Last week on Time Magazine’s website Joe Klein wrote this about why America is in Iraq today:
The notion that we could just waltz in and inject democracy into an extremely complicated, devout and ancient culture smacked – still smacks – of neocolonialist legerdemain. The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives – people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary – plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel.
In other words, America has been manipulated into the war by Jews. Lumping together the liberal Lieberman with Jewish neoconservatives raises the spectre of a pervasive plot that transcends even the ideological schisms within the American Jewry. To some this may sound all too plausible, since according to the stereotype Jews always band together to take advantage of the society in which they live. This time they are using America’s military assets and lives for the benefit of their Israeli brethren.
Some things apparently never change. In the 1930s Adolf Hitler kept telling everyone who would listen that Jews had dragged Germany into War World I in order to advance their own interests.
Many believed then -- and today similar accusations still find eager hearers. Intimations that the Iraq War is the result of a Jewish plot are not confined only to the far fringes, but are bandied around even by such media pundits as Pat Buchanan and Chris Matthews.
But those who entertain conspiratorial suspicions would do well to consider this: Most American Jews oppose this war. In 2005 the Annual Survey of Jewish Public opinion found that 70 percent of Jews in America disapproved of the Iraq war. Two years later a Gallup poll found that 77 percent believed the war was a mistake. As a point of comparison, only 52 percent of the American public held this belief at the time.
Last year Gallup – after carrying out an in-depth analysis of survey data from the previous two years – concluded that “among the major religious groups in the United States, Jewish Americans are the most strongly opposed to the Iraq war.” So palpable is this opposition that in February of 2007 Israel’s oldest daily Haaretz ran on its website a post titled Why Do American Jews Oppose The Iraq War More Than Everybody Else?
Many American Jews feel very strongly on this point. Last year at the launch of a grassroots organization called Jews against the War dedicated to “ending the Iraq war and preventing one with Iran,” one of its spokesmen, Aryeh Cohen, said this:
We couldn’t continue to remain silent on one of the most catastrophic, immoral and tragic foreign policy decisions in the history of our country.
Opposition to the war is also evident on the highest levels of the very government whose strings are allegedly pulled by the Jewish cabal. Out of thirteen senators with Jewish roots only three have been consistently supportive of the war effort. Five went against the overwhelming majority to oppose the joint Congressional resolution to authorize the use of military force against Iraq. Barbara Boxer later said that it was the “the best vote of my life.”
Jewish support for the war is even more tepid in the House. Out of more than thirty Jewish congressmen, one would be hard pressed to find a single stalwart supporter of the Iraq enterprise.
Not only do most of Jewish lawmakers oppose war, but some of them are among its fiercest critics. Senator Russ Feingold, for instance, has repeatedly and scathingly denounced the administration’s Iraq policies and called not only for censuring the President but also those who advised him.
Many prominent Jewish figures outside the government have likewise voiced their strong opposition. Noam Chomsky, one of the world’s leading academics, has referred to the war as a criminal enterprise. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that “Iraq may end up being one of the worst disasters in American foreign policy.” The financier George Soros has poured millions of dollars of his own money into groups and organization that seek to reverse the administration’s policies in Iraq.
The insinuation that the Iraq War is the product of some Jewish conspiracy simply does not square with reality. The evidence consistently shows that American Jews are divided on the merits of this conflict with a majority leaning against it. If anything, it would be more reasonable for the conspiracy-minded to suspect a plot in the opposite direction.
But contradicting evidence is not the only thing that escapes the notice of conspiracy theorists. There is great irony in the fact that some of the most articulate and passionate opponents of the war belong to the very group accused of promoting it.
Rather than their ties to Israel, the best predictor of Jewish people’s reaction to the war is party affiliation. Most of those who identify themselves as Democrats tend to oppose it, while those who are Republican tend to support it. We can see this dynamic played out almost perfectly in Congress -- with Senator Lieberman as a notable exception.
The War on Terror is complicated enough even without the distraction of far-fetched conspiracy theories. Rather than sidetracking ourselves with meritless insinuations, we would do better to focus our energies on tackling the existential threat before us.