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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: July 2010

That is, indeed, the question of the day. Since making his overtly anti-Semitic comments, about which I blogged a day ago, Oliver Stone was obviously forced to make what turned out to be a halfhearted and clearly insincere apology. Stone released the following statement: “In trying to make a broader historical point about the range of atrocities the Germans committed against many people, I made a clumsy association about the Holocaust, for which I am sorry and I regret.”

Of course, anyone who knows all the previous interviews Stone has given about his forthcoming documentary, The Secret History of America, knows immediately how his apology is meaningless. For one, he did not say anything to show that he regrets his comments about “Jewish domination of the media” and how the powerful Jewish lobby has regularly “f….. up United States foreign policy for years.”

What clearly lies behind his new set of words is obvious pressure from Showtime and CBS. After all, the CEO of Showtime, Matthew E. Blank, received the UJA-Federation of NY’s Entertainment Media & Communications Division Award in 2003. This is something he obviously is proud of, since he has put it on Showtime’s Executive Bios page. Even more embarrassing is the immediate reaction to Stone’s words by representatives of the American Jewish community.

First, the Anti-Defamation League slammed Stone. Its director, Abraham Foxman, said that Stone “has once again shown his conspiratorial colors with his comments. … His words conjure up some of the most stereotypical and conspiratorial notions of undue Jewish power and influence.” And David A. Harris of the American Jewish Committee said that Stone had invoked a “grotesque, toxic stereotype” and had “outed himself as an anti-Semite.” His remarks, he added, were no different from “one of the drunken, Jew-hating rants of his fellow Hollywood celebrity, Mel Gibson.”

Foxman was at first not satisfied with Stone’s apology. “Oliver Stone’s apology stops short and is therefore insufficient,” he said. Of course, Foxman was correct. Then, the ante was upped. Most important, the wealthy media mogul Haim Saban, chair of the Saban Capital Group, remarked that his “apology is sooooo transparently fake.” He then contacted CBS chief Leslie Moonves, whose network owns Showtime, urging him to not air the program. Stone, Saban said, “has been consistent in his anti-American and anti-Semitic remarks,” and should join “Mel Gibson into the land of retirement.” Following his example, the powerful agent Ari Emanuel called CBS to second Saban’s request to cancel the documentary.

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Oliver Stone is at it again. I previously wrote about him months ago. Stone, now in London to do publicity for his agitprop film on Hugo Chavez, took the opportunity to do some advance publicity for his forthcoming Showtime TV series, The Secret History of America. In his new gem, he will show us how Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were all unappreciated in their own time, since they were “vilified” and he wants to show — particularly in the case of  Stalin — how he “has a complete other story.”

Well, if  Stone wants to really let us know that it is not just Fidel and Hugo Chavez he loves, but all previous monsters in the 20th century past, he is certainly free to do so. But in his new interview with Camilla Long in the London Sunday Times, he certainly ups the ante.  Added to his list of the misunderstood is Iran’s leadership. First, he informs Long that although “Iran isn’t necessarily the good guy,” the fact is that “we don’t know the full story!” Since Stone was given access exclusively to Ahmadinejad when he visited Iran, we can be certain we won’t have to wait long to see the results.

Stone gets exercised when critics like me (whom you’ll recall he personally rebuked a short time ago — you can read my response here) expose his ignorance of history and his treatment of it as a vehicle for left-wing propaganda.  It is no wonder that Castro “had been pleased” with the three documentaries Stone made about him, as was Hugo Chavez.

When Long gently asks him whether he is presenting a balanced picture, Stone replies, “The internet’s fully free [in Venezuela]. You can say what the hell you like.” He conveniently ignores last week’s news that Chavez has arrested two Venezuelans who dared to write a few words on Twitter that he found demeaning. And like those in the old Soviet Union who always said when someone was arrested, “If only Stalin knew of this injustice, this would not be happening,” Stone says there is a “section of the Chavista party that is over the top,” and which “inherited shit” from the pre-Chavez government. (Any repression is always the fault of the old “bourgeois” regime.)

