Monday, November 25, 2013
How the American Left Turned Against Israel
In his book The Israel Test, scholar and technologist George Gilder measures the character of political actors by their views toward Israeli democracy and its dynamic economy, which produces advanced agriculture, bio-medical technology, communications systems, cyber security and missile defense capabilities, and efficient energy production, among many modern human achievements.
Two decades of intense American confrontation with radical Islam have put a spotlight on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, revealing that traditional bi-partisan support for Israel has collapsed as leftism has turned harshly against the Jewish state.
The Transition From Cold War to Gulf Wars
The dominant global political issue for two generations after World War II was the Cold War, which often elicited non-partisan statesmanship. U.S. presidents from each party consistently named members of the opposition party to important posts in the Defense Department. Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg established that “partisan politics stops at the water’s edge” and he supported the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. Democrat Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson similarly worked across the aisle on national defense issues over many years, including his Jackson-Vanik Amendment which conditioned U.S.-Soviet trade relations on Russian Jewish emigration and broader human rights policies.
However, Americans exhibited frequent political disunity during this period over the threat of communism within the United States in the 1950’s, the anti-Vietnam War campus protests in the 1960‘s, the Democrat Congressional Church Commission reforms of the 1970‘s, and “peacenik” objections to President Reagan’s confrontation with “the evil empire” in the 1980‘s (the nuclear freeze movement opposed the placement of Pershing Missiles into Europe and leftists opposed anti-communist freedom fighters in Latin America). The leading congressional Democrat, Senator Edward Kennedy, was revealed by memos discovered in the archives of the former USSR to have plotted to aid General Secretary Andropov against President Reagan.
Anti-communism, and the anti-anti-communism of the New Left, dominated America’s foreign policy debates for several generations. But even as radical politics grew, negative opinions about Jews and Israel on the left were not yet dominant. American labor, for example, had built a sustained relationship with the Israeli Histadrut labor movement that lasted for decades. And civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., at a private dinner in Cambridge, on October 27, 1967, strongly responded to criticism of Jewish national rights by a black Harvard University student:
“When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism!”
Enemies of America and Israel, of course, were not passive as the U.S. and the USSR engaged in their long twilight struggle. In an already tumultuous year, 1968, Jerusalem-born Christian-Arab Sirhan Sirhan murdered U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy because of the Democrat Senator’s pro-Israel views. In 1972, Palestinian Black September terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games. And in 1973, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat ordered the murder of U.S. diplomats in Khartoum, Sudan.
President Carter’s response to the rise of Arab terror was weak, and his foreign policy blunders helped to usher in the Iranian Islamic Revolution, with his UN Ambassador asserting that the “Ayatollah Khomeini would eventually be hailed as a saint.” Iranian Shiite terrorists attacked the U.S. Embassy in 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days until the day of President Reagan’s inauguration.
Iranian-backed Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the murder of 241 Marines in their Beirut barracks in 1983, and conducted the kidnap, torture and murder of legendary CIA agent William Buckley in 1984-1985. That same year, Palestinian Liberation Front terrorists boarded the cruise ship Achille Lauro and shot wheelchair-bound U.S. tourist Leon Klinghoffer, throwing his body overboard. After a series of Libyan and Iranian attacks on Western airports and American assets, the U.S. initiated military operations in both the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, and began to fight back against state sponsors of terrorism.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Soviet Union, in 1989, the Cold War abruptly ended, and new opportunities and challenges appeared for the West. In Europe, Germans successfully accomplished reunification, while the Balkans split apart into tribal warfare and ethnic hatred. Americans turned their foreign policy debates toward the Middle East, whose regional crises and confrontations with the United States were quickly mounting. President Bush (41) may have hoped for a new world order, but America’s consecutive wars against Japanese Imperialism, German Fascism, and Soviet Totalitarianism were now being succeeded by the Gulf Wars and the counter-terrorism battle with radical Islamism.
On August 2, 1990, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein launched an invasion, annexation and occupation of Kuwait. The decision of President Bush, in consultation with British Prime Minister Thatcher, to build a “coalition of the willing” to oust Iraq from Kuwait was met with fierce criticism by those who protested “no blood for oil.”
The U.S.-sponsored Middle East Peace Process, including the 1993 (Rabin-Arafat) handshake ceremony on the White House Lawn, raised unrealistic expectations of a final status peace accord between Israel and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Seeking victory through stages, Arafat’s deceitful promises (Taqiyya) spoken in English, were negated by his Arabic call for a temporary cease fire (Hudna) meant to bank territory, followed by violent actions (Intifada, suicide bombings) to achieve the final (Jihadi) liberation of all of Palestine. Arab legal documents such as the un-repealed 1964 PLO Charter and the 1988 Hamas Covenant, pedagogical programs (schoolbooks, camps), media (TV & radio broadcasts, and newspaper editorial cartoons), and public positions (refusal to negotiate with or recognize Israel, and Palestinian Authority government financial rewards given to terrorist “martyrs”) were all acts not of peace, but continuing war.
