[Mb-civic] SHOULD READ: America takes side of Israel - Jeff Jacoby - Boston Globe Op-Ed
swiggard at comcast.net
Sun Mar 26 07:06:02 PST 2006
America takes side of Israel
By Jeff Jacoby | March 26, 2006 | The Boston Globe
First of two columns
A GALLUP POLL released last month puts American support for Israel at
near-record levels. When asked for their views on the Middle East, 59
percent of Americans say they sympathize with the Israelis, while just
15 percent favor the Palestinians. Pro-Israel sentiment rises with
increased knowledge -- 66 percent of those who follow international
affairs ''very closely" support Israel, compared with 52 percent of
those who don't pay close attention to foreign news.
Other findings are comparable. More than two-thirds of Americans say
their overall view of Israel is favorable. Only 11 percent, by contrast,
have a favorable opinion of the Palestinian Authority. While 22 percent
of the public wants Washington to conduct diplomatic relations with the
Hamas-controlled Palestinian government even if it refuses to recognize
Israel's right to exist as a sovereign state, 44 percent say recognition
of Israel must be a precondition to relations with the United States.
Another 25 percent -- one American in four -- oppose any US dealings
with Hamas at all.
Staunch American support for Israel is nothing new. In February 2005,
Gallup reported similarly lopsided findings -- 69 percent of the public
viewed Israel favorably, 25 percent unfavorably. In 2004, when Israel
was being denounced in Europe and the United Nations for its
assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas, 61 percent of
Americans said Israel was justified in killing him. In 2002, when a CBS
News poll asked whether Israel's actions against Yasser Arafat and his
forces were equivalent to US actions against Osama bin Laden and Al
Qaeda, 59 percent agreed that they were.
In short, solidarity with Israel is an abiding feature of American
public opinion. Because the American people are pro-Israel, the American
government is pro-Israel. And because Americans so strongly support
Israel in its conflict with the Arabs, American policy in the Middle
East is committed to Israel's defense.
Only someone far outside the American mainstream, then, would insist
that ''Israel's past and present conduct offers no moral basis for
privileging it over the Palestinians." Or that US policy is engineered
through a Zionist ''stranglehold on Congress." Or that ''neither
strategic nor moral arguments can account for America's support for
Israel," leaving only one possible explanation: ''the unmatched power of
the Israel Lobby."
Those aren't the words of American neo-Nazi David Duke -- though Duke
has ringingly endorsed them. They aren't the words of Egypt's Muslim
Brotherhood, the granddaddy of Islamist radicalism -- though a top
Brotherhood official praises them. They aren't the words of the PLO --
though the PLO is actively distributing them.
The source of those words, and many more like them, is a bitter
anti-Israel screed masquerading as academic scholarship. Co-authored by
Stephen Walt, academic dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government,
and University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer, ''The Israel Lobby
and US Foreign Policy" was released last week as a ''working paper" on
the Kennedy School website. But so slipshod is the paper's research and
so extreme its bias that within days the Harvard and Kennedy School
logos were stripped from the title page. ''It clearly does not meet the
academic standards of a Kennedy School research paper," said Marvin
Kalb, one of the school's best-known scholars.
The idea that the American public and US policy makers dance to a tune
played by an all-powerful ''Israel Lobby" is an old canard. Neo-Nazis
like Duke have long described Capitol Hill as part of the ZOG, or
Zionist Occupation Government. Right-wing nativist Pat Buchanan
notoriously charged ''the Israeli defense ministry and its 'amen corner'
in the United States" with ''beating the drums for war" in 1990.
If the truth be told, it isn't hard to understand why America's ardent
support for Israel might strike some people as odd, or even suspicious.
In so much of the world -- Europe, the Middle East, the UN General
Assembly -- Israel is despised. Even if Americans don't share the
anti-Semitism that is rife in other lands, wouldn't it be more practical
for them to stop taking Israel's side? After all, there are 500 million
Arabs in the world, and they control one-third of the world's oil
supply. Why should Americans alienate them by continuing to support
Israel, a country with no oil and just 6 million people?
As a matter of plain economic common sense, the United States has every
reason to turn against the Jewish state. What accounts for its refusal
to do so? If it isn't an ''Israel Lobby" pulling hidden strings, what on
earth can it be?
Something more powerful than economics: the kinship of common values.
Next: An ''America" in the Middle East
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