The Source of Israel’s Support

December 1st, 2011 at 2:18 am David Frum | 59 Comments |

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I was honored to speak Wednesday night to the annual dinner of the Anglo-Israel Association in London.

For those interested, here follows the text of my speech (corrected and abridged from the version delivered).

Your Excellencies, My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen

I come to you today from a region of the earth torn by tribal hatred and distracted by extremist ideologies, where a privileged few wallow in luxury upon an influx of unearned wealth. I speak of course of Washington DC.

It’s a high honor to address the Anglo-Israel Association, a group that supports the Zionist ideal here in the country that did so much to make Zionism a reality – and where now the word “Zionist” is often flung as an epithet. To be a friend of Israel in the United States is easy. To stand with Israel in today’s London requires courage and character. On behalf of friends of Israel world-wide: I sincerely thank you for your important work here in what is not only the capital of a great country, but also in what might be described as the media capital of planet Earth.

I’m especially delighted to join with a group that unites Jews and Gentiles in support of Israel. Too often we see Jews, especially in this country, turning against Israel in hope of ingratiating themselves with those they perceive as holding power. The late Tony Judt, born in Britain, expressed this tendency with brutal frankness in 2003:

“Today, non-Israeli Jews feel themselves once again exposed to criticism and vulnerable to attack for things they didn’t do. But this time it is a Jewish state, not a Christian one, which is holding them hostage for its own actions.”

Some seem to hope that by defaming Israel they can avert that criticism. This delusion reminds me of an old joke.

A young man arrives, penniless and unknown, in a small Midwestern town. He gains a job at the local hardware store as a stock clerk. He excels. He becomes so valuable to the store that the owner takes him into partnership. He discovers opportunities in real estate investment, and together he and his new partner become rich. He marries his partner’s daughter, builds a home, has children, donates to local charities. At last the time comes: the no-longer-so-young man is invited to join the local country club. At the interview, the membership committee raises one last formality. This is a restricted club, so they must ask our protagonist’s religion. Just to be sure. He chuckles indulgently. “Don’t worry. I’m a goy.”

From each shore of the Atlantic, the other side can seem puzzling in a way well explained by the American humorist James Thurber. Thurber tells in one of his short stories about a scientist who encounters a talking lemming. The scientist seizes the chance to ask a question:

“I don’t understand,” said the scientist, “why you lemmings all rush down to the sea and drown yourselves.”

“How curious,” said the lemming. “The one thing I don’t understand is why you human beings don’t.”

Let’s see if we can develop an answer to some of those cross-Atlantic questions here tonight.

If you watched the most recent Republican presidential candidates debate on CNN – my network by the way, let me insert a commercial for them right here – you witnessed a remarkable spectacle.

Of the 8 candidates competing for the Republican presidential nomination, 7 declared themselves intense supporters of the State of Israel, the sole exception being crank no-hoper Ron Paul.

Here for example is former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney:

“[T]he right course for Israel is to show that we care about Israel, that they are our friend, we’ll stick with them. If I’m president of the United States, my first trip — my first foreign trip will be to Israel to show the world we care about that country and that region. “

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich:

“If my choice was to collaborate with the Israelis on a conventional campaign or force them to use their nuclear weapons, it will be an extraordinarily dangerous world if out of a sense of being abandoned they went nuclear and used multiple nuclear weapons in Iran.”

Texas governor Rick Perry:

“And if we’re going to be serious about saving Israel, we better get serious about Syria and Iran, and we better get serious right now.”

And here’s former Utah governor and former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, the candidate in the race sometimes identified with the so-called realist, ie Israel-skeptic, view of the Middle East:

“We missed the Persian spring. The president failed on that front. We go into Libya, where, to my mind, we don’t have any definable American interests. We’ve got Syria now on the horizon, where we do have American interests. It’s called Israel. We’re a friend and ally. They’re a friend and ally. And we need to remind the world what it means to be a friend and ally of the United States.”

The Republican candidates are expressing genuine conviction. But they are also shrewdly attacking a perceived Obama vulnerability. Obama is actually doing quite well these days as a foreign policy president, at least from a poll point of view. Majorities of Americans approve of his actions on Iraq and terrorism. But when it comes to Israel – the Hill newspaper reports a warning sign for the president.

Among likely voters, 40% say that President Obama is not supportive enough of Israel. And this is not some idle opinion: a quarter of American voters say Israel is very important to the way they vote, a majority of voters say Israel is very or somewhat important to the way they vote. These Israel-focused voters are overwhelmingly pro-Israel voters.

A few years ago, two American political scientists offered a theory as to why Israel commands such support in the United States. They asserted that US politics is controlled and manipulated by a shadowy “lobby” that deploys money and media power to sway the US away from its own interests.

But if there’s an Israel lobby, it is successful for exactly the same reason that the lobby group Mothers Against Drunk Driving is successful: because Americans approve and admire motherhood, and dislike and disapprove of driving drunk.

