Will the Tea Party Back Israel?
One of the more interesting events at AIPAC this week was the session titled "The Tea Party and Pro-Israel Politics," which featured tea party regular Dick Armey, Gary Bauer (president of American Values) and Representative Tim Scott from South Carolina.
The three discussed the fear of some, including a UCLA professor present at another session, that the tea party movement's focus on dramatically reducing the federal budget might threaten the three billion dollars per year America gives to Israel. This is a legitimate concern to anyone who is not familiar with the tea party movement. Though the tea party movement is determined to reduce the budget, it is conservative enough in political ideology to believe in a robust national defense. According to Bauer, Ron and Rand Paul are outliers who do not represent the mainstream of the tea party movement on foreign affairs. As it happens, when Rand Paul made public his wish to cut off all of American foreign aid, including to Israel, Bauer mobilized twenty thousand emails asking for reconsideration. And Bauer declared that in addition to current levels of aid, "we should take money we're giving to the Palestinians, and give it to Israel" too, in response to the new unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah.
Dick Armey told the audience he believes America's investment in Israel is in our vital national security interest because both countries are on the front lines in the war against radical Islam. The tea party movement supports Israel, he said, because it is an "island of freedom" in a sea of despotism. Plus, Americans and Israelis share the same fundamental values: liberty, democracy, and justice.
There is, Armey continued, an even more fundamental reason as to why the tea party -- like conservatives in general -- is so forthright in its support of Israel: the overwhelming majority of new tea party members in Congress are evangelical Christians. And, as anyone who is familiar with the Old Testament knows, God instructs the Israelites that "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curses thee." Christians support Israel, said Armey, because "God gave this land [of Israel] to Abraham and the Jews." For Armey, it doesn't go too far to say that the tea party movement believes supporting Israel is a moral imperative, a command from God.
Sure enough, this is why support for Israel among the Christian right is so rock solid and reliable. This is also why there is so much more support for Israel on the right side of the political spectrum than the left. Conservatives, as is well known, are generally more religious than liberals.
This is also why it such a great tragedy that the majority of Jews in America are Democrats. Every poll decisively shows that conservatives are more supportive of Israel than Democrats. Barack Obama, meanwhile, is clearly one of the most hostile presidents toward Israel in recent memory, yet he received nearly eighty percent of the Jewish vote. How does a liberal Jew explain all of this? Tim Scott, who is black, told the audience that "black conservatives and Jewish conservatives have something in common": their outcast status for straying from the politically correct ideology that dominates both groups.
Self-righteous liberals are dismissive of the genuine support Israel receives from the right. A few months ago, Chris Matthews sniveled to his audience:
This coalition between the right and Israel […] is not founded on personal friendships or anything like that, or even values. Its founded on some sort of right-wing thing, where you just high-five each other over there at the Western Wall.
The hate for the right harbored among the left, and especially liberal Jews, is shameful. Dick Armey told us he has been called "an evangelical Zionist and an anti-Semite in the same day."
Glenn Beck is one of the most hated media figures among liberal Jews, and yet he is, without question, cable news' most ardent supporter of Israel. During the last few months Beck has devoted large segments of his programs to educating his audience about the significance of Israel and why America must stand by her. On April 19, he had a seder on his set to commemorate Passover and exhorted his audience:
Israel must have our support, and I’m not talking about military support; I’m saying they must have our support as a people. They have a right to survive, and to be free from extermination, and the people who want to vaporize them. They have a right to defend themselves. Will Americans stand up and say that? [Israel has] a right to hold on to the land taken as a buffer zone between them and the people who want to kill them […]. That’s the support they deserve, the support they have earned and the support that is required.
You wont see this type of rhetoric on MSNBC or from the president. Despite this, four hundred rabbis recently wrote a letter criticizing Glenn Beck. Do these rabbis support Israel?
Taking all this into account, AIPAC's session on tea partiers and the Christian right makes it apparent that the tea party movement can be counted on to vigorously defend and support the state of Israel.