Between 1993 and 2001, the PLO and the PA signed six agreements with Israel. Each Israeli concession and withdrawal from territory was met with Palestinian non-compliance and escalating violence, failure to honor commitments to denounce and eliminate terrorism, and increased aggression, leading to repeated, formalized guerrilla war from both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Al Qaeda terrorism, which dramatically raised the stakes in an era of fear about weapons of mass destruction proliferation, included the well known assaults on the World Trade Center, (1993), on U.S.-operated facilities in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, (1995), on U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, (1998), and on the USS Cole in Yemen, (2000), as well, of course, as the attacks of September 11, 2001. All of this led to U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, Operation Enduring Freedom (2001) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003).
Western military and ideological battles against Islamism attracted the negative focus of an increasingly confident foreign policy, religious, and cultural left which transferred its reflexive anti-Americanism toward America’s close ally, Israel, and which began to leverage new adherents and benefit by new technologies as well.
The Collapse of Bi-partisan Support for Israel
At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the political world witnessed a rare, unscripted, chaotic, and revealing moment when at least half of the delegates in the hall loudly booed when ex-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa unilaterally asserted, after 3 failed resolution voice votes, that the ayes had achieved a 2/3rds majority to reinstate language in the party platform asserting that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.
Prominent Democrats no longer deny the evidence of hostility for Israel in left-wing circles. In the heat of national elections, however, aware that the national Jewish vote has risen from 10% GOP in 1992 to 30% GOP in 2012, and that voters who prioritize national security are overwhelmingly pro-Israel, Democrat advocates publicly protest that calling attention to the growing partisan divide on Israel “politicizes” an issue they would rather not have to debate.
Longtime liberal Democrat Professor Alan Dershowitz urged Jews to vote for Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012. He endorses a left-wing domestic agenda and wants Jewish voters to retain a role in Democrat politics. Yet, to his credit, even he felt the need to write a full brief, The Case for Israel, a book rebutting, point by point, 32 of the charges against Israel that now increasingly influence liberal foreign policy discussion.
Polling evidence catalogued by Dr. Daniel Pipes at the Middle East Forum over a decade reveals a consistent and deepening ideological divide toward Israel’s regional security and its “special alliance” with the United States. Republicans and conservatives are far more sympathetic to Israel than Democrats and liberals in advocating that the U.S. move its embassy to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital; in feeling that Israeli responses to Hezbollah terrorism were justified in 2006; in backing Israeli military action in the 2008 war with Hamas in Gaza; in promoting “defensible borders” for Israel: in supporting the Israeli naval quarantine during the “Free Gaza Flotilla” crisis of 2010; and in promoting resolute U.S. support for Israel rather than a “balanced” approach to the Israeli--Palestinian conflict.
This relatively new and clear divergence challenges the broadly supported thesis that the U.S.-Israel relationship stands uncontroversially on four non-partisan and long-developed pillars; spiritual connection, shared democratic values, military to military strategic alliance, and growing commercial and trade ties.
Long prior to the 1948 re-birth of Jewish sovereignty in the modern state of Israel, the Holy Land was a matter of deep religious affinity, with American Puritans believing they were establishing God’s New Israel. Early Americans used biblical names for their children and their new towns. Future President James Madison, father of the U.S. Constitution, took a post-graduate course in Hebrew at Princeton University in 1771. American founders Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson proposed in 1776 that the original Great Seal of the United States of America reference Moses leading the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, or wandering in the desert wilderness, from bondage to the Promised Land. Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams both expressed hope for the return of the Jews to Judea “as an Independent Nation.”
On Thanksgiving Day, 1799, the prominent Reverend Abiel Abbot sermonized:
“Our American Israel is a term frequently used; and common consent allows it apt and proper.”
19th century Christian Zionists promoted restorationism, praying for the safe return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland. Biblical scholar Professor George Bush, a Christian Hebraist at NYU, (and an early American critic of Islam), advocated in his popular Valley of the Vision (1844) the actual, practical return of the Jews to “their paternal soil”, the “the land of their fathers." Professor Bush’s brother was an ancestor of two future American presidents.
President Abraham Lincoln, expressed to many the “noble dream” of the restoration of the Jews to Palestine, and was reported by several scholars to have expressed to his wife his last words before assassination, on April 14, 1865:
"We will visit the Holy Land and see those places hallowed by the footsteps of the Savior. There is no place I so much desire to see as Jerusalem."
In 1891, concerned at the pogroms of Czar Alexander III against the Jewish population of Russia, 413 prominent Americans, including the Speaker of the House and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, petitioned President Benjamin Harrison to organize the first international conference
"...to consider the Israelite claim to Palestine as their ancient home, and to promote in any other just and proper way the alleviation of their suffering condition.”
In the early 20th century, President Woodrow Wilson endorsed the British Balfour Declaration (1917) stating:
"I did it, because to think that the son of Presbyterian ministers would have the honor of restoring the Jews to their holy land."
After World War II, in the context of rising Arab-Jewish tension in the 1940’s, President Harry S. Truman faced strong objection from some of the U.S. foreign policy establishment to recognition of a new Jewish state. Some State Department officials were concerned about Arab oil embargoes, while others were advocative of relationships established in the various U.S. embassies and consulates throughout Araby.
The Truman Administration yet lobbied for the land partition resolution, the UN compromise accepted by the Jews and rejected by all the Arab states. When Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948 the U.S. was the first nation to recognize the new Jewish State—11 minutes after the proclamation.
