[Editor’s note: Below is the transcript – and video – of a distinguished panel discussing the threat that Israel faces at David Horowitz’s Restoration Weekend in Palm Beach, Nov. 18-21.]
Moderator: (Larry Greenfield, a Fellow in American Studies at the Claremont Institute.)
I have the honor of moderating a few panels this weekend. Yesterday’s was “America in Decline?” Tomorrow is on economic recession. So the happier topic today is “The War Against Israel.” And I think what we’ll do is hopefully build on the positive energy of Pastor Hagee last night. That was quite a magnificent expression.
The first words I offer of this important serious panel are simply celebration of Israel – its history, its meaning, its presence, its democracy, its gifts to the world, its humanitarianism, and its moral and military alliance with the United States. Nevertheless, unfortunately, we gather this Sabbath morning to look at the tough spot that Israel is in, just to tick off a few challenges listed under the letter “I” for Israel – intifada, Iran, the Internet, intellectuals, the international community, isolationists, Islamism, and the Indonesian-raised Barack Hussein Obama.
In just the past few weeks, a major Vatican report declared that Israel cannot use the Biblical concepts of “the promised land” or “a chosen people” to justify new settlements in Jerusalem or its territorial claims to its capital city. A major report by the UN body, UNESCO, in charge of preserving historical sites which define West Bank shrines sacred to both Jews and Muslims as Palestinian, was labeled as absurd by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The President of the United States asserted in the world’s largest Muslim country that Israel had no rights to build second-story apartments in Jerusalem.
Oh. And the President is pushing the largest military arms deal in history – $60 billion worth of fighter jets and attack helicopters to Saudi Arabia, unhampered, for example, by the seven Jewish Democratic congressmen from my neck of the woods, Southern California – Filner, and Davis, and Schiff, and Harman, and Sherman, and Waxman – and worst of all, Howard Berman, who was Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Our first speaker is Bruce Herschensohn, a beloved mentor and conservative leader, who is Senior Fellow at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy in Malibu. Previously, he was Distinguished Fellow at the Claremont Institute and a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and a member of the Board of the Center for Individual Freedom. He has taught politics at the University of Maryland, Whittier College and Pepperdine.
Bruce Herschensohn had a fabulous career in the media and Republican politics and is a leading conservative thought leader in the United States, and continues to do so. He worked originally for RKO Pictures. He promoted the American way and American interests at the US Information Agency during the Cold War, with expertise on America’s image abroad. He won an Academy Award for his documentary on Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Bruce served President Nixon and President Reagan. He ran for the United States Senate in California in both ’86 and ’92. He’s written a number of books on foreign policy. And his chapter on the Middle East in his book “Lost Trumpets” remains a classic.
Please welcome Bruce Herschensohn.
Video Part I:
To see Part II of this video, Click Here.
Bruce Herschensohn: Thanks so very much.
In 1979, President Anwar Sadat visited the United States. Magnificent man. And he went on television, on “Meet the Press,” Sunday, September the 9th of 1979. I mention the date because it was a significant date in terms of the reaction of the State Department that was horrified by a question that was asked him. Because it was revealing a secret that the State Department really wanted to keep.
Bill Monroe was the host that morning. And he said, “Mr. President, President Carter tells us that when he visits with Arab leaders privately, they tell him that they do not want an independent Palestinian state. Is that your experience? Do you agree with that?” President Sadat was rather set back by the question, he didn’t expect it. No one expected it. And you could see him trying to think. And he was chewing on his pipe and sort of clearing his throat. And he wanted to be honest, and yet he wanted to be loyal to his Muslim brothers.
And so he said this. He said, “That is a family business. And I choose better to abstain.” By that answer, he was not really abstaining. He was telling the audience, of course it was true. And he was, as I said, showing some loyalty.
Well, that was a long time ago. And since that time, President Sadat was assassinated. And President Mubarak became president; he’s still president. Next year, he should be celebrating his 30th anniversary as president. And during that interval of time, we’ve had five Presidents.
And the most recent, the one that holds the office today, President Obama, was speaking to the United Nations General Assembly. And he said, “What we want is an independent Palestinian state that is contiguous and ends the occupation of 1967.” And he received tremendous applause from the United Nations organization.
Let me just comment on a couple of the words that he used. He said “contiguous.“ If there is a contiguous Palestinian state, it means that Israel will be noncontiguous. Because in order to make it contiguous, you would have to build a road, a pathway of some kind, between Gaza and what is called the West Bank – Judea and Samaria. And in the doing of that, you cut Israel into two pieces, which would make it much easier to try and destroy later on, which has always been the objective.
And now let me comment on the word “occupied.“ You cannot occupy any territory whose people never had jurisdiction over that territory. They never had it. Ever. So how can you occupy it? Let me just go back. Before Israel had it – and they got it from the ’67 war, after Jordan invaded – Jordan had it for 19 years. And they invaded it, they just took it. That was in 1948, so that was ‘48 through ’67, 19 years.
And Egypt had jurisdiction over Gaza, same period of time. Before they had that, Great Britain had it. Before Great Britain had it, the Ottoman Empire of Turkey had it. Before that were the Crusades, and before that was Rome. And now I’m back to biblical days. And in all honesty, I don’t know what was going on there before then.
But they never had the land. And I think that Israel’s greatest mistake was right after the tremendous victory of that Six-Day War. It called it “administered territory.” And of course, that became world-known as “occupied territory.” Israel should’ve called the territory that they won – they should’ve called it Israel.
You’ll notice that when North Vietnam won the war against South Vietnam, the world community didn’t say, Okay, you had your fun, now give it back. They immediately called it the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. We have diplomatic relations under President Clinton. We have diplomatic relations with it, trade with it.
