October 25, 2000


Gore Vidal, best-selling novelist and expatriate critic of the American Empire, once scornfully averred that Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, two prominent neoconservatives, had made "common cause with the lunatic fringe" (i.e. conservatives) to scare Americans into spending gargantuan sums for a military buildup against the sclerotic Soviets – and in order to secure an unlimited amount of aid to Israel. These two – said Vidal way back in 1986, writing in the 50th anniversary issue of The Nation magazine – were far more interested in Israel than in their own country, and were, in effect, little more than "fifth columnists." Podhoretz replied that Vidal's piece was "perhaps the most blatantly anti-Semitic article to have appeared in a respectable American periodical since World War II" – and the battle was joined. This particular feud has been going on for some years now, and it is not my purpose to go into the lurid details except to note the absurdity of Podhoretz's charge – the cosmopolite Vidal a Jew-hater? Come on! – and point out the preternatural keenness of Vidal's insight into the neoconservative agenda. At a time when it was almost unheard-of for any prominent figure to take Israel's supporters in this country to task in such terms, Vidal clearly saw the development of an unusual political phenomenon – rare if not unheard of in this country – and that is the rise of an American movement explicitly dedicated to advancing the interests of a foreign power.


History buffs will remind me of those New England Federalists, who, during the War of 1812, almost seceded from the Union and declared they would not take up arms against King George III, whom many considered still to be the lawful ruler of his errant colonies. But this is in the nature of an exception that proves the rule: the only example of a widespread or influential movement of this sort in modern times is (or was) the old American Communist Party, which took subsidies (and orders) directly from Moscow, and even engaged in espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union. Acting as a disciplined group, American Communists were Stalin's footsoldiers, faithfully explaining away the Moscow Trials, prettifying the purges, and denying the existence of the Gulag. They regularly and effortlessly changed their positions to fit the requirements of Soviet foreign policy, calling for nonintervention when Stalin allied with Hitler to gobble up Poland, and executing a complete about-face when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. There is a famous story that, on the day the Hitler-Stalin Pact was signed, a Communist speaker holding forth against the "imperialist war" in New York City's Union Square was handed a note bearing the news, glanced at it, and, without breaking his stride – or even missing a beat – swung right into a stirring oration about the heroic defenders of the "workers' fatherland" who needed our help in their hour of need..


Ideological ambidexterity of this kind requires the kind of mental agility that can only be called Jesuitical. It is, essentially, a religious mindset. This is not always literally true, as in the case of the ostensibly atheistic followers of Karl Marx: but it is true insofar as the secular religion of Communism required an act of faith in the almost supernatural power of Historical Forces. The Stalinist party schooled its members in mental habits well-known to fans of fantastic literature as well as religious acolytes: to be a good Communist one had to be willing to suspend disbelief. Any facts that blurred or tarnished the image of the Soviet Union as heaven on earth were edited out of the picture, and anomalies, if they weren't ignored, were explained away by the beleaguered status of the workers' paradise: White Guards, "Trotskyite wreckers," the capitalist class, enemies of the people from within and without were constantly pressing the blameless USSR to the wall: it was inevitable that there would be certain economic and political "distortions" and "deformations," but even the renegade Trotsky declared that the "workers' states" had to be "unconditionally" defended.


The Soviet Union is dead, and with it what Louis Bromfield once called "the worldwide psychopathic cult" that worshipped at its shrine. The God that Croaked has few mourners, even on the Left, and it seems that the fashion for overseas egalitarian utopias has necessarily passed into history. What, after all, is left – North Korea? Cuba is the last resort of the sandalista set, where dissidents beaten to a pulp by the secret police are beneficiaries of what American leftists tout as a model national healthcare system. But somehow a tiny island no bigger than Delaware is scant compensation for the loss of the USSR and its satellites. The Hillary Rodham wing of the Democratic Party clearly looks to Tony Blair's Britain as a model of the Third Way socialism she seeks to import into the US: but then this is old-fashioned Fabianism, rather than Leninism, and in any case Hillary and her gang of left-Clintonians are loyal only to themselves.


The end of the cold war supposedly effectively ended the vexing problem of what to do about a potential fifth column in America: The Palmer raids, the McCarthy controversy, the Vietnam era surveillance of dissidents, all these assaults on civil liberties had taken place in the context of the worldwide struggle against the Soviet power and its surrogates, including the American branch of the Comintern. Now that the Communist Party, along with longtime chairman Gus Hall, has passed into history, and Marxism has taken its place alongside phrenology and pre-Copernican cosmology in the Museum of Historical Curiosities and Arcana, one would think that the fifth column syndrome is no longer a problem. One would also be quite wrong.