"I had faith in Israel before it was established, I have faith in it now," President Harry Truman said on May 26, 1952. "I believe it has a glorious future before it—not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.”
All U.S. presidents since Truman have asserted the moral, humanitarian, and strategic value of Israel to the U.S., often in eloquent terms rooted in both religious convictions and the importance of a bi-lateral security alliance.
The long history of friendship between the United States and Israel cannot be explained by Jewish influence on American foreign policy. At the time of the American founding, there were only 2,500 Jews in the United States. The 2013 Jewish population in the United States is estimated at only 6 million out of well over 300 million citizens. While anti-Israelism at the United Nations, and in Western Europe, is severe, polls consistently show strong American support for Israel, which ranks in the top tier of admired nations alongside Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, France, and India. No other Middle East nation enjoys broad American sympathy.
Reciprocity of alliance and friendship is evident in public opinion polls of Israeli Jews who follow American news and culture avidly and who express consistent admiration for the U.S.A. The Jewish state has built memorials dedicated to 9/11, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as two replicas of the Liberty Bell.
Israel competes for the top spot with Palau and Micronesia in the annual rankings of vote alignment with the U.S. at the UN, and the Israel Defence Forces works intensely to share regional military intelligence, planning, and technology with the U.S. Department of Defense. Israelis warmly welcome American sailors in the port of Haifa. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in 2011, spoke with effusive praise and gratitude to a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress. Members across the aisle rose for 29 standing ovations. Much more than courtesy, this was a heartfelt expression of historic and continuing mutual brotherhood.
Professor Benzion Netanyahu was the father of Benjamin Netanyahu, and also of Lt. Col. Yonatan “Yoni” Netanyahu, the commander of the elite Israeli army unit who was killed during the July 4th, 1976 Operation Entebbe in Uganda, the daring rescue of Israeli tourists hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. In the early 1940‘s, Benzion Netanyahu met several times with prominent U.S. politicians, lobbying for a Jewish homeland. Netanyahu convinced the GOP to make support for a Jewish state part of its 1944 national party platform. Both political parties have maintained this pro-Israel stance ever since. Professor Netanyahu lived to see a free and prosperous Jewish nation, served with great distinction by his sons. He passed away at the age of 102, in 2012. At the DNC convention, any assumption that Israel was still equally admired and supported throughout America passed away that year as well.
The Ideology of the Left
Leftist hostility to traditional American foreign policy applies with great intensity to U.S. support for Israel, in part because Israel has become the U.S. ally most admired by conservatives, most supported by religious Christians, and most closely identified with the United States. For the leftist who has come to oppose American identity and exceptionalism, Israel is a perfect target. The Islamist chant, “America is the Great Satan, Israel is the Little Satan,” has a left-wing American echo: “America is a big, corrupt, religious, capitalistic, imperialistic, bullying, unjust, colonial empire. Israel is America’s evil little brother.”
The negative judgement against one’s own homeland, a matter of self-negation and self-loathing, expresses itself with various hostility to consensus cultural beliefs such as nationalism, patriotism, or religious identity, and therefore prevents moral objectivity. The leftist does not assert, like the conservative, that human rights are far more abused by totalitarians than by the Judeo-Christian West, necessitating support for American strength and allied defense against despots. Conservatives believe that democracies tend not to go to war with each other, and that anti-Democratic regimes are the incubators of terrorism, and the sources of international instability, military expansionism, human poverty and despair, religious radicalism, and worrisome nuclear proliferation.
Instead, Israel is demonized by leftists as a powerful and expansionist colonial power, not as a vulnerable nation of 8 million citizens in a region of some 400 million Arabs and millions more non-Arab Muslims. The Israeli military is seen as aggressive, even while defending 8 borders (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Gaza, the West Bank, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean coastline). Having been jointly attacked by multiple regional enemies on several occasions, Israel continues to struggle to maintain a qualitative military edge against potential enemy coalitions featuring large land armies and a growing arsenal of short, medium, and long-range missiles.
Israel, seeking to maintain its religious civilization and national character as a Jewish state, flourishing as a capitalist economy, and resolutely committed to its military defense, is the poster child for the enmity of radicalized souls who detest such principles. Leftist hostility to Israel in recent years has grown even as Israel has never experienced a period of undemocratic governance in a region of mass human rights abuse, autocracy, and tyranny, and even while Israel has been under constant threat of war and economic and diplomatic assault.
Israel’s military withdrawals from portions of the West Bank, (1990s), from its security zone in Southern Lebanon, (2000), and entirely from the Gaza Strip via unilateral disengagement, (2005), were all based on unmet hopes for Arab reciprocity and peace-making. Yet rarely has the left applauded or celebrated Israeli strategic and diplomatic sacrifices, or public marches, rallies, and songs for peace. Advanced in the Middle East in ensuring the civil rights of women, gays, and minorities, Israelis promote their liberal causes with great vigor in courts and have welcomed millions of poor immigrants, never easy for any economy, even rescuing starving Ethiopians from Africa, a rare moment in history of transporting black Africans to freedom, not to slavery. Israel’s free press is highly critical of government, and frequent elections and a flourishing civil society all underscore its liberal democracy. None of this overcomes the deep antipathy of the left.