But it is a strange thing that when it comes to a friend winning a war, in effect we do say give it back. When it comes to an enemy, who hates the United States – no democracy at all – winning a war, we say it’s yours. It’s the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Want to tell you one thing that happened, that I think most people either forgot or simply don’t remember. Prior to the war in June of ’67 – it was the end of May , Assistant Secretary of State Eugene Rostow went to visit King Hussein in Jordan, in Amman.
And he said that he talked with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Eshkol. And they of course are concerned about the fact that President Nasser of Egypt has already ordered his tanks to go across the Sinai Desert towards Israel to take it over, to invade it. Syria has also said that it’ll join Egypt. So they know that they’ll be fighting a two-front war. It’ll be a two-front war, with Egypt to the west; Syria to the north. They don’t want to fight a three-front war. And the reason that I’ve been sent here, rather than Prime Minister Eshkol, is obvious – the two of you don’t have diplomatic relations, but we do. Israel guarantees that if you do not join this war into a third front, they guarantee they will not touch one bit of Jordanian property and won’t even touch Judea and Samaria to get it back – the West Bank.
And then he added, Not only Israel gives you this guarantee; President Johnson gives you this guarantee. Will you simply sit on your hands and do nothing when Egypt and Syria attack?
King Hussein, at that time of his life – younger guy than what we think of him in previous years before he passed away – at that point of his life was sort of a weak guy. Towards the end of his life, he became very strong and different than he was in his younger life. But he asked all of his – the Arab leaders, including Nasser. And they said, Of course not, you have to join us.
And they did. When Israel attacked the airfields of Egypt and Syria, it didn’t touch Jordan, didn’t touch what was called the West Bank. But then Jordan sent in tanks. And that is when Israel took over Judea and Samaria, called the West Bank.
And it is interesting to note that it’s called the West Bank because Jordan named the West Bank, meaning the west bank of the Jordan River, of Jordan. And it was never called that before.
I want, too, to just state one other thing and then let it go. We have what’s called a two-state solution. That’s been the terminology of the State Department for many years. It’s certainly the terminology of President Obama – two-state solution.
Yet again, in keeping with what we do to friends and the treatment that we give enemies, we have a one-state solution for China and Taiwan. In other words, it’s a one-China policy. That’s what we call it. It’s one China, the People’s Republic of China. And Taiwan is part of China. We don’t have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. I don’t want to go on and on on that. But think of that in contrast to a friendly state – Israel, the democracy – total friend of the United States; Palestinian Authority and Hamas – which isn’t even worth mentioning in terms of the chronology of events there – who despise the United States. And we bend towards the Palestinian Authority.
On the other side of the world, we bend towards a totally authoritarian government, the People’s Republic of China. And our friend and a democracy, Taiwan – treat them like a pariah. These are terrible parts of our foreign-policy. We should always bend towards a democracy and friendliness to the United States. We should never bend to those people who oppose the United States and are non-democracies.
I believe that the solution is not a two-state solution. It’s a one-state solution, called Israel, with the support of the United States in terms of its power and in terms of its will. And then we’ll have the peace and security that we’re advocating today.
Moderator: Our second speaker is Caroline Glick, also an admired friend. I’d like to read some of the bio in her own words.
“I grew up in Chicago’s ultraliberal, anti-American and anti-Israel stronghold of Hyde Park. Hyde Park’s newest famous resident is Barack Obama. He fits right into a neighborhood I couldn’t wait to leave.
“I made aliyah to Israel in 1991, two weeks after receiving my BA in Political Science from Beir Zeit on the Hudson – otherwise known as Columbia University. I joined the Israel Defense Forces that summer and served as an officer for five and a half years.
“As an IDF captain, I served as Coordinator of Negotiations with the PLO in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. I was a core member of Israel’s negotiating team with the Palestinians.
“I returned to geo-politics serving as Assistant Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in ‘97-‘98.
“I went back to get my Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard. Although I spent most of my free time hiking in New England, it did not escape my attention that the vast majority of the faculty at the Kennedy School were not particularly fond of America – or of Israel.
“I began my journalism career. I accepted the position of Deputy Managing Editor of The Jerusalem Post. I write two weekly columns, which are regularly syndicated.
“During Operation Iraqi Freedom, I covered the US-led war in Iraq as an embedded journalist.
“I’m senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C. I routinely brief senior administration officials and members of Congress on issues of joint Israeli-American concern.
“Ma’ariv named me the most prominent woman in Israel. I was awarded the Abramowitz Prize for Media Criticism.
“In 2008, my first solo book, ‘Shackled Warrior – Israel and the Global Jihad,’ was published by Gefen Publishers. You can purchase it. Click here.
“I live in Jerusalem.”
Caroline Glick: Thanks, Larry. It’s great being back here at the Restoration Weekend.
Just building on what Bruce was talking about, and also what Congresswoman Michele Bachmann was talking about this morning – I want to say that, you know, from an Israeli perspective, looking at the success of the Tea Party movement in the United States has actually – I mean, it’s been exhilarating, but it’s been extremely frustrating.
And it’s been frustrating for two reasons. And I think this goes to the heart of how Israelis are feeling about the war that’s being waged against us. It frustrates me because since the onset of the imaginary or fake peace process between Israel and the Palestinian – and the PLO 17 years ago, over two million Israelis have actively participated in demonstrations against these policies of appeasement by our government. Over two million in a nation of seven million, where one million are Arab. So out of six million Jews, a third of the population has actively participated in demonstrations much like the Tea Party demonstrations and at much greater risk.
And yet, you know, whereas here, after essentially a year and a half of these demonstrations, you guys have unbelievably managed to really reshape Congress and hopefully are on the way to getting Barack Hussein Obama out of office in two years. In Israel, government after government after government keeps implementing the same policies that the Israeli people have overwhelmingly rejected time after time after time after time.
