Wednesday, May 16, 2012

North Korea's Enemy: Israel

Guest Voices

We welcome back regular contributor, George Jochnowitz, with an excellent analysis on North Korea and its relationship to Israel. "The Marxist-Islamic alliance seems to make no sense. Marxists are atheists and Muslims are religious. What both doctrines have in common is a commitment to extremism," says Prof Jochnowitz, about an unlikely but real union of extreme hate, notably of democracy, freedom and western values

by George Jochnowitz

On Sunday April 15 Korea’s ruling dynast, Kim Jong-un, gave a speech saying that his “first, second, and third” priorities were to strengthen his country’s military. His statement, and North Korea’s attempt to launch a long-range missile, are a threat to the world. The country most threatened may well be Israel.

The Korean War ended in 1953. Since that time, North Korea has fought against only one country: Israel. In 1973, North Korea sent not only planes but pilots to Egypt to fight against Israel during the Yom Kippur War [1]. “Egypt’s military relationship with North Korea goes back to the early 70s, when Pyongyang sent an air battalion to Egypt as a sign of solidarity in its war with Israel” [2]. North Korea had nothing to gain by entering this war.

North Korea has been allied with Iran ever since Ayatollah Khomeini took power. North Korea has always been a member of the Marxist-Islamic alliance, and so it has helped Iran to obtain nuclear materials. Khomeini’s Iran began to aid Syria, and so it was natural for North Korea to add Syria to its list of Islamist allies. Therefore, North Korea built a nuclear facility in Syria. This behavior was logically consistent with North Korea’s alliance with militant Islam, but consistency does not mean practicality, nor does it reflect self-interest.

Israel attacked this site, the al-Kibar nuclear facility, on September 6, 2007, and destroyed it. Israel naturally feared that Syria, like Iran, would be willing to take great risks and endure great damage in order to destroy Israel. After all, Iran’s moderate ex-President Ali Akhbar Rafsanjani, in the annual Al-Quds (Jerusalem) sermon given on December 14, 2001, had said that if one day the world of Islam came to possess nuclear weapons, Israel could be destroyed. Rafsanjani said that the use of a nuclear bomb against Israel would leave nothing standing, but that retaliation, no matter how severe, would merely do damage to the world of Islam [3].

Iran does not share a border with Israel, nor do its interests conflict with those of Israel. Nevertheless, President Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be wiped off the map. North Korea is not even near Israel, but it has directly participated in a war against it—something that not even Iran has ever done. North Korea’s anti-Israel actions have surpassed those of Iran. If North Korea is not being practical, it is not alone. The ferocious hostility of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez towards Israel is another example of unmotivated hatred. Venezuela is even farther from Israel than North Korea is, and has no rational reason whatsoever to get involved in Iran’s (and North Korea’s) struggle against Israel.

Why should this be? Perhaps the best explanation was offered by Andrei S. Markovits: “A new European (and American) commonality for all lefts—a new litmus test of progressive politics—seems to have developed: anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism (though not anti-Semitism, at least not yet)” [4]. The words “not yet” sound less convincing today than when Markovits wrote, in 2005. The Left seems to be more anti-Semitic than before as well as more anti-Zionist. But of course, there is certain logical connection between anti-Semitism and the fact that Israel is the most hated country on earth. Anti-Zionism is the child of anti-Semitism. In a world where everybody hates everybody else, anti-Semitism nevertheless stands out for its ferocity and its universality. Similarly, anti-Zionism is the most powerful political force on earth, despite the numerous disagreements and conflicts of interest that exist among nations and political movements everywhere.

An example of irrational anti-Semitism by Sarah Schulman recently appeared as an op-ed [5]. Schulman is a feminist and a gay-rights activist. Israel is a country where women are drafted into the armed forces, where Golda Meir became Prime Minister before any other woman in the world who was not related to a previous head of government did so, where openly homosexual men and women serve in the armed forces, and where there is a gay-rights parade every year not only in Tel Aviv but in Jerusalem. Shouldn’t a pro-gay, pro-woman writer also be pro-Israel? Schulman says no: “In Israel, gay soldiers and the relative openness of Tel Aviv are incomplete indicators of human rights.” In other words, since Israel is not perfect, it should be opposed. Furthermore, she informs us that there are Palestinian gay-rights organizations. Nevertheless, Palestinians flee the West Bank and seek political asylum in Israel. The existence of the organizations on the West Bank has not ended honor murders of gays. They certainly have not ended the executions of homosexuals in Iran and Saudi Arabia—an issue Schulman does not mention in her op-ed. Schulman is like North Korea. Her opposition to Israel has no practical component.