The closeness of the U.S. to Israel, the rightness of Israel’s cause, the impressiveness of Israeli democracy, and the achievements of Israeli economy, irritates, rather than impresses the left. The alienated anti-American has transferred his antipathy of the United States to Israel, a fellow democratic, capitalist society.
The peace movement dreams a dream of universalism, sung to the lyrics “all we are saying, is give peace a chance” and “everybody on the peace train”. Its anthem is Imagine:
“Imagine there's no countries, It isn't hard to do, Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too, Imagine all the people, Living life in peace...”
When British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain waved a piece of paper signed by the Germans, declaring “peace for our time” on September 30, 1938, the day before Germans invaded the Sudetenland, he defined appeasement. But this lesson was not learned by idealists who naively reject the idea that mere promises of peace may incentivize the bully and bring war.
The utopian imperative envisions the world not as it is, but as one imagines it to be. Nihilism, the rejection of wisdom, results in the purposeful ignoring of true danger and evil. The campaigners for American withdrawal from Vietnam cared not for the millions of human beings left to be butchered by the Khmer Rouge. Feelings, not consequences, move the left. Campus majors in peace studies, the U.S. Institute for Peace, advocates for the “peace process” in the Middle East, aging peaceniks -- all are deeply undereducated in disciplined knowledge of international or military affairs. Their campaigns for Western unilateral disarmament, nuclear freeze, and “global nuclear zero,” and, always, for dramatic cuts to U.S. military defense spending, all ignore the lessons of history.
What characterizes the left is moral solipsism, a belief that human beings are flawed, and so, since no one is perfect, there can be no judgement that anything is better than anything else. It is often said that “the best is the enemy of the better.” The left makes marginal progress and incremental human advancement a lesser value than utopian revolution. Perfect justice must be built here on earth, and this cause is urgent, necessary, and cannot wait either for the judgement of a God that most secular leftists do not believe in, or for the practical, prudential steps of statesmen who are not revolutionary. The ironically named non-governmental Israeli / U.S. Jewish organization Peace Now was founded in 1978 -- urgency remains but permanent peace awaits.
Moral relativism and equivalency excuses, overlooks, and denies attention to dishonorable regimes, tribes, groups, cultures, and attitudes in the Third World. Instead, proudly non-judgmental leftists express an intense judgement against the smallest and only truly democratic state in the Middle East, Israel, whose very nationalism, economic success and spiritual survival must be somehow be explained by its own nefarious purpose and behavior. Scholar Dr. Yoram Hazony has written on the modern left's agenda to promote a post-nationalist paradigm: a thriving Jewish state, like a thriving American nation, violates the order imagined by European and post-American promoters of global governance and utopian union of all mankind.
The Foreign Policy Left and Israel
The international community has not been kind to modern day Israel.
Israel hosts one-tenth of 1% of the world population, and the land of Israel constitutes less than one-half of 1% of the Middle East. Yet annually 25% of the resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly by roll call vote are negatively directed against Israel, supported by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Division for Palestinian Rights in the UN Secretariat, and the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Human Rights Practices Affecting the Palestinian People.
The growing “non-aligned movement,” for years under consistent communist Cuban urging, has unrelentingly demonized Israel, going so far as to secure a Russian-led 101-8 vote in the General Assembly proclaiming “Zionism is Racism,” (1975), and determining “that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination." In 1991, as a result of American post-Cold War diplomatic strength, and after the allied coalition success in Gulf War 1, the U.S. rallied a 111-25 vote to repeal the measure.
In recent years, however, the UN Durban Conferences have displayed a continuation of severe anti-Israel activity, featuring lectures by the likes of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who attacked Israel as "totally racist" and accused the West of using the Holocaust as a "pretext" for aggression against Palestinians. None of this is lost on the Palestinians, who have succeeded over the years in securing their own refugee organization (UNRWA), observer entity status for the PLO terror organization (in 1974), the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, an annual General Assembly Debate on the Question of Palestine, and, in 2012, by a majority vote of 138-9 (Canada, Czech Republic, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Panama, Palau, United States), non-Member Observer State status in the UN.
Palestinian leaders run what can only be called a dictatorship. Abbas has extended his rule far beyond his elected term. Sufian Abu Zaida, a Palestinian nationalist, has stated:
"Honestly, no one ever dreamt we would reach this situation of concentration of authorities and senior positions in the hands of one person....The President today is the President of everything that has to do with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause. He is the president of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the State of Palestine and the Palestinian Authority. He is the president of the Fatah movement and general leader of the Security Forces. And as the legislative council is now suspended, he issues laws and has practically replaced the council."
The Palestinians have chosen to seek not genuine regional peace but international politics at the UN, an organization that former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Democrat Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, once denounced as “a dangerous place.”
The case against Israel has also intensified in the Arab world through new editions of Mein Kampf and reproductions of the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion, reviving ancient “blood libels” and characterizations of Jews as conspiratorial and predatory. Demonization of Jews appears in such titles as The Jewish Role in the 9/11 Destruction of the World Trade Center, and The End of Israel, and in televised documentaries and publications aimed at the masses which depict Jewish stereotypes as bloodthirsty, brutal, corrupt, cruel, deadly, demonic, evil, and as poisonous inoculators of AIDS and contaminators of Palestinian water.
