In his March 20, 2007, Bulletin commentary, Joe Murray asked if it was possible to have a frank debate about Israel, suggesting that questioning Israel meant risking one’s career. He went on to charge that, “anyone taking on Israel will be labeled an anti-Semite.”
“Just because Israel is a democracy, has religious liberties and is usually sympathetic to our interests does not mean that her wars are America’s wars,” he wrote. “Yes it is true that Iran poses a vital threat to Israel as does Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and scores of other radical Islamic groups. But those are her enemies not ours.” And, he added, “The passionate attachment of some was blurring America’s national interests with that of Israel, and as Washington predicted, forced America into Israel’s quarrels without adequate inducement or justification.”
Let’s be frank: in her 59 years as an independent state Israel has never asked that a single American soldier fight for or die for it. Nor have American troops ever been dispatched to the battlefield to defend Israel. Conversely, American troops have been dispatched to Arab-Muslim states (on more than one occasion) and, have died for them in the battlefield. Surely Murray remembers Kuwait 1990/1991 when American troops were sent to Saudi Arabia and, some were killed in the process of liberating Kuwait and protecting Saudi Arabia from certain invasion and take over by Saddam Hussein. Was that an Israel instigated war and did the U.S. fight it to protect Israel? The answer is rather obvious, they were sent to stem Saddam’s aggression, liberate Kuwait, and protect our “Saudi friends.”
Does Murray consider sending U.S. soldiers to die for Arab oil to be in America’s national interest? America must stand for higher values than oil and business interests. Spreading democracy, respect for the rule-of-law, human rights, and religious tolerance in the Middle East is an American national interest, and it is Israel’s as well. No blurring of interests here.
In 1958, President Eisenhower sent American troops to Beirut not to defend Israel but to save the pro-western Lebanese government from a Nasser instigated takeover by the United Arab Republic (UAR was the union between Egypt and Syria under Nasser’s leadership) – a client state of the Soviet Union. In 1970, the U.S. asked Israel to do its bidding by mobilizing its forces on the Syrian border to discourage the Syrian regime from attacking pro-western Jordan. Again in 1983, U.S. Marines were sent to Lebanon to secure the withdrawal of Palestinian terrorists, not to defend Israel. In the process, Hezbollah terrorists commissioned by Iran and aided by Syrian intelligence killed over 241 U.S. Marines. On September 20, 1984, Hezbollah terrorists bombed the American embassy in Beirut resulting in American casualties. The same Hezbollah terrorists, who Murray claimed were “not our enemies,” killed 19 American soldiers while they were asleep and wounded 372 at the Khobar Towers near Dhahran in Saudi Arabia on June 25, 1996. Earlier, on June 14, 1985, Hezbollah hijackers took over TWA flight 847 and murdered U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem. On February 17, 1988, Hezbollah kidnapped and murdered U.S. Colonel William Higgins in Beirut. This is but a short list of Hezbollah’s attacks on America and on Americans.
Both Hamas and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) have the blood of American citizens on their hands. In Khartoum, P.L.O. terrorists (ordered by Chairman Arafat) murdered U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel Jr. in 1973. On October 17, 2003, Hamas operatives murdered three American civilians in Gaza and, just last year kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam a Fox-TV reporter and cameraman.
Murray would have us believe that Islamic terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah with their Jihadist agenda are at war with Israel and not the U.S. America, however, is the ultimate target whether Murray knows it or not. Fighting Jihadist terror is an interest shared by both Washington and Jerusalem (by the way, using Tel Aviv rather than Jerusalem in referring to Israel’s capital was a cheap dig).
Nasser’s UAR sought to undermine U.S. interests in the Middle East with Soviet support, and today Iran’s policies seek to expel the “Great Satan” from the region as well. Iran, in defiance of the international community, is working on advanced delivery systems that can be armed with nuclear payloads capable of hitting targets in the USA. Israel, the “Little Satan” would merely serve as target practice for the Jihadi Ayatollahs from Tehran whose aim is firmly on Europe and the United States. The only blurring here is with Murray’s vision.
