‘NYT’ provides frank descriptions of lobby’s power in review of Truman book

Israel/Palestine
on 31 Comments
Harry Truman

Harry Truman

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.

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Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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31 Responses

  1. Donald
    March 6, 2014, 9:46 am

    That was a pretty good review. I don’t completely agree with his opinions, but that’s fine. He seems fairminded. The only fact I might quarrel with after a quick read and I don’t know that I’m right, is the claim that most Jewish refugees wanted to come to Israel/Palestine. I’ve heard otherwise, but don’t know what’s true.

    The NYT is changing. With this review and their editorial today, some of the criticisms we launch their way may be outdated. Some of the individual articles stink, but not everything.

    • Krauss
      March 6, 2014, 11:00 am

      What planet are you on? Barely a few weeks ago it was comparing BDS to Nazis.
      Their editorial on Bibi asked him if he has any alternatives to the 2SS, but it didn’t fundamentally question the assumption that he is willing to get to a 2SS, instead coyly taking the side that he might merely be hesitant due to internal constraints. That the NYT is still even acting as if the 2SS is possible is an immoral act.

      That they think that Bibi can be prodded to make it happen – implicitly assuming that he is serious about it on some level but perhaps merely cowardly – is pure disinformation. This is why Americans are misinformed.

      As I’ve said many times in the past, the NYT is struggling to keep relevance with the left. They allow relatively harmless people like Judis and his book to pass through, because his book doesn’t fundamentally question the role of Zionism. The review acts as a way to keep the left engaged, in order to prevent it to dismiss the paper’s coverage on Israel completely as hopelessly biased, which is increasingly happening.

      Apparently it works on Phil and you, which is precisely the point and why they do it.

      Judis’ book is critical of Zionism, severely so, but Judis stops short of actually calling what it is: colonialism. Thereby, he could pass for a liberal Zionist in Haaretz, which is why the NYT picked up his book.

      Come back to me when they review Ali Abunimah’s new book.

      • Donald
        March 6, 2014, 1:27 pm

        I’m not talking about the NYT turning into the Electronic Intifada or becoming our new reliable source of info on the I/P conflict. I’ve written one or two of the articles here bashing the NYT for its coverage and just said that some of the articles stink. But this review of the Judis book was pretty good–it gave the Palestinian viewpoint of Zionism without implying that rejection of Zionism was anti-semitic. That’s what I want from a paper that purports to be objective–accurate descriptions of what the various factions think, without the demonizing. Do I agree with him on everything? No.

        As for the editorial today, it’s entirely from a liberal Zionist pro 2ss point of view, but it was certainly better than what I expected. What I’ve been expecting is that when the Kerry initiative fails, as it probably will, American politicians and the MSM will fall in line and blame the Palestinians. Probably the line will be that the Palestinians ruined it by not accepting Israel as a Jewish state. Netanyahu pretended to be pro-peace at AIPAC–he didn’t actually say anything, but the tone wasn’t as abrasive as is his norm and that seems to be all it takes to get some people thinking he is pro-peace. Surprisingly enough, the NYT editors didn’t buy it.

        Obama also surprised me a little bit. Again, his Goldberg interview showed him to be completely within the 2SS liberal Zionist camp, but within that framework he pointed out that settlement expansion is inconsistent with a 2ss. By coming out with this statement, he made it hard for himself to backtrack and put all the blame on Abbas if the “framework” falls apart.

        I remember what happened in 2000-2001–the way Clinton and most of the American press tried to make it seem like the failure of Camp David was all Arafat’s fault. It was the big lie technique at work–repeat it often enough and it becomes the truth. IIRC, Joe Scarborough was repeating it a few months ago against Zbig Brezinski on his morning show. Both Obama and the NYT have just made a repetition of that spin/damage control a little bit harder. I’m sure that people will still spin a failure of Kerry’s initiative as all the fault of the Palestinians, but it’s going to be more difficult for them to pull this off this time.

        As for why the NYT admits this much, sure, it’s because of outside pressure. The internet was mostly just people yelling at each other on usenet back in 2000-2001. (Now we yell at each other in all sorts of places.) If the internet had existed in its present form back then, if there’d been blogs like Phil’s and Ali Abunimah’s and others, the NYT and others could not have gotten away with the spin they put on Camp David. Though ironically, it was one of their own reporters who did a massive story undermining that spin a year or two after it happened, and then Robert Malley and Agha wrote their piece in the New York Review of Books. But by then the Big Lie had sunk in.

  2. Woody Tanaka
    March 6, 2014, 9:58 am

    “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.”

    “Some” truth?? That’s all the truth. That’s the only truth that matters. The stuff about the Jewish self-determination and God and Abraham and that nonsense are all sideshow, because no political construct, no political goal, is in any way legitimate if it can only come about at the expense of another people’s rights. Not a Glorious Southern Confederacy, not a Greater German Reich, not an Afrikaner Homeland, and not a Jewish State of Israel.

    That’s the only valid lesson from the Holocaust, and no one who refuses that lesson is fit to be labeled as being champions of human rights or, even, being concerned about human rights.

    • Citizen
      March 7, 2014, 9:09 am

      @ Woody

      I agree. Those “same men” championed equal civil rights in USA for the same main reason they did not champion equal civil rights in Israel: they asked themselves, “Is it good for the Jews?” Divide and conquer.

      • Woody Tanaka
        March 7, 2014, 9:43 am

        I don’t agree that you say that about all. Certainly there were some, but I believe that many of the PEPs are just ignorant and kind of brainwashed and have been fed a diet of lies for so long that this is the result.

      • puppies
        March 7, 2014, 2:01 pm

        @Woody – Is that a valid excuse to abdicate responsibility?

      • Woody Tanaka
        March 10, 2014, 10:00 am

        It’s not a question of responsibility; it’s simply a question of fact. If you don’t look with open eyes at what the actual facts are, how can you generate a useful solution? Moral condemnation, alone won’t do it.

  3. Krauss
    March 6, 2014, 10:50 am

    The review is still all about Jewish privilege.
    Max Blumenthal said that a non-Jew couldn’t have written his book, and that’s true.

    John Judis’ book was picked up by the Times in large part because it is coming from the Jewish left and Judis is not necessarily an anti-Zionist but rather a non-Zionist. Of course, Max’s book was beyond the pale for the Times’ but if he wasn’t Jewish he’d be compared to Nazis, instead they “only” accused of him being an anti-Semite and a self-hating Jew instead of directly comparing him to David Duke.

    And it’s unlikely the Nation would have even bothered to allow him to write anything about the subject if he hadn’t been Jewish; too sensitive.

    There is still a strong racial barrier surrounding Israel, heavily favouring those of us with J-positive blood.

    And we see how a multi-ethnic democracy worked out in Iraq and Lebanon, Dorman says

    This is actually quite an extraordinary quote. He is essentially no different than a White Gentile who slams multi-ethnic democracy in America by comparing to the former Yugoslavia, people like Pat Buchanan.

    Yet would Pat Buchanan be welcome in the pages of the Times’ with his White Nationalism?

    It’s easy to become so used to the situation that you don’t react anymore, but it’s actually quite amazing that a liberal newspaper like the Times’ is running reviews where the author critical of multi-ethnic democracy as an American paper. It would never give that space to people who are uncomfortable with everyone except white Christians, for natural reasons, because then a lot of Jews in the masthead would have to be deported if that vision ever came to fruition.

    But it does give space, without any criticism, to someone who attacks the concept, so long as it is about Jews, or rather, where anyone who isn’t Jewish is affected.

    I’m anxious to see a book review in the Times where someone from VDARE reviews a book about multiculturalism!

    • Citizen
      March 7, 2014, 9:15 am

      Further, if memory serves, Max B said himself that no non-Jewish person could have written Goliath because Israel wouldn’t let any such person walk around doing Q & As and scribbling notes in Israel as he did.

      • Keith
        March 7, 2014, 10:50 am

        CITIZEN- Likewise, can you imagine the film “Defamation” being made by someone other than an Israeli Jew? Being allowed behind the scenes access to Abe Foxman?

  4. chuckcarlos
    March 6, 2014, 11:04 am

    the loudmouth aholes of the zionist lobby and the fascist idiots who run israel can not stand to be out of the news for five minutes…and most of the “news” they generate is BAD…

    you and your “fellow travelers” have a far greater impact than you may believe…

    all it takes is 5 minutes perusing the photos on the Electronic Intifada or the like and one can fully appreciate the scene…

    the media have turned into a bunch of unschooled dolts who know little of history, the world, religions, languages…

    it takes folks like this web page, and it’s fellow travelers and Mearsheimer to constantly remind people of the FACTS….