The founding of Israel is considered a crime and a catastrophe, (“al nakba”), and eliminationist rhetoric appears in both the Hamas Charter and the continuing statements of Iranian leaders who have called to “wipe Israel off the map.” Israeli leaders are routinely accused of ethnic cleansing and apartheid, are burned in effigy, and are labeled “terrorists” and “war criminals.” The longstanding Arab economic boycott of Israel continues, and Islamic funding of wars and terrorism against Israel and Jews globally has intensified.
All of this, of course, is a purposeful distraction from Islamic crimes against humanity, female genital mutilation, genocide, slavery, terrorism, and tyranny. Islamic fundamentalism and violent Jihad, and Arab poverty, lack of civil society, and denial of individual freedom, should most alert those concerned about human dignity. Instead, the European left has doubled down on its historic anti-Semitism with today’s vicious anti-Zionism. France, for example, does not support the U.S. in defending Israel in the international arena. The celebrated French philosophe Voltaire once serially wrote about the Jews in his letters:
“You seem to me to be the maddest of the lot. The Kaffirs, the Hottentots, and the Negroes of Guinea are much more reasonable and more honest people than your ancestors, the Jews.”
“You have surpassed all nations in impertinent fables in bad conduct and in barbarism. You deserve to be punished, for this is your destiny.”
“I would not be in the least bit surprised if these people would not some day become deadly to the human race.”
“They are, simply, the biggest scoundrels who have ever dirtied the face of the earth."
Violent assaults on Jews in France reached the point in recent years that the Chief Rabbi publicly warned against wearing Jewish religious symbols. Inspired by Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London, and other left-wing politicians, traditional British hostility to Jewry has also morphed into the open hostility of the growing UK-led academic, cultural, and economic boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. The European Union has published a guideline for all 28 member states forbidding any funding, cooperation, awarding of scholarships, research funds, or prizes to anyone residing in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a move even left-wing Israelis condemn as likely to inspire PA President Mahmoud Abbas from making substantive peace concessions with Israel. European bullying of Israelis is intensifying, with further proposals to label and deny the import of goods produced in Israeli communities and to require visas for Israeli “settlers” wishing to travel to the EU.
In response to all of this, the American political left has had a choice: denounce the double and triple standards applied to Israel at the UN, within Islamic society, and in Western Europe, or pile on. The mentoring, nominating, electing and continuing support of Barack Obama has made their choice clear.
Born Barry Sotero, he renamed himself Barack Hussein Obama, dreaming particular sympathy for Muslims and communist radicals in Kenya, birthplace of his anti-American and anti-Colonialist father. He was fed radical ideas as a youth in Hawaii at the feet of Frank Marshall Davis, the communist writer. Obama studied Middle East issues in college and in Chicago through the lens of Professor Edward Said, an intensely anti-Israel scholar, and Rashid Khalidi, longtime advocate for the PLO. Mr. Obama served on the Woods Foundation board which funded Khalidi’s Arab American Action Network. Obama also befriended Ali Abunimah, founder and editor of the Electronic Intifada, a strongly anti-Israel website. Abunimah wrote that running for office, Barack Obama stated to him:
“Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front.” He referred to my (Abunimah) activism, including columns I was contributing to the The Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, “Keep up the good work!”
For some 20 years, Barack Obama was also close to and personally funded Pastor Jeremiah Wright, whose writings, speeches, and sermons are extremely hostile to Israel and America.
As an Illinois state politician and then U.S. Senator, Obama differentiated himself from other Democrats in his party by his opposition to the 2003 Iraq War and the “surge” of 2007. His appeal to Democrats, who had moved sharply left via MoveOn.org and Code Pink and other anti-war politics, was his foreign policy leftism. On domestic issues, Obama went round after round with Senator Hillary Clinton, with experts finding little daylight between the two on domestic issues. It was Mr. Obama’s anti-war bona fides which set him apart with Democrat voters who, for example, had rallied national support to defeat pro-defense liberal Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman in his 2006 Democrat primary battle with an anti-war candidate.
Running for President in 2008, Barack Obama declared to 200,000 Germans in Berlin that he was a “citizen of the world.” He promised a foreign policy that would reject the policies of George W. Bush, who was widely seen as sympathetic to Israel, once criticizing the highly effective security fence built by Israel to prevent terror attacks:
‘The creation of a wall dividing the two nations is yet another example of the neglect of this (Bush) administration in brokering peace.”
The new Obama Administration promoted early nominee Ambassador Charles (Chas) Freeman, Jr. to chair the National Intelligence Council, a nomination withdrawn after criticism of the nominee as a promoter of Saudi interests, and defender of Chinese oppression at Tiananmen Square, and for his repeated assertions that U.S. policy contributed to 9/11 Arab terrorism. Mr. Freeman blamed Israel for ethnic cleansing and terrorism, and his repeated rants about “the Israel Lobby” and confident assertions that he knew better than Israel how to defend itself in the Middle East were early forecasts of the controversy generated by the nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel, Obama’s second term U.S. Defense Secretary. Hagel attacked State Department officials as “an adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister’s office” and has stated that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up in Congress.” Senator Hagel opposed sanctions against Iran and called for direct negotiations with the Iranian regime. He has also advocated for direct talks with terrorist organizations Hezbollah and Hamas. Democrats were unanimous in confirming Hagel’s 2013 nomination, while he received only four Senate GOP votes.
