A new poll from Bloomberg Politics contains a finding that, if you really think about it, is quite remarkable:
Almost half of all Americans want to support Israel even if its interests diverge from the interests of their own country. Only a minority of Americans (47 percent) say that their country should pursue their own interests over supporting Israel’s when the two choices collide. It’s the ultimate violation of George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address warning that “nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded. … The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave.”
It is inconceivable that a substantial portion of Americans would want to support any other foreign country even where doing so was contrary to U.S. interests. Only Israel commands anything near that level of devoted, self-sacrificing fervor on the part of Americans. So it’s certainly worth asking what accounts for this bizarre aspect of American public opinion.
The answer should make everyone quite uncomfortable: it’s religious fanaticism. The U.S. media loves to mock adversary nations, especially Muslim ones, for being driven by religious extremism, but that is undeniably a major factor, arguably the most significant one, in explaining fervent support for Israel among the American populace. In reporting its poll findings, Bloomberg observed:
Religion appears to play an important role in shaping the numbers. Born-again Christians are more likely than overall poll respondents, 58 percent to 35 percent, to back Israel regardless of U.S. interests. Americans with no religious affiliation were the least likely to feel this way, at 26 percent.
The primary reason evangelical Christians in the U.S. are so devoted to Israel is simple: their radical religious dogma teaches them that God demands this. In 2004, Pat Robertson delivered a speech entitled “Why Evangelical Christians Support Israel” and said: “evangelical Christians support Israel because we believe that the words of Moses and the ancient prophets of Israel were inspired by God,” and “we believe that the emergence of a Jewish state in the land promised by God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was ordained by God.” He added that “God’s chosen people” — Jews — have an obligation to God to fight against “Muslim vandals” so that Israel remains united in their hands: