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Mobius and I debate what’s good for the Jews in American politics… and then some

Posted by Ron Coleman on September 9, 2008

My friend Mobius drew me into a discussion on Facebook of what an awful thing for Israel a McCain victory would be, and I posted a link to this post, where I addressed certain aspects of that issue a little while ago.  He weighed in big time in the comments, and while this is mostly inside baseball if you’re not Jewish, I am putting so much work into responding that I thought it would be worthwhile to elevate this into a post.

As to the first, it wasn’t that long ago that, when the Iraq War was widely “recognized” by smart opinion as a dumb, losing proposition, it was Israel’s fault that it happened in the first place — the “neocons” were handmaidens for the Zionists. Now winning it was dumb, because it’s bad for Israel! Not quite blame the Jews, but an interesting variation.

This is not an argument. This is playing games. I can point to plenty of sources, such as the CATO Institute, that in the run up to the war identified the invasion of Iraq as bad policy, stam, not bad policy because it was “a war for Israel.”

So what? Libertarians don’t prove (or do) anything. Ever.  This trope can, however, be found in virtually every camp that is hostile to “neocons.” As Dore Gold writes:

On the liberal side, Chris Matthews, who hosts MSNBC’s Hardball, echoed Buchanan when he spoke about “conservative people out there, some of them Jewish…who believe that if we don’t fight Iraq, Israel will be in danger.” Likewise, former Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart warned of “ideologues” who were not able to distinguish between their loyalty “to their original homelands” and loyalty “to America and its national interests. . . Another variation on the Israel theme is the assertion made by Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist, that General Zinni heard from administration officials that the Iraq War would advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process because “the road to Jerusalem leads through Baghdad.” According to this thesis, the Iraq War would chiefly help Israel’s drive to obtain peace on reasonable terms – still a benefit to Israel. “

How about this:

The notion that we could just waltz in and inject democracy into an extremely complicated, devout and ancient culture smacked–still smacks–of neocolonialist legerdemain. The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives–people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary–plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel.

Wow, who said that? Some black-hearted neoconservative? Yeah, sure — that’s one way you could describe Joe Klein, I guess.

Now, it’s possible that Barack Obama does not share this view — but how many members of his administration, based on the hard-left crowd around him now as well as the militant black cadre that is part of his base, would disagree with these assertions?

(Mind you, the first person to fire that salvo was Pat Buchanan, who is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a Lefty, let alone a Democrat.) Furthermore, you will find few on the Left or on the Paleoconservative Right who are worried about Israel’s security prospects.

I agree, and Barack Obama is on the Left.

self-loathing elite that lacks the will to even purport to lead a confused and mainly unmotivated populace that obsesses on a slim minority of practitioners of its own religion in its midst as the bogeyman that explains its existential hopelessness.

…is self-righteous Orthodox blustering.

Really?   Which part? Certainly not the “confused and mainly unmovitated populace” and the “existential hopelessness” part — see here for a pretty thorough survey of the Israeli left’s contributions to post-Zionist moral panic and nihilism. I like this, though, from that fascist theocrat, Yossi Klein Halevi:

The Israeli sin, some began to suspect, was to believe in ourselves and in our national mythology — in fact, to believe in anything at all. The state was just a state, without metaphysical or even historical meaning. What mattered was survival of the individual, not the collective. “Don’t call me a nation,” sang Shalom Hanoch. Every Israeli for himself.

DISILLUSIONMENT WITH all systems and ideologies is the starting point for both nihilism and spiritual search. Together, those two options help define today’s Israel.

As to the “obsesses on a slim minority of practitioners of its own religion in its midst as the bogeyman” part, I suppose you’ll wave away Jonathan Rosenblum’s analysis, but how about this, from Professor Noah Efron, writing in no less than Hadassah magazine:

A handful of ultra-Orthodox Jews, each holding a plastic bag, pushed through the crowd [after a terrorist bombing]. They had come to collect shreds of human remains from the street, trees, gutters, stores and rooftops, so that these fragments, too, could receive a proper burial according to Jewish law. They worked for many hours, collecting lumps of flesh, later analyzing them to determine whose flesh they were.

These men belong to a loosely affiliated organization called Chesed shel Emet (True Righteousness), also known as Zaka, which provides a training course, including hours of videos of mutilated bodies in order to desensitize the volunteers and exercises with practice dummies. . . . As I watched from the charred sidewalk on Dizengoff, secular Jews raged at the religious ones, shouting that the ultra-Orthodox had no right to participate in this national tragedy. They accused the religious of enjoying bagging dead secular Jews. They said that the ultra-Orthodox (haredim) were no better than terrorists themselves. . .

