The Iranian nuclear threat and other matters that also concern us.
The new year has begun with rumors of a pending strike by Israel to destroy the nuclear facilities of Iran hidden underground. It is suspected by Western nations including the U.S. and Israel that the Iranians are well on the road towards building atomic bombs. Iran is more than a rogue state. It is led by a government steeped in medieval religious fanaticism and serves as a center of support for Islamist terrorism. Its rulers, both the president and the Ayatollah who is the real head of state, have publicly expressed the desire to see Israel wiped off the map. The leading Ayatollah was seen on television in early January calling Israel a cancer in the Middle East that must be eradicated. Its president Ahmadinejad has been spouting the same evil message publicly along with file rant of Holocaust denial that labels him, not only an enemy of Israel, hut of all the Jewish people worldwide. Are we to disregard such violent genocidal rhetoric coming from a country that refuses to open its nuclear program to U.N. inspection and may be building a nuclear arsenal? One recalls with horror a Muslim statement the name of the speaker now eludes me--that he would welcome a violent nuclear exchange between his country and Israel even if his country is devastated, because Islam would endure since more than a billion Muslims live and rule in dozens of Islamic countries. But Israel and all its Jews would be wiped out. In his warped mind, the result would be worth the horrifc exchange. Should the world pay no attention to such insane genocidal threats? Can the world bear a second Holocaust aimed at wiping out the Jewish nation? If Israel sits back with folded hands, does it do so at its peril?
My wife is terrified at the thought of Israel's launching a pre-emptive attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. I share her feelings. It would surely provoke a violent response. Can Israel endure a long-distance war with Iran and a torrent of missiles with powerful conventional warheads launched from three directions simultaneously--from Iran, from Hezbollah in Lebanon, and from Hamas in Gaza, the latter two armed by Iran? Does Israel have a defense system that can intercept all such missiles and destroy them long before they can reach Israel? Will the world support Israel's defensive pre-emptive action? It did not do so when Israel took out nuclear facilities in Iraq and later in Syria. Will the world help protect Israel against retaliation by Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas? All very doubtful. We hope and pray for American support, both with adequate defense systems against a missile assault and with diplomatic cover, but there are no certainties in this divided world. Russia and China seem to be ready to veto any U.S. initiative in the U.N. Security Council. The case for an Israeli pre-emptive attack against Iranian nuclear facilities while the underground structures are still within reach is a strong one, and to many decent people, an ethical one. The case against such an attack is also a strong one. Israel stands between the proverbial frying pan and the fire.
Should Israel wait and see if the U.S. plan to increase economic and financial sanctions against Iran can finally persuade Ahmadinejad and his cohorts to give up their nuclear ambitions and allow the U.N. to inspect their facilities effectively? I suppose most of us would say yes. But how long can we mast this process when such sanctions have never deterred a militant dictatorship spurred on by a violent ideology to change its course? And if it fails after a span of time that makes it too late to stop Iran from achieving nuclear capability, what then?
I do not know the answers to any of these questions. I distrust writers who act as if they know it all and are brazen enough to advise the Israeli government to undertake dangerous actions that could imperil the Jewish state. I don't publish such pieces in Midstream.
And so we are left with the crushing Israeli dilemma--one that all of ns who love Israel share. It is America's dilemma too. It poses a choice between a pre-emptive strike that could lead to a horrible war or alternative political measures that could lead--God forbid--to living under threat of a nuclear attack by a suicidal enemy aimed ultimately at Israel.
I write this to express my fears and to urge Midstream readers to hope and pray for American success in its attempt to force Iran by other means to suspend its nuclear plans. All men and women of good will should support this effort. But I do not envy the President of the U.S. and the Prime Minister of Israel who must make the agonizing final decisions.
And now to Midstream. The survival of this unique American Jewish Zionist intellectual journal is at stake. Our sponsors, with all good intentions, seem to be looking for ways to be rid of paying the steep cost of printing the magazine by making it solely an online publication with the consequent demise of the hard-copy magazine. We staff members have tried to persuade our sponsors to do otherwise. For years, we have featured a lead article from each issue for browsers to read in full online on Midstream's Web site (www.midstreamthf.com). Sometimes we have featured two articles, and in recent issues, three. But in our view, even if we were to print the complete issue online and charge a fee for logging into the new Midstream, elimination of the hard-copy magazine would be a loss of the magazine's stature, influence, and reputation.
