What Price Censorship?
When I wrote the first edition of this book, my main concern was the destructive effect of Israel's lobby on free political speech in the United States. I predicted that the lobby's success in eliminating any semblance of debate about Middle East policies would lead America into serious difficulty.
Ar no point did I anticipate that the lobby's success in stifling free speech could set in motion a chain reaction that would lead to calamitous events at home and abroad. Consider these developments:
• U.S. complicity in a campaign to destroy an entire nationality
• A horrific attack on the U.S. mainland
• A war in Afghanistan and the likelihood of more wars to come
• Worldwide anti-American protest marches
• Serious damage to America's worldwide reputation as champion of human rights and the rule of law
As you ponder this recitation, the following questions deserve attention:
If the United States had refused partnership in Israel's crimes against the Palestinians and other Arabs, would Israel have been able to maintain its subjugation of the Palestinian people decade after decade? Any fair analysis would yield an answer in the negative. In the absence of unconditional U.S. support, Israel would have discarded its ambitions for Greater Israel" and negotiated the terms of peaceful coexistence with its neighbors years ago.
Would America have suffered 9/11? My answer is no. All evidence that is available today points to 9/11 as being the crime of disaffected Arabs, mainly Saudis, led by Osama bin Laden. According to bin Laden, they were outraged by what he described as the corrupting influence of the
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United States on the Middle East, particularly its support of Israel's subjugation of Palestinian human rights. If these "corrupting influences" did not exist, and if the U.S. government had dealt with Israel in a normal, traditional way by demanding specific standards of conduct in exchange for U.S. aid, America, in effect, would have blocked Israel's illegal campaign of territorial aggrandizement and retained its great Arab reservoir of goodwill. Barring the absence of some anti-Arab blunder in U.S. policy, Arab terrorists would have no reason to attack the United States.
Of course, the United States government has not refused partnership with Israel. On the contrary, every president and every Congress over the years have reiterated loyal, unconditional support of Israel. These statements are usually cast as assurances of undying supporr for that nation's security, with no reference to the need of Palestinians for security. Those serving in Congress often publicly declare Israel's right to exist within secure borders, and they probably do so more frequently than they repeat the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States.
I have yet to hear any member of Congress declare the right of Palestine to exist within secure borders. Nor have I heard any member, while applauding Israel's right to exist, take note of the fact Israel lacks defined borders—the only nation in the world with that dubious distinction. The United States' partnership with Israel has, moreover, never been fully defined. In public discourse it remains as murky as Israel's borders: no treaty between the two states exists.
No U.S. president, I am certain, ever called his cabinet together to announce that henceforth his administrarion would proceed as a coconspirator with Israel in criminal activity against the Palestinians. Nor has any Congress been that explicit. Nor, I dare say, did any lawmaker anticipate, at any point, that the effectiveness of Israel's lobby in stifling free speech about the Arab—Israeli conflict would be a major factor in leading the American people into their present difficulty.
America's descent into intimate involvement in Israel's unlawful activities advanced step by step, beginning in 1967. The most basic, fundamental cause of this dreadful decline is the lobby's greatest success: the elimination of free, open, unfettered discussion in the United States about what U.S. policy in the Middle East should be. Israelis enjoy free, rigorous debate of Middle East policy in their parliament, media, and private life, but Israel's U.S. lobby has stifled all such debate in America for nearly forty years.
What Price Israel? 5
As a member of Congress I was a close observer of this descent. To my alarm, at no point in Israel's oppressive occupation of Palestinian lands did any prominent officials in Washington lament the violation of Arab rights, criticize Israeli behavior, or attempt to establish conditions on U.S. aid to Israel. Only a few small voices of individuals and private organizations petitioned Congress for full debate.
During Israel's brutal assault on the West Bank and Gaza in 2002, few complaints were heard on Capitol Hill. No one introduced resolutions of rebuke or offered legislative remedies. And if there were cries of complaint from American clergy, they were too soft to hear. Only mosques echoed with words of sorrow, lament, and anger. Elsewhere, America seemed to have run out of moral outrage.
Why the silence? Why the unwillingness of people and institutions to speak out? Why the absence of debate over America's complicity in Israel's scofflaw record?
The answer is found in the earlier pages of this book. With few exceptions, members of Congress, presidents, the nation's editorial writers, the clergy, and the nation's vast array of nongovernmental advocacy organizations have been afraid to speak out. I cannot recall any of the major political players in Washington even noting the absence of unfettered debate. They were afraid to challenge Israel or its U.S. lobby at any level for fear of being called anti-Semitic. The operative word was fear.
