walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
Feed
Features
Reviews
Podcast
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles this month. A quality publication is not cheap to produce.
Subscribe today and support The American Interest—only $2.99/month!
Already a subscriber? Log in to make this banner go away.
Published on: March 16, 2010
Obama and the Jacksonian Zionists

Last week the Israelis handed the Obama administration an important advantage in the continuing struggle between the US and Israel over policy towards the Palestinians.  By announcing a decision to move forward with 1600 housing units in East Jerusalem, the Israelis embarrassed the administration in a way that created problems for Prime Minister Netanyahu and […]

Last week the Israelis handed the Obama administration an important advantage in the continuing struggle between the US and Israel over policy towards the Palestinians.  By announcing a decision to move forward with 1600 housing units in East Jerusalem, the Israelis embarrassed the administration in a way that created problems for Prime Minister Netanyahu and gave Washington an opportunity to push back.  But by going public with a set of tough demands without securing its domestic support, the Obama administration may lose the advantage it gained.

With Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu scheduled to address AIPAC’s annual meeting next weekend in Washington, the stage is set for high drama.  The greatest danger at this point is that one or both sides may misjudge the state of American public opinion.  Israel’s political support in the United States is ultimately based much less in the highly visible network of organizations like AIPAC than it is in the strong support for Israel well beyond the Beltway.  I’ve been writing a series of posts over the last week about this; it is the gentile supporters of Israel, not American Jews, who ultimately define the boundaries of American foreign policy on this issue, and the Obama administration’s ability to put pressure on its most important Middle Eastern ally ultimately depends on the reaction of American gentile supporters of Israel to administration policy. The administration may be in danger of overestimating its support in a drawn out debate.

The politics of American support for Israel can be hard to read.  For the last generation, Israel has been losing popularity and support among some groups of Americans.  The shift in sentiment is particularly notable among Democrats, among some of the more liberal mainline churches, among African-Americans and among people with graduate and professional degrees.

Andrew Jackson

Despite these losses, overall public support for Israel in the United States has been rising, not falling, for most of the last generation.  9/11, which galvanized many American liberals to think harder than ever about the desirability of distancing the United States from Israel, immeasurably deepened the determination of a large number of their fellow citizens to stand by Israel no matter what.  Just as Israel was seen as America’s most reliable and important Middle Eastern ally during the Cold War by these people, it now looked like a country whose survival depended on the defeat of America’s enemies in the war on terror.  That today Israel is engaged in a confrontation with Iran, a country which poll after poll shows that Americans think of as their most dangerous adversary, only deepens this bond.

During most of the twentieth century, politically active American gentile supporters of Zionism were most visible on the left.  Solidarity with Jews, the desire to offer Jews a refuge while keeping them out of the United States, a generalized concern for the rights and security of minority groups, and the traditional liberal sympathy towards Jews based on common attitudes toward historic forms of illiberal European oppression were all factors.

Truman_Ben_Gurion_IsraelLiberal Zionism peaked in many ways during the Truman administration.  The Communist Party, which still enjoyed some moral prestige and organizational strength in parts of the left, obediently fell in line with Stalin’s support for the Zionist objectives in Palestine.  African-Americans, whose sympathy for European Jews had grown during the imposition of Nazi discrimination similar to Jim Crow laws in the United States, forged an alliance with American Jews based on common support for the growing civil rights movement.  The UN’s endorsement of the Partition of Palestine in 1947, accepted by Palestinian Jews and rejected by the Arabs, led many supporters of the UN to support the Jewish position on Partition so that the UN’s first high profile international decision would not fall flat.

During the era of liberal Zionism, the State of Israel–weak and poor, secular and socialist–was seen as a client rather than a strategic asset or ally.  While many conservative Protestants in the United States supported the return of the Jews to the Holy Land on both humanitarian and religious grounds (and perhaps in some cases also in gratitude that those destitute Jews were not coming to the United States), conservative political activism at this time was much more focused on the domestic and international fight against communism.  Socialist Israel, whose independence had been supported by Stalin at the UN, was not seen as part of this fight.

Since 1967, liberal gentile Zionism has been on the wane both in the United States and in Europe.  Israeli politics have moved to the right.  Moreover the aggressive rise of religious parties, the settlement movement, and the drift in Israel away from the ‘European’ norms of the state’s early years to a more ‘eastern’ culture and political system (as Jews of Middle Eastern and ex-Soviet origin have gained demographic and political power) make Israel less attractive to the western left.  Additionally, as Israel’s regional position shifted from embattled refuge to occupying power, it seemed equally less necessary and less moral among liberals to support the Jewish state. In the years since 1967 the western left has also reflected more deeply on the shortcomings of past western treatment of other parts of the world, including the Middle East.  The Arab argument that Israel was a colonial imposition like French Algeria or white South Africa gained plausibility with many people.

As a result, in both Europe and the United States, liberal gentile Zionism has been slowly fading away.  In the United States, this process not only moved more slowly than in Europe, it was countered by something else which, until recently, was almost unknown in the old world: rising populist  support for the Jewish state on the right.  I think we will see more of this in the future in Europe, where pro-Israel sentiment is likely to appeal to movements and people who fear and resent the impact in Europe of immigration from the Middle East.  For now, though, this is mostly an American phenomenon.

