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They Dared to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby-Paul Findley

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The title alone is enough to grab a person’s attention.  Because of the subject matter, it was bound to stir controversy for it touches a topic that remains taboo thirty-seven years after its publication.  And with the events this past week regarding the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, the contents of this book are as important now as they were then. Before you attempt to read this book, it is critical to understand the difference between Judaism and what is referred to as Zionism. There is a fundamental difference between the two that is often forgotten as charges of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias are leveled against those who dare to speak out.   However, what I have learned from this book, is critical to understanding how our world functions and why peace is seemingly an impossible objective to accomplish in the Middle East.

For those who are of the Jewish faith, before reading this book, you must understand that you will learn many things that are not pleasant.  And the temptation to feel or believe that the author is an anti-Semite might rise to the surface. But I caution you that any notion of Paul Findley (1921-) being anti-Semitic is far from the truth.  In fact, Findley was U.S. Representative from Illinois from 1960-1982 and supported Israel at many times during his career. I firmly believe it is underestimated by many Americans, how much power and influence the Israeli lobby holds over the U.S. Government. Foreign policy and aid is highly scrutinized by the lobby and anything deemed to detrimental to the existence of Israel is quickly condemned and crushed, even at the expense of possible peace with its Arab neighbors.

I can only imagine how much pressure Findley had to endure to see this book all the way through.  He discloses the difficulty in finding a publisher for a subject which many were reluctant to touch out of fear of severe backlash.  In staying the course and braving the opposition, he has compiled the book that should be read by every American concerned with the past and future of the United States.  You might ask yourself, is I agree with the material in the book, does it make me anti-Semitic? No it does not.  Personally, I have Jewish friends and even dated a woman of the Jewish faith.  I was never taught hate growing up and my parents invited everyone into their home regardless of creed, ethnicity and even sexual orientation.   However my parents did teach us to examine all sides of an issue and make a decision based off of what is known and not by what is assumed.  And it is for that reason that I believe this book is a critical read.

The book is not only an account of Findley’s difficulty in taking a strong stance on the Israeli lobby, but other politicians throughout history who have taken on the machine.  Some of the names will be familiar to readers such as Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) and William J. Fulbright (1905-1995). Other names will be known only by few but their stories are as important as the rest in understanding the costs associated with speaking the truth about U.S. foreign policy regarding Israel.  Careers were destroyed and lives ruined by those with a vested interest in maintaining a power hold over legislation and the media.  The stories are too high in number to reveal here but I can say is that you might be surprised at how many people have had their lives ruined by the Israeli lobby for even questioning U.S. foreign aid to Israel of the occupation of the Gaza strip.  Others have had their lives ruined for even meeting Arab officials from the PLO including Yassar Arafat (1929-2004) himself.

Findley has provided a staggering amount of information which is bound to confuse and in some cases anger the reader.  But it is imperative that the reader recognizes that difference between the Israeli lobby and ordinary Jews in America who do not support what Israel does but are obligated to remain in silence and show unwavering support.   As with any story, there are multiple sides and what sometimes seems to be black and white, will be revealed to have many shades of grey.  The truth is rarely pleasant and in some cases upsetting. But if that is what the reader seeks, then books such as this are a necessity.  The courage exemplified by Findley and others who have dared to speak out has give us the knowledge we need to make informed decisions before we lend our support to movements and causes.

As the book approached its end and I continued to digest everything that Findley had disclosed, I was haunted by the thought that there may never be true peace between Israel and Palestine.  But if that is the ultimate goal then the first step is re-examine U.S.  foreign policy.   And doing so does not make anyone anti-Israel or anti-Semitic but an advocate of genuine and long-lasting peace.  Furthermore, we are forced to remember that Judaism is one of the world’s oldest religions, observed by millions of great men and women and unrelated to many of things we learn through Findley’s words.