The world has never known about North Korea’s planes and pilots fighting against Israel. Even Israel has forgotten. The world has already forgotten Schulman’s op-ed—her own little war. We shouldn’t forget. North Korea is arming Iran with nuclear materials. Schulman is using her influence to try to undo the popularity and respect that Israel has begun to gain among homosexuals. As threats go, these are minor, but they are part of an enormous alliance filled with threats.

The Marxist-Islamic alliance seems to make no sense. Marxists are atheists and Muslims are religious. What both doctrines have in common is a commitment to extremism. Marxist countries have always persecuted Muslims within their own borders (Chechnya is an example, among many), and Islamic countries have not tolerated Communist parties in their own lands. On the international level, however, they are united against the forces they perceive as their enemies—freedom and Israel. As I have written, this union is held together by blind faith [6].

Nowhere in the world is faith more blind than in North Korea. The entire population burst into tears when the previous monarch, Kim Jong-Il, died. A few of the people might have been acting, but if so, they were very good actors. When Mao was alive, China had as much faith as North Korea does today, and so the Chinese people, or most of them, mourned when Chairman Mao died. The citizens of the USSR mourned when Stalin died. Indeed, there are people today, in Russia and elsewhere, who still love him. Irrationality lives.

North Korea is 5,000 miles from Israel. Did North Korea fear that Israel would invade its territory? Venezuela, which is almost 11,000 miles from Israel, is Iran’s greatest ally and is blindly opposed to Israel’s existence. Does Hugo Chavez fear that Israel will seize some territory from Venezuela? It is safe to assume that neither of these countries fears anything from Israel. Instead, they believe that Israel is uniquely wicked and supremely powerful. They believe that no crime has ever been as great as the creation of a Jewish state in a part of the British Empire with an Arab majority. They believe that Jews are so powerful that they control the United States and have turned it into their puppet.

Iran is a mere 1,000 miles from Israel. Iran has good reason to fear Israel’s nuclear ability. But as we read above, Iran’s former President Rafsanjani said that an Israeli attack would only do damage to the world of Islam, whereas Israel could be wiped out. Rafsanjani is correct. The question is why did he want to wipe out Israel? Why does President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad say similar things today? Does he worry about the Palestinians? Iran has never been a pro-Arab country. Iran and Iraq fought an amazingly bloody war from 1980 through 1988, a war that cost a million Iranian casualties. Before Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, Iran and Israel were friends. Persia and the Jewish people have had good relations way back, since the days of Queen Esther and King Ahasueros. Khomeini, however, led Iran into the world of blind faith. And so today, Iran looks to North Korea for help. North Korea is happy to oblige, with whatever nuclear technology it has at its disposal.

When Ahmadinejad talks about wiping Israel off the map, his words have a genocidal echo. An attempt to destroy Israel means an attack on its population—Jews, Muslims, Russian Orthodox Christians, and Bahais. Can it be that a desire to commit genocide is among the motivations behind Ahmadinejad?

Genocide is irrational. North Korea did not attempt to exterminate its own citizens, but its economic policies led to repeated famines that were close to genocide. Hitler’s need to erase Jewish genes from the face of the earth was absolutely irrational. Hitler knew he needed scientists. Once World War II had begun, he realized he needed atomic scientists. Such scientists were likely to be Jews, or—in the case of Enrico Fermi—married to a Jew and therefore Jewish under the Nuremberg Laws. Hitler didn’t care. Hitler was a music lover and adored the music of Bruckner, Richard Strauss, and Wagner. He almost certainly would have loved Mahler’s music most of all. He didn’t care. Mahler had been born a Jew, even though he was a convert to Catholicism. Hitler banned his music.

When the Soviet Army began marching through Hungary, Hitler had a choice. He could use the railroads to supply his troops, or to evacuate them. Or he could try to rush as many Jews from Budapest to Auschwitz as he could before he lost Hungary. Hitler decided killing Jews was more important than saving German soldiers. He had his own faith—the belief that he had to exterminate Jews while he could.

