Washington, DC - March 7, 2014 8AM-5PM at the National Press Club

"..a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils."

-George Washington, Farewell Address


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  Has the Israel Lobby Captured the Right?
(Video YouTube, Audio MP3)

by Justin Raimondo is an American author and the editorial director of In addition to his thrice-weekly column for, Raimondo is a regular contributor to The American Conservative and Chronicles magazines. Raimondo's books include Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993), reissued in 2008 with new introduction by George W. Carey, by Intercollegiate Studies Institute.  Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (AFPAC, 1996). Colin Powell and the Power Elite (America First Books, 1996). An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard, (Prometheus Books, July 2000).

My topic today is Israel and the American Conservative Movement: A History, and as is the case in so many other ways, the conservative movement’s position on the state of Israel isn’t what it used to be. Just as what we call the Old Right, the pre-[William F.] Buckley right was anti-interventionist and good on civil liberties, so the conservatives of the 1940s and 1950s were hostile to Israel, and sympathetic to the Arabs, believe it or not.   A good example of this is revealed in a letter from the neoconservative guru Leo Strauss to the editors of National Review magazine. He was objecting to an article in the November 17, 1956 issue of the magazine that contained the following sentence:

"Even the Jews, themselves the victims of the most notorious racial discrimination of modern times, did not hesitate to create the first racist state in modern history." 

Now this is coming from National Review magazine in 1956.  So things have changed.  It is unimaginable that such a sentence would ever find its way into the National Review of Rich Lowry, the current editor, because Mr. Lowry represents a movement that has been thoroughly co-opted and corrupted by, first, the cold war, and secondly our endless "war on terrorism."

The conservative movement of the 1940s and 50s openly challenged the entire conception of a Jewish state: this argument was made in several books published by the very first conservative book publisher in America Henry Regnery, who issued a whole series of books reporting on the dispossession of the Palestinian people and calling into question the whole Zionist project. For example, there was Nejla Izzeddin’s The Arab World  published in 1943 [1953], and noted by the Kirkus reviewing service as follows:

"The writer is also, if perhaps naturally, violently against the creation of the state of Israel which she feels was prompted more by international power politics than by humanitarian principles and represents an American and British threat to the Arab world."

Regnery also put out Freda Utley’s Will the Middle East Go West?, which expressed a viewpoint just as fresh today as it was back in 1957: "Freedom and justice for Israel," she wrote, "depend on freedom and justice for the Arabs."

That same year Regnery put out another book, this time a book of photographs depicting life in a Palestinian refugee camp, entitled They Are Human Too, as well as a novel about Palestinian refugees. And you should see this photo book, it looks like Gaza today, I mean nothing has changed.  But it's very interesting that it was put out by a conservative, explicitly ideologically conservative publisher.  And then there was What Price Israel?, by Alfred M. Lilienthal, who I believe is the founder of the American Council on Judaism, which made what was back then the mainstream Jewish argument against the idea of a specifically Jewish state.

On the other hand, we see the same reversal—now you can see how things have been reversed—but on the left there was another reversal going on, albeit in the opposite direction. In the beginning, in 1948, the American left was very much pro-Israel. Henry Wallace made support for Israel a major issue in his presidential campaign that year as the candidate of the leftist Progressive party, which had the fulsome backing of the American Communist Party.

And the Soviet Union itself was initially sympathetic to the Israelis, with Andrei Gromyko arguing at the UN in favor of the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. And this wasn’t just talk, mind you, the Soviet bloc provided the arms that made the establishment of Israel possible. Indeed, the Czech Communist government was single-handedly responsible for arming the Haganah, and the Irgun. Soviet propagandists even commented approvingly on the Stern Gang when they blew up the King David Hotel. What’s more, 200,000 emigrants from socialist countries in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union came to Israel to fight the British in the war for independence. A US arms embargo—by the way—prevented all but a trickle of aid from reaching the Israelis from America.

