You know the old definition of chutzpah?
A guy kills his mother and father and pleads for mercy on the grounds that he is an orphan.
I think we are ready for a new definition. It is the neoconservative response to the argument that an Israeli bombing attack on Iran would put American soldiers in the Middle East at serious risk.
That argument is based on the fact that an attack by Israel would be viewed as an attack by America and could reverberate against US interests worldwide (including attacks here in the United States).
It is hard to contest that point -- especially after General Petraeus said that the US military has to deal with the general perception in the Middle East that the United States and Israel are one and the same. (This is also the AIPAC line, which insists -- quoting from a staff-written Joseph Biden speech -- that there is "simply no space between the US and Israel when it comes to security, none. No space.")
So, what should the United States do? Do we stop Israel from attacking Iran and jeopardizing our interests by proxy?
Of course not.
The new line coming down from the neoconservatives is that the United States should do the job itself.
Elliot Abrams, a national security adviser to George W. Bush, told the Zionist Organization of America on April 25 that "I believe Israel will act, and I hope the U.S. will."
Steve Rosen, the former AIPAC guru, now an aide to Daniel Pipes -- who runs a racist website about Arabs and Muslims -- told the same group:
The majority of Americans support force on Iran, yet there's a taboo against saying we must force them now...The U.S. would be more efficient than Israel at suppressing Iran. We have to have the ability to stare directly into the light bulb.
As usual, Rosen talks in code. "Stare directly into the light bulb." Maybe he means mushroom cloud, which has a similar shape.
At this point, it appears to be only the formerly indicted (Rosen for espionage, Abrams for lying to Congress -- though only Abrams was convicted) who are pushing for a US attack rather than an Israeli one. The other neocons still are eager to get their war on but they want Israel to do the job.
For them, war is a game and they want their guys to vanquish the other team. I mean, a Redskins fan may get some pleasure if the San Francisco 49ers crush the Dallas Cowboys, but it's infinitely more awesome when their beloved Redskins do it.
But watch this space. Steve Rosen and Elliot Abrams are key neocon and lobby figures (despite their embarrassing past lives). And they are very persuasive. We'll see what happens.
Meanwhile, the Israel-can-do-no-wrong faction, which normally dismisses Israel's critics as irrelevant, are becoming increasingly strident.
A few examples.
Here is top AIPAC official Jonathan Kessler, threatening that AIPAC will use the same tactics to stifle dissent on American campuses that it uses with Congress. (See Video.)
"How are we going to beat back the anti-Israel divestment resolution at Berkeley?" said Jonathan Kessler, leadership development director for AIPAC, at a recent conference of the lobbying group. "We're going to make sure that pro-Israel students take over the student government and reverse the vote. This is how AIPAC operates in our nation's capitol. This is how AIPAC must operate on our nation's campuses."
Certain members of Congress are no less heavy-handed.
Sen. Chuck Schumer told a New York radio station last week that after the Obama administration hit Israel hard on its settlement policy, "I called up Rahm Emanuel and I called up the White House and I said, 'If you don't retract that statement you are going to hear me publicly blast you on this.'"
He added that there were two groups within the White House. One would give Israel the usual pass and the other wants the US to put pressure on Israel (and Palestinians).
"We're pushing hard to make sure the right side wins and if not we'll have to take it to the next step," he said.
He concluded that God, himself, deputized him to be Israel's man in the Senate:
"You know, my name .... comes from the word shomer, guardian, watcher. My ancestors were guardians of the ghetto wall in Chortkov. And I believe Hashem [Orthodox for God] actually gave me that name. One of my roles, very important in the United States senate, is to be a shomer -- to be a or the shomer Yisrael. And I will continue to be that with every bone in my body ..."
Then there are these quotes from Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Anthony Weiner (D-NY) to the Zionist Organization of America that is currently organizing opposition to President Obama and to any negotiations with Palestinians. Its leader, Morton Klein, is well-known for the hate speech he directs at Arabs and Muslims. If ZOA was a Muslim organization, these same members of Congress would be demanding that it be investigated for its hate rhetoric but, for these extremists, 30 House members show up for their banquet.
"Settlements illegal? - 'they're not as far as I'm concerned...There's no immediate prospect of a (peace) settlement that can be enforced.'..."
Israel is the 'best ally the United States has in the Middle East, but I would argue the best ally in the world.'...If US pressures Israel 'you're going to hear it from me.
Aid to Palestinians until the Palestinians return to the negotiating table, we should not give them another dollar, another shekel...A lot we need to do & ZOA is doing it...We are patriotic Americans when we stand up for Eretz Israel.
And on May 6, in Room 2261 Rayburn House Office Building at 2 PM, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) will host a session on the subject: "If terrorists Are Glorified, How Can There Be Peace?"
The one speaker will be Itamar Marcus, founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch. PMW is a nasty organization dedicated to the proposition that all Palestinians -- Fatah, Hamas, whatever -- are the same and should be treated as the terrorists they are.
Of course, that view contradicts US policy, which is built on the assumption (demonstrated by their conduct) that the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are dedicated to peace with Israel and are ideal negotiating partners for the Israeli government. (Surprisingly, the Netanyahu government agrees.)
Nonetheless, a United States Congressman is using his position to promote an organization whose sole purpose is smearing an American ally (the government of Abbas and Fayyad) and subverting US policy in the Middle East (support for the two-state solution). What a disgrace.
Sherman should cancel his Hatefest On The Hill. But he won't because Sherman, like so many others in both chambers, knows no limits when it comes to defending the occupation. Even when they bolt to the right of the Israeli government.
Bottom line: none of these legislators think it is appropriate to criticize Israeli policies because, by definition, the Israeli government's position is always right. Besides, who are they to criticize the Israelis despite Congress giving Israel more aid than any other country? And even though every proposal for budget cuts specifically exempts Israel's aid package (unlike every domestic program you can imagine).
Of course, every one of these legislators criticizes US policies they disagree with and certainly US Presidents. But when it comes to Israel, they are drum majors for Netanyahu (God-appointed in Schumer's case).
They should be ashamed of themselves. They aren't.