Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Controlby Abraham H. Foxman
In the Deadliest Lies, Abraham H. Foxman - an esteemed representative of the Jewish community and a longtime defender of human rights - shows how old stereotypes have taken subtle new forms. Eloquently argued and refreshingly nuanced, Foxman advocates forthright, decisive solutions to an international crisis and helps balance a fractious debate.
In opposing the view that there is an "Israel lobby" with disproportionate influence on U.S. foreign policy (a view that Foxman says plays into "the traditional anti-Semitic narrative about 'Jewish control' "), the national director of the Anti-Defamation League focuses on the controversial 2006 paper "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (their book of the same title will be published in September). Foxman demolishes a number of shibboleths about the lobby's power. Much of the book's second half then takes on what Foxman sees as the biases and distortions in former president Carter's Palestine Peace or Apartheid, offering evidence, for example, that Yasser Arafat, not Ehud Barak, was the obstacle to an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement at the Taba negotiations. But Foxman never really defines what the "Israel lobby" is, paying more attention to the ADL than to that lobby's main instrument, the America Israel Public Affairs Committee. And many will find debatable his claim that Israel "has proven to be the single greatest source of stability in the region." This book succeeds far more as a rebuttal of a pernicious theory about a mythically powerful Jewish lobby than as a look at the real institutions that lobby in support of Israel or at Israel's complex role in the Middle East. (Sept.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
“Foxman demolishes a number of shibboleths . . . a rebuttal of a pernicious theory about a mythically powerful Jewish lobby.” Publishers Weekly
“...unlike [Walt and Mearsheimer], and unlike Mr. Dershowitz, Mr. Foxman acknowledges the debate's complexity. Israel is a Middle East democracy, if a flawed one, and that's worth encouraging.” The Washington Times
“Abe Foxman's new volume demonstrates it again: whenever the Jewish people or Jewish honor need to be defended, his voice is both courageously eloquent and powerful.” Elie Wiesel
“Today there appears to be a cottage industry of those writing about the Israeli Lobby. Most of the books to date have been neither serious nor analytical. On the contrary, they have been misleading and often fallacious, reflecting both a tendency to rewrite history and to misunderstand the policy process. Abe Foxman provides a highly readable antidote. Apart from explaining why there has been a tendency to find a simple-minded scapegoat for the troubles in American foreign policy after 9/11 and our travails in Iraq, Foxman offers a reasoned and systematic critique of what President Jimmy Carter and Professors Mearsheimer and Walt have written. More importantly, he presents useful criteria for how to shape an open, civil, and far-reaching debate on our policy toward the Middle East. Rarely has a book been more timely.” Ambassador Dennis Ross, former American envoy to the Arab-Israeli peace process and author of Statecraft and How to Restore America's Standing in the World
“Abe Foxman is not merely a tribune in defense of the Jewish people against its suddenly stronger enemies. He is a scholarly analyst of these enemies' falsifications. Not only that: his style is lively, decisive, and riveting.” Marty Peretz, Editor in Chief, The New Republic
“Conspiracy theories are a measure of a society's mental health; when on the rise, trouble lies ahead. In The Deadliest Lies, Abraham Foxman diagnoses the 'Israel Lobby' conspiracy theory and reveals how sick it is. In doing so, he does a service to all Americans.” Charles Hill, Distinguished Fellow in International Security Studies, Yale University
“Few would refute the power and truth behind Foxman's argument.” The New York Times Book Review on Never Again?
“Foxman confronts a subtle and disturbing trend with objectivity, meticulous research, and clarity.” Henry Kissinger on Never Again?
“Never Again? requires answers, demanding both diligence and documentation. Foxman has provided both.” The Washington Times on Never Again?
“Foxman reminds us that vigilance is essential to protect our communities from nightmarish futures that are all too possible.” Former Senator Bill Bradley on Never Again?
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The Deadliest Lies
The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control
By Abraham H. Foxman
Palgrave MacmillanCopyright © 2007 Abraham H. Foxman
All rights reserved.
IN A TIME OF CHALLENGE
This is a book about facts, ideas, attitudes, and the links among them. It deals specifically with a recurring issue of vital importance not only to American Jews but to everyone who cares about this country and its relationships with the rest of the world—namely, the perceived tension between the love that most American Jews feel for their spiritual homeland, Israel, and their loyalty to the country whose citizenship they are proud to claim, the United States.
