Illustration by Amos Biderman
Illustration by Amos Biderman.
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“The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.” − Winston Churchill

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The average Yossi from the boondocks, along with the heralds of the royal court − they are lost causes. Even if their monarch and his captain of the guard declare war against planet Mars, they will be in favor, if only because it will infuriate ‏(and, with luck, kill‏) the Tel Avivans. But what is to be done in the face of the rational, sophisticated warmonger who plants, irrigates and raises conceptions as though they were cherries? Are we indeed fated to nod in silent assent to the stunts of his serpentine logic, drunk with its own cleverness? To bear with forbearance the arrows of cruel rationality and the slings of his analytical shocks; or, take arms against a sea of arguments, and by opposing, end them?

For those who still believe in the persuasion option, here are a few information-type tools to help get the job done.

Spot the conception

A conception is like a dream, especially when it’s mistaken: You find out that it was so only after waking from it, usually after being badly bruised. And then everyone is astonished: How could we have backed such nonsense? But at the time, it seems like the default of pure reason.

Accordingly, when you come across a conception, learn first of all how to identify it. Its most prominent sign is its assertiveness and its formulation as a kind of irrefutable mathematical axiom: “Israel cannot exist with a nuclear Iran”; “In the issues vital to our security, we cannot place responsibility for our fate in the hands of others”; “Iranian nuclearization will nuclearize the entire region.” ‏(Compare with: “Sadat will never dare to attack”; “The occupation is enlightened and is good for the Palestinians”; “Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction”‏).

Once you have identified the conception for what it is, and before attending to its specific clauses, begin by challenging its sheer arrogant existence by means of the delicate tool known as skepticism. Ask ‏(and ask yourself, too‏): Is it really so? Who says? How do you know? Maybe not?

Calibrate the conceptual

One of the most malicious aspects of the conception is that it is supposedly “ironclad” and represented by personalities who are considered “analytical” and “rationalistic” oracles, almost mystically so. When you face an overweening, confident conceptualist of this kind, refresh your memory and ask: What is his record, as such? Was he right in the past? Did he not skitter and leap into the arms of a different conception immediately after the previous one was refuted? Did he not predict that “This is the dawn of a new day” or that “The flight of the inhabitants of South Lebanon from our attacks will cause them to spew out Hezbollah from their midst”? Remind yourself: The man was wrong in most of his analyses; but only thanks to the fact that we are talking about a pathologist and not a surgeon, there is no one to complain.

Prick up your ears

Be attentive to words and phrases such as “existential,” “There are moments in the life of a nation...” “A sharp sword hangs over our throat,” “Rhineland,” “1936.” Treat these words as flashing lights on the edge of an abyss and be aware that your interlocutor has at this moment fallen into a conceptual trance, a sense of irreversible messianic mission. Now, with the lust for war already kicking in his kishkes and the trauma of the Holocaust pounding in his brain, he is ready to sacrifice you and the country in a regional war in order to save you from Hitler.

From your perspective, there is no point in replying. Get up, apologize hastily and say you have to rush to renew your passport or to prepare cans of preserves for the next five years.

Repulse pretensions of behavioral predictions

When your interlocutor sets forth scenarios that begin with “The leaders of Iran / Egypt / the Palestinians / Syria are well aware that ...” or “We know with absolute certainty that ...” or “The home front will meet the demand for national resilience,” stop him in his tracks. Cast doubt on his ability to understand and predict the behavior and reactions of human beings, because to date he has shown a total absence of emotional intelligence, attentiveness or understanding of others. Ask: With such a terrible record in understanding and managing the people closest to you, where do you come off predicting the behavior of leaders and of entire nations?

The cause and effect fallacy, aka the ticking-clock syndrome

“If we are able to delay the nuclear project for six-eight-10 years, in the end the combination of all these elements will greatly increase the prospect that the regime will fall before Iran goes nuclear.”

Upon hearing this, emit a dry laugh and ask: And who says the regime will fall in another 10 years, with or without a bomb? And how do you know that all the abovementioned elements will “combine”? Try to amuse your interlocutor with an allegory about a person who faces a choice: to let a watch tick or to take it apart with a low probability of being able to put it back together and making it tick anew. Be prepared for a gaping stare.

Iran nuclear, we different

“If Iran goes nuclear, everything here will be different. Everything. We will enter a different mode of existence.” Reply: If we are already now in a hundred-years war, which flares up in increasingly short cycles; if Israel is already now a besieged ghetto, susceptible to the sowing of existential terror; if the dreams of peace and normalization have already been abandoned forever, then what does a “different mode of existence” actually mean? The inability to go on initiating wars and launching military operations? Being forced to conduct a mature policy? Possibly a modicum of humility? Say, to your interlocutor’s incredulity: Hmm ... it’s worth looking into.

The one-bomb-country argument

“Israel is a country of one bomb. One bomb is enough to end the Zionist story.” Reply: Even on the assumption that Iran is striving to go nuclear only in order to destroy Israel, and even if it does so, at the price of also eradicating Palestine and its own suicide − you know what? Let me take the risk. As far as I am concerned, it’s better to be killed in one apocalyptic strike, which has only a small probability of happening, than to bleed to death slowly amid the ruins of an endless religious war that is a sure thing.

At this point, do not be afraid of your interlocutor’s scornful gaze. Chances are he didn’t hear a word you said.