This post was written by Bruce Wolman over at Mondoweiss. I am copying it here in full because I found it so thought-provoking. As a Jewish educator, this post brings home to me the challenge progressive Jews are forced to deal with: what is Jewish identity without an outside enemy, without anti-Semitism?
More importantly, Mr. Wolman's post challenges American Jews. If being Jewish means supporting the State of Israel's agenda, what happens when the Israeli agenda is at odds with American concerns, including the safety of American soldiers? This problem is as old as Zionism itself and, will undoubtedly, continue to bedevil American Jewish Zionists.
The costs to the USA in pushing so hard to defend Israeli interests was beginning to seriously deplete our hard-power and soft-power assets (as defined by Joseph Nye). This analysis is not based on assuming Zionist control of US foreign policy. It only needs to posit that in negotiations if you want something – and the other side knows you want something – then expect to have to give up something in return. As a negotiator, if I insist on fulfillment of one of my demands, I understand that I am going to have to ease up on other demands. This is just the nature of negotiations. This dynamic is even stronger if negotiations are on-going rather than one-off.
For whatever reasons, the US has decided to make the Iranian nuclear program its number one foreign policy concern. Diplomatically maintaining that policy has its costs. The Chinese may prefer not to see Iran have nuclear weapons, but it is not a major issue for them, while access to Iranian oil is a major objective of the Chinese. The US has in place a policy to increase economic, political and military pressure on Iran to suspend its enrichment program and curtail other aspects of its nuclear program. This pressure cannot be made operational without international cooperation. The Chinese could easily undo US efforts if it wanted. What is the price that the US has paid to get Chinese acquiescence? My assertion is that part of the deal with China is that the US will not demand tougher economic concessions from China, that the US will continue to accept large deficits in its Chinese trade and maintain US openness to Chinese goods, and in return that China will let the US continue with its Mideast policies. (Frankly, I believe China must be laughing at this trade-off, as it considers the US Mideast strategy self-defeating.)
The connection with Israel is this. The US concern over Iran is as intense as it is due to Israeli policies and the pro-Israel lobby’s insistence that Israeli interests are one and the same as America’s, and should be given the same priority by the US as by Israel. If we did some reasonable polling of Americans and the US foreign policy elites, I am certain we would find that those polled would give a much higher priority to dealing with our economic relations with China and a lowering of priority to dealing with a possible Iranian nuclear weapon’s program than is now in fact the case. Why the disconnect? I would argue on account of US domestic politics. The Democratic Party is heavily dependent on Jewish funding. To what extent does not get into print, but you can be certain that the Party heads and leading politicians know. Otherwise, you would have to argue that the Parties have researched every demographic aspect of their donors except religion, especially the Jewish religion. You only have to listen to the craven speeches of Congresswoman Pelosi and Congressman Hoyer last week at AIPAC to see how servile the Democratic leadership has become to the Israeli narrative and pro-Israeli interests.
Republicans line up with Israel for slightly different reasons. Although less dependent on Jewish donors, they still receive sizable amounts. In this election cycle Sheldon Adelson has made everyone aware of that. Moreover, Republicans have tried to put a wedge between Jewish donors and the Democratic Party by arguing they are the more reliable supporters of Israel. The Republicans also have the Christian Zionists as part of their base, and in some ways the Christian Zionists are more extreme about Eretz Israel than the Israelis. Supporting Israeli expansion and unpeopling the Palestinians is throwing this part of the base some red meat. Right-wing nationalism always needs an enemy to fight, and Islamization is the current enemy. Iran-Israel is the front line for these people, whom comfortably sit well behind the lines. Finally, well-funded neo-Conservative institutions are part of the Israeli-lobby and important players in the mass media. Republicans want to keep the criticism from these circles to a minimum.
In an attempt to appease these domestic political dynamics, the Obama administration keeps spending its diplomatic capital defending Israel. While each decision by itself may have been considered a small price to pay for re-election, cumulatively, these decisions add up. Putting at risk our relationship with Turkey in order to take Israel’s side in the flotilla incident and then to continue to insist that Turkey make-up with Israel is not in America’s interests. Being only concerned whether the new ruling forces in Egypt maintain the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty (and not the part of the treaty relating to solving the Palestinian question) does not further US interests in the Arab Middle East.
There is no conspiracy. It is all out in the open for all to see. Israelis are just taking advantage of the situation with the assistance of their pro-Zionist allies and the American Jewish community. An alternative domestic political strategy was also there for all to see last week. When Israel went too far and so threatened American interests that even Obama was forced to act, the President came out on top. All he had to do was say that he was not willing to put the lives of American soldiers at risk to meet Israeli demands and it was game Obama. Of course it helped that the risk-averse Obama had a fresh polling of American opinions about war with Iran and that the US military is heavily opposed to another war in the Middle East.