    • Philip Munger
      March 7, 2014, 2:34 am

      chuckcarlos,

      FWIW, I studied the music to that scene back late 1973 and early 1974, when working on the only film score I ever composed (the film never made it through production). The score to Michael Kurtiz’s Charge of the Light Brigade was the incomparable Max Steiner’s first film music for Warner Bros, after leaving RKO in 1935. The music is much better than the movie itself.

      Hadn’t seen or heard it in decades. Brings back bittersweet memories.

  5. pabelmont
    March 6, 2014, 11:05 am

    Donald: It is also my recollection of reading that most European Jewish refugees did not want to go to Israel.

    Perhaps more interesting, that Israel did not (initially) want all Jewish refugees, not by a long shot, but only able-bodied Jews — because the intention to go to war was on their minds and B-G wanted soldiers, not feeble folks (as many refugees must have been, due either to age, sickness, or hard times during the war).

    So, yes, NYT is changing by dipping its back-page toes into formerly forbidden waters. Sending messages to AIPAC.

    • Jeff Klein
      March 6, 2014, 7:13 pm

      Yosef Grodzinsky, IN THE SHADOW OF THE HOLOCAUST: The Struggle between Jews and Zionists in the aftermath of World War II (Monroe, ME: Common Courage, 2004) reports that most Jewish survivors in the DP camps expressed a preference to re-settle in the US or the UK. The allies cooperated with Zionist operatives to give them control of the camps and virtually compel the majority — especially fighting-age men — to Palestine.

  6. jon s
    March 6, 2014, 2:04 pm

    Phil says:”now that partition has failed again and again and again over there…”
    It seems to me that everything else has failed, anything that’s not partition.
    Amazingly, back in 1947, the UN got it right: partition , two states, co-existence. Of course a lot has changed since then but the principle still stands, and the two state solution is still our best hope, both morally sound and politically possible.

    • Cliff
      March 6, 2014, 6:52 pm

      @jon s

      You are so dishonest.

      The notion that Israel and Zionism would tolerate a 45% Arab minority is RIDICULOUS.

      The campaign of terror by the Jewish terrorists/militia/pre-State Israeli army began before the declaration of Israeli statehood.

      No one wanted partition sincerely. Certainly not the Jews. There is no Jewish State without a Jewish majority, jon s.

      There is no Jewish majority with all those NON-JEWS, jon s.

      • jon s
        March 7, 2014, 10:11 am

        Cliff,
        Where did you come up with the 45% figure?

        The war initiated by the Palestinian side indeed began before the declaration of Israeli statehood.

        The mainstream majority on the Jewish side supported partition. It’s difficult to prove “sincerity”. Let’s just look at what each side said and did.

        I agree that a Jewish state should have a Jewish majority.

        I don’t dispute your honesty, Cliff.

      • Cliff
        March 7, 2014, 4:15 pm

        @jon s

        You say:

        Cliff,
        Where did you come up with the 45% figure?

        The UN Partition Plan tried to divide the country according to demographic concentrations, but the Palestinian and Jewish populations were so intertwined that that became impossible. Although the Jews comprised only a third of the country’s population (548,000 out of 1,750,000) and owned only 6% of the land, they received 55% of the country (including both Tel Aviv/Jaffa and Haifa port cities, the Sea of Galilee and the resource-rich Negev).

        In the area allocated to the Jewish state, only about 57% of the population was actually Jewish (538,000 Jews, 397,000 Arabs). The Jewish community accepted the Partition Plan; the Palestinians (except those in the Communist Party) and the Arab countries rejected it.

        Source: http://www.icahd.org/node/439

        Of course the Zionists accepted Partition. It was a good plan for you. It wasn’t for the Palestinians.

        And yes, the Palestinian minority was around 45% (some say 43% like ICHAD, but based on UN reports it was 45% I think).

        We don’t need to be mind-readers to know that your terrorist forefathers and that generation of Zionist Jews were NOT going to tolerate such a large Arab minority.

        The war initiated by the Palestinian side indeed began before the declaration of Israeli statehood.

        Between 200,000 to 300,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed by your Jewish terrorist forefathers – BEFORE the declaration of Israeli Statehood.

        Zionists started the war.

