It is a well known anti-Semitic canard that Jews have dual loyalty. With the establishment of the State of Israel, anti-Semitism is now couched in anti-Zionism enabling this ancient hateful hoax to have a renewed life. Former New York mayor Ed Koch was once asked whom he would side with if America were at war with Israel. I paraphrase here but he said something along the lines of, “if the US and Israel were ever at war it would mean that one of those countries has strayed from its core values and he would vigorously fight the side that did.”
America and Israel’s values are clearly aligned on almost all issues; of this there is no doubt. It was not always this way. Not too long ago it mattered little how pro-Israel a president was because the careerists in the State Department, Arabists almost all, would bureaucratically hinder the implementation of pro Israel policy. As recently as the administration of George HW Bush, presidents have used the stick as much as the carrot to get Israel to bend to American will.
In the post 9/11 world and with the rise of Christian Zionism it is fair to say that politically there is no daylight between Israel and America on almost all issues. The elephant in the room of course is the two state solution and the plight of the Palestinians. While the paradigm has shifted to the point where even Benjamin Netanyahu has called for the establishment of a Palestinian state – Palestinian intransience and some Israeli policy has made that vision seem farther from reality than ever.
There is however a huge disconnect between two camps of American Jewish supporters of Israel, the Likudniks or as I call them the Israel Firsters and the rest of us. Israel Firsters are those that follow only one issue – Israel. Income inequality, racial tensions, gun violence, the economy, taxes and countless other issues have little or no import to these people. If a candidate does not march in lock step with Netanyahu or those to the right of him they not only don’t vote her, but they plaster social media sites with lies, distortions and destructive fantasy.
One can argue ad nauseam whether Barack Obama was good for Israel or not, but not one intellectually honest person can say that predictions of him seeking the destruction of Israel or him being a secret Muslim out to undermine the United States came true. Jews like me who voted for Obama knew instinctively that Israel would be just fine under Obama, just as they would under almost any US president, but voted for him because we believed he was more aligned with us on the economy, gun control, civil rights and healthcare. One friend responded to a pro Bernie Sanders post on my Facebook page by saying that like under Barack Obama more Israeli Jews will die because of his policies. I responded tongue in cheek that of course no Israeli Jews died when George W Bush was president.
In the 1940 American presidential election the Republicans came awfully close to nominating Charles Lindbergh, an America Firster as their standard bearer. The America First movement was an isolationist, anti Semitic fringe that would have surely kept the US out of WWII and we know how that would have changed the course of history. America Firsters had basically one issue – keeping America unengaged with the world’s problems. Luckily for us Americans had more than one issue to focus on and sidelined those kooks.
Israel Firsters are dangerous to Israel and outright destructive to America. By engaging strictly on one issue they look less like Jews and more like gun toting NRA nut jobs that vote on one issue. Americans have large and complex problems and no matter how much of a Zionist one is – the survival of Israel is not one of the most pressing of them. I just returned from Israel and like anyone who visits, I took away that Israel does not face existential threats or any threats that its technology and military superiority can’t handle and I include Iran in that assessment. If impotent Ehud Olmert was able to take out a nuclear reactor in Syria, Bibi could take one out in Iran. The fact that he didn’t means that either Iran is not as big a threat as he blustered about or he is in fact pusillanimous. I do grant that Israel more than most countries does have to fight terror on a more regular basis but that is not an existential threat, it’s a fear tactic.
I don’t need to defend my pro Israel bona fides but lately I am forced to because I feel the Bern and am supporting Bernie Sanders. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’d sooner vote for an illegal server convicted Hillary over Ted Cruz or the misogynist Trump. But to Israel Firsters I am nothing but a self-hating Jewish anti Zionist. All I can say to that is – Am Yisrael Chai.