There’s a joke that’s been developing over the past several years that you know someone is running for president when they start regularly bringing up the U.S.-Israel alliance. Republican presidential hopeful and Texas governor Rick Perry embodies the joke. Way back in 2009, Perry, during a campaign to hold his governor’s seat but amid early hints of a presidential run, took a trip to Washington and talked Israel with the Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb. His fealty to the Jewish state was nothing short of religious devotion: “My faith requires me to support Israel,” he said.
On Friday, Perry dropped two op-eds — well, actually, he dropped the same op-ed twice, in the Wall Street Journal and Israel’s Jerusalem Post — attacking President Obama’s robust support for the Jewish state as insufficiently pro-Israel. That the piece’s themes are picked straight from neoconservative talking points and appear in neocon op-ed pages and that neocons love it is no surprise: Perry’s reportedly been getting foreign policy advice from the “stupidest guy on the face of the earth” and arch-neocon Doug Feith, whose book featured a Mideast map that did not distinguish between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
But Perry, unlike some of the evangelical Christian figures he appeared beside at the Response rally, seemed to be open, in a Time magazine interview this week at least, to the idea of negotiations toward a two-state solution.
Perry’s Israel op-ed, though, hit a note that’s become a neocon calling card: cherry-picking information to make a case. In its opening paragraph, and perhaps most head-scratch-inducing moment, Perry wrote:
Historian T.R. Fehrenbach once observed that my home state of Texas and Israel share the experience of “civilized men and women thrown into new and harsh conditions, beset by enemies.”
Journalist Max Blumenthal picked up on the Fehrenbach reference, and noted its strangeness because of the historian’s work, including writing “an authoritative book on the ethnic cleansing of the Comanche Indians by the Anglo settlers of Texas.” Blumenthal pulled Fehrenbach’s “Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans” from his shelf and checked out Perry’s reference. The full quote, which Perry cherry-picked, reads:
The Texan’s attitudes, his inherent chauvinism and the seeds of his belligerence, sprouted from his conscious effort to take and hold his land. It was the reaction of essentially civilized men and women thrown into new and harsh conditions, beset by enemies they despised. The closest 20th-century counterpart is the State of Israel, born in blood in another primordial land.
Blumenthal thinks the Texas-Israel comparison is still valid, but with almost the opposite meaning that Perry’s cherry-picked quote conveyed:
Fehrenbach would have agreed with Perry that Texas shared values with Israel. But unlike Perry, he thought that those values were all the wrong ones: hatred of the other, a reliance on violence to seize land, and a legacy of ethnic cleansing. According to Fehrenbach, what Israel did to the Palestinians in 1947 and ’48 — and continues to do — is analogous to the Texans’ treatment of the Comanches and Mexicans during the 19th century.
With neoconservatives making apologia for evicting Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, perhaps Perry was keenly aware of the full Fehrenbach quote and changed it for a wider audience while trying to establish closeness to the neoconservative movement.