How Writers Question the Legitimacy of Israel

judisReprinted from

The publication of John B. Judis’ new book, Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict, must be viewed within the context of the new worldwide effort to question the legitimacy of Israel. It is a counterpart to the 2008 book by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, and perhaps not accidentally shares the same publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

It also appears at the same time that the left-wing Nation Books published the virulently anti-Israel screed by journalist Max Blumenthal, a man who compares Israel to Nazi Germany. Despite its extremist views and ultra-polemical tone, Blumenthal presented his book in Washington, DC, to the center/liberal think tank the New America Foundation, and received endorsements from prominent journalists Peter Bergen and James Fallows. One should not doubt that similar US institutions will sponsor and give their endorsement to the politically connected Judis, who is a senior editor of the once pro-Israel publication, The New Republic.

Unlike these two other books, Judis offers the pretense that he writes as a historian, and not as a contemporary journalist. The reality is that he uses history to bolster his belief that US foreign policy in the Middle East should now tilt toward the Arabs and Palestinians rather than Israel. After all, he claims in a New Republic essay summarizing the book’s thesis, Israel itself was created “against the opposition of its neighbors” and always had to play a “destabilizing” role in the region, and hence is a “threat to America’s standing in the region.”

Not Iran, that Judis writes is a serious negotiating partner for the United States, nor Syria, or any other Arab state – but only Israel, an ally of the United States surrounded by enemies, stands alone for Judis as a threat.

The truth is that John Judis is anything but a historian. Those of us who labor in that profession – as does this writer – seek to explore the past in order to unearth the truth, and to understand what happened within the context of the period. That is not what Judis does in his book. Rather, Judis is an example of the kind of “historian” who uses history to “prove” a preconceived viewpoint.

Indeed, toward the end of his book, he makes it clear his purpose in writing it is to help create a new American foreign policy, one that will not be beholden to that supposedly all-powerful Zionist lobby in the United States, AIPAC. “If America has tilted in the past toward Zionism and Israel,” he writes, “it is now time to redress that moral balance.”

Judis’ argument is hardly original. He has resurrected the old Arab and anti-Israel narrative from various sources, and dipped into Zionist history to prove his thesis that Zionism’s very goal was to “screw the Arabs,” as he so crudely puts it. Indeed, throughout the book, Judis argues that Zionism’s very purpose was not to find a homeland for Europe’s oppressed Jews, but that it was created with the intention of building a “settler-colonialist” movement whose aim was “to conquer and not merely live in Palestine.” This old paradigm, which has been used by Arab opponents of Israel for generations, is, as Leon Wieseltier, Judis’ colleague at the New Republic writes, “the foul fiction of delegitimation, the old vocabulary of anti-Israel propaganda.”

In his recent review of the book in The Wall Street Journal, Jordan Chandler Hirsch points out that Judis “equates Europe’s mightiest powers with its greatest victims, the Jews – a stateless people seeking refuge in their ancient home by legitimately purchasing and cultivating land.”

Moreover, Judis displays a double standard. Most often, Judis treats Arab actions such as the massacre of Jews at Hebron in 1929, or the invasion by five Arab nations of the new Jewish State of Israel in 1948, as a justified Arab response to Jewish provocation.

Even the Balfour Declaration of 1917 is called by Judis “an attempt by the Jews to screw the Arabs out of a country” that he writes “should have been theirs.”

The second half of Judis’ book is devoted to his thesis that the reason President Harry S. Truman recognized Israel is not because of Truman’s Christian Zionism – which he disputes – or his belief that the Yishuv had a legitimate claim to the land, but because of the overwhelming power and pressure of the American Zionist lobby. As Judis sees it, Hirsch writes, Truman’s deliberations are turned “into a simplistic tale of Jewish bullying.”

His villain is the Zionist rabbi in the United States, Abba Hillel Silver, “who tried to use the Jewish vote and Jewish contributions” against any Democrat who did not support the creation of the State of Israel.

Judis overlooks the fact that at the time the majority of Americans in general and American Jews in particular supported the creation of Israel. Lobbying by the American public, a normal role in a democracy, is transformed by Judis into a sinister Zionist attempt to produce results not in the American national interest.

