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Randy Alcorn: What Does America Owe Israel?

By Randy Alcorn, Noozhawk Columnist |

The nomination of former former Sen. Chuck Hagel for defense secretary is being contested based on allegations that his support for Israel lacks sufficient enthusiasm. For this his critics contend he not only should be disqualified but that he may also be guilty of anti-Semitism.

Hagel’s defenders have countered that he is being misinterpreted and misjudged. They argue that he really does support Israel, and that his stating an obvious truth — that there is a Jewish lobby that is very influential in determining America’s Middle East policy — does not mean that he harbors animosity against Jews.

Hagel’s nomination should not need to be defended against irrelevant accusations. If there are genuine deficiencies he has to oversee the defense of the United States, not being Israelphilic enough should not be one of them.

What does the United States owe Israel that political candidates for high office in this country must be vetted by Jewish interests? Does the Senate also need approval of the Israeli Knesset before confirmation of candidates for cabinet posts?

America’s virtually absolute and abiding support of Israel comes with significant costs beyond the $3.2 billion per year in military aid the United States provides. The seething enmity of Israel’s Muslim neighbors, who perceive the United States’ Middle East policy as blindly prejudiced in favor of Israel and its apartheid-like suppression of the indigenous Arab population, resulted in the 1967 and 1973 Arab oil embargoes. It certainly was a contributing factor in the 9/11 attacks on the United States by radical Muslims.

The erosion of American civil liberties in the reactionary panic that followed the 9/11 attacks, along with the consequent Iraq and Afghanistan wars that have killed and maimed tens of thousands of Americans and significantly contributed to the colossal national debt that now threatens the economic viability of our nation, are arguably costs associated with the United States’ unquestioning pro-Israel foreign policy.

And just what does the United States get in return for these severe sacrifices? What does Israel have that America so badly needs? Not oil or any other essential export. Does this costly support derive from some moral imperative that the United States must back fellow democracies? Unlikely. When considered expedient to its interests, America has shown no compunction in supporting vicious tyrants, including several of Israel’s close neighbors. And, would the United States necessarily need Israel as a military ally in the Middle East if it had not alienated most of the region by its unquestioning support of Israel?

So what is it then? Why has the United States so saddled up with Israel and its troubles?

American Jews comprise less than 2 percent of the total U.S. population, but they are an extraordinary people whose accomplishments in every admirable aspect of human endeavor magnificently exceed their small numbers. Their singular talents and abilities translate into levels of success that have placed them among the wealthiest, highest educated and most powerful people in the country. Their influence, therefore, is disproportionately great relative to their small population.

Hagel was not only honestly forthright — often a suicidal quality in a politician — but also accurate when he spoke about the Jewish lobby’s inordinate influence on U.S. Middle East policy. That influence is augmented by the support of America’s evangelical Christians who believe they will get an extra harp in heaven for defending the Judeo-Christian Holy Land from its heathen enemies. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a leading critic of the Hagel nomination, is the Senate’s chief Christian crusader defending the Holy Land from any insufficiently pro-Israel nominee for defense secretary.

Such mixing of politics with religion creates a catalyst for calamity, like the one we have been enduring in the Middle East between Israel, its subjugated Palestinian population and their angry Arab neighbors. Regardless of the extra harp in heaven awaiting Graham or the sympathies of Jewish Americans for Israeli Jews, the best interests of America are not always or necessarily congruent with Israel’s.

America’s entanglement in the Israeli/Arab conflict has cost us much. That conflict has fumed and flamed for more than 60 years now, setting much of the Western world on edge. If there is a solution to be found, we need to start evaluating the situation with the objective honesty that Hagel has demonstrated, and to recognize that our support of Israel cannot continue to be unconditional nor our foreign policy so one-sided.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.




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» on 01.13.13 @ 09:01 PM

The reference to the “Jewish Lobby” is totally inaccurate. Most Jews are liberal Democrats, voted for Obama in huge numbers (equivalent to Latinos) and don’t really care what happens to Israel. They have no emotional connection to Israel and are extremely critical of the present Israeli govt. So either Alcorn is just plain ignorant or possibly a victim of his own prejudices and stereotypical thinking.

I am sure we will now get a bunch of posters crawling out of the woodwork informing us how Jews control the media and are responsible for all the corruption on Wall Street. There is no shortage of these people in Santa Barbara.

» on 01.14.13 @ 01:13 AM

The U.S. only gives $3.2 Billion to Israel a year? 
I don’t think we should give a dime to Israel OR ANYONE ELSE with all the problems we have a home.  Next time you walk past a homeless vet you can think about how our government spends our money.