As you will see, this supposed tension is more apparent than real. The vast majority of American Jews experience no difficulty in being both loyal, patriotic Americans and supporters of Israel. They love both countries and want both to flourish. And virtually every time they face some choice concerning the policies or philosophy that either of their cherished countries should follow, they find it easy to identify a path that is beneficial to both nations—a path that leads toward ever-growing democracy, prosperity, and peace.
In a way, it is both strange and sad that I should have to explicitly state and defend this position. Very few Americans from other ethnic, religious, or national backgrounds are ever called upon to make a similar avowal. No one thinks to demand that Italian Americans or Greek Americans or German Americans or Americans who happen to be members of the Russian Orthodox church should have to declare their loyalty to this country, much less prove it. But for a complex set of reasons—some of them frankly related to religious prejudice and bigotry—American Jews find themselves in this position.
And today, in the early years of the twenty-first century, the demands that Jews demonstrate their love for and loyalty to the United States—and disavow any intention of betraying America's interests on behalf of a foreign land, specifically Israel—are a little louder and more insistent than usual.
Let's step back a bit to consider the historical context of this issue.
The relationship between the United States and the people of Israel actually predates the existence of the modern Israeli state. It has varied greatly during that time—sometimes closer, sometimes more distant; sometimes very friendly, sometimes wary, and sometimes even confrontational. As national goals, needs, and challenges change, so do perceptions of the national interest—and with them the policies pursued by the government on our behalf. In this sense, Israel has been like any other country with which the United States has a relationship.
But there are several unique elements in the case of Israel.
One of these is the special feeling that Americans have always had for Israel as "the Holy Land," the country of the Bible, the "Promised Land" of the Hebrew patriarchs whose words and deeds have been studied and revered by Christians everywhere.
I recently read the text of a remarkable address by Michael Oren, the American Israeli historian and author of the best-selling book Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. In this address, Oren discusses the history of what he calls "restorationism," a philosophical movement that today is little known but had enormous popularity and influence in nineteenth-century America. It espoused the notion that there was a special kinship between the people of America and the Jews, and that one natural result of this kinship was a special obligation on the part of Americans to care for their Jewish brothers and sisters. More specifically, Americans had a calling from God to help the Jews escape from the long exile of the diaspora and return to the Holy Land—the "restoration" that gives "restorationism" its name. Oren explains:
Perhaps the most ... extraordinary expression of the restorationist idea appeared in a book published in 1844 called The Valley of the Visions [,which] called on the United States government to spearhead an international effort to detach Palestine from the Ottoman Empire and to give it back to the Jews as a State.
The Valley of the Visions became an antebellum bestseller; it sold about 1,000,000 copies and the author of that book was the Chairman of the Hebrew Department of New York University and his name was Professor George Bush, who was a direct ... forebear ... of two later American Presidents by the exact same name.
Oren goes on to explain the influence of restorationism on notable Americans from Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain to John D. Rockefeller and Emma Lazarus, the poet who wrote the famous verses that adorn the Statue of Liberty. Later, it played a role in the decision of President Woodrow Wilson to support the British promulgation of the Balfour Declaration, as well as in President Harry Truman's decision to make the United States the very first nation on earth to recognize the newly formed Jewish state.
Faith, then, has had a significant part in the American attitude toward Israel since long before the establishment of the nation in 1948. And there is little doubt it still affects the relationship between the two countries—most often in a positive way.
Another of these unique elements is the position of the American Jew. Because of Israel's special role as the homeland of the Jewish people, the relationship between Israel and the United States has been inextricably intertwined with the role and status of the Jews in American society. And this has created some special tensions and challenges for political leaders and ordinary citizens in calibrating the policies that govern U.S.-Israeli relations.
This aspect of the U.S.-Israel relationship isn't completely unparalleled. The United States is famously a melting pot, made up of immigrants from practically every nation on earth. Americans are proud of their varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and many bring their concerns about conditions in "the old country" to the table in their role as citizens of the United States with a voice in shaping the nation's foreign policy.
And this is true not only of first-generation immigrants or their children. Many Americans whose families have been in this country for generations retain strong ties of affection to and interest in their countries of origin. Just look at the Kennedys of Massachusetts, whose roots in the United States date back to the 1850s. To this day, Senator Edward Kennedy plays an especially active role in shaping U.S.-Irish relations and by speaking out on issues related to the Irish Republican Army, terrorism, and "the troubles" in Northern Ireland.
