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Iran is playing a dangerous game with Israel

By Bren Carlill - posted Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is playing a dangerous game. If he's not careful, he may find his country embroiled in military conflict.

Why? Because history is filled with people making threats against Jews and then attempting to carry them out. But these days, Jews defend themselves.

Iran's nuclear program, its frequent missile tests, its fiery anti-Israel rhetoric and its constant Holocaust denials are making Israel very apprehensive.


Apprehensive not only of Iran's actions, but also because the world isn't doing much about them. This is leading Israel to a realisation that it may have to act alone to ensure its survival. The world should be doing everything it can to avoid such an outcome, but it's not.

Clearly, the world hasn't learned last century's lessons.

In the 1960s, Egyptian president Gamal Abd al-Nasser sponsored cross border attacks to kill Israeli soldiers and civilians. In May 1967, he positioned 80,000 troops next to the Israeli border, demanded UN peacekeepers there leave (tellingly, they did) and closed the Red Sea to Israeli shipping (an act of war). He crowed that Israel would shortly be wiped out.

Had the peacekeepers stayed, war would not have been inevitable.

Rather than wait for Egypt to finish its preparations for Holocaust Mark II, Israel acted first; the Six Day War was the result.

Some academics contend that Nasser didn't intend to go to war. They suggest his fiery rhetoric and troop build up was more about staking his claim to leadership of the Arab world than it was about destroying the Jewish state.


These academics claim that Nasser didn't actually think the peacekeepers would leave as requested. They claim he knew his forces weren't strong enough to defeat Israel.

All this may be true (though it doesn't explain why Nasser closed the Red Sea to Israeli shipping, which Israel had stated time and again was a casus belli). The point, however, is one of perceptions.

Israelis, with memories of the Holocaust (in which a country threatened to wipe out the Jews, then proceeded to do so because no one tried to stop it), was faced by another country declaring its aim to do the same thing. Israelis saw this country preparing militarily to act on its promises of genocide. They saw the international community, embodied by the UN, scurry out of the way to avoid getting its hands dirty by preventing war (which is why the UN was created). They perceived no one would save them but themselves, and that inaction would mean death. And so they acted. And the rest, as they say, is history. Or, it should be.

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First published in the National Times on October 16, 2009.

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About the Author

Bren Carlill worked at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council between 2006 and 2011.

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