Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ron Paul in the Sunday New York Times

It's been a while since I've posted, you'll have to forgive me, I've been on vacation for the last week so my body has been out of Israel and my mind off the Paul campaign. Fortunately, Judah and Benjamin have held down the fort for me. But while I was gone, the good doctor got a significant shot in the arm from that old institution every political outsider loves to hate - the mainstream media. Paul was the subject of an extensive profile in July 22 New York Sunday Times magazine.

The story is a feature rather than hard news article about Paul's positions so it meanders in a fairly engaging way through Dr. Paul as the folksy small town Texan who knows about barbecues, grandchildren, and gospel passages but hasn't a clue about Daily Show host Jon Stewart or GQ magazine. It covers all the bases in Paul's background and beliefs from baby doctor to just war theory from policy wonk to internet sensation. Amongst the storytelling are some interesting points for those of us in the pro-Israel community.

To quote:

"Even the fact that you’re asking this question [about the Israel lobby] infers, ‘Oh,
you’re an anti-Semite,’ " he told me in June. Actually, it doesn’t. Paul was in
Congress when Israel bombed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear plant in 1981 and — unlike the
United Nations and the Reagan administration — defended its right to do so. He
says Saudi Arabia has an influence on Washington equal to Israel’s. His votes
against support for Israel follow quite naturally from his opposition to all
foreign aid. There is no sign that they reflect any special animus against the
Jewish state.

From Paul's statements and action on Israel the article goes on to a MeetUp of Paul's supporters in California and the curious preoccupation of one of the organizers:
That night, [MeetUp organizer Connie] Ruffley. . . got quickly to Israel,
raising the Israeli attack on the American Naval signals ship Liberty during
the Six-Day War. Some people were pleased. Others walked out. Others sent
angry e-mails that night. Several said they would not return.
The juxtaposition of Ron Paul's principled non-interventionism in the Middle East with the rabid anti-Zionist, anti-Israel positions of one of his supporters gives us a unique insight into why the Paul campaign has (or will have) difficulty gaining traction with the majority of Americans who are either sympathetic or supportive of Israel. Basically, I can see 3 reasons why the charge of anti-Israel or anti-Semite could get slapped on Paul:
1. Paul's opposition to foreign aid - Despite Israel's modern hi-tech driven economy that is rapidly approaching the world's wealthiest nations in standard of living, it remains the largest recipient of US foreign aid. As many have pointed out and we've linked on the side bar, this aid is not purely beneficial for Israel nor is it particularly necessary. But because aid is such a tangible symbol of support, proposals to do away with it get labeled as a cruel and anti-Semitic action. Surely no one would make the same case the the dearth of aid to Britain makes Congress inherently anti-British.

2. Paul's criticism of AIPAC and the Israel Lobby - This criticism, as pointed out by the Times, is based on based on a clash of principles. Ron Paul opposes foreign aid and foreign wars in general while AIPAC advocates specifically for 2 things - increased aid and increased US military involvement. This has nothing to do with AIPAC being a Jewish or Zionist organization. Nor can AIPAC, despite its significant base of support, speak for all Jews, Zionists, or Israel-lovers. In many ways, the things they advocate are not beneficial and potentially hurtful to the country they claim to support.

3. Paul's supporters - The Paul campaign is a true grassroots effort, probably the first any of us young Americans have ever seen. It seems that Paul kind of got talked into running and reluctantly agreed so he could promote his idea in the debates. The official campaign openly admits that it never seriously aimed at the nomination. But what has happened is they underestimated the reservoirs of support among disgruntled Republicans, old right conservatives, libertarians, betrayed liberals, antiwar advocates, and authenticity seeking young people just waiting for a leader they could push into the national spotlight with their online and retail-politicking activism and now Paul sits with more money in the bank than John McCain, increased coverage in the national media, and overflow crowds at rallies from Greenville, South Carolina to Google Headquarters in California. The problem is that some of these people, like Ms. Ruffley, come to promote their agenda and not Dr. Paul's. Because of the grassroots effort, more people encounter the activists before they encounter the official campaign. When some of these people have an openly anti-Israel agenda, Paul gets tarred with guilt by association, turning off many pro-Israel voters before they can even hear Paul's words and an explanation of how they can benefit Israel's sovereignty and security. I have the feeling that this last commenter on a Jewish blog is not alone in his assessment.

The purpose of this blog is exactly to answer these challenges to the Paul campaign and make the case that principled non-interventionism would be more beneficial to Israel than a "special relationship" that keeps the aid money flowing in exchange for interference in Israel's domestic affairs, comparable aid to its opponents and enemies, and destabilizing military adventures in its neighborhood. Thanks for reading us, stick with us as we go into these issues in more detail, and get out there and support Ron Paul.

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