Did State Department official get his Zionist swill about Lincoln from mytho-historian Michael Oren?

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 61 Comments

This is funny/tragic. I may not get the whole story, but it’s the blogosphere, and sometimes you just have to lift a corner of the rock. 

A week ago Andrew J. Shapiro, an assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, served up a warm bucket of historical-Zionist U.S. affinity in a speech at the Saban Center of the Brookings Institution:

The idea of a Jewish homeland dates back to John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and can be traced through the letters of Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt.

I was intrigued by the Lincoln. I have his letters. But I couldn’t find any reference to the Jewish homeland, and I asked the scholar David Bromwich, who has studied Lincoln, what he knew. Bromwich said that Shapiro may have been channeling a recent speech by Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele (!):

"From the earliest moments of American history, before there was a political state of Israel, Americans were dreaming dreams of a Jewish homeland. John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson, ‘I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize man than any other nation.’ In another letter he wrote, ‘I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation.’ Abraham Lincoln, responding to a friend proposing a homeland for the Jews in the Holy Land, said, ‘This was a noble dream and one shared by many Americans.’"

A little later, having done more research, Bromwich said that the Lincoln quotation doesn’t come from a "friend" of Lincoln’s "but a one-time visitor to the White House." He pointed me to Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., whose book Power, Faith and Fantasy mentioned the key quote.  

I dug out my dogeared copy of Oren’s 2007 fantasia, whose highly-tendentious theme is that Americans have been Zionists from the gitgo, so the Israel lobby has nothing to do with American support for the Jewish state, it’s in our blood as Americans. Page 221:

In a meeting with Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the leading Canadian churchman Henry Wentworth Monk protested the fact that Jews, unlike Negroes, had yet to be emancipated. "There can be no permanent peace in the world until the civilized nations … atone … for their two thousand years of persecution (of the Jews) by restoring them to their national home in Palestine," the reverend posited, and though never known for his piety, the president readily agreed. "Restoring the Jews to their national home in Palestine… is a noble dream and one shared by many Americans," he said, adding that once the war was won, Americans would again be able to "see visions and dream dreams" and lead the world in realizing them. 

Pretty explicit, huh? But Oren’s footnotes sent me to Peter Grose’s excellent book Israel in the Mind of America, where he gives a, er, slightly different version of the tale:

Lincoln was personally confronted with the notion of restoring the Jews to Palestine during a brief encounter in March 1863. A wide-eyed mystic named Henry Wentworth Monk was lingering near the back of the throng crowding the President’s office during one of the public audiences which Lincoln held three times a week even at the height of the war. When the presidential eyes happened to fall on him, Monk stepped foward to introduce himself as a visitor from Canada….

"Why not follow the emancipation of the Negro by a still more urgent step, the emancipation of the Jew?" Monk began.

"The Jew–why the Jew?" Lincoln replied . "Are they not free already?"

"Certainly, Mr. President, the American Jews is free, and so is the English Jew, but not the European. In America we live so far off that we are blind to what goes on in Russia and Prussia and Turkey," Monk said. "There can be no permanent peace in the world until the civilized nations… atone for what they have done to the Jews–for their two thousand years of persecution–by restoring them to their national home in Palestine."

Now here, per Oren, comes Lincoln’s ready agreement, remember?

This was not the kind of comment Lincoln was accustomed to hearing in his wartime audiences, and he turned it off in genial noncommitment. "That is a noble dream, Mr. Monk," he replied, "and one shared by many Americans. I myself have a high regard for the Jews… But the United States is, alas, at this moment a house divided against itself. We must first bring this dreadful war to a victorious conclusion… and then, Mr. Monk, we may begin again to see visions and dream dreams. Then you will see what leadership America will show to the world!"

So Oren misrepresents his own source. Grose, a former New York Times reporter, says in his footnotes that the only place he found the story of this "strange, but not implausible encounter" was in Richard Lambert’s book, For the Time Is at Hand (London, 1947), an account of Monk’s "prophesies" based on his own writings. 

A prophet and a wide-eyed lingering mystic, huh? But Ambassador Oren styled him a leading Canadian churchman!

Bromwich says that Monk was a "visionary and probably lunatic Canadian Christian Zionist, whose fame now mainly rests on his having been painted by William Holman Hunt and having had [John] Ruskin as a patron for a time. He did apparently visit the White House; he also suffered a near-drowning at sea shortly after which impaired his memory."

