Israel and America: Two of a Kind

Bill Murchison

5/24/2011 12:01:00 AM - Bill Murchison
The point about Israel that keeps getting lost in the Gentile underbrush is that Israel isn't just a Jewish homeland.

Well, it's that certainly. Such was the point of its creation in 1948, which wasn't about efficiency of things like that. Under mandate from the League of Nations, the British had been doing a characteristically admirable British job of looking after a foreign territory -- building roads, administering justice, and such like. The Jews had a different vision for Palestine, as it was then known. They saw the vision enacted at last, and in paraphrase of the Creation narrative it was good.

It was good for reasons that non-Jews could appreciate if they opened their eyes. The Israel that flowered in the midst of an anti-democratic Arab world, antithetical to the West, was democratic and pro-Western.

A lot might be wrong, philosophically and practically, with Israel's socialist economics, but Israel was always one of us: a constituent member, that is to say, of the community of civilized nations. Losing Israel as a member of that community would be like losing Nebraska or Pennsylvania or Georgia. It would be far worse, indeed, than losing "people's paradises" like San Francisco or Cambridge, Mass.

This isn't at all the way that President Obama sees things. To the president, Israel is a trouble spot -- a running sore on the international carcass. Heal the sore and you've got peace. The idea is, have Israel offer to retreat, by and large, behind its pre-Six Day War lines, making room thereby for a Palestinian state.

The improbability of that vision -- or delusion -- is to be glimpsed by looking around the neighborhood. Who is rioting or repressing? The Egyptians. The Syrians. The Libyans. This is to speak only of the currently noisier nations.

When was the last time we saw throngs of Israelis filling public squares to call for their leaders' ouster or demise? When was the last time we saw Israeli security forces shooting down unarmed demonstrators? The answer to both questions is the same: We haven't ever seen it. It hasn't happened. Massacres in the Middle East are a phenomenon we see outside Israel, not within.

"Why" isn't a question that needs to be asked or answered right now. The fact of Israel's unique standing in the Middle East is the matter in need of underscoring. Israel's and the United States' long-standing cordiality -- a condition the president is not precisely promoting by leaning on Benjamin Netanyahu instead of the terrorist gang Hamas -- is based only partly on the solidarity of American Jew with Israeli Jew. It is based only partly on the perception of particular evangelical Christians that the convergence of the Jews in Judea and Samaria somehow betokens fulfillment of biblical prophecies.

A bigger reason for the cordiality of which I speak concerns basic values. Israel's civic values are recognizable as Western values -- love of freedom, dislike of tyranny; willingness to lay lives on the line in defense of both values.

Americans who favor the Palestinian side in Middle Eastern controversies over Israeli settlements on the West Bank and the like generally belong to the political left. They don't themselves particularly like the traditional America. They less prefer the American "exceptionalism" that so much resembles Israeli "exceptionalism."

It's Israel's enemies and critics on whom we ought to keep our gaze as we evaluate the president's proposals. Not many of these critics are of the old, irrational anti-Semitic right.

More noticeable are the kind -- you see them in left-wing religious circles and in hard-core secular environments -- who rarely have a good word to say for Western history or Western values; who tend to view the United States as a sinister presence abroad, doing more harm than good.

To such as these, Israel and America are two of a kind. Come to think of it, maybe they're right. If so, we should do something about it -- such as make sure our kind doesn't diminish any further.