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ICG Risk Blog - [ Jewish American and Israeli perspectives on AIPAC and its marriage of convenience with Evangelicals ]

Jewish American and Israeli perspectives on AIPAC and its marriage of convenience with Evangelicals


In response to the AIPAC trilogy (parts 1, 2 and 3), a very dear friend attempted to put things into a Jewish American perspective:

Yes we Jews have become very effective in "persuading Congress et al" [sender's quotation marks]. Most who are my age remember all too well the boats being turned away, the interception of boats on the way to the Palestine Mandate, the refusal to at least bomb the railways to the death camps, the caveats in the property deeds, the fighting our way into and out of school. Shall I make the list longer?

Our efforts to control power given our absolute small percentage of the total population have been quite successful and long shall it be so. To not do so would condemn us to the rampant anti semitism one sees in France. It is only under the surface here in the good old U S of A… I felt it every day in commerce whether it was the guy off the street who said I was trying to jew him down to the owner of a stamping plant who referred to us as "sheenies".

Gordon, my contribution to AIPAC is on the way.

[Sheeny; sheenies: a derogatory term for a Jew or Jews. Origin is generally listed as unknown but it may be based on the German "schon" or beautiful, an adjective used by Yiddish merchants in advertising their wares]

I can sympathize with the "only under the surface" comment as I had an older relative, a courtly southern gentleman until circumstances drove him to drink, that began to ascribe anything amiss or bad as the fault of "dirty niggers and sheeny Jews," over and over. It was nothing short of stunning as I'd previously never heard those words from him.

In the late 70s or early 80s, I was sitting in the living room of my Israeli distributor, he from Prague, his wife from Munich, and both very elegant and artistically sensitive. Their son was about 6 or 7 if memory serves. My distributor had often expressed the sadness that he and his wife felt over the lack of a cultured environment in Tel Aviv or Israel for the matter. I asked why that did not return to Europe. The reply: "Gordon, this is the one place my son will never be called a Jew." I remember thinking how academic my education had been. Using a phrase that first rose in a talk with Black colleagues, I shall never be able to understand what I call the accumulated injury of a life of slights.

My American friend continued:

The only place a Jew really feels safe is Israel. There are 300 million Arabs surrounding 5 million Jews. There is a layer of anti semitism in Europe and the US. The muslim world is in the main anti semitic. There is no doubt that the Israeli Jew and the American Jew will do whatever is necessary to involve anyone that will come to their aid and will do so by any means possible.

It is my hope that we (the Jews) are not being naive. The reason the US is involved with Israel is that Israel is the eyes and ears where the oil is. I hope you do not believe the US would not walk away no matter what AIPAC et al would do if there was no oil in the Mideast. It suited the US's purpose to have Israel knock out the reactor in Iraq; it may serve again to have Israel go after the reactors in Iran. It may serve the US's purposes to feed Israel to the wolves. It is imperative that Israel do everything in its power to make sure that does not happen.

Gordon, Never Again!

My reply:

The US is certainly in the Middle East due to oil and its geopolitics drive us until such time as we slake our dependence on it or someone with a bigger stick shoos us away from it. [The US] was already in the Middle East before its relationship rose with Israel. Too few US nationals remember that although the US urged the partition of the East Bank of Mandate, declining Jewish wishes to partition the West Bank of the Mandate (Jordan) as well, the original military benefactor to Israel were the French [who were] instrumental in the construction of the Negev reactor and the Jericho I IRBM... It was Truman, feeling a need to annex Jewish voters in a close presidential election, that begun the political landscape that we have in the US today. One wonders what would happened without that event, or when the next time of need would have occurred. I do not for a moment think that Israel would look for another benefactor if US permissiveness waned. Mark me zany, but I think that Israel would strike a very interesting deal with China although the Chinese are so much more smooth a political operator that the fumblers in the administration, that they are doing very well painting us into the corner as the bull in the global China Shop...

I was privy to a number of Israeli state actions some of which were in our interests while many were not. I do not begrudge a nation state from acting in its own interests; I do not like it trying to pass its actions off as something good for us when it is something good for them. The US is the primary intel target for the State of Israel, dwarfing the assets directed at any other state. It is allowed access that no other state is permitted and it uses that access to our ill - significantly so.

