Abstract: Review of Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East, by Jonathan Cook, Pluto Press, ISBN 978-0-7453-2754-9, pp204
If there ever was a case for faith beyond reason, it is the searing and sometimes painful analysis provided by Jonathan Cook in Israel and the Clash of Civilisations. At first a seeming rehash of the many theories that seek to establish Big Oil and the Israel lobby in cahoots over the carve up Middle East resources, Clash develops a long and sound critique of established theories of why the Middle East is the mess that it is.
This has been expounded before, the idea of the ethnic and confessional dissolution of the states that surround Israel as being part of the game plan that has characterised a neocon policy that Cook describes as persuaded to believing its own interests, mirror that of Israel. Cook however gives it the in-depth hearing that it deserves, charting back the rise of this theory alongside, Israeli academic, military and political drives towards a theory of civilisational clash that precedes 9-11 and even Huntington by decades.
Cook’s account has been widely reviewed as an exposition of how both the dog and tail wag each other. The case for this is impressively made. He:
“… propose[s] a different model for understanding the US Administration’s wilful pursuit of catastrophic goals in the Middle East, one that incorporates many of the assumptions of both Chomsky and Walt-Mersheimer positions… that Israel persuaded the neocons that their respective goals (Israeli regional dominance and US control of oil) were related and compatible ends… Israel’s military establishment started developing an ambitious vision of Israel as a small empire in the Middle East more than two decades ago. It then sought a sponsor in Washington and found one in the neocons. The Jewish neocons, many of them already with strong emotional ties to Israel, may have been the most ready to listen to the message coming from Tel Aviv, but that message was persuasive to even the non-Jewish neocons precisely because it placed US interests – especially global domination and control of oil – at the heart of its vision.” (pp 90-91)
Whilst Cook meticulously outlines the sources of this belief in the Israeli military establishment from the Sharon Doctrine to its subsequent adherents in various guises, there is no room to disagree with Cook’s chilling outline of a maniacal plan to carve up surrounding states alongside the transfer of Palestinians en masse. Where tension arises in this analysis is the claim that the vision is in some aspects fantastical, whilst at the same time in charting its progression, Cook establishes its implementation. The de facto carve up of Iraq, the clear and proven US interventions in Lebanon and Iran to promote sectarian and ethnic unrest as a pretext to regime change, leaves us with the picture of an unfolding reality that is both heinous and disempowering to the concerned, very concerned reader.
Cook charts the recent history of Iran and the long game played to overthrow its post-revolutionary government for fear of an independent and powerful challenger to Israeli regional hegemony. Thankfully he contextualises the now infamous non-existent Ahmedinejad comments about ‘wiping Israel off the map’ and counters with a vision that sees nothing less than the removal of the modern day nation state of Iran and a replacement that is emaciated along lines that conform to ethnicities hitherto bound together in a peculiar form of Persian nationalism that has transcended ‘race’.
It is Cook’s understanding of the Iranian position on a one state solution that is refreshing at this juncture. Whether one supports it or not, it has an overlooked substance and legitimacy as part of the ongoing debate of Palestinian aspiration – more so given this analysis of the Israeli military leading its political establishment into a state of permanent war that will see as part of its aim, the death of revolutionary and modern Iran. Cook places the summer war of 2006 as with other commentators in this plan as the first step towards an attack on Iran, a step that backfired but which has not it appears dampened the desire for military confrontation with Tehran.
Early 2006 fallouts amongst neocons and others in the Bush administration, are described by Cook as reflecting a dispute over the lesser of two evils, Saudi backed Sunnism or a powerful regional Shiism that bring Iran, Iraq and the oil producing regions of Saudi Arabia into alliance. It appears the ‘Saudi vision’, i.e. the one where the threat from Iran and the so-called Shia bloc has been accepted as far worse in the US – Israeli schema for the region.
The prevalence of the Sharon doctrine – for a Middle East where Israel not only expands and dispossesses what is left of the Palestinian population in the surrounds, but also carves up neighbouring states into enclaves that fight each other and which include Israel’s little proxies – is ubiquitous as the book develops. The post 9-11 opportunism of the Israeli military establishment is pinpointed as a crowning moment in the civilisational clash theory being promoted. At the Herzeliya conference, the head of Mossad, Ephraim Halevy:
“… spoke of the imminent arrival of ‘a world war different from all its predecessors’ and the emergence after 9/11 of a common perception combining ‘all the elements of Islamic terror into one clear and identifiable format,…”
With this lie, comes the endless push of the idea of a Judeo-Christian civilisation that has historically had to deal with an ‘Islamic’ threat. It is an idea of history Michel Warschaswki describes as ‘bullshit’ whilst presenting a paper in London in 2006 (https://www.ihrc.org.uk/060702/audio/michael_warschawski.mp3) Yet the lie or lies persist.
With little or no distinction between Arabs and Muslims, this opportunism has borne many fruits, including an economic boost in the export of capability. Using Gaza as a giant laboratory, the Israeli military establishment has been able to pass on ‘expertise’ readily used by the US and others in their ‘containment’ of civilian populations. Plans for the future of Iraq are envisaged as so restrictive in terms of residency and freedom to travel they are described as civilian prisons, which have imported their understanding of capacity and control from the Israeli experiment. As Levidow (http://www.palint.org/article.php?articleid=25) alludes, the Israeli model had become the model of preference for security obsessed liberal democracies, both for their own laws on terror to their involvement in the ‘war on terror’. It is the fulfilment of former journalist Oded Yinon’s scheme published by the World Zionist Organisation in 1982, whereby Israel exists in an era of terror, faced by militancy from her Arab neighbours.
As all theses, designs and often unwitting prophecies of dissenting journalists appear to come true, the Ottomonised or Balkanised vision for the Middle East is summed up by no less that Syed Hassan Nasrallah who is quoted by Cook, as seeing the summer war as part of a plan to split up Lebanon so that Israel would be surrounded by:
“small and tranquil states. I can assure you that the Saudi kingdom will also be divided, and the issue will reach North African states. There will be small ethnic and confessional states. In other words, Israel will be the most important and the strongest state in the region that has been portioned into ethnic and confessional states that are in agreement with each other. This is the new Middle East.”
There appears in Cook’s analysis, no hope and no way out of this bleak vision except by way of example, not stated. It is the Hizbullah victory, of which there is little discussion. Faith and hope in righteous victory appears to be the only hope.
Jonathan Cook is a former staff journalist for the Guardian and Observer newspapers. He has also written for The Times, Le Monde diplomatique, International Herald Tribune, Al-Ahram Weekly and Aljazeera.net. He is based in Nazareth.