We go, we try to find a politician who’s going to represent us, who’s going to stop this slow death march. And every single time, we end up getting the exact same policy implemented by yet another person. And it is extremely, extremely frustrating.
Israel is a right-wing country. It is a conservative country, it is a religious country. People like to say that because most Israelis aren’t openly observant means that we’re all secular – that is not true. I would say that it’s possible that in general, the population of the United States is more religiously observant than Israel. But if it is, it’s not by much.
And I think that it’s very important for people to recognize that the Israeli people are God-fearing people. And that means that we’re also extremely patriotic. Because we know where we live, and we know why. And we know the impact and the implications of the policies of the Left that have been implemented in our country for the past 17 years against the wishes of our people.
On an impact level – the impact of these policies has, of course, been the murder of over 1,500 Israelis in terrorist attacks and in wars since 1993, and the maiming and wounding of thousands and thousands more – broken families – there’s nobody in the country that doesn’t know somebody who wasn’t killed or wounded in a terrorist attack since Arafat was ushered into the outskirts of Jerusalem in 1994.
We today are facing a threat environment unlike any we’ve ever faced before. We have Iran building nuclear weapons, unopposed by anyone. And if anybody wants to tell you that the sanctions are going to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, you know, tell them that you have some bridges in Florida that you’d like to sell them. It’s not going to happen. The only way to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is to destroy their nuclear installations. And it’s important to make that clear.
And Iran, of course, is not only attacking Israel by developing – very quickly, and unopposed by anyone – the means to carry out a second Holocaust – or, well, not the second, but second in recent history – they are also, of course, the primary sponsors of Hezbollah – Hezbollah is in Iranian organization – Hamas, and Syria.
And just today, I read a report saying that Iran has equipped Syria’s SCUD missile arsenal, as well as Hezbollah’s arsenal, with GPS devices that have made them all precision weapons, which is a revolution in military affairs. Essentially, it means that the 13,000 rockets that Hezbollah now fields are far more effective than the 40,000 that they used against Israel four years ago in the second Lebanon war, because they can actually hit Israel’s military, industrial and economic centers with a precision of 200 meters, apparently.
And Syria, of course, has SCUD-D and C ballistic missiles that are capable of reaching every target in Israel. And now, with the GPS systems, they can do it pretty precisely.
So then, as for the Palestinians, we had one of the heads of military intelligence last week testifying before the Knesset that they as well are fielding massive, precise missiles that are capable of reaching Tel Aviv.
So, you know, we have to recognize that in absolute numbers there are more missiles facing – pointing towards Israel than are pointing towards any other country in the entire world. And just put your minds around that little piece of information – the missiles are all pointed at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. And, you know, it makes life there a little bit more edgy, a little bit cooler. But you know, whatever.
Again, our people – I have to explain, our people are not intimidated by this. But our governments apparently are. Our people are not intimidated by this.
But that is the impact of these policies. As for the implications of these policies, as Bruce was talking about – the implication of saying that you accept as legitimate, as a negotiating partner, a terrorist organization whose sole purpose in existing is your own annihilation makes it very difficult for you to make your case in international forums. Because if the PLO is legitimate, then how is Israel legitimate?
And you know, one of the things that the Tea Party movement thankfully in this country has been railing against is this whole multiculturalism, post-nationalism ideology that essentially means that nations like the American people and like the Jewish people have no reason to exist and have no inherent rationale for fighting to defend their way of life. Because if there is no relative benefit to being an American or being a Jew, then you have no right to stand up and oppose the people who are telling you that your way of life is inherently evil.
And so, you know, we have these elements inside of Israel that have been pushing forward this agenda, which is multiculturalism, which is post-nationalist; without any recognition that these – as Jews, the first nation to come into existence by self-consciously defining ourselves at Mount Sinai, when we accepted the Ten Commandments from Moses and God – that when we say, Okay, there’s nothing in particular special about Jewish nationalism and Jewish homeland, this is an inherently anti-Jewish position. Post-nationalism at its core, that rejects the notion of nation states and nations, is anti-Semitic.
And we haven’t internalized this ideology that makes it impossible for us to have a coherent discussion about who we are, what we want, why it is that the things that we are and the things that we want are worth fighting and living for, and dying for. And it’s been extraordinarily debilitating.
I’m certain that many of you have heard speeches by official Israelis who come here and wrap themselves into pretzels trying to figure out a way to be explaining why people should support Israel while also lauding the PLO, which is our sworn enemy. It’s very, very difficult to do. And until we excise this notion that we can make peace with people who want to kill us all, we have to – by appeasing them, we’re going to be seeing, over and over and over again, these kinds of official Israelis coming abroad and saying silly things that they themselves know are incorrect.
And you know, this all has led us to a situation where today, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, for crying out loud, is sitting with the Obama Administration and having discussions about Israeli relinquishment of our capital city of Jerusalem, our defensible borders, and particularly the Jordan Valley, without which we cannot defend ourselves, period – in exchange for maybe or maybe not receiving an additional 20 F-35 fighter jets, perhaps, if we sign an agreement with the PLO, in which we effectively commit national suicide.
So, you know, we have gotten to a point where the discourse relating to the Middle East, relating to Israel, is completely irrelevant to the challenges facing Israel; to the threat environment in which Israel operates. And it is counterproductive because it prevents us – we waste so much time talking about how many Jews have to be expelled from our homes in exchange for war that we never stop to think about what we actually have to do to defend ourselves, and survive and prosper and win.
And this is extremely frustrating, which brings me to the second frustration that I’ve had with the Tea Party. The second frustration that I’ve had with the Tea Party is that it has been completely devoted to domestic issues. And I think that it’s important to bear in mind that the domestic policies that the Obama Administration has been advancing our part and parcel of an overall policy that is reflected as well in US foreign policy, which the President of the United States, the leader of the free world, goes around bowing and scraping before anti-American potentates and makes effective rhetorical war against the United States’ primary allies.
