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Posted at 1:00 PM ET, 12/ 6/2010

The myth of the anti-Israel Tea Party

By Jennifer Rubin

The emergence of the Tea Party, a grassroots movement on the right dedicated to fiscal discipline, set up a potential conflict in the Republican Party between hawks and neo-isolationists. As things have panned out, however, the neo-isolationists have largely been routed. This is nowhere more in evidence than with regard to support for Israel.

In conversations with multiple Republican leaders and their advisors, I've detected not a whiff of neo-isolationism, nor, frankly, anything but robust support for Israel (coupled with criticism of the Obama administration's sometimes harsh public rhetoric about the Jewish state). A senior Senate aide tells me: "This is a freshmen class of Republicans whose pro-Israel credentials are beyond dispute by anyone except fierce partisan Democrats and liberal journalists with anti-GOP blinders. In fact, these new Republicans would make the Maccabees proud."

But that hasn't stopped some reporters and some left-leaning columnists from spinning the notion that the election of Republicans is a mixed blessing, or even a bad omen, for Israel. The New York Times tried it, with little evidence.

The latest is a shoddy piece of propaganda in The New Republic by Barry Gewen. In a piece headlined, "How the Tea Party is wrecking Republican foreign policy," Gewen accuses the Tea Party of championing neo-isolationism and anti-Israel views, setting up a clash within the GOP. (Implicit in this argument, of course, is that mainstream GOP foreign policy is solidly pro-Israel, but I'll get to that in a moment.) He claims:

Unsurprisingly, a considerable amount of the name-calling comes down to Israel. It can't be said that Palin has taken a strong stand on Israel--a more appropriate characterization would be that she out-Netanyahus Benjamin Netanyahu: "I believe that the Jewish settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon, because that population of Israel is going to grow. More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead. And I don't think that the Obama administration has any right to tell Israel that the Jewish settlements cannot expand."

Such sentiments win no applause from the Tea Partiers aligned with Ron Paul. He has repeatedly condemned Israeli policies, often in the harshest terms. One of his staffers declared that, "By far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government."

The problem with the piece, as with so many of this genre, is that it is unsupported and unsupportable. Randy Scheunemann, foreign policy advisor to John McCain in the 2008 campaign and now an advisor to Sarah Palin, e-mails me: "Gewen's article is completely without sourcing -- except for Ron Paul's looney libertarianism and Rand Paul who actually distanced himself from his father's foreign policy. Not one incoming GOP member ran on a isolationist platform. Not one ran on an anti-Israel platform. In fact, they will be much more pro-Israel than many in the Democratic caucus (anybody remember Joe Sestak or Cynthia McKinney?)."

If you look at some of the Tea Party favorites, you'll find stirring defenses of Israel. Marco Rubio (whose speech on Israel was one of the strongest by an candidate in recent memory) and Scott Brown both distinguished themselves on this front. This was also true in the 2010 primaries. In California, Carly Fiorina gained the support of Tea Partyers in a race against Tom Campbell in which Campbell's shaky record on Israel and association with CAIR became an issue. Likewise, in Indiana, Dan Coats, who voiced his strong support for Israel and criticism of Obama's response to the threat posed by Iran, crushed conservative John Hostettler, whose anti-Israel rhetoric has been roundly criticized. Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, tells me, "As the polling shows, Tea Partyers are among the most pro-Israel voters in America, and the Tea Party vote helped ensure that the incoming Congress will be even more pro-Israel than the previous one. As for Ron Paul -- on foreign policy, he is to the Tea Party what J Street is to the pro-Israel community: a pretender who speaks for a few disaffected cranks. The Tea Party is great for the U.S.-Israel relationship." So where's the evidence for Gewen's piece?

The gap between Republicans and Democrats in their support for Israel has been growing for some time. In poll after poll, we see that Republicans, conservatives, Fox News watchers -- in other words, those who make up or have sympathy with the Tea Party movement -- are consistently more pro-Israel, on the whole, than are Democrats, liberals and MSNBC watchers.

In large part, this is because of the overwhelming support for Israel by evangelicals. David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel, tells me, "I and other CUFI leaders have been invited to speak about Israel at Tea Party rallies. Without exception, our pro-Israel message has been enthusiastically received. That's why it came as no surprise to me that almost all of the Tea Party-backed candidates in the last election were both fiscal conservatives and strong supporters of Israel. Those who portray the exception of Ron Paul's quirky isolationism as the Tea Party rule are either woefully ignorant or blinded by bias."

The executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Matt Brooks, told me this morning that it is "wishful thinking" by the left that the Tea Party is anti-Israel. He argues, "Survey after survey shows that grassroots Republicans are more pro-Israel than grassroots Democrats by a consistent margin of almost 2:1. The trouble going forward for Israel in the body politic comes from the progressive left, not the from the right." He adds that "it is clear to anyone who follows politics that Ron Paul is way outside of the mainstream of the GOP."

As the differences between certain candidates on Israel emerged in the 2010 election, liberal Democrats got increasingly testy about exploring candidates' actual records on Israel.

So what to make of Gewen's piece, which ignores the mounds of evidence, lacks poll data and an appreciation for the ethos of the Tea Party movement, and skirts by the many Democrats with shaky records on Israel (many of whom lost in 2010 to enthusiastic supporters of Israel)? It is, quite simply, fiction. Interestingly, it's been lately the left that has taken to screaming at conservatives for making Israel a "partisan" issue; the faux journalism on their side, however, turns out to be nothing more than a transparent attempt to distort a conservative grassroots movement that is both fiscally conservative and staunchly pro-Israel.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 6, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Israel  
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Next: Harry Reid takes care of special interests

Comments

The Fundamentalist Christians are for Israel,because Israel needs to survive long enough to host the 2nd Coming of Christ leading to the Rapture. If you think Israel is important to these people because they love Israel,WRONG.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Coming_of_Christ

Posted by: rcaruth | December 6, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and whole swaths of the Democrat Party are viewed with the deepest suspicion by practically all Israeli Jews, and this is across the political spectrum. Moreover, Israeli Arabs, like most Middle East Arabs, are no more enamored of them either, viewing their anti Israel stances as cynical opportunism, as if by taking a few swipes at Israel this confirms the Obama Administration's supposed balance between the two sides. Thankfully the American Jewish community has hardly remained unaffected by how Obama and Co. freely bash and embarrass Israel and have begun to question their knee jerk support for anything Democrat. Not that American Jews will become Republicans, but they will almost certainly reduce their financial and possibly even their electoral support for Obama and his gang in 2012.

Posted by: Beniyyar | December 6, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Gewen's post comes from the same groupthink on the left that still thinks any criticism of Obama, and the Tea Party movement, is mostly all about racism. sigh.

It never occurs to the left that it is in America's interest to sustain a strong alliance with Israel. They refuse to even consider Israel's geo-strategic location on the Eastern Mediterranean in close proximity to the Suez Canal, or whether the U.S. benefits from Israel as a reliable ally in cyber-warfare.

setting aside all of the other reasons why the U.S. should be strengthening alliances with any established democracy that is also an entrepeneurial dynamo in breakthrough technologies: green, nano, bio, AI...

Posted by: K2K2 | December 6, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Beniyyar,
This Post is about The Tea Party,not the Republican party. So what is the % of the TP is Jewish,Black,Hispanic,Oriental,Muslim(LOL)or anything but good ole Rural DoubleWide white.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 6, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

"In fact, these new Republicans would make the Maccabees proud."

What a peculiar thing to say.

Of course if we try to have an discussion about any aspect of Israeli policy in your column, posters will be immediately labelled anti Semitic, isn't that right Beniyyar?

I guess the following from your column this morning, does not hold true in this regard:

"If you compare your political opponents to Nazis or terrorists, you lose the argument, whatever it is. "The war of words over the Bush tax cuts heated up Friday, as Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez compared Republicans to 'terrorists' for holding middle-class tax cuts 'hostage.'"


Posted by: 54465446 | December 6, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

One more thing, from you latest post.

"Harry Reid takes care of special interests"

Why castigate Reid for taking care of his American constituency, but then be warmed by the idea that the new Republicans will take care of Israeli interests?

Isn't Israel a special interest group?

Posted by: 54465446 | December 6, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Re: rcaruth

Speaking as a Christian conservative, I think you are far too narrowly focused. The overwhelming majority of Christian conservatives support democracy and detest tyranny. Therefore, they appreciate Israel and do not support her enemies.

God does not need the help of Christian conservatives to set the stage for his second coming. He is perfectly capable handling that one all by himself.

