Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Is the US Israel's Shabbat Goy?

Since Israel is voting today for a new government, I thought it might be fitting to make a few comments about Mearsheimer’s and Walt’s recent essay on “The Israel Lobby”, which argues that said lobby has been very effective at getting the US to support Israel way beyond our self interest. ( has a good page on it, including links to the paper and reactions to it. My own feeling is that M & W are mostly on target, except that in their argument they have grossly underestimated the power of mythos (sacred stories such as in the Bible) and thereby have given way too much weight to the Jewish forces of the pro-Israeli lobby rather than fully understanding the eager role that America’s Christians play in all this. Seems to me that were it not for the fact that so many Christians in middle America really believe that Israel is “God’s chosen people and you don’t mess with them or you will get on the wrong side of God” as well as the prophecy that Christ won’t return until after the resuscitation of Israel, then it is my guess that US policy would be far less supportive – if it don’t play in Peoria, it don’t play in America. I know all the talk about Israel being our only democratic ally in the Middle East (can’t say they’re the only democracy now, can we?), but they’re not sitting on a pile of oil and so what do we really get from this relationship? How are we to explain it? Why do we really risk the inevitable terrorist attacks to support them so much? And I’m not a big fan of conspiracy theories in general nor in this case – I just think that middle America really supports the Jewish Lobby because it fits in well with their faith and ideology, and were it not for this widespread base of support, the Jewish Lobby would be fairly weak in their appeals to American politicians.

As for the rather provocative title of this post, those of you who do not know, a Shabbat goy is a gentile hired or persuaded by an orthodox Jew to do the work for him that is prohibited on the Sabbath. I was first introduced to the term by a fairly secular American Jewish fellow with whom I was I roommate at the University of Tel Aviv for a couple of weeks. We were talking about fundagelical Americans and he told me “O, the Orthodox Jewish people really love those evangelical Christians in the US, because they’re such suckers. A lot of them are actually honored and eager to be Shabbat goys.” I had never heard the term before and so he explained that many evangelicals somehow feel motivated to be Shabbat goys because of their faith in the Bible and that the Jewish people are the chosen ones and all that. Then he added, “And often the they are laughed at behind their backs.” Of course I’m not saying that every Christian who volunteers to be a Shabbat goy is some sort of deluded Christian rightwing nut, nor am I saying that every Jew who has one secretly makes fun of him or her behind their back (I’d like to think, for example, that Al Gore’s being a Shabbat goy for Lieberman is a true expression of friendship). I see, here ( that the Shabbat goys are indeed the subject of humor. At any rate, I have to wonder whether the Israelis deep down inside know that America is risking a lot for them without much of a good reason other than Christian religious ideology, and whether they secretly laugh at this behind our backs. Just a thought.


At 2:12 PM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Paul, what, or who, exactly, are the Isrealis laughing at? Is it really "the US" as a nation, or is it just the Xian evangelicals who they have a hard time taking seriously. The US and Israel obviously have a long established friendship, one that has been very beneficial to Isreal, and without which Israel would have some trouble maintaining its existence. Given the large American Jewish community and its frequent interchange with Isreal itself, I'd be surprised if they considered the whole of our country a "Sabbath Goy." But evangelicals who think the settlements will hasten the "rapture"? Well, that sounds like a good joke.

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Paul said...

I couldn't agree more that it's funny, or perhaps crazy, to think that the settlements will hasten the rapture, but take a poll in just about any evangelical church and you'll get a big percentage who say Israel should just take over the entire West Bank to fufill prophecy and hasten the tribulation, second coming, rapture and all that. They really believe it -- and to them it's no joke.

As for your question about whether I think that the Jewish community considers our entire country a Shabbat Goy, any sort of analogy will have some slippage and break down at some level. Properly speaking, the Jewish community would laugh at the evangelicals, but I was using the evangelicals in metonymy for the US in general.


Post a Comment

<< Home