Then, Stone finally gets to the forthcoming documentary on our supposed secret history. Stalin and Hitler will be put “in context,” he says, as if historians have not been doing just that for a long, long time. What he means by that, however, is that if Hitler was a Frankenstein, so were “German industrialists, the Americans and the British,” all of whom, he hints, gave Hitler his support.

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Who would have thought that in the Sherrod fiasco Glenn Beck would come out on top?  Whatever one thinks of Beck’s style, his beliefs and his program, he acted carefully and responsibly in this matter.  On his radio program, Beck said the following:

We didn’t rush to condemn her. This is another seemingly “redistribution of wealth” woman — who I would bet that I vehemently disagree with on probably everything. But she asked for the rest of the tape to be heard, the farmers in the story backed her up. It was a turning point story. We defended her and said her side of the story demanded to be heard — because context matters.

The TV talk show host- detested by liberals and leftists-went on to explain that it was the Obama administration that acted precipitously by firing her, without waiting to see the entire video or questioning Sherrod about it.

Beck quoted what USDA official Cheryl Cook had told Sherrod: “They want you to pull over to the side of the road and do it because you’re going to be on Glenn Beck tonight.”  But Beck told his audience on Thursday night that he had had no plans to broadcast the video, or for that matter, report on it until he had more information.  He went to on actually praise her for having a “pivot point” that allowed her to transcend the racial paradigm which at one point in her life she may have followed; not surprising, given the Klan murder of her own father.

Also standing out on Fox News is their in-house liberal and former civil rights activist, Juan Williams. Writing on the Fox website today, Williams  asked the essential question: “How is it possible that the first black president of the United States, under pressure for alleged reverse discrimination against whites at the Justice Department, fires a black Agriculture Department official for telling a story of racial redemption?”

Williams goes on to ask how the President could act so quickly without pausing to ascertain the facts, and how it was possible that the once great NAACP was pushing him to fire Sherrod “on a charge of racism without checking to be sure she was a hateful racist? And the NAACP had the full tape, the full facts before they went after her.”

It was the White House and the civil rights group, not the Right-wing, that in Williams’ words, acted “on the basis of an Internet video maliciously edited to intentionally distort the woman’s speech?” And he adds, how is it that they acted out of fear that Glenn Beck would use the video on his program, as if Beck had become what Williams calls “the czar of White House race relations.”

Williams believes that the administration was acting out of fear when they moved so quickly to fire her.  In their rush to judgment, they were seeking “political cover” for any charges of racism made against them by the political Right.  But everyone, he says, the White House, the NAACP, whoever edited the tape, and Breitbart’s website,  has “political dirt and racial guilt all over their hands.” Race-baiters like Al Sharpton and David Duke, he writes, “must be smiling.”

It should come as no surprise that the Left is trying to hold their favorite bogyman Fox News responsible for the mess.  Despite numerous requests, Sherrod has refused to go on Fox News, singling it out as if the network alone had acted badly. In fact, if you look at the timeline, the network only reported on the incident after the NAACP condemned her and the Administration asked for her resignation. And yet, the Left, led by Media Matters.com, is trying to use the incident to attack  Fox News. Shirley Sherrod was a victim, made out to be a black racist, an unjust and harmful slander against her. But that does not make her a saint or a prophet, whose advice on politics has to be taken as gospel by any of us. That she is willing to use her current fame to try and join the campaign to isolate and demean Fox News is itself both wrong and shameful.

The fiasco of the forced resignation of Shirley Sherrod has become one of the major stories of the day. It began when BigGovernment.com released a video given to Andrew Breitbart, which seemed to suggest, as Breitbart wrote, “video evidence of racism coming from a federal appointee and NAACP award recipient and in another clip from the same event a perfect rationalization for why the Tea Party needs to exist.”

