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The Independent's Jewish-American Flag
Last uploaded : Tuesday 2nd May 2006 at 14:37
Contributed by : The Editor


Robert Fisk (‘The Independent’ April 27, 2006 London edition) has written a long and passionate defence of the Harvard academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, whose major paper about the influence of the ‘Israel lobby’ on American policy has angered both Jewish and non-Jewish recipients worldwide. The paper has caused a storm of controversy. Many learned academics and policy thinkers have, in turn, written responses to Walt and Mearsheimer, inspiring the two scholars and their defenders to suggest that any criticism of Israel is regarded as anti-Semitism. Even Noam Chomsky, no fan of Israel, has pointed out that the world of corporate business drives American policy, not necessarily Zionist lobbyists.

It must be noted here that ‘The Independent’ newspaper has accompanied Robert Fisk’s article with a painting of the Stars and Stripes with fifty Jewish Stars instead of traditional ones. This is a pernicious image and the ‘Independent’ seems unconcerned, despite a thundering complaint from the British Board of Deputies, that such imagery is reminiscent of the literature of neo-Nazis and of other bigoted hate groups. The Independent also attaches an outrageously distorted ‘time-line’ of supposed Jewish history at the end of the piece, and we will deal with this added insult at the conclusion of my article.

Inasmuch as Benny Morris has written a long treatise in response to Walt and Mearsheimer, refuting many of the accusations made in the Harvard monograph, I will not attempt to pick it apart. I will, however, point out that Fisk makes the usual accusations that routinely pepper the British press on an almost daily basis: if you dare criticise Israel, you are labelled an anti-Semite. Well, Mr Fisk, if your article is illustrated with a symbol used by Nazis, is that any wonder? Fisk says the Wall Street Journal is ‘ever Israel’s friend.’ Really? I read it every day and see no such favouritism. Fisk says that the American media are gutless and biased. I watch the NBC, ABC and CBS News every night and rarely hear Israel mentioned by the 100% Christian anchormen and women. If, as Fisk, Walt and Mearsheimer suggest, Israeli and Jewish lobbyists get away with anything why are the Jewish Larry Franklin and Jack Abramoff going to jail? If Jews have such a stranglehold on the Bush administration why is the Jew Libby the only one indicted in the Valerie Plame affair and why has Bush never had a senior Jewish Cabinet member? Fisk also asserts, in defence of the Harvard paper, that neo-conservatives are gaining strength in the USA. Since when? Perle, Feith and Wolfowitz are out of the Defence Department. The Bush Administration has a 32% approval rating. Neocons like Fukuyama are running around like mice deserting the ship.

Fisk is infuriated about the British play ‘The Death of Rachel Corrie’ being pulled from the New York stage. I would be happy to see the play run its course in the USA when a British theatre company also devises a play about the innumerable Jewish Rachels and Avis who have died in endless, endless wars and terror attacks since 1948.

What I would like to do is approach the ‘Israel lobby drives American policy’ from an entirely different perspective. I have no idea how much exposure Messrs Walt and Mearsheimer had to ordinary Jews in their growing-up years in the USA, but their distorted idea of the influence of Zionist lobbyists indicates they have a worrying attitude of suspicion towards what is a tiny percentage of the true number of lobbyists populating K Street. I would wager that Israel lobbyists make up a small dot in of the masses of pharmaceutical, oil, insurance, retail, underwriting, manufacturing and agricultural lobbying that goes on every day of the Congressional year.

What Robert Fisk’s experience of Jewish culture, hospitality, philanthropic generosity and achievement in every field of endeavour is unknown; what one does know about him is that he has spent the majority of his life in places like Beirut and Damascus, where he is not going to discover what make Jews so popular and so much a part of national cultural life as they are in the United States of America.

What does this have to do with accusations of the ‘Israel lobby driving American foreign policy?’ I do not believe Jews and Zionists drive American policy. If they did, Joe Lieberman would have taken Al Gore to a landslide win in 2000. Conversely, if Israel is admired by a majority of Americans and if Jewish lobbyists do get a favourable reception in Washington it is because Jews have made such a staggeringly positive contribution to the American national story since the days of the very first colonists.

