Zionism and American Jews

Alfred M. Lilienthal

It had been a nasty, rainy night when an elderly, affluent Hartford couple made their way from their home to a meeting. As their car slowly turned left at the entrance to the Jewish Community Center, another automobile raced out of the fog and rammed into them. My cousin, whose countless civil and philanthropic deeds had endeared her to the community, was dead before she could reach the hospital; her husband seriously injured.

Ever since the appearance of my Readers' Digest article, in which I crossed swords with Zionist Organization chieftain, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, my relatives in Hartford had looked upon me as a plain and simple nut, if not a traitor. Former close family ties had deteriorated to a point of near-total ostracism. Nevertheless, blood is thicker than water, and I rushed to Connecticut for the last rites of a wonderful woman, and was among the 800 to pay Sunday morning tribute to her in a packed synagogue-the very one from which, in the presence of many family members, I had been excoriated by the rabbi during the High Holy Days services thirty years earlier for daring to speak out publicly against Zionism.

Having flown up from Washington, I spent the night at the home of other cousins from whom my iconoclastic views had separated me even before the Digest piece appeared.

Cousin Bern and I stayed up reminiscing late into the night, and, of course, the Middle East crisis came into our conversation. "You know, I have never been a Zionist," he said. "But something had to be done to provide a home for Jewish refugees. That is why I have always supported the State of Israel, given substantially to the UJA, and even headed the Hartford drive." This reasoning, so typical of thousands of other Jews, has been responsible for the Zionist takeover of the American Jewish community-lock, stock and barrel.

My rejoinder, I feared, fell on ears as deaf as those I had encountered in my continual efforts to open doors to reasoning and to banish emotionalism. Americans of Jewish faith cannot visualize the extent to which their rabbis and secular leadership, operating through Organized Jewry, have totally deceived them into confusing humanitarianism with nation-building, religion and nationalism. A home could have been found in 1947 for the 285 000 survivors of Hitler's concentration camps without ever establishing a state; just as today security for the Jews of Israel can be obtained without the continued expansionism wrought by the West Bank settlements policy or the ruthless repression of the rights of the Palestinian people.

But only an ever-larger state will appease the hungry ambitions of Zionist leaders. Privately they have incessantly declared that they have no interest in refugees, only in creating a sovereign state. In their atheism and agnosticism, they have manifested even less concern for Judaism, the religious faith. Adroitly exploiting Nazi genocide, their propaganda has used the Holocaust to extract a blank check from Zionist and non-Zionist co-religionists which enabled them in 1948 to bet the future of American Judaism on the roulette of power politics.

Speaking unqualifiedly in the name of all Jews, Zionist acumen made certain that the politicians remained hypnotized more than ever by the "Jewish vote." All they had to do was to remind both political parties that their eloquent support of Israel was a prerequisite for their conquest of pivotal election states.

When so much is at stake in the Middle East, inevitably the question must arise: How has the Zionist will been imposed on the American people? Far from all Jews believed in the concept of the Jewish state, and the Jews themselves constituted but a very small minority of the American population, less than three percent. Is it possible that Americans have been so apathetic that six million can manipulate 230 million?

But there are many compelling reasons why population figures are of little relevance to the Zionist success story. Mahatma Gandhi once remarked: "Numbers are not critical to any struggle. Strength and purpose are." This strength, matched by wealth and position, can be summed up in one word: power. The Zionists have been able to muster fantastic muscle at the right moment and at the right place, or instill the fear that it might be used.

The triumph of Zionism would never have been Possible without the 20th century's Holy Trinity: Hitler, the supine politicians and the compliant media. By labeling those who opposed the course upon which Israeli leadership intractably committed their new state as "anti-Semitic," they crushed budding dissent. Without understanding the underlying reasons, the Jewish rank and file could point to the large number of prominent Christian supporters of the state and boast: "Just as it is not necessary to be Jewish to love Levy's rye bread, so one need not be Jewish to be a Zionist." Everyone loves a winner. What little organized opposition there was to Zionism totally collapsed with Israel's stirring victory in the June 1967 six-day war. The anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism all but vanished, and thereafter, even non-Zionists were not ashamed to be counted in Zionists ranks, as Commentary editor Norman Podhertz so loudly proclaimed in "Now, Instant Zionism."