Those who are rightfully worried that a new campaign is emerging to get Americans to question whether it is right for the American people to give their support to Israel – something that polls show is still an overwhelming sentiment – should be concerned about the new spate of anti-Israel books and arguments. Among this group, John Judis’ Genesis is perhaps one of the most insidious and dishonest.

The author, Adjunct Fellow at The Hudson Institute and columnist for PJ Media, is co-author with Allis Radosh of A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel, which won the Gold Award of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in 2009.

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  • JVictor

    How one interprets the Creation narrative in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 and “The Great Divorce” in Genesis 3 determines how much veracity one gives to the Scriptures. If they are viewed as authoritative and absolutely correct, then so is the rest of the Bible. If Creation and The Fall are nothing more than part of a book filled with myths and legends written by an ancient people to tell some sort of moral purpose, then the rest of the Scripture is equally mythological with no authority. Tanakh-touting Jews and Bible-thumping Christians who allow themselves to get caught up in diminishing bits and pieces of the Scripture in order to appeal to the Bill Nyes of the world are more dangerous than all of the self-affirmed atheists and agnostics put together. People of faith cannot simply pick and choose which parts of the Scripture they believe. It all either informs everything else it contains or it is a mishmash of gobbledy-gook. Is it any wonder that it is so easy for the enemies of Israel and G-d’s people to question her existence when those who profess to believe can’t even agree that the first three chapters of Genesis are authoritative?

    • Larry Larkin

      You’ve got that quite wrong. Much of the post Genesis story of the Torah/Old Testament can be backed up both by archeology and contemporary or contempraneous historical records.
      The Bible is a mixture of the creation myths that every people has and the history of the Jewish people.

      • JVictor

        Indeed there are archeological and “contempraneous historical records” that back up the “post Genesis story.” There is also ample archeological evidence which supports Genesis 1-3. By picking and choosing which types of evidence one is going to call authoritative, then all of the Bible becomes a document from which one can pick and choose as well. It becomes a book of myths and not the book of G-d. If you are a believer, you make my point perfectly, Larry, as someone who is more dangerous than all of the self-affirmed atheists and agnostics put together.

        • The Facts

          Americans already question, and rather routinely, whether it is right for our elected leaders to give our tax dollars to Israel. Americans consider Israel an obnoxious, needy, arrogant, demanding troublemaker country. There is an exception among the Jewish Americans who are Zionist, and also the Christian Zionists. Rabidly Zionist Jewish Americans are a minute percentage of American Jews, Jews being only 2% of the US population, and merely have the reputation for being loud, unbending, and hysterical. They are by no means a majority or even a credible minority. Generally, Christian Zionists are considered lunatics.

          • reader

            I bet you your doctor never showed you your chart. The reason I brought it up that – in my estimation – the percetage of the american population seeing your ravings and thinking of you as a crackpot is definitely double digits. My hunch is that it’s much higher than 50%.

          • ahad_ha_amoratsim

            “being loud, unbending, and hysterical?” You left out deicidal, greedy, pushy, clannish, manipulative, lustful, unmanly, well poisoning, cowardly, spreaders of typhus, and creators of AIDS and bubonic plague.

          • The Facts

            I was trying not to lament America’s downfall.

  • JVictor

    Trolling is annoying.

  • Alisia S

    It isn’t just an upswing of anti-Israel books, I’ve noticed many websites are now becoming anti-Jewish featuring articles blasting Israel’s immigration policies and allowing neo-Nazis to comment freely. Then there are the ever-present dumbasses quick to post the hypocracy of Chuck Schumer and other leftist Jews as is they represent ALL Jews.

    I don’t like what I am seeing out there. Our friends seem few and far between.

    • nopeacenow

      Problem is most of the anti-Israel books now are written by Jews. It is Jews that are trotted out at anti-Israel lectures calling for the destruction of Israel. How and why did Jews become anti-Semitic?