Vidal was right, and not only about Norman Podhoretz but also about the whole neoconservative trend. Those former Scoop Jackson liberals in retreat from the Great Society, who jumped on the conservative Republican bandwagon in the 1970s and 80s in reaction to what they universally describe as the "McGovernization" of the Democratic Party, have acted as apologists for Israel in much the same way as the old Stalinists used to defend the USSR – relentlessly, ingeniously, disingenuously. Charles Krauthammer, a bitter opponent of any rapprochement with the Palestinians, manages to write an entire column on the subject without once referring to the number of casualties suffered by the Palestinians – over 100 dead, and thousands injured. As Israeli gunships battle boys with slingshots, Krauthammer draws a lesson from it all:

"There were people who remained loyal to Stalin and the Communist idea through the show trials of the 1930s, the Hitler-Stalin pact, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the Prague spring of 1968, even the publication of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago. Nothing could shake them. They died as they lived – bankrupt, bereft and with blood on their hands. Today there remain people – indeed, the people running the foreign policies of the United States and Israel – equally reluctant to give up their dream, in this case of Palestinian peacefulness and acceptance of Israel. No reality can shake them."


What will shake Krauthammer, as he apologizes and excuses every Israeli atrocity? The sight of a father shielding his young son from Israeli gunfire that kills them both? The sight of young boys – children! – struck down by Israeli bullets, their frail and lifeless bodies raised up by hordes of howling mourners? How many intifadas will it take to shake Krauthammer's faith? Must we wait until some Palestinian kid grows up to write about the horrors of The Gaza Gulag before knee-jerk defenders of Israel wake up to the truth? When will they give up the dream – that is, the illusion of Israel as anything other than a theocratic socialist state?


I get letters on occasion from anti-Semitic crackpots who urge me to "expose" the "Jewish conspiracy," and "name the REAL ENEMY." These guys usually write in ALL CAPS, and invariably infer from my attacks on Willis Carto and his Spotlight newspaper that I have sold out to the Elders of Zion. These sickos, aside from just being nutballs, are suffering from a serious misconception: support for Israel in the US has little to do with Judaism, or, really, with Zionism, at least in the original meaning of the term. For the original left-wing exponents of Zionism were advocates, not of theocracy and militarism but of secularism and a Jewish-Arab unity made possible (they thought) by socialism. In spite of the wildly exaggerated anti-Semitic canard that ascribes virtually total control of American political and cultural institutions by a Jewish cabal, it would be virtually impossible for Jews, less than a few percent of the population, to exert that kind of all-encompassing control. Even if all Jews were knee-jerk defenders of Israel – and that is very far from being the case – this would hardly be enough to give them the kind of clout required to keep the US government faithful to the interests of its Middle East protectorate. In order to keep generating the foreign aid and military guarantees required to keep the state of Israel afloat – Israel is the biggest recipient of US aid by far – the great majority of its American supporters must be non-Jews, and that is indeed the case.


The Christian element of the Israel First lobby is rooted in the evangelical Protestant interpretation of the Bible, which holds that the Last Days will be preceded by a war over Jerusalem. Joe Farah, publisher of the pioneering WorldNetDaily website, perfectly expresses this sentiment in one of his many recent columns on the Biblical meaning of the Middle East crisis, and specifically the conflict over Jerusalem:

"What Jerusalem has is spiritual value. And, make no mistake about it, what we're seeing in the Middle East today is a spiritual conflict. It's not about oil. It's not really about land. It's a manifestation of a titanic war in the heavens."


Tell that to the 10- and 12-year-old Palestinian kids getting shot in the head: that's a real bullet, not a spiritual one, speeding toward his young brain. It's not really about land? Tell that to the 5-6 million in the Palestinian diaspora, the world's largest refugee population. The UN claims, credibly, that one in four of the globe's refugees is Palestinian. Living in subhuman conditions for half a century, they are prisoners in their own country – more than 25% of the million or so Palestinians who live in Israel are internal refugees. But Farah, wrapped up in the self-induced blindness required by all religions, supernatural and secular, is fixated on what he describes as "the focal point of the spiritual universe" – a mystic concatenation of events revealed to God's prophets and predicted in the Bible, which Farah cites:

"I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city."


Just in case we missed the point, Farah lays it out:

"Jerusalem is going to be besieged by armies from all around the world and the city will be divided again. Did you catch that? It sounds just like today's headlines, doesn't it? I know what you're thinking: 'Farah, don't tell me you believe this hocus-pocus stuff. Ancient prophecies? Promises from God? What's next? The tooth fairy?' Well, you know what? If we don't take the Bible seriously, then Israel has no legitimacy as a nation. It has no special place in history. And the Middle East conflict is reduced to a materialistic struggle over worthless real estate. Heck, it ought to be a no-brainer to solve this problem."