Mr. Obama’s foreign policy advisors express deep irritation with Israeli decisions. Vice President Joe Biden long ago slammed his fist on a table in rage at former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, a sentiment repeated years later when he aggressively criticized the building of second story apartments in Jerusalem neighborhoods (Ramat Shlomo) that even the Palestinians don’t claim would be part of any final peace agreement. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined in the lambasting of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and also opposed Israel by supporting a 2010 UN Security Council statement condemning the "acts" that had cost the lives of the “activists” aboard the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza.
The list of Obama’s advisors hostile to Israel includes Middle East policy advisor Robert Malley, who secretly met with Hamas and who blamed Israel for Arafat’s rejection of the 2000 peace plan, a position President Clinton rebuked. UN Ambassador Samantha Powers once recommended that the U.S. impose troops into Israel to end the conflict. Placing Israel’s democratically elected and pro-American leadership on par with Yasser Arafat, Powers called for military intervention on behalf of the Palestinians, in defiance of Israel, by shifting U.S. aid to Israeli security into a protection force for a Palestinian state.
As President, Barack Obama himself demeaned an early delegation of U.S. Jewish leaders, advising them to put “daylight between America and Israel,” and appealed instead to the Arab world, promoting the false idea that Muslims were integral to the founding of the U.S. His statement that the framers of the Constitution read the Koran ignored the reasons that Presidents Adams and Jefferson studied the late 18th century Muslim Barbary pirates who terrorized and assaulted American trade ships, demanding tribute until the formation and victory of the U.S. Navy.
In his June, 2009 speech in Cairo, Obama further adopted the Arab narrative regarding the Middle East, calling the conflict a “stalemate” and suggesting that Israeli rights to their homeland were not ancient but merely a result of post-Holocaust justice for Jewish suffering, which he then equated with Palestinian suffering. The signals sent to friends and foes alike by President Obama have included repeated offense to the Prime Minister of Israel and his Likud party, which only encouraged Palestinian hard-liners.
Mr. Obama is wrong, of course, in his analysis and antipathy to the Israeli Likud Party. It is Likud that withdrew from the Sinai Desert to secure peace with Egypt, and from Gaza, and which could have the credibility within Israel to negotiate with Palestinians. By asserting his antipathy (“I have to deal with Bibi every day,” “there needs to be space between the U.S. and Israel,” and “one does not have to be pro-Likud to be pro-Israel”) Obama purposely chose a path of confrontation that is cheered at the UN, in Europe, and in other quarters hostile to the Jewish state. Washington Post columnist and Middle East expert Jackson Diehl once wrote that "Netanyahu is being treated by Obama as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator."
President Obama avoided visiting Israel in his first term, and his early second term visit avoided a speech to the Israeli Knesset, a meeting with Israeli officials who might not agree with his policies. Instead of respecting the Israeli elected government, Obama chose instead to speak to select Israeli students, assumedly fellow liberals.
Knesset leader Danny Danon summarized serious Israeli concerns as follows:
“The state of Israel will not capitulate before Obama. His electoral victory brings home the fact that the state of Israel must take care of its own interests. We cannot rely on anyone but ourselves”.
Mr. Obama has expressed himself (to journalist Jeffrey Goldberg) with clear views about the Arab-Israeli dispute:
“What I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable.”
Secretary of Defense Hagel has expressed similar views:
“The core of all challenges in the Middle East remains the underlying Arab-Israeli conflict. The failure to address this root cause will allow Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorists to continue to sustain popular Muslim and Arab support -- a dynamic that continues to undermine America’s standing in the region and the Governments of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and others, whose support is critical for any Middle East resolution.”
“It is this conflict, practically alone, that prompts the rise of terrorists, weakens friendly governments, and makes it impossible for the United States to win Arabs and Muslims over to the good cause.”
General James Jones, Obama’s former national security advisor, stated:
“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the core problem in the Middle East, and solving it will go a long way toward securing regional and even global peace.”
Speaking at the 2013 Herzliya Conference, Jones rejected the idea that the tumult in Egypt disproved his analysis:
“I’m of the belief that had God appeared in front of President Obama in 2009 and said if he could do one thing on the face of the planet, and one thing only, to make the world a better place and give people more hope and opportunity for the future, I would venture that it would have something to do with finding the two-state solution to the Middle East.”
This interpretation, known as “linkage,” frames the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as key to understanding and preventing anti-American and anti-Israel terrorism. Never mind that violent actors in the Middle East oppose Israel unreservedly, and do not support the peacemaking that Obama and Hagel and Jones propose.
Middle East violence exists completely independently of the tiny nation of Israel. Arabs and Muslims have produced tyranny, chaos, and civil war quite on their own: Syrian butchery and tribal warfare, failed states in Yemen and Somalia and Lebanon, military rule and Muslim Brotherhood mis-rule in Egypt, decades of dictatorship and now instability in Libya, Iranian revolutionary theocracy and nuclear proliferation, oppression and Arab Spring violence in Tunisia, instability in Jordan, Shiite vs. Sunni religious conflict, Salafi and Wahhabi extremism, Al Qaeda terrorism. the list goes on and on.
