Sunday, February 07, 2010

The bipartisan attachment to flag lapel pins

Christian fundamentalist support for the modern nation-state of Israel is kinda funny: on the one hand, fundamentalists are some of the most fervent defenders of Israel's "right to exist" (and right to occasionally bomb and invade its neighbors), while on the other, most of them believe all of Israel's inhabitants will ultimately need to die or convert to Christianity before the righteous few can experience the glorious second coming of Jesus Christ, our lord and savior, hallelujah, amen. There's a bit of a tension there.

Be that as it may, that religiously derived support carries merrily on today, with Sarah Palin -- whose name I promise to do my best never to type again -- opportunistically proclaiming her devotion to Israel in her remarks at the Tea Party convention. Commenting on her speech, Salon's Glenn Greenwald notes that despite appearing at a hyper-nationalist right-wing event, there has been no conservative outcry over Palin donning a flag lapel pin of another country, Israel, during her speech. As Greenwald writes:
Is there any other nation in the world where a leading politician can appear in public -- without controversy -- wearing the flag of a foreign country? It was a huge scandal on the Right when immigration reform marchers waved Mexican (along with American) flags in order to display cultural solidarity with Mexican immigrants who were being demonized and living in wretched conditions, as non-persons, in the U.S.; isn't it obviously more significant when someone who recently wanted to be Vice President and is now the leader of this Fox-News-sponsored political movement appears at events in the U.S. wearing an Israeli flag melded to an American flag, as though the two nations are joined as one entity? Why should an American political leader be wearing an Israeli flag?
Sarah Palin of course isn't the first U.S. politician to proudly boast of her support for Israel by way of tacky patriotic accessories. Nevada Democrat Shelley Berkley wore an Israeli/US flag lapel pin just off the floor of the House of Representatives during a 2007 interview with me regarding, coincidentally, the role of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in defeating a measure that would have declared Congress' opposition to a war with Iran:
At the time, AIPAC lobbied heavily against one provision initially included in the Democratic war funding bill that would have barred the president from launching an attack on Iran without the explicit consent of Congress. Asked why the measure was removed, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) told one of my colleagues at the time that "our friends at AIPAC" had bombarded members of Congress with phone calls expressing opposition to measure. That opposition was due to the belief, as Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) told the Associated Press, that the measure "would take away perhaps the most important negotiating tool that the U.S. has when it comes to Iran."
Interestingly, when I interviewed Berkley about the measure a few days later, she downplayed AIPAC's role in getting it removed, claiming to me that the group only instructed its members to lobby against the provision after the Democratic leadership had already removed it. Sensing that the move was generally unpopular with the Democratic base, she repeatedly tried to shift the conversation to the failures of the Bush administration, rather than her support for an aggressive stance toward Iran. Of course, her claim that AIPAC played no role in getting the Iran provision removed was cast in doubt not only by Cuellar's comments (an accout others, such as Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), confirmed to me), but by the fact that Berkley was wearing an Israeli/U.S. flag lapel pin at the time of the interview (she will also be "making the case for Israel" at this week's AIPAC convention).
Stephen Walt sure is looking crazier every day, isn't he?


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  2. The idea can be expressed beautifully with the help of a custom pins. ..