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Kerry's "Israel Problem" By: Richard Nadler
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, November 02, 2004

A swing state ad flashed the cover of John Kerry’s 1997 book The New War on the screen, calling him the author of a strategy on terrorism.  The Kerry campaign often cites the Senator’s authorship of this work, but rarely cites its contents.

There is ample reason for both postures. To win Tuesday, Kerry must convince substantial blocks of traditional Democrats, particularly Jewish voters, that he will fight terrorism vigorously.


Kerry’s “Jewish problem” is obvious.  The American Jewish Committee poll of Jewish voters finds support for Kerry-Edwards in 2004 running 10% lower than support for Gore-Lieberman in 2000 – 69% compared to 79%.  Further, the poll records a 5% increase in support for President Bush, from 19% to 24%.  John Kerry must hold the “Lieberman Democrats” in line – that minority of the Democratic Party, heavily Jewish, which believes that the war on terror is fundamental, not peripheral, to our nation’s well-being.  The defection of large numbers of Jewish Democrats could be fatal to the Kerry campaign, particularly in Florida.  It is the political imperative to court “Lieberman Democrats,” and particularly Jews, that has led Kerry partisans to publicize the Senator’s 1997 book The New War, a tome they say deals with terror.


Unfortunately, what John Kerry outlined in his book was a war not on terror, but on international criminal networks, which he regards as an inevitable outgrowth of international capitalism. “The damage done by international crime,” he wrote in his summary, “is rarely as specific and dramatic as that of a terrorist attack, but in fact it is greater [emphasis added].” The book was published in 1997, after the Khobar Towers bombing by Osama bin Laden, but al Qaeda is not mentioned, nor is bin Laden. The Taliban are mentioned, but their terror training camps are not, despite the fact that they were hosting bin Laden at the time.


And his choice of countries to target also seems somewhat strange. He saw global crime as stemming from global capitalism, and he criticized free societies such as the Cayman Islands for being so-called tax or bank secrecy havens while giving no mention to Arab States that were known to be supporting terrorists. Sudan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia have no listing in the index.


But Kerry did single out one Middle Eastern nation for what he saw as its sins in enabling international crime. That country is called Israel, and it is blamed for everything from the training of drug cartels in Colombia to the global emergence of the Russian mob.


The one statement about Israel from The New War that has gotten some attention is Kerry’s claim that Palestinian Authority head Yasser Arafat made the “transformation from outlaw to statesman.” Kerry has since criticized Arafat, and web sites such as Factcheck.org point out that the book was written when Israel and Palestine were sitting at the peace table, before Arafat broke off talks and heightened terrorist attacks in 2000. But the fact remains that Arafat had plenty of blood on his hands in 1997, and very few other U.S. politicians -- Republican or Democrat -- had ever referred to him as a “statesman.”


Still, this statement pales compared to other passages in the book that single out Israel for criticism. There is, for instance, a truly bizarre statement that Colombia’s notorious Cali drug cartel is “relying on techniques provided to the Colombians by former Israeli intelligence personnel” (p.78). Among its other flaws, the book has no footnotes, so it’s hard to tell where this assertion is coming from. My guess is that Kerry may have been referring to an incident in the late ‘80s in which a handful of former Israeli military officials who had no connection with Israel’s Mossad, as Kerry seemingly asserts, trained individuals associated with the cartels.


But to put this in context and see how Kerry’s assertion overstated Israeli influence, one need only look at this lead sentence from a Washington Post article in 1989. The sentence reads, “At least five Israeli and 11 British mercenaries helped train teams of assassins for Colombian cocaine traffickers … according to a confidential report by Colombian security forces [emphasis added].” Another Washington Post story of that year said the drug cartels also received training from “high-level Cuban military officers.” Yet strangely Kerry does not talk about this training by Cuba or Britain or citizens of any other country but Israel.


