Iran’s Latest Bait and Switch

Watching the P5+1 talks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the final scene of the classic movie Some Like it Hot. Remember it? Jack Lemmon has spent much of the film dressed as a woman, and as a result, has inadvertently won the affections of a smitten Joe E. Brown. Trying to back out of this entanglement, Lemmon gives Brown reason after reason why they can’t be married. The trouble is, nothing Curtis says is able to put Brown off. Desperate, Curtis finally removes his wig and shouts, “I’m a man!” But Brown simply smiles and says, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

America’s stance in the P5+1 talks has had more than a bit of the Joe E. Brown about it.

Israel's Comrade Rivlin

By Alan Johnson and Lorin Bell-Cross

When Shimon Peres’s term as president of Israel came to an end in July, many in Israel were fearful: Who could fill the shoes of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and elder statesman?

Their fears were deepened by the election of Peres’s successor: Reuven (“Rubi”) Rivlin, a veteran right-wing Likud Party parliamentarian, minister of communications under Ariel Sharon, opponent of the 2005 disengagement from Gaza, and someone opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state.  

Ze’ev Jabotinsky on the Proposed Jewish State Law

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit this evening to issue letters of dismissal to Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. Tomorrow the Knesset will likely discuss a bill to dissolve the current Knesset. One of the main reasons for the breakup of the government has been the acrimonious debate over the Likud leader’s determination to pass a new Basic Law enshrining Israel’s status as a “Jewish state.”

In this context, it is worth reflecting on what Ze’ev Jabotinsky (1880–1940), the ideological godfather of the Israeli right and founder of the branch of Zionism now headed by Netanyahu, wrote on this question. The following commentary is composed entirely from Jabotinsky’s words.


The Rehabilitation of Felix Dzerzhinsky

We forget everything.

— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Volume 1

The failure to memorialize the victims of Communist terror has contributed to the moral corrosion of Russian society.

— David Satter, It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past

In September President Vladimir Putin restored the title “Dzerzhinsky Division” to an elite Moscow police unit. So what, you say? Well, that’s the point. As the novelist Martin Amis put it in Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million, “Everybody knows of Himmler and Eichmann. Nobody knows of Yezhov and Dzerzhinsky.”

Rebuilding a Demilitarized Gaza Is the Road to Peace

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, 
Old Time is still a-flying; 
And this same flower that smiles today 
Tomorrow will be dying.

Robert Herrick, “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” 

Here is an idea whose time has come: the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in return for demilitarization of Hamas.

Will the Palestinians Take Israel to the ICC? Probably Not.

When the latest round of conflict between Israel and Hamas comes to an end, will the Palestinians turn again to international institutions to confront Israel? More specifically, having applied to 15 UN agencies and international treaties in April, will the PA now apply to the International Criminal Court?

Ever since Palestine secured “non-Member Observer State” status at the United Nations General Assembly in 2012, that option has been open to President Mahmoud Abbas. It would be a popular move among many ordinary Palestinians and Western human rights activists. In May, 17 groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, implored the Palestinians to prosecute Israel at the International Criminal Court. “Twenty years of peace talks have brought neither peace nor justice,” said Joe Stork, of Human Rights Watch.

Could ISIS Force an Israeli Intervention?

Having declared a caliphate stretching across Iraq and Syria, the Sunni jihadists of ISIS may now pose a threat to the kingdom of Jordan. If they do, Israel will feel its own interests would be directly threatened, and could ultimately intervene.

Watching the Arab Spring degenerate into sectarian slaughter, Israel has sought to protect itself from the chaos, and, above all, avoid being sucked into the tribal, religious, and sectarian conflicts that have been eroding the Sykes-Picot borders and are now dissolving the “countries” established after 1918.

However, the victories of ISIS, its thrust southward, and its open threat to overthrow Jordan’s King Abdullah could change all that. If the ISIS danger to Jordan becomes real and present, Israel may feel compelled to respond.