I understand, perhaps better than most people. In my years in Congress, I can recall moments when I yielded to the intimidating influence of the lobby. I could have been more resolute in words and deed. In protest against U.S. complicity in Israel's misdeeds, I should have opposed in speech and vote every dollar of aid to Israel. Instead, I always voted in the affirmative. I told some of my colleagues that I did not want to be viewed as anti-Israel, because my opposition was to the behavior of the state, not to the state itself. In retrospect, I see it was a distinction without a difference.
A Fateful Chain uf Occurrences
In Washington, the absence of rational discussion led directly to a gross pro-Israeli bias of enormous unintended consequences which, in turn, made the U.S. government a partner with Israel in the humiliation and destruction of Palestinian society. During the past twenty years, the lobby
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for Israel got exactly what it wanted from Capitol Hill and the executive branch. In the preceding thirty years, it got almost everything it wanted.
Through the years, the U.S. government provided support—military, political, and financial—without which Israel could not have carried out its devastation of Palestinian society. Well known worldwide, except in America, this complicity led to deep-seated and widespread hatred of the governments of both Israel and the United States—the major factor, I believe, in triggering 9/11.
This fateful chain of occurrences reminds me of an old fable: For want of a nail, a shoe was lost; for want of the shoe, a horse was lost; for want of the horse, a rider was lost; for want of the rider, the war was lost; for want of victory, a kingdom was lost. In the present crisis, the absence of rational debate was the lost nail. The present-day plight of a great nation called America is the ultimate loss.
When I informed a senior State Department official that I believed 9/11 was substantially rooted in U.S. complicity in Israel's crimes, he replied "I agree with you, and I believe a majority of the State Department officials I deal with would also agree." My estimate is that millions of people in this country and abroad have reached the same conclusion.
The United States was not an innocent bystander in Israel's assaults on Arabs. American fingers did not pull triggers, but they wrote checks to the Internal Revenue Service that paid for the weapons the Israelis used, and they cast ballots that elected officials who gave a steady green light to Israel's illegal activities.
By supporting Israel unconditionally, America turned its back on long-cherished ideals and principles. As expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, all Americans are pledged to stand against bigotry and intolerance and for the rule of law, equal justice for all, and due process even for the most despicable people among us. Instead, year after year, our government has helped Israel violate each of these principles.
For Want of a Nail
Some aspects of 9/11 may remain a puzzle forever, but one thing is clear: it was a monstrous crime, and everyone with any responsibility for it should be brought to justice.
What Price Israel? 5
The ongoing crimes against Palestinians are also monsrrous. The victims deserve the dignity of citizenship in a state of their own, and they desetve it now. They should not be asked to settle for an interim experiment, a limited, transitional, quasi-state of some form. After all the suffering they have endured, and no matter what provisional steps may be considered, many thousands of Palestinians will insist on unadulterated justice. They will not give up whatever means of violent resistance are possible until Israeli forces withdraw completely, Israel relinquishes control of all sertlements, and a truly independent, viable Palestine comes into being.
Now and in the foreseeable future, only the president of the United States can apply enough leverage to force Israel to meet these requirements. Can the presidential will be generated?
In early 2002, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah set the stage. He secured the unanimous approval of Arab states for a plan for peace with Israel. Under it, all of these states, most of which remain technically at war with Israel, agreed to establish normal, peaceful, diplomatic relations if Israel would withdraw from the Arab territory it seized in the June 1967 war. The plan was also approved by the Palestinian leadership, and, surprisingly, Hamas, an organization often identified with Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel. Opinion polls showed approval by the majority of Palestinians, Israelis, and Americans. On learning of Abdullah's proposal, President Bush telephoned his congratulations.
As I write, the essential link—Israeli governmental approval—is still missing. It is clear that Ariel Sharon, who holds power by a thin margin and is faced with strong opposition from the ulttaorthodox Jews and other right-wing parties, will not cooperate in the absence of strong outside pressure. The only possible source of adequate leverage is the president of the United States.
A former foreign ministet of France pointed the way. On June 17, 2002, Hubett Vedrine made a powerful public appeal: "President Bush . . . should impose a peace settlement. He must do it. He should do it. He can do it. Nobody else is in a position to do so. Only the president of the United States has the necessary means and authority. If he takes the lead, the whole world will support him—except, perhaps, American conservatives and the Israeli right wing, as well as the most radical Palestinian movements and terrorist networks. But all these opponents can be overcome."21
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Vedrine packed a lot of wisdom into a few words. The president of the United States must act. He alone has the resources for success. To be effective, the presidenr must disenthrall himself from past decisions and utterances and issue an unequivocal ultimatum to the Israeli prime minister of the type suggested by former President Carter. Like similar threats issued effectively to Israel in past years by both Carter and Nixon, it should be conveyed privately but firmly. Israel must understand that no further U.S. aid will be provided until it ends its occupation of the Arab land it seized in the June 1967 war.