In America, the strong upsurge in Jacksonian Zionism begins with the same event and same changes that contributed to the decline of liberal Zionism. Israel’s victory in the Six Day War electrified populist nationalists in the United States.  At that time Israel’s enemies were seen as ours; the Soviet Union was supporting those who attacked Israel.  At a time when the United States was bogged down in Vietnam and containment of communism seemed to be failing in Asia, Israel’s victory looked like a decisive defeat for Soviet expansionary dreams in the Middle East with its vital oil resources.  More, Israel’s conquest of the holy sites helped trigger a massive and continuing religious revival in the United States.  For hundreds of years American Protestant theology had been developing Biblical interpretations which gave a special role to Israel in the ‘end times'; the conquest of the Temple Mount was one of the vital steps that had to take place.  Finally, even if Israel looked less European and western to liberals, it looked much more western to American Jacksonians than its neighbors.  Warts and all, Israel was democratic, not Muslim, anti-Soviet and pro-American.  It was everything an ally should be, and strong too. For Jacksonian America, Israel was one of the few signs of light in a dark world and it has kept this status to the present day.

Many of the arguments and perceptions that have weakened support for Israel on the left cut no ice with the populist right.  The argument that just war theory forbids the ‘disproportionate’ use of force has absolutely no weight in much of American opinion.  When somebody attacks you, especially in an underhanded terrorist way, you have a natural right to defend yourself using every weapon and every tactic that comes to hand.  This is the way most Americans think about war; American public opinion on the whole does not regret the use of nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.  Two-thirds of American respondents tell Pew pollsters that they favor the use of “torture” under some circumstances. Such people are not necessarily indifferent to Palestinian rights, and they may not feel that every Israeli action is well judged, but they strongly believe that as long as Palestinians engage in terrorism, Israel has an unlimited and absolute right of self defense.  It can and should do anything and everything it can to stop the attacks and many Americans consider international laws against such practices as pious hopes with no binding legal or even moral force. If the terrorists shield themselves behind civilians, that only shows how evil they are — and is an extra reason why you have both the right and the duty to eliminate them no matter what it takes.

This view may be right or it may be wrong, but its cultural hold on a substantial section of the American people is a fact.  It is one of the strongest and most persistent elements in the national character.  It is unlikely to change anytime soon.

For many Jacksonians, Israel is a litmus test.  If you are pro-Israel, you are pro-American exceptionalism, pro-western values and pro-defense.  The more clearly you support Israel, the more you look like a reliable American patriot who will do what it takes to defend the country from religious violence and the more you seem to share the values of tens of millions of gentile Americans.

This may be the ultimate reason why so many American politicians instinctively shy away from taking any positions that can even remotely be seen as anti-Israel.  Being pro-Israel is a sign of being pro-American to a very large sector of American public opinion.  Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of that divide; the minute you start to look soft on this, you start to look soft and unreliable on everything.  Even when substantial numbers of Americans disapprove of some particular Israeli action, many politicians will rationally conclude that being seen as ‘too eager’ to attack Israel is a bad career move.  In most of the United States, it is almost always politically more beneficial to support Israel or at most to remain silent when Israeli behavior is particularly controversial.  To get the reputation of being an ‘anti-Israel’ politician is to cripple your ability to attract gentile Jacksonian voters.

The Obama administration must now make some tough choices.  Israel’s open show of disrespect during Biden’s visit made the US administration look weak.  That is something Jacksonians do not want to see in an American president.  They admire tough leaders and despise weak ones.  On the other hand, Jacksonians don’t want a long and bitter fight with a country they support as America’s most important ally in the most dangerous region in the world. They are also likely to draw unfavorable comparisons between what they will see as President Obama’s soft policy toward Iran and his tough stand against Israel.

President Obama needs to do two things now in this dispute.  He must stand tall, and he must settle quick.  He cannot afford a humiliating climb down in the face of Israeli pressure, but it is unlikely that either Congress or Jacksonian America will back him in a long and divisive struggle.  Israel on the other hand cannot welcome a bitter controversy that will polarize American public opinion and damage Israel’s image, perhaps irreparably, among the liberal constituencies who were once its strongest source of support.

But whatever happens in the Washington policy wars, one thing should be clear.  This is not a battle between ‘the Jews’ and the rest of the United States over our policy in the Middle East.  It is a battle between opposing conceptions of America’s interests in the Middle East, and  gentiles and Jews can be found on both sides.

show comments
  • Nathan Brown

    Fantastically well put Walter!

    The liberal case for Israel is there to be made, and though it may be difficult to defend much of that government’s policies in the occupied territories, the justice of that case is not really subject to question.
    I think you do really well in drawing out the sources of American support for Israel, and allow for nuance in rejecting the monism of those who make the ‘Israel-lobby’/’conservative evangelicals’/’identical values’ arguments.

    The difficulty for the Administration is that what it really wants to do is make the Israeli public realise that it is their own government that is a source of US-Israeli tensions. If that were to happen, then they could democratically get rid of the Likud-led government, or at least get Netanyahu to drop his coalition partners in Israel Beiteinu/Shas, and pick up Kadima, to lead a true national unity government. This is very nice in theory but it skips over some of the not-so-minor details, such as

    a) Netanyahu’s desire to emulate his mentor, Yitzhak Shamir, in successfully maintaining power but not conceding anything to the Palestinians

    b)Obama’s approval rating is in near-single digits, and probably not even a majority of Israelis have a major issue with announcing construction plans for East Jerusalem, when they would get nothing in return from their Arab interlocutors if they extended the freeze to the eastern (and northern and southern, technically) suburbs.

    c)As you mentioned in an earlier post, the system of proportional representation in Israel leads to systemic instability in governing coalitions, which is by no means THE underlying cause of the conflict, but it is one that is far too often overlooked by the commentariat.

  • J

    Thank you for providing context to the curious.

  • http://www.shining-city.de/ Tobi

    Thank you very much for this article!

    You wrote: “The argument that just war theory forbids the ‘disproportionate’ use of force has absolutely no weight in much of American opinion” and I’m not sure if this is correct.

    Michael Walzer himself (whenever I hear sth. about ‘just war theory’ I think of him) wrote this article a year ago http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/proportionality and he says that the disproportionate use of force is ok – even by just war standards.