But “linkage” is not the only leftist analysis of the Middle East. It leads to another path -- that the U.S. should be a “neutral broker” between “morally equivalent” sides in the conflict. Once you believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is on par with decades of Islamic autocracy and widespread lack of democratic values and civil society, it isn’t a far step to equate the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves as co-equal parties who share responsibility and trustworthiness as peace “partners.”
On May 19, 2011, hours before the arrival to Washington of Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Obama sought preemptively to call for the establishment of a Palestinian state, even though neither Hamas nor Fatah have ever formally acknowledged Israel’s right to exist. In his Arab Spring speech to the State Department, Mr. Obama himself failed to demand this precondition of the Arab side, yet urged Israel to understand that it would never be able to achieve genuine peace if it persisted in seeking "permanent occupation."
Mr. Obama further asserted that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” Calling for the territory of Palestine to be contiguous also meant that Israel’s borders will have to be substantially reduced. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that a Palestinian state based on the borders of the pre-1967 War would leave the Jewish state "indefensible:"
"The viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of Israel's existence.”
Another major source of intense Obama administration disagreement and dispute with Israel has been Iranian nuclear proliferation. President Obama’s policy toward Iran has been to pursue engagement, diplomacy, negotiations, and sanctions, which he believes will alter or deter Iran. But Mr. Obama has not established himself as credible in enforcing red lines, and his dithering on Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, and Syria likely has not impressed the Iranians, who have repeatedly deceived the West.
In the face of repeated revelations that the Iranian regime has developed, strengthened, and multiplied its centrifuges, uranium enrichment facilities, plutonium capabilities, delivery systems, and underground bunkers, with Tehran defying Western pressure to halt its atomic production, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey stated he did not want to be "complicit" if Israel chose to strike Iran's nuclear program. Assumedly Gen. Dempsey believes that the credible threat of military force is necessary to achieve a diplomatic resolution, yet he still chose publicly to disassociate himself from the Israeli position, which rejects a policy of unending “containment” of Iran. At a minimum, this public U.S. position deviates from Israel’s time clock, perhaps confident in American capabilities to act “just in time” before Iranian nuclear “breakout”. But publicizing the wedge between Israeli and American views diminishes Israeli hopes for allied unity, and makes it more likely that Israel will conclude the U.S. will not deter Iran in time. Israel must therefore prepare itself to execute a military operation to set back Iranian weaponization or prevent the hand-off of nuclear technology to proxies.
In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine reported that "several high-level sources" in the Obama administration revealed Israel's secret relationship with Azerbaijan, where Israeli planes might refuel on their way to or from an air strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. The Obama sources allegedly revealed this information because the administration feared "the risks of an Israeli strike on Iran" which they have opposed. As Hoover Institution Fellow Thomas Sowell asserted:
"This leak was one of the historic and unconscionable betrayals of an ally whose very existence is threatened."
The Religious Left and Israel
Evangelical Christian support for Israel is rooted in Scripture:
“I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.” Genesis 12:3
“I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will enter into judgement with them there for my people, my heritage Israel.” Joel 3:2
The community of Christians who stand by Israel at peril continues to grow. There are over 1 million members of Christians United for Israel, and public nights to celebrate and support Israel as a threatened ally and spiritual brother are common at churches throughout the U.S. But there is now a growing community of Christian voices who oppose the Jewish state and have adopted the Palestinian narrative of suffering, promoted by the Jerusalem-based Sabeel and the Bethlehem-based Christ at the Checkpoint organizations, among others. Both replacement theology and liberation theology are at work here.
Replacement theology holds that the Church of Christ has replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people, a philosophy which resulted in a long history of vicious anti-Jewish persecution. Today, some leftist Christians are rejecting American evangelical support for Jewish claims to Israel, and replacing them with the assertion that Palestinian Christians are the rightful heirs of the Holy Land. Famously, the godfather of Palestinian terrorism, Yasser Arafat, campaigned to de-Judaize Jerusalem, and claimed that Jesus was a Palestinian. Some modern anti-Israel Christians again oppose the Jewish people whom they believe rejected their Savior Jesus.
Liberation theology is the philosophy of victimhood. Defining the Palestinians as the underdog empowers believers to advocate against the “oppressor” and for the “oppressed.” Left-wing Christians seek to delegitimize the State of Israel as a colonial empire assaulting powerless Palestinians. They have applauded Sabeel leader Dr. Naim Ateek who asserted in his Easter message of 2001:
‘It seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him.’
Christian politics in the U.S. has long included the “peace churches” such as Quakers and other pacifists who do not have a record of supporting the defense of freedom. The World Council of Churches, founded, like Israel, in 1948, aligned itself not with the Jewish state but with anti-American and anti-colonialist countries which have long opposed Israeli existence. In recent years, some leaders of “mainline” Protestant churches have inspired increasing anti-Israel agitation among Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and the United Church of Christ. These mainline churches have adopted a range of resolutions hostile to Israel, including calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS). Some churches supported the Kairos Palestine Document of 2009 and others publish their own extremely anti-Israel educational materials, often the only literature about Israel their members will read. The Methodists produced a study guide authored by an former Jewish pastor who admitted to hating Judaism. It featured illustrations of Israeli soldiers meant to appear like Nazi guards at a concentration camp.
