What ties the U.S. and Israel together? Our arrogant, doomed mythology of exceptionalism

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyah in Jerusalem, Nov. 19, 2020. (Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO)
Our two nations are headed for doom, driven by the power of the Zionist right and a conviction we can do no wrong.

By Doug Neiss | Salon |  Apr 17, 2021

American exceptionalism and Israeli exceptionalism go hand in hand. One hand washes the other.

As bad as Republican bloc voting is on domestic issues, what may be even worse are the near-unanimous bipartisan votes on military spending and unconditional support for Israel. It goes without saying that does not reflect the diversity of opinion among American Jews, Israeli Jews or the American public at large, although the pretense that unqualified support for Israel is the dominant view among Jewish Americans — and among Americans in general — is strictly maintained.

This cannot be justified by straightforward concern for Israel’s survival — Israel has long since assured its own survival with nuclear weapons, an open secret for decades — nor by the supposedly all-powerful Israel lobby. Invoking the “power of the Israel lobby” protects the myth of American innocence at the risk of perpetuating the myth of Jewish evil: Innocent, trusting America, no match for those crafty, scheming Jews!

What congressional support for Israel really reflects, I think, is partly the zeal for Israel among a crucial subset of America’s most engaged voters — especially hard-line, wealthy Zionists, both Jewish and Christian — which has a disproportionate effect on members of Congress who want to keep their seats. If a member steps out of line, Israel’s watchdogs will come after her or him. That’s of the power of the Israel lobby. If critics of Israel’s policies were as committed to making trouble for lawmakers, U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians would be a more contested issue in Congress, as it is among the public at large.

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