Public opinion on the Middle East has been intensely studied, and the pattern is consistent: Americans have historically sympathized with Israel over its adversaries by a margin of 3-1. Over the past decade, American public opinion has shifted noticeably in Israel’s favor, and this trend has run strongest among opinion elites. One main driver of the trend has been the collapse of sympathy for the Palestinians – which was low enough to begin with.

When asked, “Do you sympathize more with the Israelis or the Palestinians,” the Palestinians scored about 15% from 1990 until 9/11. After 9/11, the Palestinian number dropped into the single digits, and it has more or less stayed there.

That’s not the state of opinion in Europe obviously, nor in the United Kingdom.

If not “the lobby,” here’s another theory popular in Europe to explain American support for Israel: It’s the sway of religious fundamentalists in the United States. You hear that said so often, it’s become accepted fact – even among many friends of Israel.

This accepted fact is not wrong, but it is easily overstated.

Surveys of American opinion about Israel conducted after the 2000 and 2004 elections by groups like the Annenberg Foundation, the American National Election Study and the National Jewish Democratic Coalition have found a surprisingly small gap in the attitudes of evangelical Christians as compared to other non-Jews. Yes, evangelicals are a little more positive. But only a little.

If you want to see a real divide in the United States over Israel, look not at evangelicals vs. non-evangelicals, but at more educated vs. less educated voters.

Take a look at this slice of American opinion: Americans who have a college or advanced degree – and who earn more than $75,000  a year – and who also regularly read a newspaper, newsmagazine or watch a cable TV network. This group favors Israel over the Palestinians by a margin greater than 4:1.

What we’re seeing here is that the debate over Israel is not some incidental adjunct to American politics. But where does this deep attachment come from? Let me hazard a theory.

If you track American opinion on Israel, month by month, year by year, all the way back to 1948, you see a fascinating pattern. Support for Israel tends to spike at moments of Israeli military success – such as the 2002-2003 suppression of the Second Intifada. Which is why Israel was recording new peaks of popularity inside the United States precisely at the moments that the late Professor Judt was lamenting Israel’s loss of global legitimacy,

How can this be?

A clue may be found in these powerfully resonant words from Prime Minister Netanyahu in his speech to Congress earlier this year:

“In a region of shifting alliances, Israel is America’s unwavering ally. Israel has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American. My friends, you don’t need to do nation-building in Israel. We’re already built. You don’t need to export democracy to Israel. We’ve already got it. And you don’t need to send American troops to Israel. We defend ourselves.”

An ally that can stand on its own two feet – that returns friendship for friendship – that governs itself democratically and that can fight its own battles triumphantly when necessary – this is Israel’s appeal to the United States.

Those who imagine that Israel must buy American friendship through concessions that weaken Israel’s security – that do not command democratic support inside Israel – utterly mistake the basis of that American friendship.

Americans don’t think: How annoying that Israel won’t submit to the demands of some international peace negotiator.

Americans think: If I were an Israel voter, I would not submit to those demands myself.

Friends of Israel need not get nervous if an American president glowers at a recalcitrant Israeli prime minister. If the prime minister’s recalcitrance is based on sound reasons – and is well explained – the American public will agree that it’s the glowering that’s wrong, not the prime minister.

Like Israelis themselves, friends of Israel abroad are divided in their opinion of the Netanyahu government. The old joke about 7 million Jews, 7 million prime ministers continues to apply. But one criticism of the Netanyahu government is patently invalid: that Benjamin Netanyahu is alienating Israel’s most important ally.

The deep attitudes of the American public toward Israel may explain the return of smiles and sunshine to the Obama-Netanyahu relationship over the past two years. Only this past year, the US government leaked the news that it had delivered 55 of its most advanced bunker-buster bombs to the Israeli Defense Forces. It leaked the news surely in large part to frighten Iran. But it also leaked to mollify and reassure friends of Israel. The journalist who received the leak was Newsweek’s Eli Lake.

“Nothing is more sad than the death of an illusion,” remarked Arthur Koestler. Like so much said by Koestler, the remark is memorable but false. Illusions are dangerous things, and there is nothing sad about their passage. The shock of disillusion may surprise or hurt. But it is only through disillusion that people in the grip of illusion can achieve truth.

In the world’s endless preoccupation with the Middle East, a moment of truth is arriving now.

For two generations, thinking about this most volatile region on our planet has been distorted by an especially baneful illusion, or really two illusions: first the illusion that the Jewish state of Israel is the cause of the region’s problems – and second the illusion that some kind of peace settlement between Israel and its enemies would banish those problems. Ironically, this illusion has held most sway over those who claim the most expertise.

Upon this illusion a great academic, political, journalistic and diplomatic industry has arisen.

This past year, very abruptly, that illusion has been challenged as never before.

From Bahrain in the Persian Gulf to Libya in North Africa – and centered upon Egypt in between – authoritarian Arab regimes have been shaken and overthrown by popular tumults. None of these tumults had any reference to the Jewish state. All are directly traced to the indigenous failures of Arab regimes to meet the needs of their own people.

