Stampfer finds seeds of anti-Semitism in ‘Israel Lobby’
Controversial book stirs dark memories from time of Hitler
By Paul Haist
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Rabbi Joshua Stampfer took on the authors of the controversial book “The Israel Lobby” when he was the featured speaker at a World Affairs Council of Oregon gathering the evening of Jan. 25 at Portland’s Multnomah Athletic Club.
Last October the Council lent their forum to Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, who co-authored “The Israel Lobby.” Their book argues that the U.S. government’s strong material and diplomatic support for Israel is due largely to the political influence of the Israel lobby, “a loose coalition of individuals and organizations that actively works to steer U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction,” as the book avers.
Stampfer disagrees with that charge and many other assertions and innuendos presented in the book as facts. Stampfer also found resonance in the book with the rise of Nazism in Germany and the scapegoating of Jewry for Germany’s and the world’s troubles.
His remarks before the Council echoed and expanded on comments he made before a luncheon gathering of the Oregon Chapter of the American Jewish Committee Jan. 10.
He said he “clearly remembered” the rise of Hitler and his claims that all Germany’s and the world’s problems could be attributed to the Jews. “And here we find,” he added, pointing to Walt and Mearsheimer, “the same tone, that they (the Jews) are so powerful they determine American policy and determine world policy.”
He faulted the authors for failing almost entirely to address the role of the Holocaust in unifying previously divided American Jewish opinion on Zionism.
Instead, said Stampfer, Walt and Mearsheimer concentrate largely on the role of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as the focus of all or many who support Israel here.
Employing what the rabbi characterized as “sinister” implications, the authors identify AIPAC as having “a strangle hold on the U.S. Congress.”
Stampfer acknowledged that the authors state that AIPAC is a legitimate lobby, but then they imply the contrary by singling out AIPAC as “the most effective and most powerful of all the lobbies” and “a de-facto agent for a foreign government,” a phrase that he suggested, undermines AIPAC’s legitimacy before the public and recalls anti-Semitic canards about an international Jewish cabal or conspiracy.
Stampfer found fault with the book’s opening statement: “Why has the United States been willing to set aside its own security and that of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state?”
“In other words,” said Stampfer, “all of the governments we have enjoyed in this country, from Woodrow Wilson to the present day…have been willing to set aside the security of our country in order to advance the interests of another state.
“That’s really an accusation that every government that we’ve had has not been faithful to the oath of office…And why? Because AIPAC has a strangle hold on the American Congress.”
Suggesting that what a book does not say is as important as what it does say, Stampfer challenged his audience to find any mention of 9-11 in the book. “You might read this and imagine that 9-11 never happened, and that the only reason we went to war in Afghanistan and the only reason we went to war in Iraq…was to protect the interests of Israel.”
He noted that the authors specifically say the United States went to war in Iraq to protect the interests of Israel, “not because of 9-11,” nor because of terrorist acts that had been committed all over the world; no mention of that in there, as though they never happened.”
Stampfer challenged the authors’ understanding of world events.
He read from the book: “Israel is a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states. The terrorist organizations that threaten Israel do not threaten the United States.”
Stampfer was astonished that “distinguished professors at great universities” could say that rogue states in the Middle East “are not a threat to vital U.S. interests except inasmuch as they are a threat to Israel.”
When the authors take up Iran’s nuclear ambitions and state that they do not pose a threat to the United States, Stampfer disagreed.
“The greatest threat that Iran poses as a center of Shiite power is to the very wealthy Sunni nations like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Emirates who are deeply concerned.
“And they are America’s strong allies and providers of oil. To say that Iran’s nuclear ambitions do not pose a direct threat to the U.S. is totally overlooking what they do pose a direct threat to.”
Stampfer said it takes “an enormous stretch of the imagination” to accept the authors’ claim that the war in Iraq was motivated, as the authors wrote, “in good part by a desire to make Israel more secure,” and less by a desire to combat terrorism or secure oil supplies.
And when the two authors state that Palestinian violence is not right but “not surprising,” Stampfer replied that the subtext is that there is some merit in their violence, “they’re justified; that’s why it’s not surprising.”
“There is no way in the world that I would accept terrorism as a legitimate means of achieving political ends,” said the rabbi.
Pointing to his own criticism of some of Israel’s actions and policies, he said those actions and policies can hardly lead anyone to suggest that the Palestinians are innocent of any responsibility in the Middle East conflict.
Stampfer called the authors’ assertion that they understood they were courting allegations of anti-Semitism “a crude effort to deflect that kind of a charge.”
He dismissed the author’s claims that Jews control the media, the think tanks and the college campuses.
At the end of a presentation Stampfer turned to his own experience as a member of the Hagannah, the precursor to Israel’s modern army, during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.
Stampfer quoted the authors on the subject of that war: “Israel is often portrayed as David confronted by Goliath. But the converse is closer to the truth. Contrary to popular belief, the Zionists had larger and better equipped, better led forces during the 1948 War of Independence.”
Stampfer replied, “That’s an absolute lie,” although he did allow that Israeli forces were better led.
He noted that before the fully equipped armies of seven surrounding Arab nations invaded Israel to launch the War of Independence, there had been 100 thousand British troops in what was then Palestine dedicated to rooting out any Jewish military capacity.
He recounted his and his wife Goldie’s experience of riding buses in Jerusalem that were routinely stopped by British troops and searched for arms.
Stampfer was a rabbinc student in Jerusalem at the time.
“There wasn’t the faintest possibility of the existence in Palestine at the beginning of the War of Independence of a single military plane, a single tank, a single piece of artillery. It couldn’t have happened under the watchful eye of the British government,” said Stampfer.
In his own secret training for the Hagannah, he said, all they had was an assortment of mismatched rifles “from about a dozen different countries—Czech, American, British, French—and each one operated differently.”
And when a Hagannah unit was surrounded between Jerusalem and Hebron there were no Jewish planes to drop ammunition and medical supplies. His unit was assigned to resupply the beleaguered outpost on foot and under cover of darkness. The attempt failed and the men sent from his unit to do the job fell in an ambush.
“And they (Walt and Mearsheimer) are saying Israel won because it was better equipped,” Stampfer declamed in disbelief.
“When we come across a statement like this that is patently untrue, that should lead one to have some serious questions about the whole argument that they develop.”