Many people have sent me this Bret Stephens column in the Wall Street Journal five days back in which Stephens, a neoconservative and ardent supporter of Israel, reports that he was disinvited that day from a speaking gig at an unnamed pro-Israel organization because he wrote that Jonathan Pollard should not be freed.
I was abruptly disinvited from delivering a keynote to a charitable pro-Israel organization for the sin of opposing, in my last column, the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard.
And that was just the icing on the blizzard of opprobrium—”scurrilous,” “unbelievable,” “arrogant and callous,” “it is anti-Semitic not to free him,” and so on—that piled into my inbox from people whose most fervent political identity is their support for Israel.
Stephen says this rage is a symptom of a “diseased politics.” He evidently means a component of the Israel lobby that doesn’t understand that we’re Americans first. These advocates are damaging their own cause by fulfilling an anti-Semitic canard– Stephens means that they are supplying evidence of dual loyalty. He says it this way:
the best his defenders could do is acknowledge the damage he and his Israeli handlers did—not only to U.S. intelligence, but to Israel’s reputation as an ally and to the honor of the American-Jewish community as a whole.
That so many of Pollard’s defenders have yet to do so is probably the single greatest impediment to his release…
If they cannot admit that what Pollard did was damaging and despicable, they are lending a patina of credibility to some of the worst anti-Semitic canards. It’s one thing for a rogue agent to betray U.S. secrets; it’s another for a legion of defenders to rise up to justify his espionage.
The case for Israel in the U.S. has always rested on the fact that the values and interests of the two countries are compatible even if they are not identical. But that is true only so long as Israel and its advocates labor to maintain that compatibility. It is harder to think of a more efficient way to undo those labors than to defend the likes of Jonathan Pollard, the man who betrayed both his country and his people.
So Stephens is suggesting that some pro-Israel advocates really are suffering from dual loyalty: they can’t distinguish between their country and their people, as he says at the end. He seems to think that distinction is an easy one. But anti-Zionists long said this confusion was a problem built into Zionism: If you say Jews are a people who will be unsafe in western countries without a Jewish state, then some American Jews will be confused about where they are represented nationally, especially if they are continually informed that they must support Israel or it will disappear. And the confusion has come to pass: the late Myra Kraft said that her boys could go into the Israeli army but not the American one, and Sheldon Adelson regretted serving in the American army not the Israeli one.
Michael Desch has previously written about Pollard for us as an itch that the lobby can’t help scratching. He says now:
Of course, what Stephens omits, but is crucial to understanding why the Pollard case was so damaging, is that our good buds the Israelis traded some of the intell he gave them to the Soviets for their own ends. People like Stephens want us to believe that the Pollard affair is an aberration in an otherwise seamless relationship between two countries joined in common values. The reality is that our ideological soul-mates are ruthlessly self-interested.