Thirty years ago, Prince Charles said that U.S. support for Israel is a cause of terrorism and that the “Jewish lobby” tied an American president’s ability to address the issue. He wrote in a 1986 letter:
I now begin to understand better their [Arabs’] point of view about Israel. Never realized they see it as a US colony….
I know there are so many complex issues, but how can there ever be an end to terrorism unless the causes are eliminated?
Surely some US president has to have the courage to stand up and take on the Jewish lobby in US? I must be naive, I suppose!
The Mail on Sunday broke the story, saying it obtained the letter from a public archive. Charles was 38, had just visited the Persian Gulf, and was writing to a mentor, the South African-born writer Laurens van der Post, then nearly 80.
The letter is causing a stink in Britain and Israel, with the Times of Israel accusing the Prince of employing anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish wealth and influence. Another source of controversy is the Prince’s view that the immigration of “foreign” Jews had worsened the conflict.
I now appreciate that Arabs and Jews were all a Semitic people originally and it is the influx of foreign, European Jews (especially from Poland, they say) which has helped to cause great problems.
The Mail says that Prince Charles has very good relations with the Jewish community but is widely thought to hold unorthodox views of the Middle East. A Jewish editor describes the letter as anti-Semitic for its treatment of Jewish influence.
Last night, Stephen Pollard, influential editor of The Jewish Chronicle, said: ‘To me this is the most astonishing element of the Prince’s letter. The “Jewish lobby” is one of the anti-Semitic themes that have endured for centuries. It is this myth there are these very powerful Jews who control foreign policy or the media or banks or whatever.’
No doubt Jewish power is mythologized, but Zionist influence is a leading factor in the creation and preservation of Israel, beginning with the issuance of the Balfour Declaration 100 years ago. The U.S. press won’t ever talk about the lobby’s role, because it’s too much of a living reality in our public life. The lead negotiator for the U.S. government during the peace process years, Dennis Ross, has said in a synagogue talk that American Jews “must be advocates” for Israel, not for Palestinians. A Time Warner executive has written speeches for Benjamin Netanyahu with no one saying boo about it. An executive at Comcast, the largest media company, has held fundraisers for the Israeli army. The head of Emily’s List has said that Democratic congressional candidates must take a position on Israel from the lobby group AIPAC, in order to raise essential campaign funds from the Jewish community.
“Jewish lobby” is surely a misnomer for Zionist lobby; but it’s not as if many Zionists have not used the term themselves. Alan Dershowitz used the term “Jewish lobby” approvingly in his book Chutzpah. Earlier this year he told a Scarsdale synagogue that American Jews are “entitled” to our power because of our wealth, and we need to deploy it to support Israel.
Anyone that [divests from Israel] has to be treated with economic consequences. We have to hit them in the pocketbook. Don’t ever ever be embarrassed about using Jewish power. Jewish power, whether it be intellectual, academic, economic, political– in the interest of justice is the right thing to do….
People write a book called the Israel lobby and complain that AIPAC is one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington. My response to that is, that’s not good enough. We should be the most powerful lobby in Washington….
We are entitled to use our power. We have contributed disproportionately to the success of this country. We have done so much for this country. When you think of how much better this country has become since our grandparents and great grandparents took the risk of coming, here, we have not only the right we have the obligation to speak out, and use every piece, every bit of power available in support of Israel.
We could go on and on with instances of American experts who support the prince’s view to one degree or another. NYT columnist Tom Friedman has said that the U.S. Congress is “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” Last year Cornel West said that the Democratic National Committee has been “beholden” for a long time to AIPAC. The DNC lately purged James Zogby from its executive committee.
George H.W. Bush did take on the Israel lobby three years after Prince Charles’s complaint, in 1991, over settlements. He was a one-term president and some attribute Bush’s loss in part to his daring. Bill Clinton ran to President Bush’s right on the settlements issue, and moved into the White House.
Let’s see how much pickup this letter gets in the U.S. I bet very little. Too uncomfortable-making. And a one-off.
The Israeli press says no royal has visited Israel on an official visit since 1948. “Despite numerous invitations over the years, no UK government has approved such a visit to Israel since the end of the British Mandate and the establishment of the state in 1948.”
The Mail quotes a spokesperson for the royal family explaining the letter:
“He was sharing the arguments in private correspondence with a long-standing friend in an attempt to improve his understanding of what he has always recognized is a deeply complex issue to which he was coming early on in his own analysis in 1986,” the spokeswoman said.
Thanks to Ofer Neiman and James North.