Europe's Reigning Elites Defy Voters, Reform at Their Peril

After the uprising on June 17th,
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Upon which was to be read that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could only reclaim it
Through redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
Still for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

—Bertolt Brecht, “The Solution”

In 2013 a Pew opinion poll discovered that “the European project now stands in disrepute across much of Europe.”

The uprising itself came during the May 2014 elections to the European Parliament. The virulently anti-EU UKIP won in the UK while the National Front, which accuses the EU of being a “totalitarian state,” topped the poll in France.

The Iraqi Debacle

The Iraqi catastrophe is the latest expression of the systemic crisis of the Middle East. Neither popular protest nor political Islam could solve that crisis. Now the jihadis are trying to fill the void in the artificial, weak, fragmented, sectarianized “states” created by the Sykes-Picot Agreement a century ago (and, in Iraq’s case, also by an invasion and occupation that Thomas E. Ricks famously described as a “fiasco”). The current crisis is simultaneously another front in a regional Sunni-Shia war that the West seems determined not to acknowledge.

Europe’s Left in Crisis

Both of Europe’s lefts—radical and social democratic—are in crisis. The radical left has been turned inside-out and upside-down by the fall of communism and the rise of reactionary anti-imperialism—the attitude that one must support any and every opponent of America and Israel as “the resistance” to “empire.” This left marches down the streets of London carrying placards reading “We are all Hezbollah now!” (No doubt, soon enough, “We are all Hamas Now!”)

The Stop the War Movement in London supports Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, boosts Bashar al-Assad’s apologists, and protects the regime in Iran.

A New Vision for Middle East Peace?

The prize could be great: a stable, prosperous Middle East with a sovereign and viable Palestinian state living in peace alongside a secure Israel at the heart of it.

—British Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking in advance of his first trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority

After Jerusalem on Wednesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron will travel to Bethlehem on Thursday to meet with Palestinian leaders including PA President Mahmoud Abbas. He will, of course, express Britain’s long-standing support for the establishment of a Palestinian state. But he is also expected to take the opportunity to unveil a plan to aid the development of Palestinian businesses. Britain’s close relations to the Gulf and Cameron’s own repeated trips there mean the prime minister is well placed to help the Palestinians realize the promise of future prosperity.

The Iran Deal's Ten Fatal Flaws

When people wonder why we have been so loud against this agreement with Iran it is because for us it is not academic or theoretical, it is existential. Here is a regime that has been loud, not about a dispute with Israel, but rather about its wish and commitment to the destruction of Israel.

—Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid

Yes, it is interim; and yes, we must now direct all our energies to the struggle to shape the endgame deal. Still, before we do, and so we know how tough that struggle will be, we should also register just how bad the deal struck in Geneva really is.

First, it legitimized the Iranian regime’s claim to a right to enrich (in the face of six UN Security Council resolutions demanding that enrichment stop).

Horror in North Korea

Do the maths: three million dead in the war Kim Il Sung started; add three million dead from the famine under Kim Jong Il; add one million dead in the Gulag and other fatal consequences of political and economic oppression and that equals: seven million people.

—John Sweeney, North Korea Undercover, 2013

Published in 1999, The Black Book of Communism was a melancholy 858-page compendium of the global tally of, in the words of its subtitle, crimes, terror, and repression produced by the political movement that the historian François Furet famously called an “illusion.” The book is often criticized from the left for overestimating the victims of Communism (“The total approaches 100 million people killed,” insisted the editor Stéphane Courtois), but as it turns out, Pierre Rigoulot, the author of the chapter on North Korea, actually underestimated the death toll, reckoning there to be three million victims of North Korean Stalinism.

The Looming Bad Deal on Iran

The nightmare scenario of a “bad deal with Iran” looms for three reasons.

First, the West is not putting Tehran under enough pressure from sanctions to get it to accept what would be a bad deal for them on their nuclear program. And now the “Rouhani narrative” surrounding Iran’s new president is persuading the EU and the US to go soft on sanctions with the hope that by doing so they will be bolstering moderates.


Subscribe to RSS - Alan Johnson's blog