John Derbyshire: Israel Is NOT That Important To America
When Christmas and New Year’s both fall on a weekend, that week in between is the silliest of all silly seasons in the Western world. Unless there’s a natural disaster, or some non-Western lunatic tries to start a war, nothing happens. So I’m going to write at length about the one newsy thing that did happen this week: the fuss over the U.S.A. not using its veto in the U.N. Security Council to take down a resolution critical of Israel. I don’t think it’s half as important as it looks.
To judge from my email bag and donation logs, I have a surprising number of readers in Israel. I say “surprising” because I hardly ever say anything about Israel or her affairs, and don’t actually know much about the place.
The last time I wrote at length about Israel was, I think, in mid-2010 at TakiMag.com, and that was only by way of putting down a marker. I had just started writing regularly for TakiMag, which runs some anti-Israel stuff, and I wanted to make my own position plain:
Any fair-minded person must be an Israel sympathizer. A hundred years ago there were Jews and Arabs living in that part of the Ottoman Empire. After the Ottoman collapse, both peoples had a right to set up their own ethnostates. It has been the furiously intransigent Arab denial of this fact, not anything Israelis have done, that has been the root cause of all subsequent troubles.
Aside from being a well-wisher of Israel in sentiment, though, I agree with Steve Sailer that we pay much more attention to the place that our national interest justifies, for reasons to do with the over-representation of Jewish Americans in the Main Stream Media and the wealthy-donor classes.
From a cold-eyed view of U.S. interests, Israel isn’t very important—less important than Mexico or Japan, which get far fewer column inches. The problem is that American Jews are not cold-eyed, and their collective voice is loud.
For example: We found out by chance a couple of years ago that David Brooks, an American citizen who writes a much-read Op-Ed column in the New York Times, has or then had a son serving in the Israeli military [David Brooks’ Son Is In the Israeli Army: Does It Matter?, By Rob Eshman, Jewish Journal, September 22, 2014]—a thing that Brooks and the NYT had never told us.
Why didn’t Brooks, Jr. join the U.S. military if he felt the urge to go soldiering? I don’t know. How many other bigfoot American pundits or political donors have kids in the Israeli military? I don’t know. Do any have sons or daughters in the Mexican or Japanese military? I don’t know, but I doubt it.
American Jews are … overwhelmingly Democratic; Jews voted for Hillary Clinton over Mr. Trump, 71 percent to 24 percent, according to exit polls.
Yet the most influential and vocal organizations that represent Jews in Washington tend to be more conservative and supportive of Mr. Netanyahu, who has had a combative relationship with Mr. Obama, and has made little secret of his happiness over the changing of the guard that is about to take place in Washington.
American Jews Divided Over Strain in U.S.-Israel Relations. New York Times, December 29th, Link in original
The contradictions and paradoxes here have often been noted. American Jews of all positions want Israel to remain an ethnostate, a Jewish state; yet liberal Jews are horrified at the suggestion that the U.S.A. should likewise maintain a solid monoethnic core.
Alan Colmes, for example, thought it shocking when, in We Are Doomed, I quoted with approval Samuel Huntington’s words that “The [American philosophical-Constitutional] Creed is unlikely to retain its salience if Americans abandon the Anglo-Protestant culture in which it has been rooted.” (You can see him being shocked below.)
Colmes’ position is the common one among liberal American Jews: ethnonationalism for me, but not for thee.
All this has been said many times, of course. Pat Buchanan has been saying it for forty years. The sheer tiresomely repetitive quality of talk about Israel in fact deters the thoughtful commentator from writing about it.
The geopolitical situation over there is exceptionally static. It’s been the same just about forever, it seems—actually since the Six-Day War of 1967, fifty years ago this coming June. What can one say that hasn’t been said?
There’s a historical parallel here. The Irish historian Conor Cruise O’Brien raised it, and was followed by others. It’s worth resurrecting, though; and the fact that it’s not original speaks to the very point I’m making:
When Britain went into the First World War in 1914, lesser problems were put on hold. One of those lesser problems was some arrangement for Irish independence, an issue that was just coming to the boil in 1914.
When World War I was over at last, Ireland heated up again, leading to the armed struggle for independence, then to partition and Home Rule at the end of 1921, violently opposed by the Unionists of Northern Ireland.
Winston Churchill made a famous remark about this when speaking to Parliament in 1922. The Great War had changed the whole map of Europe, he said,
But as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again. The integrity of their quarrel is one of the few institutions that has been unaltered in the cataclysm which has swept the world.
Speech on the second reading of the Irish Free State Bill, February 16, 1922
That’s how most of us feel about the Arab-Israeli dispute.
Fifty years on from Israel’s astonishing victory over the massed forces of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, the world has turned over several times. The European Union came up, consolidated, and is now disintegrating; Europe’s colonial empires have been dismantled; the Soviet Union, which looked as though it would last forever, is one with Nineveh and Tyre; the Islamic world has gone from enthusiasm for modernization, socialism, and secularism to a revival of the most primitive, most violent and passionate styles of Islam; China has shucked off revolutionary austerity for a gross style of consumer crony-capitalism; and the U.S.A. has been busily replacing its legacy population with Third World immigrants.
And as the waters of this slow and—thank goodness—mostly peaceful turmoil subside, we see the dreary mosques, temples, and churches of the West Bank emerging once again. The integrity of their quarrel is one of the few institutions that has been unaltered in the changes which have swept our world since 1967.
Secretary of State John Kerry, in his Wednesday speech in Washington, D.C., said that “Israel can either be Jewish or democratic—it cannot be both.” That caused a mild fuss, with some of the fiercer partisans of Israel denouncing it.
It wasn’t original, though. It would have been astonishing if it was, coming from an unimaginative mediocrity like Kerry. Ehud Barak had said it back in 1999. And I doubt he was the first. Barak was no enemy of Zionism, either. He was born in a kibbutz, served with distinction in Israel’s armed forces, became Chief of the Israeli General Staff, then Minister of Defense, and then Prime Minister. His opinion has some weight.
It’s arguable for all that. The arithmetic doesn’t quite work. If Israel, Jewish population 6.3 million, non-Jewish population 2.1 million, were to annex the West Bank—half a million Jews, 2.8 million non-Jews—it would then have 6.8 million Jews and 4.9 million non-Jews. So it would still be a majority-Jewish state; although at 58 percent, that’s an uneasy sort of majority. And this is assuming that if they annex the West Bank, the Israelis would be unwilling and/or unable to just expel all the non-Jews, which I think is a fair assumption.
So Kerry, if not precisely, mathematically right, is not altogether wrong. And his Wednesday speech, although way too long, is actually not bad.
Whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent makes no difference to anything, though.
Nothing makes any difference.
The Israelis will go on building settlements and ignoring the U.N.; Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank will go on harassing Israel with occasional random acts of murder; nations hostile to Israel will go on being too fearful and weak to give any military support to their Palestinian brothers; American Jews will go on using their media pulpits to keep the whole wretched business in the news; Cultural Marxists like Obama, who mentally divide the world into victims and oppressors, will go on seeing the Israelis as oppressors.
And the rest of us will go on wondering why we should give so much attention to a nation which, however sympathetic we may be to it for reasons of civilizational solidarity, is irrelevant to our national interests—and anyway seems well able to take care of itself.
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He’s had two books published by VDARE.com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and From the Dissident Right II: Essays 2013. His writings are archived at JohnDerbyshire.com.