The Corner

Politics & Policy

America’s Support for Israel Is a Matter of Morality, Not Money

President Trump greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a joint news conference at the White House, February 15, 2017. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Over the weekend, freshman Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar sent a series of anti-Semitic tweets, accusing American politicians of supporting Israel because of the “Benjamins” and then (falsely) accusing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) of paying American politicians to be pro-Israel. The House Democratic leadership has rightly condemned Omar’s tweets and is calling on her to apologize, but with anti-Semitism increasingly rocking the American and British Left (and persisting in the white-nationalist right), it’s important to take a moment and gain a dash of historical perspective.

America’s long support for Israel — often in the face of fierce criticism from key allies and painful economic reprisal from the Arab world — represents an enduring, bipartisan commitment to moral clarity in the Middle East. For the quarter century following Israel’s founding, it was subjected to repeated, genocidal threats to its existence. It has served as a homeland for the Jewish people even as Arab nations rendered life intolerable for more than 800,000 of their Jewish citizens, sometimes destroying communities that existed for centuries. Israel took in hundreds of thousands of refugees, receiving them as the world’s only Jewish state.

When the attempts to invade Israel and destroy it with brute military force ended (for now, at least) with the signing of the Camp David accords, terror campaigns continued and escalated to a point that the United States (or its more anti-Israel allies) would never tolerate. Even today — with all its military might — its citizens live under a terror-threat level experienced by few other nations, and (unlike other nations) it exists in the midst of a region full of people who express feelings of outright hatred for its right to exist. Not long ago, an ADL survey found that a full 74 percent of citizens of North Africa and the Middle East harbored anti-Semitic attitudes.

Moreover, it faces a unique level of international hostility, with the United Nation Human Rights Council condemning its actions far more than it condemns all other nations combined. There exists a concerted international effort to boycott Israeli companies and academies, divest resources from Israel, and sanction Israel. Many of the founders and leaders of the BDS movement hope ultimately to eradicate Israel as a Jewish state.

At the same time, the citizens of Israel — Arab and Jewish alike — enjoy a greater degree of individual liberty than the citizens of any other Middle Eastern state. Israel is the most stable democracy in the Middle East. Generations of American politicians — from both parties — have seen these realities and have made the proper moral decision to support an embattled minority in the face of an avalanche of outright hate. Our nation has made that choice even when that choice has carried real costs, when a more pragmatic politics would dictate following in the path of nations like France, which yanked military support for Israel at a crucial moment in Israel’s history.

None of this is to argue that Israel is perfect or that its policies are beyond question, but it is simply a fact that the Left’s hatred and scrutiny of Israel exists at a level far beyond its real (and imagined) crimes. It is to our nation’s enduring credit that we’ve stood against that hate since Israel’s founding.

One of the dangers of simply labeling tweets like Omar’s as “anti-Semitic” and then moving on, confident that we’ve discredited the threat to our body politic, is that we forget to describe why our nation rejects this unreasoning hatred of Israel and why Republicans and Democrats alike have secured and strengthened the alliance. Our nations have a bond that endures beyond the fact that Israel has become a powerful and important ally — especially in our war against jihadists. It’s a bond that exists in part because our nation’s support for Israel in spite of the often significant strategic and economic incentives to abandon it to its fate demonstrates America as its best self — a nation characterized by its commitment to high ideals, not just to the raw exercise of influence and power.

A hostile Arab world has far more money and resources than the small Jewish state that it all too often seeks to eradicate. If cash is truly king, we would have thrown Israel under the bus in generations past. It is to our country’s credit that we’ve chosen morality over money since 1948. Unless we continue to teach Americans the lessons of the past, we cannot be assured we’ll make that choice in the years to come.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Most Popular

PC Culture

Hate-Crime Hoaxes Reflect America’s Sickness

On January 29, tabloid news site TMZ broke the shocking story that Jussie Smollett, a gay black entertainer and progressive activist, had been viciously attacked in Chicago. Two racist white men had fractured his rib, poured bleach on him, and tied a noose around his neck. As they were leaving, they shouted ... Read More

White Progressives Are Polarizing America

To understand how far left (and how quickly) the Democratic party has moved, let’s cycle back a very short 20 years. If 1998 Bill Clinton ran in the Democratic primary today, he’d be instantaneously labeled a far-right bigot. His support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Strange Paradoxes of Our Age

Modern prophets often say one thing and do another. Worse, they often advocate in the abstract as a way of justifying their doing the opposite in the concrete. The result is that contemporary culture abounds with the inexplicable — mostly because modern progressivism makes all sorts of race, class, and ... Read More

One Last Grift for Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, the antique Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate, is not quite ready to retire to his lakeside dacha and so once again is running for the presidential nomination of a party to which he does not belong with an agenda about which he cannot be quite entirely ... Read More
PC Culture

Fake Newspeople

This week, the story of the Jussie Smollett hoax gripped the national media. The story, for those who missed it, went something like this: The Empire actor, who is both black and gay, stated that on a freezing January night in Chicago, in the middle of the polar vortex, he went to a local Subway store to buy a ... Read More
Film & TV

A Sublime Christian Masterpiece of a Film

‘There are two ways through life -- the way of nature and the way of grace,” remarks the saintly mother at the outset of The Tree of Life, one of the most awe-inspiring films of the 21st century. She continues: Grace doesn’t try please itself. It accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked, accepts insults ... Read More
PC Culture

Changing Reality with Words

The reinvention of vocabulary can often be more effective than any social protest movement. Malarial swamps can become healthy “wetlands.” Fetid “dumps” are often rebranded as green “landfills.” Global warming was once a worry about too much heat. It implied that man-made carbon emissions had so ... Read More