Shalom Freedman on The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control, by Abraham H. Foxman

, April 18, 2008

Jewish Political Studies Review 20:1-2 (Spring 2008)

 

Lies about the Lobby

The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control, by Abraham H. Foxman, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, 256 pp.

Reviewed by Shalom Freedman

 

This book was published on 4 October 2007, the same day as John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.[1] It seeks to dispel what it calls Walt and Mearsheimer’s “lies” while also addressing the anti-Israeli allegations of Jimmy Carter and of Tony Judt.

The book opens with a persuasive Foreword by former U.S. secretary of state George Schultz, which denies the Walt-Mearsheimer myth that American Jews control U.S. foreign policy:

At every level, those who blame Israel and its Jewish supporters for U.S. policies they do not support are wrong. They are wrong because, to begin with, support for Israel is in our best interests. They are also wrong because Israel and its supporters have the right to try to influence U.S. policy. And they are wrong because the U.S. government   is responsible for the policies it adopts, not any other state or any of the myriad lobbies and groups that battle daily-sometimes with lies-to win American support. (18)

Foxman contends that Walt and Mearsheimer’s charges amount to a kind of blood libel against American Jewish supporters of Israel with the aim of silencing them. In a relatively mild and nonpolemical tone, he notes that such instances as President Reagan’s visit to the German military cemetery at Bitburg, or the AWACS sale to Saudi Arabia, do not suggest Jewish control of U.S. foreign policy. He also exposes the absurdity of the claim that the Israel lobby was behind the U.S. decision to invade Iraq. Above all, Foxman highlights Walt and Mearsheimer’s bad faith in claiming not to be enemies of Israel while advocating a policy that in effect would isolate it and leave it prey to international sanction and delegitimization.

As for Carter, Foxman expresses respect for his work in various parts of the world and attributes his turning against Israel to his disappointment with Menachem Begin. He cites an article[2] by the former South African journalist and civil rights activist Benjamin Pogrund to invalidate any comparison between the South African racist regime and democratic Israel. Foxman does so without falsely idealizing Israel; he recognizes that, faced with harsh realities and its foes’ intransigence, Israel’s measures in self-defense have sometimes caused suffering to the other side.

In dealing with Judt’s indictment of Israel, however, Foxman places undue emphasis on defending himself and his organization. He demonstrates that he was wrongly accused of trying to silence Judt by preventing him from speaking at the Polish embassy in New York. He also makes a prolonged effort to distinguish between legitimate criticism of Israel and that which is destructive in intent. His detailed analysis of the Judt affair shows how the media has been manipulated by anti-Israeli propaganda. The chapter could have dealt more broadly with anti-Jewish Jews in the United States. It also would have been worth discussing Islamist forces in the United States that work to undermine support for Israel.

In his concluding chapter Foxman again stresses the legitimacy of American Jewish lobbying for Israel. He persuasively argues for the importance of world Jewry in helping Israel defend itself and serve as a possible refuge for Jewish communities in the future. He both champions and illustrates the principle that the American Jewish community must not be intimidated and silenced by charges that evoke the old dual-loyalty accusation.

Foxman makes clear that in lobbying for Israel, American Jews act both as loyal Americans and as responsible heirs of the Jewish historical legacy.

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Notes

 

[1] John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen J. Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007).

[2] Benjamin Pogrund, “Israel Is a Democracy in Which Arabs Vote-Not an Apartheid State,” Focus 40, December 2005.

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SHALOM FREEDMAN’s most recent book is Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Torah Sage and General (Jerusalem and New York: Urim, 2006).