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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/30/10

"Pro-Israel" Neocons Go Global

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Why? Because, the neocon clearly implied bin Laden was right when he called it a battle of perception: "The strong horse [the West] is not perceived to be strong anymore.... Israel is an integral part of the West and the weaker it is, the weaker the entire West will be perceived to be." Again, Israel is valuable not for itself, but as a stalking horse - either a strong one or a weak one - for "the West" in the midst of the Middle East.

The supposed weakness of the West, especially its moral weakness, is a favorite theme of neocon paranoia. "Major parts of the West are suffering a kind of crisis of identity," Aznar lamented. "Europe is a good example. With a declining population, increasing numbers of Muslim immigrants, many of them exposed to radical ideas, multiculturalism has imposed itself as the politically correct way ... Judeo-Christian values are aggressively challenged every day and" - here we get to the heart of neoconservatism - "the 68-generation that dominates our current leadership does nothing to defend them. Peacenik Europe has been fighting the West for too long."

Yes, it's those '60s-era peaceniks who are the ultimate enemy. It's their fault, Aznar contended, that Europe "has been so hypercritical of Israel" while sympathizing with the radical Muslim purveyors of evil: "The West has lost the moral clarity needed to fight the anti-semitic critics of the State of Israel."

In Washington, Aznar stressed similar failures of the US, though in more circumspect terms. When he said, "This is a question of will ... Do you have the will to win or not? To have indecision in the government is very bad," he was ostensibly talking about the administration's vacillating policies in Afghanistan. But for neoconservatives, specific political situations are always symbols of the larger moral battle. And the US, the Spanish neocon charged, "is going through a period of introspection, exhaustion and even confusion."

Once again, by some twisted logic, this all leads back to Israel as the test of American, and thus Western, moral will: "I don't think the growing attacks against Israel and the general campaign of deligitimation are unrelated to the crisis of the West and more particularly, the crisis of confidence that emanates from the White House today." Obama is "embracing many enemies of America while punishing its traditional allies," especially - you guessed it - Israel. That apparently is proof enough that the US president is one of those '68 peaceniks who are destroying the Judaeo-Christian values and moral fiber of the West.

It might be tempting to dismiss all this as paranoid nonsense - just as it was tempting to dismiss the paranoid nonsense purveyed by neocons like William Kristol and Robert Kagan in the late '90s, when they laid the ideological groundwork for Bush's "war on terror." But it would be just as dangerous to dismiss the neocons now as it was then.

Military aggression is always on their minds, as Aznar occasionally let slip: "Israel is increasingly threatened by the scenario of a nuclear Iran - something the world must certainly act urgently to prevent.... If the US keeps fading away as a force for good in the world, Israel will be forced to play a growing role in the region and possibly beyond the region."

John Bolton spelled it out more concretely, in an interview in Ha'aretz. Netanyahu "tries to stay as close as he can to the Obama administration," Bolton contended. "He has demonstrated his willingness to do whatever it takes to satisfy the administration's demands on dealings with the Palestinians. And at some point, if the [Israeli] military decides to use military force against Iran's nuclear weapons program I hope the president will reciprocate." That kind of saber-rattling, from a group whose tentacles reach to the highest levels of power and are now going global, has to be taken seriously.

Less clearly, but just as importantly, Aznar's words should be taken seriously because he proclaims out loud what so many others - especially in this country - think, but hesitate to say, or perhaps believe unconsciously without even realizing it: The Israelis are "our kind of people," standing on the front line, defending "our way of life" against Arab and Muslim evildoers who would destroy us.

That prejudice, sometimes blatant, but often quite subtle, tilts the public in favor of the military occupiers and against the occupied. Perhaps it explains why, in a recent poll, Americans said they want their government to support Israel, not the Palestinians, by a margin of eight to one. And they saw Israel more committed to peace than the Palestinians by a margin of six to one.

The results of that poll might not be quite representative of the public, because Republicans and conservatives were a bit overrepresented in the sampling. And, as many recent polls have shown, conservative Republicans are rather more likely than others - even Jews - to give strong support to Israel's policies. It's hardly likely that they have a special affection for Jews. It's far more likely that the stereotype of Israel as the defender of Western values and "our way of life" is the crucial factor here.

Nor should we discount the lingering effect of habits built up through four decades of cold war, when Israel was seen as a bulwark against communism. In many respects, "the Arab (or Muslim) terrorists" have simply replaced "the Reds" in a scenario that remains a simplistic, cowboy-movie tale of good against evil - a scenario that always appeals most to conservatives, neo or otherwise. But the neocons seem especially adept at stirring up the fear of "evildoers," giving it an intellectual veneer and eventually turning into government policy.

Perhaps it's not surprising that a Republican, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, introduced a resolution in the House supporting the goals of the Friends. So far, H. Con. Res. 315 has only one co-sponsor (Democrat Albio Sires) and it may not go anywhere. But the right-wing Israel lobby often uses such Congressional resolutions to create a bandwagon effect, especially when the "danger" of meaningful peace talks lurks anywhere on the horizon. So, it's worth letting your representative know that you don't want any part of these Friends, who would use their racist, chauvinist, "clash of civilizations" ideology to snuff out the tiny glimmer of hope for peace in the Middle East.

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Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and author of

Monsters To Destroy: The Neoconservative War on Terror and Sin.
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