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple” – Oscar Wilde

ISBN-10: 155652482X
ISBN-13: 978-1556524820

A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East-David Fromkin

OttomanIdeology is sometimes as powerful of a tool as violence and in some cases has been the direct cause of violence. In the Middle East, ideology has maintain a stronghold as it finds itself on a crash course with modernity.   Those who live outside the Middle East are at times confused and mystified by the traditions and events that occur throughout the Arab nations.   In fact, many of us here in the United States do not know how the modern-day Middle East came into existence.  To them, I say that the key to understanding the Middle East is to retrace its history to see why and how it developed into what we know it to be today.  David Fromkin lends us a helping hand in this incredible historical investigative account of the fall of the legendary Ottoman Empire and the creation of a region that would never truly know peace.

I find it a bit ironic that the title is called A Peace to End All Peace because when the reader has finished the book, he or she will see that is far from what happened.  But the question is why not?  To find that answer, we revisit Constantinople, headquarters of the empire, prior to the outbreak of World War I.  Iraq and Jordan (formerly Transjordan) had yet to be created.   Iraq was then known as Mesopotamia and Jordan was still part of Palestine.  The Zionist cause was still in its early stages and it would be several years before the signing of the Balfour Declaration. Regardless, these nations were caught in the middle of a bitter conflict as Britain and Russia took on the German Republic for control of the Ottoman Empire.  But as casualties mounted and victories were won, what was really transpiring behind the scenes?  And who were the major players?  As we step back into time with Fromkin, we are re-introduced to long-lost figures such as the famous Winston Churchill (1874-1965),  former Prime Minister Lloyd George (1864-1945),  U.S. President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) and Thomas Edward Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)(1888-1935).   Lawrence has been transformed throughout the years into a larger than life character but Fromkin provides a good biographical sketch of him and investigates his true role in the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the British goal of conquering the Middle East.  However, as Fromkin shows us, the heart of the entire stories lies in the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the secret pledge between Britain, France and Russia to partition the Ottoman Empire after the defeat of Germany in World War I.  The agreement shaped relations between the nations for decades to come.

The story is an incredible from start to finish and after you have completed the book, you will better understand why the Middle East is the way it is today.  You will further understand how the Zionist cause for a homeland grew in strength due in part to the actions of the British Government.  The story of Palestine is especially important for the effects of the actions then are still being felt today.   Fromkin has done an excellent job of researching the topic and it is evident in his writing.  The book reads like a historical novel full of intrigue, mystery and ultimately tragedy.  Further, the relationship between Russia and the nations of the U.S.S.R. are examined highlighting the cultural diversity that once encompassed the Soviet Union.   The Bolshevik revolution is discussed but not at great length.   Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) and Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) make appearances but their story is only discussed regarding its relevance to the current topic.  And throughout the book, developments in other nations are mentioned but the author never strays off topic.   Like a master professor, he keeps us on course throughout a critical time in the history of the world that was complicated to say the least.

The book ends before the rise of Adolf Hitler and the start of World War II.  And it would not be until 1948 that the nation of Israel was formally created.  Readers may be surprised to reach the end of the book only to find that the story does not continue in the next decade.  But the reality is that was never the intention and is irrelevant to the story at hand.  True, the events in this book would affect the future in many different ways but that is a topic for another discussion.  For those who wish to understand how an Empire came crashing down, the development of the modern-day Middle East and how several nations underestimated the power of the Islamic faith, this is a great place to start.  And for others who have an active interest in the Middle East, this book is a much welcomed addition to any library.

“To the victor belongs the spoils” – New York Senator William L. Marcy

ISBN-10: 0805068848
ISBN-13: 978-0805068849

A History of Modern Palestine: Second Edition-Ilan Pappe

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The crisis that exists between Israel and the area that was once the nation of Palestine has evolved into one of the most tragic the world has seen.  Anger on both sides and the failure of mediation on more than one occasion has resulted in the continuation of the long feud.  Each side has its supporters and detractors refusing to abandon their beliefs and stance of the matter.  My interest in the conflict propelled me to acquire this high recommended book on the issue written by Israel historian and social activist, Ilan Pappe (1954-).  Pappe was born in Haifa and continues to educate millions about the true origins of the raging battle.   This phenomenal account of the history of Palestine and its current day status is a must read by anyone seeking to understand the origins of the matter.  To be fair, Pappe is not anti-Israel, but he does however, confront many facts about the history of Palestine that are often very uncomfortable.  But any good researcher should do just that and it is in this area that Pappe shines through.