Israel or no Israel, the Egyptian state cannot feed its own people, half of whom live on less than $2 a day – in a nation that 30 years ago enjoyed a higher standard of living than China but is today significantly poorer.

Israel or no Israel, the Middle East and North Africa are failing to provide work or wives to a burgeoning population of urban 20-something males.

Israel or no Israel, Pakistan is veering toward nuclearized failed state-dom.

Israel or no Israel, ill-educated and unemployed young Muslim men across the European continent are turning to radicalized forms of Islam as an excuse and escape.

If the Greater Middle East – and the Islamic diaspora in Europe – are roiled by instability, extremism, and violence, it is for reasons indigenous to themselves – not because of the existence of the state of Israel.

At the same time, and in the same way, we’ve been told that it is the Palestinian issue that prevents Arab nations from cooperating with the West.

Yet Palestinians or no Palestinians, the Libyan rebels appealed to NATO for help to overthrow their country’s dictator.

Palestinians or no Palestinians, Iran would seek to reasserts its old imperial ambitions by building a nuclear weapon.

Palestinians or no Palestinians, the Saudi government has reached a de facto military alliance with Israel against Iran.

If Abu Dhabi and Qatar resist investing in the European Financial Stabilization Facility, it is most certainly not because of dismay over the Palestinians.

It is a haunting challenge indeed to think: how exactly would the Middle East be different today if Yasser Arafat had accepted the US proposals of 2000-2001 and brought into being a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza?

The usual claim is that such a state would somehow mitigate anti-western radicalism in the Islamic and Arab worlds. One person who never believed that claim was Arafat himself. When Arafat broke off the Camp David peace talks, he told President Clinton that if he signed an agreement with Israel, the next time President Clinton would see him, Arafat, would be at Arafat’s funeral. That’s not much of a vote of confidence in the radicalism-allaying potential of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Which is not to deny that such a peace would be a good thing. It would be a very good thing. But it would be a good thing of limited benefit, limited to Israel and even more for the Western powers worried about regional and domestic threats from radical Islam.

Over the past decade, it has often seemed that friends of Israel, especially in the UK, have emerged as stronger advocates of Palestinian statehood than the Palestinians themselves. Economists have a marvelous concept: revealed preference. Simply put, it means that we can better discern what people want from the way they behave than from what they say.

Based on revealed preferences, you have to question how badly Palestinian leaders or people want their state. Our chairman tonight, Lord Bew, knows well that the Irish Republicans wanted a state so badly that they agreed to accept only three-fourths of an island – surrendering what was then the richest portion to achieve independence for all the rest. But there is no Michael Collins to negotiate such terms for the Palestinians.

When you say: “I want a state, but only if it meets certain conditions, only if I am perceived to have obtained it by a certain method, and not if I am required to offer certain compromises in return” – then necessarily it is those conditions, those methods, and those compromises that are your true priorities, not the state itself.

Which is as it is. Yet some friends of Israel have decided to accept Palestinian statehood as their priority and their responsibility. Confronting those who would abolish Israel, they champion – not only the Jewish state, but also and almost equally the hypothetical Palestinian state. Hoping that a Palestinian state might end the conflict, they persuade themselves that creating such a state is their obligation and their responsibility – and so arrive at the awkward conclusion of being more pro-statehood than the Palestinians themselves. They offer what is not very intensely wanted. The more indifferent the intended recipient, the more frantically they work to entice him to accept it. It’s a strange situation for friends of Israel to place themselves in, and it does not do them any good.

Contemplating these challenges, I think back to a joke from Cold War days, when Poles would tell you there existed two possible solutions to the problems of their country, one pragmatic, the other miraculous.

The pragmatic solution was for the Virgin of Czestochowa to descend from the heavens, accompanied by a retinue of angels and archangels and fill the shops with food.

The miraculous solution was for communism to reform from within.

I think it’s past time to recognize that likewise the essentially magical quality of so much of what is recommended to Israel as hard-headed pragmatism. I’ve told a few jokes this evening. I’ll end with one more. When people ask me whether I favor a two-state solution, I answer with a story from the old country about the matchmaker who approaches Yossi the shtetl carpenter with a proposition for his to-date unmarriageable son.

The matchmaker would like to broker a marriage with the daughter of Lord Rothschild in Vienna.

The carpenter is stunned. Isn’t Vienna a very long way away? Not at all answers the matchmaker. Thanks to modern railways, the great city can be reached in as little as 12 hours, maybe 15.

Aren’t the Rothschilds very assimilated? Ah, answers the matchmaker, that’s the Paris Rothschilds. The Vienna Rothschilds keep an excellent kosher.

Mightn’t they be stuck up? No, no, not at all, the Rothschilds are easy and gracious.

Very well, says the persuaded Yossi. I consent.

Excellent, says the matchmaker. That’s half the job done!

The Obama administration has not entirely abandoned its faith in such matches or such miracles. It has not wholly discarded the illusion seemingly so irretrievably shattered by the mis-named Arab spring. But they’re learning. So are we all, and I am honored this evening by the opportunity to learn so much from the distinguished audience gathered here tonight.