Posted by: meta-materialist | December 6, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

If Ron Paul doesn't get the financial committee chairmanship he has earned, Cantor and AIPAC will be blamed. See ya in 2012 (if the ole US still exists)

Don't Tread on Me

Posted by: ronin1776 | December 6, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

God does not need the help of Christian conservatives to set the stage for his second coming. He is perfectly capable handling that one all by himself.
Posted by: meta-materialist | December 6, 2010 5:12 PM

My comment has nothing to do with God;it has to do with the real motivations of a certain class of Christians that are obsessed with the future of their souls,a matter much more important to them than the importance of a group of people who are not Christians,and their national interests.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 6, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Most people of Israeli descent have no idea of their identities.
This may be the most misunderstood topic in the history of the world, and there isn't a way to discuss it, without offending someone.
And that is a shame.
If people would research their past, you might find that we're connected to more people, in more ways, than most are aware.

Posted by: MrMeaner | December 6, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

The claim that Christian conservatives support Israel because they need it around for the second coming is a canard, although I suppose you can believe that Christian leaders are consistently lying about why the support Israel. The story used to be that they supported Israel because they wanted to incite a war which would lead to the second coming. Meanwhile, all they actually do is--support Israel. So why should other supporters of Israel question their motives? Even if this slander were true, as a Jew, I can live with helping Israel survive until the second coming, since I think it will be quite a while. We all lay down our bets.

Posted by: adam62 | December 6, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Adam/Even if this slander were true, as a Jew---

I was reared in a Fundamentalist Baptist Home, You understand Fundementalist Christians as a Jew,I am one of them,even though I left the mothership many years ago. Believe what you want.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 6, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Rubin is wrong again. The Republican Party is not more Pro-Israel than the Democratic Party. It is just more pro-Likud. There's a huge difference.

American Jewish voters overwhelmingly support Democrats. They wouldn't do so if the Democrats were bad for Israel.

The truth is that many American Jews have misgivings about Israeli policies such as occupation, settlement building and loyalty oaths reserved for Arabs in Israel. These issues are tremendously controversial within Israel itself. The Republican party's extreme fealty to the most right-wing end of the Israeli political spectrum doesn't impress many American Jews especially younger, less idealogical ones.

The Tea-Party is simply an extreme right-wing faction of the Republican Party. They are generally hostile to Arabs and Muslims (See: Palin, etc, etc). So it is unsurprising that they would side with the extreme Likudniks. Although it might be motivated by antipathy towards Arabs more than anything else.


Posted by: SaqibAli | December 7, 2010 1:36 AM | Report abuse

"Adam/Even if this slander were true, as a Jew---

I was reared in a Fundamentalist Baptist Home, You understand Fundementalist Christians as a Jew,I am one of them,even though I left the mothership many years ago. Believe what you want."

I believe what people say unless I have reason to believe otherwise, or what they say is incoherent or contradictory. And Christian leaders don't say what you say--they say the support Israel as a free, democratic ally, and also due to the Jewish roots of Christianity and Western culture. Sounds good to me.

The question, SabiqAli, is which narrative you support, and who you blame for the conflict--Republicans accept the Israeli narrative, that the Jews have come home, established a free and successful society, been an ally to the U.S., and have been open to peace with the Palestinians in recent decades; the Democrats, increasingly, accept the Palestinian story that the Jews are usurpers and oppressors who manipulate the U.S. for its own purposes, which are at odds with the U.S.--the Helen Thomas story, you might say.

But as far as American Jews go, or a majority at least, I'm less sure--more and more I think they don't care much about Israel, and just go with their party. The ones who really care about Israel, though, are much more likely to embrace the "Likud" position than the "J Street" one.

Posted by: adam62 | December 7, 2010 7:20 AM | Report abuse

What is this nonsense about having to be 'anti-Israel' to say that, as an American you think AMERICA's interests, not ANY other country, should be paramount, and that maybe we shouldn't be in everyone else's wars, particularly with our economy in this shape?

How does that translate to being 'anti' another, any other, country?

Posted by: sailingaway1 | December 7, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse


Any American politician who cares about any country other than America ought to be thrown out of office.

Posted by: Thoughtful-Ted | December 7, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I don't know who is supposedly contending that America's interests shouldn't be paramount. The only question is with which other countries do America's interests tend to converge and, therefore, with which other countries, or, for that matter, people within countries, should American establish joint concerns. (And, to that extent, "caring" about those countries.) The other argument, I suppose, would be that all nations are equal in the likelihood they will do us good or harm, and that our relations with them should be completely ad hoc. I don't see a way of making that argument coherently, but maybe someone will find a way.

Posted by: adam62 | December 7, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

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