Israel and American Politics 4-19-04


Israel and American Politics

April 19, 2004

Richard J. Garfunkel


The Israeli-Arab conflict over the post 1937 Mandate area has been an ongoing and evolving one for decades. Jewish immigration started to come into this formerly barren land at the turn of the 19th century. Jewish settlers bought land from the absentee Ottoman and Egyptian landlords. But basically much of this land was far from being inhabited. The early Jewish settlers, who were basically idealistic socialists, brought the commune to an art form with the Kibbutz. Generally speaking many Jewish Americans did not support the concept of a Jewish homeland in the mandate area, known as Palestine. Interestingly the Jewish settlers in the mandate area were the Palestinians and the rest were Arabs, or Druses, some Maronite Christians and other non-Jews. 

In the modern history of Israel, both American political parties were cautious about full-fledged support. But in October 1944 President Roosevelt called for a Jewish Homeland in the Mandate area. Generally, because Truman went against General Marshall and the State Department when he recognized Israel, the Democratic Party seemed more of a friend then the Republicans. Also because many early Jewish settlers were socialists the GOP were quite ambivalent towards Israel. Eisenhower had little contact with Jews in the Army, little contact with Jewish politicians or party people and very little contact with Jewish intellectuals. The New Deal was always seen as a magnet to Jewish lawyers, economists and social reformers. Eisenhower and Dulles felt very secure politically when they forced back the Israeli-British-French invasion force from their conquest at Suez. Eisenhower instituted an arms embargo against Israel, and the Israelis turned to pre-DeGaulle France for munitions. Eisenhower and Dulles eventually convinced other Europeans to cut off real military support for Israel. The idea of containment, through strategic alliances (CENTO in the Mideast, Nato, and Seato), was the 1950's credo. The need for Middle Eastern oil became prominent in all of the geopolitical minds. The State Department sold its soul to oil state oligarchs and dictators. The disaster in Iran was a direct result of those policies.

In America, the old liberals of the New Deal period still felt for and supported Israel, as a democratic and free state.  Conservative Americans, who were more basically Christian, still possessed the pipe dream, that they would have a better entry into the Holy Land through Arab management and rule. The old anti-Semitism that was culturally inherent in these people extended to Israel. Of course, because of Nasser's blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba, his alliance with the Syrians, his forcing out of the UN observers from the Sinai, and his mobilization, one conclusion could only be drawn. He was attempting to squeeze and threaten Israel as a prelude too eventually going to war. The Six Day War resulted from this Arab provocation. The West Bank area was annexed, along with East Jerusalem, which was traditionally the old Jewish quarter. Of course before this period of time, the so-called Arab refugees from the 1948 War were never re-settled. 

Of recent date, Israeli thinking changed since the emergence and ascendancy of Likud and the decline of the European oriented Labor Party. Israelis really never saw a genuine interest from the Arab world in seeking a real peace settlement. They had ample opportunity from 1948-67 to settle the Palestinian (West Bank Arabs) issue. But fedeyeen attacks were part and parcel of Arab foreign policy from the cease-fire in 1948 until the 1967 war. The settlements came out of a strong desire of the Israeli government to make a more defensible country.

 The pro-Israeli community, in this country, is always leery of the right and the acolytes that surround a political anomaly like Bush. They see him as a temporary aberration and not one you could really rely on. He is also perceived as a person from the “oil patch” and not to be trusted. Also most Jews have a civic and social conscience, of which most of us perceive, is lacking in George Bush II. Also, not in the least is the “Road Map” concept, which seemed by most to be thoughtless. He has been mostly disengaged from the Mideast, but as history will show, he has been distracted by everything but Iraq. Europe is a captive to many of its old ways, habits and prejudices. Europe was the birthplace of state anti-Semitism, and most Europeans do not like Jews. Most of Europe was very happy when the Nazis deported its Jews. They gained property and wealth, and have done precious little to restore any of this “Blood Booty” to its historic owners. There are now many Arabs in Europe fomenting a new round of anti-Semitism, and anti-intellectual skinheads of all varieties are easy prey to this “blood libel” propaganda. Arab countries have used their so-called free and legitimate press to promulgate these constant harangues of against Jews and Israel. Europe sees itself on one hand being held hostage to the wishes of its energy suppliers and on the other hand being captive of a willful small minority. Why should a few million European Jews and a small state of 5 million or so other Jews stand in the way of the desires of their countrymen to get all the $5 @ gallon gas they can get! Most Europeans can't understand how this “Jewish” problem reared up its head again after the efficient work of the Nazis. Also there is European sympathy for the Palestinians. Though they could care less about oppressed peoples in and out of the Arab and Muslim world, the Palestinian cause attracks attention because it involves hatred of Jews and a potential problem for their energy flow.  In other words most Europeans are willing victims of Arab hate propaganda. Amazingly very little has changed from the 1930's.

 Sharon is doing what he feels is best for the survival of Israel. Eventually the West Bank will be changed geographically, Gaza will be sealed off from Israel, and the West Bank will be an independent entity, but isolated from Israel. Let them get their jobs in Jordan. By the way 80% of Iraq may be functioning, but it is always the 20% that causes the problems.


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