Discover more from The Wayward Rabbler
Supporting Israel Doesn't Make Us Safer- It Never Has
With Renewed Conflict, Americans are at Risk Everywhere
“Such was the awful fate that befell the Romans and Italians throughout the province of Asia, men, women, and children, their freedmen and slaves, all who were of Italian blood; by which it was made very plain that it was quite as much hatred of Romans as fear of Mithridates that impelled Asiatics to commit these atrocities.” - Appian [The Mithridatic Wars, 23]
On October, 19th the US State Department issued a warning to Americans abroad: show caution, everywhere. As a result of the hostilities between Israel and Palestine, Americans should be cautious in any place where they could be identified as an American, and make sure they are able to receive warnings from the State Department. Lebanon has been moved up to Level 4, “Do Not Travel.” Some American personnel and their families have fled the country. Meanwhile, the self-styled “Axis of Resistance,” that is to say, the anti-Israel countries and factions in the region who are usually Iran-aligned Shi’a groups, have threatened the American assets if they get involved in Gaza, or even just if the attack continues. Some haven’t waited, with a large number of attacks on our military bases in Syria and Iraq having taken place in the last few weeks- 20 attempted as of the 27th. The clear reason this is happening is our long-standing support of Israel. For all of this, there is an unshakeable faith in American political discourse that Israel is our best and most important ally and that a strong Israel keeps us safe. If it was ever true that Israel was important to US national security [it wasn’t,] it certainly isn’t now. In fact, the Beirut Marine Barracks Bombing of which we just passed the 40th anniversary- the deadliest day for the US Marine Corps since WW2- happened because of our interest in Israel’s safety, while our support for Israel was a stated reason for the 9/11 attacks. Meanwhile, Israel is too hated in the region to even partake in any of our misadventures without it being massively counter-productive. To the extent that Israel provides us anything in terms of security, it is sharing intelligence about people who primarily hate us because of our support for Israel. There are any number of reasons why one could say the United States should continue to support and ally with Israel- and not all of them even require being a religious fanatic- but it is simply untrue that our relationship with Israel contributes to our national security in the broad sense. It certainly makes individual Americans less safe around the world. As violence between Israel and Palestine runs at the highest levels seen in my lifetime, it is long past time to acknowledge that the United States’ support for Israel is bad for national security. That is not a value judgment: it is an objective truth.
Support for Israel is the ultimate sacred cow in American politics. Though there have been increasing political disagreements between Netanyahu’s Likud and the Democrats, debate about Israel within mainstream American politics is still about how to best support Israel. The journalist Janice Kortkamp once said that it wasn’t until she spent time in Syria that she realized “Zionism is in the water” in the United States. Despite all the teeth-gnashing when any politician doesn’t put Israel first, and media criticisms that are incredibly tepid compared to other regimes which do any of the same things, the government’s enormous amount of support for Israel is never truly threatened. It’s true that in America there is a full range of views on Israel, from the batshit insane such as that “Palestinians aren’t real” on one side, to “All Israeli colonists should be slaughtered” on the other, as well as every more reasonable point in between. There is also the widespread belief among the evangelical “Christian Zionists” that Jews in Israel are tools to bring about the apocalypse, which sucks all rationality out of public policy when such people are involved. However, the overwhelming consensus, especially among the powerful, is that Israel is inherently morally good and a uniquely important friend whom we must always support. For the man on the street leading an unexamined life, this is what he has always been taught: “it’s the only democracy in the Middle East” [it’s not] and all of that. It is generally believed that it is necessary to support Israel because we said “Never Again” about the Holocaust, though that’s a strange excuse for the oppression of another people in favor of the race who were victims of the Holocaust, but you aren’t supposed to think about that. The biggest absurdity is perhaps that Jews are the least safe in Israel of any country where there is a major Jewish population, which essentially disproves a key premise of Zionism as an ideology.