What irked Breitbart — correctly — was that the Tea Party was being branded as racist by the NAACP and other liberal media outlets. As we have now learned, the original video handed to Breitbart included only part of the Sherrod speech. It was best explained by Roger Mackey in a New York Times blog:

Ms. Sherrod and her supporters said the edited clip was misleading because the excerpts were taken from a longer story she told about overcoming prejudice and learning, from working with this white farmer, that her job was to help poor people regardless of their race. After the N.A.A.C.P. reviewed a longer tape of the speech (embedded at the top of this post), the group said in a statement posted on its Web site, “we have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart,” the conservative blogger who drew attention to the speech.

The NAACP then backed down, releasing a statement indicating that after reviewing her entire speech and listening to the testimony of white farmers whom Sherrod actually helped, “the fact is Ms. Sherrod did help the white farmers mentioned in her speech. They personally credit her with helping to save their family farm. Moreover, this incident and the lesson it prompted occurred more than 20 years before she went to work for U.S.D.A.”

Sherrod, in her full speech, made it clear that what she was trying to convey was a change in her perspective, from seeing things only through the prism of race, when it was a matter of poor people of all colors needing help that was being denied them. She learned when “it was revealed to me that it’s about poor versus those that have and not so much –  it is about white and black but, it opened my eyes because I took him to one of his own and I put him in his hands and felt, O.K., I’ve done my job.” The white farmer then had his farm foreclosed.

The white lawyer Sherrod had sent him to did not help stop the foreclosure, but told the farmer to let the farm go. At that point, Sherrod sprung to his defense and went on to help him save his farm. From this experience she learned “it’s really about those who have versus those who don’t … And it made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people, those who don’t have access the way others have.”

After finally hearing her story, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack promised to review the decision asking for her resignation. But there is more.  On CNN, Sherrod told the story of how Undersecretary of Agriculture Cheryl Cook called her three times as she was driving to clients in Athens, Georgia, a three and a half hour car drive. “They asked me to resign, and in fact they harassed me as I was driving back to the state office from West Point, Georgia, yesterday,” she said. The last call “asked me to pull to the side of the road and do it [resign],” she said. The undersecretary told her that the White House wanted her to resign, because  “you’re going to be on Glenn Beck tonight.”

The irony is  that Glenn Beck did not show the video on his program at all that day. On the following day’s program, Beck came on the air — before the full video of Sherrod’s entire March speech had been made available by Breitbart and by the NAACP — and told his program’s viewers that Sherrod “shouldn’t have been fired.” Why, Beck asked, would they force a resignation based on a 24-year-old incident that might have been “taken entirely out of context”?

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I received the sad news on Saturday night that a good man, brilliant journalist and major defender of Israel, David Twersky, had passed away of cancer on Friday evening. I first learned of David when in 1983, he wrote what was perhaps the single finest review of my book, The Rosenberg File, that had been published. David, coming from the political left, as I was when I co-authored the book, understood right away how important the book was, and what it meant for the mindset of the entire fellow-traveling left-wing.

Soon after I saw the review, I contacted David. I found out that he had just returned to the United States after living many years in Israel. Back in this country, he decided to make it his home again, and to devote his life to Jewish affairs, journalism, and working in this country on behalf of the labor Zionism that had been his calling, and to use his abilities to write on behalf of Israel.

Eventually, both Twersky and I about the same time moved from the New York City area to that of Washington, DC, where David became the Washington editor of The Forward, which the great editor Seth Lipsky started up as a weekly Jewish paper in English, carrying on the tradition of the old Yiddish Forward, the old social-democratic and deeply anti-Communist paper that once had a giant circulation in the 1930’s and 40’s, especially in the immigrant Jewish community in the metropolitan New York City area.

The entire story of Twersky’s accomplishments writing for the paper are to be found in the lovely editorial penned by Lipsky himself, the man who hired David and gave him the freedom to write as he pleased, and to develop scoop after scoop that all the mainstream papers were forced to cover after his reports were printed.

