On the surface, the decision by the Republican Jewish Coalition not to invite Rep. Ron Paul to their forum for presidential candidates seems ill-advised. Some will ask, what would be the harm in giving the eccentric libertarian a hearing?
But just as no one would consider a demand the GOP group provide a platform for a Democrat, there is no reason for it to allow Paul to pretend he is anything but an extremist who is far outside of the mainstream, especially when it comes to issues concerning the U.S.-Israel alliance. Though the isolationist sometimes claims to be a friend to Israel, few are deceived by this disingenuous stance. There’s no reason why the RJC needs to buy into the pretense.
Paul claims his opposition to aid to Israel ought not to disqualify him for pro-Israel voters. He says aid is bad for the Jewish state and that he respects its sovereignty more than many of its friends who seek to impose American solutions to the peace process that it rejects. But this is not a serious argument.
As for the aid, when Israel was receiving massive amounts of economic aid, one could have argued that U.S. funds merely subsidized the country’s dysfunctional socialist system and did as much harm as good. But that aid has long been phased out, and now the assistance the U.S. provides Israel is to its military. The idea that Israel would be better off without that assistance — and the security cooperation that goes with it — is absurd, especially at a time when the threat from Iran and the Arab world is growing. It should also be noted that almost all of that aid is spent here in the United States on American-made weapons. For Paul to assert that it isn’t needed is a clear indication of his attitude toward Israel’s fate.
But Paul’s extremism goes farther than his opting out of the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus on aid. His view of America’s place in the world and of its Islamist adversaries — who also desire Israel’s destruction — is so skewed as to make his views indistinguishable from those voiced on the extreme left.
Paul’s isolationism is so hard-core that he sees America as a force for evil in the world and its adversaries, such as al-Qaeda, as being justified in their determination to fight us. Paul’s perspective is that of someone who has no quarrel with Islamists who are waging war against both the U.S. and Israel. Even in the GOP’s presidential debates, Paul has rationalized the Islamist regime in Iran and voiced opposition to any effort to stop their drive for nuclear weapons that pose an existential threat to Israel.
People like Ron Paul have taken the valuable libertarian creed of opposition to intrusive government and support for individual freedom and twisted it into a belief system that doesn’t view U.S. security abroad or the life of a besieged democratic Jewish state as something Americans should care about. Far from respecting Israel’s sovereignty, Paul is willing to watch with complacence as its very existence is called into question without the U.S. feeling obligated to lift a finger. His “respect” for Israel is little different from the sentiments voiced by an earlier generation of isolationists — the “America First” group — whose admiration of Nazi Germany and indifference to the fate of the Jews restrained the country’s initial response to both Hitler and the Holocaust.
Rep. Paul has every right to voice his views and run for office. But that doesn’t obligate the RJC to give him a platform for views that are antithetical to the organization’s principles. If he doesn’t like it, I’m sure there are gatherings of Islamists and anti-Semites where he would be welcomed with open arms.