Dangerous hyperbole in defense of Israel

Dangerous hyperbole in defense of Israel

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the latest conspiracy theory that’s lit up the conservative Jewish blogosphere like Times Square at midnight.

It goes like this: President Obama’s justification for participating in the no-fly zone over Libya — the “Responsibility to Protect” rationale, or R2P as the conservatives call it — represents a potential threat to Israel because this administration might be inclined to do the same thing to the Jewish state if it takes military action in Gaza or the West Bank, or if officials here just deem that the Palestinian population is threatened.

Ed Lasky has put forth this idea in The American Thinker, writing that “the rationale that was used to justify American actions towards Libya can be used by other nations — if not the United States — to justify more active involvement in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”

In the Washington Times, Frank Gaffney argues that the “Kaddafi Precedent,” pushed by Obama’s “anti-Israel troika of female advisers” (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Ambassador Susan Rice, and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs Samantha Power), could be “used in the not-too-distant future to justify and threaten the use of U.S. military forces against an American ally: Israel.”

I’m a connoisseur of conspiracy theories, but this one has left me speechless, and strikes me as dangerous hyperbole.

The arguments used to justify military action in Libya were used against a nation that has been a longtime foe of U.S. interests; it’s just crazy to think the same arguments would be used against Israel, a longtime ally, or that this or any other administration might liken Israeli leaders to the crazy-as-a-loon Kaddafi.

Yes, the Obama administration has fumed about Israel’s settlements policies and what it sees as Israeli resistance to their fumbling efforts to restart negotiations with the Palestinians — but at times so have the last three administrations, and that has never undermined the foundation of the U.S.-Israel alliance.

President Obama has restated his commitment to that alliance many times; so has Secretary of State Clinton. And as Ron Kampeas of JTA has pointed out, “the Obama administration has amped up security guarantees [with Israel], on Iran, on missile defense, on everything. There are differences over diplomacy, for sure, deep differences — but security hasn’t been touched.”

If criticism of Israeli settlements policy is an indication that’s all a lie, then all of Obama’s recent predecessors are equally guilty.

It’s a dangerous argument because what’s united Jews across the political spectrum for many years is the need to protect the strong U.S.-Israel alliance and insulate that special relationship from the whims of partisan politics.

By positing that it’s all a sham in the case of the hated Barack Obama, without any evidence, these conspiracy theorists can only erode what has become a given in American politics.

I get it that this administration’s Middle East policy has been confused, inconsistent, and generally ineffective. If that’s your claim, you won’t get an argument from me. I’ve been struck by how President Obama has manage to disappoint the Left, the Right, and much of what’s in between as he gropes blindly for some coherent policy on the Middle East conflict.

What I don’t get: arguing that what’s at work here is an abiding hatred of the Jewish state and opposition to the U.S.-Israel alliance so strong that this administration may be looking for excuses to trigger international military intervention against Israel, of all things.

It’s amazing that this idea has set the Jewish blogosphere to buzzing. And it’s amazing that some proponents think anybody beyond a small fringe among Israel supporters is likely to buy it.

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