Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Zionist Paulista?

A good friend of mine cannot fathom how I, a Jew who proudly supports Israel, can look favorably upon Ron Paul or any other individual who is opposed to American aid to Israel. He even equated Dr. Paul's position as being indicative of anti-semitism, which is a cheap, ad hominem attack. Before we go on, it's important to emphasize that unlike many on the left, Dr. Paul does not single Israel out, but simply questions the wisdom of interfering in the political affairs of other nations, especially the volatile middle east. In order to better understand this issue, we must dig deeper and explore some underlying realities. First and foremost, it is unwise and even unethical for a government that is deep in debt and cannot meet the needs of it own citizens to financially support other nations. Granted, as an ally and a modern, market oriented democracy, Israel is the most sensible example of foreign aid, but broke is broke. Clearly, our invasive military and political presence in the middle east has helped feed the growing anti-American sentiments in that region. And as regressive as this may sound to those who have been subject to multicultural ideology; our first loyalty must be to the United States.

Given the fact that (for good and for bad) the American political process is characterized by lobbying, conflict, negotiation and ultimately compromise, barring aside financial insolvency, it is virtually impossible that aid to Israel would be eliminated. I cannot think of an example in which a politician was able to pass a "pure bill" that was not subject to compromise. In the unlikely event that a bill to eliminate all foreign made its way into the halls of the senate, we can be certain that it would immediately face a barrage of attacks from a multitude of well endowed lobbyist. First and foremost among them would be powerful pro-Israel organizations such as AIPAC. Very quickly Dr. Paul and his supporters would see that their only options would be to fight and fail to get the bill passed in its original form or to make significant compromises. Such a consensus bill would address the most noxious examples of foreign aid, such as the billions that we give to corrupt despots, such as the (former) president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak and the Palestinian Authority. And the most favorable and politically protected recipients of foreign aid, such as Israel, would be the last one to make it to the chopping block. So, rather than write off Dr. Paul's, because of a policy that he would never be able to pass, we should focus on the badly needed reforms that he may be able to push through the rotten halls of Congress.

An argument that is rarely heard, but I support is that American aid has not always been in Israel's interest. Specifically, it has allowed the United States to pressure Israel into pursuing policies that are not necessarily its interest. I am quite confident that Israel would have withdrawn from the dead end peace negotiations that have eroded Israel's security while offering zero tangible benefits. Were it not for American financial pressure Israel would have responded more decisively to end the intolerable barrage of missiles and mortar fire that emanated from hamas controlled Gaza. And many believe that Israel would have already dealt with the looming threat of a nuclear Iran. Conversely, some leftists believe (due to cognitive impairment) that American aid has allowed Israel to "avoid making necessary concessions towards peace." Either way, I believe that the benefits of foreign aid are outweighed by the costs of reduced sovereignty that it imposes. Under a pro-Israel president like GW Bush, interference may have been minimal, but under the Obama Administration pressure to offer greater concessions to the Palestinians is likely to grow. On a side note, I believe that American aid has indirectly allowed Israel to put off making necessary domestic reforms like addressing the rampant welfare dependency present in its Haredi communities and trimming a still bloated public sector. I am not very religious, but it is worth noting that even the Torah cautions the People of Israel on putting too much faith in alliances with the great power of the day.

So, what is a Zionist Libertarian to do? The answer reflects the larger libertarian philosophy that a diminished state means that we, as individuals, communities and civic organization are responsible for the welfare of our fellow man. Rather than aggressively lobby the federal government to transfer wealth from American taxpayers to the Israeli Government, we as Jews, we as Zionists must support our beloved Israel with our own money, with our labor. An uncomfortably but important element in this discussion is the bad light that that the Israel lobby has cast on Jewish communities. Even reasonable Americans who do not harbor an iota of anti-semitism cannot help but look unfavorably at those who support lobbyists who place the interests of other nations above the United States, especially during times of economic scarcity. Before the American government began offering financial assistance, the primarily source of foreign aid to Israel was the American Jewish communities who freely and generously gave. In contrast to ethno-political lobbying, such civic involvement reflects the best of Jewish and American traditions.

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