One of the ideological puzzles of the Ron Paul campaign is the fact that the best line on Iran and Israel from any of the candidates, by far, has come from an isolationist libertarian Republican from Texas.
And the most impressive president on the Israel-Palestine issue was Dwight Eisenhower, who bucked the Israelis in Suez and insisted on the right of return of refugees. (I know, Jimmy Carter is pretty good too).
Bertha Spafford Vester (1879-1968)
Recently a friend pointed me to the fact that the rightwing publisher Regnery put out two books in the 1950s that had a more clear-eyed view of the conflict than any American publications beside the work of anti-Zionist rabbi Elmer Berger. Regnery published They are Human Too, a wrenching book of pictures of the Palestinian refugees. And in 1957 it published Freda Utley’s Will the Middle East Go West? [full text at the link]. Steeped in national interest politics, and calling for the two-state solution, the book also includes forthright descriptions of Israeli crimes.
Bottom line: for whatever reason, cultural or political, American rightwingers have done some of the best thinking on the Israel Palestine issue; and resolving this conflict inside American life means recovering some of their truths and working with them.
What a long introduction to my headline! In her book, Freda Utley tells about meeting the late Bertha Spafford Vester in Jerusalem.
This wonderfully understanding, compassionate and courageous old lady hails from Chicago, but she has spent more than forty years of her life in Palestine, where her father founded the American Colony in Jerusalem in 1881… Vester, whose husband died several years ago, has carried on their joint work and now presides over the Spafford Children’s Hospital situated above the Gate of Damascus and helped by the Ford Fondation…
Several years ago  Mrs. Vester wrote a book called Our Jerusalem about her life with her husband in the Holy Land, published by Doubleday Doran. Her final chapter, which gives an account of how the Arabs have been deceived and cheated by the West, also of the crimes committed by Israeli terrorists against the Arabs, was deleted by her publishers from her book. She gave me a copy of this chapter, which she had printed in a pamphlet form at her own expense. From her lips, for the first time, I heard the terrible story of the Israeli massacre of the inhabitants of the village of Deir Yaseen [in April 1948] which caused thousands of Arabs to flee and become refugees in Jordan and the Gaza Strip.
With tears in her eyes even after so long a time, Mrs. Vester told me how the Irgun [Jewish terrorist] forces had rounded up the whole population of this Arab village, machine-gunned the men and also many women and children, and how, afterwards, loud speakers mounted on jeeps or armored cars had paraded western Jerusalem warning the inhabitants that, if they did not get out at once, they would suffer the same fat as the people of Deir Yaseen.
“In my hospital,” she said, “I took in fifty babies under two years old from the martyred village of Deir Yaseen.”
As she told me, and as she wrote in the expurgated chapter of her book:
“While I was registering these babies and listening to the horrible recital by the women of what they had been through, a small boy about four years old stood by me. Seeing that I was not an Arab, he gave one shriek and said, ‘Is she one of them?’ and fainted. I ran to get water to revive the child but when I returned with the water, I found that he was dead….”
She realized that the Jews who committed the atrocities she witnessed had been brutalized, or driven into evil courses, by their own treatment by the Nazis, or by the persecution they had suffered elsewhere, and by their desperate situation in an Arab world rendered implacably hostile by the partition of Palestine. She told me that many Jews in Jerusalem were intimidated into supporting the terrorists among them who in their treatment of the Arabs were emulating the Nazis from whom they had escaped. One of her best nurses, a Jewish woman, had telephoned to her while the Jews and Arabs were fighting for possession of Jerusalem to say that she could no longer work in the American Colony hospital. Mrs. Veser assured her that she had nothing to fear from the Arabs, who trusted her completely after her thirty years of service to them. But the Jewish nurse replied, “It is not the Arabs I fear but my own people.”
In 1954 President Eisenhower received Mrs. Vester while she was visiting Washington and had a long talk with her. It is not inconceivable that her account of the tragic Israeli-Arab dispute helped the President in his decision two years later to defy Zionist, British and French pressures during the election campaign in November 1956.