My Dinner Partner Hates Israel

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Last night my wife and I went to a sophisticated dinner party in the Hudson Valley. Pheasant, a lavish cheese plate with dessert. There was grace before the meal; thank god no reference to Jesus Christ. A very liberal crowd. More gays than Jews. Mostly Obama, a few Hillaryites. 

I was seated next to a woman I’ve met before and like. A 60-ish professional in NY, married to a Jewish guy. She asked what I was working on, and then her rage toward Israel just came spilling out. I of course found it fascinating. Some of the stuff she said:

–She once figured we give the Israelis $35,000 per capita in foreign aid. (I have no idea whether this figure is accurate.) That’s why their society is prosperous. We maintain a friend, but create a score of enemies. If Israel didn’t have our unconditional support, it would have to learn to live with its neighbors…

–She first became uncomfortable with Israel when because of her job in the 80s, around the time of Lockerbie, she learned that Israelis were trying to gain financing for arms sales to Libya. We’d never tolerate such behavior from France or England.

–She hears a lot of young people who say, What the hell are we doing supporting Israel like this, when look at the way they treat Palestinians. This is against American interests! they say. Older people are more discreet.

–When I said that Trita Parsi writes that Israel came up with "radical Islam" as the glue to hold Israel and the U.S. together post-Cold-War, after Israel lost its role as our ally against the Soviets, she said, "Absolutely. They’ve pushed this." My point is that this is an idea she has on her own.

–This is never going to change. The politicians are afraid. Lincoln Chafee and Ned Lamont both lost over this issue.

–She can never bring these ideas up with her Jewish relations, they go haywire. She never talks about these ideas in company…

I told her it is going to change, because too many people like herself now are this angry. The natives are restless. America is too strong a democracy not to have this conversation. And it will. You watch…

Later, driving home with too much red wine in me, I reflected that the essay Tony Judt wrote a couple of years ago, warning Israel to grow up, it was acting like a spoiled adolescent, and the U.S. was about to stop indulging it, was true. As I remember, Judt published that piece in Israel, not here. Demonstrating once again that our politics are broken because our journalism is broken. This too will change. As I told my dinner partner, "I’m a cockeyed optimist."

[P.S. Peter Voskamp, editor of the Block Island Times in Rhode Island, corrects my dinner partner and me for comments re Lincoln Chafee:

I really don't think we can hang Chafee's loss (as  
opposed to Lamont's) on the lobby. If he had declared as an 
independent, he'd still be in the Senate.  Rhode Islanders love their 
Chafees, but a chance of returning the Senate back to the Democrats 
was just too important. Many agonized over their vote for Sheldon 
(after all, they did want to reward Chafee for his brave 
vote against the war).]
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