other nations, another tribe). They don't even need investigating. The nationalist sees other people in his own images--as nationalists."
AIPAC does not drive Middle Eastern policy in the United States. I am afraid it is worse than that. AIPAC is one of an array of powerful and well-funded neoconservative institutions that worship force and drive our relations with the rest of the world. These neoconservatives choose an enemy and then our compliant class of journalists, specialists, military analysts, columnists and television commentators line up to serve as giddy cheerleaders for war. Moments like these always make me embarrassed to be a reporter. Our political elite, Republican and Democrat, finds in this ideology a simple, childish allure. This ideology does not require cultural, historical or linguistic literacy. It reduces the world to black and white, good and evil. The drumbeat for war with Iran sounded by AIPAC is part of this broad, sick, binary vision of a world that can be subjugated by force, a world where all will be made to kneel before these corporate and neoconservative elites, where none, including finally us, will be permitted to whisper dissent.
Pre-emptive war, under post-Nuremberg law, is defined as a criminal act of aggression. George W. Bush, whose disregard for the rule of law was legend, went to the U.N. for a resolution to attack Iraq, although his interpretation of the U.N. resolution as justifying the invasion of Iraq had dubious legal merit. But in this current debate over war with Iran, that pretense of legality is ignored. Where is Israel's U.N. resolution authorizing it to strike Iran? Why isn't anyone demanding that Israel seek one? Why does the only discussion in the media and among political elites center around the questions of "Will Israel attack Iran?" "Can it successfully carry out an attack?" "What will happen if there is an attack?" The essential question is left unasked. Does Israel have the right to attack Iran? And here the answer is very, very clear. It does not.
These neoconservatives were too blind and too enamored of their own power to see what invading Afghanistan and Iraq would trigger; so too are they unable to comprehend the regional conflagration that would be unleashed by attacking Iran, what it would mean for us, for Israel, for our allies and for tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of innocents.
"Where there is no vision, the people perish," the Bible warns.
And since our elites have no vision it is up to us. The uprisings
from Tunisia to Egypt to Greece to Occupy Wall Street to our gathering
outside AIPAC's doors in Washington are the same primal struggle for
sanity, peace and justice, for a world wrenched free from the grip of
those who would destroy it. And the abject fawning of our political
elite, including Barack Obama, before AIPAC and its bank account is yet
another window into the moral bankruptcy of our political class, another
sign that the formal mechanisms of power are useless and broken.
Civil disobedience is all we have left. It is our patriotic duty. We are called to make the cries of mothers, fathers and children in the squalid refugee camps in Gaza, in the suburbs of Tehran and in the bleak industrial wastelands in Ohio heard. We are called to stand up before these forces of death, the purveyors of violence, those whose hearts have grown cold with hatred. We are called to embrace and defend life with intensity and passion if we are to survive as a species, if we are to save our planet from the ravages of corporate greed and the specter of endless and futile war.
The Israeli poet Aharon Shabtai, in his poem "Rypin," translated by Peter Cole, examined what power, force and self-worship do to compassion, justice and human decency. Rypin was the Polish town his father escaped from during the pogroms.
These creatures in helmets and khakis,
I say to myself, aren't Jews,
In the truest sense of the word. A Jew
Doesn't dress himself up with weapons like jewelry,
Doesn't believe in the barrel of a gun aimed at a target,
But in the thumb of the child who was shot at --
In the house through which he comes and goes,
Not in the charge that blows it apart.
The coarse soul and iron first
He scorns by nature.
He lifts his eyes not to the officer, or the soldier
With his finger on the trigger -- but to justice,
And he cries out for compassion.
Therefore, he won't steal land from its people
And will not starve them in camps.
The voice calling for expulsion
Is heard from the hoarse throat of the oppressor --
A sure sign that the Jew has entered a foreign country
And, like Umberto Saba, gone into hiding within his own city.
Because of voices like these, father
At age sixteen, with your family, you fled Rypin;
Now here Rypin is your son.