    Anyway:I really appreciated your article.

  • Neville

    It is beginning to look as though, in the sphere of international relations, Obama continually needs to have an opponent he can feel good about pushing around. Since America’s enemies, and even just rivals such as China, openly react to his demands with dismissal and contempt, he is able to find such opponents only among US allies.

    As an approach to managing the nation’s international relations in the interest of its citizens this is, shall we say, interesting. His whole policy rests on two assumptions. One, that there is no plausible scenario in which America could need allies overseas, and two that the views of non-liberal Americans on topics on which liberal opinion is settled can be treated with the same contemptuous dismissal Obama gets from America’s enemies.

    This is risk-seeking behavior, deeply irresponsible and with currently unknown consequences.

  • John Preta

    Dear Walter,

    What about the possibility that ths spat is all part of a plan. If Israel is going to try and take out Iran’s nuks, would it not make sence to use such a spat as a set-up? This is the kind of thing I would do in the same position. In fact. I hope that this is in fact the case.

    The spat would give the US cover when Iraq (our fragile friend) and others protest the bombing. To the world, it would look like we did not support it (we could issue a public protest that would seem consistent with recent protests) and that it was another affront to the US by Israel.

  • Matt

    Interesting post, as ever. I think your points about the Israel “test” are especially insightful.

    Have you seen the book The Israel Test by George Gilder?

    I do wonder though whether or not the present dispute will have a measurable effect on domestic liberal opinion. The fact is Israel has already lost the present generation of liberal elites. The current reaction by Obama is about what you would expect from someone who went to college in the 1980’s and never seriously questioned what he learned there.

    Taking into account your other posts about the greater democratization and education of the general public and weakening of credentialed elites, I wonder whether it matters. Israel’s image is not seriously imperilled among the general American public, which, like with issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, has proven itself increasingly impervious to the left’s accepted wisdom.

    Obama’s reported demands would never be met by any Israeli government (Reveresal of the housing order, announcement of new “confidence building” concessions, etc.) and certainly won’t be by this one, which in any case has already gone further than any previous Israeli government, right or left, in its 10 month non-Jerusalem housing freeze. So it is likely he that has more to lose.

    In the end, it may be one more example of how this presdient has undermined the office of the presidency through his self-inflicted foreign policy defeats.

  • LuizdoPorto

    On the other hand, Mr. Mead, one can wonder if those liberal constituencies are still a strong support for anything but ‘social spending’ and environmental panics.

    People who are incapable of grasping the necessity of destroying your enemies before they destroy or cripple you are incable of surviving.

    Since most people, even most voters of leftish parties want to survive, the influence of those liberal constituencies must wane, but for now they remain very powerfull spoilers.

    What worries me are two questions:
    1: And what then?
    2: How much blood, suffering and death may flow untill we get there?

    There must be a better way forward.

  • John Barker

    ” the drift in Israel away from the ‘European’ norms of the state’s early years to a more ‘eastern’ culture and political system” I do not understand what that means.Can anybody help?

  • Thom S

    Professor:
    Amidst the hyperbolic, ad hominem commentary that passes for analysis, your comments stand out as thought-provoking commentary. Alas, your learned discourse misses the mark
    (As I read your piece, I thought of a true Jacksonian Zionist who still serves as a model to many — Washington State’s Henry Jackson, who, I believe, would be appalled by the administration’s response) .
    You begin with an important truth — the importance of a President projecting an image of strength. The real gap here is between perceptions by those like Tom Friedman and Laura Rozen who see the Obama administration as doing a great deal for Israel and support the President’s decisive action condemning Israel as necessary to signal the U.S. is not a patsy.
    Many Israelis and American Zionists (myself included), however, believe that the President has exhibited continual weakness toward those who would wish America harm. Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Syria have learned that they have nothing to fear from this President. Our overture to Syria was met with Assad’s invitation to leaders of Iran and Hizbullah who mocked the U.S. in Damascus. To argue, as you do, that the condemnation of Netanyahu was necessary to evidence American strength is unsupported given the record of prior weakness.
    Notwithstanding Vice-President Biden’s comments, it could not be clearer that the this administration has absolutely no desire to confront Iran and has long-accepted a not-too distant Iran equipped with nuclear weapons. As some wags have commented, the President is far-more interested in effecting regime change in Jerusalem than in Iran. Meanwhile, Israel sees a President so inclined to tilt toward the Arab-Palestinian axis that he mis-stated history in his vaunted Cairo address. Things were not so great for Jews under Muslim rule, even in Spain. He failed to even mention Sadat and, more crtitically, described Israel as a creature of post-Holocaust redemptiopn, ignoring Jews’ centuries-long presence in the Holy Land.
    This gloss on history adopts the Arab narrative, which rejects a Jewish presence in Arab lands. Since then, the administration has refused to condemn Palestinian incitement and their continued praise of so-called martyrs. (See Richard Cohen today’s WashPo). As the Washington Post noted in its editorial today, the administration has provided the Palestinian leadership with another excuse to stall negotiations – Abbas cannot look less-insulted than Obama. Palestinians know also that this administration will never conemn them, regardless of the positions they take.
    Most troubling is the insistence by Friedman and this administration that Abbas et al. really accept a two-state solution, when, in fact, Palestinian leaders repeatedly reassert their demand for a full right of return of all refugees, a demand tantamount to seeking a one-state solution.
    I will be attending the Aipac conference next week. It should prove interesting.
    Again, I apologize (somewhat) for this long-winded comment, but thank you again for your thought provoking analysis.
    Thom S.