Yes, there are tactical interests between the US and Israel. Examples being the identification of certain Palestinian assets to the Israelis... I was in some briefings by Israeli officers in which they used a metaphor that I think circulates within the IDF, as others have heard it, that Israel is like the man atop a burning building that can neither put out the fire or get down off the building. All actions are conducted within that narrow range of options.

Had I endured the history that you folks have had to do, I would be looking for every advantage that I could get and I would warily form an alliance with the [Evangelicals] that think that Jews will miraculously convert on the eve of rapture. I have Israeli friends that laugh at that as much as they are bemused at what they call the guilt of American Jews who give money in lieu of moving to Israel. Everyone seems to use everyone else to some degree. I have no issue per se with lobbying, be it for pharmaceuticals or for Israel, so long as it in the clear. In the case of AIPAC, it has long since crossed the line such that it should be under FARA.

His response was intriguing:

Frankly I don't have a problem with AIPAC falling under FARA but I am in the minority. Most feel that the omnipresent divided loyalties would be too apparent. It doesn't bother me. As to the Israelis view of the American Jews I would be there in a heartbeat if the black hats didn't wield so much power.

The "omnipresent divided loyalties" is my point and, yes, it would be on display as it is with virtually every other hyphenated American group, but that equality and openness is what I am seeking.

As to the black hats, back in the late 70s, I'd forecast that Israel would move rightward as the Sephardim came to outnumber the Ashkenazim. Combine that shift with radical religious conservatives and one gets a potent voting bloc. The Knesset's proportional representational system is tailor-made for this kind of factional pressure politics. It is neigh impossible to rule without at least having Shas underfoot or the gaggle of really rightward groups from which the greatest attack threat to Sharon was expected to rise. The Israeli security services spend a fair amount of time trying to decide who will line up on which side among the personnel among the various security assets. Rabin was, after all, not shot by a Palestinian. (See Keeping Sharon alive long enough to effect withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank.)

I'll close this note with a reply from an Israeli friend, who divides his time between the US and Israel, responding to my inquiry as to "how Israelis - not American Jews - view evangelical Christians":

I think the average Israeli has no idea what evangelicals are about. For historical reasons (see Torquemada) Israelis have deep antipathy towards missionaries operating in Israel. In fact, the LDS [Latter-day Saints or Mormon Church] school in Jerusalem got permission from the government to set up in exchange for commitment not to engage in missionary activity in Israel.

For the average Israeli, non-missionary Christians who come to Israel with adoration for Israeli might are good gentile Zionists. Since Israelis have this inferiority/persecution complex, they crave validation from outsiders and tend to overlook the outsiders' belief systems and practices. So, Idi Amin Baba and South Africa were both kosher as well as South American despots and Pat Robertson.

Most Israelis don’t really understand that converting Jews is a big part of the evangelical theology. Most Israelis, who are quite secular, don’t know that a majority of Americans are deeply religious and hold strong beliefs about Armageddon and the role of Jews in the second coming. So perhaps they view evangelicals adoring Israeli soldiers and West Bank settlement as some type of weird but nice cult, especially as they do not proselytize in Israel.

That is the average view probably. The Israeli right wing leadership, including national-religious extreme, seemed to have struck a cynical alliance with the evangelicals. I believe that Bibi [Binyamin Netanyahu] is the master of that relationship where there’s a quid pro quo. Let them hold their crazy beliefs if they will be our power brokers in DC, a good complement to AIPAC. We'll not try to change them, nor they us, as long as both sides gain benefits.

The average Israeli was only sensitized to the evangelicals after Pat Robertson made his comment on Sharon's stroke being God’s punishment for dividing Israel. Now that is something that Israeli rabbis can spout any time with no problem (including Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Shas who is a real nut). But when an American says that, and he doesn't even wear some strange garb, that's a problem. But it was quickly smoothed out and the alliance continues and there were so many other news items that it was quickly forgotten. Ask the average Israeli, ask even enlightened Israelis who Robertson is and what evangelical beliefs about Jews are, and they will have no idea.

Next: Confluence of anti-Semitic, pro-Fascist sentiments of the "Radio Priest" and Nazi-tolerance sentiments of US business. Father Charles E. Coughlin outraged Jews and helped set the stage for today's marriage of convenience between Jews and Evangelicals.

Robertson blamed Sharon stroke on policy of "dividing God's land"
Summary: Pat Robertson suggested that Ariel Sharon's stroke occurred because he was "dividing God's land."
Meida Matters for America
Jan 5, 2006 2:54pm EST

Gordon Housworth

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