Hawking for Israel

South Florida reps push for war. But who are they pushing for?

Despite all that, he still wants to go after the mustachioed dictator ASAP.

"If we have a successful regime change, we won't have World War III but the opposite," Wexler opines. "When people see how serious America is about protecting our interests, how serious we are about seeing that terrorism does not flourish, then Syria, Lebanon, and Iran -- all who have toyed around with terrorism -- will look at themselves and have to decide which side they are on."

Can anybody say "imperialist"? I'm afraid we're proving Osama bin Laden right: The U.S. wants to conquer the Muslim world militarily after all. It even has a name: the Bush Doctrine.

Wexler is banking on the idea that our little act of naked aggression will scare all those other Arab nations into joining America and Israel. If they don't embrace us infidels, though, we'll surely be fighting one war after another -- or perhaps just one big one, the aforementioned World War III.

It's all worth the risk, and it's really just part of our war on terror, according to Wexler. For the congressman, 9/11 made it our duty to go to war wherever terrorists flourish, regardless of whether they are a direct threat to our country. The only requirement is that they threaten our "interests" -- a code word he often uses to mean Israel.

So the horrible events of September 11 have been reduced to just another bargaining chip for pro-Israelis who want America to conquer the Middle East. Deutsch too is on a campaign to broaden the war on terror to include those who threaten Israel, especially Arafat, and he's using September 11 as a sales tool. One of the more sickening items of propaganda Deutsch and others have been pushing is that Israel, proportionate to its population, suffers a 9/11 every time 50 of its citizens die in terrorist attacks. On March 17, while leading a special service on the House floor in honor of the Israeli Independence Day, Deutsch announced that "just this past month, Israel sustained the equivalent of three 9/11s, and I think if we can just imagine what the United States, God forbid, that would have occurred to us, what we would do."

Palestinian deaths suffered at the hands of Israel, however, aren't any big deal among the pro-Israelis, apparently. Just "strategic mistakes," as Wexler put it.

Deutsch is strongly aligned with AIPAC and, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, has received roughly $100,000 in campaign contributions from pro-Israeli political interests during his past decade in office -- including $40,000 since 2000. In May, he traveled to Israel, where he pledged allegiance to the Jewish state and hand-delivered to Sharon a House resolution pledging unequivocal support from the United States.

During the trip, Deutsch announced, "We are totally committed to the war against terrorism... and there should not be a Yasser Arafat exception," according to the Jerusalem Post. "He is a terrorist." It's one of the Broward-based congressman's favorite phrases, "Arafat exception," and it implies, though Deutsch doesn't say it, that the United States should forcibly remove Arafat from power.

Most recently, Deutsch has taken to traveling around with an explosives-laden suicide bomber's vest given to him by the Israeli Defense Forces. It's a wonderful propaganda tool, designed to invoke emotion rather than reason. He's also fond of defending the recent Israeli incursions into Jenin and Ramallah by recounting the weapons Israel has recovered in Palestinian territory.

Bush isn't the only unlikely political ally Wexler and Deutsch have in their solidarity with Israel. During a huge April 15 pro-Israel rally at the Capital, they shared the stage with ultraconservative Bill Bennett, Texas Republican Dick Armey, and members of the Christian Right, including a representative from the gay-bashing Family Research Council. And Deutsch accompanied none other than Newt Gingrich on a pro-Israeli mission to the Middle East back in 1998, when he praised the Georgia Republican, again in the Jerusalem Post, as a "an insightful and forceful speaker."

But when I spoke with Deutsch last week, he backed away from his hawkish stance on Iraq. "I could not support military action based on what is on the table at this time," he told me.

Then he laid out his three-pronged test regarding nuclear weapons -- which seems to me reasonable. If Bush meets that test, the country would likely stand behind a war on Iraq, just as it did toppling the Taliban. But the president, of course, has proved nothing of the kind. "I know the president has more information than I have," Deutsch said. "And my assumption is that the data he has from an intelligence perspective is that [Saddam] has the capability of a nuclear attack and the intention to use nuclear weapons.... I believe that I will ultimately support military action."

He seems so certain of it, I wonder if Deutsch knows something we don't.

As we all wait for a damn war that seems preordained, I'm issuing a call to any potential antiwar movement leaders in South Florida. There seems to be a dearth of them in this alleged Democratic bastion. Or at least, there is in our delegation to Congress -- the only place it seems to really count.

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