The wheels are squeaking on the tumbrel methinks. At a recent conclave held by AIPAC, unease arose, reasonably enough, over eroding American support for Israel. What apparently did not arise was any indication of understanding of why support is eroding.
In Haaretz I find the following account of a speech by Howard Kohr, the executive director of AIPAC: “‘These voices [not hostile to Islam] are laying the predicate for an abandonment [by the US of Israel]…The stakes in that battle are nothing less than the survival of Israel, linked inexorably to the relationship between Israel and the United States. In this battle we are the firewall, the last rampart.’”
This sort of shrieking-dental-drill end-of-worldism is of course the boiler plate of alarmed extremists, and extremists are congenitally alarmed. Eeek, we must stop the (blacks, Moslems, commies, Mexicans, Jews, secular humanists) before they destroy (Western Civilization, America, Israel or, you know, something Really Important.)
Haaretz goes on to speak of AIPAC’s loosening hold on America, of what I call Israel fatigue, which seems to be growing. Not long ago, criticism of AIPAC was a firing offense at newspapers. Today, less so, probably because the internet has outflanked the print media.
However, it seems to me that AIPAC is not the firewall defending Israel that it believes itself to be, but rather the carpenter putting the first nails in Israel’s coffin. Permit me a few thoughts:
First, Jews are in no danger in the US. It is to AIPAC’s benefit to pretend otherwise. Howwsomever, America is not an anti-Semitic country. Yes, you can find websites like Loonfront.com and Stormbird.org. (I made those up. I hink.) It remains that Jews, once outsiders, are now insiders. They are deeply integrated into the country, intermarriage is high, and few care. The only potential source of anti-Jewish hostility is the belief that Jews have pushed the US into some international catastrophe, as for example war with Iran. Otherwise, few Americans seem particularly interested in Jews.
Second, few Americans, as best I can tell, object to the existence of Israel. What huge numbers of people object to is Israel’s constant savage bombardment of Beirut, butchery in Gaza, and colonization of the West Bank.
Third, AIPAC, by its ownership of Congress, enables the current unprincipled (and, I am inclined to add, un-Jewish) government of Israel to continue these policies that, yes, very much undermine American public support for Israel.
Is this really a favor to Israelis?
Ponder the dilemma that Israel presents to me, to Americans who are not Jewish.
I loathe America’s militarism, the carnage it wreaks in its wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, and earlier in Southeast Asia. Why am I supposed to approve of identical behavior by Israel? Am I to have one morality for Israel and another for my own country and the rest of the world? Am I to believe that gratuitously bombing Baghdad and Hanoi is wrong, but gratuitously wrecking Beirut is right?
Although I am a Southerner, and like being one, I detested the apartheid practiced in the South. I was there. Don’t tell me ‘bout dem happy niggahs plunking dat ol banjo undah dee big oak tree. It was ugly. Jews, I note, didn’t like it either, and in fact led the movement for civil rights.
If I didn’t like brutal repression (which it was) engaged in by my own people, why am I supposed to like it when engaged in by Israelis? And why do Jews, who didn’t approve of it in the South, support it in Israel? Why don’t they tell Israel to stop it? They could.
Repressive custody of others does no make nice people. My family (the Venables) for two centuries lived in Prince Edward County, Virginia. In the early Fifties, as desegregation gained ground, we were the resistance, the Power Structure, the AIPAC of the region. Those with an idea of history may remember that Prince Edward shut down the public schools to avoid contact with blacks. The reasons given were many, some better than others, but ultimately the system was just wrong.
I spent a fair amount of time listening to my parents and relatives drinking bourbon in stately living rooms in Farmville, the county seat, and talking race. I know how their heads work. I know the grinding hatred, the contempt that dripped from every sentence, the herdishness as they confirmed each other’s snarling.
They sounded exactly like American Zionists speaking of Arabs. There was the same insistence on racial inferiority, on the filthiness of blacks or Arabs, their historical uselessness, their incapacity to fit into a civilized world, their sexual appetites. There is nothing Jewish in this. It is the normal moral sewerization that results from the relation of masters to slaves. Prison guards have it. South Africans had it. The only good Indian is a dead Indian. The underclass are always vermin, and the masters always become moral monsters. The Nazis, early Likudists, had identical notions of Jews.
I find myself wanting to say to AIPAC: What are you clowns thinking? How do you see the end game? You support a goose-stepping government in colonizing the West Bank to the point that it is irreversible. Then what? Your choices are extermination of your Arabs, ethnic cleansing on a horrific scale, or South Africanization. And how well did that work?
Because Jews have a well-earned reputation for being intelligent, one might make the mistake of expecting them necessarily to behave intelligently. No. Brains only provide the means to be more elaborately and ornately stupid. The smart merely make more complex mistakes. Historically, horrendous misjudgements have usually been the children of good minds. When you mix acuity with fanaticism, you get an ungodly stew almost certain to end in disaster. This may be worth thinking about.
Intelligence does allow the fabrication of high-sounding motives. Thugs simply hit people on the head. It is a straightforward and honest undertaking. The smart come up with grand justifications. Americans had Manifest Destiny and now have Spreading Democracy. Israel says its settlements have the right of “natural growth” or, in German, lebensraum. All these amount to “I want it. Give it to me or I’ll kill you.”
It is curious how many people believe that Jews are copies of Ariel Sharon, marching in robotic lockstep behind Likud. It just isn’t so. From Ha’aretz: “…but alternative Jewish voices are rising who are less concerned with being accused of ‘self-hatred’ or treachery. They see it as their duty to damn what is wrong and not simply support Israeli government policies. A thinking, more enlightened Judaism is emerging, a necessity in the face of apartheid realities. The cause is human rights, not Zionist exclusion.”
If they want a fellow-traveler, count me in.