Weighing the Costs
October 23, 2001
One reason the
Middle East has always baffled me is that we hear such contradictory
things about the state of Israel. Israels defenders make it sound like
heaven; its detractors make it sound like hell. On the one hand, its citizens,
including Arabs, enjoy liberties denied by most states in the region; on the other
hand, it deals harshly and cruelly with non-Jews, especially in the occupied
A Christian has to be particularly disturbed by
the recent killings of innocent Christians, including children, in Bethlehem, the
birthplace of Christ. The exact circumstances are unclear, because our news media
dont report much on the plight of Christians in the region; but its
hard to believe these violent deaths were unavoidable. Were they inflicted by
weapons supplied by the United States?
The question is not whether Israel is heaven
or hell; its neither. Its a deeply troubled country, and the real
question, for Americans, is whether the fate of the United States should be tied to
Its understandable that the Israelis
should want U.S. support; but what is the cost to Americans? There is the
monetary cost, in billions of tax dollars per year; there is the hatred of this
country that is exacerbated, if not wholly caused, by the U.S.-Israel alliance; and
that hatred has now cost thousands of American lives, with the toll rising.
It would be one thing if Israels
American advocates frankly admitted the costs and argued that America has
nevertheless gained more than it has lost by the alliance. But they dont.
They talk as if the alliance has been all profit to this country, with no downside.
They contend that the 9/11 attacks had little or nothing to do with the U.S.-Israel
Some of Israels advocates are even
arguing, as former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu does, that Arabs
hate Israel because of the United States, and not vice versa! Even by the standards
of political propaganda, which assumes the stupidity of the masses, this is absurd.
If it were true, the Israelis would end their ties to the United States in a flash.
decade ago, Patrick Buchanan was accused
of anti-Semitism for referring to Israels amen corner in this
country. But nobody denied that such an Amen Corner exists, including many
journalists, Christian as well as Jewish, who constantly urge the United States to go to war
against Israels enemies especially, at the moment, Iraq.
To acknowledge this is to incur the charge of
raising the canard of dual loyalty. Now it would be grossly unfair to
accuse all American Jews of giving their chief loyalty to Israel. But that some
Jews do it is beyond question. What is the pro-Israel lobby in this country seeking,
if not at least the partial sacrifice of American interests to Israeli interests?
Thats what lobbies are for: sacrificing general interests to particular
interests. Farmers lobbies do it, labor unions do it, big corporations do it.
They always pretend that what is good for the narrow interest is good for
everyone, just as the pro-Israel lobby always argues that what is good for Israel
is good for America.
The pro-Israel lobby never acknowledges that
there may be sharp divergences between the two countries interests.
Having read its literature for many years, I cant recall a single case when
Israels advocates have said: Policy X would be to Israels
advantage, but it would hurt the United States, so it should be avoided. Even
dual loyalty would sometimes put U.S. interests first.
Worse than the pro-Israel lobby itself are the
American politicians who constantly pander to it. They act on the assumption that
Jewish voters and campaign donors place Israeli interests above American
interests. And as long as they act on this assumption without putting it into
words, nobody comments on the anti-Semitic implications of their
behaving as if the canard were solid fact.
Even when the Israelis kill American sailors
or steal American military secrets, these fine Americans never express outrage or
demand investigations. Nothing could better illustrate the sagacity of George
Washingtons warnings against the foreign corruption to
which republics are susceptible.
Israel has become so dependent on American
aid that even to ask for candor about the interests at stake is to risk the charge of
being anti-Israel as if seeking the unvarnished truth
amounted to declaring war on Israel. Israels defenders imply that Israel
depends not only on America, but on false propaganda. Dont they ever listen