A principal reason for the remarkable political success achieved by the Jewish connection and the Zionist connectors lies deep in the American political system. Our system of representative government has been profoundly affected by the growing influence and affluence of minority pressure groups, whose strength invariably increases as presidential elections approach. This makes it virtually impossible to formulate foreign policy in the American national interest. The Electoral College system has greatly fortified the position of the national lobbies established by ethnic, religious and other minority pressure groups-the Jewish-Zionist-Israel lobby in particular.

Under this anachronistic system, state votes go as a unit to the candidate winning a plurality of the vote, which endows a well-organized lobby with tremendous bargaining power. And the Jewish connection has been augmented by the Jewish location: seventy-six percent of American Jewry is concentrated in sixteen cities of six states -- California, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio and Florida -- with 181 electoral votes. It only takes 270 electoral votes to elect the next President of the United States.

This explains why the politicians have been mesmerized by fear of the "Jewish vote" in a hotly contested state. The inordinate Israelist influence over the White House, the Congress and other elected officials, stems from this ability to pander bloc votes, as well as to fill the campaign coffers of both parties with timely contributions. The individual Jew who might not go along with Zionist ideology or Jewish nationalism is too cowardly to speak out and take the usurpers of his voice to task; and so the peddling goes forward.

Few Jews appreciate the methodology employed by the powerful Zionist lobby in Washington to keep the politicians in line. It's not exactly pretty, and even in the declining morality of our day, I am certain that many would be revolted by what is done in their name to help the Middle East's "bastion of democracy."

This lobby, fully integrated within our national elective process, has become intrinsic to the warp and woof of the U.S. political system for the past thirty-two years. Show me a man who is running for President, and I will show you invariably a politician who will not dare offend this potent lobby. Show me a legislator in either branch of the congress, and I will show you an office holder who invariably bows to this powerful pressure group. Whereas other pressure groups may have to comb the congressional offices, arguing the merits of certain proposals in order to gain the necessary affirmative votes, the Israeli lobby channels information to its many allies in Congress, rounds up scores of assured votes when they are needed, and has the pleasant task of urging well-intentioned, overly eager members not to wander off with their own competing legislation in support of Israel.

During the height of the 1973 war, a thirty-six hour phone blitz by I.L. Kenen, the head of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC, the Israeli lobby), resulted, on 18 October, in the immediate introduction of legislation in both houses to transfer "Phantom aircraft and other equipment in the quantities needed by Israel to repel aggressors in the amount of $2.2 billion." A massive campaign prefaced the passage of this military aid bill, and an attempt to strip $500 million from the legislation was defeated when Kenen fired off ninety-five telegrams to House Appropriations and Foreign Affairs Committee members.

When the influential chairman of the latter committee, Clement J. Zablocki, sought across-the-board reductions in military exports to Middle East countries, including Israel, he found himself forced to bow to Zionist pressure. The "Israel-Firsters" and AIPAG moved to block him from assuming the chairmanship of the committee in the 95th Congress. Only after a bitter, behind the scenes, conference was an amicable arrangement worked out. The Congressman has not since opposed any of Israel's lofty ambitions on Capitol Hill.

Surprisingly, it was the New York Times itself, usually the staunchest supporter of Zionist and Israeli goals, which exposed and analyzed frankly the activities of this most powerful of pressure groups in an August 1975 article. As a demonstration of an allegedly new, U.S. impartiality, President Ford had agreed to sell Jordan the improved Hawk missiles with the NAS systems worth some $256 million. But the lobby went immediately to work. A secret communication about the proposed sale, based on a classified Defense Department document, sent by the White House to members of the Senate Foreign Relations and the House Foreign Affairs Committees, was leaked to AIPAC by Zionist aides of New Jersey Senator Clifford P. Case and New York Representative Jonathan B. Bingham. Immediately, the lobby mobilized its organization in 197 major and 200 smaller cities across the country, warning of the dangers to Israel. In a two-page memorandum and letter describing the scope and nature of the proposed sale, the lobby concluded that it was capable of "providing cover for offensive operations against Israel."