Here, toward the end of the above paragraph, is the rational Joe Farah talking – Farah the usually astute analyst of current events, whose quasi-libertarian editorial instincts make him pretty unclassifiable politically, even if WorldNetDaily is a fulcrum of conservative and libertarian cyber-activity. He is able to stand aside from his own religion-induced trance state – the journalist's habit of objectivity asserts itself, in spite of everything – and see that this really is a "no-brainer." After all, why can't they simply internationalize the Holy City, so that it is the capital not of any one state but of all the world's religions? Why can't we all just get along? But then then Farah the mystic intercede again. The reason, according to Farah and the millions of evangelical Christians who share his millennialist view of Biblical prophecy, is that war is God's will: "Just watch," he breathlessly confides. "It's not going to happen. There are forces at work in this conflict that cannot be seen or understood by man. It's not only the focal point of the world, right now, it's also the focal point of the spiritual universe."

Text-only printable version of this article

An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard
Available NOW!
$10 off!

“Behind the Headlines” appears Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with special editions as events warrant.


Past Columns

America's Fifth Column

Bush, the Balkans, and the Bipartisan "Division of Labor"

Hilary, the War Goddess

Vidal's Valediction: The Golden Age

Norman's Narcissim: Podhoretz in Love

The Middle East: War Without End

Classic Raimondo: Isolationism for Beginners

Notes on the Serbian Revolution and Other Matters

Revolt of the Little Guys

The Clinton-
Gore-Milosevic Connection

Szamuely's Folly: Sympathy for the Devil

Slobo's Gambit: Will It Work?

Adventures in Cyber-Politics, Revisted

Curtains for Milosevic

Dubya's Kosovo Deception

The Return of Pat Buchanan


The Vindication of Wen Ho Lee

Against the EU: Danes Resist Assimilation

UN Millennium Summit: Globalist Dream is Your Worst Nightmare

Iraq and the US – Our Fantasy Island Foreign Policy

Classic Raimondo: Allied Vultures Pick at Iraq's Bones

Colombia – The Deja Vu War

Passage to Cargagena: An Inauspicious Visit

Invasion of the Party-Snatchers

Blowback: Read This Book!

Bush on Kosovo – Turning on a Dime

The Kosovo Fraud: Will They Ever Admit It?

The Outing of Ralph Nader, and Other Atrocities

Why Kosovo? Follow the Money!

Additional Justin Raimondo Archives

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).

Sign up for our Mailing List



The religious contagion, originating in the Middle East, in the ancient tribal rivalries of two fierce desert peoples, has invaded this country – and I don't mean the immigration of the Jews to American shores. The growth of the millennialist varieties of evangelical Christianity has meant the strengthening of the Israeli lobby in this country to such an extent that it has become a major force in the conservative movement – and a big factor in the activist base of the Republican party. The Christian Coalition, and its leader, Pat Robertson, adhere to this view of the Bible that gives Israel a special place as the harbinger of the Last Days. The Antichrist, whom many say will rise out of Russia, or perhaps the EU, will confront Israel on the plain known as Armageddon – and after that, the conversion of the Jews, the Rapture, and the Kingdom of God on Earth.


The addition of Hal Lindsay, author of Late Great Planet Earth, the great popularizer of this line of Biblical bull, to the ranks of WorldNetDaily's columnists, and the constant pushing of his eccentric theories, is ominous evidence that this trend is growing. Lindsay's many columns on the Middle East are mindlessly pro-Israel, without the style or learning of a Krauthammer, but just as party-lining. According to this self-anointed Voice of the Prophets, nothing can be done about Palestinian casualties, which are never enumerated, and the Israelis were foolish to negotiate at all. It is hard to argue with the evangelical millennialist section of the Amen Corner – since religion is a matter of faith, not reason. If war is God's will, then that is it, and there's not a thing anybody can do about it. The only thing to do, according to this view, is to take the right side – and their watchword is that we must "stand by Israel." No matter what.


According to the Amen Corner, the Barak government offered the Palestinians the world – and it wasn't good enough. This, we are told, was the "most generous" offer to date: and Arafat, who wanted war, turned it down. It is a strange concept of generosity that defines a Palestinian state as little more than South Africa-style bantustans, none of them linked and all of them surrounded by . . . Israel. And while the Jews will be granted the "right of return" unto eternity, the millions of Palestinians who had their property stolen and their land confiscated, who were ethnically cleansed out of the region by armed Israeli force, will be left to wander the earth, forever dispossessed. Some "generosity"!