And I think that when we wonder why it is that President Obama couldn’t get South Korea to sign a free trade agreement with United States, it probably had something to do with the position that he is reflecting, that he has taken on, and saying that the United States is nothing special. And by treating Israel so badly, there’s no reason for the United States to ever be seen as a credible ally by anybody. Because of the United States is abandoning Israel, who can trust it? Who can trust it?
You know, I think one of the things that’s most inspired me about the Tea Party movement, and the reason why I’m frustrated with something, is because I really believe that it has inside of it inherently the seeds of an extraordinary renaissance in the United States.
I mean, I’m sure many of you read Angelo Codevilla’s extraordinary essay about the American ruling class. And he talked a lot about how entrenched elites who went to schools like the ones that I went to sit around and put together economic policies that destroy the US economy. But, you know, those entrenched elites are even stronger in the US foreign-policy establishment. Somebody like me would probably never even get a foot into the door of the foreign – of the State Department. And if somebody like me did – for instance, John Bolton – get a foot into the State Department, then you would have a Secretary of State actively working against his confirmation in the US Senate to remain the UN Ambassador.
And so I think, you know, one of the things that has to change is this notion that has really been the light of US foreign-policy for generations, which is that you’re supposed to be bad to your friends and good to your enemies. Because somehow or another, by kissing up to the Saudis and attacking the Jews, everybody’s going to want to be your friend. Does this make any sense? None, it makes no sense.
And I think that, you know, the implications of American citizens standing up and demanding to be listened to by their leaders has inspired so many Israelis. And it’s inspired so many American representatives, so many elected officials, to really take it on with the entrenched interests in Washington. And I think that this movement can also do a lot in foreign policy.
And I think that it’s important to recognize that the power of the people that spoke here in the United States over the past 18 months or so is the same power of the Israeli people that has been screaming and has not been listened to for the past 17 years, which is why I began by mentioning that a third of the Jewish citizens of Israel have actively opposed – this is something that has happened in no other country ever – that such an enormous percentage of the population has actively participated in demonstrations against the governmental policy of appeasement. It has never happened anywhere. They are the Israeli people in toto, and they have been ignored.
And I think that the most amazing thing would be, from my perspective as an Israeli – is if the American people were to listen to the Israeli people and say, We stand with you because we know you’re strong. Not because we feel sorry for you, but because we respect you. Because you are strong, and we can depend on you. And we listen to you, and we know that you really and truly are the most dependable ally we have. You’ll never shirk from your responsibility to protect Jerusalem, ever. And we want to empower you to continue doing that. Because we know that this country is of vital importance to the United States and to every freedom-loving person in the world.
So thank you very much. I appreciate your attention. Thank you.
Moderator: Building on our attention to the Middle East, I now bring you Robert Pollock, who is the Editorial Features Editor of the Wall Street Journal. His pieces about Turkey and Lebanon and perceptions of Israel have been masterpieces.
Born in Buffalo, New York, he studied at Yale and was a member of the Party of the Right. He received a Bachelor’s degree in philosophy and began an impressive career in journalism. Mr. Pollock was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his editorials on the American Food and Drug Administration and it’s delaying of cancer drug approvals. Mr. Pollock makes frequent appearances in the media and is a highly admired journalist.
Please welcome Robert Pollock.
Robert Pollock: I just really want to make some quick journalistic observations. I was lucky enough to be in Lebanon this August for the second time in 18 months. And what was – there really couldn’t have been a more profound shift in mood. And do I mean by that?
The first time I was there, in the winter of ’09, you still had a very strong sense of the Cedar Revolution and [the Arab] prospects for democracy. Now there’s very much a sense of doom. That’s not too strong a word. I mean, Hezbollah is growing stronger. They’re considerably stronger, I think, now them they were before the start of the 2006 war.
If you talk to people in the government in Lebanon, they say – and I don’t think this is an excuse – they’ll basically tell you quietly, off the record, Look, you know, Hezbollah is stronger than our army, and we don’t have very good control over our army, anyway.
One of the other dangerous factors with regard to Hezbollah actually is the passing of the Ayatollah Fadlallah, who was the Shiite religious leader in Lebanon. Ayatollah Fadlallah, who I interviewed in February of ‘09, was certainly no friend of Israel or America. But he was also not an Iranian agent. His allegiance was to the [housen] in Najaf, Iraq, a much more moderate strain of [Shiaism].
There’s now sort of a power vacuum in terms of leadership of the Shiites, which is, you know, obviously mainly being filled by agents of Iranian influence. And that’s not a good thing at all, even though, like I said, this guy was no friend of Israel or America.
On the bright side, one of the things you find in Lebanon – and most people don’t know this – is that the Christians in Lebanon are incredibly pro-Israel and incredibly pro-America. You don’t have to scratch them at all to get that to come out. You go, you talk to them – they have almost a sort of touching faith in our ability still to come and fix the problems.
I mean, I was sitting there this last summer with one of the most prominent Christian businessmen in Lebanon, who was absolutely convinced that the US was going to go and solve the Iranian nuclear problem. Wasn’t worried about it at all. I told him I didn’t think he had reason to be so optimistic.
What’s the takeaway? One thing I hope Israel and the US appreciate going forward, considering the split in Lebanon – and I’m not sure that tactically the 2006 war against Hezbollah was waged in the correct way. And what do I mean by that? I mean in terms of destroying infrastructure, like the bridge going over the mountains to the Bekaa Valley, and also the airport. I think, given that there remains such strong pro-Israel sentiment in the country, a more targeted campaign against the South, if there is going to be another war – and I imagine there will be.
