How the Iran deal debunked the myth of US-Israel shared values
As a veteran pro-Israel college activist, I have had the concept of US-Israel "shared values" etched into my bones from a young age. So many articles have been written, speeches given, and conferences attended all of which were intended to prove that the US-Israel relationship is based on shared values- equality, religious liberty and western democracy. For such a seemingly simple, intuitive point, its a wonder why the pro-Israel Jewish organizational world has focused so consistently and relentlessly on this message. One must ponder the question, who exactly is the Jewish establishment trying to convince: the American people or the American Jew?
American politicians seeking reelection are more interested in financial support than cozy messages. The American public is smart and discerning- they also aren't interested in lofty ideals like "shared values"- if they get a good return on investment by aiding Israel, you can count them in, but if they stand to lose- whether financially,politically or militarily, shared values are meaningless.
From a simple cursory glance, it seems that when we preach of US-Israel shared values, we are convincing no one other than ourselves. But why would American Jews put in so much effort to convince ourselves that by helping Israel, America is acting out of commitment to promoting shared democratic values?
This question gets to the core of the major problem that American Jewry has always seeked to avoid but ultimately can't escape. That problem is what will happen when there will be a significant conflict between Israel and the US, how will American Jews be able to maintain dual loyalty? If supporting the US means putting Israeli lives in danger, or vica versa, American Jews will be forced to pick sides- but for the most part, they are completely unprepared to do so. When America decides to sign on the JCPOA 2.0, this problem will no longer be theoretical but will be very real.
Israel has said explicitly that if the Iran deal is signed, it will be forced to take military action against the Iranian nuclear program. Israel's actions of self defense would be interpreted by Americans as threatening US financial and military interests and potentially putting US lives at risk, which is, ironically, exactly what the US is doing to Israel by signing the Iran deal..
How will American Jews react in such an environment? Where will their loyalties lie? When Jews in the US suddenly become perceived as being un-American by the media and government for being supportive of Israel, how will they respond? If American Jews cease supporting Israel at a time when its existence is threatened, how will they live with their betrayal of the land of their birthright and of their brothers and sisters in Israel?
This is a question that moxg ov American Jewry has never wanted to address. It's much easier to tell themselves that this could never happen because Israel and the US are on the same team, we are Mishpacha. We have shared values. Problem solved!
While self delusion may be the path of least resistance, it doesn't actually solve problems.Instead of spending money on conferences and PR campaigns to delude themselves about shared values, it would be much more productive to come to the realization that countries, all countries, act out of their own interests and not due to values- and perhaps, rightly so.While US-Israel interests have often aligned in the past, interests are constantly changing. The seemingly imminent JCPOA 2.0 is the biggest and most dangerous conflict of interests between the US and Israel to date.
Burying their heads in the sand of "shared values" has gotten American Jews through the last several decades, but it will no longer work going forward. The time has come for all of American Jewry to come to terms with the fact that it may be forced to pick sides, with all the difficult practical and moral implications that such a choice entalls.
Avraham Shusteris is an accountant in Ramat Beit Shemesh. He made aliyah from Monsey with his family in 2018.