Our friends at the Republican Jewish Coalition have issued a strong statement criticizing Ron Paul, the Texas congressman and newly announced contender for the GOP presidential nomination. Paul is scored for espousing “a dangerous isolationist vision for the U.S. and our role in the world” and for having been “a virulent and harsh critic of Israel during his tenure in Congress.”
The RJC statement itemizes four specific statements and actions by Paul to back up its claim of hostility to Israel: He “likened Israel’s defensive blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza to ‘a concentration camp’ “ (“Imus in the Morning” interview, 6/3/2010); “proposed an amendment to unilaterally cancel U.S. assistance to Israel” (Politico, 2/16/11); “was one of just 8 House members to vote against sanctions on Iran” (Govtrack.us rollcall report, 6/24/2010)); and he “published newsletters that included ‘rants against the Israeli lobby’” (CNN interview, 1/8/2008). The newsletters appeared in the 1990s between stints in Congress.
“We certainly respect Congressman Paul’s right to run, but we strongly reject his misguided and extreme views, which are not representative of the Republican Party,” RJC exec Matt Brooks is quoted as saying.
You could argue that RJC is sensationalizing positions that fit within a broad pro-Israel consensus to make them sound hostile. Opposing aid to Israel, for example, is consistent with his libertarian opposition to all foreign aid, period—and is endorsed by some respected Israelis (Then-Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu himself endorsed an aid cut-off in a largely forgotten 1996 speech to Congress, before he didn’t).
Comparing blockaded Gaza to a “concentration camp” might be a tad harsh (Paul actually said “almost like a concentration camp”) but even many Israelis believe the blockade goes too far. Likewise, criticizing the “Israel lobby” (“rants? Really?), which is often said to be counterproductive in protecting Israel’s real interests.
You could argue all those things, but you’d look pretty silly after you actually followed the RJC links to the sources. You’d find that RJC knows whereof they speak on this. It’s not that Ron Paul has any explaining to do. He’s an open book. It’s his Jewish endorsers who need to explain. I quote a couple of them after the jump. But first, his positions:
On aid, Paul’s proposal in February was not to end foreign aid in general, but to eliminate a piece of it, specifically $6 billion in aid to Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan and Israel—in response to the uncertain situation in Egypt. I guess he figured that with Mubarak toppled by the democratic masses, Netanyahu was next. Or maybe he thought Israel, like Pakistan, was sheltering Osama bin Laden.
On Gaza, Paul said Israel was creating a situation “almost like a concentration camp” by blocking vital humanitarian goods. Imus said it was “my understanding that they’re letting in humanitarian aid. They’re not allowing weapons in” to prevent attacks on Israel. Paul could have said, as many critics have, that the humanitarian supplies were inadequate and the blockade was crude and overly expansive. Instead he gave a strange, disjointed talk about the fact that Hamas was an elected government, and that America has talked to governments it didn’t like in the past, like the Soviet Union and China, and that the CIA had overthrown the Mossadegh government in Iran in 1954.
As for the anti-lobby “rants” in his newsletter, the exchange about it on CNN is quite disturbing. The same newsletter was also publishing crude, sometimes grotesque slurs against blacks and gays. According to CNN,
One newsletter, from June 1992, right after the LA riots, says “order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks.”
Paul said he didn’t write those particular articles and had no idea who did. He continued: “I do repudiate everything that is written along those lines,” without specifying what “those lines” were except to say he’s not a racist.
Paul has some Jewish admirers who describe themselves as libertarians and think his views on Israel are just fine. One is Ilana Mercer, who posted last night in Paul’s defense on her blog at the conservative website World Net Daily. She takes the he’s-not-anti-Israel-he’s-just-against-foreign-aid position, adding that Israel would be better off without U.S. aid, would be more prosperous and enjoy greater freedom of action, which is pretty much the stance Bibi took addressing that joint session of Congress in 1996, before he went home and got his head handed to him by his foreign and defense ministries.
Another fan is British Hasid Gabriel Martindale, who blogs at the Chabad-leaning Algemeiner.com website. He wrote in a post earlier this week to defend Paul against the claim that he “hates Israel” by suggesting that it might be good for Israel to have a U.S. president who hates Israel. I’m not making this up.
Check it out:
I’ll admit I don’t care all that much either for a state that spends it’s time persecuting settlers who own weapons for self-defence or arresting Rabbis for teaching Torah, but I certainly don’t hate Israel as a country, so how can I support Ron Paul?
It could be that Paul’s views are just those of an “old-fashioned isolationist,” Martindale suggests. But he isn’t entirely convinced, so he continues:
…if all that doesn’t wash, let’s try a different tack. Let’s say that Ron Paul really does hate Israel. What would be the likely consequence of an Israel-hater in the White House? I submit that it would be the best thing that has happened to Israel since 1967. …It is only a ‘friend’ with a financial whip in its hand that can pressurise Israel into so consistently acting against its own interests. A Ron Paul administration that had no leverage over Israel and was perhaps somewhat hostile in its posture would give Israel something more important than money: freedom.
In fairness, I should add that Martindale’s views don’t necessarily reflect the positions of the Chabad-Lubavitch community. And if that doesn’t wash, bear in mind that the movement doesn’t own the Algemeiner, despite its long relationship with it, and that its editor, Dovid, Efune, didn’t write that particular post, though he evidently knows who did.
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).