  • Norm

    One of Dr. Mead’s points is the near reflexive support for the office of the Presidency that he ascribes to Jacksonians. On the balance I think that is accurate, but one of the realities of President Obama is that his actions are virtually antithetical to the core values of Jacksonians. Obama is an anti-Jacksonian in the sense that his policy instincts are roughly 180 degrees opposite of what a thorough Jacksonian response to an issue would be. Instead of vigorously proclaiming American exceptionality, he has openly repudiated it. Instead of dealing internationally with a recognizable code of honor he dismisses allies and chums with despots like Chavez. Instead of affirming democratic norms he literally bows before potentates. Consequently, I suspect a lot of Jacksonians recognize the Obama holds the office of president formally, but it is a suit of clothes that is several sizes too big for his sense of what it is to be an American. Consequently, there is an impatience to get along to 2012 and January 2013 to put a more suitable occupant into the Oval office.

  • Roy

    I’m in favor of holding Netanayu’s feet to the fire on this issue, but I think Obama would have more latitude to maneuver if he had established a more robust response vis a vis Iran. The discrepancy does look a little funny. Walter alludes to this, and Obama’s critics have a point when they lament that some of our erstwhile allies have not been given the red carpet treatment, to say the least.

    My impression is that Obama really does have a more ambitious vision to remake the international political system, one probably grounded in his personal experiences and education, and one that subordinates U.S. influence abroad to a more egalitarian manner of resolving conflicts.

    Whether that is feasible, infeasible or unwise is my question.

    Lastly, the one thing I think Netanyahu deserves credit for is holding back on an Iran attack, in deference to U.S. wishes. I don’t think he has quite been given enough acknowledgment for this.

  • Kennedy Smith

    The Honduran policy also made the administration look weak. This was not the fault of the Honduranians, but the ridiculous and untenable position in which the administration put the US in order to appease some unsavory characters. A similar political scenario is playing out here. Though higher profile. I doubt the “Jacksonians” are going to turn on Israel and rally round the flag at this point. More likely to ask the administration “how did you put us in this position?”

  • Roy

    Incidentally, over at Tablet Magazine, Lee Smith has a piece on Evangelicals and Israel.

    I haven’t read it yet, but he has an incredibly fresh and original take on Middle Eastern affairs, grounded by the experience of living there, in the Arab world, post 9/11.

    His new book, “The Strong Horse”, is really great and highly recommended, filled with insights such as the notion that, contrary to the consensus view about al Qaeda, there are no ‘stateless actors’ in the region; all terrorist groups rely on a flow of logistical and financial support from Arab governments that use them as proxies in their conflicts with one another.

    Or, the idea that the commonplace that there are no military solutions to regional conflict may be entirely misguided, and that it is far more arrogant to presume that we can leave a mark on the ingrained political culture there.

    Or, that it’s not that they “Hate us for our freedom”, or our values, but rather because, we are simply outsiders, who will never be accepted by the domestic political culture.

  • Peter

    Obama will back down in his dispute with Israel.

    Domestic reaction is already mounting regarding the president’s immature behavior towards an ally, and his only chance to save any face whatsoever will be if Israel is gracious enough to give him an escape hatch.

    Watch and see, Mr. Mead.

  • Roy

    I guess an additional thought would be that there are extremist enemies of Israel (Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria) who will interpret an Obama/Netanyahu dispute, and a putative Israeli retrenchment in favor of promoting peace, as a sign of wilting Western resolve in the face of their unremitting pressure. In that case, we shouldn’t be surprised to see an escalation of their violent tactics.

  • Pingback: “Jacksonian Zionists”()

  • http://norwegianshooter.blogspot.com/ Norwegian Shooter

    “That today Israel is engaged in a confrontation with Iran, a country which poll after poll shows that Americans think of as their most dangerous adversary, only deepens this bond.”

    Pure BS! The first poll asks for overall opinion. The second asks whether Iran is a critical threat, with no regard to any other threats. But regardless, the poll also said:

    “Only international terrorism (81%) was more likely to be rated as a critical threat to U.S. vital interests than Iran. Americans rated the military power of North Korea and Iran (both 61%) as equal threats.”

    How the hell can you draw a “most dangerous adversary” from these polls? In addition, what do think Americans will think of Iran when they are spoon fed garbage about how crazy Ahmadinejad is?

  • http://norwegianshooter.blogspot.com/ Norwegian Shooter

    “Additionally, as Israel’s regional position shifted from embattled refuge to occupying power, it seemed equally less necessary and less moral among liberals to support the Jewish state.” today

    “Whatever the wrongs of Israel’s occupation policy — and I agree that there are some — the Palestinians, especially in the West Bank but even in Gaza, live much better than many people in the world whose suffering attracts far less world attention — and whose oppressors get far less criticism.” Yasser Arafat’s kiss.

    These are the only two mentions of the Occupied Territories in your series. “Some” wrongs of Israel’s occupation policy. What are they and what are the rights?

  • Luke Lea

    “For many Jacksonians, Israel is a litmus test. If you are pro-Israel, you are pro-American exceptionalism, pro-western values and pro-defense. The more clearly you support Israel, the more you look like a reliable American patriot who will do what it takes to defend the country from religious violence. . .”

    I’d hate to stake my life on the idea that this is “not likely to change anytime soon.” War weariness is not a river in Egypt.

  • Zev

    Putting aside the actual merits of the issue, I agree with your “inside baseball” analysis of the first paragraph, with the caveat that this is not just a matter of internal American politics. The US administration could have demanded “redress” by holding its public condemnation as an ace in its sleeve. By immediately playing this card, they not only gave up leverage over Israel, but they made it more difficult for Netanyahu to agree to its demands by raising the hackles of Israeli “Jacksonians.” The Administration, due to either ideology or incompetence, seems to have misplayed a winning hand. (But then again, for some of your commenters, anti-Israel theater is a worthy goal in itself.)