I was partially involved in one of his major scoops, that concerning Johnnetta Cole. Lipsky relates the story:

It was Twersky who first reported on concerns of the labor movement over President-elect Clinton’s decision to put at the head of his transition team in health, education and labor an educator with far-left connections.
Twersky’s sources were alarmed because the educator, Johnnetta Cole, while widely admired as president of Spellman College, had nonetheless once been on the national committee of the Venceremos Brigades, which brought young people to help harvest sugar in Castro’s Cuba and which, according to the New York Times, the FBI had maintained was connected with Cuban intelligence. She had also been on the national committee of the United States Peace Council, an affiliate of the World Peace Council, which was regarded by the FBI as a communist front. According to the Times, Twersky’s report started the furor
that led to Ms. Cole being dropped from contention as secretary of education.

Having read of Cole’s nomination, I immediately recognized her name as an individual well known as an avid supporter of both the Soviet Union, its foreign policy, and as a person active in political campaigns run by the American Communist Party. Indeed, she had publicly put her name on a rabid anti-American screed issued by the U.S. Peace Council. I spoke to David about this, and confirmed that his suspicions about her were correct. I had a few years earlier been on a trip to Cuba with a man who was then her husband, and like her, was a fanatical Castro supporter. I knew that when Clinton nominated her- she had previously been named head of the transition team on education during the interim period after the election-she had not changed her far left views in any meaningful way.  So as Seth Lipsky, says, the rest was history. David went to print with the full story, and before you could mention her name, her appointment was rescinded.

When the future of The Forward was unclear- eventually its board unceremoniously fired Lipsky whom it considered too conservative for its laborite oriented members-David decided to move on, having received an offer to become editor of the New Jersey Jewish News, the major paper of that state’s Jewish community. When Lipsky started his short lived but important newspaper The New York Sun, he became a columnist for it and its foreign editor. He ended his career, after that paper’s demise, working for The American Jewish Congress.

While David stayed true to his labor Zionist roots, and as Lipsky mentions, voted in 2008 for Barack Obama- he was a friend and associate of most of the DC area’s conservative community. He regularly showed up for the annual dinners of The American Enterprise Institute, and used to come each year to what was called the yearly “neo-con cookout and picnic” at a DC area park, that used to be run by Michael Ledeen and Richard Perle. You would never find Twersky engaging in the cheap kind of neo-con bating so familiar in these parts from both “realists” and leftists.  As Lipsky notes, much to his surprise, he found he liked Ariel Sharon, and Henry Kissinger as well.

Lipsky writes: “He died Friday evening, peacefully and at home with his children. He will be missed terribly, by, among many others, his friends from his days at the Forward and the Sun.” And I would add, by myself and others in the PJM community who knew him, worked with him, and considered him a great friend and a top journalist.

The Dangers of a New Left-Right Alliance

July 15th, 2010 - 8:15 am

There was a dustup almost two weeks ago when GOP Chairman Michael Steele got in trouble for claiming the war in Afghanistan is essentially unwinnable. The war was one of “Obama’s choosing,” Steele proclaimed, but as Bill Kristol aptly pointed out, it was first prosecuted by President George W. Bush and only after that taken up by Obama. Kristol  suggested that for the good of the Republican Party, Steele should resign.

Next, conservative journalist Ann Coulter jumped in. In her weekly column, she argued that Obama’s motive in ramping up the war wasn’t “based on a careful calculation of America’s strategic objectives. He did it because he was trapped by his own rhetorical game of bashing the Iraq war while pretending to be a hawk on Afghanistan.” Calling Afghanistan “Obama’s war,” she added: “Everyone knows it’s not worth the trouble and resources to take a nation of rocks and brigands”

One can disagree, as do most conservatives who write for the Weekly Standard, including  military expert Max Boot, defense writer Gabriel Schoenfeld, and Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan, who make the case that Afghanistan is actually a winnable war. Coulter and others certainly have the right to disagree. Polls show that the majority of Americans have their doubts that it is winnable. But in her concluding remarks, Coulter went way beyond arguing for a change in policy on this particular war: “I thought the irreducible requirements of Republicanism were being for life, small government and a strong national defense, but I guess permanent war is on the platter now, too.”

