Do we need to repeat the immortal words of Pogo Possum here? Or is it enough to remind ourselves of the tradition that the Temple was destroyed as a result of inter-Jewish squabbling?
Writing about the “J Street lobby”, a new Jewish organization intended to counter the supposedly right-wing slant of AIPAC, Jonathan Tobin points out that
- AIPAC is not actually right-wing, but tries to reflect the position of the Government of Israel, having at times irritated both the Right and the Left;
- Left-wing views on Israel in America are not suppressed but probably even better funded (by Arab and oil-company sources) than AIPAC; and most importantly,
- The idea that peace can be achieved by means of Israeli concessions represents a misreading of the Palestinian leadership, moderate and extremist alike.
The blindness of the Left in Israel, which often seems to view “the Occupation” as far worse than an Israel surrounded by Hamas-dominated terror states in rocket range of population centers and Ben Gurion Airport, and which somehow refuses to believe — despite their words and deeds — that the Palestinians don’t want peace as much as Israeli leftists do, is remarkable, even pathological.
But here in the US, the major reasons that liberal Jews often think that the root of the problem is “Israeli intransigence” are different:
- They make false analogies to American foreign policy, failing to grasp that unlike the US, Israel really is threatened with extinction;
- They may come from a traditional leftist position in which colonialism is a great evil, and they accept the false proposition that Zionism is a form of colonialism;
- They have been convinced that Israel is massively powerful and the Palestinians underdogs fighting for survival, ignoring the fact that the Palestinians have Iran and Saudi Arabia standing behind them (or at least using them);
- Anti-Israel forces have done an excellent job of exploiting the American revulsion against racism, despite the fact that the real racists in the Middle East are Arabs; and,
- Americans are seriously misinformed about day-to-day events in the region due to the highly biased American media — at least, those outlets favored by liberals, like NPR, the New York Times, etc.
But what really triggered the creation of “J street”, in my opinion, is an issue which Tobin didn’t even mention.
AIPAC made a strategic decision to embrace the Christian Zionist phenomenon. Pastor John Hagee famously spoke at the AIPAC convention in 2007, expressing a strong pro-Israel position, and offering the support of “50 million evangelicals”. Although he did not explicitly say “Israel must keep all of the territories”, he said this:
We are again hearing calls to appease the enemies of Israel. Once again those who would appease seek to do so at the expense of Israel. They tell us that if we want the Sunnis and the Shiites to stop massacring each other in Iraq then Israel must give up land. They tell us that if we want the Syrians to stop murdering the leaders in Lebanon, then Israel must give up land. They tell us if we want the Saudis to permit women to drive and to vote, Israel must give up land. If we want the sun to rise it the east and set in the west, Israel must give up land. Let me be clear; Israel is not the problem here.
Scapegoating Israel will not solve the problem; the problem is the Arab rejection of Israel’s right to exist.
But far worse, from the point of view of American Jewish liberals, are Hagee’s domestic policies: against gay marriage, against abortion rights, against (in their opinion) the separation of church and state, etc.
Dr. Hagee represents everything that American liberals hate and fear, and in many cases it is close to home — which Israel is not.
Here in Central California where evangelical Christianity has many adherents, some Jewish liberals have chosen to make an alliance with Muslim groups to oppose what they see as the threat of Christian proselytizing in schools. The fact that these Muslims also present anti-Israel views is not as important to them as the local issue.
In fact, if you believe sources like Jews on First, the greatest threat facing Jewry in the 21st Century is evangelical Christianity, not radical Islam!
History will decide whether AIPAC made the right decision in regard to the Christian Right. But there is no question that uppermost in their minds was what would be best for Israel and its relationship with the US in the long run, and not whether left-wing American Jews, whose support for Israel has recently been lukewarm at best, would be unhappy.