    It should go without saying that even if Netanyahu knuckles under to all the demands, the Administration behavior will still have been short-sighted. After all, the Administration supposedly has two main goals with respect to Israel: 1. having Israel refrain from striking Iran 2. having Israel make concessions to Palestinian Arabs. When is Israel more likely to cooperate, which involves putting itself at risk: when it feels that the US is a friend which will be at its side when the chips are down, or when it feels that the US is behaving capriciously, and is willing to throw it under the bus when convenient?

  • YM

    As an AIPAC contributer and a supporter of a two-state solution, I don’t understand those who critisize Israel for its settlement policy. In 2005 Israel pulled out of Gaza and closed down settlements. In the early 1980’s, as part of its peace treaty with Egypt, Israel pulled out of the Sinai and closed down settlements. Meanwhile, the Palestinians turned down Olmerts offer last year of 98% of the West Bank and land swaps for the remaining 2% without a comment. When President Obama first proposed an Israeli settlement freeze after his Cairo speech last year, it was in the context of confidence building moves being offered by the Arabs in exchange. He was not able to get one Arab country to offer anything. I see a settlement freeze as a concession to be offered in exchange for something real, not to be offered for nothing.

  • Zev

    John Barker:

    “the drift in Israel away from the ‘European’ norms of the state’s early years to a more ‘eastern’ culture and political system” I do not understand what that means.Can anybody help?

    At the risk of oversimplifying and possibly misrepresenting Walter:

    In Israel’s early years, its dominant political players were European socialists. to exagerate slightly, you could have mistaken Israel for a Hebrew-peaking socialist middle-European country. As time went by, many of these socialists learned from reality (or if you prefer, sold out) and gave up some of their ideology, and the political power of other groups (Jews of middle-eastern origin, the religious, the classically liberal (=free markets), the obviously disillusioned emigrants from the Soviet Union) increased. Israel became less like the European stereotype, and more like a mix of American flyover-country and Silicon Valley. (“Flyover country” is ironically apt given that one can fly across all of Israel as well as the disputed territories in minutes.) As Walter said, this development might not be entirely irrelevant to Israel’s declining popularity among American “progressives.”

  • Pingback: Eunomia » Sympathy()

  • Karl Maier

    As a Jacksonian Libertarian myself, I think Israel is at war with Islam and is justified in doing whatever it takes to break the will of it’s enemies to fight. This includes pushing them off of land that Israel has won in “Trial by Combat”, (that such a tiny outnumbered people have continued to prevail is clear evidence that God is upholding the right) as well as punishing them in other ways. Also, as a Jacksonian I see the Obama administration as treating our allies dishonorably and our enemies with incredible weakness (the bowing and scraping to Tyrants is humiliating and disgusting), and therefore Israel is totally justified in telling the Obama administration to piss off. I firmly believe that Obama weakness like Jimmy Carter’s before him will invite attacks which will cost Americans their lives.
    We are now in Great Depression 2.0 which will be accompanied by Megalomaniacs 2.0 now with extra horrifying WMD.
    As a final thought, those Presidents which denigrate the office they hold can’t be supported in their further denigration of that office.

  • Adam

    Andrew Sullivan linked to this post and confused (tried to confuse?) “Jacksonian” sympathy with Israel with Christianism.

    http://bit.ly/a58WM3

  • UtterlyDisgusted

    The label “Jacksonian Zionist” has got to be the biggest oxymoron I have ever heard. Are you kidding me? What’s next? “Jacksonian Supporters of Jim Crow”, “Jacksonians for Apartheid”, “Jacksonian White Supremacist”.

    I. F. Stone exemplified this confusion in the mind of Zionists and their supporters when he wrote: “Israel is creating a kind of moral schizophrenia in world Jewry. In the outside world, the welfare of Jewry depends on the maintenance of secular, non-racial, pluralistic societies. In Israel, Jewry finds itself defending a society in which mixed marriages cannot be legalized, in which the ideal is racist and exclusionist…That is what necessitated a re-examination of Zionist ideology.”

  • UtterlyDisgusted

    “President Obama needs to do two things now in this dispute. He must stand tall, and he must settle quick.”

    Yup, for decades the United States has been the enabler of the zionist settler-colonialist enterprise.

    Israel: We’re confiscating yet more Palestinian land to build Jews-only settlements. (Jim Crow wasn’t really that bad. Apartheid is fine.)

    Obama: That isn’t helpful. (We are seen as your enabler; please keep it down and don’t embarass us.)

    Israel: So? What you gonna do about it, black boy?

    Obama: I’ll …um.. say so.

    Israel/AIPAC: How dare you even mention it, you anti-Semite! You do not want to declare your loyalty to the Zionist enterprise and openly subordinate US interests to Zionist thievery and greed, that’s fine. Our Israel-firsters and bought-and-paid-for Congress always come through; they will keep the money and political support flowing.

  • Roy

    Watching events unfold today reinforces my earlier impression. Hamas detected vulnerability, and seized the occasion to provoke more unrest, on flimsy pretexts. There is something to David Rothkopf’s opinion that being weak on enemies and hard on friends is not a good reputation.

  • fw

    Hey, UtterlyDisgusted, you mean to say that I.F. Stone EXPLAINED not exemplified, in which case, he would have adhered to these beliefs that you are condemning.

    But thanks for EXEMPLIFYING THE CONFUSION of people who hate Israel.

    Anyway, that quote sounds a little out of context to me, if it’s accurate.

  • Pingback: We cut no ice on the right, what gives?()

  • Chris

    I don’t know “Jacksonian” from dirt.