However, because Republicans like Kristol argue that Afghanistan is a just and even winnable war does not mean that they favor a permanent war. And by demanding facetiously that Kristol and Liz Cheney “resign,” (from what?) Coulter comes dangerously close to the paleocons and right-wing isolationists of the Buchanan and American Conservative camp. So it did not come as a surprise to find Pat Buchanan enthusiastically praising Coulter the morning after her column appeared on the Morning Joe TV program on MSNBC, before going on to say to fellow panelist Dan Senor that “you people have brought us into Iraq and now Afghanistan.”

The dangers of this were spelled out brilliantly by writer John Avlon in a recent Daily Beast column titled “The War That Will Split the GOP.” Avlon may be exaggerating the threat that such a split might occur, but I think he is correct that “this latest distraction was deeply revealing. It exposed the growing influence of a grassroots neo-isolationist movement that is springing up as a backlash to both Presidents Bush and Obama, while reviving an old debate thought long-dead within the Republican Party between the isolationists and the internationalists.”

This is a debate that I have been studying  for quite a while.  As they say, there is nothing new under the sun. A report I wrote for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies nine years ago focuses on it, as does a new introduction to a reprint of one of my old books, Prophets on the Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism:

The themes … are to be found in the arguments presented by this disparate group of old liberals, who by the 193os and 40s, ended up on what most people considered to be the far Right. They opposed FDR and what they saw as his duplicitous means of pushing the US into a world war; they opposed the Truman and Eisenhower administrations’ tough measures against the Soviet Union, and like their left-wing counterparts, tried to explain why the Soviets were taking tough measures, which they said were necessitated by an aggressive and expansionist post-war America. Like those on the Left, they too sought to blame America first for any of the tensions which emerged in the decades of Cold War. And when Presidential power was invoked to legitimize military incursions, they demanded debate and votes in Congress, and accused the nation’s leaders — as they accused Truman during the Korean War — of negating the Constitution and usurping the power of the Congress to declare war. While most Americans look back at the Marshall Plan and NATO as two great accomplishment of the postwar generation, those on both the Left and the Old Right saw them as unnecessary and dangerous manifestations of a new imperialism.

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At the end of June, I wrote a short op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. In that article, I criticized Oliver Stone’s “documentary” South of the Border. I wrote the following:

What Mr. Stone and his writers have presented is a standard far-left narrative that is part of a long line of propaganda films, a modern American version of the old agitprop. There are no dissenting voices in this film. Nor is there any mention of the fact that Mr. Chávez has closed down television and radio stations that disagree with him and arrested dissenting political figures.

I then followed that op-ed with a longer article that appeared on my blog and was then put up on the website of the History News Network, the major website of the historical community. I wrote the following paragraph about Chavez’s big mistake of allowing himself to be interviewed by a reporter who knows his stuff, footage Stone knows about but somehow failed to use for his film:

Finally, you should not miss the incredible BBC Hardtalk interview conducted by the fearless BBC reporter Stephen Sackur, who, unlike his US counterparts, knows how to ask the tough questions to Hugo Chavez, and who confronts him head on with his lies, obfuscations, and his inability to be honest. You will see Sackur confront Chavez on his arrest of General Baduel, which I referred to in my WSJ op-ed. Fortunately, Chavez has not learned what Fidel Castro would have told him — never agree to be interviewed except by fawning American acolytes like Barbara Walters, Dan Rather, and all the others who have interviewed Castro and failed to confront him about anything meaningful.

Today, I woke up to find that none other than Oliver Stone himself has answered me in a short letter, in which he refers to my critique of him as a “diatribe,” a word that of course fits his own film and writing far better than anything I have written. He claims that he really does have dissenting voices in his film, as well as opposition leaders criticizing Hugo Chavez. What Stone does is to include brief bits of criticism, in standard propaganda set-ups in which a few words are used to knock the critics down and show Hugo Chavez’s greatness. Nowhere does he include any substantive critic who can provide a different perspective on Chavez and his policies. This is not surprising. As I pointed out by quoting Tariq Ali, his main writer, the film is meant to be one defending and praising Hugo Chavez, not a non-partisan or balanced view of the dictator’s reign.

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The ten arrested Russian spies have arrived in Vienna, and shortly will be back in Moscow. Sentenced last night in New York, they gave their real Russian names, pleaded guilty, and were sentenced to time served — a few short days.

Never has a spy swap been orchestrated so quickly. In the era of the Cold War, there were plenty of swaps. The most famous was that of KGB Colonel Rudolf Abel for the U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers in 1962. Abel was the name he adopted, when he lived in Greenwich Village and Brooklyn,  and posed as an artist. In all the swaps, Russian spies were exchanged after having already served real time in  American prisons, and after they had been thoroughly interrogated.

Later, the Soviets exchanged political dissidents who were given freedom in exchange for their spies. The most famous was that of Natan Sharansky. Sharanksy and three low-level Western spies (Czech citizen Jaroslav Javorský and West German citizens Wolf-Georg Frohn and Dietrich Nistroy) were exchanged for Czech spies Karl Koecher and Hana Koecher held in the USA, Soviet spy Yevgeni Zemlyakov, Polish spy Jerzy Kaczmarek and GDR spy Detlef Scharfenorth (the latter three held in Western Germany) in 1986 on Glienicke Bridge.

Attorney General Eric Holder, in a statement for television and the press, readily admitted that what lay behind the exchange was not issues of national security, but the Obama administration’s concern for diplomatic relations with Vladimir Putin’s new Russia. As a New York Times story put it, “President Obama has made the ‘reset’ of Russian-American relations a top foreign policy priority, and the quiet collaboration over the spy scandal indicates that the Kremlin likewise values the warmer ties.”

The issue, however, is whether the results are equally beneficial to both the United States and Russia. Clearly, while our government is bending over backwards to play nice with Putin, the Russian government is up to its old ways in dealing with the United States, as the placement of these sleeper spies indicates.

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The Meaning of the Russia- U.S. Spy Swap

July 7th, 2010 - 5:02 pm

The breaking news is all over. The United States and Russia are about to set up a Cold War-era type spy swap — exchanging some or all of the ten accused Russian spies held in the United States with Russians accused by the Putin government of spying for the West. The New York Times reports that one man in particular, Igor Sutyagin, was moved to Moscow from a hard labor Siberian prison to be prepared to be flown to Britain.

Sutyagin was arrested back in 1999 and accused of giving missile and nuclear sub secrets to a firm that was a CIA front. He pleaded innocent and has, for eleven years, refused to sign a confession of guilt — despite the conditions in which he was being held.  To gain release, he now signed a confession. As the report explains:

He was told that if any prisoners on the list declined, the entire agreement would be voided, she said. “It was either this way, or they would create a life like hell for him,” she said. “He was thinking of his relatives, of his children; he has two daughters. And that is why he accepted the offer.”

She said Mr. Sutyagin had asked her to inform the media of the swap, to clarify that he had been compelled to sign the confession, as he did not want to be seen as a spy being traded for spies. “He wants to tell everybody that he never admitted his guilt, that he doesn’t consider his conviction legal, and he can unequivocally say that he was never a spy,” she said.

