How can any Israeli just not be charmed by good ole’ Joe Biden? Time and again, especially when courting Jewish voters or when appearing on behalf of his boss Barack Obama before Jewish audiences, America’s Vice President has ebulliently let us know that some of his best friends are Zionists.
He has even famously stated: "I am a Zionist.” He instantly then added straight-faced: “You don't have to be a Jew to be a Zionist." We might never have grasped this elusive truth, had he not enlightened us.
During the 2008 Vice-Presidential debate, Biden announced that "no one in the United States Senate has been a better friend to Israel than Joe Biden. I would have never, ever joined this ticket were I not absolutely sure Barack Obama shared my passion.”
Of course, it’s up to the listener to decide whether Obama is as friendly to Israel as Biden says or whether Biden has grown as unfriendly as Obama. One thing is indisputable – Biden has placed himself and Obama in the identical category.
Whatever we may think of it, Biden clearly considers what he hypes as his “Israel’s staunchest ally” status to be a license to tell us off when he deems us deserving of rebuke. After all, bosom buds accrue special privileges. This dates way back to long before his March boycott of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the joint houses of Congress.
Back 1982, Senator Biden (D-Delaware) threatened to cut off aid to Israel. In subsequent years he hotly denied this but Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s late right-hand man Yechiel Kadisha’i unequivocally confirmed Biden’s bullying in many conversations we held.
Biden lost it on June 22, when Begin spoke at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kadisha’i described Biden as behaving “like a meshuggner.” Biden railed against settlements and banged excitedly on his desk to accentuate his verbal admonishments.
More recently, in 2010, Biden warned us (at Tel Aviv University) that “the status quo is not sustainable.” Obviously doubting our abilities to comprehend so weighty a message, he slowly and deliberately reiterated the portentous mantra with extra emphasis on the really important syllables, so that even dim-witted vassals can get the point and get scared.
Our left-leaning media did all it could to amplify the implicit intimidations. Opinion-molders prone to running with the pack and going with the flow were duly aghast with angst.
Considering that, on average, historical memory in our midst isn’t retained beyond two-weeks’ worth, most of us tend to forget how big a deal it was five years ago. Esteemed tendentious commentators claimed to be shaken to their sensitive cores by the wagging finger and bitchy barbs of the harsh critic who, with that trademark mischievous twinkle ever-present in his eyes, kept declaring his undying love for Israel.
But upon cooler reflection, they might have realized that in effect Biden warned that if we don’t rush to slash our own throats our enemies might shortly decapitate us.
Was that hackneyed time-is-against-Israel theme reason to lose our heads? Apparently it wasn’t because at the Israeli Embassy’s recent Independence Day do in Washington, Biden reassured us that “we love each other and we protect each other.”
Then, never one to sidestep an opportunity to put his foot in his mouth, Biden basically advised Israelis to blindly rely on his promise that in the current dealings with Iran Obama would “put in place the toughest transparency and verification requirement providing the best possible check against a secret path to a bomb.”
But what if, as Israel consistently contends, no transparency is possible?
Biden blithely dismissed our misplaced mistrust: “If the final deal on the table does not meet the president’s requirement, we simply will not sign it.” Sounds simple, assuming that Obama’s requirements mesh with our own.
Not a problem, exclaimed Biden, patronizingly pledging that "if you were attacked and overwhelmed, we would fight for you."
Music to our anxious ears? Not quite. Subliminal in Biden’s “we have your back” guarantee is the notion that Israel can allow itself to be weakened to the point of being overwhelmed. Put differently, Israel can take the chance of entrusting its fate to the goodwill of others.
To be fair, though, Biden is hardly the first American in high places to condescendingly treat Israel like a suppliant subordinate even if out of avowed good intentions.
The recommendation that we tone down our existential paranoia is by no means original. Israel had always steadfastly rejected any suggestion that foreigners fight its battles. Besides the not insignificant matter of losing control over our most vital interests, experience has taught us that dependence on foreigners won’t earn us brownie points.
It never did. Portraying the Allies as fighting for Jews was a favorite Nazi propaganda set-piece and a line used by anti-Semites to keep America out of WWII. It was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s nagging fear that isolationists would ascribe to him totally unmerited philo-Semitic sentiments.
And in this 21st century George W. Bush had to fend off charges that he took on Saddam at Israel’s behest and sent American boys to in effect fight for the Jews – yet again. Still, although this anti-Semitic canard hasn’t lost its flavor, assorted American politicians keep periodically proposing that the US take over Israel’s defense.
