A few days ago Matt Yglesias said a true thing —
Protecting Israel is a special project taken on by the United States. The reasons may be good and bad, but it’s a burden we undertake. Israel does us no favors and is no use to us. Recognizing that fact hardly solves the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict, but it ought to be the starting point for what Americans should debate–not Israel’s policy toward its Palestinian subjects but America’s policy toward Israel.
This is something that needs to be acknowledged — that for all the heat and passion many Americans pour into support for Israel, there’s nothing about Israel that qualifies it as an exceptionally critical interest for the United States. And this has nothing to do with being “for” or “against” Israel; it’s just an acknowledgment that the U.S. gets nothing out of whatever deal we’ve made with Israel.
The United States gives the country billions in aid. Indeed, it is the largest recipient of American foreign assistance in the world, even though it’s neither a poor country nor a large one. Netanyahu explained that his country and ours are such good friends because “we stand together to defend democracy.”
But, as Matt points out, Israel contributes nothing to international efforts toward democracy, including peacekeeping efforts around the globe. There are other small countries, such as The Netherlands, doing their bit, but not Israel. Israel looks out for Israel. There’s nothing wrong with that; Israel has particular problems that The Netherlands does not. But let’s stop kidding ourselves that the U.S. relationship with Israel is of any particular benefit to anyone but Israel.
Matt says something else that I’ve also noticed, but which doesn’t get said much — fervent Zionism in the West is less and less about courting the “Jewish vote,” because western Jews are not of one mind on Israel. Certainly there are Jewish Zionists, but western Jews more often are hugely ambivalent about the situation in Israel and are not knee-jerk supporters of whatever the government of Israel does.
This led to the (Catholic) Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) complaining that “too many American Jews are not as pro-Israel as they should be.” I don’t want to presume to speak for American Jews, but they might say they are plenty pro-Israel; they just aren’t necessarily pro-Netanyahu.
Further, recent demographic trends are rendering Israel into something quite different from the enclave of western values many Americans want to believe it is.
Matt has written a couple of posts about post-Jewish Zionism, pointing out that the real engine driving knee-jerk support for Netanyahu is Christian Zionism mixed with Islamophobia.
The existence of Christian Zionists is, of course, not new. But what is new is that Israeli politics has drifted toward the hawkish right over the past ten years even as Jewish Americans remain on the progressive left. That change in Israeli politics, meanwhile, has been in part driven by a demographic shift away from the kind of secular ashkenazi Jews who predominate in the American population. At the same time, Christian Zionist sentiment has boomed in America and the Palestinian cause has never been less popular among America’s overwhelmingly non-Jewish population.
This is all part of what I’ve called the trend toward post-Jewish Zionism. That’s not to say that there are no Jewish Zionists in the United States (or Canada, etc.) but merely to observe that Jews as such are decreasingly relevant to the politics of Israel. In Europe, too, we’re seeing a boom of far-right parties (True Finns, Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, the Danish People’s Party) with strong pro-Israel stands. And why shouldn’t there be? An Israeli government whose policies are based on putting zero moral weight on the welfare of Arabs is a natural partner for xenophobic anti-Muslim parties who appeal more to Europe’s local sociocultural majorities than to its small Jewish communities.
As the first commenter says,
Factoring out the Christian eschatology, post-Jewish Zionism, in either North America or Europe, is essentially about living vicariously through Israel as it fulfills their forbidden desire – to put a bunch of Muslims in a giant cage and shoot into it.
A lot of us have been critical of Israel not because we are anti-Israel, but because we think recent policies of the government of Israel are reckless and self-destructive and not in the best long-term interests either of Israel or the United States. The zealots will not listen to this, of course.
Update — See “Ass-Backwards in the Middle East.”
Felicity. Swami, thanks for the info, never heard that way at all though, but you did varify what I thought. thanks.
Felicity, thanks for your response.