Bromwich pointed me to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography on-line, which states: 

Despite his support, [John] Ruskin nevertheless maintained a critical distance, demanding that Monk prove his prophetic credentials. In 1862 he financed Monk’s return to Upper Canada, setting as a “test” the prophet’s ability to end the American Civil War. Monk proposed a peace based on the North’s allowing the South to secede on condition that the South abolish slavery. In March 1863 he visited a bemused President Abraham Lincoln but he failed to gain access to Confederate territory. After this débâcle, Monk returned to London, and then to Jerusalem where he found the Ourtass colony dispersed. After addressing appeals to wealthy Jewish and Christian leaders, he sought to return to Upper Canada. His ship was wrecked off Massachusetts on 24 March 1864. The sole survivor, Monk underwent great hardship and probably a partial loss of memory. He eventually found his way to Ottawa, where his family nursed him back to full health. A return to farm work restored his vigour but he was given to “various personal eccentricities”: a continuing refusal to cut his hair or beard, a strong fear of contamination by germs, a desire to perform outdoors as many routine functions (such as eating and sleeping) as possible, and a habit of relieving severe pains in his head by “plunging his whole head into ice-cold water.”

Bromwich concludes:

This is lumpen-history. The story is nowhere in the reliable literature on Lincoln; the recent biographers Allen Guelzo and Richard Carwardine who have a particular interest in Lincoln and religion don’t include a trace of it; nor is there an entry in the Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Don E. and Virginia Fehrenbacher, which catalogues and rates A through F hundreds of reliable and semi-reliable accounts of supposed personal encounters.

Something demoralized and stupefying about a high-ranking official of the State Department dipping into this swill and ladling it out as respectable history; giving Americans a sort of philosemitic white magic, the Protocols of the Elder of Ottawa; and, on the way, saddling Lincoln with a cornball line every decent historian has had the horse-sense to reject.


PS. I called Shapiro’s office, and emailed this post to an aide, asking what’s Shapiro’s source for Lincoln? No response so far.

61 Responses

  1. MRW
    July 23, 2010, 11:54 am

    THIS goes in your book.

    • MRW
      July 23, 2010, 1:04 pm

      If a US publisher were smart, he or she would nab these Four Horsemen of the Israeli Apocalyse now. (Weiss/Horowitz being a combo.)

  2. Susie Kneedler
    July 23, 2010, 12:07 pm

    Phil, thanks: brilliant work. Hope this at least will be reprinted everywhere. You, you “visionary,” have prophesied so much else correctly, though spurned by others–who now jump on your costly train, costly in terms of money, jobs, friendships, family–but this at last should be copied endlessly.

  3. Leper Colonialist
    July 23, 2010, 12:12 pm

    Things are tough when a second or third-hand citation is traced back to Michael Steele, that most profound of all scholars active on the US political scene.

  4. eGuard
    July 23, 2010, 12:27 pm

    Actually, Michael B. Oren carried a friendly and personal personal letter of endorsement by Lincoln when he applied for his current job. The letter also mentioned the doing away with his US passport, which is why we know it is not faked.

  5. Les
    July 23, 2010, 12:28 pm

    Suggesting to Lincoln, while the Civil War was underway, that American Jews were somehow “not free” must have been not just irritating, but offensive, to Lincoln. Of course, if he knew it was coming from a nut job,……..

  6. sky7i
    July 23, 2010, 12:28 pm

    Quick, someone send Michael Oren a link to this article. And a bucket of ice-cold water.

    • Citizen
      July 23, 2010, 1:30 pm

      Not likely to cure Oren; Monk’s regular remedy was to dunk his whole head in a bucket of ice-cold water.

      • Mooser
        July 23, 2010, 1:32 pm

        Well, I suppose Oren could sit in it.

  7. Jaffr
    July 23, 2010, 12:36 pm

    What is more interesting — assuming it likely that Steele did not get his citation from reading Oren’s book — is that the common source for both of quotes was probably one of those Hasbara emails circulating endlessly around the Web. What does that say about the bona fides (not to say intellectual honesty) of Shapiro, a purported employee of the US State Department?

    • Psychopathic god
      July 23, 2010, 2:32 pm

      What does that say about the bona fides (not to say intellectual honesty)… of the US State Department?

      no need to speculate; Ronald and Allis Radosh are quite explicit: it was the goal of influential Jews to scrub the State Department of “Arabists” and replace them with persons friendly toward Israel. Haim Saban’s purchase of Hillary Clinton — and Brookings Institute — is only the latest realization of that goal.

