Yesterday, the New York Times published a story about western jihadists flocking to Syria to fight Assad. The story was frightening. Reporter Eric Schmitt painted a picture of radical youths returning to the U.S. with “jihadist zeal,” modern weapons, and orders from Al Qaeda.
And though Schmitt presumed to get into these people’s hearts and minds– they are “motivated by the desire to help the people suffering there by overthrowing Mr. Assad” — he interviewed none of them. No, the refrain of the piece was the word “radical.” Radical or radicalized was used eight times in the article.
On to the provocative question in my headline. The word “jihad” means devoted struggle. Can’t it also be applied to committed Zionists?
Earlier this month at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Jeffrey Goldberg, a leading American journalist who moved to Israel in the 1980s and joined the army and worked at a prison for Palestinians– because, in his own words, he was “fired by the ideology of Jewish nationalism,” possessed by “Jewish rage” and the belief that the “Diaspora was the disease and Israel was the cure” — earlier this month, Goldberg conducted a hugely-respectful interview of Lester Crown, 88. And well he should be respectful. Crown is a Chicago billionaire and eminent supporter of Israel who vouched for Obama in the Jewish community when Israel supporters were suspicious of Obama in ’08; and Crown has a hawkish view on Iran and pushes that view through the Council on Foreign Relations and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
At 16:00, the ordinarily-pugnacious Goldberg in the warmest tone asks Crown to talk about “what you’ve done and who you’ve known and what you’ve advocated for to make sure that this project of rebuilding the Jewish state came to fruition.” And Crown brings up his father, the industrialist Henry Crown (1896-1990), who was anguished that he was unable to do anything to stop the Nazi genocide in the second world war.
We’ve been involved in everything we’ve been asked to do [re Israel]. Going back originally, I remember Dad coming home one day and saying that he was asked by– I don’t know who from the State–this would be I guess in the early 50s. That North American Aviation and one other company and I don’t know what the name of it is, merged, and because they merged, one of them’s factory was going out of business. And he was to go and buy the equipment for plane-manufacturing from– and not to ask, and no questions were to be asked.
He went and he bought all of the equipment from the plant. It ended up being shipped to Israel. Because you know at that time, there was a complete embargo from the United States, and what little they got– well Most of what they got were smuggled in. Most of them were illegal, all the arms. That’s what Teddy Kollek did. That was his job before he became a mayor [of Jerusalem]. He was a master smuggler. And he was good. Oh was he good! [laughter]
Then the French supplied some arms. But they were never sure of what they could get. So even though this was for a business jet, they were to use this to make– if they had to– a fighter airplane. They never had to, they never used it, but it was that equipment that started the business jet business that Israel has conducted for a period of time.
Let’s get this straight:
A prominent American industrialist anguished by the Holocaust broke the law to smuggle arms to help build a Jewish state in the Middle East, after being asked by an official of that state, and did so because he thinks Jews are unsafe in the U.S. And his son, a very powerful Establishment figure, brags on the story because he believes Iran may well perpetrate a second Holocaust. And this story is elicited and approved by a powerful journalist who left the U.S. to wear an Israeli uniform in his 20s out of the belief that Jews are unsafe in the west, and then came back here and pushed Middle East wars by the U.S.– first in Iraq with dubious reporting, then against Iran.
The lesson of the Eric Schmitt story in the Times is that faceless radicals are terrifying. But these guys are our pals, at the Aspen Ideas Festival!
Aren’t they part of the problem?