Now Harry Truman was not inclined to support Israel, but was persuaded by the challenge coming from Wallace and the left to recognize its existence. Yet the Soviets—again— were the first to recognize Israel as a specifically Jewish state: in Truman’s declaration—if you look at the original actual text where he crossed things out and put things in, the word "Palestine" is still used and the phrase "Jewish state" is crossed out.

So, what happened to change things into their exact opposite?

Well, what happened was the cold war. When the arms embargo favoring the Arabs was repealed in the United States, the Israelis began to warm toward the West. Although the Soviets had allowed Jews to emigrate to Israel, the huge numbers of applicants from the Soviet Union itself made them a little bit nervous: after all, who would want to leave their workers paradise? Well.  When the Korean war broke out and Israel sided with the UN, the Soviets dropped their support for Israel, started selling arms to Egypt and Syria, and initiated a series of appalling show trials targeting Jews in the Soviet bloc: including the [in]famous "Doctor’s Plot" and the Slansky trials in Czechslovakia

On the right, simultaneously, the big turnaround was also due to the cold war. It can be seen largely as a tribal reaction to the left’s growing anti-Zionism. It was also due to the incursion of a number of former leftists who gathered around National Review magazine and later became known as the neoconservatives. The neocons, as we affectionately call them, are partisans of Israel who have often been accused – sometimes unfairly – of putting Israel’s interests over and above American interests. Now the truth is that they see no dividing line: as long as Israel’s interests are served, they believe, so are America’s. This has become an increasingly hard position to defend, however, since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and subsequent efforts by the United States government to minimize the influence of Islamist radicals—like Al-Qaeda.

Another factor in the great turnaround of the American right on the Israel question has been the growth of the evangelical "born again" movement as a force to be reckoned with in the conservative movement. Here is where theology impacts politics – as it so often does and isn't really noticed by the anti-religious media—and this in turn has a direct effect—and has had a direct effect— on US foreign policy.

The doctrine of premillennial dispensationalism, bear with me here, which holds that the coming together of the Jews in Israel marks the beginning of the end of days, has exerted a powerful attraction to millions of evangelicals. Dispensationalists—briefly—hold that the promise made to Abraham and to the Jewish people have been held in abeyance but will be fulfilled by the so-called "time of tribulation"– an era that will prefigure the end of history and the return of Christ to earth. What this means, among other things, is that the borders of the land supposedly given to Abraham and his descendants – the Jewish people – will extend from the Nile to the Euphrates—as it says in the bible. In the dispensationalist theology, Christ will return to a Jewish kingdom, the epicenter of which will be a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem.

Now according to this theology, the "time of tribulation" is imminent: the rapture, the rebuilding of the Temple, and the coming of the Antichrist will all signal the end of days – and the final battle between good and evil on the plane of Armageddon. Many dispensationalists explicitly state that this will be a nuclear war – another Holocaust, in which Israel—and all mankind by the way—will perish, with only the pure of heart ascending to Heaven.

Now, the single largest – and, arguably most effective – component of the Israel lobby consists—not of AIPAC—but of a highly organized and very resourceful Christian dispensationalist element. They have their own lobbying organizations such as Christian United for Israel (CUFI), which is run by the Rev. John Hagee who I believe is in Texas and is very active. They are particularly active in the Republican party and pose a mighty obstacle to any politician who seeks to restore balance to American foreign policy in the Middle East.

There is hope, however: there is a resurgence of foreign policy realism in the GOP and in the conservative movement generally: in response to the general war weariness we are all feeling. Opposition to US intervention overseas, embraced as a principled position by the increasingly influential libertarian wing of the Republican Party, will tend to distance the GOP from a pro-Israel lobby that is perpetually trying to draw us into Israel’s wars.

For those of us who want to change American foreign policy and steer it in a less interventionist direction, the road ahead is going to be long, hard and filled with many obstacles, not the least of which is the tremendous motivation of the pro-Israel lobby in all its aspects. Yet the costs of maintaining this "special relationship" have long since outweighed the gains, and America is slowly but surely waking up to this fact. Let us hope that this event—a very successful event— is going to be a milestone in this awakening. Thank you.

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