Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph – Ex. 1:8
Ever since the day there arose a Pharaoh in Egypt who “did not know Joseph,” the dialectic of the Jewish people in diaspora has been the same. The Jews are first welcomed and treated well, but in time they grow numerous, and acquire wealth, influence, and position in society. They do exceedingly well. The reason for that is fraught with controversy, but the fact is undeniable.
And then the locals become unhappy with them. Perhaps they feel threatened, perhaps envious, perhaps greedy for the possessions amassed by the Jews. Perhaps they simply are repelled by the stubborn otherness of the Jews. Then the majority rises up, places restrictions on them, persecutes them, impoverishes them, expels them, murders them, or all of these.
It happened in Egypt, in the Roman Empire, in England, Spain, Byzantium, the Russian Empire, Iraq, and of course 20th century Europe. Over and over. Finally the Zionists realized that the only way to break out of this dialectic was to return to Jewish sovereignty, create a Jewish state of, by, and for the Jewish people. After a difficult struggle and a particularly horrific episode of large-scale mass murder, they succeeded to build a state in the historic homeland of the Jewish people.
But then the dialectic did not disappear. Rather, it raised itself to a higher level of abstraction, with the whole world playing the role of the diaspora nations and the Jewish state that of their Jewish communities; hence the expression “Israel is the Jew among nations” (usually attributed to Golda Meir).
Just like the various kings, princes, and sultans who adopted or spurned the Jews, the nations of the world took positions about the Jewish state. But as she became stronger and wealthier, and her people happier and more successful, resentment against her rose up throughout the world. Just as the Jews were accused of murdering Christian children to obtain their blood, the Jewish state was accused of horrendous crimes against Palestinians. A notorious parallel, called a 21st century blood libel, was the allegation that the IDF had murdered young Mohammed al-Dura, which became a cause célèbre for Israel-haters worldwide. Just as Jews were seen in medieval Europe as evil creatures for their refusal to accept the doctrines of Christianity, today Israel is called a racist and apartheid state.
What has happened is that while traditional Jew-hatred (although growing strongly under the radar, especially among lower economic classes in the West) has become at least publically unfashionable, misoziony, hatred of Israel no less extreme, irrational, and obsessive than Nazi antisemitism, is burgeoning. International institutions like the UN have adopted it as a pillar of their “moral” edifices, and it has become a litmus test for ideological purity on the left.
This didn’t happen by itself. It was a deliberate consequence of Soviet cognitive warfare. Starting in the 1960s, the KGB deliberately amplified anti-Israel sentiment, and worked to create it with every means at its disposal. The Soviets, well understanding the power that misoziony inherited from its Jew-hating roots, emphasized the demonization of Israel in its propaganda, contributing greatly to its strength and spread. In particular, the false identification of Zionism with racism and apartheid was a KGB creation.
Official American policy has been relatively non-misozionist since Harry Truman played the role of Cyrus the Great to the Jewish state in 1948. Elements in the State Department have always been biased against Israel to some extent, but in general US policy was rational, even friendly unless American interests (mostly connected to oil) dictated otherwise.
With the Obama presidency, America’s Mideast policy became driven by more than strict considerations of US interests. Barack Obama saw himself as motivated by moral concerns, but his moral principles were those of the contemporary Left (with a contribution from black liberation theology). He absorbed the Soviet conception of Israel as a colonialist exploiter of people of color, and saw Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as a personal foe.
But he knew that the American people, especially including Evangelical Christians, weren’t ready for a president who would explicitly denounce Israel as a state that ought not exist. So he employed a dual strategy. On the one hand, he repeatedly assured Americans that he was committed to the security of Israel (“an unbreakable bond”), and he supported military aid to Israel, which sent a message of support while it provided leverage to control her, and weakened her domestic military industries.
On the other hand, he worked to weaken Israel and strengthen her enemies, including the PLO but especially Iran. The nuclear deal (JCPOA) with Iran, which had the effect of protecting Iran’s nuclear program instead of dismantling it, was a direct threat to Israel’s continued existence. And yet, the tortuous explanations of how this arrangement would benefit the US didn’t hold water. What is there about “death to America” that he didn’t understand? What is there about Iranian-sponsored drug trafficking that is in America’s interest? Had the Iranian regime ever done anything in response to the gifts it received from the US other than increase its support of terrorism and push harder to expand its sphere of influence, so as to surround its intended victims (Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt)?
The answer is that Obama had replaced the traditional interest-based policy with one based on his understanding of morality. Unfortunately his ignorance of history and skewed ideology produced an equally skewed morality, in which there is no room for a Jewish state. American policy had sometimes been less than supportive of Israel when the perception was that US interests required it. But for the first time, it became ideologically anti-Israel.
Obama was replaced by Donald Trump in 2017. Whatever his motives, Trump’s actions in both the symbolic and the concrete realms were consistently pro-Israel. In particular, he took the US out of the dangerous JCPOA and increased pressure on Iran, both by means of sanctions and by assisting the targets of Iran’s aggression, Israel and the Sunni Arab states. Trump’s policy severely weakened the highly unpopular regime in Iran (Obama had supported the regime when it was challenged domestically by the Green Movement in 2009).
Trump and his movement were defeated in a remarkably rancorous and brutal election struggle that left the US bitterly divided. The Joe Biden administration has chosen its foreign policy team almost entirely from former Obama Administration officials, and has appointed some particularly anti-Israel individuals to key positions, including those that will be concerned with Iran. In his first days, Biden has reversed several of Trump’s actions relating to the Palestinians, restoring aid to the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA, the UN Palestinian refugee agency, reopening the Jerusalem consulate that was the unofficial US embassy to “Palestine,” and pledging to allow the PLO office in Washington to reopen.
But it is in connection with Iran that the intention to continue Obama’s policies are the most concerning. Although Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (the “good cop” in the administration) has said that Iran will get no sanctions relief until it “returns to compliance” with the JCPOA, Biden has already given Iran several important gifts: he has said he will remove the Iran-sponsored Houthi guerrillas in Yemen from the list of designated terrorist organizations; he will no longer sell arms to Saudi Arabia in support of its war against the Houthis; and he has suspended the impending sale of F35 aircraft to the UAE, an Iranian enemy and recent ally of Israel.
Israel has been waiting for Biden to call PM Netanyahu, because Netanyahu wants to present evidence about Iranian nuclear development, and argue that rejoining the JCPOA as it stands or with minimal changes would be a serious error. Biden apparently would prefer not to have this conversation, which might result in an open break with Israel. So far he hasn’t called.
I don’t know where Biden himself is at, or indeed if he is at anyplace at all. But it seems certain that the new administration has returned to Obama-era policies on issues of concern to Israel. I wonder if any of them have questioned the rationality of helping the misogynist, homophobic, dictatorial, terror-propagating, expansionist Iranian regime get nuclear weapons?
Does the existence of a Jewish state bother them that much?