The communities were called upon to act at once and to apply forceful pressure. Within twenty-four hours of the memorandum's distribution, congressmen were besieged with phone calls, telegrams and mailgrams from constituents urging them to oppose the Hawk sale to Jordan.

Despite the threat that Jordan's King Hussein might turn elsewhere, even to the Soviet Union, the legislators stuck by their guns, and the matter was tabled. An unidentified Democratic Senator was quoted in the Times as saying that he would only talk without attribution about the Israeli lobby "because they can deliver votes and they control a lot of campaign contributions. That's why I cannot go on the record or I'd be dead."

"It's the strongest lobby," the Senator added. "It doesn't dilute its strength by lobbying on other issues -- a lot of members resent it, but they don't feel they can do anything about it. That lobby wants to do Congress' thinking on Israel -- they don't want any independent judgments."

Demands on the Justice Department to investigate how a classified White House document had been transmitted to an agent of the State of Israel were ignored. The lobby was too strong.

Spade work on the Hill has been carried out by a group of dedicated, key young staff people. Michael Kraft from Senator Case's office; Stephen Bryen of the Middle East subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Scott Cohen, Senator Charles Percy's aide; Richard Perle of Senator Henry Jackson's staff; Richard D. Siegel from Pennsylvania Senator Richard Shweicker's office; Mel Grossman, an aide to Florida's Edward J. Gurney; Edward A. "Pete" Lakeland, Jacob Javits' aide; Daniel L. Speigel from Senator Muriel Humphrey's office; Mel Levine, an aide to California's John V. Tunney; Jay Berman from Birch Bayh's office; and Kenneth Davis, an assistant to Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania when he was Minority Leader.

According to Stephan D. Isaacs in his book Jews and American Politics, this group has worked "quietly, drafting legislation and other materials and mounting 'backfires' to ensure support of appropriate legislation advancing Israel's many causes" while Senators Jackson, Javits, Ribicoff and others worked "out front" to garner support among fellow Senators.

It was this effort that was responsible for the passage of the Jackson-Vanick amendment to the 1972 U.S. trade agreement with the Soviet Union, the first nail placed in the coffin of détente. Pleas of President Ford-who had earlier expressed sympathy for the plight of Soviet Jewry in a "State of the World" address-to reject this amendment as inimical to American interests and relations with the Soviet Union were to no avail. Jackson, the lobby's stalwart champion on the issue of Soviet Jewry, insisted on encumbering the agreement, mutually advantageous to the U.S. and the Soviet Union, with the amendment guaranteeing an annual emigration of a set number of Soviet Jews. Whether d6tente is good or not for the U.S. is debatable, but to link this issue with the question of Soviet Jewry is a wholly untenable position.

The one senator who, over many years, consistently refused to bow to Zionist pressures and who defied the Israeli lobby was Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman J. William Fulbright. He incurred Zionist wrath when he stated on "Face the Nation" in 1973 that: "The Israelis control the policy of the Congress and the Senate ... Somewhere around 80% of the Senate of the U.S. is completely in support of Israel-of anything Israel wants..."

Jews in Arkansas blasted the Senator: "Fulbright's rival in the May 1974 Democratic primary, Governor Dale Bumpers boasted:

I could have bought central Arkansas with the offers of money from the Jewish community ... The offer of assistance came from people in New York and California who had raised a lot of money in the Jewish community for political purposes.

To the great satisfaction of the lobby, this flow of money helped defeat Senator Fulbright and return him to private life. But this victory in the long run may turn out to be only a Pyrrhic one for American Jews.

