NEOCONS REDUX….Is it true that the heavily Jewish roots of the neoconservative movement affect its views on Israel? Is it true that Jews are more pro-Israel than non-Jews? Is the phrase “pro-Israel” even meaningful? I got knocked around for even bringing up the subject a few days ago, and promised myself I would henceforth leave this subject dead and buried.
But what the hell, it’s a new week, right? Here’s Eric Alterman’s take on the subject:
Am I the only Jew in America who will admit to having “dual loyalties?” I find the entire debate on the pro-Israeli sympathies of the Neocons who planned this war a bit mystifying. Of course it’s about Israel; at least in part. The question of whether it’s more about Israel than the United States is a non-issue for most of these people because they do not admit to any conceivable conflict of interest between the two, which is a common position on both the dovish left and the hawkish right. (And in that regard, Osama Bin Laden did the latter group a tremendous favor, by appearing to fuse Israel’s enemy, politically motivated Palestinian resistance with America’s enemy, radical Islamic terrorism.) But the equation is too easy. Even if you don’t grant any differences in practice, it’s impossible to argue that they’re not possible in principle. America is not, despite what the Buchanan/Cockburn axis might like to argue, Israeli-occupied territory.
When I was growing up in the 1970s, I was openly instructed in Hebrew School, by my grandparents, and elsewhere about my “responsibility” to protect and defend Israel, usually “because of the Holocaust,” which America had catastrophically sat out. This was practically the only content of my religious education. I was sent to Israel twice as a teenager for the purposes of being lectured some more and strengthening my emotional ties to the Jewish state, whose existence was always posited as tenuous and dependent on U.S. support. I was explicitly instructed that I must “never allow America to turn its back on Israel,” and hence should support an interventionary foreign policy for those purposes.
This lecture continued uninterrupted in college, when the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) would come and make exactly the same points in exactly the same way, generally slandering anyone who took a different view as either an anti-Semite or a self-hating Jew.
All of this worked to one degree or another. When I write and think about U.S. foreign policy, I am inexorably drawn to the question, “Is this good for Israel?” It just so happens that I think that an immediate withdrawal from the occupied territories is good for Israel, so I support all measures designed to bring that about, including the withdrawal of U.S. aid and a forced peace settlement, whether Mr. Sharon likes it or not. Many Jews and all Neoconservatives disagree. Fine. But these same Jews seem to think it a kind of blasphemy to say aloud what I’ve just said because it will give aid and comfort to the anti-Semites. Lawrence Kaplan of The New Republic calls the very discussion of the idea, “toxic,” and any number of the supporters of the war with Iraq consider even raising the issue to be prima-facie evidence of anti-Semitism. But to me it’s common sense.
I am not speaking for anyone else. I don’t profess to know the psychological motivations of Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Irving Kristol, William Kristol, Lawrence Kaplan, Charles Krauthammer, Seth Lipky, Martin Peretz, Norman Podhoretz, Elliott Abrams, etc. And it’s true that many pro-Israel Neocons are not even Jewish. (To say nothing of the Israel-lovin’ fundamentalist Christian conservatives, like, um, the president of the United States.) But I’d be surprised if they did not imbibe at least some of the wine I did in the days when, in the aftermath of the ’67 and ’73 wars, it was as common among Jews as water. And if we refuse to admit in public what we know to be true in private, we are living a lie. In that case, the anti-Semites really do win.