March 2, 2014 Two types of Israel supporters: superfans and the rest
The overwhelming majority of Americans consider themselves pro-Israel — and I suspect the overwhelming majority of politicians do too, in both parties.
And yet Israel is a political football; the party that doesn’t hold the presidency (today, the Republicans) typically attacks the party in power for being insufficiently pro-Israel- and these attacks hit home for many pro-Israel Americans, but not for others. How come? One obvious reason is that Republicans are always ready to believe any attack on President Obama, just as Democrats were equally enthused about attacking President Bush.
But I think there is something else going on as well. Supporters of Israel, like fans of a sports team, fall into two general categories: ordinary fans and superfans.
An ordinary fan of a sports team wants the team to win, but generally trusts the players and the manager/coach to do their best. He/she simply isn’t that involved in the details of who should be playing what position, or who should be traded for who. Similarly, the ordinary fan of Israel is generally sympathetic with Israel. But he/she tends to have a favorable opinion of any Israeli prime minister and to generally trust American politicians to support Israel; he/she pays close attention to Israeli politics only when a war is going on, but rarely otherwise.
A sports superfan, by contrast, knows the game so well that he/she is quite willing to criticize the manager or coach if the team is doing badly. And because the sports superfan is emotionally wrapped up in the game, he/she can become steamed if the team is making mistakes, even if only one game out of many is involved. Similarly, the American superfan of Israel is more likely to have strong opinions about Israeli politicians, more likely to be worried about hazards that (in a non-superfan opinion) are trivial, and more critical of American politicians’ behavior towards Israel (especially, of course, the politicians they did not vote for!) .
I don’t think one is better than the other. The superfans get on my nerves sometimes, but without them I wonder if there would be an Israel.