The Ongoing Allies

Michael Oren has written an excellent article portraying not only how important the US-Israel alliance is for the US but also providing data from surveys and polls showing that US citizens recognise the importance of the friendship and alliance.

As Oren pointed out, “The surveys prove that most Americans do not accept the argument that U.S. support for Israel provokes Islamic radicals or do not especially care even if it does. In a Senate hearing last year, Gen. David Petraeus, then head of U.S. Central Command, testified that the Arab-Israeli conflict “challenges … our ability to advance our interests.” Critics of the U.S.-Israel relationship seized on the remark as evidence of the alliance’s prohibitive costs — an interpretation Petraeus strenuously rejected — but the incident wrought no change in popular opinion. In fact, a CNN survey taken later that week showed that eight out of 10 Americans still regarded Israel as an allied or friendly state.”

(as an aside, it was interesting and totally predictable that Paul McGeough, in his potholed anti-Israel ramble at the Opera House last year, would provide the Israel-critical interpretation of Petraeus’s initial remarks, and fail to mention Petraeus’s subsequent denial of that interpreration  – a good example of card stacking, or denial of fact by omission, we mentioned in a recent blog.)

Continuing the theme of not letting facts get in the way of a good story,  Ted Lapkin provides an excellent response to Peter Beinert, who has received acclaim for stating that US Jewish support is moving away from Israel.  The only minor problem with Beinart’s argument is that, as Lapkin points out,  the evidence doesn’t support it.

Lapkin writes  “The American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) 2010 Annual Survey of Jewish Opinion found that 74 per cent of American Jews felt “fairly close” or “very close” to Israel. This figure is entirely consistent with the findings of previous surveys done over the past decade.  The AJC survey also found that a whopping 94 per cent thought that any formal peace treaty with the Palestinians must include formal recognition of Israel’s Jewish character. A solid majority of 62 per cent also expressed support for the idea of Israeli military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

These results were largely reaffirmed by an August 2010 Brandeis University survey entitled Still Connected: American Jewish Attitudes Towards Israel. The study found that 75 per cent of those polled felt affection for Israel is an important part of their Jewish identity.  Brandeis pollsters also focused in the May-June 2010 Gaza flotilla incident as microcosm of larger Jewish patterns of sentiment and affiliation. They found 70 per cent of Jews endorsed Israeli’s actions during last year’s Gaza flotilla incident, versus only 9 per cent who supported the pro-Palestinian cause.

Even more surprising was the finding that younger American Jews were more hawkish in their support for Israel than their older ethnic kin. Fully 58 per cent of the 18-to-29 age bracket opposed Israeli territorial concessions in Jerusalem, compared to only 43 per cent of 45 to 59 year-old Jews.

More remarkable still was the lack of impact political ideology had on affinity for Zionism. Fully 82 per cent of Left-leaning American Jews thought that current levels of US support for Israel should be maintained or increased, with a mere 18 per cent wanting them cut.

And it’s not just Jews in the United States. In their 2004 study of Australian Jewish political sentiment, Professors Geoffrey Brahm Levey and Phillip Mendes found extremely high levels of affection for Israel. They wrote: “on almost every available measure – visitation, resident relatives, emotional attachment and philanthropy – Israel figures centrally in Australian Jewish identity.”  

The recent Australian Jewish survey also confirmed the ongoing strong Zionist stance of the majority of Australian Jews.

As Lapkin points out about Beinart,  ” Far from being a foe of Israel, he claims to be its truest friend. In the political equivalent of an addiction intervention, Beinart wants to save “liberal Zionism in Israel.” This, he declares, “is the great American Jewish challenge of our age”.  Never mind that even dovish-minded Israelis tend to be annoyed by such cloyingly sententious pronouncements from afar. After all, if the world according to Beinart doesn’t work out as expected, he’ll be watching events from his New York living room on his flat screen TV. He won’t be the one putting on his uniform and reporting for army reserve duty.

Beinart’s self-appointed mission to civilise Zionism is just a modern manifestation of the Left man’s burden. In a Kipling-esque exercise of patronising paternalism, he’s saying that he knows better than the Israelis what’s good for Israel. If the ultimate object of Beinart’s exercise is to influence Israeli policy, he won’t get there by alienating his potential allies through such remote-control pontification.  Since the 1967 war, it is undeniable that Left-of-centre opinion has moved away from support for Israel towards empathy with mortal enemies of the Jewish state. This is most pronounced amongst radical academics and rent-a-mob protestors who march arm and arm with Hezbollah supporters in street demonstrations.

But these currents have also taken their toll within the more moderate currents of the centre-Left. And as a result, support for Israel is far less pronounced these days amongst progressives than it is amongst conservatives.  Beinart attributes that erosion to Israel’s abandonment of its original sublime ideals. He claims that it isn’t he who left Zionism, but that Zionism left him.  But the true act of defection has been on the part of Western progressives who have cast by the wayside the only full-fledged democracy in the otherwise benighted Middle East.  The tragedy of Jewish progressives like Peter Beinart is that their people and their principles have never truly been in conflict. The only real contradiction is between Zionism and a Left-wing worldview gone mad, and on that question Beinart chose wrongly.”

  

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