What Biden says now was also suggested by Indiana Republican Richard Lugar (who preceded Biden as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and who was four years afterwards succeeded by Biden). In 2003 Lugar advocated the dispatching of American troops to uproot Hamas terrorists. The French, ever eager for superpower status at Israeli expense, launched “consultations” with other Europeans about the feasibility of policing us as well.
With unconcealed “we-told-you-so” exultation, Israel’s Left asserted at the time that imposing someone else’s law and order upon unruly us is the only logical way to end “the cycle of violence.” Let’s, for the sake of argument, subscribe to this view and assume that it’s best to become a docile protectorate.
But then what?
Heeding Biden (like Lugar) would only leave more American boys with the distorted impression that they’re fighting for Jews – like their great grandfathers were manipulated to believe in the 1940s.
If anything unites America’s political fringes – and lots in-between – it’s the uncommon alacrity to blame Jews for whatever ails the world, even if few would candidly admit this in our era of disingenuous political correctness. Nonetheless, already during the first Gulf War uber-conservative Jew-baiter Pat Buchanan insisted that America attacked Iraq at Israel’s behest (although Israel was Scudded as a result of a war it had nothing to do with and although the elder Bush scarcely disguised his antipathy to Israel).
Buchanan wasn’t alone. In early 2004 soon-to-retire Senator Fritz Hollings (D-South Carolina) wrote an op-ed for Charleston’s Post and Courier charging that the second Iraqi war was fought for Israel, to win Jewish votes for the younger Bush.
Hollings pinpointed the cabal to three latter-day Elders of Zion: Defense Policy Board member Richard Perle, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and columnist Charles Krauthammer. Hollings went on to defend his article in a Congressional speech. To put things into context, he once called fellow-Democrat Howard Metzenbaum “the senator from B’nai B’rith.”
It may have been tempting to dismiss Hollings’s rants about Jewish neoconservatives brainwashing Bush were it not for the powerful echoes his diatribe set off. Retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, whom Bush-the-son himself incredibly dispatched to this region in the role of honest broker, had to be taken more seriously.
Like Hollings, Zinni maliciously suggested that Israel was guilty of hijacking American foreign policy through its neocon strike force, which instigated the invasion of Iraq in order to bolster Israel’s position. Zinni homed in exclusively on Jewish names: Wolfowitz; Perle; Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith; National Security Council member Eliot Abrams; and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
“I think it's the worst kept secret in Washington, that everybody – everybody I talk to in Washington – has known and fully knows what their agenda was and what they were trying to do,” ex-envoy Zinni expounded on 60 Minutes in May 2004.
Unsurprisingly this spurious Jewish connection attracted instant knee-jerk support from neo-Nazi David Duke. But more disconcertingly, others were coming out of the woodwork too – on the opposite side of the political spectrum. Cindy Sheehan, the American anti-war activist whose soldier-son fell in Iraq, quickly joined the screeching Judeophobic chorus.
These are just a few samples of what can be expected if Americans were sent to truly fight for Israel. These aren’t esoteric episodes dredged from the dark recesses of an irrelevant past. What was continues to be what is. Even in a seemingly changing world, some things never change.
So it’s thanks but ‘no,’ Joe.
We Israelis are capable as no other to take care of ourselves. However, we’re often wary of using the force at our disposal. We’re deterred by our role as the universal killjoy who provokes international displeasure. When the world courted Saddam, we destroyed his nuclear reactor and were roundly condemned for our good deed. Invariably the world seeks to restrain us and rescue the villains – like Tehran’s ayatollahs at the present time.
Superpowers who want to preempt a nuclear Iran or to resolve the Palestinian conflict, need only abstain from appeasing genocidal enemies who bay for our blood – not send troops.
Biden himself could benefit from recalling Begin’s unfazed response to his senatorial temper tantrum of 33 years ago:
“Don’t threaten us with cutting off your aid. It will not work. I am not a Jew with trembling knees. I am a proud Jew with 3,700 years of civilized history. Nobody came to our aid when we were dying in the gas chambers and ovens. Nobody came to our aid when we were striving to create our country. We paid for it. We fought for it. We died for it. We will stand by our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them again, with or without your aid.” www.sarahhonig.com
‘Debunking the Bull,’ Sarah Honig’s book, was recently published by Gefen.