This type of targeting of Israel for criticism that could be applied with equal or greater force to other nations is discussed at length in Alan Dershowitz’s widely acclaimed recent book, The Case for Israel. Dershowitz writes: “So long as criticism is comparative, contextual, and fair, it should be encouraged, not discouraged. But when the Jewish nation is the only one criticized for faults that are far worse among other nations, such criticism crosses the line from fair to foul.”


And the Colombian cartels are not the only instance in the book that Kerry singled out Israel for criticism he failed to apply to either Arab or Western nations. He blamed Israel’s law-of-return policy, which entitles Jews to Israeli citizenship, for the growth of the Russian mob. Kerry notes that among those Russians emigrating, some have been criminals, including crime figures with phony documents who were not even Jewish. He then makes a statement that about Israel’s law of return that is either deliberately misleading or shows astonishing ignorance of Israel’s history. “This shocking development is requiring Israel to consider a variety of steps, from the basic … to the profound, such as amendments to the Law of Return to prevent criminals from entering Israel” (p.167). But, as those even slightly familiar with the process are aware, there is no need for these amendments, because the law of return has always contained an exception for criminals. American Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky learned this when he tried to take refuge in Israel in the ‘70s, and Prime Minister Golda Meir personally intervened to kick him out.


Since, in that passage, Kerry did not identify who in Israel is criticizing the law of return, the reader can assume this assertion reflects Kerry’s own view. And it is a troubling prospect, because the Law of Return is already under attack by Israel’s enemies who call the policy racist. Dershowitz points out the double standards of critics of Israel’s policy who overlook ethnic preferences that other countries have.


Yet Kerry held Israel to another double standard when he implied the need for overhauling the law of return to stop crime. He acknowledged that other countries, including the U.S., have problems with the Russian mob. But he never called on those countries to make “profound” changes to their immigration systems. Israel has taken steps to screen potential citizens for their criminal pasts. Perhaps it could do more, but so could a lot of other countries. But Kerry’s implied argument for gutting a humanitarian immigration law that has rescued victims of Soviet communism and Ethiopian famine should be of great concern to friends of Israel.


As should his singling out of Israel’s banking laws.  Kerry wrote that the Israeli financial system provides a “safe haven” for the Russian mob. “Banking laws designed to attract foreign capital, a policy of not taxing foreign accounts, and an active but not fully regulated stock exchange continue to make Israel an attractive investment and financial safe haven,” he stated (p. 166). Put aside for a moment the absurdity of Kerry’s linking of lower taxes and less economy-wide regulation (as opposed to regulation that specifically tracks criminals) to more crime. Again, Kerry’s real bias is revealed in what he didn’t say. That is that many other countries try to attract foreign capital, and the U.S. also does not tax interest on foreign bank accounts.


After shouldering on Israel a wildly disproportionate amount of blame for the problems of global crime, Kerry then made an amazing statement. Just as he recently termed the damage from international crime greater than that from terrorism, he concluded in the book that the Russian mob is a “more insidious” problem for Israel than Palestinian terrorist attacks. Kerry wrote that, as Israel was deporting Russian criminals, “Israeli officials were acknowledging for the first time in its history Israel was under a different kind of threat than that posed by Palestinians denying the right of Israel to exist.” Then Kerry added his own take. “This threat was more insidious,” he wrote (p. 166).


This statement is a fascinating revelation of Kerry’s priorities. The Russian mob is a big problem that must be dealt with by Israel as well as the many other countries where it has a presence. But most Israelis would say it pales in comparison to the prospect of terrorists blowing themselves up and killing innocent civilians on a bus, in a pizza parlor, or at a nightclub.


What relevance would the statements of The New War have on Kerry’s Israel policy as president? Plenty. Without citing the contents, Kerry has stated in this campaign that what he wrote in The New War would essentially be his governing philosophy on foreign policy. He recently told The New York Times Magazine that the September 11th attacks “didn’t change me much at all.” He added to the surprised reporter, “It just sort of accelerated, confirmed in me, the urgency of doing the things I thought we needed to be doing.” Although pundits both conservative and liberal (such as Michael Crowley of The New Republic) have talked about the ways in which The New War missed the mark, and the Times article notes that “the book barely mentioned the rise of Islamic extremism,” Kerry insists in the article that “I was ahead of the curve on the entire dark side of globalization.”


