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Truman feared backing Israel would involve US in ‘new world conflict’ — Boston Globe

Israel/Palestine
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John Judis by Christopher Parks

John Judis by Christopher Parks

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.

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32 Responses

  1. American
    American
    February 19, 2014, 1:16 pm

    ” “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.”…Truman

    Even sheep are less sheeple than Truman was.
    Death before dishonor say the sheep!!

    ”At least 840 sheep die aboard Australian vessel en route to Israel”
    Jerusalem Post-by Sharon Udasin-Feb 16, 2014
    At least 840 sheep have died on a ship carrying them from Australia to Israel, …..

  2. marc b.
    marc b.
    February 19, 2014, 1:33 pm

    interesting that Weiss should bring up Parsi’s work. Apparently the Greeks and Americans have recently foiled attempts by an Israeli arms merchant who was *allegedly* sending spare parts for Iranian F-4s to Iran via Greece. no word on his prosecution in Israel, this not being the first charges for such an offense. see Richard Silverstein.

    pistachios and weaponry. okay to trade in with Iran if you are Israeli, but not American.

  3. seafoid
    seafoid
    February 19, 2014, 1:34 pm

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/11/05/why-open-zion-is-closing.html

    “When Menachem Begin visited America in 1948, Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt and Sidney Hook denounced the “ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority” that menaced the democratic character of the new Jewish state. In 1973, Breira called on American Jews to “recognize the legitimacy of the national aspirations of the Palestinians” and to resist “those pressures in American Jewish life which make open discussion of these and other vital issues virtually synonymous with heresy.” In 2007, near the end of his life, Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf wrote, “I love Israel as the prophets did—demanding that Israel be the Covenant people.””

  4. American
    American
    February 19, 2014, 1:36 pm

    ‘“To write about Zionist influence on the US government is to open oneself up to accusations of anti-Semitism,” >>>>

    Writing about the Zionist for Israel influence also opens them up to accusations of treason, subversion…hence the anti semite slur for doing so.
    Traitor to America vr Anti Semite.

  5. RudyM
    RudyM
    February 19, 2014, 1:41 pm

    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.

    I don’t think this is true. Zionists, and specifically Zionist Jews, have gotten away with crimes that no other current lobbying group could get away with. I know you know this (in much more detail than I do), but since it’s not being pointed out in your comments. . . You favorably mention the work of Grant F. Smith which does a nice job of documenting these things.

    • American
      American
      February 19, 2014, 3:18 pm

      ” and, as Judis shows, there is — a way to treat Zionists like any other constituency lobbying the government.”

      Let them register and be treated as what they are, a foreign lobby.
      Enough of this silliness that they are a domestic American lobby just because their members have US citizenship.

      • February 19, 2014, 5:28 pm

        They are far more than a simple lobby. Petras coined the phrase Zionist Power Configuration. I think Zionist Crime Family is more apt

  6. LanceThruster
    LanceThruster
    February 19, 2014, 2:14 pm

    Not in front of the goyim.

  7. lysias
    lysias
    February 19, 2014, 2:34 pm

    [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.

    Any political risks were only if he opposed the creation of Israel. As the passage later points out, there was no Arab or Muslim constituency that would have opposed his siding with Israel.

    As far as a new world conflict is concerned, there was no immediate danger of that occurring if he supported Israel. The Soviet Union, remember, also supported the creation of Israel. Any conflict that resulted from the creation of Israel would only have been a regional one (as indeed happened), not a world conflict.

  8. Daniel Rich
    Daniel Rich
    February 19, 2014, 2:40 pm

    @ Phil,

    Q: … defying the effort to label such discussion anti-Semitic.

    R: C’mon, Phil. Why not help in the ‘crusade’ to abandon that Apartheid word until in embraces all Semites equally?

    In other words; do you really want to applaud a rapist for bringing a condom along to his ‘job‘?

  9. CitizenC
    CitizenC
    February 19, 2014, 2:44 pm

    The US military and diplomatic establishments opposed Zionism and US sponsorship of a Jewish state, but Truman’s Sec of State from 1945-47, James Byrnes, was not a diplomat but an old Washington political hand, veteran of the House, Senate and Supreme Court, and simply avoided Palestine. The task of expressing the official view fell to Loy Henderson, head of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. He had this to say:

    It “would not be in the national interests of the United States for it to advocate any kind of a plan at this time for the partitioning of Palestine or for the setting up of a Jewish State.” Such advocacy would jeopardize “our efforts to support world stability and to prevent further Soviet penetration,” damage “relations with the peoples of the Near East and with Moslems everywhere,” impede plans to use
    “the resources of the area… for the reconstruction of Europe,” encourage
    “violent Arab nationalist uprisings,” etc. (FRUS 1947, V, pp. 1153-59, Henderson to Marshall, September 22, 1947. See also Miller, “Search for Security,” pp. 163-72, and Ch. 7, “Palestine and Pipeline”; Brands, “Inside the Cold War”, Ch. 12, “In the Palestine Labyrinth.”)

    The “Zionists would ‘win the first few rounds’ but be unable to establish anything like lasting peace and stability. The American people… would find themselves increasingly drawn to the Zionists’ defense. Anti-western elements would batten on the chaos … The region would experience
    ‘the rise of fanatic Mohammedanism’ of an intensity ‘not experienced
    for hundreds of years.'” (Brands, op cit, p. 186, quoting a private letter
    by Henderson of March, 1948)

    For his acute prescience Henderson’s career was essentially halted. The Zionists forced him out as NEA head; the Ankara embassy was proposed, but it was to close to Israel; he became ambassador to India.

    • RoHa
      RoHa
      February 19, 2014, 9:36 pm

      Yes, Virginia, there was a time when the US had a few diplomats who actually understood something about the outside world.

