July 22, 2009

Have Israel and its supporters gone over the edge?

As Israel defies the US on settlement policies and its continuing mistreatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, a recent poll shows the American public is undergoing a significant shift in its historically pro-Israel views:

According to the survey of 800 registered voters, which was conducted June 9-11 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, those who believe Israel is committed to peace has dropped to 46 percent this month from 66 percent last December. The poll found that some 49 percent of American voters call themselves supporters of Israel, down from 69 percent last September, and only about 44 percent of voters believe the United States should support Israel”€”down from 71 percent a year ago.

What is the reason for this dramatic drop in support for the Jewish state? After all, the Israeli government and its American amen corner spend a lot of money”€”a lot of it our own tax dollars coming back to haunt us”€”in pursuit of the good will of the American people. They do this because they know the U.S. is Israel’s lifeline”€”and that what is essentially a settler colony could not exist for very long if taken off U.S. life support, i.e. if the billions in aid given each year were ended or even significantly reduced. Yet, in spite of this, Israel’s approval ratings are plummeting, fast”€”and the reason is an exponential expansion of what I call the nutbar factor in Israeli society.

Here‘s a good and quite recent example, reported in the excellent Israeli newspaper Ha”€™aretz:

The Pope and the cardinals of the Vatican help organize tours of Auschwitz for Hezbollah members to teach them how to wipe out Jews, according to a booklet being distributed to Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

Officials encouraging the booklet’s distribution include senior officers, such as Lt. Col. Tamir Shalom, the commander of the Nahshon Battalion of the Kfir Brigade.

The booklet was published by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, in cooperation with the chief rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, and has been distributed for the past few months.

No, the booklet is not entitled The Protocols of the Elders of the Vatican, but it could be: “On Either Side of the Border” purports to be the testimony of “a Hezbollah officer who spied for Israel.” Inside is a greeting from an extremist rabbi “€œin the name of the Nahshon Brigade.”€ Thousands of copies were distributed to IDF soldiers, until the pamphlet was spotlighted by Ha”€™aretz.

This “€œspy,”€ who formerly went by the name “€œIbrahim,”€ and now calls himself “€œAvi,”€ claims Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was part of a delegation that journeyed to Italy, France, and Poland, alongside representatives of the Vatican. Apparently the Pope was otherwise engaged, or he would no doubt have joined the Hezbollah chief, but, in any case,  according to Ibrahim/Avi,  “€œWe knew [the Pope] identified with Hezbollah’s struggle.”€ Yes, those Hezbollah fighters who drove the Israelis out of Lebanon were really altar boys wearing keffiyehs.

Oh, but I”€™ve saved the best part for last, because, you see, the endpoint of Hezbollah’s hegira was none other than Auschwitz. Ibrahim/Avi avers:

We came to the camps. We saw the trains, the platforms, the piles of eyeglasses and clothes … We came to learn … Our escort spoke as he was taught. We quickly explained to him: Every real Arab, deep inside, is kind of a fan of the Nazis.

What a fiendishly clever public relations strategy on the part of Hezbollah: telling the world they”€™re Nazis. That‘s the ticket! No wonder Israel’s poll numbers are going down!

Quite naturally, the public exposure of this loony propaganda has led to disavowals on all fronts. An IDF spokesman averred that “€œThe book was received as a donation and distributed in good faith to the soldiers. After we were alerted to the sensitivity of its content, distribution was immediately halted.”€

Translation: We thought we could get away with it.

A spokesman for the publisher, the Orthodox Union in America, also passed the buck, claiming their Israeli office was responsible for the pamphlet, and they knew nothing about it.

Translation: We thought we could get away with it.

Yes, but why did they think that? After all, “€œOn Either Side of the Border”€ is so obviously nutso that one would think its author would be laughed off the stage in any semi-rational society. Yet, according to one IDF officer, this crazy conspiracy theory is “€œwidely believed”€ by his fellow conscripts”€”and, I would contend, this gullibility reflects the growing craziness of Israeli society in a broader sense.

Surely, Israel’s defenders will reply, this is an “€œisolated incident.”€ Yet it seems this is not the first such “€œisolated incident”€ that had the IDF funneling the demented rantings of Israeli extremists to the ranks. One contributing factor to the sheer savagery of the most recent Israeli “€œincursion”€ into Gaza was no doubt a publication issued by the IDF rabbinate that opined:

When you show mercy to a cruel enemy, you are being cruel to pure and honest soldiers. This is terribly immoral. These are not games at the amusement park where sportsmanship teaches one to make concessions. This is a war on murderers. “€œA la guerre comme a la guerre.”€

Then, too, the IDF high command disavowed the material, “€œreprimanded”€ officers who facilitated its wide distribution, and claimed that”€”yes, you guessed right”€”it was an “€œisolated incident.”€

If the Obama administration is wondering why the Netanyahu government “€“ with the support of most Israelis— is openly disdaining his Middle East peace initiative, then they ought to review the propaganda put out by the US-funded IDF rabbinate, such as the following, as reported by Ha”€™aretz:

[There is] a biblical ban on surrendering a single millimeter of it [the Land of Israel] to gentiles, though all sorts of impure distortions and foolishness of autonomy, enclaves and other national weaknesses. We will not abandon it to the hands of another nation, not a finger, not a nail of it.

