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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The real Israel lobby: It's the American people

Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik argues that, contrary to Chuck Hagel's claims, the real Israel lobby is not the Jews. It's the American people.
This devotion to Israel’s well-being was made most manifest to me when I was privileged to deliver an invocation at the Republican National Convention last August. In my prayer, I spoke of the American belief that our liberties were the gift of God, and that in enunciating this principle America had been called to serve as a “beacon of freedom to the world, and an ally of free countries like the State of Israel, an island of liberty, democracy, and hope.” The audience, composed almost entirely of non-Jews, broke into applause at these words, an unusual reaction to an invocation. Most overwhelming was the warm reaction I received from the delegates throughout the day, thanking me for my prayer, and expressing their concern for, and blessings on, Israel. 
This expression of love for Israel was not, as is often unfairly suggested, founded on apocalyptic expectations, but rather on the conviction that Israel is indeed an island of liberty in a region that is an ocean of hostility to America and the American idea. As such, Israel’s endurance represents a triumph of the American vision—a vision that was, in part, inspired by the Bible, the book bequeathed to the world by Ancient Israel. The depth of this American conviction was most eloquently expressed not in a rabbinic invocation, but rather in a speech made by a non-Jewish former governor of Texas, who never served as a senator from Israel, but did spend eight years as president of the United States:
The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul. .  .  . In spite of the violence, in defiance of the threats, Israel has built a thriving democracy in the heart of the Holy Land. You have welcomed immigrants from the four corners of the Earth. You have forged a free and modern society based on a love of liberty, a passion for justice, and a respect for human dignity. You have worked tirelessly for peace. And you have fought valiantly for freedom.
These words were spoken by President George W. Bush in celebration of the 60th anniversary of Israel’s founding. If someone had lived his entire life in Israel and never met an American, he might have been surprised by the profound love for the Jewish state expressed by this non-Jewish president. Yet Americans understand that the president was giving voice not only to his own views but also to those of so many other citizens of the United States. It is because of these Americans that the United States has stood steadfastly with Israel. If anyone ought to understand this, it is a certain former “United States senator”—and a Nebraskan, representiing Middle America, no less.
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