      • Ellen
        Ellen
        February 20, 2014, 9:46 am

        More than a few. And every single one of them was a threat to the new state of Israel. National threats, wherever they are, are removed.

        It took about 15 years from the founding of Israel to purge the US State Department of those dastardly “Arabists” and others.

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        February 20, 2014, 6:48 pm

        And we should rememeber the neocons kept the British away from their planning of the illegal invasion of Iraq, or perhaps I should say their panning for what would happen in wake of voerthrow of Saddam Hussein. Why? Too well-informed about the Middle East. Aka “Arabists”.

    • ThorsteinVeblen2012
      ThorsteinVeblen2012
      February 20, 2014, 6:30 pm

      There was a quote I read attributed to George C. Marshall and I paraphrase:

      “Recognizing a Jewish State in Palestine will light a fire the world will not be able to extinguish.”

      Marshall was Secretary of State and said he would not vote for Truman, his boss.

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        February 22, 2014, 7:44 pm

        Tommy Corcoran also pushed Truman to recognise Israel, before its borders were agreed.

  10. seafoid
    seafoid
    February 19, 2014, 2:57 pm

    Truman was warned by the US diplomats in the Near East during the 40s that siding with the bots would lead to bloodshed and poison for many years but of course the bots got their way and fucked everything up for the region

    http://images.library.wisc.edu/FRUS/EFacs/1944v05/reference/frus.frus1944v05.i0015.pdf

    • lysias
      lysias
      February 19, 2014, 3:01 pm

      FDR had such great self-confidence and such political clout that I don’t think he would have felt obliged to surrender to the lobby. And the promises that he had made in early 1945 to the King of Saudi Arabia suggest strongly that he would not have wanted personally to create a purely Jewish state in the Mandate of Palestine. So it is a pity he died when he did.

      (Henry Wallace, on the other hand, was so committed to the Zionist cause that a President Wallace, although he would probably have done other good things like avoiding a Cold War, probably would have supported the creation of Israel.)

  11. JustJessetr
    JustJessetr
    February 19, 2014, 3:02 pm

    Where’s the story that Abbas is fine with a 2SS and that he doesn’t support blanket boycotts of Israel?
    http://www.timesofisrael.com/abbas-we-do-not-support-the-boycott-of-israel/

    And the story that Israel and Jordan signed a 500 million dollar natural gas deal?
    http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-jordan-sign-500-million-natural-gas-deal/

    And that so-called normalization is creating jobs and living space?
    http://www.timesofisrael.com/in-rawabi-the-brand-new-palestinian-city-both-sides-win/

    Doesn’t seem like BDS is keeping up with what’s actually happening in the real world.

    • Shingo
      Shingo
      February 19, 2014, 7:55 pm

      Where’s the story that Abbas is fine with a 2SS and that he doesn’t support blanket boycotts of Israel?

      What does it matter when the rest of the Palestinian leadership does?
      http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=658870

      And the story that Israel and Jordan signed a 500 million dollar natural gas deal?

      So what? Lapid says BDS will cost Israel billions.

      And that so-called normalization is creating jobs and living space?

      How can you have normalization and apartheid? That’s right, you can’t.

      Doesn’t seem like BDS is keeping up with what’s actually happening in the real world.

      Actually, it’s BDS opponents who are actually having that problem.
      The writing on the wall: Boycott is top story in Israel’s No. 1 paper
      http://972mag.com/the-writing-on-the-wall-boycott-is-the-top-story/86041/

  12. Daniel Rich
    Daniel Rich
    February 19, 2014, 3:08 pm

    Is Name and shame supporters of racist Israel the way to go forward?

  13. MRW
    MRW
    February 19, 2014, 3:48 pm

    I especially love this piece because it invites a discussion of all the damage that the special relationship has helped to foster

    Add the militarization of our state and local law enforcement. Those Star Wars uniforms? The heavy hand? The loss of community policing? All exported (and peddled) from Israel, as Jeff Halper described in a Seattle interview four years ago.

    • Erasmus
      Erasmus
      February 19, 2014, 11:50 pm

      ‘Special Relationship’

      Yes, indeed.
      This Very Special Relationship has obviously become nothing else than
      a PERFECT allround LIABILITY for the USA.

      It is high time, that the ‘land of the free’ sets itself free of such self-imposed imprisonment.

    • Ecru
      Ecru
      February 20, 2014, 4:06 am

      And the far right, Islamophobic EDL in England – backed by the Zionists who are today’s pedlars of hate.

  14. Nevada Ned
    Nevada Ned
    February 19, 2014, 5:40 pm

    What is surprising, to me at least, is that John Judis worked (and still works) for The New Republic, the power center of Marty Peretz. TNR has been a pillar of the Israel Lobby for decades. Has Peretz lost power at TNR? Is Peretz mellowing?

    Inquiring minds want to know!

  15. James Canning
    James Canning
    February 19, 2014, 6:46 pm

    Let us bear in mind that Israel helped to bring Hamas into being. To hurt Fatah.

  16. Marco
    Marco
    February 19, 2014, 11:34 pm

    It’s always tempting to consider counterfactuals and alternative histories when it comes to Truman, the accidental president.

    But, if Roosevelt had died sooner while Henry Wallace was V.P., the U.S. would probably have supported the creation of Israel anyway. Unlike Truman, Wallace was a true believer in Zionism.

    For that matter, Truman’s opponent in ’48, Dewey also supported recognizing Israel.

    My conclusion is that the Israel Lobby was already extraordinarily formidable prior to the creation of Israel.

    • lysias
      lysias
      February 20, 2014, 5:44 pm

      Yes, but the counterfactual that could have prevented Israel is if FDR had lived.

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