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
A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East-David Fromkin
Ideology 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
America’s Deadliest Export-Democracy: The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else-William Blum
The recent terror attack in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood highlighted the concern many Americans have about fellow citizens of the Islamic faith that have originated in or spent considerable time in the Middle East. The oft-asked question is usually “why do they hate us?”. Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, are only a few out of many nations in which the United States has involved itself in the nation’s politics. To many Americans, the dislike and/or intense hatred of America displayed from the region boggles the mind and is utterly incomprehensible. But if we take a closer look at things from another point of view, we come to see there is more than meets the eye as author William Blum points out in this book that is guaranteed to make you question everything you thought you knew about American foreign policy.
From the start, this book will be hard for many Americans to accept. Blum pulls no punches but instead goes full steam ahead, methodically showing how U.S. foreign policy has destabilized nations resulting in the removal of dozens of foreign leaders and political turmoil which continues to haunt many of those nations to this day. David Talbot, author of ‘The Devil’s Chessboard‘, revealed the dark rise of the CIA and its actions which influenced American foreign policy following World War II. Similar to Talbot, Blum brings to light many dark secrets that the average American would rather not know. Almost all of us born in America were raised to believe that the United States is the leader when it comes to democracy, justice, liberty and freedom for all. Throughout the years, we have enforced our system of government around the world, or as Blum puts it, exporting democracy. But a critical question arises. In the nations to which we exported democracy, was it needed or asked for? As Blum shows us, U.S. foreign policy dictated that it was. But in many countries nations, it wasn’t needed and as a result, millions of people around the world have suffered at the hands of U.S. foreign policy. Air raids, propaganda and economic penalties are just some of the methods used against those nations which do not comply with the agenda of the U.S. From Mossadegh in Iran in 1954 to the current war on terror, many important facts have been hidden from the American public, allowing us to believe that all actions carried out in the name of freedom have been in the best interests of the people of the United States. On a regular basis, the media shows us a purported new “threat” from a number of foreign nations. But as Blum asks us, “who is really going to attack the US?”.
Some will read this book and believe that Blum is unpatriotic, cynical and even treasonous. But I believe that thoughts of that nature are severely misguided. Contrary to what many may think, it is possible to be patriotic but still question and even expose the wrongdoings by our own government. And as Jesse “The Body’ Ventura recently said in a video regarding Colin Kaepernick, the government has to earn patriotism. In the eyes of many around the world, we are seen as the big brother that exerts his influence wherever he goes. But our most tragic mistake is to believe that everyone desires to live as we do. No government is perfect and every country has its regrettable moments. But is the duty of every American to acknowledge when our country is wrong and/or misguided and see things from the eyes of those who we persecute either intentionally or inadvertently. I’ve always felt that people who are the most critical of this nation are also some of the most patriotic. It is their belief in the good of the nation that forces them to confront its shortcomings. People such as William Blum are doing their part to show other Americans what has been occurring right under our noses. You don’t have to agree with everything he says, but if you open your mind and digest what he’s written, you may find that you have a new understanding of the pitfalls of a misguided foreign policy and why it brings shame on the United States of America.