In a memorable speech on the floor of the Senate, Mr Fulbright had placed "the whipsawing of foreign policy by certain minority groups to the detriment of the national interest" in its broader, historical perspective:

Mr. President, this nation has welcomed millions of immigrants from abroad. In the 19th century we were called the melting pot, and we were proud of that description. It meant that there came to this land people of diverse creeds, colors and races. These immigrants became good Americans, and their ethnic or religious origins were of secondary importance. But in recent years we have seen the rise of organizations dedicated apparently, not to America, but to foreign states and groups. The conduct of foreign policy for America has been seriously compromised in this development. We can survive this development, Mr. President, only if our political institutions-and the Senate in particular- retain their objectivity and their independence so that they can serve all Americans.

But as long as legislative staff members kept their Jewishness uppermost in mind, vital objectivity could never be accomplished.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of B'nai B'rith, likewise, has done its share in "converting" congressmen at critical moments. Opposition to sending the deadly C-3 concussion bombs to the Zionist state immediately brought overt suggestions from the ADL that opponents were secretly anti-Semitic. "That's the perversive force they strike at in the hearts of members up here," one Capitol Hill aide was quoted as saying. "If you're in opposition to anything Israel wants, you get a big white paintbrush that says you're anti-Semitic."

The story behind legislative chicanery in behalf of Israel scarcely ever surfaces, and when it does, it is summarily dismissed as anti-Semitic propaganda. But one day, predicted a senior U.S. diplomat, according to Newsweek magazine, there will be a congressional investigation into how we lost the Middle East that will make the great China debate seem trivial. It is sad to contemplate how many innocent American Jews may suffer for the actions of their self-appointed spokesmen. The undue influence registered by a small minority on behalf of a foreign state will indeed not look pretty.

In the light of day, the link between the thirteen-year Israeli occupation of Holy Jerusalem and the course taken by the Islamic revolution in Iran will be more than clear. The unholy alliance forged between Iran and Israel, supported by pressure on successive presidents, together with the Henry Kissinger-Nelson Rockefeller initiative, during the midst of the hostage crisis, in bringing the Shah to the U.S., will one day become common knowledge. More people, to use the 1948 words of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at the time of Israel's establishment, will complain about "the shameful junking of international interests to regain Jewish votes." The silencing of criticism of Israeli policy by a veritable world Who's Who, ranging from philosopher William Ernest Hocking, Father Daniel Berrigan and Dorothy Thompson to Dag Hammarskjold, Bruno Kreisky and Charles de Gaulle, will in the long run prove to have been a real tragedy for all Americans.

Can the Jewish community in the United States be brought to its senses before total disaster overtakes it? Can the process, once described by the editor of the Jewish Newsletter William Zuckerman as "Campaign Judaism," by which this community has "almost consciously emptied itself of all higher aspirations and spiritual needs and has willingly limited itself to the role of financial milk cow for others" be brought to an end? It will indeed be difficult to tear Jewish leaders and their wives from the massive Israeli Bond and UJA drives, from Hadassah teas, and gaudy banquets, and garish publicity, all masked as philanthrophic functions.

Professor of Organic Chemistry at the Hebrew University, Israel Shahak, himself a survivor of Bergen-Belsen, maintains that undeviating devotion to the State of Israel by Israeli and American Jews is "both immoral and against the mainstream of Jewish tradition and is nothing but Jewish apostasy."

Dr. Shahak added:

Jews used to believe, and say it three times a day, that a Jew should be devoted to God, and God alone. A small minority still believe it. But it seems to me that the majority of my people has left God and substituted an idol in its place, exactly as happened when they were devoted to the golden calf in the desert and gave away their gold to make it. The name of this modern idol is the State of Israel.

It will be no simple task to detach Jews from such idolatrous worship. The blatant expansionism and racism, defiantly displayed by Prime Minister Begin did not awaken American Jews. They are unable to discern that the gravest danger to peace stems not so much from geographic expansionism, in the guise of security, or from the seizure of land belonging to Palestinian Arabs for centuries, but from ideological expansionism which views Palestine as belonging exclusively to the Jewish people as inchoate citizens of the state established in their name. It is extemely doubtful whether any successor to Menachem Begin, be he Shimon Peres or Ezer Weizman, will dare to attempt to cast Israel out of its Zionist mold or that there will be a Jewish American revolt.

