Thursday, February 25, 2010

We Can't Rely on this Brand of Support

Last year, discussing Mike Huckabee's comment that evangelicals are more supportive of Israel than the Jews, I remarked that perhaps that should be a flag to Gov. Huckabee that the brand of "support" his peers promulgate for Israel is perhaps not the ideal form.

I don't think Matt Yglesias quite gets the argument right, but the data he presents showing a correlation between Republican affiliation, support for Israel, and belief that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is intractable gets at this problem. As he writes:
To conjecture a bit beyond what the data can strictly tell us, I think it’s plausible to posit that there’s a large Republican-identified Christian Zionist bloc that’s extremely comfortable with the idea of aligning itself with Israel for the purposes of an endless religious war and of course they have their counterparts in the “revisionist” strand of Zionism in Israel and among American Jews. To my way of thinking—and I think that of most Jewish liberals—this is a chilling vision and we choose to believe that the conflict both can and will be resolved at some point. But many Americans have a level of cultural and ideological affiliation with violence and coercive domination that makes it easy for them to identify with this version of future Israeli history.

I don't deny that there are "revisionist" Zionists who sign on to this, but I think it is fair to say that far and away the dominant purveyors of this ideology are not Zionist Jews but the evangelical Christians Governor Huckabee was referring to. And Jewish opposition to that vision isn't just hopeful pollyannaism -- we recognize that the substantive vision of the future underlying the alternative is one that is deeply dangerous to Israel and the Jewish community, regardless of whether it carries forward American support or not.

It's bad for Jews and Israelis to be caught in an endless apocalyptic ethnic conflict. It's bad to have your lives perpetually at risk, it's bad to have spend inordinate amount money and resources on security concerns, it's bad to nourish extremists inside and outside the Jewish community, and it's bad to have to constantly make extraordinarily difficult choices regarding human rights and national defense. And of course, it's bad for the Palestinians to be left without equal political and social rights indefinitely. All of these things are more likely to be recognized by Jews, because we have more invested and have to deal with its consequences to a degree that dwarfs the stake held by the American Christian right. When they get all cowboy, it's our lives that bear the burden, and I for one don't appreciate it.

1 comment:

N. Friedman said...


I agree with you in part. It is certainly bad that the conflict goes on and on. And, I do wish, for all involved, that a settlement can be found.

Of course, whatever I hope for and will continue to hope for, I think that we ought not confuse our hopes with the reality. And, that reality suggests that the likelihood of a settlement in our lifetime is remote.

This is not to suggest not trying to resolve the dispute. It is saying that we need to have open eyes and not dismiss support from those who, for whatever reason, are supportive. At least that is my view.