Once alerted to its existence, I observed enmity toward very religious Jews everywhere in Israel, and it seemed to me that it was growing. Newspapers and magazines print political cartoons and caricatures depicting ultra-Orthodox Jews as vampires, leeches and apes, sometimes with horrible hooked noses, warts and stooped backs. Others show them controlling the strings of government from above like a puppeteer or perched on the backs of secular Jews, who bow under the weight…. A study carried out in the summer of 2000 found that 49 percent of Israeli high school students, when asked, said that they “hate the ultra-Orthodox,” the same percentage that admitted to hating Arabs. . . .

For most Israelis, haredim are our collective obsession, the monster under our beds, the thought that we cannot banish. Fighting haredim has taken the cast of a religious rite, undertaken with the fervor of piety. For those who heed this calling, something greater is at stake than budgets and military roles.

He must be drinking that glatt-kosher Kool Aid, huh.

FWIW-The majority of Israelis define themselves as religious, even if they don’t see themselves as halakhic or devout.

That is very special.  Was that “religious,” or “spiritual”?  And so what?

And to suggest that the members of the Israeli government are self-loathing, well… when I heard Peres speak in Jerusalem in May talking about “the eternal, undivided capital of Israel,” he sounded more like Zev Jabotinsky than Israel Shahak.

Peres?  He’s still working?  Peres is the last of the old guard, as you know, and he speaks to and for no one but the apparat at this point.  (See prior links for proof of self-loathing among the sub-octogenarian set.)  But maybe he also speaks to and for those American Zionists, who root for Israel to “go, go, go!” as if it were their favorite sports team while sitting safely in the stands and heading home to suburban comfort while watching the highlights on TIVO and calling in on radio shows to argue over “our” season.

We root for Israel!

We root for Israel!

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5 Responses to “Mobius and I debate what’s good for the Jews in American politics… and then some”

  1. Mobius said

    None of the observations Dore Gold cites strike me as insidious.

    Is it antisemitic to note that Israel stood to gain benefit from “a new Middle East” as the neocons saw it? If the neocons themselves are not bashful in making this assertion (and even President Bush himself has said, as a result of the war, that “Israel is safer” in numerous speeches, including the State of the Union), why should it be regarded as anti-Jewish to point it out?

    Even Hart’s statement is innocuous. Isn’t AIPAC’s whole mission to make the case that America and Israel are part of the same cause? What’s wrong with “dual loyalty” to Israel and America — especially if you believe that they are bound together in noble purpose: democracy and freedom and all that noise? Isn’t the whole Zionist trip about not being afraid to show your love for Israel? Should we respond to our own fear of Kossacks by indicting anyone who points out the obvious?

    Is it not obvious to you as a “Jewish insider” that many in the Jewish community put the security of Israel above all else when choosing political representation? Did droves of Jews not become self-proclaimed 9/11 Republicans (David Zucker being a highly visible example, who went from bankrolling the DNC to the RJC), abandoning their traditional liberal domestic interests (interests in the social well-being of their fellow citizens) for a “kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out” Middle East agenda that’s bankrupted the country?

    Though it’s not always clear, there is in fact a distinction between questioning the policy positions of neoconservatives and the benefits it actually delivers unto Israelis and Americans versus accusing Jews of insidious behavior in the vein of traditional antisemitism.

    Which isn’t to say there aren’t those out there who conflate the two, reaching over the line, like Joe Klein. Klein’s mistake is that he alleges Zionist defiance of America rather than acknowledging a pure but misguided deep-seated belief in the shared destinies of America and Israel from which very bad and very destructive policy decisions have stemmed. In other words, it’s not that the neocons are disloyal to America, it’s that they’re Lennie Small stroking their beloved mouse to death.

    And while it’s true that the charge of disloyalty has been levied against Jews in the past as a political weapon, thankfully in America, every self-defined affinity group, including ethnic groups and other interest groups, are entitled to employ the democratic process as it stands to advance their interests, which includes providing financial and military support to foreign nations — homelands — that serve as American allies.

    That’s the American system, that’s how it works, and if you don’t like it, you start your own lobby to achieve representation for your interests. That’s why there’s an oil lobby and an environmental lobby. That’s why there’s AIPAC and JStreet. That’s democracy. That’s the nature of the beast.

    That said, the issue at hand isn’t really that Zionists are supposedly double-crossing America. The issue is that people feel powerless in the face of big, well-funded lobbies that are advancing interests other than their own. People don’t like that billions of dollars are being spent on a war sold on lies by predominantly Jewish neoconservative pundits who by their own admission stood to gain something from that war. And Zionists, thanks to 60 years of internecine conflict, are an easy target for becoming the personification of everything people see wrong with the system.