  • Janovus

    Well, the latest Gallup poll, supported by many other similar ones, finds the current favorable rating for israel at around 70%.
    With 300 million Americans, this equals about 200 million members of the “evil Zionist cabal.”
    Them Jooos do control the world huh? Or are all those people just dupes?
    Of course, at least half that many did vote for Obama twice…
    Those sneaky Jooos…

  • T.L. Winslow

    Zionists screwed the Arabs out of their land? It was the Arabs who screwed everybody else out of their territories, then set up a theocratic govt. that claimed a divine right to rule. If screwing Arabs out of their land was Zionism’s goal, then were are the Zionist settlements in Saudi Arabia? :) All they want is the territory from the Nile to the Euphrates, and are even settling right now for a sliver of that. Sorry for all them clueless leftists, but the Muslim World is in its last days, and the Great Muslim Apostasy is just around the corner, when hundreds of millions will chuck Muhammad and his Great Jihad and dance in the streets with Jews. What will cause it? The great power of the Internet, which is wrapping its tentacles around every Muslim daily. Just wait. The paradigm will change. Study the entire history of Israel back 3K years free with my Jerusalemscope on my Historyscoper web site.

  • Dwight Fuller

    I love this website for it’s liberal stance. However, it’s pro-Israel approach is something just straight awful. I know it’s too much to ask since there are jewish writers at this mag, but still I’d expect something different perhaps. As one user noted earlier today most of the critique of Israel comes from jews, which is something very good that they’re starting to develop self-consciousness of this matter, something of the utmost importance in the liking of the germans and what they think of Nazism today.

  • uleaveuswithnoalternative

    Sure, it makes perfect sense for the U.S. to throw its support behind bloodthirsty Islamists who want nothing more than the destruction of the “Little Satan”, Israel, & the obliteration of the Great Satan, the United States. If Israel’s aim was to “screw the Arabs”, they went about it in an absurd way. “They” (the Jews) picked a country that totals around 6,900 sq. miles (as opposed to Muslim countries totaling around 5.25 MILLION sq. miles), “they” chose a country that’s mostly desert where water is in short supply, “they” chose a country without oil that sits surrounded by countries rich in oil & mineral deposits & “they” eventually deposited approximately 6 million Jews into that arid country to stand alone against the 1.2 to 1.8 BILLION Muslims (and a hostile West) that seeks to destroy them.
    Exactly what part of this grand Zionist plot to “screw the Arabs” is working towards Israel’s advantage?

  • T800

    (1) Israel became a nation in 1312 B.C.E. (before common era), 2,000 years before the rise of Islam.

    (2) Arab refugees in Israel began identifying themselves as part of a Palestinian people in 1967, two decades after the establishment of the modern state of Israel.

    [side note;Arab leaders REFUSED the creation of a State of Palestine at the time Israel was recreated by the UN. (there WERE NO “Palestinian” leaders!) the disputed territories of West Bank and Gaza were intended by the UN as unassigned lands,but seized by other Arab nations in 1948,and run by them as part of their respective nations.]

    (3) Since the Jewish conquest in 1272 BCE, the Jews have had dominion over the land for 1,000 years with a continuous presence in the land for the last 3,300 years.

    (4) The only Arab dominion since the conquest in 635 C.E. (common era) lasted no more than 22 years.

    (5) For more than 3,300 years, Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital. Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Arab or Muslim entity. Even when the Jordanians occupied Jerusalem, they never sought to make it their capital, and Arab leaders did not come to visit.

    (6) Jerusalem is mentioned more than 700 times in Tanach, the Jewish Holy Scriptures. Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Quran.

    (7) King David founded the city of Jerusalem. Muhammad never came to Jerusalem.

    (8) Jews pray facing Jerusalem. Muslims pray with their backs toward Jerusalem.

    (9) Arab and Jewish refugees: In 1948 Arab refugees were encouraged to leave Israel by Arab leaders promising to purge the land of Jews. Sixty-eight percent left without ever seeing an Israeli soldier.

    (10) The Jewish refugees were forced to flee from Arab lands due to Arab brutality, persecution, and pogroms.

    Arnaud DeBorchgrave 21 Jan 09 Newsmax.
    • The San Remo Resolution of 1920 “recognized the exclusive national Jewish rights to the Land of Israel under international law, on the strength of the historical connection of the Jewish people to the territory previously known as Palestine. The outcome of this declaration gave birth to the ‘Mandate for Palestine,’ an historical League of Nations document that laid down the Jewish legal right to settle anywhere in western Palestine, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.” (This document clearly establishes that Israeli settlements are completely legal.)