Should the US Go to War for Israel?

by James M. Wall

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the annual AIPAC conference earlier this week. He also held a private meeting with US President Barack Obama.

In his AIPAC speech, Netanyahu evoked the Holocaust as the source of  Israel’s special privileged status that permits Netanyahu to do whatever he decides to do to “control Israel’s fate”.

That, of course, includes bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Netanyahu drew a parallel between the exchange of letters between  the US War department and the World Jewish Congress in 1944.

The Wall Street Journal described the scene at the AIPAC conference:

Netanyahu got out copies of two letters he said he keeps in his desk, between the World Jewish Congress and the War Department in 1944, when the WJC called on the United States to bomb the extermination camp at Auschwitz, and the War Department refused.

The refusal included the argument that attacking the camp might unleash even more “vindictive” behavior.

“Think about that,” Netanyahu said. “Even more vindictive than the Holocaust!”

During his meeting with Obama, Netanyahu elaborated further:

“Israel must reserve the right to defend itself. After all, that’s the very purpose of the Jewish state, to restore to the Jewish people control over our destiny.

That’s why my supreme responsibility as prime minister of Israel is to ensure that Israel remains master of its fate.”

In a blog, the British Economist responded:

News flash: Israel is not master of its fate. It’s not terribly surprising that a country with less than 8 million inhabitants is not master of its fate. Switzerland, Sweden, Serbia and Portugal are not masters of their fates.

These days, many countries with populations of 100 million or more can hardly be said to be masters of their fates. Britain and China aren’t masters of their fates, and even the world’s overwhelmingly largest economy, the United States, isn’t really master of its fate.

What gives this leader of a foreign nation the license to speak in Washington with such confidence that he expects the US to join him in an attack on Iran, a nation that poses absolutely no threat to the US or its citizens?

Indeed, US intelligence agencies report that they have found no reason to believe that Iran poses an immediate threat to Israel.

So why should the US go to war for Israel over an issue that poses no more immediate danger to Israel than Iraq’s non-existent WMDs threatened its neighbors? That non-existent threat led to a disastrous and costly war for the US, a war that was strongly encouraged by Israel and its US allies in Congress.

Why is there even any serious discussion with a foreign nation over what the US should do regarding an attack against yet another Muslim nation that has made no threats against us?

There are two reasons why;  first, there is the US Congress, and second, there is AIPAC.

After Obama delivered his required speech to AIPAC, the Wall Street Journal reported:

Rep. Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, said the speech was “a step in the right direction,” but  “we need to make sure that this president is also going to stand by Israel and not allow his administration to somehow speak contrary to what our ally thinks is in its best interest.”

No one in the US administration shall speak contrary to what our ally thinks is its best interest?  Where would Rep. Cantor hear such a thing? Surely not in a Tea Party rally where loyalty to God and country are paramount.

We must look to AIPAC as the source of Rep. Cantor’s courage to denigrate the President of the United States.

President George Washington warned the new American nation in his 1796  farewell address that a “passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils”. He explained why:

“Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.”

The US has usually managed to adhere to Washington’s advice, until, that is, AIPAC was established.

On the Anti-War website,  Grant Smith described how, in 1948, AIPAC began to seize control of US foreign policy.

Recently declassified FBI files reveal how Israeli government officials first orchestrated public relations and policies through the US lobby. Counter-espionage investigations of proto-AIPAC’s first coordinating meetings with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the head of Mossad provide a timely and useful framework for understanding how AIPAC continues to localize and market Israeli government policies in America.

Although AIPAC claims it rose “from a small pro-Israel public affairs boutique in the 1950s,” its true origin can be traced to Oct. 16, 1948. This is the date AIPAC’s founder Isaiah L. Kenen and four others established the Israel Office of Information under Israel’s UN mission. It was later moved under the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

AIPAC controls the US Congress through its network of Political Action Committees that follow AIPAC’s instructions on which candidates to politically and financially support, and which candidates to jettison.

The incumbent Israeli Prime Minister travels to Washington to personally lobby members of Congress. He also hosts visiting congressional delegations on their regular trips to Israel.  An annual address to AIPAC is an essential part of that lobbying campaign.

This year, Prime Minister Netanyahu had Iran at the top of his agenda.  He wants, and he fully expects, President Obama and the Congress to support Israel in its military assault against Iran’s nuclear installations.

