I am proud to have coined the “Israel Firster” meme.
And I caught hell for it, not that it slowed me down any. Nor did it reduce the truth of my thesis which is that the Israel lobby and the politicians it owns put the interests of Israel (or, at least, their perception of those interests) over the interests of the country they live in.
Israel Firster Exhibit #1 is, of course, the lobby’s demand that America do nothing to end the occupation despite the fact that US support for it damages American interests in the Middle East and around the world. Because of endless lobby pressure (campaign contributions and the threat to withhold them) the United States has permitted Israel to fully settle the occupied territories. Additionally, the United States is not permitted to link U.S. aid to Israel to its not blocking U.S. policies, although such linkage is the norm with every other country in the world and our own states and municipalities.
The case that lobby-dictated U.S. policy on Palestine damages U.S. interests while strong, is not completely provable. It is possible to argue that the Muslim world would hate us just as much even if we did not back the occupation although I don’t think it would. I believe the occupation is the prime source of our problems in the Middle East; I just can’t prove it.
The Iran case is much stronger. In fact, it is ironclad. The President of the United States and, according to the polls, 75% of Americans, want the United States to reach a nuclear deal with Iran. That view is as universal as any can be in a democracy like ours. Americans want an Iran deal to avoid U.S involvement another monstrous war in the region. And because they know that only negotiations can prevent a nuclear armed Iran if that is the goal of its leaders.
Only one group opposes a deal. It is the Israel lobby following orders it receives from Israel’s government. Members of Congress who oppose a deal are doing so in order to please the lobby and continue to receive campaign donations from it. Writers, columnists, reporters, bloggers and media personalities who oppose a deal are all (with no exceptions) associated with the lobby.
In short, American interests are all arrayed on one side and Netanyahu’s interests are on the other.
Again, the occupation issue, although clear, is not that clear. The continued occupation of the West Bank may ultimately cost American lives. Bombing Iran, the lobby’s preferred alternative to a negotiated agreement, will cost American lives and damage American interests in the Middle East like no previous action the U.S. has undertaken in the region.
So, it’s simple. America’s interests (and the people of Israel’s, for that matter) dictate support for the pending agreement with Iran. Netanyahu’s interests (and that of the Israeli right in general) dictate opposition to it.
The lobby and every Member of Congress and every pundit who opposes this agreement is an Israel Firster. The question is whether Obama has the courage to stand up to them. If past is prologue, he doesn’t. But one can hope.
In any case, the Israel First case is proven.
Note: for the record, it is important to understand that according to the recent Pew and American Jewish Committee polls of Jewish community attitudes, only a tiny percentage of American Jews are Israel Firsters. Overwhelmingly Jews are progressives who put domestic concerns first.
Israel ranks well below all the major domestic issues. Israel Firsters are, however, far more powerful than the rest of the community put together because they are billionaires and millionaires who make political contributions based solely on Israel. And they provide the money behind AIPAC, ADL, the AJC and the rest of the Jewish organizations which have few members but lots of money. In a thoroughly corrupt political system, these people count infinitely more than the 95% of Jews who, although they care about Israel (for the most part), would find the idea of putting Israel’s interests before America’s inconceivable and offensive.