I recall a mention of Midstream not too long ago by one of the characters in a novel by the great Philip Roth. I doubt that Roth would have made a cultural reference to Midstream, if it were merely a little known online Jewish publication. We could never be The Huffington Post Other important Jewish publications like Commentary have an online version, but only as a supplementary activity, retaining the hard-copy that made Commentary's reputation with the cultured public. It is inconceivable to us that the world of culture and historical consciousness will give up the permanency and emotional impact of a book or a magazine for an ephemeral appearance on a screen even in this age of the Internet, the iPhone, iPad, and e-book. The written word on scrolled parchment or on paper bound into books or magazines will survive, just as books survived the popular triumph of movies and television despite dire predictions.
We Jews who honor the Torah scroll and study its sacred text in book form called the chumash are assured of their permanence. We are, after all, "the people of the book." The great secular works, lehavdil, will also be cherished in books and journals. Midstream, a hard-copy journal with a 58-year reputation as a significant Jewish and Zionist voice, must continue.
I cannot be so sure about the survival of Midstream without significant help from those who admire tiffs publication. I look back, for example, at our previous issue, Fall 2011, with pride. How many Jewish journals can cite the following variety of subjects in one issue: essays on the Israeli reaction to the liberation of Gilad Shalit from a Hamas kidnapping, the relation between territory and Israeli security, the impact of the Hasidic revolution on American popular culture, an essay on colorful Yiddish words that have entered American English, another on the Jewishness of classical composer Gustav Mahler, one on trends in American Jewish fiction, another on the Jewish Leopold Bloom in James Joyce's novel Ulysses, a growing-up memoir in New York that links baseball great Joe DiMaggio with Hebrew school and a King of ancient Judah, a meditation on the Biblical prophet Jonah, a review essay on a book that reconsiders the tragic "Altalena" incident just after the founding of modern Israel, plus poetry and fiction on Jewish themes. Other Jewish magazines publish little or no poetry or fiction. Many represent the left or the right on Israeli affairs; we present responsible opinion across the full political spectrum of Zionism so long as they accept the existence of the Jewish State of Israel. I began by calling Midstream unique. Yes, we are a unique journal. We can use your help, if you agree.
Midstream readers know that we had a very difficult year at the magazine because all four quarterly issues of 2011 suffered delayed publication, coming out three months late each lime. This happened because our sponsors delayed sending us our stipend for each issue. Our printer, understandably, would not print until he was paid. This meant that this first issue, Winter 2012, slated for dissemination ha January, will probably also be three months late. The tension built up by wailing for our support money, never knowing when it will actually come, or even, chas v'chalilah, if it would come at all, is nerve-wracking and close to unbearable. We do not blame our sponsors; they too are victims of financial stress. Our sole consolation is that many of our readers still respond faithfully and valiantly to our annual appeal. We need many more of you stalwarts in this time of financial crisis. The funds received from our readers do help us with other expenses, but understandably, they cannot cover the major expense of printing, mailing, and staff salaries. But your generous past contributions have helped us pay our writers--a real mitzvah! And so, we mm again to our readers to do two things: to respond to this appeal in 2012 and to say a little prayer for wisdom on the part of our sponsors that will assure the survival of Midstream in hard copy.
As in the past, we expect to set up a special page to appear from time to time ha our publication that will list the names of those of our friends who are generous enough to support us with a tax-deductible contribution. All contributors will also receive formal letters of acknowledgment and thanks. Here are the designations of honor that we intend to list with gratitude:
Friend: $36 to $99 Supporter: $100 to $499 Associate: $500 to $999 Patron: $1,000 to $4,999 Benefactor: $5,000 and above
Please do not be terrified by the largest stuns listed above. We will gladly accept any contribution, however small, with equal gratitude. Please make checks payable to The Theodor Herzl Foundation/Midstream, and address your tax-deductible contributions to The Theodor Herzl Foundation/Midstream, 633 Third Avenue / 21st Floor, New York, NY 10017. Todah rabbah.
LEO HABER, Midstream's editor and author of the novel, The Red Heifer, taught Hebrew at Lawrence High School, Baruch College, and Hebrew Union College, and English at City College (CCNY).