» on 01.14.13 @ 01:43 AM

I would suggest they along with Randy read some history, Lou. For all the caterwauling over our obsession with Israel, history paints a different story. Never has a small country had to fight so fiercely to exist, not just in the face of angry resentful neighbors who wish them annihilated but also as a pawn of the worlds superpowers.

» on 01.14.13 @ 02:47 AM

AN50, you’re so right. One should go to Israel and speak to the people who have had relatives or friends blown up by suicide bombers, threatened by missiles from Gaza, Lebanon or the medieval, barbaric, megalomaniacal extremists in countries like Iran, Lebanon, Syria and increasingly Egypt.

What Alcorn and many people like him fail to realize are that people in both political parties support a special relationship with Israel (not unlike with Britain and other Western Democracies), because it is in our strategic interest and it reflects our values and shared belief in political and economic freedom. No so-called “Jewish Lobby” could dictate the foreign policy of the US if it was opposed by the American people. 

The corrupt Arab dictators like to scapegoat Israel for the abominable conditions they force their people to live under (particularly their women), but increasingly many of their people are not buying it. It is wishful thinking by Alcorn and others who similarly believe as he does that Arab rulers and the fanatical fundamentalists are suddenly going to have a wonderful relationship with us if we changed our foreign policy toward Israel. Increasingly, the conflict with the al- Qaeda types and their brethren is a clash of cultures and their quixotic quest to impose their beliefs on everyone in the region and evil Western hedonistic societies.

» on 01.14.13 @ 03:32 AM

There is another side to the story.  What about the Israeli settlements without end on the land they had previously agreed was Palestine’s?  What about the disproportionate number of Palestinians in Israeli jails (10,000+) vs. the number of Israelis held by Palestine (0)?  What about the second-class status of Israeli Palestinians, let alone the injustices the Israelis subject the West Bank Palestinians to?  Water rights.  Transportation.  Human rights.

Most Americans hear but one side of the story.  That side does have some truth to it.  But so does the other side.

» on 01.14.13 @ 06:11 AM

WWonka,

Palestinians who are in Israeli jails are there for a very good reason. Not because their political rights have been violated or because they were caught jaywalking. They are there because they were caught trying to kill Israelis or were engaging in terrorism. Don’t know where you got your number, but my research indicates it is slightly over 4,000.

There are no Arabs anywhere in the region that have anywhere near the economic prosperity or democratic rights enjoyed by Israeli Arabs. That’s a fact.

Finally, where would you rather live: Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iran or Israel? I can assure you the Israeli Arabs would never leave Israel for any of these countries.

As for West Bank Palestinians having their own state without Israeli interference, this will happen when Israel can be assured of its security and the Palestinians are prepared to peacefully coexist with Israel. It remains to be seen if this will ever happen.

» on 01.14.13 @ 02:05 PM

Randy hits the nail directly on the head with this piece. The Israelis and their supporters in this country are very active in influencing our politics and policies.

Question Israeli policies, and kiss your political career goodbye. You will be labeled an anti-Semite. It should not be tolerated.

» on 01.14.13 @ 02:49 PM

Considering that, scrolling the list beginning about 1/3 down this post…

    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=175479365845092

...of 44 with dual Israeli citizenship in or formerly in key USA foreign policy positions, one can’t help but notice more than a few warmongers and extremists, it would seem appropriate at least to consider whether anyone with dual citizenship (Israel or any other nation) can be entrusted with the best interests of the USA, rather than the other nation of which he or she is a citizen.

» on 01.14.13 @ 03:34 PM

Lou Segal:

You are correct; my figures were inaccurate and outdated.  According to the following well-respected web site http://www.btselem.org/statistics/detainees_and_prisoners, the most recent figures (November 2012) show 4,432 in the Israeli Prison System.  Several years ago, according to the same source, the number apporached, but never was over, 10,000.

Thank you for your correction.

The rest of my comment stands.

» on 01.14.13 @ 03:47 PM

Again, you people are missing the historical context of the Israeli relationship. It has always been more about what benefits the US, Europe, Russia and China rather than what benefits Israel. They have been batted around since declaring themselves a state and had to deal with extremely hostile neighbors.

And as bad as it is for the Palestinians, no one ever says a thing about their Arab neighbors using them as pawns in their hatred of Jews.

Randy would have done his argument much better service if he left out his anti religious bias. I agree that Hagel’s nomination should not be questioned on his observations about Israel. The rest of this article is pointless.

» on 01.14.13 @ 10:25 PM

There is no anti-Semitism in Alcorn’s article, or in Hegel’s statements.  The Jewish lobby should really be called the Israeli lobby – it’s a political organization that represents a foreign government – Israel – that places its own interests above all other nations.  One can be ambivalent or negative about Israel policies, repressive practices and illegal settlements, and have no anti-Semitic feelings; plenty of American Jews fit into that category, for example. 