The myth-makers have been too powerful in weaving their web. Hebrew, Israelite, Judean, Judaism and the Jewish people have been accepted as one, suggesting historic continuity. In fact they were different people in different historical times with varying ways of life who continually intermarried with indigenous Amorites, Canaanites, Midianites, Phoenicians and other Semitic ancestors of the present-day Arabs. It is too often forgotten that Judaism was a tremendous proselytizing force throughout the world before, and even after, the coming of Jesus. In The Thirteenth Tribe, Arthur Koestler, supported overwhelmingly by such anthropologists as Ripley, Weissenberg, Hertz, Boas, Mead and Fishberg, proves that the vast majority of today's Jews are descendants of the Khazars of South Russia. They converted to Judaism in 70 A.D. at the time of the dispersion of the small, original Judaic Palestinian population by Roman Emperors Vespasian and Titus. The Ben-Gurions, the Golda Meirs, and Begins, who have clamored to go back "home," probably never had antecedents in that part of the world.

The American Jew has permitted the Zionist quest for roots in Palestine to lead him into the most dangerous shoals. The abnormal, unique relationship, which he has allowed to be carried out in his name, between Jews in the United States and Israel, has forged an "Israel-First" policy which is an underlying factor in the continuing tensions besetting the Middle East and the Islamic world. U.S. security interests have become endangered; an energy crisis has been thrust into every American home. The enmity towards the United States, incurred in the Arab-Muslim world, has eroded the measureless reservoir of goodwill stemming from the many educational and eleemosynary institutions founded by Americans.

In a world which has never needed spiritual faith more than during this present threat to civilization, universal Judaism has itself become gravely imperiled. For what is left of its universal, ethical precepts without the ethos of righteousness? In the ruthless takeover of Palestine, in driving out the indigenous population, the Israelis have violated tenets deeply imbeded in the preachments of the Prophets. And sadly, American Jews have compounded the felonly with racist attitudes towards Palestinians, in particular the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

What is both sad and equally ironic, is that in permitting themselves to be traumatized by a refuted racial myth, the Jews of America have allowed Hitler to triumph. In doling out incarceration and death while sweeping through conquered Europe, the Führer undid the laws of emancipation and the process of integration for which so many Jews had so-long struggled, when he decreed: "You are not a German, you are a Jew. You are not a Frenchman, you are a Jew. You are not a Belgian, you are a Jew." Yet these are the identical words Zionist leaders intone as they meticulously promote the emigration to the Holy Land of Jews from around the globe, plotting their exodus from lands in which they have lived happily for centuries. Moshe Dayan succinctly expressed it in the New York Times magazine: "I am a Jew before I am an Israeli."

Rarely has the deceit of so few been so widely practiced to the detriment of so many, as in the formulation and implementation of American Middle East policy. But normal, friendly relations with all peoples of the region may still be restored. If the PLO is recognized by the U.S. and obstacles to the creation of a Palestinian state are removed, Arab and Jew, Muslim and Hebrew, in an atmosphere of justice, may still renew their millenial peaceful co-existence side by side. But there is no place for Zionism.

Such a happy goal is not illusory. It may be achieved when Jewish Americans find the courage to stand up as individuals and throw off the yoke of Organized Jewry. It is imperative-by word and, more importantly, by deed-for every Jew in the United States to articulate this credo openly and loudly: "Judaism is not Zionism -- Zionism is not Judaism -- anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. Israel's flag is, in no way, mine."

From The Journal of Historical Review, Summer 1981 (Vol. 2, No. 2), pages 181-191. This item first appeared in Arab Perspectives, June 1980.

Alfred M. Lilienthal (1915- 2008) was a graduate of Cornell University and Columbia Law School. He was the author of several important books, including What Price Israel? and The Zionist Connection. For years he was publisher and editor of Middle East Perspective newsletter.