My despairing fantasy of war

Nothing else has ended the occupation, nothing else is about to, so I’ve begun imagining that an Israeli attack on Iran will do it.

Thinking rationally, I’m against an Israeli attack on Iran 100%, always have been. But over the last several months, a fantasy has been creeping into my mind – a desire that we start the war, and that it go horribly wrong – for Israel, for Iran, for the Middle East, for America, for Europe – directly or indirectly, for the whole world. Something like World War III, just without nuclear weapons, without doomsday; this fantasy has a happy ending, which, after what I’ve described, seems irrational, but that’s the attraction of fantasies – you don’t have to be rational.

So what put this crazy, perverse daydream about runaway war in my head? Despair. Despair that nothing anybody’s tried, and nothing anybody’s thinking of, will end the occupation and change Israel from the oppressive country it’s become into a relatively decent country, which it used to be.

Everything that I, and not just I, once thought would end the occupation, or at least generate momentum toward that goal, has failed. I used to think a hunger strike would be a really effective tactic for the Palestinians; it was recently employed against a universally condemned Israeli practice – detention without possibility of trial – and it barely coaxed a sympathetic comment out of Catherine Ashton.

Before that it was the Palestinians going to the UN – that failed last September. Before that it was the popular resistance, unarmed protest – nobody cares. Before that it was the Goldstone Report – an in-depth condemnation of the occupation at its worst by an internationally respected judge who is even a Zionist Jew – but Israel and organized Jewry defeated it.

Before that, it was Obama and “tough love.” Before that, and continuing to this day, it was the Palestinian Authority’s crackdown on terrorism. Before that, it was Israeli unilateral withdrawal. Before that, it was the Labor-Meretz peace camp. Before that, it was the Oslo Accord.

What’s left to hope for now? A third intifada, Palestinian “people power”? Ultimately, the only way the Palestinians can throw off the occupation is by getting the West to pressure Israel into giving it up – and the West, as should be clear by now, doesn’t give a shit. Against that monolith of indifference, all this BDS stuff is marginal; the Western world will not do what’s necessary to force Israel to get off the Palestinians’ necks. I truly believe the Palestinians could begin starving themselves to death en masse in protest against a half-century of Israeli tyranny, and the powers-that-be in the West, the only part of the world with any power over Israel, would let it happen.

So if the Palestinians want to throw off the occupation, the only way is to defeat Israel militarily. That seems unlikely (and anyway it’s not my idea of a solution). Or they have to convince Israel to give them citizenship and the vote, which seems no less unlikely (and which I don’t think would work out, either).

Did I miss anything? Any arguably realistic path to justice for the Palestinians and decency for Israel that hasn’t been tried? I’m at a loss. So what I’m left with is despair. And in that despair, I imagine the one thing that would get the West to force Israel into line, to force it to let the Palestinians be free and, additionally, to stop attacking foreign countries in the name of self-defense – and that one thing is for Israel to do something that severely hurts the West, like starting a war with Iran that draws in the U.S. and maybe Europe, that gets American and NATO soldiers killed, that disrupts the world oil market, that sets off global Islamic terrorism, that destabilizes the Middle East.

If such a set of consequences were put in motion by an Israeli attack on Iran, which everyone in the world opposes, that might do it. How many people would die, whether the world backlash against Israel (and Diaspora Jews) would suffice with an end to the occupation, whether Israel would survive the war and its aftermath as a place Jews want to live in – none of that is part of the fantasy I entertain. Those are all rational considerations. No, I indulge strictly in the irrational – Israel attacks Iran, the world goes dark, the world glares at Israel, Israel realizes it’s done terrible things that it must undo, Israel finally learns the meaning of humility and respect. The End.

And so much for fantasy. In reality, I think Israel will attack Iran soon, and while the war probably won’t go as apocalyptically as I describe above, it’ll almost certainly go badly enough, and not only won’t it end happily, it won’t really end at all. I think a war initiated by Israel will crank up the hatred and violence in the Middle East to a significantly higher level, and the time between wars will get even shorter.

By ruling the Palestinians and enforcing its military superiority by attacking other countries, Israel is not acting in self-defense, but in aggression. This is no future for a Jewish state in the Middle East, but that’s the future it’s chosen. Sooner or later Israel is going to start one war too many – maybe against Iran, maybe against Lebanon, or Gaza, or Egypt, or who knows who. And then it will no longer be a country where Jews want to live, and the occupation will end, together with the rest of the Jewish state.

Again, this one is not a fantasy – there’s no happy ending, and nothing about it is irrational.