When Democrats amended their platform to find room for God (which supposedly is everywhere anyway), the also included recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in it. While this received much less attention from secularist activists, it is, if anything, an even more bizarre change. After all, isn’t this a foreign policy issue that doesn’t even directly affect the US? How much does an average US voter care where the capital of a foreign nation is?
This was not the first time that Israel came up during this election cycle. When Mitt Romney visited Israel last July, he made remarks that, to put it mildly, were unhelpful for the US international policy, even though they may have been helpful for Romney’s campaign.
“Culture makes all the difference,” Mr. Romney said. “And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things.”
He added, “As you come here and you see the G.D.P. per capita, for instance, in Israel, which is about $21,000, and compare that with the G.D.P. per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality. And that is also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States.”
But the venture capitalist and free market admirer-turned politician seems to have forgotten one minor factor that might have also played a part in Israel’s economic superiority over its neighbors: the US foreign aid. According to the Wikipedia article, Israel is the biggest recipient of US foreign aid, and while the aid is mostly military, in the past it has included direct economic aid as well.
Is it possible that Romney didn’t know about this? That is very hard to believe. Did he not think this was a significant enough factor to even deserve mention? It is very hard to tell what he was thinking, but one thing is clear: talking about direct US aid to Israel would have been extremely inconvenient politically, under the circumstances. What is even more baffling is that not only the so called “liberal media”, but even the enraged Palestinians who called Romney’s comments “racist”, failed to call him out on this point.
So all federal aid to those in need here at home is demonized, but billions in aid to a foreign country, at the US tax payer expense, don’t even get a mention? What happened to putting the emphasis on the free market and rejecting government aid? Didn’t he want to let the auto industry go bankrupt?
Now, of course this doesn’t mean that aid to Israel, or at least some of it, is not justified. Israel, as a nation, faces very serious threats to its existence, for which aiding it may be exactly the moral thing to do. But that is where governments come in-and claims that everything in human life can be fixed with the magic of free market turns out to be a hollow one. It doesn’t make sense to give aid to a foreign nation and at the same time claim that that nation owes everything to “culture”, or rant and rave against government aid being given at home to those who need it (who, ironically, often happen to be those doing the ranting).
Free market hypocrisy and last minute platform gymnastics not withstanding, where does this come from? Why do politicians across the board have this deference to Israel?
To some, the answer is Jewish support for Israel in the US. Even Ron Lindsay, president of the CFI, subscribes to this idea. But the reality is much more complex than that. A lot of support for Israel in they US comes from evangelicals, whose support for Israel comes hand in hand with ideas that border on the anti-semitic.
In the 2009 documentary Waiting for Armageddon, we learn about many evangelical christian groups who donates millions of dollars to Israel every year (Mr Romney, are you listening?) and lobby the US government to show unconditional support for that country. Featuring among them is Pastor John Hagee, of Christians United for Israel (who recently honored US atheists by demanding we all leave the country). These people have an extremely dangerous and belligerent ideology: they believe in wars and violence on a cosmic scale, that will usher in the “second coming” of Jesus. To them, all conflict and bloodshed in the Middle East (of which there is no shortage) is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Quite cynically, they talk in the movie of sadness about suffering and loss of life, before expressing hope that it will expedite the second coming. Which, for them, cannot happen soon enough. Best selling Left Behind novels and subsequent video games are all based on the idea that after certain (unpleasant) events happen in the Middle East, countless people get “raptured” into the skies causing mayhem and chaos, followed by wars and disasters for those who are “left behind”. It is hard for any ideology to be sicker, more disgusting than this.
We see further in the documentary that they are totally obsessed with destroying the Al Aqsa Mosque (the dome in the picture above), the third holiest place for Muslims, and replacing it with a temple. This is the kind of provocation that could lead to real Armageddon, as opposed to the imaginary one. It is disturbing to see that even in their visitor photos, they air brush the mosque out of existence, and they think this is funny.
Of course, not all Israelis are happy with this expression of “love” and “support”: while evangelicals tells the Jews that they love them, they won’t stop demanding and praying that the convert. Author and journalist Gershom Gorenberg points out in the documentary that while Jews are told they are loved, they are also told that they should be “perfected” (in the words of Ann Coulter) by accepting Jesus, which means giving up the most basic thing to their identity. In other words, they are told to stop being Jews.
So to go back to the bigger picture, when politicians on the right and left fall over each other trying to please Israel, to some extent they are being influenced by the likes of John Hagee. It may be time for secularists for raise our voices against that. After all, it is a state/church separation issue, and quite possibly the most dangerous one at that. If protecting Israel from outside threats is the right thing to do, then it does not follow that recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or making irresponsible comments about Israel’s economy would be helpful in that regard.