Egging on the Israeli equivalents

Perry’s Faith-Based Foreign Policy Directive

By , September 21, 2011

If Rick Perry makes it to the  White House, what will American foreign policy in the Middle East look  like? We got a clear indication of that, recently, when he stated:

“As a Christian I have  a clear directive to support Israel, from my perspective its pretty  easy both as an American and a Christian. I am going to stand with Israel.”

Earlier, in an interview with the Weekly Standard, he  was even more emphatic, averring that “My faith requires me to support  Israel.”

What kind of faith requires  knee-jerk support for a foreign country? Apparently, Perry is a follower  of a Protestant brand of Christianity known as “dispensationalism,” which holds that the End Times are approaching – and that one of the  signs of the imminent apocalypse is the gathering of the Jews in the  land of Israel, as supposedly foretold in the Bible. Some dispensationalists  equate this with the founding of the Israeli state, in 1947, and the  subsequent migration of many Jews to that country. According to dispensationalist  theology, this phenomenon prefigures the start of an earth-shattering  war, one that will pit Israel against the Forces of Darkness, herald  the rise of the Anti-Christ, and ignite a battle that will take place  on the field of Armageddon – after which Christ will return to earth  and the faithful will be “raptured” up into Heaven.

Now, I don’t intend   to disparage anyone’s religious beliefs, nor do I want to engage in  the kind of snickering that usually accompanies commentary on this subject:  everyone is entitled to their own faith, and, aside from that, there  is something a little unsavory about the smugness and self-righteousness  that is usually attached to discussions of the impact of Christian fundamentalism  on American politics. There is no religious test for holding office  in these United States, and it seems to me that some liberals have been  trying their best to establish one – a test of irreligion – in order to marginalize millions of Americans. This kind of intolerance  is mirrored, on the right, by some – like GOP presidential aspirant Herman Cain, for example – who have raised questions about the ability  of religious Muslims to have their voices heard, or even to hold office.

However, the idea that a US  President’s religious convictions will compel him to support a foreign  government, regardless of whether that support serves specifically American  interests, is appalling – and dangerous. And we can see how dangerous  it is by looking at Governor Perry’s attacks on the Obama administration  for supposedly not kowtowing to Tel Aviv with sufficient obeisance.  At a press conference held in New York City, where he appeared with  an Israeli government official, Perry declared:

“It is time to change  our policy of appeasement toward the Palestinians to strengthen our  ties to the nation of Israel, and in the process establish a robust  American position in the Middle East characterized by a new firmness  and a new resolve.”

What, exactly, does this “policy  of appeasement” consist of? The Obama administration is determined to veto the Palestinian statehood proposal being advanced in the UN  Security Council, and has made it clear that the US government stands  behind the Israelis in their attempt to grab as much land – via the construction of “settlements” – as they can, all of it funded  by generous dollops of American “foreign aid.”

Who is being “appeased” here – the Palestinians, or the Israelis?

Perry supports continued “settlements” of Palestinian lands, and also says he wants to move the US embassy  from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a symbolic affirmation of Israel’s  claim to the “undivided” capital of the Jewish state. This contradicts  the policies of two Republican presidents – both named George Bush.  It also violates the essential meaning and function of US foreign policy – to protect specifically American interests. We gain nothing by weighing  in on where the capital of the state of Israel shall be – although  I’ll note that nearly every successful presidential aspirant made such a promise during the campaign season. That this promise was summarily  broken once they got in the White House speaks volumes about the politics – and the reality – of this issue.

Perry says we should “stand  by Israel,” our faithful ally and the only state in the region with  a long democratic tradition, and this proposition seems reasonable enough – until one begins to examine it a little more closely. Because the  Israel of yesteryear – the Israel of Exodus, of the “peace  process,” of the liberal humanistic tradition out of which Labor Zionism  sprang – is not the Israel of today.

The foreign minister of the  Jewish state is one Avigdor Lieberman, a fanatic whose bigotry and aggressively  nationalistic views have made him an embarrassment even to the hardline  government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. For example, when relations with  Turkey soured, Lieberman threatened to arm the PKK – a Kurdish terrorist  group that has been attacking the Turks for years. Netanyahu tried to  distance his office from such irresponsible ranting, but when I awoke,  this morning, to the news that a bomb had gone off near government offices  in Ankara, I wasn’t all that surprised.

This raises serious questions  about who, exactly, is in charge in Tel Aviv – the crazies, represented  by Lieberman and the “settlers,” or Netanyahu?

However, a larger question needs  to be raised: what has Israel become in the years since the signing  of the Camp David Accords? Since that time, the Israeli electorate has  moved so far to the right – that is, in the direction of expansionist  nationalism – that there seems to be no room for moderates of any  stripe. After years of nurturing, subsidizing, and otherwise encouraging the “settler” movement – which is imbued with the ultra-Zionist  dream of establishing a “Greater Israel” – the chickens, so to  speak, have come home to roost. The settler movement represents almost  as great a threat to the stability and authority of the Israeli government  as the radical Palestinian factions – greater, perhaps, because the  danger is coming from within.

Perry is encouraging this tendency  in Israeli politics: he appeared at the press conference with Israeli  Knesset member Danny Danon, an ultra-nationalist rival to Netanyahu who wants to revoke the citizenship of Arab Knesset members on dubious grounds,  and heads up the wing of Likud that considers even a hardliner like  Netanyahu a sell-out. Danon is the darling of the settler movement,  and enjoys more support outside of Israel than he does on his home turf.  He headed up the ultra-extremist Betar group – an organization which  has its origins in an early wing of the Zionist movement that modeled  itself on the example of Italian fascism, merely draping a “Zionist” façade over an authoritarian vision of a homogenous volkish  state. He is a regular on America’s “Israel First” circuit, lecturing  to groups of born-again dispensationalists – Perry’s crowd – as  well as more mainstream venues, updating Betar’s authoritarian stance  by calling for legal sanctions against those who organize “anti-Israel” boycotts, which apparently also means boycotts of “settler” products.

By appearing on the same stage  with Danon, Perry is legitimizing and encouraging the worst impulses  in Israeli society – and putting our own interests at risk. If Israel  should implode in civil war – and, with the settlers getting increasingly  militant, and in open rebellion against the Israeli government – it is numbskull  opportunists like Perry who will bear a large part of the blame. By  egging on the Israeli equivalents of the Aryan Nations, they will wind  up with blood on their hands.

Aside from that, it hardly  seems all that presidential for the would-be Republican nominee  to be onstage with Bibi’s rightist rival in the Likud party –  not  someone who came in second in the bid for the party leadership,  but Danon, who came in third!

What gets me is that these  people actually believe they are helping Israel, when their actions  are the quickest way to destabilize that country I can think  of.  A Christian of the dispensationalist variety, who truly believes that  the safety of Israel is of paramount concern to God, would have no reason  to incite an extremist element to violence against the legitimate government  of Israel. And even if that government came to embrace that extremism – and, say, was taken over by the Liebermans and the Danons – their  policies would endanger Israel’s very existence, and deliver the country  to the Devil.

So, even in their own theological  terms, Perry and his fellow dispensationalists are wrong, wrong, wrong.

I’m just sayin’… or or

Rick Perry as Texas Christ, by Mario Zucca. or or

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