Using Hannah Arendt’s term, the “banality of evil” to describe Congressional Israel politics is a bit of a stretch, but not much.
You can always trust the Jewish Telegraphic Agency to provide typically knee-jerk pro-Israel coverage of the Mideast conflict. But a recent article reflects more poorly in that regard on the U.S. Congress than it does on JTA itself.
When it comes to Israel, each party falls all over itself to be more cartoonishly pro-Israel than the next. You could be forgiven for mistaking our elected representatives for Likud-like buffoons. None of them have apparently heard the news that Israel lost the Lebanon war at least in part because it tried to rely solely on a hand-me-down Shock & Awe military strategy and vaunted precision U.S. munitions which were apparently supposed to decapitate magically Hassan Nasrallah and the entire Hezbollah insurgency. Are these Congress members merely stupid or do they take us for idiots as well, that the U.S. populace should be won over by such narischkeit?
Democrats and Republicans, politicking hard ahead of midterm elections that could end Republican control of the U.S. Congress, are battling over which party was more supportive of Israel in its war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“Republicans only offer support to Israel when they think that they’ll get something for it,” Democrats howled after the Republican-led Congress feted Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister who stood with Hezbollah in the recent conflict.
A ranking Democrat “is publicly supporting a terrorist organization,” Republicans barked back after Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) dithered on whether Congress should support Israel in the war.
For those of you keeping score at home, Dingell was accused of supporting Hezbollah even though he said this about the group: “I don’t take sides for or against Hezbollah or for or against Israel. I condemn Hezbollah as does everybody else, for the violence,” he said in a TV interview. The National Republican Campaign Committee somehow misplaced that second sentence when it ran its repulsive ads warning of Dingell’s support for “a known terrorist organization.” You see, Dingell represents a district with a heavy Arab-American constituency so the idiot wing of the Republican Party just assumes that everything the Congressmember says will be pro-Arab. Likewise, it cynically believes it can turn this into suspicion and mistrust of all Democrats by pandering to the worst fears and prejudices of American Jewish voters.
Likewise, the Know Nothing Party tried to tar and feather Nancy Pelosi because she withheld her support for a Republican sponsored resolution denouncing Hezbollah for its actions. Her reason: resolution supporters refused to insert language calling for both sides to respect civilian lives. For this, you’re branded a traitor to Israel by the idiot brigade.
JTA quotes a former Clinton aide and Democratic strategist as proclaiming the obvious (which is often far from it as far as the partisan pro-Israel crowd is concerned):
“I do not see the point of constantly testing members of Congress on their Israel bona fides,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a former Clinton aide and Democratic strategist who was unhappy with both sides for making the war political fodder. “Just for partisan purposes to routinely, constantly test how far you can push members of Congress, I think it’s totally alienating.”
Can’t speak for others, but it sure alienates me as an American Jew who cares about Israel and achieving peace in the Mideast.
The article also quotes this Jewish communal leader promoting the ‘up the ante’ approach of each party ‘out pro-Israeling’ the other. Unfortunately, this political flack seems to have the notion that mangling the English language is cute. Instead, he makes my head hurt:
I think it’s a good thing to have members of Congress outdo their colleagues by showing that their pro-Israel credentials are stronger than the next guy’s,” said William Daroff, vice president of public policy at United Jewish Communities and a former Republican activist.
“When Israel is in the existential battle for survival that it now finds itself in, having people argue whether they are the best friend of Israel or the bester [sic] friend of Israel really shows the parameters of where the vast majority of public officials are in America today,” he said.
I know, he didn’t believe “bester” was a real word. He just thought it would be a fun, playful neologism. Reading it on the page gave me the sensation of having linguistic root canal surgery. OUCH!
Not to mention how odious the guy’s ideas are. Israel doesn’t need sycophantic friends. It has plenty of those like Bill Kristol and Newt Gingrich telling it to drop the big one on those Hezbs and to fight to the death on behalf of neocon values. What Israel needs is some hard-headed friends who’ll be willing to tell it some inconvenient truths it might rather not hear. There are a few of those left in Congress like Lois Capps and Betty McCollum and a number of others. These people think about issues that are beyond their noses, unlike their pro-Likud counterparts.
One of the main reasons for this unhealthy atmosphere in Congress is Aipac, which I’ve often written about here. They do more than any other single political entity to poison the air and ensure that there can never be open or rational debate about Israel in the halls of Congress.