      • Mooser
        July 25, 2010, 7:12 pm

        China Lobby, and Luce.

  8. Mooser
    July 23, 2010, 1:31 pm

    I’m sorry, but I can’t remember the name of the commenter who pointed us toward the essay on Blackstone and the American Christian Zionist tradition yesterday. It’s interesting, and bears on this.

    • Psychopathic god
      July 23, 2010, 2:49 pm

      StraitGate Ministry, We Hold These Truths does what it can to reassert Christianity in the face of Christian Zionism.

      – noticed that We Hold These Truths linked to Jonathan Cook’s article about Israeli female soldiers who man the joysticks to kill Palestinians by remote control.

    • Psychopathic god
      July 24, 2010, 2:04 pm

      it was kylbe???? on one of the two Mark Braverman articles about the Presbyterian Church.

      • Mooser
        July 25, 2010, 7:13 pm

        That’s it, PG, Kylebisme posted the link.

  9. lysias
    July 23, 2010, 1:52 pm

    This is the kind of pseudohistory one sees in lawyers’ briefs, and in court opinions based on them.

    • Psychopathic god
      July 23, 2010, 2:34 pm

      a veritable Abraham Ahmadinejad.

      shoulda bombed ‘im.

      • JewishAnarchist
        July 23, 2010, 11:47 pm

        Ahmadinejad is a nutty, belligerent statist but he’s got nothing on Lincoln. Sh!t, Ahmadinejad can’t even hold a candle to Bush or Obama. He could only wish to cause as much death and destruction as any of those three. When it comes to using the apparatus of the state to murder and steal, Ahmadinejad is an amateur.

      • eGuard
        July 24, 2010, 5:49 am

        Which is off topic. Ahmadinejad may be an amateur, the next war will more probably be started by Oren.

      • Mooser
        July 25, 2010, 7:14 pm

        Listen pal, I happen to know for a fact that anachism is not kosher.

  10. Jim Haygood
    July 23, 2010, 2:34 pm

    Andrew Shapiro is a silly, silly man. It’s well documented that Lincoln supported the creation of a homeland for American blacks in South America or Africa. After emancipating the slaves, Lincoln hoped to deport them.

    Lincoln was considerably annoyed by Jewish Confederates, such as the CSA’s Secretary of State Judah Benjamin. If Lincoln had supported a Jewish homeland, he might have seen it as a convenient means of cleansing the restored union of Hebrews as well.

    So if Shapiro’s Lincoln fantasy had come true, dual-loyalty ringers like himself wouldn’t be subverting the State Department.

  11. Psychopathic god
    July 23, 2010, 2:39 pm

    John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson, ‘I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize man than any other nation.’

    Steele neglected to “channel” what Jefferson likely wrote to Adams in response:

    II. Jews.

    1. Their system was Deism; that is, the belief in one only God. But their ideas of him and of his attributes were degrading and injurious.

    2. Their Ethics were not only imperfect, but often irreconcilable with the sound dictates of reason and morality, as they respect intercourse with those around us; and repulsive and anti-social, as respecting other nations. They needed reformation, therefore, in an eminent degree.

  12. annie
    July 23, 2010, 3:34 pm

    is there no limit? first they try inventing passages from martin about zionism and now lincoln. what’s next? benjamin franklin? pleeeeease.

    • Philip Munger
      July 23, 2010, 4:28 pm

      Too late. I think Asst. Sec. Shapiro is probably already working some up:

      ?”There are three faithful friends,
      An old wife, an old dog, and Israel.”

      “To lengthen thy life, believe in the restoration of Zion.”

      “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and the justice in the inevitability of Israel.”

      “God helps them that help Israel.”

      “Who has deceiv’d thee so oft as those who speak ill of Israel?

      About as accurate as Oren’s timeline of the attack on the U.S.S. Liberty in his book on the Six-Day War.

      • annie
        July 24, 2010, 12:00 am

        lol, that was funny philip.

      • annie
        July 24, 2010, 12:07 am

        We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are Zionists, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,[71] that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Zionism. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of Zionists.

      • Mooser
        July 25, 2010, 7:16 pm

        Oy, the competition is fierce around here!

  13. Avi
    July 23, 2010, 5:04 pm

    Not exactly what they meant when they coined the phrase, “Making history”, eh?

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go and make the desert bloom.


    Phil, this is a great article. Thanks for taking the time to research the sources and trace back the false information.