To the Christian evangelicals of the Amen Corner, it wouldn't matter what pictures were being shown of Israel's brutal response to the intifada. They don't give a damn how many Palestinian kids are cut down by Israeli bullets; they can calmly watch "retaliation" against whole villages by Israeli helicopter gunships and not even blink an eye. It's all the will of God, you see: "titanic forces" are at work Who are we mere mortals to intervene? Although this attitude doesn't exactly reflect the concept of Christian charity, it's an accurate reflection of the moral blindness that has afflicted American fifth columnists, from Gus Hall's Communist Party to what Pat Buchanan calls Israel's "amen corner."


Uncle Joe Stalin's amen corner, for all the boring-from-within tactics, never really amounted to much in this country, except for a brief period during the wartime Popular Front era, when Communist Party cadre managed to infiltrate the highest reaches of FDR's administration: as a fifth column, their value to Moscow was negligible, an embarrassing shortcoming of which both they and their foreign paymasters were all too well aware of. The same cannot be said of Israel's amen corner, which has always been one of the most formidable of the foreign lobbies – and the most unabashed about achieving its goals, no matter what the price. In addition to their unswerving loyalty to the state of Israel, and their willing suspension of disbelief when it comes to Israel's abuses in the occupied territories, the Amen Corner shares another characteristic with the hoariest of Stalinist hacks and that is the savagery of their counterattack: when McCarthy exposed Communists in high places, the smear campaign that began had no rival. Before and during the war, when the Popular Front ruled not only in politics but in every aspect of American life, the Communists really went after their enemies with a vengeance, agitating for the prosecution and jailing of the hated "isolationists" who had opposed US entry into the war, hailing the imprisonment of their fellow leftists, the Trotskyists, for "sedition," and generally labeling anyone on the right as "fascists," "Nazis," "Coughlinites," and "anti-Semites." The same methods – and the same smears – are utilized by the Israel Firsters, in much the same language employed by the Russia-Firsters of yesteryear. Gore Vidal was subjected to this treatment by Podhoretz; Pat Buchanan, who made the same point, was smeared even more viciously and persistently – as is anyone who dares to question the loyalties of the lobbyists.


The Amen Corner even has its own version of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg all rolled into one in the person of Jonathan Pollard, a man even his staunchest supporters admit is guilty as hell – but, they maintain, he should be released anyway. The implication is that his was a noble cause: that evil anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic elements in the US government were holding out on Israel, refusing to share intelligence vital to Israel's security, and so they had no choice but to spy on the US. It takes nerve to come right out and say that the national security of a foreign country must come first, over and above that of the United States, but believe it or not this is a big campaign issue in the state of New York, with Hillary Rodham and Rick Lazio both saying they would seriously consider releasing Pollard. This is more power than the American Communist Party ever wielded, even in the heyday of the Popular Front: all Americans, regardless of their religious beliefs, have to be appalled at such a brazen display of subordination to the policies and interests of a foreign power.


But it isn't just the fringe groups that demonstrate the essential disloyalty of the Amen Corner by staking out an extreme position. Just listen to what The New Republic, the historical repository of American corporate liberalism – more mainstream you could not get – has to say:

"The events in the Middle East have exposed a historical transformation in American policy in the Middle East, a change that the Oslo process kept hidden: Under cover of the great American peace, the United States went from being Israel's ally to being a broker, a facilitator, a neutral power that no longer wished to choose between its clients in the region. But all of a sudden its clients are divided against themselves, and there is war within the Pax Americana. A choice must be made. It is Clinton's, and Gore's, and Albright's, and Berger's, and Ross's nightmare; but it is here."


There is room for only one American client state in that part of the world, and that is Israel. Never mind all the sentimental tripe about the US being an "honest broker" for peace in the Middle East. Honesty is for suckers. Nice guys come in last. It's time to say of Barak, and/or Ariel Sharon, as FDR said of the Nicaraguan dictator Somoza: he may be an s.o.b., but he's our s.o.b.! Aside from that, it's the will of God – it says so right there in the Bible.