Israel is an island of democracy and stability in the midst of authoritarian regimes whose people despise the values and lifestyles of “infidel” America. Professor Bernard Lewis, the preeminent Middle East scholar responded to the universal question following the September11th attacks on America “Why do they hate us?” by writing, “They hate us not because of what we did but for who we are”- an open, democratic, and free society. And they hate the American-Christian infidels as much as they hate the Israeli-Jewish infidels. If Israel did not exist America would still be a hated nation, targeted by Iran, Saudi, Palestinian, Lebanese and Egyptian Islamist terrorists.
As long as we’re having a frank discussion, it would be interesting to ask Murray why, of all the lobbies in Washington, including the most powerful Saudi lobby, he chose to single out AIPAC, calling it “The American wing of the Likud.” I would expect “mercenaries” like former president Jimmy Carter (whose peanut farm in Plains, GA was bailed out with Arab petrodollars and whose library at Emory University was funded with their dollars as well), and professors Mersheimer and Walt to utter such an absurdity but not a fair-minded journalist. Firstly, AIPAC does not represent a particular party in Israel or in the U.S. Secondly, why wouldn’t he consider the OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) lobby or the Saudi lobby in Washington as the “Wahhabi wing in Washington?” And lastly, AIPAC advocates for a U.S. ally while the Saudi and OPEC lobbies represent enemies whose interests are inimical to the U.S. Jimmy Carter, Buchanan, Mersheimer, and Walt have all denounced AIPAC as “running” American foreign policy, a charge that demeans the credibility of America’s bi-partisan policy-makers on Capitol Hill and former U.S. Presidents from Truman to George W. Bush.
Petro-dollars coming from the coffers of the likes of Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries, including Iran, are used to undermine democracy in the region and simultaneously to divert attention from their notorious behavior towards their own people, and their involvement in Islamic anti-Western terror. Unlike AIPAC they have global reach, financial clout and resources to buy the services of all too willing mercenaries.
The mainstream media has ignored for decades the purchasing of academic Middle East Studies chairs in major American universities, especially by Saudi Arabia and other OPEC states. The Saudis have been able to buy the services of the most talented public relations firms in America. How else could a country that officially ended slavery in 1962, and whose nationals were largely responsible for the 9/11 attacks on America portray itself as a U.S. ally?
It is for this reason that the calculated attacks by Mersheimer and Walt, Carter, and the others smacks more of OPEC’s purchasing power in America, than AIPAC’s influence over U.S. foreign policy. Moreover, the deliberate focus on AIPAC and Israel obfuscates the hate and hostility the OPEC Arab-Muslim states harbor towards America, democracy, freedom of religion, and decency.
The provision inserted by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats in Congress that would have required President Bush to come before Congress prior to launching a preemptive strike against Iran was meant to limit the constitutional powers of President Bush as the Commander-in-Chief. Pelosi was not exactly “intimidated” by AIPAC as Murray suggested, she feared losing this contest with the president.
Murray’s use of Pelosi’s criteria for “permissible” military engagement by the U.S is rather specious. He quoted from Pelosi’s AIPAC speech that “Any U.S. military engagement must be judged on three counts – whether it makes our country safer, our military stronger or the region more stable.”
Stopping Iran’s nuclear ambition will make America, the Middle East, and the world much safer indeed. Fighting Islamic terrorism is not merely a bi-partisan American policy it is an existential necessity. That does not mean that we should commence military action against Tehran, it does however require that we keep our military options open.
Apparently, Murray has yet to read the historical chapter on the Munich 1938 appeasement. World War II could have been averted had the allies acted to stop Hitler’s aggression rather than appease him. Just like Iran’s Ahmadinejad today, Hitler sensed the West’s weakness and unwillingness to intervene. Global Islamic terrorism requires a global response from the free world, and America alone is capable of leading it.
What exactly does Murray mean by a “frank discussion about Israel?” The mainstream media coverage of Israel has been one of the most extensive. If by “an open debate” he means forcing Israel to relinquish strategic assets to appease the Arabs, let him say so. Would that be in America’s national interest? And once the Arabs are appeased and Israel is dismantled like Czechoslovakia was in 1939, would hate for America or Islamic terrorism disappear?
If Murray believes that, I have a bridge to sell him.