    But I want to add that as a pro-Israel conservative Christian I think you have left out another point:

    Over my lifetime the US has, many times, attempted to broker peace between Israel and various opposition forces. With Egypt things worked out rather well. But with the “palestinian” groups our role has been to continually ask Israel to weaken itself for no obvious benefit except for someone to get the Nobel Peace Prize.
    Israel has been misused to polish presidential vanity.

    To now “get tough” with Israel is just another turn around that wheel.

  • Zev

    The latest Administration demand is that in order to make amends, Netanyahu must agree to step down and be replaced by Manuel Zelaya.

  • Pingback: The Joy of Chanting Israel First « Just Above Sunset()

  • El

    Look at your readership, Mead! Apart from Utterly Disgusted who brings some much needed context – lest we forget we are talking about a brutal colonialist enterprise, an apartheid state that has nothing to recommend it to ‘peace and freedom loving’ Americans – you have attracted the very people whose cognitive dissonance, stubborn ignorance and racism has ensured the suffering of those in Israel/Palestine continues.

    Please pay attention, readers:
    Many Israelis are tearing their hair out at the lack of support they get from the US in trying to stop Israel becoming even more of an ethnocentric, racist, fascist state.
    Make no mistake – the racism you encounter and witness in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory from Jewish settlers is like nothing you expect to see in the 21st century, and is deeply traumatising to the Palestinians who must suffer it every day.
    Zionist ideology is terrifying because it supports the idea of a Jewish majority, and defending this objective legitimises every sort of human rights violation from ethnic cleansing of whole neighbourhoods to the denial of the right of a Palestinian with a Jerusalem residency permit to marry a Palestinian from the occupied territory without losing that permit – in other words the end result is the same…

  • Glenn Yago

    Excellent analysis. As always, you have masterfully gone beyond hysteria and and festishim of petty differences in diplomacy distracting U. S. policy from pressing matters of the peace process. Thanks for putting things in perspective again. Best, Glenn

  • Andy

    Quite right, El! In order to fight against racism, we must prevent Jews from living in Jerusalem!

  • http://norwegianshooter.blogspot.com/ Norwegian Shooter
  • http://norwegianshooter.blogspot.com/ Norwegian Shooter

    WRM, paging WRM, you have a load of smackdown waiting for you at your blog!

    “The reason AIPAC has so much sway with Congress is because the American people honestly have no idea who or what AIPAC is, and having them trying to act as a co-equal branch of government could be quite, shall we say, illuminating, especially because there is a stark difference in the opinions of the American public and our elites regarding the entire issue.”

    John Cole at Balloon Juice

  • Luke Lea

    re: how to fight Al Qaeda. A voice of reason:

    http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/26764

  • Alan

    To begin with, Israel is not a “racist, fascist state” as some of the more bigoted and yes, anti-semitic posters would want us to believe. Just ask the Thousands of Ethiopian Jews and Sudanese Christians whom Israel has given refuge to, or the scores from other countries.

    Then ask yourself what the Muslim world has done to Darfur and the people of South Sudan.
    You want to talk “racism and fascism” – not to mention Palestinian support of Bin Laden, go ahead.

    Obama unfortunately is proving to many like myself who didn’t like nor trust him from the get-go what he really is. It would be simplistic enough to call him a coward and a liar, but just look at the record. Israel made certain agreements with the Bush administration; Obama and Clinton have undermined or reneged on those commitments whether anti-semites like it or not. Furthermore give me one instance where Obama’s so-called “smart” diplomacy has paid off in regards to Iran. Russia is still sending missiles to Ahmedinejedad and China still refuses to go along. He has done nothing about Iran, but gosh, build one apartment in a legally and historically Jewish neighborhood and look out.

    Two more things must be said. Biden told Netanyahu that Israeli actions endanger American troops. Nothing can be further from the truth. It is the actions of Obama and Biden who refused to label the Iranian Guards as “terrorists” that endangers American soldiers. Furthermore, if Israel ceased to exist tomorrow, the Islamofascists of the world would still seek out and kill us. Finally, if Israelis can’t live on their own land, what gives Americans – the vast majority non-Native, the right to live on our own land, or better yet, what gives Palestinians to right to occupy Jewish soil?

    Care to reply, bigots?

  • Alan

    p.s. one more thought

    A friend of mine and very wise American Patriot who died a month ago once told me what he had told others.

    “As goes Israel so goes the United States of America”.

    That man was General Al Haig, a man whom Obama, Biden, Clinton would never be fit to shine his combat boots or equal his service to our country.

  • Zev

    Walter, all: I highly recommend Yossi Klein Halevi’s article in The New Republic.

