A Blog by Lawrence Solomon,
Fellow, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research
The National Jewish Democratic Council is disappointed that the Republicans will be giving Ron Paul a tribute at the Republican National Convention in Tampa this week. I’m disappointed that the Republicans aren’t honouring Paul to an even greater extent, and that American Jewish Democrats are so blindly partisan that they fail to understand who Israel’s true friends are.
Jews are right to have concerns over anti-Semitic comments attributed to Paul that appeared in his investment newsletter in the 1990s. But Paul claims he didn't write those comments and disavows them. In a spirit of generosity, I believe we should take Paul at his word. Even if he was once an anti-Semite, and has now changed, why hold that against him?
The main criticism of Paul by Jews today is his attitude toward Israel. But is his attitude truly hostile, as Paul critics contend?
“I do not believe we should be Israel’s master but, rather, her friend,” Paul told Haaretz last December. “We should not be dictating her policies and announcing her negotiating positions before talks with her neighbors have even begun.”
Had Eisenhower, Johnson and Nixon taken this Ron Paul approach, Israel wouldn’t have had to return territory won in the 1956 Suez War without obtaining concessions from Egypt, wouldn’t have had to accept an early ceasefire in 1967, wouldn’t have had to spare Egypt’s army in 1973. In these and other wars, in fact, Israel has had to fight the clock as much as its aggressors, knowing that U.S. presidents had little patience for Israeli success on the battlefield.
If U.S. presidents had their way, neither Saddam Hussein’s or Bashar Assad’s nuclear reactor would have been destroyed. As for Iran, a Ron Paul approach would have let Israel attack Iran early, before a decision to do so became highly risky. Paul believes an Israeli attack on Iran is Israel’s business, not America’s. George Bush didn’t give Israel that much leeway, let alone Barack Obama.
Jewish Democrats attack Paul for wanting to stop foreign aid to Israel. What’s wrong with that? Paul wants the U.S. to stop foreign aid to all countries, Arab states included. This isn’t an anti-Israel position, it’s an entirely reasonable foreign policy and fiscal position perspective that, if it ever happened, might benefit Israel on balance, since it might disadvantage Israel less than its enemies. U.S. aid to Israel is no longer vitally necessary for Israel’s survival – it represents about 1% of Israel’s GDP and is worth less than 1% because the aid comes with strings attached. Even if losing the aid caused Israelis some hardship – say it required Israelis to pay higher taxes to fund the Israeli military – where is the logic or the honour in American Jews asking Americans citizens to be taxed more to fund Israel’s military?
Paul holds various views that, to my mind, are so off-base as to be wacky. He sees Iran as relatively benign, for example, and wouldn’t want the U.S. to intervene to prevent Iran from having the bomb. But why should that disqualify him for being honoured for his profound defence of liberty and the American constitution over the decades? The Republicans in no way endorse his views of Iran – Romney and every other serious candidate made that crystal clear. Ironically, Paul’s view on Iran and on war in general would have far more adherents among Democratic Jews who castigate him than among rank and file Republicans who admire him.
More generally, do Jews really want a litmus test for candidates to high office?
Must all candidates slavishly conform to some Jewish Democratic notion of what’s good for Israel or risk opprobrium? The insults levied against Paul by the Jewish Democrats can only promote animosity toward Jews among millions of Ron Paul supporters, both because the insults are off the mark and because they display an intolerance of those who hold reasonable but contrary views.
From my perspective, Paul has shown uncommon respect for Israel and for Jews. Maybe Jews should reciprocate with a little respect of their own.