Alison Weir on the Early Days of the Israel Lobby

In “Background traits for Jewish activism” I listed several traits of Jewish activist groups that make them so effective. They are all on display in Alison Weir’s excerpt from her book Against Our Better Judgment: How the US was Used to Create Israel

1. Jewish groups are well organized and lavishly funded. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by the incredible scale of Zionist activism during the 1940s, both financially and in the scale of their outreach efforts. But it is truly remarkable. Weir describes the “gargantuan financial resources” available, amounting to $1.5 billion in today’s dollars. A big part of the effort was aimed at non-Jewish elites in business, labor, religion, and academia; pro-Zionist books by non-Jews were subsidized.

For example, at its beginning in 1945

[the American Zionist Emergency Council] booked Madison Square Garden, ordered advertisements, and mailed 250,000 announcements – the first day. By the second day they had organized demonstrations in 30 cities, a letter-writing campaign, and convinced 27 U.S. Senators to give speeches. Grassroots Zionist action groups were organized with more than 400 local committees under 76 state and regional branches. AZEC funded books, articles and academic studies; millions of pamphlets were distributed.

This top-down approach making alliances with sympathetic non-Jews is typical of Jewish efforts generally, as with the neoconservatives whose networks of think tanks and access to the media and the highest levels of government provide excellent career prospects for ambitious Jews and non-Jews alike. As a small minority, Jews must reach out to others and they are very effective at doing it.

Without exaggeration, this is the key lynchpin of Jewish power. The Jewish ethnic infrastructure provides ample opportunities for careers for Jews and non-Jews alike if they support Jewish causes. (Non-Jews are particularly welcome because they provide a non-Jewish veneer to what are essentially Jewish movements.) This is notoriously the case for the neoconservative foreign policy establishment that is so central to the Israel Lobby. As Scott McConnell, noted,

There are dozens of twenty-something, thirty-something, forty-something and older neocons throughout Washington, working at think tanks, editorial pages, in government and elsewhere. I could probably count on two hands the number of youngish national-security types I know in town who I could strain to call realists. This imbalance among foreign-policy elites helps create the mistaken impression that there are lots of neoconservatives in America generally, which there aren’t. Neoconservatism really is a head without a body.

2. Psychological Intensity and Aggressiveness. The name of the early pro-Israel group,  ‘American Zionist Emergency Committee’ itself bespeaks an intense situation — “we must act right now or all is lost.” The name is reminiscent of the recent Emergency Committee for Israel or Committee on the Present Danger, neocon activist groups pushing war on behalf of Israel.

American Zionists behaved very aggressively toward their enemies and those who were not completely on board. Even President Truman was treated like a wayward underling, fit to be bullied like a wimpy schoolchild. A Jewish anti-Zionist (such people were quite common in the 1940s) wrote that

when it was unclear that President Harry Truman would support Zionism, Cellar and a committee of Zionists told him that they had persuaded Dewey to support the Zionist policy and demanded that Truman also take this stand. Cellar reportedly pounded on Truman‘s table and said that if Truman did not do so, “We’ll run you out of town. …

when he and a colleague opposed a Zionist resolution in Congress, Emanuel Celler, a New York Democrat who was to serve in Congress for almost 50 years, told them: “They ought to take you b…s out and shoot you.” …

Jacob Javits, another well-known senator, this time Republican, told a Zionist women’s group: “We’ll fight to death and make a Jewish State in Palestine if it’s the last thing that we do.”

Appeal to the Moral Sentiments of Whites. Another revealing aspect of this campaign was that it played to the moral sensibilities of the White Christian majority.

Historian Richard Stevens explains that Christian support was largely gained by exploiting their wish to help people in need. Steven writes that Zionists would proclaim “the tragic plight of refugees fleeing from persecution and finding no home,” thus linking the refugee problem with Palestine as allegedly the only solution.

Stevens writes that the reason for this strategy was clear: “…while many Americans might not support the creation of a Jewish state, traditional American humanitarianism could be exploited in favor of the Zionist cause through the refugee problems.”

A theme at TOO is that Europeans are particularly prone to being swayed by appeals to moral sentiments—the flip side of the tendency for Whites to absolutely horrified at being seen as morally defective when labeled a “racist” or “White supremacist.” Despite the general hostility toward the people and culture of the West,  Jews early on understood the importance of staking out the moral high ground in Western societies. There is a long history in the West of moral crusades, notably the campaign against slavery — likely a relic of the European evolutionary past where groups based on reputation and moral integrity rather than kinship were the norm (Ibid.). All the Jewish intellectual movements reviewed in The Culture of  Critique offered moral critiques or the West, and the activist organizations of the left never tire of casting as morally repugnant any sense of racial identity or interests by Whites — while exempting themselves from similar moral critiques.

This appeal to moral sentiment was entirely cynical on the part of the Zionists. As Weir notes, “Few if any of these Christian supporters had any idea that the creation of the Jewish state would entail a massive expulsion of hundreds of thousands of non-Jews, who made up the large majority of Palestine‘s population, creating a new and much longer lasting refugee problem.”

As is typical, the Jewish moral sense extends only to Jewish interests. But the image of a beleaguered, morally superior Israel has been a very successful cornerstone of Jewish propaganda, although I hasten to add that this image is becoming a very tough sell in the face of Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

Finally, in a footnote, Weir has a nice summary of the case for supposing that Samuel Untermeyer engineered the publication of the Schofield Reference Bible (with its Christian Zionist themes) by Oxford University Press. While not conclusive, there is a great deal of circumstantial evidence that Untermeyer, a wealthy Zionist and ally of President Woodrow Wilson, was instrumental in promoting Cyrus Schofield who had a checkered past and no scholarly qualifications — one observer C. E. Carlson, notes that he had “a criminal history, a deserted wife, a wrecked family, and a penchant for self-serving lies.”

Untermeyer, on the other hand, “was one of the most prominent Jews of his day in America. He was a prominent Zionist, and was President of the Keren Hayesod [United Israel Appeal].  In addition, he was the national leader of an unsuccessful movement in the early 1930’s for a worldwide boycott of Germany, and called for the destruction of Hitler‘s regime” (see Weir).

Carlson emphasizes the additions and deletions made to the Schofield Bible in 1967, long after Schofield’s death in 1921. For example, a note was added to Genesis 12:3 that “For a nation to commit the sin of anti-Semitism brings inevitable judgment.” (Michele Bachmann referred to Genesis 12:3 as the basis for her statement that “if we don’t completely support Israel, God will curse us.”)

Again one must be impressed at the depth and breadth of Jewish activism—well organized, well funded, and very adept at appealing to taking advantage of the moral and religious sentiments of their audience. The Israel Lobby is only one such example. The Jewish campaign to overturn the 1924 immigration restriction law was similar in its scope and intensity, and in its ability to find messages that would appeal to American audiences. A tough opponent indeed when one is on the other side of a public policy issue.



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