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59 Comments so far ↓

  • drdkatz

    what is the final solution to the Palestinian problem?

    • nuser

      “final solution”
      Slow but sure annihilation of the people and the theft of their land.

    • Graychin

      I hate to hear the phrase “final solution,” but I do wish that Mr. Frum and other supporters of Israel in all things would tell us about their vision of the ideal ultimate status of the Palestinian Arabs who inhabit Greater Israel.

  • Traveler51

    Very nice, David Frum. Are you your own speech writer?

    • beowulf

      “Very nice, David Frum. Are you your own speech writer?”

      The thought of David, while serving as WH speechwriter, outsourcing writing assignments to his own team of speechwriters is an amusing, though perhaps, unlikely one. But then we live in a world where even Tom Clancy’s ghostwriters have ghostwriters, so anything’s possible. :o )

      Excellent speech David.

  • Ray_Harwick

    Economists have a marvelous concept: revealed preference.

    I don’t understand, Mr. Frum. These economists aren’t actually asking Palestinians if they want a state of their own; they’re just observing what they do to see if they behave like statehood is the thing they want? That sounds like the slave master of the old South saying slaves don’t know what they want so let’s watch and see what they reveal to us – under threat of punishment, or course, in case they want something we don’t want them to have.

    I don’t understand why it’s okay to go into the heart of Palestinian communities, expel the people there, and set up a Jews-Only community in a place where Palestinian have been living for thousands of years, and then shoot any Palestinian who tries to stop them. Sounds like government-sanctioned theft to me. Piracy! If Israel is so bonified democratic, and Palestinians don’t have a vote, that pretty much makes the Isralies some kind of privileged, permanent overlords not unlike the Roman Citizen of old that had no sense of moral obligation for the class of non-citizens who served at their footmen.

    Why is that okay, Mr. Frum? Has anyone ever come to your home, thrown you out, claimed your land, and told you to just live with it? Somehow, that doesn’t strike me as fair.

    • Fart Carbuncle

      I disagree.

      I liken it (Israel) to the Western migration to the New World starting in 1492. The Palestinians, like the native Americans, were mainly feral, living off the land in the most basic sense. The Israeli Jews brought with them a modern, pro-Western culture that the Arabs despised and forever will consider the land part of their caliphate:

      “According to Islamic tradition, it was the second caliph, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, who recognized this location [Jerusalem] as marking the site of the Prophet’s night journey. The caliph is supposed to have done so immediately after the conquest of Jerusalem, during a visit to the city whose historicity is in question, but which most scholars agree probably took place. The Muslim conquerors understood that this entire site had been the location of the temple first built by Solomon whose repeated destruction is described in the Qur’an, and what they found on their entry into the city was in fact the deserted platform on which the Herodian temple described by Josephus had stood until its demolition by Titus in 70 A.D. At the southern end of this platform the caliph ‘Umar ordered the erection of the first of several structures to bear the name of al-Masjid al-Aqsa, the al-Aqsa Mosque, adjacent to which his successor ‘Abd al-Malik was to build the Dome of the Rock a few decades later.”

      – Rashid Khalidi, PhD
      Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University

      • Montaillou

        Mr Carbuncle reveals, I think, the dark interior of that part of the US political imaginary in support of Israeli expansionism. While US culture officially celebrates its own westward expansion, with an astonishing lack of irony or qualification (see Thanksgiving), it is also afflicted with an ancestral sense of guilt that it can never wholly expunge – guilt, for example, at the sometimes deliberate infection of native Americans with smallpox and other diseases, to examine only one tiny corner of the tapestry of dispossession and genocide.

        Alliance with Zionist expansionism into the supposedly “empty” territory of Palestine operates, at the psychological level, both to defer consciousness of and to excuse historical Anglo-Saxon crimes in the founding of the US. If Israel can, over time, be “proved right” in its actions, then that acts as a retroactive vindication of US exterminism and cultural arrogance in its own history.

        Just to be clear, I’m not calling for either the US or Israel to be destroyed or dismantled. As Shlomo Sand has commented, even a child who is the result of a rape has the rights we would accord to any child, and the same applies to Israel. What is needed, rather, is an honest appraisal on all sides in US politics of the moral calculus – over the whole period since 1948, not just since the latest suicide bombing – of the Palestine/Israel situation. So far, this is a task that has barely begun, it seems.

        • jakester

          After WW ll, the great powers had no problem playing checkers with intractably mixed ethnic minorities in Central and Eastern Europe, moving around whole populations of ethnic minorities and border lines in order to build a solid ethnic base to the reconstituted nations there. So the New Poland had mostly Poles, not large minorities of Germans, White Russians and Ukranians to be upset at and undermine the Warsaw government. The same should be done in Israel’s case. Israel needs a solid, straight, defensible, border full of people who want to be part of the Israel, not a bunch of malevolent outsiders who despise Israel. Palestinians are simply Arabs, mostly Muslim, in a world with no shortage of their people or countries devoted to their faith and race. Jews are few and rare and have only one country to boast of. So since they are rarer, like any threatened small species, they deserve protection from the marauding fecund bands around them.