Let me digress for a few moments: there is an inordinate, and I believe unbalanced amount of coverage in the British media about ‘Israeli brutality;’ ‘Israeli apartheid’ ( there was a two-part series about this subject by Chris McGreal in the Guardian earlier this year); Israeli genocide’ and other heinous acts attributed to the tiny Jewish State. The Guardian had no qualms about printing an article entitled ‘Israel Simply Has no Right to Exist’ by Faisal Bodi in 2001. The hostility to Israel in Britain is palpable on a grass-roots level, or what some like to call ‘the dinner party circuit.’

When one reads the hostile press about Israel in the European and British press, which often includes vituperative remonstrating over the support Israel receives from the United States, one wonders why it is that the continent (Europe) that let its Jews be rounded up and be sent to extermination camps is so hostile when a country that had nothing whatsoever to do with complicity in the Holocaust decides to help the remnant of Jewry that has risen from the ashes of Auschwitz to build a tiny but vibrant industrial, scientific and cultural haven in the Middle East? Why, instead of constantly condemning the Americans for supporting Israel, have these countries not said ‘Right -- for what we allowed to happen, we sill send so many millions every year for a hundred years until the Jews have rebuilt their shattered lives.’ When non-Jewish European dignitaries and simmering BBC anchors rant at hapless Israeli or Jewish representatives on television talk shows about the ‘settlers’ as if these Jews are Storm Troopers, why do they not, instead, offer funding for Jews be compensated for their hundreds of thousands of homes seized across Europe during the War?

Let us return to the issue of Jewish influence in America. The Jewish Experience in the United States is an extraordinary and for the most part positive one. England tormented its Jews, accused them of Blood Libels and murdered them, culminating in the terrible York Massacre and the Expulsion of the Jews in 1290. Contrast this with the free entry of Jews to the American colonies from the time of the first landings, and the dynamic involvement of Jews in the formative years of the colonial period. Haym Solomon signed the Declaration of Independence and Rebecca Gratz was a prominent figure in the early days of Philadelphia academia.

Jews have always enjoyed freedoms in the United States that they never experienced anywhere else. The riots and anti-Semitic restrictions across Europe and even in Britain never unfolded in the USA in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the twentieth century the mass immigration of Jews to America due to the hideously violent pogroms in Europe meant that Jewish culture permeated daily life to an even more intensive extent. Notwithstanding the efforts of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, who were regarded as anti-Jewish, Broadway, Hollywood and symphony orchestras flourished with the influx of Jewish talent.

In the heyday of Broadway every composer was Jewish, except for Cole Porter. Lyricists, most of whom were born to Yiddish-speaking immigrant parents, were overwhelmingly Jewish. Many Great violin and piano virtuosi, symphony conductors and orchestra musicians were Jews, as were prodigiously gifted playwrights like Arthur Miller, Clifford Odets and Lillian Hellman.

All of the above did not happen because of some giant conspiracy of Jews to dominate American life. If people did not vote with their feet, or with ‘bums on seats’ as they say in vaudeville, none of these talented people would have had an audience. Sophie Tucker, George Burns, Milton Berle, and other performers brought endless joy to sold-out non-Jewish crowds.

Jewish people have mixed well and integrated in every aspect of American society. They are liked. That is why Americans were so appalled by the Holocaust. That is why so many Americans support Israel. When I was a teenager, the course of study in the Philadelphia school system required all young people to see the shattering ‘Night and Fog’ Holocaust film by Alain Resnais. I have never met an American who wants Palestinians to suffer. But the difference between the way the Jewish story is told in the United States and elsewhere is that Jews are never, ever accused of ‘taking Palestinian lands because of Nazi crimes committed a continent away.’ I have no Holocaust victims in my immediate family but when I hear the British media accusing those tortured, starving survivors of Hitler’s torture camps of ‘brutally stealing Arab lands’ and ‘committing genocide in Palestine’ I am speechless with hurt and rage. If Jews are so violent and will steal land and commit genocide, why are they not doing do in the many other countries where they live? The way the birth of Israel is taught outside the USA suggests that huge brigades of angry, robust Jews arrived in Palestine and set about murdering willy-nilly. What is never taught is the relentless aggression and hatred that emanated from the Arab nations who could have welcomed the Jews with open arms.

