The American Romance with Zionism Predates Both Israel and the U.S.

July 18 2022

Reviewing Walter Russell Mead’s The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People, Matti Friedman describes the book as taking the reader “on a tour not of Israel but of the manifestations of Israel in the American mind,” which, Friedman concludes, is “an even weirder place than the actual country where I live and report.”

One of the recurring observations [Mead makes] is that non-Jewish Americans have often been far more fervent Zionists than Jews, giving the lie to the idea that Jews are twisting American policy in their own interests. . . . That American enthusiasm is . . . in fact older than America. In 1666, we learn, the American clergyman Increase Mather was preaching to Puritans in Boston that “the body of the twelve Tribes of Israel shall be brought out of their present condition of bondage and misery, into a glorious and wonderful state of salvation, not only spiritual but temporal,” and that the Jews would “recover the Possession of their Promised Land.”

The fascination with Jews always has a dark side: the same Increase Mather who longed for a Jewish return to Zion, Mead reminds us, also wrote that the same people “have been wont once a year to steal Christian children and to put them to death by crucifying.” If Jews are symbols and not real people, they can be a symbol for all kinds of things, and this, too, remains a part of American intellectual life. The shooter who murdered ten Black Americans in a Buffalo, New York supermarket in May left a manifesto identifying Jews as villains engineering the erasure of white America. . . . On the left, meanwhile, the American international-relations scholar David Rothkopf suggested in a tweet and an op-ed that the shooter’s motivations actually had something to do with “the same kind of racism and closely linked political forces” present in Israel.

None of this is rational, but neither [were] the sermons of Increase Mather. This kind of thing will only grow as the sanity of the American body politic continues to erode, and as many on the right and the left abandon the grubby field of reality for a simplistic battle between good and evil.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: American Zionism, Anti-Semitism, Christian Zionism, US-Israel relations

 

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine