You will not see a fairer rendition of the Israel lobby theory in The New York Times than Joseph Dorman provides in his largely-positive review of John Judis’s new book on Truman and the recognition of Israel in Sunday’s paper. Yes, The New York Times.
Here is how the review begins:
“I received about 35,000 pieces of mail and propaganda from the Jews in this country,” Harry Truman told Senator Claude Pepper in 1947. “I put it all in a pile and struck a match to it.” The man destined to be canonized by American Jews as a champion of Israel felt exhausted and outmatched by the young but influential Zionist lobby.
Bald, huh. What a great step forward. Here is Dorman’s honest description of Judis’s business:
Judis approaches his subject from the more distant precincts of history, but make no mistake, that history is served on the tip of a sharp spear. Though he may write of Harry Truman in 1947, it is Barack Obama and contemporary America at which he aims. “The underlying problem,” he says, “remains the same: whether an American president and the American people can forthrightly address the conflict of Jew and Arab in the Middle East, or whether they must bow to the demands of a powerful pro-Israel lobby.” These are clearly fighting words. Nonetheless, Judis, a senior editor at The New Republic, is a careful historian, looking at the origins of the conflict in Palestine, the rise of the American pro-Israel lobby and, finally, the fateful encounter between the lobby and Truman over the three years from his accession to the presidency to the creation of the new nation.
Dorman disagrees with Judis about the power of the lobby, but he offers a fair rendition of Judis’s historical chapters and nods to John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s book The Israel Lobby. I particularly liked the revisionism on Louis Brandeis.
Truman and the United States, according to Judis, had the power to enforce an agreement, and just might have done so if it were not for America’s pro-Zionist lobby. This is the crux of his argument, and to make it, he gives us the history of the lobby’s rise to influence, from Louis Brandeis, who used his immense prestige and skills to put Zionism on the American political map, through the Zionist Organization of America that he founded, to the formidable Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, who forcefully took control of the pro-Zionist lobby in the 1940s…
The same men who championed civil rights at home, he argues, [in a reference to Brandeis and liberal Jews who came after him] were blinded by Zionism to the rights of Palestinian Arabs. There is some truth to this.
That’s about the birth of PEP, progressive except Palestine. (The next shoe to drop on Brandeis will be the idea that he converted to Zionism in 1912 so as to be representative of the attitudes of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, and thus to be qualified to be the first Jew on the Supreme Court (i.e., Thurgood Marshall not Clarence Thomas).)
Dorman takes issue with Judis over binationalism/partition, saying that the author’s “ideal seems to be the Anglo-American Morrison-Grady plan, which called for a federated Palestine with autonomous Jewish and Arab provinces, under continuing British oversight…but it’s hard to see how, even with a long-term commitment of Western, most likely American, troops.” And we see how a multi-ethnic democracy worked out in Iraq and Lebanon, Dorman says.
A Jewish documentarian, Dorman concludes that Truman went for partition because people saw no way that Jews and Arabs could cooperate in Palestine. I have often been sympathetic to this argument; and it is an excellent argument to have, now that partition has failed again and again and again over there, and millions endure a form of slavery on an ethnic basis, and the Israeli government’s idea of historic compromise is, Palestinians get an h’ors d’oeuvre.
(This is an intractable conflict. History has told us how intractable conflicts end. That is why so many are supporting a nonviolent alternative, BDS, to force the radical idea of one person, one vote on Israel).
Hat’s off to the Times for this fair review. The next challenge: When will the Times review Max Blumenthal’s blockbuster on the intolerant, racist, rightwing trends inside Israel and Zionism: Goliath. That book is a fact-laden challenge to the US paradigm on Israel, and has to be engaged. If Americans are grown up enough to read about the Israel lobby, they’re grown up enough to learn about extremist and fascistic currents in the Jewish state.