And it is here that Obama’s overheated critics have something of a point. There is no doubt that Israel’s fiercest worldwide critics have more than a practical problem with Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Surely they believe as well that the very concept of an ethnic nation “chosen” by God is phony and unjust. For all who do believe this, the very existence of Israel is a sort of fraud or a racket. And the only solution is dissolving the Jewish state—not by driving Israelis into the sea, necessarily, but by eradicating its official Jewish character.
Complicating matters, there are plenty of demonstrably pro-Jewish people who also believe that Israel should not be, as Netanyahu has said, “the nation state of one people only—the Jewish people—and of no other people,” albeit one that grants “full equal rights, individual rights, to all its citizens.” Among them is Tzipi Livni, Israel’s Justice Minister.
Nevertheless, the Netanyahu vision of Israel’s national identity—one which fuses religion, politics, and ethnicity into a single, unitary idea—is inherently, deeply repellant to many secular democratic minds. That, and not the IDF’s tactics in Gaza, is at the root of bona fide Israel hatred.
Barack Obama may not buy the notion of God’s chosen people. Nevertheless, his comfort level with Israel, and its right to defend itself, is high enough that charges of anti-Semitism against him are destined to fall flat.