In most cases, we take this kind of concern in stride. It's sometimes a factor in domestic politics. For example, it's traditional for mayors of New York, one of the country's most ethnically diverse cities, to practically conduct a foreign policy of their own. Travels by mayors and even mayoral candidates to foreign lands to show their interest in and respect for the backgrounds of their domestic constituents are commonplace. At one time, these trips were especially focused on the so-called Three I's—Ireland, Italy, and Israel. Now, as the ethnic makeup of the city evolves, New York politicians are also displaying interest in such diverse lands as the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and the countries of western Africa—all sources of recent waves of immigration to the city. And none of this raises an eyebrow among observers of the city's politics.
But in some circles, the relationship between the Jews of America and the Jewish homeland of Israel has always been viewed a little differently than other ethnic ties. It has been considered a little less benign, a little more suspicious, a little more dangerous.
Why? One reason, of course, is because of the way Jews are often viewed. Outright anti-Semitism—hatred of Jews because of their religion or their perceived ethnic status—has declined in the United States in recent decades. But it is by no means a thing of the past, as recent statistics show. A 2005 survey of 1,600 American adults showed that about 14 percent hold views that can be described as "unquestionably anti-Semitic." That translates to some 35 million people with anti-Semitic beliefs, a significant number by any standard.
Statistics, however, don't tell the whole story. Below the level of avowed anti-Semitism is a level of quiet, subtle bigotry—an attitude that may not rise to actual hatred of Jews but that assumes that Jews are somehow different, less respectable, less honorable, more treacherous, and more devious than other people. For those infected with this attitude, the fact of being a Jew is not a neutral or mildly interesting personal factor about someone, the way being redheaded or tall or left-handed—or a Methodist or a Baptist or a Lutheran—might be. Instead, this characteristic casts a social pall over its possessor, placing him or her in a different category, to be viewed and judged and treated differently from others.
This attitude toward the Jews—let's call it "bias" or "bigotry" rather than applying the stronger term "anti-Semitism"—is found, in some degree, in tens of millions of Americans. How many? It's hard to know for sure. But the polls find that perhaps as many as a third of adults have at least some degree of anti-Semitic belief, though not enough to qualify them as "strongly anti-Semitic."
And of course it's only natural that people who exhibit this kind of bias against Jews should look a little askance at the special relationship that exists between American Jews and the nation of Israel. After all, those who are predisposed to mistrust Jews take a negative view of many other forms of Jewish behavior—even to the point of being illogical and self-contradictory.
Is a particular Jew very sociable, with many friends of all religious and ethnic backgrounds? To the bigot, this demonstrates how "Jews are always pushing themselves forward and trying to ingratiate themselves where they don't belong." Is another Jew shy and stand-offish, perhaps appearing most comfortable only with family and a few close friends? To the bigot, this shows how "Jews are always sticking to their own kind because they think they're better than the rest of us."
Is a particular Jew successful in business—a banker, maybe, or a well-known lawyer or movie producer? To the bigot, this shows how "Jews are greedy, power-hungry capitalists, the kind who use free enterprise to exploit the world." Is another Jew an outspoken advocate of social justice and known for liberal political views? To the bigot, this shows how "Jews are left-wing agitators, closet communists trying to destroy the American free enterprise system."
If you're generally inclined to find fault with Jews no matter what they say or do—as the bigot is—then of course you will question the propriety of the American Jew's concern for the State of Israel. You won't think to compare it to the Italian American's love for the foods and cultural riches of Italy, the Irish American's longing for political freedom for his Irish relatives, the Brazilian American's pride in the triumphs of his country of origin on the soccer field, or the Chinese American's interest in the economic and social development of contemporary China.
All of those forms of pride and concern are considered harmless, even laudable. But the Jew's concern for Israel is something else. It is seen by some as a source of "dual loyalty." It is said to distort the American Jew's judgment about the politics of the Middle East and about international affairs generally. The leap is made that it leads American Jews to want to push their homeland, the United States, into policies and programs that are not in the best interests of America. In a worse scenario, this concern tempts Jews to commit treason—to seek to sacrifice the United States for the benefit of Israel.
This, then, is the assumption that the bigot will make when he thinks about American Jews and their attitude toward Israel. And as the bigot always does, he will look for every scrap of evidence that seems to support his assumption and ignore a mountain of evidence that might undermine it. He tends to read newspapers, magazines, and Internet sites that agree with his point of view, and to listen to TV and radio broadcasts that take the same position. So the longer he lives and the more he "learns" about Israel, the Middle East, and U.S. foreign policy, the more firmly he becomes convinced that American Jews are somehow untrustworthy on this issue—that they alone, of all the American ethnic and religious groups, have no legitimate right to an opinion about government policy in a particular area of interest to them.