And I think a more targeted campaign would probably be a smarter way to go. I think the idea that you’re going to hold the Lebanese government collectively responsible for what Hezbollah does isn’t quite fair. Because the Christians aren’t strong enough to do anything about Hezbollah. In Iran, it’s just an overwhelming force. They pour in at least $100 million a month to Hezbollah, and there’s no equivalent support going to the government, to the forces of good in Lebanon. They can’t compete.
So that’s one observation also. Now I’d like to talk a little bit about Turkey, and about the Gaza flotilla incident. Well, let me back up a bit. What surprised me is that the Israelis were surprised that their boarding party onto this vessel, the Mavi Marmara, was met with violence.
I think anyone who’s been following the Turks for the last seven or eight years has seen a very alarming, you know, intellectual trend developing in that country – anti-Americanism, anti-Israelism. Really, they’re very much linked. Because in the way the story is told in the Turkish press, America acts as muscle for the Jews.
This was going on very much after the Iraq war, when all kinds of utterly crazy conspiracy theories were circulating in the mainstream Turkish press. One thing you also have to remember about the Turks is – I mean, this is a large country. They don’t speak another European language, very few of them have access to any kind of outside media as a reality check. So once a story gets going inside their own press, it rarely gets contradicted; it picks up steam.
Some of the stories you started to notice – you know, just for example, in Turkey in, say, 2004, you know, they were often writing about how – well, one of the most outrageous ones that really caught my attention was that the United States was deliberately killing Iraqi prisoners and, with the connivance of the Jews, harvesting their organs, and taking them and sending them to rich people in New York and Tel Aviv.
You know, there was another story about how the US was throwing so many Iraqi bodies into the Euphrates River that the mullahs had issued a fatwa saying don’t eat the fish, it’s polluted.
The craziest story – this one wasn’t in the press, but it’s almost more alarming, because it was circulating at very high-level dinner in Ankara – was that the reason that the US had gone to Iraq was that not only did US scientists know of an impending asteroid strike, but we knew that it was going to hit North America. So we had to go colonize the Middle East.
So anyway, I wrote an article in 2005 about this, just sort of pointing out – I was trying to embarrass the Turks, you know, just to sort of point out to the world, hey, this is the kind of crazy stuff that’s being said there. The article definitely got noticed. I’ve had, I think, four interviews with Prime Minister Erdoğan since that article.
Back up one more sec – the organ-harvesting story, as many of you, I think, know at this point, was made into a movie called “Valley of the Wolves – Iraq,” which I actually saw at a mall in Ankara. I don’t speak Turkish, but it wasn’t a very subtle film. I mean, really, you know, you watched it – organs come out, crate marked Tel Aviv – boom. I mean, I don’t think it’s any exaggeration to say that, you know, such anti-Semitic fare has not played to mass audiences in Europe since World War II.
And this is not, you know, being played only in Turkey. It’s being played around the Middle East, it’s being played in Arab and Muslim – or Turkish and Muslim communities in Europe. There’s a new one out. There’s a new one, “Valley of the Wolves – Israel,” that’s just out now, where the plot is – they turned this around very fast. The plot is that they’re going to take revenge for the flotilla incident. And I haven’t seen this one, but I’m told that at one point in this film, the sort of Turkish Rambo character is going around shooting up Israelis. And someone says, “Why do you come to Israel?” They said, “I didn’t come to Israel, I came to Palestine.”
It’s a very dangerous culture continuing to develop in Turkey. And I think the implications of this are just very simple. As recently as 2002, you could think of the Turks as a reliable NATO ally; a pretty reliable ally of Israel. I think that era is gone probably for good, unfortunately.
And again, you know, as Israel moves forward in its relationship with the Turks, it’s just going to have to do so with a very sober view, realizing that future incidents like the flotilla incident are going to happen, thinking carefully about how they want to handle them.
Moderator: Next up will be Lee Smith, who is simply a warrior for the cause of Israel in the media, and who has tangled with some of the most prolific and contentious leftists on the subject.
Lee Smith is visiting professor at the Hudson Institute. He’s led an impressive career in writing and publishing. He’s worked at a number of journals, magazines and publishers and was Editor-In-Chief of The Voice Literary Supplement, the Village Voice’s national monthly literary magazine.
His book on Arab societies, “The Strong Horse – Power, Politics and the Clash of Arab Civilizations,” received a sterling recommendation from Daniel Pipes. He has a BA from George Washington University and studied Arabic at the American University in Cairo. He knows Spanish, Arabic, French and Latin.
Please welcome up Lee Smith.
Lee Smith: Thanks very much. Actually, my Latin isn’t that good, and I certainly don’t speak it, so I’m glad you didn’t say that I speak it.
But it’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you all very kindly, and thank you for inviting me. And it’s a real pleasure to be among old friends – like Joav Glick, who actually, I see, has now left the room after his mom finished – and have the opportunity to make new friends. It’s also a huge thrill to be on this particular panel. So again, thanks very much for having me.
And actually, I just want to pick up on a couple of things – something that Rob said about Lebanon. I hope that maybe later – during the question-and-answer session, which I trust will have enough time for – that we can pick up some of that, as I spent some time in Lebanon myself. So, you know, if you’d like to ask questions of Rob, I’d be [interested] in talking about a future war, which seems to be inevitable.
Something very important that Caroline said when she was talking about how she thinks foreign policy should also figure in the Tea Parties project. I entirely agree. And I think that one way to understand the ideological and intellectual debate over Israel in this country is as a reflection of domestic policies as well.
Take the former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. When you consider – actually, we have – you’ve seen pictures of her from a couple of weeks ago, where she had a US-Israeli flag pin on. I mean, it’s interesting. And also, famously, pictures of her featured the Israeli flag in the background in her office as governor of Alaska, I’m not sure if she was courting the Jewish vote in Alaska, or what. I think that was not the case. I think actually she understands quite clearly that support for Israel signals strong US patriotism as well. It sort of represents a belief in American exceptionalism, usually it represents a belief in God, and strong nationalism.