Ok I am just a simple person..Not a policy wonk..but here is my take on the situation.I tend to see things in a big picture kinda way. No one who argues for the pro Israel point of view can give a reasoned arguement for what we get for our dollar. (billions of em infact).
Both sides…HEAR ME I SAID BOTH sides!, and I have said it before are acting like children fighting over LAND…now this may be simplistic..but it’s the bottom line. One of the kids is costing us all a hell of a lot of money we could better use HERE at home by the way- the rest of the world has sat by for a long friggin time watching these children(adult children with guns and bombs) bicker back and fourth and we just let it go on – WE ARE A BIG OLD FAT WORLD OF ENABLERS- if thats not enough we will write a check— a really big one.
Then..last week one of our bratty little darlings(the one who we write the checks to) marched and told US how it was gonna be. One question here..at what point can I the tax payer that funds this call BULLSHIT???
One side or another is always telling the rest of the world how it is gonna be..while we sit by held hostage by the world drama they create.They have had how long to work this shit out between them and have not? WHY WOULD THEY with enablers like us???
So I have a simple solution. The rest of the world really needs to be adults and STOP enabling the situation. Tell both sides they have 90 days to work it out so EVERYONE is happy and peaceful(and I mean put on a happy damn face cause your pissing me off!!) or ALL of them can get the fuck out.Both sides. And we will give the damn land to someone else…or we will create a big ass world park out of the whole place and NO ONE ever live there again at all! How you like that?Where are they all suppose to go? Not my problem..they better grow the hell up and figure it out!
Till SOMEONE grows some balls and stops playing and starts being an adult the kids are gonna keep fighting under our feet. How long will the world be held hostage by shitty parents who won’ t control the children around us when they refuse to behave?
I agree with your idea, but some of our congress critters have been bought, some are Zionists (Christian and Jewish flavors), and the rest have been gelded.
If I was the emperor, all aid to Israel would be stopped, and an investigation into Israeli meddling would be started. Sadly, that won’t happen. The atrocities will continue, Israel will be regarded as a rogue state, and the US will be known as the great enabler.Israel will expand her borders further into Arab lands, America will send her soldiers to defend Israel, And the last Palistinian will die in a zoo in about 50 years.
Sharon gave orders to Israeli soldiers which resulted in the mass slaying of Palestinians living in a refuge camp close to Lebanon.
Perhaps this is why there is still so much misunderstanding. . . . We read the first headline, and ignore the corrections. . . .
As to â€œsemantics,â€ try this: go to Rwanda and find some Tutsi. Tell them they’re acting like a bunch of Hutus, then explain that the difference between Hutus and other mean people is a matter of mere semantics. See how that goes over.
Retreating behind bloody mutual bigotries to avoid acknowledging painful truth? Cowardly, and dishonest in the extreme.
puddleriver …I think you are looking at the wrong massacre committed by Sharon. Google: Sabra/Shatila. Felicity was absolutely correct in her statement. Although it is understandable how you could be confused though, because Sharon had been slaughtering Palestinians for so long that it’s hard to keep track of all the blood on his hands..
Swami, thanks!! I was in China at the time, and it passed my consciousness only peripherally. From the wiki, I gather that the Israelis allowed/facilitated the Christians killing Arabs. I don’t wish to make light of “number of victims is disputed, from 700â€“800 to 3,500 (depending on the source).” ~~ But considering “The total death toll in Lebanon for the whole civil war period was around 200,000â€“300,000 victims.[clarification needed]” [Both quotes from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabra_and_Shatila_massacre ]
And Israelis condemned it themselves. . . . We need perhaps some perspective? Wish to make it absolutely clear that I am NOT a fan of Sharon.
I think that our support of Israel hinged on guilt: that Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower were all very aware how *our* policies towards Jews during the 30s and 40 scontributed to the holocaust, and in supporting the UNs creation of Israel, and Israel’s right to exist were attempting to ameliorate our guilt.
And the truth, for me, is: we *still* owe them.