April 23, 2002
According to President Bush, Israels prime
minister, Ariel Sharon, is a man of peace. By now we are
used to Orwellian statements from our politicians, but this one was
especially audacious. Yet it displayed a remarkable timidity, the kind of
fear that used to cause Stalins groveling flunkies to pay absurd
tributes to their boss. Bush is clearly afraid of Sharon and cant
stand up to him. Eyeball to eyeball with his ally, Bush
Even Israels most
Stakhanovite American apologists would never make such a claim for
Sharon. They will defend his most brutal measures, but they arent
stupid enough to pretend that the Butcher of Beirut has a streak of Gandhi
in him. They insult our intelligence with more subtlety and plausibility.
But just as the old Soviet Union had
its useful idiots in the West, so does Israel. There is this
difference: the pro-Soviet idiots were liberals. Israels idiots are
mostly conservatives. The New York Times reports that the
conservative movement is rallying behind Sharon and criticizing Bush for
giving him insufficient backing.
No wonder I was never quite
comfortable in the conservative movement. I was emotionally pro-Israel
from the 1967 Six-Day War until Sharons murderous assault on
Lebanon in 1982. But just as I was bailing out, other conservatives were
Did I miss something? Was there a
great convention of leading conservative thinkers at which it was decided
that American support for Israel was compatible with conservative
principles? I thought we were against foreign aid and in favor of putting
American interests first. I was under the impression that Americans
shouldnt be taxed to subsidize socialist countries abroad. I could
have sworn we were supposed to be living under the U.S. Constitution.
I guess I
was wrong. It seems that most conservative support for Israel has nothing
to do with the Constitution or any sort of conservative philosophy;
its based on a peculiar reading of the Bible, especially popular
among fundamentalist Protestants, according to which the Holy Land, from
the Nile to the Euphrates, belongs to the Jews eternally. And this naive
theology which Bush seems to share is supposed to govern
American foreign policy, no matter what the cost to American interests
For such conservatives we are not
just fighting a war on terrorism; we are quite literally
fighting a holy war, in which one side is altogether righteous and godly,
while the other is evil and satanic. In such a war the enemy has no rights.
It follows that just as the ancient
Israelites slew their enemies down to the last infant and domestic
animal, todays Israelis may slaughter Palestinians without
restraint. These pro-Israel Christians who dont care
whether Israel despises their faith or oppresses their fellow Christians (a
subject they carefully avoid mentioning) are more fanatical than
most Jewish supporters of Israel. By their gruesome standards, Sharon
may indeed pass for a man of peace.
And what does America gain by
pouring billions of dollars into Israel, making bitter enemies, and
appalling its traditional allies? Nothing. Thats the interesting
part. Nobody believes that the alliance with Israel, which helped provoke
the 9/11 attacks, has profited us in any way. What Israels
Christian useful idiots do believe is that backing Israels most
extreme claims is Americas duty to God, no matter what the price
in human blood including American blood. It seems odd that such
people should wave the American flag. It seems even odder that they
should claim the Cross.
Of course there are other Christians,
the Pope among them, who doubt that Ariel Sharon would enjoy the hearty
endorsement of Jesus Christ. These Christians would prefer a peaceful
settlement that respected the rights of both the Jews and the
Palestinians. So would many Jews; but the voices of such pacific
Christians and Jews are being drowned out.
Bushs support for Sharon,
polarizing the Western and Muslim worlds, must be highly gratifying to
the forgotten man: Osama bin Laden. A holy war is just what he has long
had in mind.
A world in which people make
peaceful adjustments and accommodations to each other in other
words, a truly conservative world is not what bin Laden dreams of.
In Sharon he has the kind of Jew he wants. In America he is now getting
the kind of Christians he wants.