Having watched John McCain and Barack Obama resolutely
pledge their allegiance – and their countrymen's lives and treasure – to the
defense of Israel via AIPAC, the media, and personal meetings with Israeli
leaders, it is worth asking what could possibly drive these men to so ardently
commit America to participation in other people's religious wars. This question
is particularly important today as the Bush administration and the Israel-firsters
continue to push for an unprovoked U.S. attack on Iran.
Let me say that I harbor no resentment over the actions of Israel's leaders.
For more than 60 years, they have knowingly made their country a pariah in
the Arab and Islamic worlds, just as the Palestinians have made themselves
pariahs in much of the West. This is, of course, the right of both parties,
but neither seems to want to face the consequences of their decisions. With
demographic realities and increasingly radical, well-armed Arabs making them
panicky about Israel's security, Israel's leaders naturally to try to lock
down as much U.S. support as possible. Having consciously – if unwisely – put
all their eggs in the U.S. basket since the 1973 War, Israel's leaders must
do everything possible to protect their relationship with Washington.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq, it seems, was not enough for the Israel-firsters.
Now, according to Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a U.S.-launched war on Iran is needed
threat that the U.S. and Israel face from the Islamic Republic of Iran is today
greater than ever." Though based on the fantasy that Ahmedinejad's
tin-pot regime is a threat to the world's only superpower, this is a perfectly
commonsense position for Israel and its U.S.-citizen backers in AIPAC to champion.
In their view, U.S. wars with Muslims are the ultimate good for Israel. Recall,
if you will, the perfectly accurate April 2008, words
of Benjamin Netanyahu, likely Israel's next prime minister: "We [Israel]
are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the twin towers and
the Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq." These wars, Netanyahu
said, have "swung American public opinion in our favor." How much
more must Netanyahu and AIPAC believe that a U.S. war with Iran would add to
this "swing" in Israel's favor?
My own anger falls not on Israel, then, or on Palestine, for that matter;
as I have written elsewhere, America would do just fine and would be better
off without either or both. It falls rather on the lobbying efforts of AIPAC,
that organization's blatant purchasing of fealty from U.S. politicians in both
parties, and the media's obsequious parroting of specious canards about "Israel's
right to exist" and "the duty of Americans to support an island of
democracy in the Middle East."
While few would question the right of AIPAC leaders to lobby U.S. politicians,
legally bribe them with campaign contributions, or limit their right to speak
as they please in public, not matter how scurrilous or libelous their words,
I sometimes wonder if Americans have focused on what AIPAC lobbies for and
what its acolytes in politics and the media support.
It is a commonplace to say that lobbying is a pervasive activity in U.S. politics
at all levels of government, especially at the federal level. People lobby
for tax advantages for business or tax breaks for individuals; for the right
to own guns or laws to ban them; for subsidies for agriculture or vouchers
for private schools; for universal health care or smaller government. Across
this diverse array of lobbyists there are two common threads: (A) None are
working to push the United States to participate in other peoples' wars; and
(B) All are arguing for things that will – from their perspective – improve
America, whether by making it richer, better protected, more competently educated,
healthier, freer, etc. The anti-gun lobby, for example, is no less confident
than the NRA and its affiliates that they are working for the best interests
of Americans. One or the other is wrong, but their activities are shaped by
their perception of what is best for America.
It is this last point that separates the lobbyists working for and with AIPAC
– most of whom are U.S. citizens – from almost all other U.S.-based lobbyists.
AIPAC does not lobby, bribe, and libel to make Americans and America better
off. It lobbies solely, forthrightly, and cynically to make Israel richer,
better protected, and able to do as it pleases in its relations with Muslim
states. AIPAC makes no pretense of doing things meant to benefit America; rather,
its members take pride in seeking a goal that runs directly counter to the
economic welfare and physical security of almost all other U.S citizens by
seeking to keep them involved in a religious war in which no U.S. national
interest is at stake.