So I think it is very important. And I think it’s important to keep that in mind – that a lot of these debates that are going on in this country over Israel can be seen as another venue where various domestic policy fights are taking place.
I’m going to talk a little bit about those ideological and intellectual debates. And I wanted to start by describing a subject that I’ve been writing a little bit about lately. Larry mentioned the various leftists that I’ve tangled with, which has been a thrill and a great deal of fun – to be insulted by Stephen Walt. I’m not sure that he’s a leftist. But nonetheless, I was really thrilled that he gave me a hard time.
One of the reasons that I focused on him, as well as writers like Glenn Greenwald at Salon, Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish, which is hosted by theatlantic.com right now; as well as Philip Weiss, who runs a blog called Mondoweiss. I don’t know if any of you are familiar with themI suspect that you’re aware of Stephen Walt and his colleague, John Mearsheimer, coauthors of The Israel Lobby.
In his blog, Professor Walt writes about a number of different things. But certainly, the things that attract the most attention are when he writes about Israel, or when he writes about US foreign policy as regards Israel. If you’re interested, you can just look at his website. You can see, when he writes about Russia, or he writes about China or South Korea, there’ll be six or seven comments. When he writes about Israel, the comments section fills up within an hour.
My editor at Tablet Magazine, where I write a weekly column – he and I started to talk about this phenomenon – what happened on these different blogs, these different foreign policy blogs and websites when they write about Israel – the number of different comments – or the number of comments they attract. What happens is that these places fill up with comments. Some of the times, you have – you only have four or five different [commenters] that might – but they’re all vehemently anti-Israel. A lot of the comments are anti-Semitic as well.
Some of the times, people respond. People fight back on the blogs. And my editor and I decided that this had become a business model. Anti-Semitism – Jew-baiting, as we called it – had become a business model – by which I mean, no one has really found out– aside from pornographic websites, some sports websites, gambling websites–how to make a profit on the Internet.
The media is in very bad shape. Some of you may be happy to hear that. But there are different press outfits that seem to be on their way out. If you look at – if you look, for instance, at the New York Times, which is in a great deal of trouble – across the board, their employees took a 10 percent pay cut. The New York Times gets a lot of hits on their – you know, they get a lot of hits on their website. But nonetheless, they have not found a way to make that business model profitable online.
One of the ways that – and I’m sure that Rob knows more about this than I do – you know, how these things work as a business model, or how the interplay between – how the interplay works. But one of the things that’s happened is that the advertising staff will go to advertisers and say, Look, we have this article by Stephen Walt, and he gets a lot of attention. And one of the indices is how many comments these people get.
So this effectively became a business model. People [making money] writing anti-Israel screeds. Walt is not necessarily the worst. Glenn Greenwald is bad, extremely bad. And the advertisers, of course, aren’t so interested in what the subject is. They turn around and say, Well, okay, this is getting a lot of attention, this site’s getting a lot of attention, as indicated by these comments.
So the question is, how did we get the point where anti-Semitism, anti-Israel sentiment, Jew-baiting, became a business model? Well, I think it starts with – as many things, it starts with the American Left. If you look at what happened, one of the great successes, or the greatest success, of the American Left was the anti-Vietnam War movement. It was so successful that it managed to drag over the liberal mainstream as well.
I did an article recently. And Ron Radosh and I spoke about that. Ron has been very helpful and informative. And as Ron pointed out, and many other people have pointed out, the Democrats used to be anti-Communist. Well, with the Vietnam War movement – and Ron can correct me or challenge me later – but with the Vietnam War movement, this started dragging more and more liberals away from the relative center towards the far left.
They tried to relive that glory again with support for Latin America guerilla – or “resistance” movements. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, there was no more obvious cause for the Left to support.
If you look at the Cold War, one way to think about it is if Germany was the strategic battleground where the actual war was supposed to take place, the ideological battleground was France, where you had this really strange paradox of, you know, very powerful French Communist Party, and you had – the entire intelligentsia was very left. On the other hand, economically they were to the right. And all of this was protected by the American – by the Pax Americana. So you had this very strange paradox.
At any rate, France sort of constituted the ideological battleground. And again, for them what was most important was Algeria, and some of their former colonial [possessions] in the Middle East and Africa – including, you can also consider, Lebanon and Syria.
And what happened at that point was they sort of skipped Vietnam and Latin America, and they had Algeria. It was at this point that they started looking around. And the cause for them – once they’d gotten out of their colonial holdings, once they’d gotten out of Algeria, the next thing they turned to was Israel.
And while the Europeans certainly felt they owed a debt and they were guilty for the Holocaust, they looked at the Jews [and said] they’re really like us, and they must be made to understand that they can’t continue this crime against poor, oppressed third-world people. And that was the European position.
At this point that the American Left, after the fall of the Cold War, looked at the European Left, and they found this same cause. And that’s how the American Left grafted the European cause, which had to do with – again, mostly about – the Middle East and Africa grafted it onto its own cause. So that’s one of the currents that we have in contemporary anti-Israel sentiment in the United States.
Another one of the currents comes from the academy. If you compare, for instance, the number of Soviet dissidents who worked in US universities, and compare that to the number of Arab dissidents, there were very few Arab dissidents. What you had mostly – or very few dissidents at all from the Muslim world. What you had mostly were people who were children of the regime – people who had an investment in Arab nationalism.
Foremost among them, and most famous, is Edward Said. But Said represented this very large influx of Middle Eastern academics who came to the United States. And they were basically articulating the Arab nationalist position. They came to the United States, and they started preaching about Arab nationalism. Again, this is very different from what happened with Soviet dissidents during the Cold War.
