Netanyahu for President
Benjamin Netanyahu is back in the United States, rallying his troops and hectoring the administration. I stand in such awe of this man that I propose we suspend our now pointless requirement of being American born and run Mr. Netanyahu as the candidate of both parties. Why not? It's not as if the US government, under either Democrats or Republicans, were not already AIPAC Inc. Besides, it might be a refreshing change to have as President a man who is endowed with high intelligence, tough-talking eloquence, and a single-minded determination to advance the interests of his country. And, unlike their American counterparts, Israeli political leaders do not make a sharp distinction between what is good for the government and what is good for the people.
Netanyahu's aggressive policies are probably misguided, because in the long run it is in Israel's best interests to normalize its position in the Near East. As Leon Hadar has argued in the past, Israel, if it wishes to survive, must change its status from that of Crusader State or European colony to that of a conventional state willing to do business with its neighbors. But, then, I am an American, and what they do to defend their interests is of little interest to me, except, of course, for the fact that the our government long ago gave a blank check—morally as well as fiscally—to Israeli aggression. If our money and global clout were not supporting Israeli terrorism against all those nice Muslims who really do want to be our friends, my only concern would be the protection of Christian holy places and the defense of the few dwindling Christian communities that have survived the persecution of both Muslims and the Jewish state. As it is, Netanyahu's constantly reiterated declaration that is up to Israel to look out for itself without consulting us is complete and utter nonsense. We who pay the piper—or rather a whole army of pipers along with planes, tanks, and armored divisions—should occasionally have something to say about the tune that is being called.
I don't know which group is more dishonest and hypocritical: Israel's friends that make this secular state a divinely sanctioned bulwark against the forces of evil and anti-Americanism, or the enemies that portray Israel as a Nazi state that is committing unparalleled aggression against the peace-loving A-rabs. Both scenarios pit angels of light against angels of darkness, apply entirely different standards to the two parties, and rely on a distorted historical sense that can best be described as mythomania.
To clear the air of some of the nonsense written and shouted by both parties, I offer a few facts in the interest of demystifying our relations with Israel. First, the mechanics. It probably does not need saying but I shall say it anyway. We have given trillions of dollars of aid in various forms to the government of Israel, which then sends some of it back to bribe US politicians. The American Jewish lobbies are also in the business of bribing our politicians, but they have an even better weapon: intimidation. I think it comes as no surprise to anyone that this tiny minority of our population holds a preponderant share of control over our media, entertainment, and elite academic institutions. This makes it impossible for anyone but a leftist Jew to criticize Israel. By the way, these leftist Jews are, for the most part, utterly despicable. They have no loyalty either to the United States or to Israel. (The righteous Jews, in and out of Israel, who criticize the Israeli government are an entirely different matter.)
Blaming Israeli political leaders for trying to influence US politicians in their country's interest is stupid, naive, and hypocritical. This is what national political leaders in any country are being paid to do. It is also wrong to blame American Jews for being biased in favor of Israel. How are they different from the Irish, Polish, Mexican, and Albanian Americans who also lobby (that is bribe and intimidate) politicians in order to prejudice them in favor of their ancestral land. The primary difference is that Jews are more effective in their lobbying, because they are willing to spend their money and intelligent to understand the advantage in taking over cultural institutions.
I do not at all criticize the lobbying efforts of Jewish Americans or Irish Americans. They do, however, raise the obvious question: If the great melting pot really worked, why are so many Irish Americans still whining about the Potato Famine, which they are trying to insert into public school curricula as the Irish Holocaust, and why, if they are true-blue Americans, do so many Jews openly support Israel, even when its aims are openly in conflict with US policy? To care about one's people is a natural and wholesome instinct, but these dual loyalties have a tendency to distort a nation's policies and confuse its identity. We cannot turn back the clock to a time when the most division in the US was between the English and Anglo-Celtic ethnicities, but some ethnic wardheelers might profitably spend a few moments in pondering George Washington's warning against domestic factions that involve our country in foreign entanglements.
The second fact that is too obvious to need mentioning is that Israel is an ally of the United States. In our current conflict with the Islamic world, which we refuse to admit is a conflict with the Islamic world, Israel is one of our few allies. Yes, much of Islamic hostility stems from our special relationship with our democratic ally in the Near East, but so what? When we were at war with Britain, we sought allies in France. In the 20th century, our alliance with Britain made us enemies of Germany. Was so strong an alliance with Britain a mistake? I think so. But when armies are committed, it is a bit late to begin rethinking alliances. Besides, Muslim states with so much oil wealth were going to turn against the West some day. We did not have to make ourselves the number one target by creating and backing the Jewish state, but it is too late to back out. We have betrayed so many allies over the years—the Somozas, the Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos—it is small wonder that nobody trusts us. It is in our own interest, in many ways, not to abandon Israel to a fate she often seems to deserve.