    That has a hell of a lot less to do with latent antisemitism than it does with the public’s sense of disenfranchisement.

    I’ll save addressing the influence of post-Zionism and the obsession with haredim for a later date.

  2. Irina said

    No matter who is elected, the U.S. will act in its own best interests (or perception thereof), and Israel should act in its own rather than wait for “favors”. However, I think McCain is in a better position to assess the implications of any military action that might be undertaken, and in general will be more willing and able to take on the War on Terror.

  3. Mobius said

    Irina, as I said in my initial post which sparked this discussion:

    “Experience doesn’t necessarily infer wisdom in policymaking. Case in point: Ron Paul served in Vietnam as an Air Force medic and has been a Congressman since 1976. But it’s Mr. Paul’s prerogative to cut off all aid to Israel. In other words, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in Congress nor what wars you’ve fought in: Bad policy is bad policy.”

    That said, during his service in Vietnam, John McCain crashed five multimillion dollar airplanes. In fact, it’s precisely because he was such a bad pilot that he crashed and was captured by the Viet Cong. Not only was he a terrible airman, he finished nearly dead last in his class at the military academy.

    How does being a terrible pilot and a terrible officer put one “in a better position to assess the implications of any military action that might be undertaken”?

    It’s just like with Bush: When he was governor of Texas the state had the lowest national school test scores, the highest national unemployment rate, the biggest state budget deficit and the highest annual number of prisoner executions. He also bankrupted every business he ever laid his hands on.

    If being an absolute failure at everything you do makes you the most qualified to be President, we as a nation are absolutely screwed.

  4. Jack said

    “People don’t like that billions of dollars are being spent on a war sold on lies by predominantly Jewish neoconservative pundits who by their own admission stood to gain something from that war. And Zionists, thanks to 60 years of internecine conflict, are an easy target for becoming the personification of everything people see wrong with the system.”

    Oh Lord.
    This all reminds me of an old story.

    Ode to the Jew Who Everyone Thinks Is the Real Problem, but It Was Never Really Him,
    It was the Other Guy Listening to Him Who Mistakenly Led Everyone to Believe It was Him
    Because Some Goy Listened to Him, but It Really Wasn’t like that After All because I See What
    You Did and I’m too Smart for That! So There Mr. Smarty Pants, you’re not Blaming
    This One on Me, But I Know You Will Anyways. (Did I miss anything, and will the UN still
    love me in the morning?)

    I looked into a mirror
    Saw all that I could see
    And with such bright reflection
    I discerned that I saw me,
    And seeing me so clearly
    However could I doubt
    That everyone around me
    Would think I’m what it’s about,
    I saw myself so truly
    No mistakes could I have made
    So everyone must think of me
    As I judge myself arrayed,
    It is not easily dismissed
    Nor narcissistic pride –
    I’m telling you how it must be
    When logic is applied,
    I am the center of the world
    But please don’t say I am
    For humility prevents such talk
    I am not like – they am,
    For clever, crafty, subtle men
    As stupid as the rocks
    Have tricked you all into your doom
    But I’ve seen through this crock,
    Just look at me, but not too close
    For great I am, but no
    And when you’ve figured out the trick
    You’ll blame me for this show,
    Oh God Above, if only they
    Were smart as I am too
    They’d see how stupid that they are
    To not see me so true,
    So as I gaze both lovingly
    And horrid at myself
    I cannot help but love that I’m
    Both hero, and oppressed,
    The day will come when all will see
    What I see in the glass
    Why me, myself, and I alone
    And what a day! Alas!
    They are to blame, I know they are
    But to me they will come
    For they have tricked us all you know
    The brilliant with the dumb,
    But I saw through the clever plot
    Arrested plans so deep
    With just reflected intellect
    And self-absorption deep,
    Let’s turn tomorrow counterfeit
    Today into conceits
    And then I’ll say with confidence
    See there, it’s you – not me!!!
    And then we’ll all sleep well at night
    Til some new thought occur,
    Hey wait a second, hurricanes –
    I’ll get the blame, I’m sure…

    “If being an absolute failure at everything you do makes you the most qualified to be President, we as a nation are absolutely screwed.”

    So you know Obama’s not gonna win too, huh?
    Well, join the club…

  5. YM said

    Sorry Mobius, John McCain didn’t finish last in his class at Annapolis. Close, but not last. As a POW, he demonstrated the high caliber of his character. He has been a fabulous US Senator and I hope he is elected President.

    YM, aka ‘one of those 9/11 republicans’.

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