  14. syvanen
    July 23, 2010, 5:52 pm

    The main number for the PM Bureau that Shapiro heads is: 202-647-9022/3

  15. ish
    July 23, 2010, 7:51 pm

    That’s some lovely research. Thanks for this post.

  16. maximalistNarrative
    July 23, 2010, 8:04 pm

    Lincoln and and all good men support the liberation of the Jewish homeland in Palestine and restoration of the Jewish state

    • maximalistNarrative
      July 23, 2010, 8:06 pm

      The comments policy of the heavy moderation of Zionist Jews goes against Lincolns beliefs as well as the earlier founding fathers who would not countenance a tight censorship which is more fitting in the Iranian regime than in a so-called liberal and progressive forum that includes voices from different Jews

      • JewishAnarchist
        July 23, 2010, 11:39 pm

        Are you serious? Are you competing with Oren and Shapiro to see who can achieve the biggest historical fail. You’re actually claiming Lincoln, who locked up 10’s of thousands of northern citizens just for speaking out against his policies, who shut down hundreds of newspapers for criticizing him, who actually had an opposing member of Congress exiled from the country and who ordered the murder of hundreds of protesters “would not countenance a tight censorship”??? If so, I have to wonder how you define “censorship”.

      • traintosiberia
        July 24, 2010, 8:19 am

        Iran will allow gleefully its behavior to be reported on news if like Israel it is assured by USA that nothing will happen to the torturer.It is like Tzpi Livni having peace in her Isareli conscience-“I am at peace with the fact that we did it”= 1/20/2009
        It is the precusor to the boastful glee of Bush Jr- ” I have waterboarded and would do it again” ( paraphrasing )
        and to Blair assertion ” I would attack Iraq agian whether it had or not any WMD”( paraphrasing).
        A rapist would happily agree to describe and allow reporting of his activities on media if he is assured that nothing will come back to hurt him.
        A pedophile will happily advise another guy out in the open how to sodomize somebody in Abu Ghrain if he knew that nothing would happen to him and he would be called a hero. Israeli were advising US on how to torture in Iraq as they did in Iran during Sha’s time.

      • Mooser
        July 25, 2010, 7:18 pm

        “The comments policy of the heavy moderation of Zionist Jews goes against Lincolns beliefs…”

        Oy, old Abe is gonna plotz when you tell him what’s going on at Mondoweiss, Max. Why, he’ll probably take away our Hebes corpus or something.

    • Philip Weiss
      July 23, 2010, 8:59 pm

      the reason you’re on moderation is because of a statement like this, which is simply false, baseless, and a waste of everyone’s time. i would have trashed it, but since you were complaining, i thought it served the point

      • thankgodimatheist
        July 23, 2010, 9:06 pm

        Maximalist Fiction is the best pseudo that can summerise this ‘day-is-night-black-is-white’ aficionado..

      • maximalistNarrative
        July 23, 2010, 9:09 pm

        Please explain what is baseless. Or are you citing a “catch 22” that the reason I am censored is because I complain of being censored?

      • Mooser
        July 25, 2010, 7:21 pm

        “the reason I am censored is because I complain of being censored?”

        Max, you’re a real greehorn, you know? Have you tried telling Phil that you will, I don’t know, release the golems in your attic if you are ever posted without a 12 hour delay. Do that, and he’ll post your comments before you write them!

    • thankgodimatheist
      July 24, 2010, 1:03 am

      “Lincoln and and all good men support the liberation of the Jewish homeland”

      Maximalist Fiction
      Contrary to what you think, Lincoln is not a contemporary. He died in 1865..He was the 16th president of the United States..

    • sherbrsi
      July 24, 2010, 1:24 am

      Liberation from whom?

      The “restoration” part I get. Apparently when the Zionists engage in ethnic cleansing, it’s not dispossession, but repossession.

  17. hayate
    July 23, 2010, 8:08 pm

    Wot? You mean prez Lincoln wasn’t a zionist? OMG, what is this world coming to?

  18. Richard Parker
    July 23, 2010, 9:07 pm

    This is another example of what I call this blog’s very parochial outlook:
    – Lincoln was president 150 years ago. Nobody but nutters cared about Zion then, and Lincoln certainly didn’t. He had enough on his plate.
    – The poring through ancient books is like yeshiva scholars endlessly repeating their readings of the Torah or the Talmud and hoping for revelations on current affairs. No matter how much devoted reading, they won’t get answers, unless they want them, and make them up (which they do, frequently).
    In short, this particular subject (Lincoln on Zionism) is a waste of valuable space.
    On the other hand, though, I am about to publish a post on George Stephenson (Father of the Railway Engine) at link to levantnotes.blogspot.com which will examine, in detail, his equivocal attitudes towards Zionism in the early years of the century-but-last, and why those opinions influenced railways forever.