The president should do more than threaten. He should hold the carrot as well as the stick. Bush must offer help during the adjustment period as Israelis and Palestinians become accustomed to their new relationship. The bitter layers of blood, agony, hatred, and passions for vengeance on both sides will not be easily or quickly put aside. If the new border is devoid of armed monitors, violence may erupt despite the best efforts of local leaders.
To maintain peace as citizens on both sides settle down to the first promise of a stress-free existence in years, the United States should offer troops as part of a multinational force charged with providing security along the entire border. In making the offer, the president can usefully cite the success of the multinational monitoring force, consisting mainly of U.S. troops, that has kept the peace along the Israeli-Egyptian border for many years.
Confronted with the ultimatum, the Israeli prime minister would have to decide between two main alternatives.
The first: He could simply ignore the ultimatum, as Sharon did when confronted with Bush's demand that he "immediately" stop Israel's invasion of Palestinian land in the spring of 2002. In that circumstance, if Bush stands firm in demanding full compliance, Israeli citizens, appalled at the cutoff of U.S. aid, would force the prime minister's resignation or remove him from office in the next election.
The second: Faced with that prospect, the prime minister, Sharon or his successor, would agree to the presidential demand.
I would expect the prime minister to follow the rule that guided Charles deGaulle of France during his long public career: "When something is inevitable, turn it to your advantage." By complying with the ultimatum, the prime minister would turn the U.S. demand to his per
What Price Israel? 5
sonal advantage: he would assure his place as the preeminent peacemaker in Israeli history.
The president could readily explain his decision to the American people, stating that U.S. support of Palestinian statehood was legally and morally the right thing to do, and that military necessity required that U.S. support be stated quickly. He could cite a historic precedent: during a deep national crisis 140 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln announced that he acted out of military necessity in freeing all slaves in states of the Union that were then in rebellion. Bush could correctly say that in today's national crisis, the decision to help free the Palestinian people from Israeli occupation had to be prompt and decisive because of military necessity. This decision could not be implemented overnight, but even the early stages of implementation would ease anti-American passions and help rally worldwide support of the president's anti-terrorism campaign.
Would Congress, spurred by Israel's lobby, be able to block the president's initiative? It is my belief that Vedrine was correct in forecasting that the president would receive immediate, near-unanimous support. The immediate high level of U.S. endorsement would, I am sure, convince AIPAC of the futility of resisting. As a veteran of Capitol Hill, I am confident that the president would prevail if a showdown surfaced with either the lobby or Congress.
Krim Reality, New Hope
Israelis and Palestinians alike yearn desperately for an end to strife, death, destruction, and hate. All would welcome an end to the miserable, frightful existence that now afflicts both communities, and they would surely rejoice if the president of the United States accepts this great, urgent challenge.
The president—and all of us—must face a grim prospect. A terrible, violent eruption is almost certain to follow if the Palestinians' long-held dream of viable statehood is thwarted. Some of the violence—perhaps much of it—can be expected to strike America.
The world knows that the president of the United States holds the power and bears the responsibility to bring peace to the Middle East. He alone controls the resources that can quickly bring realistic promise of a
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safe, dignified life to both Israelis and Palestinians. In the words of Vedrine: "No one else is in a position to do so."
By accepting this responsibility, the president would bring special dividends to the people of the United States. He would calm the raging winds of fury that now threaten America. He would bring new luster to the name America as the U.S. government once more becomes the champion of human rights and the rule of law for all people in all lands everywhere.
Alfred M. Lilienthal, a Jewish lawyer and author, warned a half-century ago in his prophetic book, What Price Israel?, that the establishment of Israel would lead to deep trouble for the United States and Judaism. Together with his other valiant literary endeavors, What Price Israel? inspired much of the information in the closing chapter of this volume. I first met this great man on November 24, 1978, when he called at my office in the U.S. House of Representatives to give me a copy of his latest and greatest book, The Zionist Connection.
If policy-makers in Washington had heeded Lilienthal's warning, Jews and Arabs would have lived happily together all these years, and many thousands of people in the Middle East would have been spared violent deaths. Moreover, I believe that 9/11 would never have occurred. I welcome this opportunity to thank Lilienthal for the inspiration and understanding that he provides me and thousands of other people.
The most recent contributor to my ongoing education about the Middle East is Nizar Wattad, a 2002 summa cum laude graduate of George Washington University and a member of the editorial staff of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, a magazine published nine times a year by retired U.S. Foreign Service officers Andrew L. Killgore and Richard H. Curtiss. They granted Wattad a part-time leave of absence so that he could apply his skills in bringing coherence and grammatical order to my text. Noor Naciri, a Nashville friend of many years, and Wolf Fuhrig, a retired professor and neighbor, also provided valuable editorial criticism. Our grandson, graduate student Andy Findley, provided critical research.
