Israel, the Special Relationship, and 2008 (Part I)
American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held its annual
meeting in Washington last week, hosting major politicians from Vice
President Cheney to Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, both of whom
were elected from states with large Jewish populations. What happened at
that meeting, and what was reported about it, says a lot about the way
Israel fits into U.S. politics, and how it will affect the 2008
according to the New York Times, said that Israel deserves “every
bit of our support.” Obama, in Chicago the previous week, had declared
complete support for the Jewish state, invoking the Holocaust while
denouncing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who would certainly
like to cause another one. But at the Washington meeting, Sen. Obama
shocked many in attendance by declaring that right now in the Middle
East, "nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.”
comments provoked an angry response by a rabbi from California named
Steven Silver (not to be confused with the author of this column), who
declared them “odious and infelicitous.” And it set off yet another
debate about who is right in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and
whether or not Americans can truly speak their mind about the issue.
though Obama had never explicitly denounced Israel, and had just a few
weeks earlier delivered a stirring defense of the Jewish state before a
different subsidiary of the same organization, he was painted (both by
the right and the Clintonites) as some sort of anti-Israel extremist.
after, years-old photos emerged of the senator with the late Palestinian
leader Edward Said - all of which fit in nicely with efforts to paint
Obama either as a stealth Muslim, a black-separatist Christian, or both.
Supporters of Obama, of course, fired back about Hillary and her famous
kiss of Yassir Arafat’s wife Suha.
both political sides in the U.S. have a history of being extremely
dishonest about the conflict and what the other side believes. The far
left would have you believe that Israel (in the person of “the neocons”)
pushed us into war in Iraq, and that neither party is nearly vigilant
enough in denouncing Israel. The far right, meanwhile, wants us to think
that the entire left (and indeed, the other Democratic Party) is
uniformly opposed to Israel, and will sell the Jewish state down the
river at the earliest opportunity.
caricature, alas, contains the slightest bit of truth. Israel, since
before the Iraq war, has been considerably more concerned about Iran,
and its very real weapons of mass destruction, than Iraq. That position
is consistent with the usual paranoid belief that one’s opponents are
all-powerful and all-knowing.
it’s nothing but madness to suggest that Democrats, as a party, are
against Israel - unless you believe that Dennis Kucinich is the secret
leader of the party. Indeed, I believe that Kucinich is probably the
only 2008 candidate who is not a supporter of Israel.
consider that around three quarters of American Jews are Democrats, and
Jewish elected officials lean even more blue than that, it’s a bit
ridiculous to suggest the Jews will go red anytime soon – especially now
that the most vocally Republican subset of Jews, the neoconservative
movement, has suffered a discrediting of its views nearly unprecedented
in recent U.S. politics.
that support of Israel is the province of one party, and that opposition
to it is that of the other, is to be totally at odds with reality.
likely is that both nominees of the two parties in 2008 will be vocal
supporters of the state of Israel, with the only difference likely to be
the matter of degree in which they do so.
Do the U.S. and Israel have a “special relationship”? Should they?)
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