    • Chaos4700
      July 23, 2010, 10:22 pm

      You say that like being parochial is a bad thing. :) Plus, you know, not to sound like I’m bragging or anything, but realistically most of the people who read (and write) for this blog have American citizenship.

      Anyway, the perversion of American history into Zionist propaganda, I think, is a big deal, in as much as allows for American-made weapons to be placed in Israeli hands to be used to kill people on boats and ships leaving from European ports, yeah?

      • hayate
        July 24, 2010, 11:52 pm

        American history as generally portrayed is one huge perversion. Usually when I read something by an american historian, my first reaction is what snake oil is the guy selling with this. Now, zionism has been added into the mix. Could the bs get any deeper?

  19. eljay
    July 23, 2010, 10:20 pm

    >> Lincoln was personally confronted with the notion of restoring the Jews to Palestine during a brief encounter in March 1863. … A wide-eyed mystic named Henry Wentworth Monk … [said] … “There can be no permanent peace in the world until the civilized nations… atone for what they have done to the Jews–for their two thousand years of persecution–by restoring them to their national home in Palestine.”

    Palestine? In 1863? That strange, I keep reading about how there was never any such place as “Palestine”.

    • Chaos4700
      July 23, 2010, 10:23 pm

      Sometimes you take that joke a bit too far, eljay.

      But not this time. LOL!

  20. Richard Parker
    July 23, 2010, 10:59 pm

    I think Palestine was where the Crusaders went to.

    • Chaos4700
      July 23, 2010, 11:45 pm

      And it ultimately led to their destruction as the Catholic Church came with in a hair’s breadth of imploding in the aftermath of the failure of the Crusades and the hideous corrupting effect that war for profit wrought on European culture.

      I’m not so confident the United States will be quite so sturdy as to survive our Crusades. I suspect our colonial kingdom in Palestine will collapse with as much certainty as that of Europe centuries prior.

      • hayate
        July 24, 2010, 11:56 pm

        Not to worry, Chaos4700 the zionists have a contigency plan in the event of american empire foreclosure. They’ll use their suckers in Europe to fill the void left from america’s demise. No skin off their backs. Drain one host and then move on to the next. The supply is inexhaustible.

      • Bumblebye
        July 25, 2010, 3:46 am

        I doubt that’ll work as well as you think. Chris Patten’s been out & about since his Guardian interview, saying the same things, with the backing of the other Lords & Ladies who visited with him; as well as there being the arrest of a Eurozone MEP at a demo last week.
        They’ve been attempting to seduce China – hope they don’t tell any fibs as China might apply a stiffer sentence than jail if they feel taken.

      • Citizen
        July 25, 2010, 8:15 am

        China watches closely how Israel relates to Japan. No, the Chinese have never forgiven Japan.

  21. demize
    July 24, 2010, 12:45 am

    This goes in the confabulation file right next to MLK’s professed Zionist sympathys. So a foreign Religious nut-case button-hooked Lincoln and The President offered a polite politicians brushoff. This is the stuff of a ten pound feather.

    • lareineblanche
      July 24, 2010, 6:34 am

      Perfect. Facts are irrelevant – what matters is how well the mythologies are spun, and this is a good story. Drop in a few prominent names (or not so prominent), cue up the band, and you’re ready to go.

  22. traintosiberia
    July 24, 2010, 9:54 am

    Ignorance is bliss for the Zionist.
    And lying is not a crime .It can be a rewarding experience if it could advance the cause of the zionist. Iran would lift censorship if tomorrow world decides not and never to punish it evn mildly for all alleged (not proven) crimes.

  23. Citizen
    July 25, 2010, 9:22 am

    Shapiro is correct. The lesson comes from the USA’s past. But it’s not the lesson Shapiro sees, rather it’s the obvious one hopefully one day all Americans will see: You see, Shapiro ignores the native American, Chief Joseph:
    link to opednews.com

    • Mooser
      July 25, 2010, 7:29 pm

      “The lesson comes from the USA’s past.”

      An awful lot of it resembles what Sterling Seagrave is telling me (in his book “The Soong Dynasty”) about the China Lobby and Chiang (and Mrs.) Kai- shek, vs. the China Watchers.
      I know, that’s dumb. But the parallels are interesting.

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