My next-door neighbor here in Israel may well be a pretty decent guy. I’ll likely never know. We’ve had only one real encounter. Not a very pleasant one, but a definite epiphany – and of great relevance here.
My neighbor has a dog. An ugly, nasty, stupid dog that barks and yowls and howls whenever it gets the urge. It gets the urge a lot. I complained to my neighbor. His immediate response:
“My dog barks. So what?”
As in “(Expletive deleted) you, I’ll do whatever I please and if you don’t like it, too bad.”
I stood there, wondering whether to reply. Then I drew upon a lifetime of remembering that Jews love to argue. Why give him what he wants? So I waited in level-eyed silence while he rumbled on, and I recognized a pattern I’d already seen a few dozen (hundred) times in other contexts.
Whenever many Israelis (and many American Jewish supporters of Israel) hear something they don’t like, most or all of the following rhetorical shtick kicks in.
- Get mad.
- Get loud.
- Get abusive.
- Dismiss the subject as unworthy of consideration.
- Dismiss the complainant/critic as unworthy of consideration.
- Throw up a wall of words, maybe related to the matter at hand, maybe not.
- Whenever, possible, present yourself as the victim.
- All of it adding up to: So What?
I did not participate. My neighbor calmed down. The dog seems to be barking a bit less. End of tale.
Perhaps just this.
For decades now, and despite occasional verbiage to the contrary,So what? has been Israel’s attitude toward the United States.
It’s not just the American government that Israelis say they must “stand up to.” Nor is it just the feckless American president, soon to retire, whom Prime Minister Netanyahu has made it a practice to humiliate. So What? has also long been the attitude toward American Jews who want to support Israel but have some qualms. Meanwhile, the Israeli religious establishment has gloried in deriding those Reform and less than Halakhically ultra American Jews who’ve maybe grown a bit weary of the abuse.
And so, no doubt, have millions of decent Gentile Americans grown weary of the arrogance, the posturing, the refusal to admit, ever, ever, that something might be wrong, seriously wrong in the relationship.
The Republican Party platform supports Israel. So What? Platforms have long been meaningless. Presidential nominating conventions are like big family weddings. You invite people you don’t necessarily care to see, then try to find some way to keep them busy. Platform committees provide convenient dumping grounds, and Mr. Trump has ostentatiously ignored their work. He has had some sort of paper slipped into the Western Wall, and reportedly has had slipped to him twenty-five million dollars from Sheldon Adelson.
Mr. Trump has also received the enthusiastic endorsement of nearly every nazi, white supremacist, misogynistic and nativist group around, not to mention the “Second Amendment types” and much of the Christian Right: two groups who’ve gloried in their self-proclaimed victimization under Mr. Obama.
Hate’s back. In fashion. And growing. Trump-style, joyous, exuberant hate. And it’s not going to exclude anti-Semitism forever. Not with these folks.
Meanwhile, the Democrat platform attitude toward Israel remains somewhat positive, insofar as party prose is to be noticed, and Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Netanyahu have exchanged well-publicized make-nice leaks.
Hate’s back. Jew hate. On both the metastatic Right, and on what’s left of the Left. It’s been a long time coming. It’s been a long time building. And it’s going to be a long time gone.
Traditional and neo-anti-Semites have needed no urging to pursue their hobby/obsession. Mr. Netanyahu, by transforming American support of Israel from a bipartisan to a conservative issue, has empowered the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic Left. Some of these people work for Barack Obama. Others work (or may work) for Hillary Clinton and, should she win, they will gain unprecedented access to data bases, the arcana of the America-Israeli relationship, federal whistle blowers, etc.
And it won’t be just the high-viz pooh-bahs. Working-level stiffs with anti- Israel/anti-Semitic leanings will delight in poring through whatever anti-Israel material finds them. And they’ll be happy to pass it on to America’s debauched and craven media.
In sum, the viscerally anti-Semitic Right and the more nuanced but nonetheless deadly anti-Semitic/anti-Israel Left partake of a common interest in taking Israel down a peg or three.
How will they do it?
We all know about scandal. It’s everybody’s political weapon of choice, and an endless source of popular entertainment. Perpetually-overhyped and droolingly over-reported, breathlessly whistle-blown or self-servingly confessional scandal.
We all know how it’s done, and how it’s sustained. We’ve all seen it many times. But not with Israel. So far, Israel has been amazingly immune to scandal. Recall the scandals that didn’t quite happen. The Pollard affair. The Zalman Shapiro/NUMEC nuclear thing. The Liberty. Industrial espionage. The Noriega connection. Private criminal activities of various kinds. Nothing has ever gotten much traction, or else has been effectively neutralized.
Now, something will break. I have no specific information, nor any way of getting any. But my nose tells me, something in the generic catalogue of high crimes and misdemeanors will surface.
Misappropriation of American aid and other funds.
Questionable-to-illegal business practices.
Sexual malfeasance by Israeli diplomatic personnel or others.
Links to trans-national crime.
Relationships with other countries, including and especially China.
The list could go on. And on. Add your own. But one way or another, no matter who’s elected, a lot of people will be looking for scandal material. It’s no doubt there. How could it not be, after so many decades of an often contentious relationship?
To repeat and reiterate: No matter who wins this election (Happy Election Day, by the way), there are going to be a lot of people, within and outside the government, within and outside the media, looking for scandal material to use against Israel. I know not what that material might be. I only know that it’s most likely there.
Something’s going to break. And when it does, if Israel and Israel’s supporters answer, So What? . . .
It won’t be good for the Jews.
Next: Part 4, “So What.”