The suffering of Christians around the world at the hands of Muslims includes the mass murder of Sudanese Christians, and consistent violence against Muslim apostates, Egyptian Coptic Christians, Indonesians supporting Independence for East Timor, and Pakistani, Lebanese, and Nigerian Christians, as well as organized oppression of Chaldo-Assyrians in Iraq, and Christians in Saudi Arabia.
Persecution of Christians in China, Sri Lanka, North Korea, and throughout Asia has been well documented as well. Unfortunately, all of this oppression of Christians has not attracted quite the notoriety or activism in liberal human rights circles that one would hope.
Instead, the focus of the American Christian left on alleged Israeli human rights abuses, while Christians are free today to pray and practice their religion in Israel, and to enjoy their ancient holy sites, can only be explained by ignorance, anti-Jewish bias, or mis-directed passion for human suffering. Palestinian authorities have brutalized the Palestinian people, stolen their wealth, and conducted vicious assaults on those opposed to their anti-democratic rule. Yet rarely a word is heard from the pro-Palestinian U.S. Christian community about decades of Palestinian political corruption and human rights abuse of their own people, much less their unrelenting, irredentist terror war against the Jewish state.
The range of Christian voices includes leftist Black Reverends Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Louis Farrakhan, and Pastor Jeremiah Wright, who all built pulpit careers and political operations promoting anti-Semitism and antipathy to Israel. Further, among the fastest growing Christian communities in the U.S. are Hispanics. Many are rooted in traditional, Catholic, anti-Jewish sentiments throughout Latin America Both The Israel Project and the Anti-Defamation League have conducted polls that indicate foreign-born Hispanics have stronger anti-Jewish views than Hispanics born and raised in the U.S. Fortunately, the new Pope Francis, from Argentina, has repeatedly condemned anti-Semitism and expressed warm friendship to the Jewish community, stating that "a true Christian cannot be anti-Semitic".
In 1947, American publisher and businessman Hank Greenspun helped the nascent Jewish state build its small military, shipping machine guns and airplane parts to the Haganah organization, which later became the core of the Israel Defence Forces. This was a violation of the U.S. Neutrality Acts, a crime for which Greenspun was convicted and fined, but later pardoned by President Kennedy. Upon Greenspun's death in 1989, former Prime Minister and longtime Israeli President Shimon Peres called Greenspun "a hero of our country and a fighter for freedom."
Jewish philanthropists have been donating to Israeli educational, health and welfare, environmental, and other causes for decades. Generations of American Jewish children grew up putting nickels in Tzedaka (charity) boxes to plant trees in the growing Jewish state, and American Jewish support for Israel remains strong, decades after the 6 Day War of 1967, often cited as a searing and formative experience for American Jewry. Overcoming existential risk to achieve a strong victory over multiple Arab armies, Israelis inspired American Jewish pride and self-confidence. The modern Jewish story had moved from Holocaust death camps to IDF bravery, and appeared as nothing less than a miraculous blessing and deeply moving redemption after 2,000 years of exile. For hundreds of thousands of American Jewish youth, this bond to their religious homeland continues to strengthen through Jewish educational trips, such as Birthright Israel.
But Jews traditionally do not agree on much (two Jews, three opinions) and support for Israel was never universal. The Reform Movement’s Pittsburgh Platform of 1885 revealed that leading American Jews were unsupportive of the very idea of a Jewish state, rejecting a national component to Jewish identity. By 1937, the Reform rabbinate had moved from a hostile to a neutral stance. After World War II, anti-Zionism was replaced with increasing support for Israel in the Reform movement, the largest denomination of American Jewry.
Jewish liberalism has remained dominant, with the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center taking left-wing stances on both domestic and foreign policy issues. This liberalism was bound to apply to Israel too, as the spirit of ’67 and Jewish pride in and belief in Israel as a refuge after the trauma of the Holocaust began to fade and even appear parochial, religious, and nationalistic. These are not the organizing principles of the left. The most popular expression in modern Jewish life is “Tikkun Olam,” the notion that there is a Jewish moral imperative “to repair the world.” Here, though, liberals kidnap Jewish tradition and twist it to fit modern politics. The actual textual term is "l'taken olam b'malchut shaddai," (“to perfect the world under the Sovereignty of God”), a standard that historically led to conservative, not liberal, public policy results.
In prioritizing coalition with the strengthening American political left, the Jewish left adopts and even leads in criticism of Israel. Breira, New Jewish Agenda, Peace Now, Tikkun Magazine, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, A Jewish Voice for Peace, are among many Jewish organizations which have all sought to make “kosher” leftist anti-Israelism. Of course, there is nothing new about Jewish radicals, who previously sided with communists in Spain, and even with the murderous Joseph Stalin. Jewish radicalism is a cliche, the long list includes WIlliam Kuntsler, Herbert Marcuse, Saul Alinsky, Abbie Hoffman, and Howard Zinn -- just a few of those whom author Ari Ben-Tzvi describes as exhibiting “Savage Ingratitude” to America and Israel.
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