Saturday, January 03, 2009

Zionism and the Diaspora

The Israeli lobby has learned to play the Jewish diaspora in the West with a virtuosity rivaling Isaac Stern on the violin. The phenomenon is reminiscent of the way the Republican Party successfully snowed Catholics and the evangelical right on the issue of abortion.

An instance of unthinking, knee-jerk support for Israel was on display in comments posted on my blog this week by individuals I know to be Jewish. It reminds me of the pro-lifers who chose to vote for right-wing politicians who show contempt for life outside the womb..

The issue is not whether Israel should exist or whether abortion should be legal.

The question is whether it makes sense to support a politician or a country unconditionally -- no matter what they do -- simply because they claim to represent a single position or identity about which one feels strongly.

There's a slippery slope once one goes down that route. For reasons of common identity Italian-Americans would be duty bound to support the Mafia and non-smoker Adolf Hitler would be a suitable poster boy for anti-cigarette campaigns.

One need not be anti-Israel or anti-Semitic to conclude that the present government of Israel is engaging in a transparent ploy to look tough to its electorate just as the hard-line Likud Party is making gains in the polls.

Israel is plainly in the wrong in its military adventure in Gaza on any number of counts and stands to lose -- once again in a very short time -- in the court of world public opinion. That's not just me speaking: you can read a similar assessment from Shmuel Rosner in the Jerusalem Post.

Yet the diaspora -- meaning the Jewish communities outside the traditional Jewish homeland -- embraces unquestioning, unstinting, uncritical support for Israel no matter what. Go to the Anti-Defamation League's website and you'll find one link after another pointing to the wrongdoing of others and to the support that Israel supposedly deserves.

That kind of blind support, especially when it involves killing by the hundreds, is unconscionable and reprehensible.

There's a difference between the Israeli cabinet and any random spiritual descendant of Abraham. Folly -- or worse -- on the part of the former should not command blind, goosestepping loyalty from the other.
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