Larry Derfner writes: I never went along with the argument that the Israel lobby, taking its directions from Jerusalem, pushed the United States to invade Iraq in 2003. Israel wanted the U.S. to knock over Saddam, of course, but it didn’t make a lot of noise about it, and neither did its Washington lobbyists because Israel and AIPAC knew they didn’t have to push against an open door. The Bush administration wanted to go to war against Saddam as soon as 9/11 happened, and while I’m sure the administration saw the benefit to Israel as one more reason to invade, that was never the main reason. The Bush team fought that war because of its misbegotten notion of America’s national security, and they would have fought it even if there had been no Israel lobby – even if there had been no Israel.
But Iran is different. Israel and AIPAC have been leading the charge on this one for years, and they’re hardly hiding it – the Israeli campaign for America to get tough, tougher, toughest on Iran has been as bombastic as could possibly be. If America ends up bombing Iran first (unlikely), or being drawn into a war as a result of Israel’s bombing Iran first (much more likely), that American war will be stamped “Made In Israel” – not by Walt and Mearsheimer, but by everyone with eyes and ears in his or her head.
This is new. For all the Israel lobby’s power over U.S. policy in the Middle East, it has never led the U.S. into a war the White House and Pentagon clearly did not want to fight. And that’s what’s happening, that’s what’s been happening for nearly four years – the Obama administration and U.S. military establishment don’t want to fight in Iran, and Israel and AIPAC have been dragging them toward it with all their might.
Again, this is unprecedented. And it is quite a responsibility for Israel and the American Jewish leadership to assume – one they don’t want to face, though, because if they did, they might have to restrain their war-mongering, and for the AIPAC crowd, war-mongering on Israel’s behalf is just too much fun. But here’s the deal: If Israel hits Iran and Iran hits back at American targets and draws the U.S. into a war, and that war doesn’t go well for the U.S. – if American troops start getting killed, if the U.S. economy suffers, if the U.S. finds itself stuck in a war it doesn’t want and doesn’t know how to get out of – then not only Israel, but American Jews, too, are likely to be blamed by the U.S. public at large.
And for the first time in history, blaming the Jews for getting America into a war would not be anti-Semitic lunacy, it would be a logical reaction. I want to stress here that blaming American Jews in general for “wagging the dog” would be totally wrong and unfair – most of them are liberal doves. However, blaming AIPAC, the rest of the Israel lobby and, above all, Israel for wagging the dog would be like adding two and two.
For some Israelis, the risk of American Jews ending up getting blamed for a war against Iran might look less like a risk than potentially part of the upside. From this vantage point a backlash against Jews would not demonstrate the recklessness of the Israel lobby; it would demonstrate the recklessness of belonging to the diaspora and the necessity of “returning” to Israel. The irony is that the ranks of the lobby are filled with Jews whose choice is to love Israel from afar. For those for whom home is really New York or Miami, such a return would in truth be a form of exile.