        • Montaillou

          Right. So basically what you’re saying is that ethnic cleansing has had a bum rap over the years, and we should reconsider its merits?

          Also, en passant, you seem to be implicitly arguing that there would be nothing at all wrong with the ethnicization of national identities all over Europe? The analogy you are trying to draw would be a little more substantive if, say, there were no such thing as civil marriage between people of different religions in Poland; or if housing in, say, Vienna were rigorously zoned between Catholics and Protestants, with only one of the latter being in charge of the zoning. Moreover, the minorities in each of those states would have to live with the nation of which they were citizens being constitutionally defined as a protestant state, or an Anglo-Saxon state, or whatever.

          No modern democracy can hope for long-term survival with such anti-liberal constitutional distortions – relics of nineteenth-century race doctrines that should have been abandoned long ago. With the exception of some Tea Party nutcases, I’ve not heard anyone propose that the US should endure such a backward system. Freedom of religion, Civil Rights, and equality before the law are all – at least outwardly – espoused as indispensable virtues by all in US politics from Barney Frank to, I don’t know, Michelle Bachman. If those values are good enough for US citizens, why should the residents of its closest ally be deprived of them?

        • Montaillou

          And there’s a clue in your language (“… marauding, fecund bands…”) to the deeply racist and reactionary basis on which your political project is built, consciously or not. Whenever I hear anyone in the UK refer to how some immigrant group allegedly “breed like rabbits,” it touches off just the same kind of nausea – or, on a good day, pity – as the toxic language you use here.

        • jakester

          In a better future, maybe we can all live in peace regardless of provincial/ancient constraints of race, ethnicity & religion. But the major European powers & the US had/have the luxury of having a dominant race/ethnic group as the majority. All you have to do is look at those defunct multi-ethnic countries like the Austro-Hungarian empire, Yugoslavia, Old Russian Empire – USSR, Czechoslovakia, et al to see my point. If Czechoslovakia couldn’t make it, with relatively minor ethnic divisions, how do you expect Israel to survive with hostile forces inside and out? The earlier Jews in the Middle East lived in peace as second class or worse subjects with few basic rights. Ever heard of the word d’himmi?

      • Ray_Harwick

        The Palestinians, like the native Americans, were mainly feral


        Mr. Frum! Here’s you American supporter of Israel.

        • Montaillou


          I think the second-class status of Jews under Ottoman and later Arab rule was a deplorable thing, but they enjoyed much better treatment than the Palestinians now languishing in the open prison that is the Gaza strip, and those currently exiled in refugee camps.

          The answer to the historical failure of past societies to accommodate ethnic and confessional diversity is certainly not to reproduce it simply with the boot on the other foot. If that’s the lesson that Zionism draws from Bronze Age Hebrew mythology and/or the experience of the holocaust, then it’s a depressingly myopic one. There are now plenty of nation-states in which a diversity of ethnic and religious traditions flourish alongside one another – they are the fulfilment of precisely the political modernity with which Israel, on some days, seems to wish to be associated. That the official Zionist narrative does not even aspire to secular democracy, but struggles instead to vindicate and entrench intercommunal rivalries and resentments as the engine of its own reproduction, speaks volumes about the good faith of Israel’s cheerleaders around the world.

  • gmat

    “But if there’s an Israel lobby, it is successful for exactly the same reason that the lobby group Mothers Against Drunk Driving is successful: because Americans approve and admire motherhood, and dislike and disapprove of driving drunk.”

    OK, so what does that say about the 60% of Americans who either express no opinion or favor the Palestinians? Are you saying a clear majority (3 to 2) of Americans either favor drunk driving, or are indifferent to the relative virtues of motherhood and drunk driving?

    • Watusie

      To illustrate how false an assertion it is to say that the presence of a lobby indicates that Americans “approve and admire”, contemplate banking and tobacco growers.

    • dugfromthearth

      This logic is also true of Monsanto, Haliburton and other companies lobbying. It is not the money they donate to politicians that buys the votes. It is the vast public support for Monsanto that allows them to get laws passed in their favor year after year. In fact it is shocking that companies pay for lobbying, when it is clear that you don’t buy influence in Washington – you are just wholesome and apple-pie and American and that gets you the support you deserve.

  • Montaillou

    There are so many half-truths and elisions here (not to mention complete silences – viz. the methods used by Israel to hollow out what is supposedly left of any viable Palestinian state, and the thoroughgoing apartheid operated, at the very least, within the occupied West Bank).

    However, for now I’d confine myself to one observation. Why is it ok to praise and celebrate Zionism, as Frum does at the top of this lecture, while anyone how criticizes or questions the project of Zionism, in its historical or contemporary incarnations, is so routinely smeared by “friends of Israel” as antisemitic?

    • Carney

      Why? Because to be anti-Zionist is to decide to deny the Jewish people, and they alone, the right to a homeland and nation-state of their own, wherein they control their own destiny and can defend their own existence. Such denial can have no explanation other than anti-Jewish animus.