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This book had its genesis in early December 1982, when I was called to the Republican cloakroom, an area just off the floor of the House of Representatives where congressmen receive telephone calls, have a light lunch, or await legislative developments. The House was engaged in a post-election "lame duck" session, finishing business that had been put off by campaign pressures. Waiting on the phone was a nationally prominent citizen I had known and admired for years. He expressed his regret at my defeat at the polls the previous month, then suggested that I write a book about Israel's lobby, even proposing the title. He insisted that I not mention his name in the text.
That telephone call was one of the most momentous of my life. It started me down a fascinating trail of discovery that has absorbed most of my time and energies ever since. It led me to write this book and its subsequent editions, two other books—Deliberate Deceptions: Facing the Facts About the U.S.—Israeli Relationship, published in 1993 by Lawrence Hill Books, an imprint of Chicago Review Press, and more recently by the American Educational Trust; and Silent No More: Confronting America's False Images of Islam, published in 2001 by Amana Publications in Beltsville, Maryland—and more than two hundred articles that have been published in magazines and newspapers.
In preparing the text, I had the support of many people. To my amazement, no one declined to be interviewed, but I was not surprised when several of them insisted on anonymity. Much of the information in the text was volunteered by career government officials who want the public to be aware of how the lobby functions, but who insisted that their own names be withheld. Four of the five people who contributed the most to the actual editing of my manuscript made the same request. Recognizing the lobby's capacity for retribution, they said such mention would harm their careers. One said bluntly, "In helping you, I'm taking a big chance. If this gets out, I will be fired from my job." Robert W. Wichser, a good friend and for fourteen years the director of my congressional staff in Washington, is the only member of this group that I feel free to identify. He perished in flood waters in December 1985.
Fortunately, I can publicly recognize several other people who also provided yeoman service: Donald Neff, the former Middle East correspondent for Time magazine who has written five books on the Arab-Israeli conflict; the late George W. Weller, author and former for-
eign correspondent for the Chicago Daily News; and former Senator James Abourezk, who founded the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in 1980.
For eighteen months my attachment to a word processor was so constant that my wife, Lucille, occasionally described herself—without really complaining—as a Wang widow, taking the name of the equipment I used in writing the first edition. In fact, when she first learned that I was considering writing this book, she offered to live on beans and water if need be to see the project to completion. The Spartan diet was unnecessary, thanks to a grant provided by Sangamon State University, since renamed the University of Illinois in Springfield. The grant was funded by the American Middle East Peace Research Institute.
My quest for a publisher began in March 1983 and was predictably long and frustrating. In declining to represent me, New York literary agent Alexander Wylie forecast with prophetic vision that no major U.S. publisher would accept my book. He wrote, "It's a sad state of affairs." Bruce Lee of William Morrow and Company called my manuscript "outstanding," but said his company concluded that publishing it "would cause trouble in the house and outside." Robert Loomis of Random House called it an "important book," but his employer decided the theme was "too sensitive." Twenty other publishers also said no.
In July 1984, veteran publisher Lawrence Hill agreed to take the gamble. When he died in March 1988, I lost a friend, and the cause of human rights lost an able advocate. He would rejoice, I am sure, to know that They Dare to Speak Out now appears in an expanded, updated edition, as well as in Arabic, Indonesian, Malaysian, Urdu, and German.
Since publication of the fitst edition in June 1985, response to this book has been remarkable. The work has elicited more than 50 reviews in periodicals, more than 100 appearances on television and radio programs, and lectures on 30 campuses. Despite lobby attempts to curtail sales in the early months of its publication, the total sold soon topped 300,000.1 received more than 900 letters and telephone calls from readers. All but a handful were cordial, and most of them asked what they could do to help curb the influence of Israel's lobby.
Many of these readers became supporters of the Council for the National Interest (CNI) and its affiliate, the CNI Foundation, both Washington-based organizations that I helped found. Gene Bird, a former U.S.
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Foreign Service officer, is president of CNI. Former Representative Paul N. "Pete" McCloskey is chairman of the board of directors. Former Ambassador Edward L. Peck heads the CNI Foundation. If you wish to help—and I hope you will—write to CNI, 1250 4th Street SW, WG-1, Washington, D.C. 20024, or call (202) 863-2951. To keep informed on important issues and developments, read the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. To subscribe to the publication, write to P.O. Box 53062, Washington, DC 20009, or call (800) 368-5788.