Culture, Identity, Israel

About That Plot for Subway Cars of Death

As I am sure most of you are aware, there was a plot to poison NY’s subways, which was called off for reasons not clear, or at least not disclosed. This intended message underscored the specific point of rage at U.S. support of The Jews within the larger conflict between the West and Fundamentalist Islam.
Time reports,

In a confined environment, such as an office building’s ventilation system or a subway car, hydrogen cyanide would cause many deaths. The most chilling illustration of what happens in a closed space comes from a 20th century monstrosity. The Nazis used a form of hydrogen cyanide called Zyklon B in the gas chambers of their concentration camps.

It seems the intended message may have been, “If you cast your support and fate with The Jews, you will die like Jews.”
While radical Islam would surely still be an international threat, and therefore a threat to the U.S., I can’t help but wonder if others wonder if we would be facing the same direct threat level if the U.S. had done what some conservatives at the time had advocated, and distanced herself from the State of Israel after the fall of communism. Certainly this appears to have made sense to George H.W. Bush at the time, who complained about the power of Jewish lobbies and questioned the wisdom and need of massive amount of U.S. aid given to Israel.
What is horribly real is that the “special relationship” with Israel may be a contributing factor and focus of some fanatical Muslim groups as the threat to the U.S. continues and escalates. For a “special relationship” (classic AIPAC language which has apparently been wisely removed from their site) between the U.S. and Israel also incurs a special relationship between the U.S. and Israel’s enemies. Israel advocacy groups, particularly the most strident of them, but really all of them, risk Jews generally being fingered for blame for terrorist inflicted damage to the U.S. in the ongoing conflict with radical Islamicists including the specific one between Zionism of all varieties and radical Islamicism.
Which is not to say that anything we do at this point will significantly change that, or change it enough, in the off chance that peace in the Middle East is not achieved.
It may only be a matter of more destruction before an already significant backlash expands on a much wider and more virulent scale in the U.S., and certainly increased terrorism will facilitate that, perhaps exponentially. Liberal Zionists will strive to demonstrate that they are sensitive to Palestinian rights and national aspirations. Anti-Zionists will attempt to prove there are Jews who agree that the situation needs to be rectified, and that the Zionist experiment was an unfortunate one. Neither group will be able to successfully stem the underlying feeling that the Jews are never the less the core of the problem, and flagrant signs that they aren’t welcome will be increasingly the norm in Leftist circles. Most focused on the issue aren’t going to care that our feelings are hurt, in part because we are not going to be welcome by a good portion of their activists, no matter how many essays we pen on the problem of antisemitism on the Left. In fact, we are probably only going to inflame the anger of some with our mere presence, never mind demands for them to moderate their language and narrow their choice of targets for invection.
And perhaps it is not fair to brush aside such resentments as mere antisemitism, although there will be no shortage of that. No shortage at all. But there will also be legitimate concern at having our country endangered because of the will and needs of Zionism and her supporters at the perceived cost to the nation. Such accusations, of course, will continue to be dismissed by the mainstream Jewish community, who will instead focus on the blatant antisemitism, conflate the legitimate questions and concerns into that, and denounce all of it together.
It is not a bad strategy. But it will not work forever. It is working less and less.
The survivors of the Holocaust are almost gone. Their personal past will no longer protect us, no matter what museum curators claim, no matter how much we feel it should. “Historical oppression” has never shielded us before. It won’t now either.
We should prepare ourselves for the possibility of very different times than we have ever personally known.
Time is not on our side.
And we are not in charge.