Beyond the belief that Israel is necessary to keep Jews safe, there is the belief that Israel is a great ally of America. Glossing past things like how they intentionally bombed the USS Liberty or paid Jonathon Pollard to commit espionage against us and then openly praised him as a national hero after he was caught, this also isn’t true. As Tucker Carlson recently pointed out, every Israeli you meet would put his country first, which is fair, even in most ways admirable, though what they’ve been willing to do in pursuit of that is more of a problem, especially given how often it has caused further problems. The more important question is why our country doesn’t do the same. It can’t be a mutually beneficial alliance when only one side cares the most about itself. Here we are told “America First” is some sort of fringe, racist viewpoint. What then, do we get from our relationship with Israel? It is true that during the Cold War the United States was at a disadvantage in the Middle East due to the Soviet Union’s proximity and its holding of the “decolonization” mantle. It came to be the case that we were on Israel’s side and the USSR was on the Arab world’s side, but this was primarily caused by our support for Israel. The overall strategic belief is that we need the Middle East for oil, and Israel helps that goal. Neither of these things was ever really true, because everyone wants access to American markets, and Israel alienates us from the oil-producing countries of the region anyhow. Look for example, at all Iran agreed to in order to get the US to agree to let its oil onto international markets. It is the love of Israel which stops America from buying Iran’s oil. It’s generally been the case that the US sanctions regimes and refuses their oil, not the other way around. The big counter-example is the famous oil embargo of the early ‘70s, which as per the “Office of the Historian” of the US State Department was in direct retaliation for the US decision to provide weapons to Israel. That is to say, the one time there was any widespread movement by the Middle East to not sell us oil it was caused by our alliance with Israel. Still, 40 years ago Secretary of State Alexander Haig called Israel “our unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Middle East” and people continue to believe this [not realizing that aircraft carriers are expensive “floating targets” and a massive liability, making it fitting in a different way than they realize.] On top of all of this, we could have chosen to not do the Cold War, and just paid for oil like reasonable people. Now that we’re net oil exporters- while Democrats attack domestic energy production- the oil argument about the Middle East is abject nonsense. In all fairness, that argument is rarely made out loud, but it is completely ingrained in the average American brain.
The importance of supporting Israel to our national security in the post-Cold War era isn’t supposed to be questioned. Our best ally in the Middle East! But ally in what way? To what end? You aren’t supposed to wonder if it draws terrorist attacks, despite Osama Bin Laden directly saying it did. Americans think we have to fight Hamas “over there so we don’t have to fight them here” despite that there is no evidence they have the desire or capacity to fight anywhere but Israel/Palestine- Robert Mueller having said in 2005 that they could “theoretically” attack us notwithstanding. Still, the American right, at times the biggest babies in the world, are sure our country is full up with Hamas sleeper cells…who of course would only be attacking us because of our support of Israel.
Still, I will give them that fear is not necessarily a good reason to not “do what’s right.” However, I, along with the UN General Assembly, question if what Israel is doing in Gaza with the stated goal of defeating Hamas is “right.” Never mind any of that, despite Manicheanism ostensibly having disappeared many centuries ago, the Manicheans have won. Here is Netanyahu explaining that Israel are the people of the light, and Palestinians are the people of darkness:
It’s hard to argue with his “logic” here, because it isn’t logic, it’s irrational nonsense. Though I suppose Israelis are the people “of the light” in the sense that they rain fire on Palestinians and Palestinians are the “people of darkness” in that they lack light as Israel has taken out their power. By the way, it is the hottest TikTok trend in Israel to dress up as racist caricatures of Palestinians and then mock them for their lack of access to electricity and clean water, which is surely just how the good guys would behave.
But no, I’m sure Donald Trump is right that “Those who chant ‘Death to Israel’ also chant ‘Death to America’” because “America and Israeli represent the pinnacle of Western civilization.” It couldn’t possibly be that this cursed and toxic relationship has brought down untold suffering on the region, or even just that by aligning with an unpopular party its problems have spread to us.
