TORONTO — Israel faces a new kind of warfare aimed at undermining its existence, a former Israeli cabinet minister said last week.
The war of delegitimization is the third and latest manifestation of hostility that Israel has faced since its emergence as a sovereign state in 1948, Moshe Arens told an audience at Beth Sholom Synagogue Nov. 21 in a speech sponsored by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.
“Israel has been under constant attack,” noted Arens, a former professor of aeronautics who was elected to the Knesset in 1974 and who later served as ambassador to the United States, defence minister and foreign minister.
The first phase of the Arab world’s effort to eradicate Israel lasted from the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948 to the Yom Kippur War in 1973, said Arens, whose political career largely spanned the 1980s and 1990s and who lost his parliamentary seat in 2003.
Having been unable to defeat Israel in conventional wars, major Arab states such as Egypt and Syria concluded that Israel was militarily unbeatable.
The next Arab phase of war against Israel took the form of terrorism during the second Palestinian uprising, said Arens.
The objective of the intifadah, which broke out in 2000, was to shatter Israeli society, but the Israeli army crushed it by military means.
“We’ve not had a resurgence of that sort of terrorism, but we still have to deal with [Hamas] and [Hezbollah] rockets.”
According to Arens, the newest attempt to wage war on Israel turns on the international campaign to delegitimize it.
“It’s a pernicious effort to destroy Israel through propaganda,” he said, adding that it’s led by a coalition of antisemites, Holocaust deniers, leftists and self-hating Jews in the Diaspora and even Israel.
Arens, who was born in Lithuania and immigrated to Israel from the United States after the 1948 War of Independence, declared that the Jewish people are “defenceless no more.”
As he put it, “We have a long reach to protect Jews where that protection is required.”
Turning to current affairs, Arens said he has no doubt that Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb. “This is a problem not just for Israel, but for the entire world.”
For years, few countries considered the possibility of an Iranian nuclear arsenal as a problem, he said.
But with the publication of a recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran is working to assemble a nuclear device, the world has been jolted by what he described as “a wakeup call.”
With western countries such as the United States, Canada, France and Britain having enacted new economic sanctions against Iran, Israel is not alone in confronting the spectre of an Iranian atomic bomb, Arens said.
In a reference to the Palestinians, he said they can’t achieve statehood by bypassing Israel and taking their case to the United Nations.
He claimed that the Quartet –consisting of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia – is trying to wrest political concessions from Israel in a bid to reboot negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
Arens was pessimistic about the popular rebellions currently brewing in the Arab world. “The Arab Spring is rapidly turning into the Arab Winter,” he said, predicting that Islamist parties will assume power through democratic elections.
Citing “a big change” in Canada’s foreign policy, Arens hailed Prime Minister Stephen Harper as one of Israel’s best friends. “We greatly appreciate his position on Israel.”
Arens was in Toronto to promote his book, Flags Over the Warsaw Ghetto, a revisionist account of the 1943 Jewish revolt. Published last month, it claims the uprising was led not only by Mordechai Anielewicz’s left-wing Zionist group, the Jewish Fighting Organization, but also by Pawel Frenkel’s right-wing Zionist formation, the Jewish Military Organization.