    http://www.tnr.com/print/article/world/the-crisis

  • shelleykaufman

    America is safe today because of Israel and strong support for human rights around the world by Obama. Obama has abandoned what America was known for, unheeding the calls of the Iranian people, allowing China to imprison dissidents without merely a peep, strengthening America’s enemies while battling the one ally that keeps Americans safe, Israel, Obama has encouraged friendly relations between Syria, iran and Turkey. Obama’s incompetence has placed the children of the world in front of a nuclear armed group of fanatical mullahs who believe that their Messiah will come in amid nuclear war. Just today the president of Iran announced the Islamic revolution is spreading beyond Iran’s borders. Does anyone out there understand that there is a spiritual battle unfolding and that the West doesn’t even understand that its whole way of life is under attack.The Jerusalem neighborhoods that Obama is fighting over have always been Jewish and were OCCUPIED BY THE JORDANIANS AND THEN ILLEGALLY given to a newly formed group called “PALESTINIAN ARABS’ a people who have no history or no culture in the Holy Land.When Mark Twain went to the Holy land in 1867 he saw desolate swampland with Jews and Bedouins living on the fringes. Jews were the majority in Jerusalem. Jews were called Palestinians by the English and Israel, Palestine by the Romans. The neighborhoods of Silvan, S.Jarrah and Ramat Shlomo were always Jewish.The Arabs took away Jewish land and property during the war of independence in 48 and the Jews took it back. Now the Arabs are trying to take land that isn’t theirs.San Remo Agreement 1920, in which British carved up the ME only Israel had a biblical history all the other countries were made up. The British gave Israel Golan Heights, W.Bank and Jerusalem and then reneged in order to reward a foreign Hashemite Saud clan which became Jordan. Jordan attacked Israel in 1948 and stole Jewish land and destroyed temples and churches. Israel took back their own land!! There are no settlers just owners. The Palestinian Arab created by Hitler’s friend and another British creation, Mufti Husseni who gave Hitler the idea of the gassing of the Jews to prevent deportation to the Holy Land. The British helped this horrible man escape to Egypt where he joined the Muslim brotherhood and used the techniques he knew from training Bosnia Muslims to train his nephew, Egyptian born Arafat, first leader of a Palestinian Arab a group formed from Bedouins and immigrating Arabs from neighboring countries jealous of the prosperity the Jews brought to Israel. 900,000 Jews were ethnically cleansed from Arab lands and although Arab have equal rights in Israel,Arab women vote in Israel, Arabs have equal access to social services and opportuities of a high standard of living, no Jew is allowed to buy land in Jordan or any of the Arab countries. Jordan is 100% Palestinian and so is Gaza.Arabs voted in killer and corruption, the PA and Hamas whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction and a hatred of America. The first Temple in Jerusalem is 3000 years old and the first mosque was built recent in history in the 7th century after Mohammed’s death. Mohammed deemed Jerusalem so unimportant he did not mention it one time in the Koran. The Palestinian Arabs adhere to “Mein kamph” continuing the nazi ideology.The land is Jewish and although the left hates the US economic system, it is sleeping with the Islamists who hate the cultural reach of the US, the freedoms of press, speech, women and gay rights, children rights and religious and cultural diversity, The left will find themselves imprisoned by an evil that they will not be able to shake. Israel and Jerusalem are Jewish, there is no Arab history in the land. No Palestinian history and that is why they don’t make peace, they were created by evil and the only way to destroy their path is to destroy the evil that entrances them. Teach the Palestinian love, compassion, meditation, real history as opposed to the revisionist one and to stop demonizing the Jews. These are all nazi methods. Hamas and the PA must go and the these people must get new information and the truth about Jewish history and the lie about theirs.

  • Pingback: Jacksonians and Tea Partiers » Interstitial()

  • http://norwegianshooter.blogspot.com Norwegian Shooter

    Alan,

    Al Haig, really?

    Al Haig, no, I mean seriously, really?

    Al Haig, WTF?

    Al Haig, are you insane?

  • Pingback: Duelling Quotes of the Day, Israel edition. | RedState()

  • Pingback: Moe Lane » Duelling Quotes of the Day, Israel edition.()

  • Heath

    Alan,

    It is irresponsible to equate Muslims in Darfur with Palestinians. Muslims are not a unified anything much many other people who are placed in undifferentiated categories and painted with broad brushes.

    “Bigot” is a strong word to use, and one I am now very used to whenever I issue any critique of Israel.

    Benjamin Schwartz has an excellent article in this same journal concerning the nature, in part, of the divide between the United States and Israel and its sources. I strongly suggest you read it.

    Only a fool would think that Israel is not an important ally, strategically and otherwise. But only an equal fool would fail to realize how American support for Israeli policies which are cagey legally, morally, and, for the united states at least, strategically, hurts American Interest as well.

    A re-balancing of Isreal/American relations is vital to the “special relationship” lasting. This current situation is merely a symptom of much deeper divides that have been brewing for quite some time.

    Reducing critics of Israel to “anti-semitic” and “bigoted” is irresponsible, un-patriotic and stupid. It has no place in the conversation.

    I have no love for Hamas. In fact, I find many of their actions vile and contemptible and I do not think that they are anything approaching a viable broker for the Palestinian side concerning peace.

    But I also believe peace is not something that the Israeli government actually wants. With peace, they would have to commit to concessions they are not willing to make and as long as the conflict continues; their actions are much less circumscribed.

    This is the essential diverging point of the United States and Israel: the development of a viable Palestinian state and an actual peace between Israel and this state is strategically desirable for the United States and not for Israel.

    It is not anti-semitic or bigoted to vocalize the divide between American and Israeli interests.

    Or do you also count General David Petraeus a bigot?

  • Arik Elman

    Walter,
    First of all, I’d like to know when exactly Israel was ruled by people with “European norms of state”. This state was established by people from Eastern Europe, and I resent your racist implication that the immigrants from Arab countries and former Soviet Union are somehow incapable of maintaining democracy.
    Second, as long as Israel persisted in its “European”, Socialist, one-big-party model, it remained a client state, an economic basket case and – surprise, surprise – it was also much more aggressive then today. The alignment of Israeli values an political culture with America had a positive impact on Israel which in turn helped to endear the Jewish state to “average American”, if there’s such a thing.

  • Independent Observer

    Walter is spot on is his contention that US support for Israel is due not so much to any omnipotent “Israel Lobby” as to the rock-solid American public support for Israel.

    But this is the third time a US administration has interfered in Israel democracy; Bush Sr and Clinton also interfered, against the Likud.

    Imagine if the USA tried t do this to Germany or France or Mexico or modern Japan – the left would become incandescent, raging about neo-colonialism.

    The hypocrisy of Obama’s neo-colonialist attempt to over-ride Israeli democracy is loathesome.

    It is also not the first time the USA has backtracked on “assurances” to Israel; the 1957 promise to ensure the Sinai never re-militarised, comes to mind.