Ahead of the curve? Writing about the Taliban seizing control of Afghanistan’s government in 1996, Kerry stated: “Taliban fighters, Islamic fundamentalists who had taken over Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul, … called for a return to Islamic purity and a repudiation of opium trafficking.  But Western intelligence analysts immediately detected evidence that the public statements were a sham to mask continued smuggling by Taliban force” (p. 97). In other words, Kerry traced the Taliban from Islamic fundamentalism into drug trafficking, as though the former had been subordinated to the latter.


But on 9/11, we found out who it was we were fighting.  They were not drug pushers.  They were Islamists, who believed that the followers of Allah had a territorial claim on vast stretches of the globe where others ruled, and a universal right to kill non-combatant citizens in pursuit of those claims. And we now know that the revenues of the Taliban, whether generated by drugs, Islamic charities, or the private fortunes of Gulf State magnates, were funding training camps for terrorist assaults.  In other words, criminal activity in Afghanistan was a subset of national and ideological aspirations, as it is in many other Islamic states.


But since Kerry still sees non-state actors as the primary terrorist threat, he still clings to the solutions to go after the crime that he outlined in The New War. Because the globalization of crime is, in Kerry’s view, “the dark side of globalization,” much of The New War outlines an ex-prosecutor’s suggestions for the regulation of global capital.  Kerry is an enthusiastic advocate of multi-national asset forfeiture agreements, global surveillance of capital movement, limits on private encryption technology, and extra-territorial police authority. As a recent article in the libertarian magazine, Reason, noted, Kerry supported regulations on global capital and communications even when they were opposed by privacy and civil liberties groups.


The one thing Kerry flinched at was going after the regimes that harbored, trained and/or funded terrorists. State sponsored terrorism, Kerry contended, was a waning threat because of the activity of the community of nations.  “Under U.S. leadership,” he wrote, “nations have arrayed themselves to discourage state-sponsored terrorism.  We have made such sponsorship a very risky business, as Libya, Iran, and Iraq and their peoples have learned through bitter experience.” (p. 114)


This was written, of course, before the breakdown of the sanctions regime in Iraq became apparent; before Iran’s nuclear ambitions became explicit; before North Korea’s nuclear ambitions reached fruition; and before unilateral U.S. action in Iraq brought a termination to WMD programs in Libya. But Kerry’s proposed strategies for a safer world are basically the same global law enforcement tactics that he outlined seven years ago. The Times article paraphrased him as saying he would use “many of the interdiction tactics that cripple drug lords, including governments working jointly to share intelligence, patrol borders, and force banks to identify suspicious customers.”


International cooperation is a theme of The New War and his current campaign. Yet Israel advocates, such as Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer and former New York Mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat, note that “the international community” has in recent years not exactly been a friend to Israel, and this will likely be reflected in their demands to a Kerry administration. Koch, who is backing Bush, wrote in a recent column, “We can be certain that the first demand the European Union would make of him would be for the U.S. to abandon Israel,” Similarly, Krauthammer writes, “There is no issue on which the United States more consistently fails the global test of international consensus than Israel.”


And Kerry’s campaign has done little to assuage these fears. He characterized Ariel Sharon’s decision to build an Israeli security fence first as “another barrier to peace,” then reversed himself, calling it “a legitimate act of self-defense.” But his appointment of Martin Indyk, a Clinton administration ambassador to Israel who is an Arafat apologist, as Mideast advisor won him few friends among Jewish Democrats.


That’s why his statements about Israel from The New War deserve fresh examination from all concerned about Israel’s fate. They clearly show he singled out Israel and treated it as an obstacle to international cooperation.


John Kerry has shown every intention of pursuing his “new war” if he gets to the White House. The question Jews and other Israel supporters should ask is, will Israel become one of its targets?


Richard Nadler is the President of Americas Pac, a 527 political organization headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas.

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