'Pro-Israel lobby' isn't why we support Israel

Posted: Jul 03, 2002 12:00 AM
All those who disagree with American support of Israel -- the Arab world and its supporters in America such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the left and the State Department (privately, if not publicly) -- explain American support of Israel by attributing it to the "pro-Israel lobby" and its alleged power over Congress. This is a thought-through charge that has both explicit and implicit meanings. Explicitly, it means that were it not for the power of a special interest group, the "pro-Israel lobby," America would not support Israel. Therefore, this lobby -- and by implication the pro-Israel position itself -- does not serve America's interests and may therefore even be somewhat disloyal. Implicitly, "pro-Israel lobby" means "American Jews," thereby suggesting that this small percentage of Americans is responsible for America's support of Israel. Given the grave implications of this charge -- that pro-Israel policy is against America's interests and that Jews and their money are the reasons for American support of Israel -- it is very important to clarify why the charge is untrue. The first reason is that it ignores Christians, specifically evangelical Christians. These Americans have supplanted Jewish Americans as the most powerful support group for Israel. They believe the Bible when it says, in Genesis, that God will bless those who bless the Jews and curse those who curse the Jews. They are, incidentally, quite right: America and the Arab world today are examples of that biblical promise. They also believe that the return of the Jews to Israel was prophesied thousands of years ago in the Bible. This, more than any other single factor, explains the powerful support given to Israel by President George W. Bush. The president is a Bible-believing Christian (and therefore considerably more supportive of Israel than his father, whose Christianity was more "mainstream Protestant"). If the "pro-Israel lobby" were the reason for American support of Israel, and if it were synonymous with Jews, President Bush would hardly be susceptible to its influence. President Bush received few Jews' votes and few Jews' money. The second error is to suppose that pro-Israel support is a function of politics and money. Opponents of Israel and the Jews do not want to acknowledge that most congressmen support Israel because their values impel them to do so. Most Americans have a strong preference for free societies over tyrannies and understand that the real underdog in the Middle East is the tiny state of Israel struggling to survive in a sea of medieval hate. Has Vice President Dick Cheney always supported Israel because of the "pro-Israel lobby's" efforts? Was the former Wyoming congressman beholden to Wyoming's Jewish electorate? Or does he support Israel because of his values? What about Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld? To what lobby is he (an appointed, not elected, official) beholden? And what about Condoleezza Rice? What influence does any lobby have with her? The third error in attributing support for Israel to the "pro-Israel lobby" and to using that term as a euphemism for American Jews is that many American Jews do not support Israel. Many Jews are leftists -- that is their identity as well the source of their values, not Judaism. Anti-Israel rhetoric from Jews is so common that letters to the editor about the Middle East signed with a Jewish surname are now almost as likely to be anti-Israel as pro-Israel. American support for Israel emanates from the deepest of America's core values -- support for societies that reflect American values and opposition to those that threaten such societies. Of course, there are Jews and Christians and atheists and Democrats and Republicans who lobby Congress on Israel's behalf, and they have clout. But in the final analysis, it is a libel of America, its president and its Congress to assert that they have all sold their souls for a pot of gold, when in fact their pro-Israel policies and votes reflect America at its best.
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