One thing I didn’t write about in my ideology check post is Israel. That’s because I forgot, which is probably because it’s not something I think about a whole lot. But I do have an opinion I figure I might as well write down. If I had to summarize it briefly: I’m not a Zionist, but on a -1 to 1 scale where -1 is full-blown pro-Palestinian and 1 is full-blown pro-Israel, I’m something like 0.3. But that hides a lot of nuance, which I’ve literally hidden behind a “read more” tag. The rest is explained below.
My biggest non-Zionist credential is that I’m not convinced Israel should have been founded — at least not when, where, and in the manner it was. Of course that’s one of those “But I wasn’t around when it happened and I didn’t have to consider the alternatives the way they did so who knows how I’d have felt then” type of things.
The fact is Israel now exists. I lean slightly in Israel’s favor when I consider whether they or their neighbors are most “in the right” when it comes to their general longstanding conflicts (knowing of course that with such a history it’s easy to find examples of relatively immoral behavior on all sides). Israel has been dealing fairly successfully with a very difficult situation, and their success might have a lot to teach us.
On top of being an outpost of Western society in a largely anti-Western region, Israel is also a not-insignificant contributor to our society in terms of science, engineering, and innovation. Maybe art and some other things too. So I see a natural alliance there, especially since we tend to share common enemies.
I don’t really understand our financial relationship with Israel. I know we send them lots of money, but we also send lots of money to their Muslim neighbors, many of whom are their enemies. In exchange for what we send Israel I’m pretty sure we receive a lot of Israeli intelligence, but I’m not sure what else. (And yes, Israel definitely collects intelligence on us, as we do them — that’s just something all countries do to each other.) I don’t think Israel is a country any smart person would want as an enemy.
Now and then there’s a kerfuffle when someone in American politics calls out the fact that Israel buys a lot of support in Congress, then other people call that person anti-Semitic. I personally don’t see the big deal, at any level:
For one thing, everyone tries to buy support in Congress if they can afford it or are willing to spend the money. Lobbying is part of our political process, and the involvement of large sums in lobbying shouldn’t necessarily give anyone an allergic reaction. Maybe I’m naive to trust the design of the wider system to produce checks and balances on all that cash, but I do.
That said, criticizing AIPAC’s influence in Congress has about as much to do with hating Jews as criticizing the Saudis’ influence in Congress has to do with hating Muslims, or as criticizing performance enhancing drugs’ influence in sports has to do with hating chemistry. I suppose such criticism is a possible symptom of anti-Semitism in the same way a bloody nose is a possible symptom of a brain tumor, but just because the possibility is there doesn’t mean the probability is there too. Plus, one should always be suspicious of accusations that carry the implicit claim of knowing exactly what is in the hearts and minds of others.