There is one way in which Israel’s security matters to the safety of Americans, which is that there are quite a lot of American citizens in Israel. In fact, 31 Americans citizens [many dual American-Israeli citizens] had been killed by October 17th, 10 days after the attack on October 7th. The US government hasn’t wanted to say how many were serving in the Israeli Defense Forces- not that we shouldn’t mourn every death, but it is an entirely different thing if an American citizen is killed in the line of duty in service of a foreign power than if it is an exchange student or something. We have given them a quarter of a trillion dollars since Israel was founded, but they couldn’t be bothered to guard their border. They were too busy sending all their battalions to the West Bank to deal with hostilities caused by the expansion of settlements, many of which are classified as “outposts,” meaning they are illegal under Israel’s own laws and not just the international laws and agreements meant to bring sanity to relations between Israel and Palestine. In the Israeli government’s defense, the battalions were primarily there to protect Palestinians from violence by Israeli settlers, which perhaps makes the radical settlers doing pogroms against Palestinians some of the worst people in this entire sequence of events. Their insanity may only be matched by the American Christian Zionists I keep referring to [for the record, there’s quite a lot of discourse in Israeli media regarding what to do about those lunatics, and also perpetual concern that AIPAC is poisoning their politics as much as ours.] Regardless, for all of the money and all of the unrequited love the American political class has for Israel, the US has only been able to tepidly ask Israel to care about wellbeing of the American hostages taken by Hamas. This is in spite of the fact that if the international hostages get killed it will be the ultimate diplomatic nightmare for Israel, while the Israeli hostages getting killed would poison Israel’s society for decades to come.
Beyond all of this, from the second Hamas attacked, Americans throughout the region, and apparently the world, were threatened. We perhaps shouldn’t be too worried about their “worldwide caution” alert given that the government is constantly trying to scare us about everything and these are the same people who think drinking enough alcohol to reach the legal limit for driving constitutes a “binge” and is thus dangerous behavior. Still, it’s incredible that 22 years after 9/11 they feel compelled to announce we are unsafe everywhere- the War on Terror certainly did not end the terrorism problem. Contrary to a rumor which went around, the US didn’t evacuate it’s embassy in Lebanon, but did advise other citizens to leave and let some embassy staff and their families evacuate. This was following protests over the hospital bombing, which has turned into an insane study on misinformation that I can’t get into here [but it turns out that Hamas didn’t even claim over 500 people died, an incredible turn of events.] It’s notable that the situation made it up to a “Do Not Travel” rating in Lebanon, where the US has a great deal of military involvement trying to use the Lebanese Armed Forces as a proxy in its wars against everyone. Tablet, a Jewish online magazine which is generally an excellent publication, though openly Zionist and thus heavily partisan on this particular issue, published an article called “Eyeless in Gaza”which argued that the US involvement in Lebanon provided a big hindrance to surveillance which could have stopped the October 7th attack. Aspects of the situation remind me of the episode of the show Archer when they are in the midst of a Latin American revolution and the CIA guy says, “We can’t take any chances this time, we’re supporting both sides.” Another Tablet article from early August argues that the US has done just that between Israel and Lebanon, and is acting against Israel’s interests there, which in a way justifies the fact that neither country seems to care at all about the safety of Americans.
American civilians are one thing, and the truth is given the amount of immigration we allow its inevitable that some American citizens should be in their country of origin all over the world and subject to various regional dangers. However, I suspect the terrorists would be targeting white people, not a Lebanese-American visiting grandma. The bigger issue is that our soldiers are spread out everywhere, including still illegally occupying Syria. From shortly after the fighting started, Iran-aligned militias were threatening against US involvement, saying they would directly target US assets with missiles and drones. Notably, many of those militias are in Iraq, where of course we spent quite a lot of blood and treasure trying to turn it into a secular America-loving Jeffersonian Democracy™ only to accidentally make Iran’s neighbor its best friend who only continues to tolerate our presence due to a lack of other options. According to a very irresponsible Time Magazine article which provides no evidence, this vast network of Iran-aligned militants across the Middle East could include as many as 10-20 groups near Iraq’s border with Iran alone. Though in some sort of dark poetry the only fatality so far has been an American contractor who in a remarkably American fashion dropped dead of a heart attack from fright during a false alarm, the attacks on American bases are all too real. On the 18th, 24 American service members were injured, though all of them lightly. But the attacks aren’t stopping, and it is likely a matter of time before a missile hits its mark. The US, of course, blames Iran for facilitating the attacks, which in this instance seems likely to be true, given that Iran’s Foreign Minister quite directly threatened the United States at the UN. His exact words were:
“I say frankly to the Americans, who are now managing the war in Gaza, that we do not want the expansion of war into the region. But if the genocide in Gaza continues, they [America] will not be spared from the fire. This is our home, and West Asia is our region. We do not compromise with any party or any side, and we have no reservation when it comes to our home security.”