      The “Palestinians”are no distinct people, merely local Arabs, and Arabs can be found from Morocco to Oman, from Syria to Sudan. There is no shortage of Arab states, both within and without their homeland on the Arabian peninsula.

      • Frumplestiltskin

        and there is no shortage of Jews from NYC to Florida, what is your point? Are you calling for one huge Arab state from Morocco to Iraq? I think not. Are you calling for the West Bank and Gaza to be reincorporated into Jordon and Egypt? I think not as well. Are you calling for all the Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza to be forcibly expelled? I think so.

      • Montaillou

        Nonsense. I live in a country that is predominantly Anglo-Saxon; but if any political movement emerged that called for the establishment – here or anywhere else – of an “Anglo-Saxon state” I would find that quite repulsive, and I would oppose it politically up to my last breath. There’s nothing unique about my and many people’s objection to the idea of a “Jewish state” – we would object to any nation-state being predicated on the constitutionally entrenched supremacy of a particular ethnic or religious group. That’s really an incredibly simple point, and frankly I don’t buy it when otherwise intelligent, even sometimes liberal-minded people affect not to grasp it.

      • Montaillou

        Also, I don’t think you understand the point I was making about Zionism.

        Zionism, historically, is a quite self-consciously constructed political project. In its early days, it wasn’t necessarily associated with the holy land – there were Zionist projects to establish a Jewish state in various parts of the world. And many Jews were skeptical about particular projects along those lines, or indeed about the project as a whole. Until relatively recently, most orthodox Ashkenazy Jews in the west were against it, sometimes denouncing it as a kind of blasphemy.

        Now, it is still advanced, quite strategically, by David Frum and many of his political allies, as a hard-headed political project, with many geopolitical advantages for the west. As a political project, it should be subject to political scrutiny and criticism without the babyish cry of “Antisemite!” at every possible opportunity. Apart from anything else, that debases the notion of antisemitism itself, generating a regrettable skepticism in some quarters that there is (any longer) any such thing.

    • Fart Carbuncle

      Sir, are you aware of the condition of Palestine before 1948? The condition of the land, the lack of basic human services, and no rule of law? And, are you aware of the horrific terrorist acts committed by Muslim terrorists against Israelis?

      • Farast

        Fart Carbuncle // Dec 1, 2011 at 11:56 am

        Sir, are you aware of the condition of Palestine before 1948? The condition of the land, the lack of basic human services, and no rule of law? And, are you aware of the horrific terrorist acts committed by Muslim terrorists against Israelis?


        Uh Fart you realise that between 1922 and 1948 Palestine was The British Mandate for Palestine right? and thus run and administrated by the Brits. If you are going to make comments please get at least the basic facts right!

      • Montaillou

        Yes, yes, and yes.

        As for the “condition of the land,” such an argument was used for decades to justify colonial settlement all over the world by Britain, France, etc. The United States, of which I’m neither a resident nor a citizen, was supposed to have been founded largely on the rejection of that kind of cant – which has been demolished conclusively in many fine books and articles, often American, whose contents I contents there is no need to repeat here.

        And yes, of course I’m aware of terrorism being perpetrated on both sides of the Palestine/Israel conflict, including the bombing of the King David hotel in ’48 and other atrocities committed in those days by Zionist paramilitaries. But the fact that you have to face is that, when Palestinian liberation movement was much more secular and based much less on terrorist actions against Israel, it got nowhere. Its recent turn towards religious zealotry – mirroring the state-supported settler fruitcakes on the Israeli side – is very much to be regretted, but it has clear roots in the failure of the earlier, more secular opposition to illegal settlement, to which the west, and preeminently the US, turned a deaf ear for many years.

  • Sinan

    The creation of a Zionist state in Palestine was the second worst political decision of the last century, the first being the terms of the Versaille Treaty. If only they had created Isreal with the intent of treating the people that lived there as equals in a grand bargain to live in peace and prosperity instead of cultural and religious separation….I simply cannot understand why we give them carte blanche treatment.

    • Fart Carbuncle

      Sir, it was the Muslims who refused to live in peace with the Jews.

      Numerous treaties and concessions by Israel since 1973 have been abrogated and abused by the Muslims who believe that Jerusalem and the surrounding land is part of their caliphate.

    • jakester

      Oh no, not another Versailles Treaty critic. However harsh the that treaty was to the Germans, it fell far short to one the Germans would have imposed on the allies if she won instead. The treaty itself didn’t fail or cause the next war. It was the spineless British, French, and even US leaders who did nothing to snuff out the Nazis when they had a chance, like when they created the Luftwaffe then remilitarized the Rhineland. What is the point of exacting a harsh treaty if you are unwilling to enforce it?

    • jakester

      Right Sinan
      The indigenous Arabs in Israel and their neighbors were just begging to be part of Israel & demonstrate their Philosemitism but those evil Jews kept driving them away.