I am not an authority on the Bible: the Catholic tradition is to leave the question of God's will to the priests, just as we leave the electricity to the electricians and the plumbing to the plumbers: in short, we leave such matters as the correct interpretation of the Bible to the religious professionals, the same experts who taught us our Latin and heard our confessions. Of this stern crew, it is hard to imagine one of them declaring that a war is inevitable because it is God's will, no more than one can see them failing to break up a fight between brawling teenagers who were just learning the concept of self-responsibility. This vital concept, based as it is on the Catholic concept of free will – a vision of acting, choosing man – held us all young brawlers responsible for our actions from a very early age. From this developing moral sense would come, in time, respect for the rule of law and at least some rudimentary understanding of the importance of cultural traditions and social conventions. The mystic fulminations of the prophetic Hal Lindsay, and the hallucinatory fever-dreams of apocalypse that keep his frenzied followers in a constantly hopped-up state of perpetual expectation, come out of an entirely different tradition, and one that I must confess I find repulsive and even demonic. Are we automatons in thrall to some Gnostically malevolent deity, meat puppets on a string acting out some divinely preordained tragicomedy? The Puritan god is a cruel god, more Luciferian than Christlike. And that's what worries me about these people who are so sure God is on their side – because, as any of my Jesuit teachers could have told you, only the Devil would make such a claim.


The great problem of the Amen Corner – Israel's, and all the rest – is that the national interests of the US and those of the nation whose interests they serve must inevitably come into conflict. The greater the divergence, the greater the task facing the fifth columnist. During the Popular Front days, when Soviet and American interests converged, or seemed to, the Communists' job was relatively easy: as the postwar era led to a great divergence, and the cold war began to heat up, their task became almost impossible, and their influence began to wane. As the interests of the US and those of Israel begin to diverge in the post-cold war era, and the nationalistic upsurge of pan-Arabic sentiment threatens to sweep everything before it, the Amen Corner may face a similar prospect of marginalization. But the unpredictable element of religion adds an explosive ingredient to the mix, especially as millennial fever has so many in its grip. I'm no Biblical scholar, but I do know that the Good Book reveals yet another sign of the Last Days, the coming of false prophets – and that is one Biblical prediction that seems to have already come true.


As for the rest of the so-called "prophecies" of the millennialists, I wouldn't know anything about that. What I do know is that the prophecies of the old "isolationists" who predicted disaster if we took the road of Empire have already come to pass. Here is Garet Garrett, the old isolationist warhorse, on the purposeful spreading of fear by the War Party so that "the people will be prepared to furnish men and munitions without limit":

"Fear at last assumes the phase of a patriotic obsession. It is stronger than any political party. Any candidate for office who trifles with its basic conviction will be scourged. The basic conviction is simple. We cannot stand alone. A capitalistic economy, though it possesses half the industrial power of the world, cannot defend its own hemisphere. It may be able to save the world; alone it cannot save itself. It must have allies. Fortunately, it is able to buy them, bribe them, arm them, feed and clothe them; it may cost us more than we can afford, yet we must have them or perish. . . . Thus the historic pattern complete itself. No Empire is secure in itself; its security is in the hands of its allies."


Now there is a prophecy for you, published in 1952, a description of the Israeli albatross that could have been written yesterday: Any candidate for office who trifles with its basic conviction will be scourged – and surely scourged is the right word. Our security – indeed, our fate – is in the hands of our Israeli allies, who are really calling the shots. One of the characteristics of an Empire is "a system of satellites," wrote Garrett, but

"A time comes when the guard itself, that is, your system of satellites, is a source of fear. Satellites are often willful and the more you rely upon them the more willful and demanding they are. There is, therefore, the fear of offending them, as it might be only to disappoint their expectations."


A time also comes when the price of fulfilling those expectations becomes so high that a reevaluation is in order, and that time is now. As the Arab world rises in rebellion, and turns massively against us, the spectacle of Israelis murdering children will prove too much for the Amen Corner. A dead child of twelve, felled by an Israeli bullet right between the eyes: I want to see and hear them explain that away with appeals to the historic Israeli-US relationship or obscure arcane theological justifications! The Israeli fifth column, from the Commentary crowd to those eagerly awaiting to be "Raptured" up into heaven at any moment, is working overtime to prettify the war against Palestinian teenagers. But their job is getting harder by the minute, as the divergence of US and Israeli national interests becomes all too obvious. In the end they too will wind up like the fifth columnists of yesterday, as irrelevant and powerless as the ghost of Gus Hall. Hopefully, that day is not too far.

Please Support Antiwar.com

A contribution of $50 or more will get you a copy of Ronald Radosh's out-of-print classic study of the Old Right conservatives, Prophets on the Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism. Send contributions to

520 S. Murphy Avenue, #202
Sunnyvale, CA 94086

or Contribute Via our Secure Server
Credit Card Donation Form


Have an e-gold account?
Contribute to Antiwar.com via e-gold.
Our account number is 130325

Your Contributions are now Tax-Deductible

Back to Antiwar.com Home Page | Contact Us