Against Our Better Judgment: The hidden history of how the US was used to create Israel, CreateSpace Publishing
July 30, 2014: IDF soldiers in Gaza. (Photo: Israel Defense Forces)
If you want to know what the media doesn't tell us about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, check out the informative website of Alison Weir, an investigative journalist who created the nonprofit organization, If Americans Knew and her website of the same name. If you want to know how America was bamboozled into enabling the new state of Israel in 1948, readAgainst Our Better Judgment: The hidden history of how the US was used to create Israel, Weir's insightful new book.
US taxpayers fund military assistance to Israel at a level of more than $3.1billion a year, which enables the Israeli Defense Force to oppress Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Indeed, the Gaza wars of 2008-09 and 2014, which together took the lives of more than 3,500 Palestinians (mostly civilians), over 800 of whom were children, could not have been waged without American arms.
So it behooves Americans to understand the history of their government's unconditional support of Israel. Ms. Weir's volume, together with Rashid Khalidi's Brokers of Deceit, shines a spotlight on the US role in creating and maintaining the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
How did the United States become a vigorous enabler of Israel when experts from the State Department, CIA and military all opposed the Zionist mission to create a Jewish state in Palestinian land? Ms. Weir tells that story clearly, backing up her facts with 108 pages of endnotes (more pages than the main text).
Even those who are well read on the Israeli-Palestinian relationship have much to learn from this slender volume. Among the hidden facts unearthed by Weir:
• US Supreme Court Justices Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter were covert supporters of political Zionism in its determination to occupy the land of Palestine, a part of the Ottoman Empire that was later mandated to Britain.
• Zionists pushed for the United States to enter the First World War on Britain's side "as part of a deal to gain British support for their colonization of Palestine." In 1917, the Balfour Declaration, promised that Britain would "view with favor the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people," a key document in the creation of Israel.
• As part of a State Department delegation to obtain a separate peace with the Ottoman Empire, which "would have prevented Britain from acquiring Palestine and enabling a Jewish state," Felix Frankfurter persuaded the delegation to abandon its effort.
• At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, Brandeis and Frankfurter lobbied for a Jewish home in Palestine, despite strong warnings that unlimited immigration of Jews would violate the Wilsonian principle of self-determination.
• During Hitler's rise in Germany, Zionists "sabotaged efforts to find safe havens for Jewish refugees to convince the world that Jews could only be safe in a Jewish state." According to an Israeli source, "the Nazis wanted the Jews out of Germany; the Zionists wanted them to come to Palestine."
Zionist organizations established in the 1930s and '40s lobbied President Harry Truman to recognize the state of Israel despite strong objections by Middle East experts. Loy Henderson of the State Department warned that the UN partition plan would "guarantee that the Palestine problem would be permanent and still more complicated in the future." Both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA echoed that view.
Ultimately, however, Truman accepted the advice of Clark Clifford, who argued that US support for partition was necessary to win Jewish votes in the upcoming presidential election. The president's decision set a pattern for deciding US-Middle East policy issues on domestic political grounds.
American Zionists were equally successful in lobbying the UN General Assembly, when it voted on the partition plan. According the Weir, passage of the partition resolution provoked violence against local residents, the expulsion of over 400,000 Palestinians and the May 15 declaration of the new state of Israel (which the United States was the first to recognize).
The remainder of the book describes the Israeli conquest of Palestine, with its village massacres and ethnic cleansing; the proliferation of US front groups in support of Zionist militarism; Israeli efforts (largely successful) to funnel displaced people to Palestine; and growing Zionist influence in the media. The book ends with the sad story of Dorothy Thompson, a famous journalist whose career ended with her efforts to expose the plight of Palestinian refugees.
While Ms. Weir's text is revelatory and articulate, I wish the paperback itself were more securely bound. My copy had pages that fell out after a single reread. Clearly, the book deserves both a hardbound edition and a wide audience!
L. Michael Hager is cofounder and former director-general of the International Development Law Organization, Rome.