    Until now, I have withheld judgment of Obama’s attitude to Israel; the campaign was filled with mixed signals.

    But now I am sure the Obama administration is the greatest threat to Israel’s well-being in decades.

  • nadine

    Heath,

    No, I would not count General Petraeus as a bigot. But he merely listed the unresolved I/P conflict as one among many factors increasing anti-Americanism in the Middle East, literally one in a list of a dozen factors. Petraeus did not put it out as a primary reason as Mark Perry, that Hizbullah flunky, tried to make us all believe in his Foreign Policy blog post. In fact, General Petraeus regards it as so far from a primary factor that he didn’t mention it at all in his introductory remarks to Congress at all.

    The idea that Muslims hate us because the I/P conflict is unresolved is one of the oldest cons in the book. The ones who hate us on that account would hate us much WORSE if there were a settlement, which they would regards as a treacherous sell-out.

  • David Waln

    Walter,
    Thanks for your perspective. After reading the responses so far, I find myself hungry for a little more perspective on Nation States as survival units, Identity as social glue, as well as the many potential facets of a balanced identity that is positive i.e., not based on enemies/victimhood.

    Successful Nation States require many things the Palestinians don’t yet have. A balanced and positive identity is a major one. Hate and victimhood will not build civic institutions or a productive economy.

    My feeling is that the only way there will ever be peace is if Palestine become a functional Nation State. That can only happen if we build a positive identity in the next generation of Palestinian children. Give them some world class soccer coaches, and the best nutritionists. Tie it to the best school programs and industry. Bring in a minority of outside talent to keep it from becoming completely tribal. Nothing succeeds like success.

    I think a lot of the love-hate relationship many people I know have with Israel come from the fact that people are still basically tribal, and Israel is the last ‘tribe’ standing in a historically long process of tribal attrition and assimilation.

    Palestine is never going to compete ‘tribally’ with Israel. They can sidestep that whole thing though and advance directly to a more pluralistic and successful modern state.

  • Mike

    Dr. Mead,

    I’m not a licensed historian, but there does seem to be something quite unscientific about your method of explaining how public opinion has evolved.

    You don’t provide much quantitative data about what public attitudes were at any particular point in time. You further assert that certain opinions were held by certain imprecisely defined ideological groups and these opinions changed and then you tell us what events occurred which caused those ideas to change! All with little or no data to back up these claims.

    You might be right on some of these ideas, but you might be wrong also. You really don’t provide much evidence, just a nice narrative.

    All sorts of pseudo-scientific disciplines from psychoanalysis to Feng-Shui use similar narratives to explain events. It’s easy to create a just-so story to explain things when you don’t have to prove causal connections.

    It all makes for interesting reading and there are some insightful descriptions of ideas, but given that it is not based on empirical / scientific / testable and falsifiable claims, it is not really scientific.

    Sadly, given the complexity of this world, most of the causal connections you mention to explain how the thinking of certain groups evolved are probably just not correct.

    Mike

  • Pingback: Review with Yellow and Purple Crocuses » Here in HP, Highland Park, New Jersey blog()

  • A thought experiment

    To those providing “context” (utterly disgusted, N. shooter, etc.) above, I propose a simple thought experiment, if you are still here guys, feel free to answer:

    Scenario 1: Israel disarms and renounces violence, becoming a pacifist state.

    What happens in the next year?

    Scenario 2: All of the Palestinians groups (Fatah, Hamas, etc.) disarm and renounce violence, becoming pacifist advocates for their people.

    What happens in the next year?

    Well, which scenario (yes, both are unlikely) leads to true peace?

  • Thorvald

    1. I.F. Stone: Would that be I.F. Stone, communist agent, or I.F. Stone, irrelevant moron?
    2. Israel is almost literally a toehold of freedom in what was before ’48 mostly a backwater of the Ottoman Empire. Everything you need to know about Palestine between Abdul Hamid II and ’48 (that does not tell the history of Zionism) is: ‘Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Visits Hitler’.
    3. President Obama, like nearly all American Marxists, has much more in common with the Islamo-Fascists than with their enemies (i.e., Israel and us). Can you say, “Rashid Khalidi”? I think you can. I aver moreover that if the L.A. Times ever shows the video they have of Obama at a fete for Khalidi, it will have have the same effect as ramming socialized medicine through the oh-so popular 111th Congress: they may try to pretend not to be Socialists, but no one believes them. Obama could try to pretend not to be anti-Israel, but no one will believe him.
    4. If you’re not Jewish, you can make this test: wear your regular clothes and walk alone through, say, Bethlehem and then, say, Haifa (or, take your pick). Where do you feel more comfortable? (Anyone who hasn’t tried this, don’t give me any of your nuance. You won’t get nuance back.
    5. Who doesn’t get this? Israel is the front line of “He’s over there so they won’t cut your head off over here.”

  • Bennett

    There may indeed by a “natural” sympathy for Israel in the U.S., but certain large organizations are leaving nothing to chance and have ongoing and strenuous campaigns to shape attitudes toward Israel.

    This talk radio campaign is one of the more innovative efforts to reach heartland audiences.

    http://info.jpost.com/C002/Supplements/AmericasVoices/

    And of course AIPAC…

    http://mondoweiss.net/2010/04/aipac-we-make-sure-that-pro-israel-candidates-take-over-government.html

    And this one designed to orchestrate comments on the internet.

    http://www.giyus.org/

  • Pingback: Anti-Israel WH Officials Targeting American Jews With “Leaked” Dual Loyalty Smears | Mere Rhetoric()

  • Pingback: Illiberal Zionism Update: Beinart Nails It « Asian Security & US Foreign Relations Blog()

  • http://rickienolan922.insanejournal.com/data/rss Connie Cheyney

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2014 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service