For years, human rights groups monitoring Moscow have included Sutyagin in a list of those who were persecuted by the Russian government and intelligent services and who never had anything approximating a genuine trial. The Russian government, at the time of the arrests, was upset that many scientists, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, found work with foreign companies. Arresting many of them on grounds that they were spies was a good way to frighten off those who hadn’t yet signed on with Western firms.

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Writing at the Daily Beast, historian Thaddeus Russell tries to make the case for the United States breaking its special relationship with Israel, which until Barack Obama, has been maintained by all the American presidents since the days of Harry S. Truman and Israel’s creation. Under various administrations, differences over policy have occurred, and some administrations were more responsive to Israel’s needs than others. But no American president dared try to break completely with Israel and move U.S. policy into the orbit of the Arab states.

On the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the White House, the Obama administration seems to be on the verge of casting Israel off to the hinterlands, or at least, upping the pressure upon it. As David Frum points out, Obama is about set to bail out on Israel.

By deciding to pressure Israel to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, while easing up pressure on Iran at the same time, the United States is making its new priorities quite clear. Over one year ago, the first rate correspondent Eli Lake wrote: “President Obama’s efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons threaten to expose and derail a 40-year-old secret U.S. agreement to shield Israel’s nuclear weapons from international scrutiny, former and current U.S. and Israeli officials and nuclear specialists say.”

Today, Lake reports that “the White House has declined to publicly affirm commitments made by President Bush to Israel in 2004 on the final borders of the Jewish state.” So that tomorrow, when PM Netanyahu finally gets to what was supposed to be a more cordial and productive meeting, he will face a president who is determined to do all he can to put the screws on Israel. The heart of the dispute is over land in Jerusalem. Lake explains: “The Arab League peace proposal says the border should be along the 1949 armistice lines and include the complete withdrawal of Israeli settlements in the territory that the Jewish state won in the 1967 war. The 2004 letter from Mr. Bush directly contradicts the Arab League position.” In that letter, President Bush assured Israel that “a final peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians should reflect ‘new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers,’ and that ‘it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.’”

It is in this atmosphere that Prof. Russell, who teaches at  Occidental College in California, has sought to explain why it was wrong for the Truman administration to recognize the Jewish State in the first place. First, Russell says no one ever asks what he says is the essential question: “Does the existence of Israel make Americans and Jews safer?”

Prof. Russell doesn’t do anyone a service by conflating so many different historical and contemporary issues. By “Jews” does he mean the Jews who live in Israel, or those who live in other countries?  He certainly isn’t addressing the safety of the Jews living through the Inquisition, pogroms, or the Holocaust.  He seems to be unaware of the desperate demand by the remnant of European Jewry in DP camps at the end of World War II to go to Palestine, because they knew they would not be safe in the countries of their homeland, like Poland. He might, for starters, read the op-ed that appeared a few weeks ago by Richard Cohen, who pointed out the following:

The mini-Holocaust that followed the Holocaust itself is not well-known anymore, but it played an outsize role in the establishment of the state of Israel. It was the plight of Jews consigned to Displaced Persons camps in Europe that both moved and outraged President Harry Truman, who supported Jewish immigration to Palestine and, when the time came, the new state itself. Something had to be done for the Jews of Europe. They were still being murdered…. For the surviving Jews of Eastern Europe, there was no going home — and no staying, either. Europe was hostile to them, not in the least appalled or sorry about what had just happened.

In our book, A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel, we cite in particular the moving testimony  of one survivor, a woman named Branda Kalk. Asked what she wanted for herself by one of the many investigating committees sent by the UN to survey the situation among the DP’s, Kalk told them: “I want to go to Palestine. I know the conditions there. But where in the world is it good for the Jew? Sooner or later he is made to suffer. In Palestine, at least, the Jews fight together for their life and their country.” She learned that lesson the hard way. The Germans had killed her husband in1942, and she escaped to Russia. Returning to Poland after the war, her entire family — eight children and eighteen grandchildren — were killed by Poles in a pogrom.

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