The book begins in the early 1800s in Palestine before the appearance of large numbers of Europe’s Jews. This is a history that is often neglected and unknown by many.  The Palestine we see is far different from the one that exist today.   As a part of the Ottoman Empire, Palestine is protected by the ruling authorities in Istanbul intent on maintaining the empire’s domain at any costs.   Incredibly, even then, there existed smaller religious minorities freely allowed to practice their faiths.  But sadly at the 1900s approached,  the future of Palestine took a dark turn, one that is fully explored by Pappe and is sure to leave the reader speechless.  But his research and conclusions are critical to understanding the cause of the Palestinian people and the effects of Zionism on foreign territory and domestic policy.

The term Zionism and Judaism are sometimes believed to be the same thing. But as we learn throughout the book, they are in fact two different things and not necessarily operating in the same spectrum.   In the book, we are introduced to the founder of the Zionist cause, Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) and his successors that carried the Zionist cause setting their sights on a Jewish homeland. Palestine became their choice and their mission created a conflict that continues to this day.   Pappe does a meticulous job of exploring all of these polarizing figures and their role in the affair.  But what is often left out of the conflict is the role of the British government, heavily complicit in the developments in the area and subsequently in the deadly aftermath.  The relationship between the British Government, Palestinian rulers and the new Zionist immigrants proved to be a power keg determined to detonate at any minute. Two world wars and three agreements later paved the way for the creation of Israel in 1948 and the loss of land by the native Palestinians.  It was the beginning of a war that has claimed thousands of lives and brought shame to those involved and resulted in the meddling by several foreign nations allied to the Israeli or Palestinian cause.

On December 23, 2016, the UN passed a resolution ordering Israel to stop building settlement east of Jerusalem in Palestinian territory.  The order has been ignored by Israel which continues to build settlements.  The abstinence of the United States in voting on the resolution strained the relationship between Israel and its American ally.  The decision by the White House to abstain is in direct contrast to the policy of the US for several decades which actively supported the Israel government.  America’s complicity in the conflict, as well as that of Great Britain, France and other Arab nations seeking to exploit the situation,  created a power vacuum which has no clear ending in sight and helped plunged the Middle East into a cycle of revolution, mayhem and death.  Today it remains to be seen if a two-state solution will ever truly work between the two battle nations.

Throughout the book, many figures make an appearance and their roles in the conflict are explored in-depth.  Forgotten name such as Menachem Begin (1913-1992), David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973), Yitzhak Rabin (1922-1995), Gamal Abdel-Nasser (1918-1970), Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952), Yasser Arafat (1929-2004) and Fayṣal al-Awwal ibn al-Ḥusayn ibn (1883-1933)(Faisal I of Iraq) will jump out at some readers triggering an avalanche of dormant facts and others unknown.  But their names, actions and stories are beyond critical in understanding the evolution of the tragedy.  And like a jigsaw puzzle, the back door political deals, covert operations, overt discrimination, greed and betrayal help set the stage for the region as we know it today.   Right-wing and left-wing groups proliferate on each side of the conflict rendering a peaceful solution seemingly unattainable.  But regardless, the United States continues to condemn the Israeli occupation and has added allies from dozens of countries and even domestic groups in Israel in opposition to the government’s expansionist policies.  Pappe refers to it as the post-Zionist era in which literature and film seeks to tell the real story of the Zionist cause and its devastating effects on the people of Palestine. For them, their struggle continues but they too deal with domestic right-wing groups, the most famous of which are the PLO and Hamas.   Their objectives and those of the Likud, lead by Binyamin Netanyahu, serve as fuel to a towering inferno.

Perhaps in the next decade or two we will finally see peace between Israel and Palestine.  I certainly hope it occurs before more death and destruction of the land they both call home occurs.  Attempts to form a settlement have ultimately fell short time and time again but I and many in the world remain optimistic.  For those who are unsure of what really needs to be done or are unaware of the origins of the dispute, this book by Pappe, is the place to start.

ISBN-10: 0521683157
ISBN-13: 978-0521683159

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