Israel is, admittedly, a troublesome and unreliable ally that routinely spies on the US. Well, this is not the only country to have spied on its allies. Britain ran a famous espionage ring here in the US in the run-up to WW II, and there are Americans stupid enough to laud the exploits of Sir William Stephenson and his 007 henchman, Ian Fleming, who later bragged of murdering a German agent on American soil before we were at war with Germany. It is impossible not to admire Fleming's exploits but an American patriot would also like to have seen him hanged.
By all means, we should punish Israeli agents who work in the US, execute their American stooges, and rev up our own espionage against them, but let us drop the hypocrisy. The Israelis are doing what they believe they need to do to survive in a very tough neighborhood. I do not always admire their tactics—which include espionage,torture, kidnapping, and murder—but our ancestors were not too gentle in the treatment of our own native bands of terrorists. The Zionist Jabotinsky drew the express parallel between Palestinians and the Plains Indians. What we did to the Sioux and Apache is more or less what the Israelis have been doing to the Palestinians. It is not pretty, but then genocidal conflict rarely is. While it is true that the Israelis started this conflict, it is no less true that the Palestinians play by rules even dirtier than the Israelis.
Our relations with Israel should be governed by the rules of our own self-interest which would dictate a policy of prudently exercised loyalty to our ally without sacrificing any of our own national interest. I leave it to bribable politicians (a redundant expression) to decide among their paymasters where our national interest truly lies, but one argument that should be forbidden in any discussion of US-Israel relations is religion. This is my final fact.
First off, the good old United States of America is a secular country that has repudiated every Christian moral principle: We permit divorce and abortion and actively encourage homosexuality. Anyone who starts mooning over the Promised Land in which the Jews have always lived for so many thousands of years should be excluded forever from any serious conversation about the Near East. Just one tiny fact: Well before the time of Our Lord's Incarnation, a majority of Jews chose to live outside of the Promised Land, and this is true up to this day. Once in Tel Aviv at a dinner party, an American Jewish nationalist got his comeuppance from an Israeli journalist when the American refused to hear the phrase "occupied territory" and started shouting about Galilee-Samaria. In this argument between Jews, I wisely held my peace. Otherwise I might have pointed out that Solomon quite cheerfully traded away much of Galilee to Hiram of Tyre in return for timber gold to build the temple. It was nearly 900 years later when a Jewish ruler conquered Galilee and forcibly converted the non-Jewish inhabitants on pain of death. So much for never abandoning one sacred inch of the holy land!
If we were going to adopt a Christian perspective, it would be miles away from the pseudo-Christian Zionism of certain famous Evangelical preachers. Mythical theories about the Chosen People and their Promised land are not consistent with Christianity from the preachings of Christ, in the last days before his arrest, the epistles of Paul, the traditions of the Christian Church before and after Constantine, the traditions of East and West in the Middle Ages, or the teachings of Luther and Cranmer. It is the consistent teaching of Christianity that we, not the Jews who repudiated their Messiah when He came, are the heirs of the promise. There is no legitimate counter-tradition, and the case for Christian Zionism is built entirely upon lies.
Christian Zionists who advocate, in the extreme case, or aid and abet a genocidal extermination of Palestinian Christians and Muslims, are no kind of Christian at all. At the best they can be regarded as ideological dupes, useful idiots recruited on one of those tours the Israeli government is so fond of promoting for hucksters like Pat Robertson or John Hagee. There is too much blood on their minds, too much blood on their hands for them to be regarded as any kind of Christian. They are one of the uglier faces of anti-Christ in our time, and if any of the Christian Zionist leaders is actually sincere in his professions, he is far worse off than the greedy liars who have taken money from the enemies of the religion they pretend to espouse.
The hypocrisy and hysteria that have enveloped all discussions of the Middle East may, in the long run, cause serious trouble for the United States and spell disaster for Israel. If we can eliminate some of the lies and hypocrisy used by both proponents and opponents of Israel, we could look out more scrupulously for our own interests and, at the same time, become in time a more rational and thus more useful ally of Israel. The very success of Jewish lobbying in encouraging Israeli militancy and intransigence and in preventing any honest discussion in the US may, in the end bring, on another Babylonian Captivity or another forced diaspora.