Israel’s true friends

Two supporters of Israel in Congress say it isn’t about the lobby.

By Artur Davis and Eric Cantor (Democratic Rep. Artur Davis represents the 7th District of Alabama. Republican Rep. Eric Cantor is chief deputy whip and represents the 7th District of Virginia. )

[This Op-Ed appeared in the LA Times]

John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt are at it again, attempting to poison the well of American politics with their misleading depiction of an Israeli stranglehold on presidential candidates and elected officials like us. In their Op-Ed article, the two professors charge that the so-called Israel lobby, composed of pro-Israel Jews, Christians and their “friends in the media,” manipulates American political leaders to act counter to American — and, in their view, Israeli — interests.

Mearsheimer and Walt accuse all of us who support Israel in its struggle to live in peace and security of being Israel’s “false friends.” The accusation is remarkably disingenuous since it implies that Walt and Mearsheimer are Israel’s true friends. These so-called true friends put the entirety of the blame for the failure of the peace process on the Israelis.

What kind of true friends write volumes on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and gloss over the thousands of rockets Palestinian terror groups in Gaza launch into Israel? What kind of friend refuses to acknowledge the vicious propaganda machine in the West Bank and Gaza that stokes anti-Semitism and glorifies suicide bombers? Friends do not ask friends to dig their own graves.

But it is the moral flaw and not the stunningly bad research behind Mearsheimer and Walt’s arguments that has impelled the two of us, a Black Democrat and a Jewish Republican who disagree on a long trail of international issues, to speak out rather than ignore their toxic contribution.

The pro-Israel lobby is not responsible for congressional support for a strong alliance with Israel. Like the vast majority of Americans, we support Israel for a very basic and obvious reason: America is at its best when we align ourselves with allies that share our values of tolerance, freedom and democracy — whether those allies are Zionist, European, Asian or African. It is these shared notions of human worth that win Israel bipartisan support in a climate in which ideological common ground is rare.

Yes, America does award points for a democracy maintaining its openness in the face of terrorism — such a high frequency of attacks would paralyze our country. Israel is steadfast in including Arab voting strength in the Knesset, and in delivering first-class medical care to wounded would-be suicide bombers. And our Congress is keenly aware of the great pains Israel has taken to coexist with neighbors whose leaders have pledged Israel’s destruction. The signs of forbearance include the 2000 Camp David offer of what former President Clinton described as a dream deal: a Palestinian state comprising Gaza, the vast majority of the West Bank and a capital in East Jerusalem. But the inescapable truth is that the Hamas-led Gaza Strip and heavy pockets of the Palestinian Authority-run West Bank reject a two-state solution. If the Palestinian Authority is powerless to rein in terrorism, and Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel in Gaza and the West Bank, with whom are the Israelis to broker a peace?

It is uncertain if Mearsheimer and Walt understand that their attack on the “Israel lobby” sounds an ugly tone. One wonders if their outrage over what they patronizingly call the “lobby” extends to American corporations, or unions, or to the evangelical community, or the black community, all of whom vigorously engage the political process in pursuit of their values. If their disdain is as selective as we suspect, what a shameful aspersion on a faith and a nation.

January 12, 2008 | Comments »

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