        The mainstream majority on the Jewish side supported partition. It’s difficult to prove “sincerity”. Let’s just look at what each side said and did.

        Yes, let’s look at both sides.

        Your side raped and murdered and bombed the Palestinians. Your side drove the majority population out of their homes and off their land.

        It was YOUR side that ‘pushed into the sea’ the Palestinian people.

        Of course ‘mainstream Jews’ would accept a plan that gave them a huge chunk of land they did not have any claim to.

        Jews owned 6% of the land. Why were they entitled to anything else than that 6%?

        You had no right to divide the land.

        I agree that a Jewish state should have a Jewish majority.

        I don’t dispute your honesty, Cliff.

        My honest is intact – yes. It’s your honest that’s the problem.

        A Jewish majority where none existed meant mass immigration, war, and ethnic cleansing.

        The only way to make a Jewish majority where none existed was through ethnic cleansing.

        You support ethnic cleansing. You are a pathological liar – deluded. And of course a supporter of terrorism as a means to a Zionist end.

      • Donald
        March 7, 2014, 4:24 pm

        “Where did you come up with the 45% figure?”

        I assume he means the same figures I’ve read–that the portion allotted to the Jewish state by the UN had nearly as many Arabs (or Palestinians) as Jews.

    • Citizen
      March 7, 2014, 9:49 am

      @ jon s
      Why did the UN partition give more land to the Jews than to the Palestinians, especially since demographically at that time there were Palestinians on the land? Who drew the UN partition boundaries?

      • Citizen
        March 7, 2014, 10:24 am

        Truman directly had a hand in the partition boundaries, e.g., the N desert area; the partition vote may not have been what it was without the very heavy involvement and underhanded pressure of the US government; enough so it’s rational to argue that there’d be no state of Israel today without the US pressure at the UN for partition.
        http://www.al-bushra.org/America/ch9.html

  7. jon s
    March 6, 2014, 2:07 pm

    Pabelmont, in fact Israel took in all Jewish refugees, however feeble.

  8. unverified__5ilf90kd
    March 6, 2014, 5:20 pm

    I suggest we all bombard Ms Sullivan at the NY Times with polite requests to consider publishing a review of Max Blumenthal’s book Goliath. I have done so several times.

    • Philip Munger
      March 7, 2014, 2:41 am

      Good for you. However, there is no chance the NYT will review Goliath. There is some chance that the NYRB will get around to including it in one of their reviews that groups a number of books on a similar subject together.

      OTOH, as I’ve written here and elsewhere before, Blumenthal’s best work is ahead of him, and the context of Goliath is not diminishing, it is deepening.

  9. James Canning
    March 6, 2014, 7:31 pm

    Great piece.

  10. yonah fredman
    March 7, 2014, 12:07 am

    “A Jewish documentarian, Dorman concludes that Truman went for partition because people saw no way that Jews and Arabs could cooperate in Palestine. ”

    Did you read the article? Dorman concludes no such thing. He assumes that Truman would have pursued the route that Judis would have preferred (enforced binationalism) and that this route would have failed as in Iraq and Lebanon. He agrees that Truman went for partition because of the campaign of 1948. This is sloppy.

  11. yonah fredman
    March 7, 2014, 12:10 am

    ” (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).)”

    Is this pure speculation or have you read something to this effect? If it is based upon something, please link. Otherwise as pure speculation it is very shoddy journalism. (I have no stake in the purity of Brandeis’s Zionism, but as journalism this is shoddy.)

    • Cliff
      March 7, 2014, 4:17 pm

      Shoddy journalism to Wondering Jew, means journalism which isn’t messianic Zionism and pro-settlements/pro-Jewish nationalism.

  12. ThorsteinVeblen2012
    March 7, 2014, 2:39 pm

    Just to toss this in:

    I read in a biography of George C. Marshall years ago that in 1944, Claude Pepper had introduced a bill to Congress to recognize a Jewish State in Palestine. Marshall interceded to block it as it would be detrimental to the war effort.

    That predates Truman and frames the Zionist efforts a little differently.

  13. lysias
    March 7, 2014, 5:32 pm

    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)

    Interestingly, in that same year, 1912, Brandeis played a major role in Woodrow Wilson’s campaign for the presidency. Indeed, after Wilson won, he credited Brandeis with having had a big share in the victory.

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