There is no guarantee that Iran is even close to developing a nuclear capability, but in Netanyahu’s mind, even the possibility that Iran might one day develop an operational nuclear arms capability is sufficient cause for Israel, backed by the  US, to destroy Iranian nuclear sites.

In short, the prime minister is ready for war against Iran, and he expects the US to fall in line behind him.

The irony of this arrogance is that Israel may well be at its lowest point of support from the world community.

David Remnick describes the extent to which Israel has become isolated from the world community. He writes in a Talk of the Town essay in the February issue of the New Yorker:

Israel has reached an impasse. An intensifying conflict of values has put its democratic nature under tremendous stress. When the government speaks daily about the existential threat from Iran, and urges an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, it ignores the existential threat that looms within. . . .

The political corrosion begins, of course, with the occupation of the Palestinian territories–the subjugation of Palestinian men, women and children–tht has lasted for forty years.

Peter Beinart, in a forthcoming and passionately urged polemic, The Crisis of Zionism, is just the latest critic to point out that a profoundly anti-democratic, even racist, political culture has become endemic among much of the Jewish population in the West Bank, and threatens Israel proper. . . .

In 1980, twelve thousand Jews lived in the West Bank, “east of democracy,” Beinart writes; now they number more than three hundred thouand, and inlude Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s wildly zenophobic Foreign Minister. .  .  .

To [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, the proper kind of ally is exemplified by AIPAC and Sheldon Adelson–the long-time casino tycoon and recent bankroller of Newt Gingrich–who owns a newspaper in Israel devoted to supporting him.

Remnick correctly takes note of the degree to which support for Israel affects the current US presidential campaign.

We know pretty much all we need to know about Netanyahu’s feelings toward Obama. The Prime Minister orders the President about like he might order a lowly member of his Israeli cabinet.  He would be very happy to see the White House back in Republican hands.

No doubt, he is following the Republican presidential nomination fight as it unfolds state by state. He cannot be unhappy over the strong link between the Republican candidates and the Christian evangelical conservatives, a segment of the American population already safely ensconced within the Republican base.

The latest victory for the pro-Israel/Christian evangelical base came this weekend when Republican Candidate Rick Santorum won, as reported by The Wichita Eagle, an impressive caucus victory, two to one, over Mitt Romney.

Santorum won with the strong support of that state’s governor, Sam Brownback, a former two-two term member of the US Senate. Governor Brownback is both a conservative evangelical Christian, and a strong supporter of Israel.

Salon describes Kansas as “ground zero for the takeover of the GOP by Christian-infused movement conservatism and the extinction of middle-of-the-road Republicanism.”

Southern primaries Tuesday in Alabama and Mississippi should go to either Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum, a political development that will force Romney to veer even deeper into the “Christian-infused movement conservatism”pro-Israel zealotry of his Republican base.

Israel’s media campaign about Iran as a threat was examined by Sheera Frenkel of McClatchy Newspapers. Among her conclusions:

Israeli officials acknowledge that the widespread acceptance in the West that Iran is on the verge of building a nuclear weapon isn’t based just on the findings of Israeli intelligence operatives, but relies in no small part on a steady media campaign that the Israelis have undertaken to persuade the world that Iran is bent on building a nuclear warhead.

“The intelligence was half the battle in convincing the world,” an Israeli Foreign Ministry official told McClatchy, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the inner workings of Israel’s outreach on the topic. “The other half was Israel’s persistent approach and attitude that this was not something the world could continue to ignore.”

The official had recently returned from a trip to Washington and marveled at how the topic has become a major one in the United States. “U.S. politicians were falling over each other to talk about Iran,” he said. “In some ways, that is a huge success for Israel.”

If the US is led by Israel to participate in another war in the Middle East, these McClatchy findings suggest that this war could be one of the biggest sales promotion successes in modern political history.

As Prime Minister Netanyahu has said, in another context, “Think about that.”

The picture at top is of Prime Minister Netanyahu holding letters exchanged between the World Jewish Congress and the US War Department in 1944. The picture is by Cliff Owen, of the Associated Press.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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11 Responses to Should the US Go to War for Israel?

