Neoconservative Ronald Radosh has made a cottage industry of attacking John Judis’s new book on Truman. First he wrote a review saying that Judis cherry-picked history by blaming Zionists and not Arabs for the failure of binational plans in the 1940s.
Then he circulated Leon Wieseltier’s letter smearing Judis for having no place in his heart for Jews.
Now Radosh shows up in the New York Times Book Review with a letter to the editor again accusing Judis of rewriting history. The letter appears just one week after the Book Review ran a letter saying Judis is wrong because Palestinians want to kill “all Jews.”
Here is Ron and Allis Radosh’s specific charge about Judis misrepresenting facts in a what-if history:
Judis intends to show that not only did the Zionist lobby prevent Truman from supporting alternatives (such as a binational one) to a Jewish state, but that the lobby is still casting its pernicious spell over American policy makers.
To prove his point, Judis’s “what if” history ignores the fact that Truman recognized that as much as he for a short time would have liked Palestine to be a federation with Arab and Jewish provinces, it was not within his power or the country’s national interest to impose a solution rejected by both Arabs and Jews. Moreover, a bipartisan coalition at home fought against it, as did many of Truman’s own trusted advisers.
In fact, the Radoshes add, Truman “regularly called his decision one of his proudest acts as president” and bragged about it to Chaim Weizmann.
I’m reading Judis’s book, and the Radoshes are wrong. Judis shows that “the buck stops here” president vacillated endlessly over the Jewish state question. In his heart he was always against a religious state and saw it as against the American interest in the Middle East (including oil supply). He keeps telling people that he’s for the Anglo-American commission recommendation of a binational state in 1946– long after he’s kiboshed that report and supported partition in ’47 and ’48. Judis amply documents the Zionist pressure (including progressive hero Henry Wallace’s support for Zionism, and the Nation magazine’s editorials) and also Truman’s anti-Semitic fulminations about “the emotional Jews” blocking his policy ideas with political coercion during the ’46 and ’48 elections.
Whatever Truman said to Weizmann, an old man for whom he felt large and sentimental regard, Judis documents his inner conflict over the matter.
Judis specifically addresses the What-if history claim in his book:
The history of Palestine and of Israel’s founding cannot be changed, and it is silly to play games of what-if. But it is not silly to draw lessons from the past that are relevant to the present and the future. And the main lesson of this narrative is that whatever wrongs were done to the Jews of Europe and later to those of the Arab Middle East and North Africa–and there were great wrongs inflicted–the Zionists who came to Palestine to establish a state trampled on the rights of the Arabs who already lived there. That wrong has never been adequately addressed, or redressed, and for there to be peace of any kind between the Israelis and Arabs, it must be.
That sounds very real-world to me.