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Support for Israel is strong but...
There is a limit.
The majority of Americans are strong supporters of Israel in its new war. That support isn’t unanimous, however. Those pro-Palestine protesters (say that three times fast) that you see on the news are a vocal minority, but they are a minority.
Incidentally, an incident this week at the Democratic National Committee shows that a lot of the anti-Israel sentiment that comes from the left isn’t exactly Democrat. On Wednesday, about 150 protesters became violent and illegally blocked access to the DNC headquarters in Washington. This underscores the fact that leftists are not united on the Gaza issue.
This decline may also correspond with a similar decline in support for Ukraine. In the months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there was strong bipartisan support for aid to the beleaguered Ukrainian military. Now, almost two years later, support has softened, especially among Republicans who were subjected to a MAGA propaganda blitz by Tucker Carlson and others that depicted the Ukrainian government as racist and corrupt.
Other than the relative sizes of the combatants, the wars in Ukraine and Gaza are remarkably similar in many respects:
Unprovoked aggression ✓
Indiscriminate targeting of civilian noncombatants ✓
Torture and murder of innocents ✓
Kidnapping of civilians ✓
Attempts to use propaganda to blame the victims ✓
I think that there is a direct parallel between the softening of support for Ukraine on the right and for Israel on the left. While I see both wars as separate fronts in a single fight against the current iteration of the Axis of Evil, both fringes bring their preconceptions about politics into consideration.
On the right, there is a combination of admiration for Vladimir Putin and a resentment of President Zelensky for not kowtowing to The Former Guy’s demands for dirt on Joe Biden. Ironically, this undercuts MAGA claims of Ukrainian corruption, but don’t confuse them with the facts.
On the left, some progressives have long sympathized with Palestinians against the Israeli government. This anti-Semitism masked as anti-colonialism has lurked under the surface for years as Jewish liberals and pro-Palestinian factions of the Democratic Party enjoyed an uneasy truce.
I do believe that the Hamas propaganda against Israel takes a page from Russia’s playbook in Ukraine. Or maybe it’s vice versa. Either way, in both cases the aggressor is undermining support for aiding a democracy with pot-calling-kettle-black attacks that amount to nothing more than an attempt to blame the victim. Unfairly, I might add.
I’ll be the first to admit that neither Ukraine nor Israel is perfect. They are, however, much better than their antagonists. It’s not even close and that does matter.
The horseshoe theory comes into play as both the right and the left grow concerned that the US will be sucked into a wider war in either or both cases. While nominal supporters of Ukraine and Israel don’t mind sharing aid and intelligence with their favored country, there is widespread opposition and anxiety to the thought that the longer each war continues, the more likely it becomes that American soldiers, sailors, and airmen will be called upon to fight.
For the record, I don’t think that any serious person wants the US to go to war over either Ukraine or Israel. What’s more, I don’t think that there is a need to do so. Both countries seem more than capable of fighting their own battles, although Ukraine, facing a much larger foe, has a legitimate need for arms, ammunition, and other supplies. In Israel’s case, the aggressor was a smaller and weaker quasi-state, and Israel has a well-developed defense industry, unlike Ukraine, which at the outset of the invasion was equipped predominantly with weapons systems that originated with the invader.
There is the possibility that not standing against the aggression will cause a wider war as well. Vladimir Putin has shown his intention to rebuild the Russian empire, and Iran leads much of the Arab world in a desire to exterminate Jews “from the river to the sea.” Projecting weakness to people like these, or the Chinese, is not a path to peace.
One of the big differences between the two is that so far, the leftist resistance to Israel is not as powerful as the rightist resistance to Ukraine. That may be just a matter of time. Remember that it took time to convince Republicans that Ukraine aid was a bad idea. The Hamas-sympathizing factions on the left have barely begun their propaganda war. Gallup polling shows that it took about a year for Republican resistance to Ukraine aid to rise by about 20 points.
It may also be Republicans who drive a similar resistance to Israeli aid. The YouGov poll shows that it is Republicans who are most likely to believe that the Gaza war will lead to a wider war, one that might involve US troops.
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that MAGA Republicans have become relatively anti-war, unless of course, it’s a war that Donald Trump wants to start and lead. In my travels around the interwebs, MAGA Republicans often sound a lot like the peacenik left when they rant about the military industrical complex and Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton being warmongers. Even Donald Trump called Hezbollah “very smart” and criticized Iraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shortly after the October 7 attacks, similar to his praise for Putin the days after the Ukraine invasion. There’s the horseshoe theory in acton again.
To some extent the process has already started. Candace Owens, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Tucker Carlson, all popular figures on the MAGA right, have all expressed skepticism about US support for Israel, much as they did about Ukraine.
There is also the fact that the right is notoriously conspiracy minded these days. As National Review editor Jay Nordlinger said on the platform formerly known as Twitter earlier this week, “Conspiracy theorists can go a good hour, hour and a half, before getting to the Jews. But eventually...”
“Movements that are prone to conspiracy theories are never Jew-friendly for long. History is pretty clear on this,” he added.
Nordlinger’s post was apparently in response to an Elon Musk comment on a post on the platform formerly known as Twitter that claimed Jews “have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.” Musk called the charge the “absolute truth.” In the ensuing mess, Musk dug himself deeper and eventually alleged that the Anti-Defamation League “push[ed] de facto anti-white racism.”
Recent polling shows that support for Israel has already begun to drop as the war heats up and news of Palestinian casualties trickles in. Conventional wisdom holds that it is young Americans who are most sympathetic to the Palestinians, but a new Reuters/Ipsos poll found that support for Israel has also fallen sharply among older Americans as well both Democrats and Republicans, although support remains higher among Republicans.
It seems likely that eventually freedom-loving Americans will have to fight to aid Israel just as we are already having to fight to keep the supply lines open to Ukraine. The best way to do that in both cases is going to be the same way that we avoided the government shutdown: Bipartisan consensus. As long as the aggressor-friendly factions in both parties stay relatively small, a coalition of most of one party and a sizable chunk of the other should be able to circumvent the filibuster and hopefully even outmaneuver an unfriendly House Speaker.
Often, things that are worth doing aren’t easy. And our part is easy compared to the Israelis and Ukrainians who are being called upon to risk their lives and face the bullets, bombs, and missiles. They are the ones doing the fighting, bleeding, and dying.
Our part is to continue our legacy as the Arsenal of Democracy. We shouldn’t allow apologists for authoritarians and terrorist groups to distract us from our duty.
CHRISTIE REMINDS US WHY HE’S HERE In a strong clip, Chris Christie questioned how other Republican candidates can be objective or even taken seriously by authoritarians abroad when, even now, they excuse and rationalize away the behavior of a would-be authoritarian at home. Watch it here.
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