14 thoughts on “About That Plot for Subway Cars of Death

  1. Well, you seem to agree with those Walt and Mearshiemer guys. Not that I disagree.
    And another wrinkle is the relation between israel and US Jews. I personally consider it highly abusive, with the Israelis seeing us as “friers,” nothing more than a source of money and political footsoldiers that they can use to allow them to continue their march to being an Orhtodox Ghetto-state, They express contempt for us, for our Judaism, and they don’t really care about whether they fopment an anti-semitic timebomb.
    That said, US leaders have been totally clueless since the 1970s, they have known that being dependent on the Middle East for oil is dangerous idiocy, yet they’ve done nothing about it. (Mostly because a real solution means developing a substitute for petroleum, and the oil companies have too much ploitical clout.) What’s amazed me is that, historically speaking, the Arabs have pretty much given the US a pass on that, not getting too upset at the “special relationship.” I think that came to an end becuase of Bush II, he loaded his team up with Jewish neocons, and basically his administration is a tool of the Likud, which means he’s not only antagonized the arabs, but he’s out of touch with the majority of US Jews, too.

  2. Conservative Apikoris,
    It changed — or we should have understood it changed — with the first WTC bombing, and everything that was happening around it under Clinton.

  3. I agree that US aid to Israel is unnecessary and counterproductive to US interests. But how else is Israel going to finance it’s welfare state and be a “light unto the nations” (no offense but when liberal Jews in Israel started using this sentence it pretty much turned into a joke, a bad one if you know the situation in Israel)
    By the way, I read an essay by meir kahane about more or less this same subject, with much the same conclusions as yours. The man has been dead for 16 years and his words still have relevancy.
    You know, some “religious fanatics” might suggest that G-d is trying to tell you something through these events. But hey you know, those people are crazy.

  4. former muslim,
    When I saw you had commented, I was a little worried you were going to denounce me, so I am quite please with your comment, even if it references your favorite fundamentalist leader.
    I don’t know what to tell you in terms of what Israel should do, except to say that historically, the Jewish people were always warned not to place their trust or their fate in any other nation, or confuse themselves for one and the same in every way.
    I certainly hope for the best for Israel, just as I hope very much for the best for the U.S., and merely am stating that IMHO, those paths are not one and the same, and there is a price to be paid for pretending they are.

  5. This thread is truly mindblowing. We have Conservative Apikoris, presumably coming from the Left, telling us that Israel is of no use to the US and that the Israelis are interested in becoming an Orthodox ghetto state. Then we get formermuslim, presumably coming from the far Right, agreeing that Israel is of no use to the US and complaining of the welfare state and liberal Jews. And in each case I suspect that these conclusions have less to do with whether support for Israel by the US is good for the US than with each commenter’s views on certain factions in Israel.
    More worryingly, we have Kelsey, not a member of either of the above two tribes, taking for granted the Realists’ view of the Middle East. (Note 1- the elder Bush was not a conservative, and those who suggested that the US dissociate from Israel are best described as Realists, which come in both liberal and conservative flavors.) (Note 2- whenever I say “Realist” I mean “so called”. )
    The Realists aren’t idiots, and we can all learn a lot from them even while disagreeing. But there’s no reason to accept their view uncritically. Let me suggest why US support of Israel is worth it – for the US.
    The Realists view the world as an irredeemably hostile place, with each country basically out for its own interests. So far, so good. But consequently, Realists tend to see the various countries as essentially similar. Here’s where I take issue. Call me naive (and some of you will), but based on the record I think that the more civilized and democratic countries do sometimes take into consideration more than just their own self-interest (although that self-interest is a huge factor, to be sure). As well, such countries have a natural cultural and political affinity with the US. Therefore, forming an alliance with such countries is qualitatively different than forming ad hoc alliances with other types of countries. A certain level of trust (though not high) becomes possible. And this alliance, if broad enough, can be used not only to secure the US’ short-term interests, but possibly to create an atmosphere wherein being civilized and democratic becomes advantageous to other countries (desire to join the powerful group, economic benefits, prestige, fear of antagonizing the democracies, etc.).
    If you’re still with me, it becomes clear that in order to work to full effect, this alliance needs to be broad and not just limited to those countries whose favor is convenient. Preferably, all qualified members (unofficial, but still members) should be defended to the hilt. When China menaces Taiwan, the question isn’t the value of Taiwan. It’s whether the decent countries are willing to stand up to the barbarians and announce that the barbarians will not gain even one square inch of Taiwan’s beach without a fight. And not just Taiwan’s beach, but all free and democratic places. This is something we should have learned when the League of Nations collapsed. We didn’t, and fought WWII. But we can still learn now.
    This is why the US not only shouldn’t, but can’t afford, to jettison Israel. True, the US will take a short-term hit. But it shouldn’t sacrifice the potential future of a world wherein the murderers are kept at bay or even rolled back.

