Walter Russell Mead, the Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and one of America’s most quoted writers on international affairs, posted an article on The American Interest blog (www.the-american-interest.com) earlier this month that should be required reading for all who are vexed by the controversy over the much maligned “Israel Lobby” in America.
The piece, titled “Why AIPAC Is Good For The Jews – and For Everyone Else,” examines the question of whether it’s fair to blame at least some anti-Semitism, in America and abroad, on AIPAC’s vigorous pursuit of U.S. support for Israel: “Does Jewish advocacy that calls attention to itself ultimately get the whole people in trouble, and would diaspora Jews do better to keep their heads down and creep around the fringes of public life?”
Mead responds to his question with “a clear no. In the United States at least, lobbying for Zion turns out to be good for the Jews….”
To illustrate his point, Mead asks readers to imagine the form a “powerful and dangerous” wave of anti-Semitism in the U.S. would take (as he elaborates later in his piece, he thinks there is no danger of that occurring). Such a wave would be built on perceptions that various forces in public life, all under Jewish control or influence, were conspiring “to undermine America’s sense of exceptional nationalism and its Christian faith….”
Mead notes that this was precisely the scenario conjured by the 1930’s radio priest Father Charles Coughlin. “It’s the Americanized version of the standard European anti-Semitic complex: the Jew is the enemy of the ideological and cultural cohesion of the folk, seeking to inflict a cosmopolitan worldview on the populace, because that is the only kind of world in which the Jew can flourish. The Jew is the agent of cosmopolitan secularism linked to soulless, post-national capital – that is the classic anti-Semitic rant. This is what the anti-Dreyfusards said in France; it is what the Nazis said in Germany. It’s what generations of anti-Semites have said all over the world…. ”
But what has made such anti-Semitic claims such a relatively hard sell in the U.S., certainly in recent decades, writes Mead, “is the existence of well publicized groups like AIPAC. In America, lobbying for Israel makes Jews look more patriotic, more American, even in a certain way more pro-Christian.”
The son of an Episcopal priest, Mead argues that in considering American history and culture, “you can’t forget God.” He goes on:
It’s not just the long history of American pro-Zionism, a history that can be traced back to Cotton Mather and before him to the Puritans in England. And it’s certainly not just fundamentalist religious fervor. Nobody ever called Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Harry Truman or Bill Clinton Christian fundamentalists, but there is plenty of evidence that their personal religious convictions played a substantial role in their decisions to support the Jewish project in the Middle East.There’s a sense in which Americans (liberal as well as conservative, theologically moderate or even modernist as well as evangelical or fundamentalist) feel that the restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land is proof that America’s God is real. For centuries, Americans of many different theological perspectives have read their Bibles in ways that highlight the importance of the Jews in the divine plan and the parallels between God’s plans for the Jews and the divine intentions towards the United States. The continuing existence of the Jewish people against so many odds and through so many persecutions is one of the most powerful arguments that Christian apologetics can produce for the truth of Christianity.
The preservation of the Jews and their return to Israel is seen as proof that God acts in history – a very reassuring thought for people concerned about the dangers of modern life…. The perception that American Jews support Israel and that they want the United States to support Israel strikes many Americans as less evidence of dual loyalty than of evidence that “all things work together for good for those who love God.” For scores of millions of people in this country, loyalty to the United States, support for Israel and love of God all go hand in hand – and America’s special relationship with Israel is a sign of America’s special relationship with God….