North Korea is making an analogous choice. It is giving preference to its nuclear industry in order to aid Iran and threaten Israel instead of working to protect its citizens from starvation. North Korea is a Marxist country, and Marxist countries have famines. China had the worst famine in human history because of Mao’s insane policies [7]. Pol Pot caused about one-third of the population of Cambodia to starve to death. North Korea’s anti-Zionism and its disregard for the lives of its people are both symptoms of its irrationality.

Is there a way Israel can deal with North Korea’s hostility? Perhaps there is a back door. Fidel Castro, who is no longer in power but is the brother of the current leader of Cuba, Raul Castro, has said in an interview that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state, and that with time it might be possible for Cuba and Israel to reestablish diplomatic relations [8]. Over a year has passed, and nothing has happened. The interview received remarkably little publicity. Can Israel make a deal with Cuba? That would almost certainly shake the confidence of Hugo Chavez. It might conceivably cause the latest member of the Kim Dynasty, Kim Jong-un, to reconsider his views. The world still doesn’t know Kim Jong-un. Is he as irrational as his father and grandfather? Would he consider cooperating with Israel and trying to give his people enough to eat? Might he want to lead North Korea into the world of the 21st century? It is hard to say. Unfortunately, the most dangerous enemies are those whose policies serve no rational purpose.

1 Asia Times, online edition, June 21, 2006

2 Lake, Eli J. and Richard Sale, “U.S. Worries over Egypt-North Korea Missile Program” Middle East Times. June 22, 2001.

3 MEMRI Special Dispatch Series No. 325

4 Dissent, Winter 2005

5 “Israel and ‘”Pinkwashing,’” The New York Times, November 23, 2011.

6 “Marx and Islam,” Partisan Review, Vol. 55, no. 3, 1988.

7 See my review of Frank Dikotter’s Mao’s Great Famine in Jewish Currents,Summer and Autumn 2011.

7 Goldberg, Jeffrey, “Fidel Castro and Israel’s Right to Exist,” The Atlantic on line,September 22, 2010.

George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937.  He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.  His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects.  As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at
Copyright ©2012. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. This post can be found on George Jochnowitz.   It was originally published in Arutz Sheva (April 20, 2012). It is republished here with both the author's permission and Arutz Sheva.



  1. I just wanted to comment about the apparent (and also real to a certain degree, when we are talking about adults) irrationality of people who actually seem to love people like King Jong-Il or Stalin: hungry people will love those on whom they are totally dependent for food (understood in the most concrete way, not at all of the "spiritual" kind). I have understood this better, of all places, here in Norway, a land which has been in the past a place where real food was hard to come by, (due to the geographical conditions), and historically also quite sorely tested by various famines, which I sincerely believe have influenced to a ceratin degree some cultural aspects of the national character...of course, luckily, Norway is also the country in which, on May 17th 1814, at Eidsvoll, was signed one of the most liberal and radically democratic Constitutions of the entire WORLD of that time.

    1. I suspect the over-riding emotion in North Korea is not love but fear.

    2. I tend to agree with you. I was just sort of reacting to the seeming mild puzzlement of the author of the above text about the tears after the death of the dictator, a proportion of which were probably, even though there was probably a mixture of mass hysteria as well, plus, of course, fear to not be "the same", to be seen somewhat as different from "the others", if one didn't feel like crying. It's a terrible situation all around.

    3. Yes, the fear of showing any differences is strong in authoritarian regimes. The individual and any display of individuality gets swallowed up in the collective, whose sole voice is that of "Great Leader." He, and it's always a "He" is of course blessed with infallibility and wisdom.

    4. Chairman Mao caused the worst famine in human history.
      Nevertheless, he was sincerely both loved and feared by most people in China. They were not dependent on Mao for food; rather, the opposite was true. Did they think he was their source of food? If they did, it shows the power of blind faith in whatever religion or ideology is controlling thought. Blind faith is the cause of almost all the evil on earth.

  2. Until 1951, I lived near the neighborhood in Brooklyn, now called Sunset Park, that was mostly Norwegian. Every year, there was a parade on May 17th. The Norwegians have largely moved away, and today the area is predominantly Chinese. However, May 17th is still celebrated there.


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