Most American Jews do vote democratic, but Israeli Jews are red: 

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2012/1108/Why-Israel-is-red-and-American-Jews-are-blue

It is also interesting that US intelligence views Israel as a significant and “genuine counterintelligence threat.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20120728/us-us-israel-spying/

We, the USA, would be better off if we distanced ourselves from the nation Israel, and stopped favoring them over other countries in the region, for example, Egypt.  In answer to Alcorn’s question: we owe Israel nothing.  If anything, Israel owes the US.

» on 01.16.13 @ 12:20 PM

Hodgmo, Israel is far more socialist than Europe, not red as you say. What they are is fiercely dedicated to their own survival and for good reason. Read history. Better yet read history from different perspectives. The first thing you notice is how much they have been used by western powers as a pawn. Much of the early hegemony was precipitated by their neighbors and used by superpowers. If the US has done anything its throttle Israel’s ambitions back and given their history, their tolerance of this has been monumental.

» on 01.16.13 @ 02:05 PM

AN50: The Christian Science Monitor article that I cited reported on the switch in Israel from generally supporting American democrats to supporting American Republicans.  If you have an open mind, I suggest you read the article.

Many groups are “fiercely dedicated to their own survival” – and Israel has become a better killing organization than her opponents, by something like 7:1 (including noncombatants and children).  Does this fierce dedication justify Israel practicing (much more effectively) the terrorism she is subject to, or spying on the US, her supposed ally? 

I agree that understanding history from different perspectives is a good idea.  And history tells us the conflict started long before 1948.  But what good does it do to blame the current Israeli situation on the greed of Britain and France one hundred years ago?  I wonder what the situation would be if those colonial powers had allowed Feisal and Weismann to consummate their 1919 agreement to live together peacefully.  But they didn’t.

A basic part of successful, good-faith negotiation is acknowledging your opponent’s position.  In 1956, Ben-Gurion (1st Israeli Prime Minister) acknowledged Arab anger due to the fact that Israel took its land from the former occupants.  Has modern Israel acknowledged this fact when it attempts to end the violence and struggle in and around its territories? 

How are Israel’s current policies, like the support of illegal settlements, consistent with the responsibility from the Torah that Israel be a “light unto the nations”?

» on 01.16.13 @ 04:27 PM

Took a lot of guts for Hagel, or Alcorn, to articulate publicly what many Americans
think in private.

Yes, Israel is probably the only genuine free-market democracy within a thousand mile radius, which makes them a good ally to have.

On the other hand, America has paid them gigantic amounts of treasure over the years, and America, and the world, have a lot of unmet needs besides the weird demagoguery of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Tragically, once a decade, Israel elects a Big Picture leader who maneuvers for
a genuine comprehensive solution with its neighbors.

Unfortunately, General Rabin was murdered by Israeli extremists, and General
Sharon suffered a massive stroke just as his multi-lateral efforts were starting
to bear fruit.

If Israel doesn’t want to become some kind of high-tech Spartan society on a
permanent basis, it’s good for their friends to be comfortable discussing a wide
range of options with them.

Kudos to Hagel, and Alcorn, for reminding them about it.

» on 01.16.13 @ 11:16 PM

So I guess some of the posters don’t like the financial assistance provided to Israel by US. It might come of a surprise to many of you that most of it is in the form of loans and loan guarantees. Also, a number of US defense companies would have to layoff many workers if the US stopped selling to Israel. All of the money is repaid, and as a condition of the deal, the Israeli govt pledges to import an equivalent amount of goods from American companies. This relationship is mutually beneficial.

On the other hand, almost 2/3 of American aid (grants) goes to Arab and Muslim countries. This money is handed over to them, without any of it being repaid. Here are a few of the countries:

Egypt   $2 billion
Jordan   $1 billion
Lebanon   $300 million
Indonesia $250 million
Turkey   $15 million
Palestinians $600 million

Interestingly, these countries only vote with us around 30% of the time in the UN. Egypt votes against our interests 75% of the time. So I am assuming the posters are not in favor of this aid either?

» on 02.12.13 @ 06:06 PM

The GOP and right wingers in general have a never ending love affair with Israel and will defend the U.S.‘s lapdog relationship with this foreign land without reason or regard for the costs associated with it. I put it down to their worship of Jesus and belief that the second coming will occur within the borders of Israel. Either that or they simply hate the Arab world with such passion that they support the Jewish state out of spite. Certainly logic seems to have little to do with it.

» on 02.12.13 @ 09:15 PM

What’s your excuse for the left-wing support of Israel in Congress? Is it a Jewish conspiracy, masterminded by the all powerful, scheming Jewish lobby?

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