  6. J,
    You said,
    “Realists tend to see the various countries as essentially similar.”
    I don’t think that is the case. Why do you feel most realists would make such a claim? Would most realists really claim Saudi Arabia is similar to Canada?
    You said,
    “When China menaces Taiwan, the question isn’t the value of Taiwan. It’s whether the decent countries are willing to stand up to the barbarians and announce that the barbarians will not gain even one square inch of Taiwan’s beach without a fight.”
    I think it’s both. Look at H.W. He defended China when it was wrong to do so, but at the very end of his regime, he signed off on giving Taiwan much needed planes to protect herself from China. He remembered Taiwan at the end. I am not advoating standing by China in such a situation as the one he downplayed, nor standing with Israel’s enemies. But it is proving quite costly to stand overtly with Israel.
    Where we disagree is not that like-minded nations are naturally allies, but when we incur their fight, we have to accept that there will be resentment. This would not be the case if this country were all or mostly Jews. But it isn’t, and they feel it isn’t their fight. This is emerging in significant pockets of both the Left and the Right. Except on the Left, they pretend it’s a moral issue. And to me, it isn’t. It’s realpolitik. But if our oceans still meant anything, I still wouldn’t care.
    But they don’t mean what they used to.
    And it’s just awful.

  7. In response to J:
    Yes Israel is of no use to the US except insofar the blessing in genesis is concerned (you know “I will bless those who bless you”) but only evangelicals believe that and they get denounced for it even by some Jewish groups.
    As for Israel holding it’s hand up to america, it’s the biggest hillul Hashem in centuries. I remember reading a bible portion about a certain king (don’t remember which one anymore) who defeats a gigantic Egyptian army with his trust in G-d alone. Then for another enemy he asks for an alliance with another country. He is immediately punished with permanent warfare during his reign for putting his trust in man.
    Now I don’t know how seriously anyone of you takes the stories of the bible, but if any nation’s history leaves no doubt that there is a G-d it’s yours. Learn from it.
    About my opposition to the Israeli welfare state: Israel receives money from a capitalist state and builds a socialist one. Something wrong with this picture?
    As for my favourite fundamentalist rabbi. I recognize insight when I see it. Kahane had insight. That’s beyond dispute.

  8. DK:
    Re “Why do you feel most realists would make such a claim? Would most realists really claim Saudi Arabia is similar to Canada?”
    Let me clarify. Obviously Realists are aware of the vast differences between the two. However, relative to other schools of foreign policy thought, Realists tend to emphasize that all countries are out for their own self-interest and little else. Therefore, Realists caution that even alliances that seem to be based on more than self-interest are likely to crumble if and when the situation changes (and likewise, hostilities may cool off when situations change).
    As for the rest of your post, I’m confused. Are you acknowledging that in fact supporting Israel is good for the US, but that some people don’t realize this and resent Jews or Israel? If so, the best course of action would be for you (and all supporters of the US and/or Israel) to help convince people that support is beneficial.
    “But it is proving quite costly to stand overtly with Israel.”
    True. But as I explained above, it’s more costly not to.
    Formermuslim: If you want to argue from Jewish tradition, you should be aware that such tradition extends far beyond the stories in the Bible, including texts which interpret and explain the Bible. According to the tradition, the King was punished because AT THAT TIME, the nation was meritorious enough not to require an alliance. There are other stories in the Bible where alliances were sought, and this is not criticized. Further, Jeremiah came out against resistance to foreign powers and is praised for this (as, at that time, Judea had no chance of succeeding). As for how Jews should conduct themselves today, it seems the preponderance of authorities (especially Maimonides) agree that we have to proceed in a cause and effect manner (as opposed to expecting overt Divine intervention). That means accepting the help of the world’s most powerful country.
    “About my opposition to the Israeli welfare state: Israel receives money from a capitalist state and builds a socialist one. Something wrong with this picture?”
    I agree with you there. But even if Israel gets off the financial aid (and I pray it does), it will still need its alliance with the US.