A lot of people – I think Caroline and I have spoken about this, and she makes a very good case for one of the turns against Israel – was that after 1967, it was very difficult for people to see Israel as an underdog anymore. And so, instead of people – instead of many on the Left respecting and admiring Israel’s strength, they came to condemn it. Because it was powerful, and no longer an underdog. And I think that’s very accurate.
I would say there’s one other thing that happened particularly during those years. And that was, during the energy crisis of the ‘70s, a large part of the American [commentariat] in the press – people asked for their opinions, and people asked for interviews. These in particular were again these Arab nationalists, who had come to serve and work in American universities. And so when the press turned to them, again, they were getting this Arab nationalist perspective on Israel and on the region. So you had these two different things going on at the same time in the middle of the ‘70s. So that’s a second current that adds into this.
Another current, which we’ve touched on a little bit – which Bruce touched on a bit – was about the State Department. And we talk about the State Department Arabists. This is another trend that adds to the anti-Israel ideological war. And they’ve always had different reasons for standing, or, [as they would probably put it, being] – having complicated feelings about US support for Israel and the strategic alliance.
I mean, one of their oldest arguments – and this is still an argument they use – was, why would we want to alienate so many Muslims, especially since they tend to inhabit those parts of the world that contain large, strategic oil reserves?
So this is another trend. And we see this again coming out with the Saudi arms deal – the number of weapons – or the amount of weapons sold to the Saudis. And compare this to the issues now over the supposed deal that the Obama Administration’s extended the Netanyahu government.
Finally, there is also – another current is – consists of liberal US – liberal American Jews.
I’ll just give one example. When I was in Lebanon, there was a reporter there from one of the major US papers. And he was speaking to a friend of mine, a Lebanese Christian. And this guy noticed that this reporter was anti-Israel. And my friend said, “How can this be? This guy’s Jewish. Why is he against Israel?” And I explained, “Well, this is not an uncommon affair where there are – you know, where there are liberal Jews who are at least uncomfortable with the idea of a Jewish state in the Middle East.” And my friend said, “Well, look, if that’s the case, then that’s about his own personal identity. This has nothing to do with the region itself.” Because if he can’t understand that there is a Jewish minority, a Middle Eastern minority, and they belong here, then he can’t understand us, either. Because [we] Christians were here before the Muslims. And the Jews were here before us Christians. So Jews definitely belong in the Middle East, just as we do.
So again, this is a problem. This is another part of this current.
The final thing that I just want to say is, I think what we’re talking about here is we’re talking about a very large emotional trend. I don’t think it’s subject to rational argument. We know that it’s a very popular move for American journalists or American intellectuals who were once pro-Israel or ostensibly pro-Israel, to make that turn and now become critical of Israel, or anti-Israel. I’m trying to imagine the opposite of how that happens – of how someone who was once anti-Israel now becomes pro-Israel and supportive of Israel. I think, again, what’s most dangerous is that we’re talking about a an emotional trend not subject to rational argument.
Thanks very much. I appreciate it.
Moderator: Thank you. Our final speaker is David Brog, Executive Director of Christians United for Israel and author of the new book, “In Defense of Faith – the Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity.” His previous book, “Standing With Israel,” is the best study of the phenomenon of Christian Zionism, of which he is a builder with his partner, Pastor Hagee.
David Brog lives in Washington, D.C. He worked in the United States Senate, rising to be chief of staff to a senator and staff director of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Prior to his time on Capitol Hill, he served as an executive with AOL and practiced corporate law in Tel Aviv.
A graduate of Princeton University and the Harvard Law School – David Brog.
David Brog: Thank you, Larry. Thank you, everybody. I always like a Larry Greenfield introduction. I’d speak to Hamas, if Larry would introduce me.
I do like, though, how when I speak at a group like this, you just mentioned – people mention “he was chief of staff to a US senator.” Just to clear up the mystery – and I’ve been spending most of my career lately with Christians, although I am Jewish, so I’m used to the concept of forgiveness, which I would beg from all of you – I was chief of staff to Arlen Specter. Now – okay. But let me say this – when I left that man, he was still at least a Republican, in name. You know, took a lot of work to keep him there.
I’ve since moved on to work with Pastor John Hagee. And there are those who feel I’ve finally arrived at some gainful employment.
Like I said, I’ve been, although Jewish, spending my working days with Christians. I’ve embraced a lot of their forgiveness, a lot of their optimism, a lot of their love. But I remain inherently Jewish.
So I want to start off with a very good headline, very positive headline; and then rapidly snatch pessimism and fear from the jaws of a good report. We want consistency here, right? Everyone else has given bad news. My personal Jewish neuroses aside, I’m afraid there’s a real factual basis for concern and for fear when it comes to my focus, which is US public opinion towards Israel.
I want to start off with a positive headline. This is a Gallup Poll, February 24, 2010 – fairly recent. Support for Israel and US at 63 percent, near record high. For the first time since 1991, more than six in 10 Americans say their sympathies in the Middle East situation lie more with the Israelis than with the Palestinians. Sixty-three percent say their sympathies lie more with the Israelis. Fifteen percent side more with the Palestinians, down slightly from recent years. It’s fantastic – 63 percent sympathies with Israel, 15 with the Palestinians.
Just to highlight the point, which I think if fantastic – only in January 1991, shortly after Israel was hit by Iraqi SCUD missiles during the Gulf War, did the US support for Israel register as high as it does today.
On another front, they asked folks their opinions of 20 countries, including Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Gallup found 67 percent of the folks surveyed had a favorable rating of Israel. Sixty-seven percent. Palestinian Authority had only 20 percent favorable. Fantastic.
Things are good. Americans love Israel. We can go home.
