Why Sarah Palin Endangers American National Security (and Israel's, as Well)

By Jeffrey Goldberg

A Goldblog reader writes, with more invective than is minimally necessary:

You describe yourself as pro-Israel. Sarah Palin is pro-Israel. You describe yourself as anti-Islamist terror. Sarah Palin is anti-Islamist terror. Yet you criticize her constantly for her stances on these issues. Why are you so craven? Does your liberalism trump your Judaism?

There are those on the Interwebs who doubt whether I possess any sort of "liberalism" whatsoever, but let's put that issue aside, because this reader asks a fair question: Why do I find Sarah Palin dangerous?

There are two reasons, the first having to do with Israel, the second with America, though they are related. I certainly appreciate the sincere feelings of Christian Zionists. I have theological, spiritual, political, and personal trouble (nobody knows the troubles I've seen) with the branch of Christian Zionism that yearns for the destruction of Israel because it holds that Armageddon will be the harbinger of Christ's return, and Sarah Palin has affiliated herself on occasion with people who adhere to this branch. But mainstream Christian Zionists -- people who believe that God blesses those who bless the Jews -- well, I'm not going to argue with that point. It is not, then, Palin's theology that bothers me as much as her actual understanding, or lack of understanding, of Middle East politics that is so troublesome. Palin has positioned herself as a territory maximalist, arguing for the righteousness of continued Jewish settlement of the West Bank, including those parts of the West Bank, presumably, beyond the security fence. This line of argument places her well to the right of the position taken, late in his career, of Ariel Sharon. As I have pointed out on innumerable occasions, this position, seemingly Zionist (or super-Zionist, even) on the surface, actually undermines the idea of Israel as a Jewish state, because settlements are the vanguard of eventual binationalism, not of a Greater Israel. Israel simply cannot absorb the West Bank's Arabs and remain either a Jewish state or a democracy. For an American politician to argue otherwise is a danger to Israel. Sarah Palin encourages the most recidivist elements of the Israeli right, and it is absolutely vital for the Israeli right to grapple with demographic, political and moral reality, before it's too late.

On the second point, the danger she poses to America -- and specifically, to American national security -- Palin has this week argued vociferously against the building of a mosque near the site of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. She calls the idea of a mosque there a provocation. But it is her opposition to the building of a mosque that is provocative. The organization that hopes to build the mosque, the Cordoba Initiative, is a moderate Muslim group, striving for better relations between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds. It is in the direct interest of American national security to strengthen those groups that argue against Islamism. Palin's opposition to the mosque -- and by extension, to the enfranchisement of moderate Muslims -- is a gift to Islamists, proof to their potential followers that America is as intolerant of Islam as Europe is, proof that it is America, not Islam, that wants to see our civilizations clash. We as a society should embrace those Muslims who want to live the American dream; their lives, as free, devout and proud Muslims in a diverse country, are a refutation of the radical notion that the West is forever aligned against the interests of Muslim believers. Opposing the building of mosques by anti-jihadist Muslim groups in this country is perhaps the best way to radicalize American Muslims not otherwise prone to radicalization.

It is true that this country is home to a non-insignificant number of already-radicalized Muslims. There's no point in denying that. But there's a war on -- a clash within a civilization -- and we can affect the outcome of this war by embracing those Muslims who are ready and willing to live in our multi-confessional country, while fighting those who violently oppose American values. Sarah Palin, from what I see so far, views Islam as a monolith, and because of this view, she argues for policies that could do severe damage to American national security. This is a complicated war we're in, and Sarah Palin is, by the evidence at hand, dangerously simple-minded.
 

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/07/why-sarah-palin-endangers-american-national-security-and-israels-as-well/60088/