I hasten to point out that many, many Americans are not bigoted in this way. Many Americans are entirely fair-minded in their attitudes toward Jews. They know that Jews, like Episcopalians and Hindus and Muslims and atheists, are human beings with the flaws and virtues and mixed characters that all human beings exhibit. And they understand that American Jews have a special interest in the survival and success of Israel, just as Americans of Norwegian or Turkish or Spanish descent have a special interest in the well-being of Norway or Turkey or Spain.
But the fact that millions of Americans do accept the bigot's point of view—in some cases without thinking about it very much or being particularly conscious of it—inevitably creates a certain tension surrounding discussions of U.S. policy toward Israel and the Middle East. People, especially politicians and pundits in the media, think of Israel as one of those hot buttons around which controversy tends to swirl and that people need to be "careful" about discussing publicly lest they offend someone or other.
The fact that the Jewish community in America is relatively successful, articulate, and politically involved helps to deepen this sense that Israel is a hot button.
Even in this regard, Israel isn't completely unique. In recent years, American policy toward Cuba has become a comparably hot button. The parallels to the Israel debate are interesting. Cuban Americans are a relatively successful and outspoken group. They are geographically concentrated in a few places, especially southern Florida, which gives them some political clout. (If they were to vote in high proportions for or against a particular candidate, they might sway a close election.) And just as most Jews have at least some degree of concern about Israel—and some are passionately concerned—so, too, most Cuban Americans have at least some concern over the fate of their island homeland and the quest of many of its people for freedom from communist rule, while some are passionately devoted to the anti-Castro cause. For these reasons, the "Cuban American lobby" is sometimes seen as inordinately powerful, and controversy has sometimes erupted over the degree to which this lobby affects U.S. policy.
This is, perhaps, the closest parallel to the situation in which Jewish American lovers of Israel find themselves. But even this comparison isn't exact. Because the Jews themselves are "controversial" in the minds and hearts of some Americans, Jewish advocacy on behalf of causes they believe in—including Israel—will always be controversial too. To put it more bluntly, there have always been Americans—and perhaps always will be some—who wish that their Jewish fellow citizens would just sit down and shut up.
This sense of antagonism toward Jewish advocacy is naturally heightened during times of intense global conflict—particularly when that conflict involves Israel and the Middle East, either directly or indirectly.
There's a history of blaming the Jews for American involvement in foreign wars that dates back to at least World War II. It's as if the isolationists, who imagine that the United States should somehow be untouched by global conflicts that affect every other major power on earth, believe that it is the Jews and the Jews alone who cause us to be entangled in world affairs.
In the years immediately preceding the American entry into World War II, right-wing Republicans like Charles Lindbergh and the America First Committee opposed American involvement in the conflict. They claimed that the struggle against fascism was a purely European squabble, none of our business, and that only Jews wanted the United States to intervene in the hopes that we could save them from Nazi tyranny. For example, in a now-notorious speech in Des Moines, Iowa, on September 11, 1941—less than three months before Pearl Harbor—Charles Lindbergh said:
Instead of agitating for war, the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way for they will be among the first to feel its consequences.
Tolerance is a virtue that depends upon peace and strength. History shows that it cannot survive war and devastations. A few far-sighted Jewish people realize this and stand opposed to intervention. But the majority still do not.
Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.
The fact that the Lindbergh crowd was comfortable with anti-Semitic bigotry and had more than flirted with supporting Hitler and the other fascist powers made this position come naturally to them.
For a time, the America First Committee was remarkably successful at attracting attention and prominent supporters. Its president was General Robert Wood, the legendary business genius who served as CEO of Sears, Roebuck, then the nation's premier retailing company. Others who served on its executive board included Alice Longworth Roosevelt (Teddy's daughter), Robert Maynard Hutchins (president of the University of Chicago), actress Lillian Gish, and America's greatest industrialist, Henry Ford—who was also an avowed anti-Semite.
Excerpted from The Deadliest Lies by Abraham H. Foxman. Copyright © 2007 Abraham H. Foxman. Excerpted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Abraham H. Foxman is the national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and one of today's preeminent voices against hatred, discrimination, and violence across the world. He is the author of Never Again?: The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism.
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