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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 04, 2003

Edwin Montagu. Bruno Kreisky. Joe Lieberman?

On January 27, MEMRI published a translation from Arabic of an article about Joe Lieberman. The article in question appeared in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and contained this explanatory gem as to why Lieberman is the paper’s candidate of choice:
[T]he first Jewish President of the United States must prove that he places his Americanism ahead of his Jewishness. The most visible proof for this would be the settlement of the Middle East conflict away from the flagrant bias of his Jewishness and in keeping with American interests in the Middle East.
It will be recalled that shortly before Christmas 2002, Joe Lieberman visited Israel and other Middle East countries. On Christmas eve, the Palestine Chronicle had this to report:
Lieberman expressed strong support for an independent Palestinian state Monday [December 23, 2002], while meeting with the PNA Minister of Culture and Information Yasser Abed Rabbo in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

"I expressed my strong support for the aspirations of the Palestinian people to an independent state," he told journalists after the talks with Palestinian officials, which he described as "excellent."

He also met with PNA finance minister Salam Fayad and top negotiator Sa’eb Erekat.

"The conflict between the Israeli and Palestinian people will only end with a two-state solution," he added. "I understand the desperate humanitarian problems of the Palestinian people."
(The Palestine Chronicle is an organization which includes on its “honorary editorial board” such people as Hanan Ashrawi and Noam Chomsky, so the Chronicle’s joy is understandable.)

The MEMRI article and the foregoing quotation reminded me of a few unpleasant historical precedents that should be borne in mind when the US citizenry goes to the polls.

Flashback to World War I. Chaim Weizmann was in England, trying to marshal the support of the British government for the Zionist enterprise. Here is what Weizmann wrote about the likes of Edwin Montagu, a Jewish Minister in His Majesty’s Government.
The opposition of these Jews turned out to be costlier by far to us [Zionists] than the reasoned objections of non-Jews; and too, it being psychological rather than reasonable, was implacable. If my prophecy to Mr Scott [a non-Jewish friend of Zionism] of a million Jews in Palestine at the end of twenty-five years or thirty years has fallen short by some 40 per cent, much of the blame is directly attributable to the internal obstructionism of a small but influential group of Jews...

If they had been content with withholding their financial support, we on our side, would have been content to forget them. But they discouraged others, by precept as well as example. They went out of their way to influence British public opinion against us. They created in Jewish life a tradition, as it were, of active obstructionism which often came to life at critical moments of world and Jewish history.
(Quoted from pp. 154-158 of:

Weizmann, Chaim. Trial and Error. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1949.

In discussing the Balfour Declaration, Weizmann describes the incredible zeal with which Edwin Montagu attempted to throttle the Declaration. (See more on this particular point in IsraPundit’s post for November 2, 2002 (Balfour Declaration Day), in which I quoted from David Fromkin’s extensive work, A Peace to End All Peace.)

The example of Edwin Montagu is hardly unique. Bruno Kreisky, it would appear, was Montagu’s twin brother, only much more ferocious. The website of Radio Islam posted a detailed account about Kreisky, written by Alfred M. Lilienthal; neither the author nor the site can be accused of pro-Israel sentiments. Lilienthal writes:
In late September 1973, two Palestinians of a heretofore unknown guerrilla group calling themselves "Eagles of the Palestinian Revolution" seized three Russian Jews en route to Israel on the Moscow to Vienna train and at gunpoint held them, together with an Austrian customs guard, as hostages for thirteen hours at Vienna's Schwechat Airport. They demanded that the government close the Jewish Agency's transit camp facilities at Schönau Castle, once a royal Hapsburg hunting lodge just south of Vienna, where Jews arrived from the Soviet Union by plane and train en route to Israel.
Bruno Kreisky, one will recall, caved in to the terrorists. When Golda Meir visited him to plead for the transit camp to remain open, he treated her shabbily and, in Meir's words, didn't even offer her a glass of water.

In a subsequent press interview (January 20, 1974),
Kreisky went out of his way to declare he did not recognize a Jewish nationality. He argued: "There is no Jewish race; there are only Jewish religious groups. Israel was only the ancient, religious fatherland of Jews, but not their true fatherland."
I am not suggesting in any way that US citizens should prefer a presidential candidate based on his approach to Israel. But I do suggest that Israel’s supporters who expect help from Lieberman should bear in mind the historical record and spare themselves disappointment. In this particular case, the Saudi paper may indeed be right.

Contributed by Joseph Alexander Norland. This piece is cross-posted on IsraPundit and Dawson Speaks.