It doesn’t get much clearer that the issue is that Israel is seen as our proxy and thus we are blamed for what they do in Gaza. That said. while it is possible to steady Israel’s hands a small amount, they are not under US control and will mostly do what they want. Despite the US support, Israel is not like Ukraine where its sovereignty is largely fictitious. The unusual nature of the relationship between the US and Israel, perhaps the only one in the world driven by one side’s religious fanaticism and the other side’s cynical opportunism- where they’re both aware that is the case- is really bad for everyone involved, and the perception of US control makes it all the more dangerous for Americans.
On Thursday the 26th, US forces in Syria struck what they said was an operations center of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC,] bringing up a minor but robust debate about if an illegal occupying army has a right to defend itself [the ethics are much clearer than people making this argument about Israel.] As they do, the United States government has responded to the danger in the Middle East by moving more targets into the region, deploying a carrier strike group and 900 troops to places besides Israel, for this “deterrence” you are always hearing about. Connor Echols at Responsible Statecraft has been tracking the buildup, which serves as a tale of how Israel’s struggles put Americans in harm’s way but tells nothing about how it keeps America safe. We have to hope this doesn’t expand into a wider war, but our rulers are certainly ready for Americans to die for Israel. You’ve never seen Congress so happy as when the House finally got its new Speaker and could pour our money into this conflict. It was, in fact, new Speaker Mike Johnson’s first order of business- a literal “Israel First” moment. Make no mistake, they will be just as happy to sacrifice the blood of your sons and daughters.
A story from history is perhaps the best way to illuminate the cognitive dissonance regarding the relationship between the United States and Israel. In the early 19th century, the great British opposition journalist William Cobbett was one of the only people to oppose the “potato policy,” that is, the policy of trying to change the staple food of the poor from wheat to potatoes. He refuted it on all grounds, showing that from an economic, human, and social perspective it was doomed to devastating failure and was bad for the poor. He ultimately argued that people only supported the potato policy because they had been told their whole lives it was a good thing, and that if the average man were to see it for the first time and examine it on its principles, he would easily see that it was an enormous folly. Some time after his death, the potatoes were attacked by blight- a predictable consequence of untested large-scale monoculture of a foreign crop- and all of the potato policy supporters [basically all the “Very Serious People” of the day] pretended this consequence was impossible to predict. Around a million people died. This disaster was able to happen because people were so relentlessly told that something was true that they lost the ability to examine it. Our Israel policy is the same way: stripping everything bare, no one could possibly look at the history of the last 30 years and believe that our policy of supporting Israel has made us more safe. At best, Israel’s contribution to the storied US-Israel alliance is to sometimes provide intelligence to help ameliorate the harms of our being Israel’s patron. There are any number of arguments in favor of maintaining our policy of supporting Israel- among them that Israel has a great deal of public support and the people are meant to be sovereign- but it is simply untrue that supporting Israel makes America or Americans more safe. It is the exact opposite of the truth. Don’t let the Israel Firsters gaslight you into thinking otherwise, especially given how many of them are motivated by membership in the crazed apocalyptic cult of Christian Zionism, and not by any concern for the safety of your family or this country.
Thank you for reading! The Wayward Rabbler is written by Brad Pearce. If you enjoyed this content please subscribe and share. My main articles will always be free but paid subscriptions help me a huge amount. I have a tip jar at Ko-Fi where generous patrons can donate in $5 increments. Join my Telegram channel The Wayward Rabbler. My Facebook page is The Wayward Rabbler. You can see my shitposting and serious commentary on Twitter @WaywardRabbler.