In regards to this strangeness, I've no wish to rank myself among those who feel passion vicariously through other people's blood feuds, so this is not a post on Israel/Palestine per se, and I've no interest in weighing whether the occupation of West Bank/Gaz is more or less atrocious than Hamas etc; nor what if anything the supposedly vital question of who is worse should entail for American policy.
This is not about them at any rate but specifically about us. There has quite clearly arisen a cult of Israel within American politics that has gone far beyond normal friendship between democracies. Criticism of Israel is viewed as more innately controversial than criticism of friends who are frankly more strategically value as allies, (Canada, the UK, and, yes, France) for reasons that not just irrational but consciously and willingly anti-rational.
Some have attributed right-wing passion for Israel to an apocalyptic strain of Protestantism which holds an extant and triumphant Jewish State as necessary for the glorious end times to come about according to schedule. I personally don't think this is quite it. While it may be disturbing to lsuppose that a major facet of US policy is determined by such morbid superstition; it is also a false comfort to suppose that irrational beliefs are a product of silly superstitious people and their unchosen mental limitations. The truth is that there are no dumb rednecks and that there are no dumb Bible thumpers. People who believe brutal things are not inherently dumber than you or I and irrational beliefs are as I've said a conscious rejection of rationality. There's something else going on here and I'm remineded of this piece of loveliness from one Robert Stacy McCain...
Swear to God, if they ever want a Gentile prime minister, my first order would be to deploy the IDF in a north-south line, facing east. My second order would be “forward march” and the order to halt would not be given until it was time for the troops to rinse their bayonets in the Jordan. After a brief rest halt, the order “about face” would be given, and the next halt would be at the Mediterranean coast.
I also recall reading George Will columns in the nineties in which he deplored the loss of nationally distinctive for more general imagery on the then brand-new euro notes. It struck me then and strikes me now as an odd thing for the Very Serious Will to trouble himself about; if a central bank somewhere decides to put the Monopoly Man on true & legal tender what of it? All the same Will was well and truly bothered.
Let us return then to the point that their are no Dumb Rednecks. Conservatives are not ignorant to the fact of national and cultural identity being arbitrary things, they are in fact inclined to be more deeply preoccupied with this fact than the loudest stereotype of a post-modern continental. But whereas the stereotype might feel liberated or amused by the artifice of identity the conservative is depressed and horrified by it. The various bigotries that hold one's social identity as the only alternative to being evil or lesser is a common way of addressing this existential pain.
This applies towards our relationship to Israel because Israel is in many ways the last self-consciously 'natural' nation-state to arise out of the nationalist era of the late 19th and early 20th century. The nation of Israel is avowedly founded upon one common ethnicity and belief system; the very seemingly tangible & true identity that conservatives have always longed for the US to have in defiance of us having always been a land of polyglot mutts. And Israel has of course always had enemies, which have always served the role of reenforcing one's own identity through negative comparison. These enemies have also compelled Israel to impose a perpetual military draft upon its youth, which may fulfill all sort of authoritarian fantasies of sublimating one's small mortal self to the strong institution, of the mass becoming invincibly strong through universal agreement to partake in some great struggle.
I do not mean to imply that Israel is a fascist country. It is nothing remotely close to such and it would of course be a horrific slander to say so for obvious reasons. I say only that 'Israel', not the actual place with flesh & blood people but the "Israel" of the TV news that pops up in the barrroom, is the sort of place that an American who is closer to being fascist than you or I can passionately and unconditionally support as a ritual display of strong identity while he sips his jack & coke.
There are of course issues of Islamophbia as well. There are those who would Israel as are one true ally against terrorism, and it is clear that such people do not and have never had any interest in winning the 'War on Terror'. They are not interested in actually reducing the danger of being blown up on a sunny day, but actually long for an eternal and apocalyptic struggle between civilizations so that 'the West' can always be measured as inarguable good against an evil other.
In the main though; in the age of global media; and with the US melting pot adding more and more ingredients at an ever faster clip; the Cult of Israel isn't really about seeing them as heroically besieged by 'terror' but in seeing them as the last great bulwark against post-modern post-nationhood.