  1. Jack Graham says:

    Excellent article. But the so-called “Christian right” is not a wing of the Republican Party, and certainly is not characteristic of the Southern States. Only a few eccentrics believe in the distorted view, which finds no support whatever in the Bible, that the United States must help the Israelis build a third temple so Jesus can come again, and there as many of those religious quacks in my native Minnesota as there are, say, in Alabama or Mississippi. The first chapter of Isaiah reminds us that God wants justice, not sacrifice. AIPAC does not speak for American Jews, but is the agent of a military junta of Zionist thugs in Jerusalem which has a secular humanist mentality and nothing to do with religious Judaism. And AIPAC owns the Democratic Party lock, stock & barrel. Democrats are as even more servile to Israel than Republicans. The parasitical influence of the Israel Lobby is simply not a partisan question, and it is great error to suppose that our current President is any less a marionette than any Republican hawk in Congress who does not speak for the Republican Party in any event. The question for us all is whether United States will return to the prudent foreign policy outlined by George Washington in his Farewell Address. We should mind our own business, and pursue our own enlightened national interests. I predict that we shall not go to war for Israel this time around. We can’t afford it, and the American people, having recently been conned into fighting a war for Israel in Iraq, will not stand for another war for Israel against Iran. — John Remington Graham of the Minnesota Bar (#3664X)

  2. Pingback: Should the US Go to War for Israel? | My Catbird Seat

  3. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Thank you for an excellent article, Jim.
    It is scary to note that, just as one man and his fanatic party were able to con the German people, through scare tactics and lies, in World War II, we are confronted today with AIPAC and Israel whipping up into a frenzy US mercenary politicians and media, fundamentalist cultists, into yet another invasion on behalf of Israel. This time against Iran.
    When Israel attacks Iran this year, with critical US help, the result will be such enormous devastation that will not ever be forgotten by the Iranian people. Israel will succeed in turning Iran into a solid enemy of the Zionist state, for generations to come. And it will not be because of Palestine. It will be foremost because of “Iran”.

  4. Lois T. Dickason says:

    The U.S. may not go to war with Israel, but has already given Israel the weapons, at the request of Netanyahu, so the Israel can do so. This is the same thing, unfortunately. Lois T. Dickason

  5. Patricia Pynchon says:

    Let’s hope that there are some people who see through Israel, and begin to think for the benefit of the American people. How can Israel with 200 nuclear bombs possibly criticise Iran, surrounded by Pakistan and India with nuclear bombs as well. There must be some rational people in our government. Indeed, Israel is the most dangerous country in the ME.

  6. Pingback: Should the US Go to War for Israel?

  7. Samuel Neff says:

    I can only hope that sound minds will prevail and that the US will go so far as even restoring normal relations with Iran (I am not holding my breath). In the meantime, Israel is in a win-win situation. While the government reacts to Israel’s apparent preoccupation with Iran, land confiscation, house demolitions, and settlement expansion goes on unnoticed.

  8. William Gepford says:

    Well done Jim, as usual. The answer to yur question: should the United States go to war against Iran, on behalf of Israel, is obvioiusly NO. If we do we will never get out of debt, lessen the size of the Middle Class, and create more poverty stricken Americans. As stated in the article above, America is also not captain of its own fate. Unfortunately, too many people have lost sight of that fundamental teaching as found in Biblical literature.

  9. Marilyn Sutton Loos says:

    The US should not go to war with anyone until we have our finances in order and can return to serving out own people with decent education, medicine, housing, etc. Even then the US should not go to war unless some other power very clearly attacks us. War is not the solution.

  10. Neil Haleem says:

    Unfortunately, AIPAC is the new Congress in the US. It is a shame that Presidential elections are determined by how many times a candiatate can emphasis its support of Israel.

    One would think that since America is so dependent on foreign oil it would seek peaceful solutions more aggressively.

    Why does Israel even need nuclear bombs? If it were to use it on its neighbors it would be like using it on itself, considering the close proximity of its neighbors. The atmosphere in the area would carry the after effect right back to Israel.

    Considering that Israel is responsible for the death, cripppling and humiliation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians why is that not considered a “holocaust”. Do only Jews have to be killed for the world to be sympathetic.
    If a Palestinan walks or drives on an “Israeli only road” they get six months in prison assuming they are not shot and killed first. Yes, Israeli Only Roads exist and they are built on Palestinian owned land.

    If the US were to make peace with Iran, would Israel then point its bombs at the US?

  11. Pingback: Should the US Go to War for IsraHell? | SHOAH

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