Dwight Eisenhower was the last American president to stand up to Israel, demanding in 1956 that it, along with France and Britain, evacuate Egypt after their shameful and unprovoked attack on that country. Since then, Israel has virtually become an extension of the United States -- or is the other way around? -- protected in the United Nations by the American veto, absorbing some $3 to 4 billion in American aid each year and, most disturbing, determining our policy in the Middle East.
Our unqualified support of Israel and its actions in Palestine certainly contributed immensely to Arab anti-Americanism and seriously damaged our image, closely associating us with a state that continually and blatantly violates the international law we are pledged to uphold.
Yet neither political party can do anything about this situation because of the incredible political power of American Zionist groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. These older organizations are now joined by the pro-Israel Project for the New American Century, whose leading members, such as Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz, direct American foreign policy from within the Bush White House.
Perversely, the Zionists are joined by evangelical Christians because of some wacky apocalyptic vision involving the Third Temple.
This is all bad enough, having dragged us into squandering lives and treasure in the most nonsensical war America has ever fought, a conflict that serves the interest of no one except terrorist recruiters, a few big corporations and Israel.
Far worse, the ludicrous claim that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic is becoming more widely accepted. The latest edition of Webster's dictionary, for example, includes criticizing the Jewish state as one of the definitions of anti-Semitism. If this is so, then I have met a hell of a lot of Israelis, including old men with numbers tattooed on their forearms, who are apparently anti-Semites.
Now our government is getting in on the act. The powerful Israeli lobby, joined by William Kristol's Empower America, Daniel Pipes' Campus Watch and the U.S. India Political Action Committee, is pushing the Senate to pass H.R. 3077, the International Studies in Higher Education Act. This appalling legislation would set up an advisory board with the power to recommend federal-funding cuts for universities that shelter academic critics of Israel or any other topic the board is interested in controlling. I am not making this up.
Traditionally Democrats have immediately fallen to their knees before the Israeli lobby, but every politician is vulnerable in the face of committee money. The now ultra-conservative Republican Party, with its evangelical Christian base, is taking up Israel's cause with gusto.
The act and its supporters do not, of course, come right out and say, "This is for Israel." Rather, the bill, to those few who can actually decipher what it says, speaks of "intellectual diversity," and its supporters claim it is part of the fight against "anti-Americanism" on campus.
How did criticizing a foreign country become anti-American? Israelis who criticize Israel are not considered anti-American. They are not even considered anti-Israel. Why should a professor in America not have the same free speech as a professor in Tel Aviv?
The answer is because being pro-Israel is part of the policy of this administration, indeed, part of the policy of every administration since Ike. The difference now is the Bush administration is quick to label as anti-American or unpatriotic any individual or organization that publicly challenges its policies.
Odd how things like unprovoked wars, detentions without trial, violating international law and shooting "suspects" -- all practices of former bad guys like Nazis and commies -- are part of the definition of Americanism.