Now, there are a few other similar anti-American lobbies – those for Armenia,
Lebanon, Greece, etc. – but AIPAC is clearly primus inter pares in this
dastardly group. And given that every AIPAC success is a net loss for U.S.
security and the U.S. Treasury, it seems odd that our so-called political leaders
take orders and funds from this fundamentally anti-U.S. organization. Odd or
not, however, that is the reality. Senators Obama and McCain have become AIPAC
poster boys, each strengthening his support for Israel over the course of the
current presidential campaign. Obama's position, in fact, has changed so drastically
in a pro-Israel direction that the Illinois senator appears to have no mind
of his own on this issue. He has simply and obsequiously adopted the Democrats'
traditional abject subservience to their small but powerful pro-Israel constituency.
McCain is an Israel-firster of the deepest hue. Coached by Joe Lieberman –
who argues there is a U.S.
duty to ensure God's promise to Abraham about Israel is kept – McCain is
now considering Republican Congressman Eric Cantor for his running mate. Rep.
Cantor, needless to say, is eager to spend American blood and treasure to secure
Israel. Speaking in Israel, Cantor pushed the same false assertion that is
the staple of U.S. leaders in both parties. "What befalls Jerusalem,"
"threatens the security of the United States and its allies worldwide.
That's because Jerusalem and Israel are Ground Zero in the global battle between
tyranny and democracy, radicalism and moderation, terrorism and freedom."
This, of course, is nonsense of a high order, and Lieberman and Cantor know
it. Both men are committed to Israel as a religious idea, not because it has
anything to do with U.S. security. According
to Lieberman, "The rabbis say in the Talmud that a lot of rabbinic
law is to put a fence around the Torah so you don't get near to violating it.
Well, McCain has a series of very clear-headed policies toward terrorism and
Islamic extremism [that put] extra layers behind his support for Israel."
He also told a conference of Christians United for Israel that he was pleased
they recognized it was America's duty to defend Israel, blithely lying to them
Washington and the Founding Fathers" would support America fighting
Israel's wars. Cantor, playing to both the Israel-firsters and their U.S. evangelical
allies, also has made
clear where his primary loyalty lies:
"Jerusalem is not merely the capital of Israel but the spiritual capital
of Jews and Christians everywhere. It's the site of the First and Second Temples,
which housed the Holy of Holies, and it's the direction in which we Jews face
when we pray. This glorious City of David is bound to the Jewish people by
an undeniable 3,000-year historical link."
My own view is that if God promised Palestine to the Israelis, God is perfectly
capable of keeping that promise, and America is no way committed to expend
the lives of its soldier-children in a war over conflicting interpretations
of God's word. The Israelis and the Muslims should be perfectly free to fight
over whether Yahweh and Abraham or Allah and Mohammed are right, and Americans
should be perfectly free to draw the correct conclusion, that the United States
does not have a dog in this fight. In addition, there is a genuine constitutional
question of church-state separation on this issue. Why should American taxpayers
have their earnings and children's lives spent to defend a theocracy in Israel
or, for that matter, to protect an Islamic theocracy in Saudi Arabia.? (Imagine
the howls of protest and torrents of church-state separation rhetoric from
the media and both parties if a congressman introduced a bill calling for the
U.S. to designate that an amount equivalent to what's spent to protect Israel
and Saudi Arabia be sent to the Vatican – a nation-state like Israel and Saudi
Arabia – to improve its defenses against the now well-articulated threat from
al-Qaeda and other Islamists.)
Objectively, three realities are clear: (1) U.S. survival is not at stake
in the Israeli-Muslim war; (2) the taxes of Americans should not be spent to
defend theocratic states; and (3) holy books are insane tools to use as guides
for U.S. foreign policy. In America, however, these realities lie unspoken
because of the lobbying efforts of AIPAC and the pro-Israel mantras of the
politicians it purchases with campaign contributions and promises of media
exposure, including McCain and Obama. By their consistent anti-American actions,
AIPAC and the U.S. politicians who do its bidding have fully validated the
words of the real George Washington – not the figment of Washington painted
by Joe Lieberman. "Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence,"
wrote in 1796, "the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly
awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of
the most baneful foes of republican government."