A Palestinian state? Not if the Israelis can help it. It might have been possible a few years ago, before Israeli society began to really go off the rails. However, these days, such views aren”€™t extremist “€“ they”€™re “€œmainstream”€! And, what’s more, they”€™re being propagated and reinforced by an Israeli military machine that is funded by the US taxpayer. By the way, I didn”€™t know the IDF has an official rabbinate, but the Ha”€™aretz story enlightened me on that score. How many Americans know their tax dollars are going to fund religious fundamentalists in the Middle East?

Imagine if that happened in this country, and the U.S. Army was funding and promoting Christian fundamentalism in the ranks of the American military “€“ why, you”€™d never hear the end of it, and, what’s more, the Anti-Defamation League and allied organizations would emit the loudest expressions of outrage.

Well, yes, but you can”€™t condemn a whole society on account of the fringey frothings of a few extremists”€”right? True, but the problem is that it isn”€™t just a few extremists: it’s a whole lot of them, arguably the overwhelming majority of Israelis, who, after all, voted for the current ultra-rightist government.  Look who they elected to the position of Prime Minister, and “€œBibi”€ Netanyahu is perhaps one of the more moderate leading figures in the current government. A man who longs to deport all Arabs from the sacred soil of Israel, and who would like nothing better than to nuke Tehran, is, today, the Foreign Minister.

To come up with an analogous situation, what did the U.S. and the Europeans do when confronted with an Austrian government that included the relatively benign Jörge Haider, who merely advocated withdrawing government subsidies from immigrants and restricting their entry into the country?  They established a diplomatic cordon sanitaire around Vienna, and refused to deal with the Austrians. Yet Avigdor Lieberman, an open racist and former bouncer who once proposed that Israel should bomb the Aswan dam, is greeted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her European counterparts as if he were a normal, decent human being.

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I have longed warned that Israel’s ostensible commitment to “€œtraditional Jewish values”€ of openness, democracy, and respect for the dignity of all persons could not long withstand the requirements of maintaining what is essentially a religious-racial caste system. Israel, a settler colony that exists on account of its ability to drive out the indigenous Palestinians and keep them out, is of necessity the Sparta of the Middle East (there is no Athens). Militarism, by its very nature, makes a mockery of democracy, and is the mortal enemy of liberty. It was only a matter of time before this inner contradiction was resolved in favor of creatures like Lieberman, whose rise is a barometer of the ongoing corruption of Israeli society”€”an indicator of a collective madness.

Speaking of craziness, this generalized derangement in the ranks of the pro-Israel forces extends, it seems, to this country, where George Gilder has just written a book entitled The Israel Test. The book’s theme, as Matt Yglesias dryly notes, is “€œsomewhat unusual in that it hinges in part on what chapter three dubs “€˜The Tale of the Bell Curve,”€™ in other words the innate genetic superiority of the Chosen People relative to the goyim. He offers some intriguing examples to illustrate this point beyond the familiar fact that Jews win lots of Nobel Prizes and are good at chess. For example:

Yes, there is a religious component in anti-Semitism, but there is also a political and economic element, reflected in the objective anti-Semitism of Karl Marx, Noam Chomsky, Friedrich Engels, Howard Zinn, Naomi Klein, and other Jewish leftist leaders who above all abhor capitalism. Jews, amazingly, excel so readily in all intellectual fields that they outperform all rivals even in the arena of anti-Semitism.

Yes, according to Gilder, those crafty Jews are so damned smart that they”€™ve even cornered the market on anti-Semitism!

The irony that one of Israel’s most ardent defenders is now using arguments based on a theories of genetic superiority may be lost on that country’s defenders, at this point: political ideologues and other sorts of fanatics are usually lacking a sense of irony.

This has got to be the absolute looniest thesis ever advanced by a “€œserious”€ author. In his quest to rationalize the history of our government’s unconditional support for Israel, no matter the cruelty and injustice of their actions, Gilder claims that support for the Jewish state is a “€œtest”€ of our willingness to defend liberty”€”and, indeed, ourselves”€”against the Islamist threat to conquer the world and establish a global caliphate.

The idea that we must support the Israelis on account of their alleged genetic superiority over the Arab race may seem like an “€œout of the box”€ opinion, and it certainly is in the United States: but I wonder if it isn”€™t right in line with Israeli opinion, which, after all, lionizes Lieberman, and has elected the most belligerent”€”and anti-American”€”government in its history. The rhetoric of Lieberman and his party, which the other “€œmainstream”€ politicians and parties rushed to emulate, routinely depicts Arabs as subhumans.

What we are witnessing in Israel, today, is the degeneration into a military theocracy, one armed with nuclear weapons”€”and quite willing to use them against those they consider less than fully human. And if that doesn”€™t scare us into cutting them off”€”financially, at the very least”€”then we ought to prepare ourselves for the consequences. Because it isn”€™t going to be pretty ….


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