A Century of U.S.-Israel Ties - and the Conspiracy Theories

Walter Russell Mead (Wall Street Journal) - One hundred years ago, Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge (R., Mass.) and Rep. Hamilton Fish (R., N.Y.) steered a joint resolution through Congress, putting the U.S. on record in supporting a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Senate vote was unanimous; the House whooped it through on a voice vote. In September 1922, President Warren G. Harding signed the resolution, launching a tradition of official American support for Zionist aspirations in Palestine that a long line of presidents from both parties have continued. The Lodge-Fish Resolution unintentionally launched another tradition: belief among many Americans that American support for Zionism was the result of nefarious Jewish influence. Jewish wealth, the theory went, favored pro-Israel politicians while Jews supposedly imposed pro-Israel views on a press that they allegedly controlled. The two traditions coexist to this day. Support for Israel, while not unlimited or uncritical, dominates both parties in Congress, while controversies over the role of pro-Israel "Jewish money" in American elections continue to rage. But the past 100 years tell a different story. American Jews, contrary to legend, aren't an irresistible political force. Two years after the Lodge-Fish resolution, Congress passed a system of immigration restrictions that reduced Jewish immigration to the U.S. by about 90%. The American Jewish community was unable to block this legislation. just as it was unable to persuade Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration to take strong action to protect Jews in Hitler's Germany. Yet these years of Jewish powerlessness were peak years for anti-Semitic conspiracies. Henry Ford's Dearborn Independent, a newspaper distributed nationally was a platform for anti-Semitic propaganda. The Ku Klux Klan was near the height of its influence. It wasn't simply that American Jews were too weak to impose Zionism on the American political system. Most of them didn't want to. Led by Henry Morgenthau, Woodrow Wilson's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire and the most influential Jewish political leader of the era, most prominent American Jews opposed the British government's Balfour Declaration and the Lodge-Fish Resolution that endorsed it. During the 19 years between Israel's 1948 declaration of independence and its overwhelming victory in the 1967 Six Day War, American Jews were united and enthusiastic in supporting Israel. Yet U.S.-Israel relations were at their frostiest in that era. The modern era of a close U.S.-Israel alignment began only after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel and rapprochement with the U.S. The relationship deepened after the shah of Iran fell in 1979, and again after the 9/11 attacks when Israeli intelligence significantly assisted American counterterror efforts around the world. It is the story of non-Jewish support for Israel that needs to be told. It is not only that American Christians going back to Boston Puritans like Increase Mather and colonial theologians like Jonathan Edwards believed that God would someday lead the Jews back to their biblical homeland. Politicians like John Adams and Theodore Roosevelt, and hardheaded businessmen, like John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan, supported Zionist aspirations as well. One hundred years after the Lodge-Fish Resolution, Jewish and non-Jewish Americans alike continue to debate America's relationship with the Zionist movement and the Jewish state. That is as it should be. Those who think that Jewish financial and media power are the forces that drive America's Middle East policy continue to miss the point. Anti-Semitic myths about Jewish power can't explain America's past policy in the Middle East and provide no useful guidance for the future.

2022-09-08 00:00:00

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