      • Sinan

        Prior to the rise of Zionism and the support for it by the British and others, they lived in peace together for centuries. There is only one bad actor in this sad history and it is the Zionist. Not the Jew, the Zionist.

  • LFC

    Why would anybody support a government that so obviously despises us? Netanyahu’s gov’t is running ads that pretty much say that American Jews aren’t fit spouses for Israeli Jews.

    Hey, David, how does it feel to know your Netanyahu thinks your daughter isn’t good enough for an Israeli man?

    • TerryF98

      They love our money, us not so much.

      • CautiousProgressive

        Israel is our close ally.

        Of course we grumble at each other – that’s what allies do (or siblings…. or spouses for that matter).

        For example, witness France and Germany – two countries who are now virtually wielded at the hip.

    • CautiousProgressive

      That last sentence was a low blow.

      Your point is an interesting one – but please be more civil.

      • medinnus

        Perhaps it was – but it was essentially sourced from the Israeli propaganda, which baldly states that Jews who aren’t Israeli Jews are inferior, and need to be recalled before they become hopelessly contaminated.

  • Set271

    I hope no public monies were used to pay this guy to influence the worlds view of (Illegaly)Occupied Palestine. Hope it was only ZOA and AIPAC funds were wasted on this diatribe of justification of racism, terrorism, genocide and apartheid. Won’t anyone talk about basic human rights? No, that’s been buried beneath the bodies, homes and farms that was Palestine. The Palestinians had to be labeled terrorists so as to not be seen stealing legitimate land of the Palestinians. Like the American Indians, who were in America, the Palestinians were bullied, dehumanized, condemned, and forced to give up their right to exist where they wanted. Labeled terrorists the Zionist Israelis’ disregarded any sense of morality taking every inch they could. It’s quaint how the Zionist Israeli government doesn’t allow the Palestinians to have weapons when they didn’t have much more than a knife in those early days. Every one is so uptight about Israels right to exist. The Palestinians exist…existed…in the land formerly known as Palestine. Where’s their equal time in the media, the UN, the worlds conscience. Terrorism won’t end until Israel gets off of its high horse and accepts everyone as equals.

    • jakester

      It’s quaint how the Zionist Israeli government doesn’t allow the Palestinians to have weapons when they didn’t have much more than a knife in those early days. Every one is so uptight about Israels right to exist.

      Ahem, the US & Israel have armed a Palestinian paramilitary police force.

      • Set271

        Yes, that was recent. (Did you perhaps need to read my comment again?) And the Palestinian forces who were issued weapons…are the weapons theirs, are the Palestinian forces carrying those weapons home to protect their families at night, and most importantly is there ammo issued with the weapons…are they non-lethal. Questions the Zionist Israeli’s surely know the answer to. But for close to forty years they were not allowed weapons of any kind from day one when their land was subjugated by Zionist tyrants.

  • Reflection Ephemeral

    What does Israel’s current government view as the best resolution of the West Bank? Does building settlements help or hurt that resolution? Is Israel’s policy toward Gaza likely to achieve its goals? Why or why not?

    Was Gen. Petraeus correct when he wrote that “he [Israel-Palestine] conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of US favouritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of US partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR [Centcom's Area of Responsibility] and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilise support.”? If Petraeus was wrong, how was he mistaken? Israel is, as you note, a highly successful country. Is it in the US’s interests to give $3 billion per year to Israel? Why or why not? If so, what does, and should, the US receive in exchange for this support? Is PM Netanyahu’s statement that Israel is “pro-American” enough to justify that yearly sum?

    There are many, many important questions to be discussed and debated regarding Israel’s current policies, and its relations with the US. This back-slapping, self-satisfied chortlefest of a speech sets fire to a whole field of straw men, and doesn’t raise (much less address) a single one of them.

    I mean, I “favor Israel over its adversaries”. I also favor the Red Sox over the Yankees, but that doesn’t mean that I support Jon Lester breaking Mark Teixeira’s face with a fastball. We need to be discussing the long term here. Israel has all the advantages over its neighbors now, but it won’t forever. You can say all the mean things that you want about the Palestinians– and many of them will be deserved– but I don’t see a resolution that avoids normalization with the Palestinians. And I don’t see how the current Israeli government is working to achieve that goal.

  • jdd_stl1

    Serious question. My background on US-Israel relations is lacking.
    Can someone tell me what the history is of why Republicans are
    viewed as better friends of Israel than Democrats?

    • valkayec

      The GOP, in reality, is not a better friend to Israel than Dems. It’s that the GOP has a better and more consistent spin machine.

    • jakester

      The GOP is willing to back the most extreme Israeli policies while the Democrats want to rein them in a bit

  • potan221

    Iran with its old imperial ambitions???????? The last time i checked, Iran hasn’t invaded anyone in the last 250 years. However, the U.S. backed a coup in the 50s to overthrow the democratically elected government and replace it with a dictator called the shah. It was also the U.S. that instigated the Iran-Iraq War by providing help and weaponry to Saddam Hussein. Also, how the hell can Iran be considered a threat to peace when Israel has 200 nuclear weapons and a history of foreign interventions? Furthermore, Iran is a signatory to the NPT, unlike Israel, Pakistan and India, and thus has right under the treaty to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. There is one report written by some UN bureaucrats stating that Iran has the potential means to make nuclear weapons, but so does every country that enriches uranium, including f–ing Canada.

