Iran and Israel: In Conclusion, There’s No Conclusion

When all wars are planned to be endless, nothing can be concluded, either by negotiation or by recognition of an effective settling of accounts. The world now awaits with bated breath the outcome of Israel’s announced intention of responding to Iran’s response to its own provocation.

Map of Middle East, Africa, Iran, Saudi, Yemen, Israel, Central Asia © D H Shah / shutterstock.com

April 17, 2024 06:50 EDT

Iran’s retaliation for Israel’s murderous attack on its consulate in Damascus two weeks ago took the form of a swarm of more than 300 drones and missiles fired at Israel. Reports indicate that possibly 99% of the weapons were intercepted before reaching their targets. Iran apparently designed the operation to avoid casualties. It nevertheless raised immediate fears of an imminent escalation that would turn the Gaza conflict into a regional war.

Iran sought to reassure the rest of the world by defining the entire exercise, not as an act of war, but as a calculated response to Israel’s provocation. Iran addressed the following message to the United Nations.

In the statement posted on social media platform X, Iran’s UN mission argued that the attack was conducted under Article 51 of the UN Charter, which pertains to legitimate defense, and that the matter could be “deemed concluded.”

Today’s Weekly Devil’s Dictionary definition:

Deemed concluded:

Paid in full, in the interest of allowing life to carry on as usual, though in today’s Middle East a debt paid in full appears to have the curious characteristic of continuing to accrue interest.

Contextual note

The reigning equilibrium in the Middle East was already a murderous game in which Israel has conducted a wide range of isolated covert operations, including targeted assassinations of government officials and scientists. The events of April that began with the bombing of the Iranian consulate in Damascus have changed the nature of that game. For the moment, the contest resembles a 19th-century duel rather than, say, a boxing match. But that may change in the coming days.

The world is now left to speculate nervously about Israel’s next move. Governments that most enthusiastically support Israel — notably the US and Germany — have already begun taking what appear to be serious steps to restrain Netanyahu’s right wing government from succumbing to the same spirit of vengeance against Iran that it so enthusiastically manifested against the population of Gaza following Hamas’s assault on October 7.

In other words, Israel refuses to deem the game concluded. In contrast, the rest of the world appears ready to align with US President Joe Biden, who recommended to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu to “take the win” and get back to his principal business: completing his campaign of genocide.

There remains nevertheless a nagging problem. Even if Israel could decide to do something purely symbolic designed to avoid provoking a more lethal response from Iran, many informed observers, such as Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst Marwan Bishara, believe that Bibi’s goal — whether for personal or political reasons — is to provoke a regional war in which the US will become fatally involved. Bibi’s first concern is to remain at the helm and avoid being cast into prison as a common criminal.

Consequently, the world is on the brink and everyone’s nerves are on edge. Since all that is left to us at this point is creative speculation, let’s try to understand how the US might react if Israel does opt for serious provocation. We know Biden has reaffirmed his “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s defense. He has also insisted on his “devotion” to the Israeli cause. “Devotion” is a religious term that indicates faith in a superior power and submission to that power. That language alone should give us pause.

Hedging his bets, Biden has also refused to participate in any offensive move Israel may make against Iran. But this is potentially contradictory. Does his “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s defense leave him any room to wiggle out of a commitment to supporting Israel if effectively provokes a war with Iran?

Given the recent history of “forever wars” in the Middle East, many of us are left wondering whether this isn’t the sign of an addiction. The behavior of the US increasingly resembles that of an addict with a dealer. There are only two standard solutions to heroin addiction: a managed methodone treatment — relief without the kick — or what junkies call “cold turkey.” Biden’s problem is that turkey day in the US — Thanksgiving — will occur three weeks after this year’s presidential election in which he is hoping against hope to defeat his nemesis, Donald Trump.

Historical note

Most of the media have chosen to grace Iran’s assault with the epithet “unprecedented.” This is, after all, the first time in at least two millennia that Persians have attacked an independent Jewish nation. Something like this has not occurred since the geopolitical predecessor of the Persian Empire, Assyria, took the kingdom of Israel into captivity all the way back in 732 BC.

Iran clearly designed its attack to appear as a forceful but essentially symbolic retaliation for the murder of two of its leading military commanders and eleven other people in Israel’s attack on its consulate in Damascus. Given the fact that Iran had warned neighboring countries some 72 hours in advance that its retaliatory strike in response to Israel’s April 1 attack was imminent, there was no legitimate reason to revert to the habit of calling it “unprovoked.” This had become the standard epithet used by the media and politicians to describe Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Hamas’s October 7 assault. Instead, everyone seemed to agree that “unprecedented” was a reasonable substitute that, like “unprovoked,” suggested the innocence of the victim.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise nevertheless diverged from the consensus. He maintained what has now become the conditioned Pavlovian reflex of dismissing the facts of history as irrelevant. NPR reports his assertion that, “The House of Representatives stands strongly with Israel, and there must be consequences for this unprovoked attack.”

To any other than the obtusely ignorant, Iran’s attack was obviously not “unprovoked.” And yet, not only did Scalise use this term, NPR in its reporting neglected to highlight the absurdity of Scalise’s claim, which should be recognized as a clear case of disinformation. The media appears increasingly intent on proving its incapacity to notice the obvious and to comment on it.

An article by Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Grim that appeared this week on The Intercept may help us to understand how today’s media can fail to notice or react to the obvious. The title of the article is: “LEAKED NYT GAZA MEMO TELLS JOURNALISTS TO AVOID WORDS “GENOCIDE,” “ETHNIC CLEANSING,” AND “OCCUPIED TERRITORY.”

The article confirms that The New York Times uses language not to inform, but to create a system of belief for its readers. That means cultivating their readers’ indifference to how language is used. This may seem odd in an era in which everyone seems obsessed with rooting out “disinformation.”

Mainstream media now identifies with the mission of “fact-checking.” If the facts cited in an article are verifiable, the article is deemed trustworthy. But for NYT some facts are better not mentioned. In January, the International Court of Justice deemed plausible case the description of Israel’s behavior in Gaza as genocide. That does not mean genocide is a fact. But it does mean that the accusation of genocide by South Africa and others is a fact not contradicted by any other facts. But NYT has identified some facts as too inconvenient to be “fit for print.” Such facts might have the disturbing characteristic of inciting people to think critically about the events the paper reports.

After citing Scalise, NPR sees no reason to critique this obviously false claim. In the website’s defense, it is sticking to the facts by simply quoting what Scalise actually said. It might, however, have noted that what he says is not factual. The second reason is that American politicians and the media have been conditioned to call any aggressive action by a party considered to be an adversary “unprovoked.”

This is all part of a “moral system” shared in the West. Evil people (e.g., Russians, Iranians, Hamas) exist to commit evil acts. Good people are incapable of provoking those evil acts. Consequently, whenever an evil act occurs, by definition it must be unprovoked.

NPR’s article concludes by quoting a series of quotes by legislators insisting on the importance of providing financial support to the victims of all the unprovoked evil acts by parties identified as evil enemies. In such circumstances, no conflict will ever be deemed concluded, until we achieve the total annihilation of those who provoke without ever being provoked. That helps to explain why negotiation will always be rejected as an inadequate and inappropriate solution.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news. Read more of Fair Observer Devil’s Dictionary.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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