Our story on the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York spiking an appearance by John Judis, author of the new book on Truman and Israel, because it’s just too controversial is being passed around. Andrew Sullivan calls it the latest manifestation of intolerance.
It’s distressing how some in the American Jewish community seem so terrified of open public debate about Israel, America and Zionism, and particularly poignant in this case. I knew John as a colleague at TNR [The New Republic] for many years, and he is a sober, restrained, reasoned intellectual: always careful, never inflammatory, but also possessed of a very keen sense of social justice.
Jesse Singal has a great review of the book in the Boston Globe. I was impressed by his summary of the story that Judis tells, and his plain description of the Israel lobby, defying the effort to label such discussion anti-Semitic. “To write about Zionist influence on the US government is to open oneself up to accusations of anti-Semitism,” Singal says. More:
[Truman] felt put-upon by Zionist groups clamoring for his administration’s support and comes across as whiny — the “one constant in his reproaches were the ‘emotional Jews’ of the United States,’ ” writes Judis — but also aware of the political risks of taking sides.
On the one hand, to support Israel might be to involve the United States in a new world conflict after having just emerged from World War II. On the other, domestic political pressure mitigated strongly against remaining neutral. “I’m sorry, gentlemen,’’ the president said, “but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism; I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.”
To write about Zionist influence on the US government is to open oneself up to accusations of anti-Semitism. But when it comes to the founding of Israel and everything that’s happened since, there should be — and, as Judis shows, there is — a way to treat Zionists like any other constituency lobbying the government. In the run-up to Israel’s founding in 1948, American Zionists, like any effective interest group, were, as Judis writes, well-organized, visible, and loud.
The Palestinians didn’t enjoy a fraction of the political clout that the Zionists did. And throughout the book, the Zionists appear better negotiators, better organizers, and, when the bloodshed came, better fighters than the Palestinians.
I especially love this piece because it invites a discussion of all the damage that the special relationship has helped to foster, from the killing of Robert Kennedy to the attack on the USS Liberty to Scott McConnell’s view that Israel has exported its Islamophobia to us, to Trita Parsi’s report that “radical Islam” was something the Israelis began promoting in the 1990s as the “new glue” to keep the US and Israel bonded after the end of the Cold War.