I fear this strong support for Israel rests on a weak and eroding foundation. And the problem can be focused on two elements of US society and public opinion. Number one – no surprise to all of you here – elite opinion. Those who formulate and propagate elite opinion in the United States – the media, academia, intelligentsia – are terribly anti-Israel, and increasingly so.
And as I learned in philosophy class, physics class, [you know what] has a tendency to roll downhill. And everyone here knows this. I mean, we’re sending our students to be inculcated to be anti-American and anti-Israel. Everyone who turns on the TV with very limited exceptions – reads the newspaper with very limited exceptions – is getting a terribly anti-Israel basis.
The foundation of support for Israel that these high poll numbers are based upon had the benefit of all of those years when Israel was still the underdog, all of those years with Israel still was seen as a champion, when Israel was seen as a hero. And the toll of this increasing anti-Israel drumbeat is only now beginning to be felt in the broader public opinion.
So problem number one – we have a problem with our elites – we’re all aware of that. Problem number two, though – and perhaps a problem I’m even more worried about – is what I would call a problem with the folks. You know, what Bill O’Reilly calls “the folks” – those of us not involved in the development and propagation of elite opinions. The folks have been wonderfully immune to much of this elite opinion concerning Israel and America and other issues.
And what is the source of their immunity? I would argue it is their deep connection to faith. And in this country, we’re talking Christianity. Right? This is not a Christian country constitutionally; of course not. Demographically, culturally, yes – I would say Judeo-Christian.
The fact that they are rooted firmly in an alternative world view that recognizes good and evil, right and wrong, light and darkness; that they are rooted in a different narrative of the world and of life, and of human nature, gives them a certain immunity to these trendy anti-Israel/anti-American opinions being propagated by the academy and by the media.
What worries me, why I say we have a problem with the folks, is that we’re losing our religion. You know, I’m surprised how many people aren’t familiar with this. I just want to share another poll with you. This time it’s the Pew Research Center.
I’m just going to read from the Executive Summary. This is also 2010, February 2010. “By some key measures, Americans ages 18 to 29 are considerably less religious than older Americans. Fewer young adults belong to any particular faith than older people do today.”
Aha, you say, it’s a problem of youth. As the youth mature, they will see the need for faith and embrace it. If only this were the case.
The survey continues – today’s youth, 18 to 29, “– are also less likely to be affiliated than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations were when they were young.
“The Millennials” – this is our new name for those 18 to 29 currently – “the Millennials are significantly more unaffiliated than members of Generation X, the prior generation, were at a comparable point in their life cycles.” They’re also significantly more unaffiliated – “twice as unaffiliated as Baby Boomers were as young adults.”
So we see this is a real trend. This is a steep decline in affiliation. Americans are losing their religion. The reasons why, how it’s happening, where it’s happening, will have to wait for another day. But just hear this – more Americans than ever before are claiming they’re agnostic and atheist. More Americans than ever before, in an exponential fashion, are unaffiliated.
What happens if we lose our religion? Rather than prognosticate, I’d rather point to analogies that can illustrate the problem for us. And that’s when you look overseas, at Europe.
Remember the 67 percent favorable rating Israel has here in America? Let’s look for a moment at post-Christian Europe. I now cite a BBC Poll, 2010 – favorable views of Israel and America – 67 percent. Let’s look at Europe. Italy – 26 percent. France – 20 percent. The UK – 17 percent. Germany – 13 percent. And surprisingly, yet consistently, anti-Semitic Spain – 9 percent favorable.
Until someone can give me a better explanation to explain the differences, the marked differences, the substantial differences in attitudes towards Israel between the United States and Europe, other than the one I’m about to say, I am convinced the only explanation that makes sense is the fact that Europe is now clearly, solidly, fanatically post-Christian, and we are not yet.
When you give up a deep-rootedness in Judeo-Christian morality, ease tends to rule your life. Comfort tends to rule your life. Going with the flow tends to rule your life. Let’s face it – standing up for Israel and the Jewish people provides neither ease nor comfort nor popularity. That explains these numbers. We in America have not yet gotten there.
America still produces men like Pastor John Hagee and thousands like him, who we heard last night, who are rooted in values – right over wrong, light over darkness. They’re not worried about ease, and they’re not afraid of a fight.
I want to close with a quote that I think accurately summarizes the dilemma we’re facing here in America. This is from, I think, an acute observer of the current scene and the connection between religiosity and policy who said the following – “I fear for the future of authentic faith in our country. We live in a time when the common man in our country is thoroughly influenced by the current climate in which the cultural and educational elite propagates an anti-Christian message. We should take a look at what has happened in France and learn a lesson from it. In that country, Christianity has been successfully attacked and marginalized by these same groups. Because those who profess belief are unable to defend the faith from attack, even though its attackers’ arguments were deeply flawed. We should be alarmed that instruction in authentic faith has been neglected, if not altogether eliminated, in our schools and universities.”
Folks, that quote is not from anyone living today in the United States of America. That quote is from William Wilberforce, the English Abolitionist member of Parliament who devoted his life to a difficult and unpopular cause – the abolition of slavery and the slave trade in England. This is a quote from 1797. I guarantee you, when William Wilberforce fought to abolish slavery, it was neither popular nor easy nor comfortable. He did it because of his deep, profound Christian values. We need to add to Wilberforce’s title not only “Abolitionist” but “[Cassandra].” Because what he feared would happen in Britain happened in Britain. Britain followed France down this path toward secularism. And that’s why today, France – 20 percent favorable towards Israel; UK, only 17.
Folks, Wilberforce’s warning to Britain needs to be a warning to us here today in America. The trend he saw and feared is starting to take root and take hold here in America. And that’s why, in a very perverse way, when we want to fight Israel’s fight, we have to worry about two things – one, the fight against elite opinion every day of the week to put Israel’s case forward; number two, the fight for faith. Because in the long term, if we lose faith in this country, we lose support for Israel.