This may be a simplistic and naïve way of approaching Walt and Mearsheimer’s paper about the disproportionate effect Israel lobbyists have on Capitol Hill, but I feel it is imperative that the tremendously positive influence of Jews on American life be put into the equation. If Israeli lobbyists do get the ear of lawmakers it is because Americans identify with a ragtag bunch of colonists who created a phenomenally successful nation from nothing. Fisk and the academics say the Israel lobby has a negative effect on American foreign policy. The invasion of Afghanistan freed women, impeded the progress of the Taliban and avenged the destruction of the Buddhas. This has nothing to do with Israel. Bush spends hours with his WASP inner-circle of advisers and Condi Rice, none of whom is Jewish.

And if we look at it another way, what the dickens is wrong with supporting a thriving, workaholic, culturally magical Israel? When relief money comes into Israel from the many Jewish charities, it goes to hospitals and libraries and ballet companies. Jewish charities have also helped countless non-Jews across the globe. Where have the billions sent to the Palestinians gone in recent decades? How do the thousands of marching, armed Palestinians afford those glamorous green bandanas, leather jackets and combat trousers and boots if they are starving? Somewhere they have a ‘lobby,’ too. Where is the condemnation of that lobby?

Finally the Independent should be called up severely for its inexcusable ‘timeline’ beneath the Fisk article.

Jerome Taylor composed the timeline.

He asserts that in 1948 Israel is ‘proclaimed’ much to the annoyance of Harry Truman. My reading of history is that the United Nations conducted a vote on partition and a legitimate nation, Israel, was born.

He asserts that the 1967 war started the rot. In other words, the ‘American-Jewish community’ lobbied and pressured the US government to support Israel after the war. This may be true but on a one-on-one basis, as a fourteen year old I was awestruck by the admiration shown by non-Jews towards the miraculous ‘Swift Sword’ triumph against five massive Arab armies and air forces. My non-Jewish girlfriends had pictures of Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin pasted inside their locker doors.

Taylor refers to 1973 as ‘the October war’ but never mentions that the Jewish State was deliberately and brutally attacked on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. The Independent never mentions this, and instead says Israel just received even more aid from America after being attacked.

Finally, Taylor even takes the famous Arafat-Rabin handshake in the White House Rose Garden and twists it to look like American predominance in the peace process. Just what do the Independent-reading liberal Left want? When the USA is not engaged in the peace process, all manner of vitriol appears in the British press. When Bill Clinton devotes eight years of his life to trying to bring the parties together, this is American domination of the peace process.

The British media will never, ever accept the existence of Israel. The small population of Anglo Jews, since being readmitted by Oliver Cromwell, have made a tremendous contribution to British culture, law, science and politics. No Jewish boy has ever bombed a bus or tube station or called for the downfall of the British government.

I would like to see Robert Fisk devote as much energy to the situation in Zimbabwe and Sudan as he does to evil Israel, Jew-dominated America and the “Zionist lobby.’ Perhaps he, Mearsheimer and Walt might like to travel to those countries and see how far they get if they condemn Mugabe or the Sudanese factions in print.

Frankly I have reached the end of my tether with the obsessive writing and broadcasting in the British media about Israel, American Jewish lobbies and Zionists. My friends at school lined up to be invited to our Passover Seder. Americans love Jewish food and culture. Jews have enriched American life in every imaginable way. It is time the British media stopped creating a Jewish Beelzebub and reached out to understand that suffering in the Holy Land is a two-way street, that for every Rachel Corrie there is a nineteen-year-old Rachel in a café blown to bits, that Palestinian corruption is what starves its people, and that Jewish lobbies have as much a right to exist as do the thousands of other lobbies that climb all over Capitol Hill.

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