Another small but important moment. Mitchell Plitnick at Souciant applauds MJ Rosenberg’s reembrace of the term Israel Firster:
I’m glad MJ is back to using that term. He and I don’t entirely agree on the role the Israel Lobby plays in policy formation — I see it as extremely powerful, but less absolutely powerful than Rosenberg does — but his prominent role in calling out their actions is indispensible.
But in one small way, I think MJ sells the Israel Firsters short. He writes: “The way I see it, both my country, America, and a country I deeply care about, Israel, and the Jewish people are all being placed at risk by a small bunch of multi-millionaires and billionaires whose only interests are self-aggrandizement, hobnobbing with those in power, and crushing anyone who gets in their way.”
In my view, there are two groups of Israel Firsters, and MJ here describes only one of them. He discusses the ones who do care about Israel, put it before all else, and are misguidedly advocating policies that they think support Israel while they actually make it less secure and put its future at risk.
The second stratum is really the core of forces that are pushing so successfully for policies that not only interfere with US interests and deepen the misery of the Palestinians, but also harm the Israeli people. And they don’t care about any of that.
That group, which also advocates for what they describe as “Israeli security” is much more closely associated with the Israeli right. However, their ambitions go well beyond that.
This group is defined by a worldview in which Israel is just a means to an end, not an end in itself. Leading neoconservatives are certainly part of it, as are some of the farthest right wing financiers of Super PACs and of Israel’s settlements.
There is also the apocalyptic Christian component of that group, the ones who see the Book of Revelations playing out in the Middle East and who, despite their recent, cynical turn toward an odd brand of philo-Semitism, do not wish to see peace in any form in the region. It is conflict that they want.
What these groups have in common is that they push for policies that do not enhance either American or Israeli security but which, in their view, advance a much broader vision of the world they intend to create. They’re distinct from most Israel Firsters because they know what they are doing….
Most of MJ’s Israel First crowd truly puts Israel first. But just as they are unrepresentative of both American Jews and Americans at large (Rosenberg puts the figure at 4% among Jews) while being enormously influential and being mistakenly seen as representative, so too do these Israel Users exercise a massively disproportionate influence over policy while representing very few people’s actual views.
Where I differ from Plitnick is that I see these neocon rightwingers as being largely motivated by love of Israel and fear for its security. When Bill Kristol says that he cannot criticize Israel because he doesn’t live there on the front line, I believe he is being utterly sincere. When my friend in Jerusalem tells me that Jews in Israel are “aliyah” — higher — while we in the Diaspora are “yoredim,” lower, I believe she is also reflecting a deep truth about Jewish life. We are to assist the better Jews. Dershowitz said something like this in Chutzpah: “My generaton of Jews was too young to fight against Nazism or for Israeli independence, too American to make aliyah (emigrate to Israel), too comfortable to put our bodies on the line for anything Jewish. Instead, we observed, contributed… We became part of what is perhaps the most effective lobbying and fund-raising effort in the history of democracy.” We have to do this because they are taking the spears.