  • nuser

    Mr. Frum.
    It does not bother you in the least to attack your President in a foreign country, does it?
    Your president , Mr. Frum. Your loyalty lies with Israel,not Canada nor America.

  • jdd_stl1

    “We missed the Persian spring. ”

    What is he referring to here? What was the Persian spring?

    • gmat

      I don’t know what it was either, but something tells me I’m glad we missed it.

      • Frumplestiltskin

        The so called “persian spring” was the unrest due to Ahmedinijad’s stealing the last election. Republicans believed that a more aggressive response would have unseated the regime, but Obama rightly knew it would have given the regime a greater legitimacy in Iran amongst the rural population and would have just had the protesters be jailed and worse as American spies. There was precious little we could do to bring about regime change without there being a critical mass, as there was in Libya.

    • jakester

      Comes after the Chinese winter

  • JimBob

    Unpatriotic Americans like David Frum always put the interests of Israel ahead of the United States “Of the 8 candidates competing for the Republican presidential nomination, 7 declared themselves intense supporters of the State of Israel, the sole exception being crank no-hoper Ron Paul”

    No Frum, you’re the crank. Ron Paul is a patriotic American who served 6 years in the armed forces of this country.

    Israel murders our sailors and gets away with it. LBJ covered it up. He should have been impeached and put on trial for treason.

    Israel sends Jonathan Pollard to loot our secrets causing great damage to this country.

    Israel knew about 9/11 in advance and didn’t warn us.

    Fifth columnists always pushing the United States to fight wars on behalf of Israel

  • valkayec

    Mr. Frum, I don’t know if you read the responses to your blog posts, but if you do, I truly hope you will answer the questions asked here. And mine as well. I think your readers deserve answers.

    We all understand your fondness and loyalty to Israel. I think all Jews across the world do. And I have great respect for them. Years ago on a business trip to Chicago, I was provided a limo and driver to show me the sights. The driver was a survivor of the Holocaust. As a young teen, he worked as a slave laborer in one of the camps. I need not tell you the story of how he lived, worked and survived the camp. The stories are well known. He showed me the numbered tattoo on his forearm and told me he was the only one of his family who had survived. I don’t believe I would have had the courage and strength to survive what he went through.

    I tell you this story so you’ll understand how deeply I empathize with Jews everywhere. Nevertheless, I have questions which I would like answered.

    Namely, when you use the term “Zionism” what exactly do you mean? What is your definition? That term has been defined by many people who each have motives of their own. I’d like to know your definition of the term.

    Second, does it not bother you, from an historic perspective, that Palestinians are being treated in many ways as Jews were in European ghettos? I remember reading about the Jews in Rome, for centuries prior to WWII, being forced to live in a walled off section of Rome. Most lived and worked in the ghetto. Those that worked outside the ghetto were forced to return inside the walls by nightfall. They had no freedom of movement within Rome and were constantly the subjects of harassment and violence. Yet, within the ghetto walls they were safe. In all honesty, I compare the current Israeli treatment of Palestinians to how Jews had been treated in Rome. I see the similarity and cannot understand how a people who’ve endured so much hatred, theft, murder, and discrimination can engage in actions that are even remotely similar to those they endured for centuries. I would think that historical memory would provoke compassion and understanding from a people who had experienced the very worst of human nature.

    Does it not bother you what Netanyahu recently said about American Jews? After all American Jews have done to support Israel, now he says they’re tainted so Israeli Jews should not marry American Jews. Even if his was a political comment made to satisfy the most right wing branch of his party and nation, it was an awful statement, reeking of discrimination and the kinds of superiority to which Jews worldwide have been subjected for centuries. To read that kind of statement coming from the leader of Israel causes me to wonder about his moral values. I can’t imagine Moses or Jacob saying anything so onerous. (And, yes, I’ve read two translations of the Old Testament which I hope are not too different from the original Torah.)

    I believe in self examination particularly of my beliefs and prejudices, do you? The reason I ask is because I know that the only way to grow intellectually and morally is through honest, continuous examination of my belief system and prejudices. If I accept the words of the Old Testament (Torah) Prophets as true beyond doubt, then I have a moral obligation to test constantly what I think against what they repeatedly told the inhabitants of Judea and Israel, prior to the destruction of the first temple and enslavement of the Jews by Babylonia. If I make mistakes, then I owe it myself and those whom I may have harmed to be honest and apologize. I mark it as a sign of respect that others behave similarly. I understand that many of your views are based on politics and unwavering loyalty to Israel, but are you capable of putting aside your views and loyalty to examine critically the policies to which you so clearly adhere…and criticize them when necessary? After all, that’s what the Prophets asked each of us to do.

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