  9. J,
    I am acknowledging that a case can be made that supporting Israel is the moral thing to do. I am rejecting the idea that this means it is a strategically wise thing to do. I do not agree with you that this will prove the most expedient way for the U.S. to contain fundamentalist Islam. I would argue that it may exclude direct and overt support of Israel, because it is such a hot button to so many Muslims.

  10. DK-
    The case I made above was purely practical (although clearly morality would be well served by such a policy as well). And long-term, I think a policy of overt support to allies is best, as US credibility would be severely undermined if threats of terrorism or other pressure are seen to be able to affect America’s choice of allies. (Not that I think tossing Muslims some lip service or financial aid while supporting Israel is a bad idea, so long as the support of Israel isn’t undermined. This has been the general strategy of most administrations since Truman, and I think it’s a wise one.)
    I’d also like to add here that I think you underestimate the character of American voters. It’s been a few years since 9/11, and there hasn’t been any major backlash against Israel or Jews. The anger remains directed at the terrorists and their supporters. Some will say that this is due to the Israel lobby. I say that unlike Europeans, Americans won’t tolerate having their alliances dictated by foreign murderers.
    Also, you didn’t really address my main point, which is that a strong alliance with free and democratic countries is the best long-term strategy for containing and defeating Islamic fundamentalism, along with the other barbarisms.

  11. J,
    In general, I agree that a strong alliance with free and democratic countries is generally a good policy — except when that relationship is the main point of contention with much needed allies. Particularly if this relationship proves deleterious to relatively moderate Arab and Muslim regimes.
    As for your suggestion that Israel is no different, despite what it represents even to traditional Muslims, not just fundmentalist ones, I can only say that I wish you were right. Maybe you will prove right. On American voters perceptions as well. I certainly hope so.
    I remain more pessimistic.

  12. I think the receptiveness to M & W shows the worm is turning a little. plus, the administration has balked twice now on Israeli aid requests — 3 billion to judaize the negev and the galilee, in return for the gaza pullout (katrina made Israel shelve that) and the 10 billion that olmert planned to ask to fund re-alignment, but did not bring up on his trip here after the US made it clear it wasn’t going to happen. With the US economy in the shape it’s in, and with the sums being spent on other overseas adventures, I don’t know if US voters are going to continue to be so supportive.

  13. If the goal is preserving strategic relationships with regimes in the Islamic world in oppositon to radical Islamism, Israel is not the issue. The “moderate” authoritarian regimes of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt have plenty of internal incentive to clamp down on Islamism.
    If the goal is to appease the Islamists, there’s really nothing can be done short of leaving the Middle East entirely and dismantling Israel. While this is a pipe dream of the left, it doesn’t constitute sane foreign policy while most of the world runs on oil.
    If the goal is to reduce the support for Islamism in the Islamic world, the primary thing the US needs to do is push their authoritarian “allies” to reform. Turning a blind eye to the Egyptian crackdown on judge, for example, which realists backed to the hilt, was pennywise, pound foolish.
    Making genuine progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which would keep inflammatory pictures off Arabic satellite TV would help, but only a blinkered, shallow understanding of the problem would equate US “distancing” from Israel with solving the problem. There needs to be a serious nation-building project in Palestine that the US, the Europeans and the “moderate” Arabs have been unwilling to commit to up until now.
    Walt and Mearshimer advocate the US to take the French approach towards Israel and the Arabs – voting against Israel in the UN and issuing condemnations of Israeli military actions, etc.. This is not exactly a recipe for preventing another 9/11. Does anyone think Paris is safe?
    The Islamic world’s grievances with the US go far deeper than the any one issue. Its absurd to suggest that the US would become safe from Islamist terror but for our relationship with Israel. And its downright insane for American Jews to cede any ground on this point.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.