Sobrans -- The Real News of the Month

Is It Worth It?

September 20, 2001

One thing is clear: the recent horrible events in New York and Washington had nothing whatsoever, in any way, shape, or form, to do with U.S. support for Israel. Many Arabs and Muslims hate this country and would hate it just as bitterly if there were no such thing as Israel.

At least this is what we are hearing from Israel’s apologists. The European press seems to assume that America’s policy toward Israel helped provoke the 9/11 attack. To the naive eye this would seem rather obvious. Yet we are assured otherwise.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Norman Podhoretz asserts that “if Israel had never come into existence, or if it were magically to disappear, the U.S. would still stand as an embodiment of everything that most of these Arabs consider evil. Indeed,” he goes on, “the hatred of Israel is in large part a surrogate for anti-Americanism.”

According to this argument, the terrible violence we have suffered has no connection to our alliance with Israel; that alliance not only has no cost for us, but is a positive blessing. We are lucky to have such an ally.

In fact, by this logic, the cost of the alliance falls on Israel. It would seem to follow that Israel, in its own interest, should break its special ties to the United States and reject any further American military and financial aid. Why should the Israelis, who have their own problems, take on all our enemies in addition?

Podhoretz’s argument is an insult to his readers’ intelligence. Of course American support for Israel has cost this country dearly. Any fool can see that, though in some quarters only a fool would say it out loud.

[Breaker quote: The simple 
question we haven't askedA personal note is relevant here. Fifteen years ago, Podhoretz and his circle tried to get me fired from my job at National Review for saying as much. That experience taught me a lot about the limits of free speech.

When it comes to Israel, an American journalist speaks his mind at his own risk. That helps explain why so few voices in the U.S. press are saying what European journalists may say without fear.

In the early 1980s it became clear to me that the pro-Israel lobby was trying to steer the United States into conflict with the Arab world. I saw nothing in the American interest in that; and my own two sons were approaching the draft age. Until then, I had been strongly pro-Israel myself; but sacrificing my boys for Israel was a higher price than I wanted to pay. Nor did I want other Americans to pay it.

But as soon as I began arguing publicly that the U.S.-Israel alliance was not only costly but dangerous to the United States, I became the target of Zionist vituperation and worse. Some, like Podhoretz, tried to ruin my career. And I’ve seen others get the same treatment.

Yet it should be clear even to those who see nothing to criticize in Israel that America pays a price for supporting it — and the price just got much heavier. No doubt there are other things that make this country hated and despised in the Arab-Muslim world, but to deny that Israel is a chief irritant is dishonest. And we must be free to say so.

My point here is not that Israel, or for that matter America itself, is to blame. It’s simply in the nature of things that, for all sorts of reasons, the interests of nations conflict; and when a nation projects force abroad, sooner or later it is going to provoke a strong reaction. What happened to us last week was only to be expected; I don’t feel like a psychic for having predicted it for many years.

Now we have to ask ourselves a simple question: Is it worth it? It’s a question we should have asked much earlier. Of course we have to weigh the rights and wrongs of the Middle East, but there comes a time when even taking the right side may bring unbearable costs.

It’s not encouraging that the U.S. military response to the 9/11 attack has been gauchely dubbed Operation Infinite Justice. Mercy may be infinite, but justice is always a matter of measure. And a sense of measure is just what has been missing in American foreign policy for lo, these many years.

Joseph Sobran

Send this article to a friend.

Recipient’s e-mail address:
(You may have multiple e-mail addresses; separate them by spaces.)

Your e-mail address

Enter a subject for your e-mail:

Mailarticle © 2001 by Gavin Spomer
Archive Table of Contents

Current Column

Return to the SOBRANS home page

FGF E-Package columns by Joe Sobran, Sam Francis, Paul Gottfried, and others are available in a special e-mail subscription provided by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. Click here for more information.

Search This Site

Search the Web     Search SOBRANS

What’s New?

Articles and Columns by Joe Sobran
 FGF E-Package “Reactionary Utopian” Columns 
  Wanderer column (“Washington Watch”) 
 Essays and Articles | Biography of Joe Sobran | Sobran’s Cynosure 
 The Shakespeare Library | The Hive | Back Issues of SOBRANS 
 WebLinks | Scheduled Appearances | Books by Joe 
 Subscribe to Joe Sobran’s Columns 

Other FGF E-Package Columns and Articles
 Sam Francis Classics | Paul Gottfried, “The Ornery Observer” 
 Mark Wegierski, “View from the North” 
 Chilton Williamson Jr., “At a Distance” 
 Kevin Lamb, “Lamb amongst Wolves” 
 Subscribe to the FGF E-Package 

Products and Gift Ideas | Notes from the Webmaster
  Contact Us | Back to the home page 


Reprinted with permission
Copyright © 2001 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications

small Griffin logo