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Memo To: J.J. Goldberg, editor, the Forward

From: Jude Wanniski

Re: Depending on the U.S.

Your lead editorial in the Oct. 5 issue, “Because of Israel,” takes up the question of how much, if any, blame Israel should bear for Sept. 11. You hear on the margins people “seeking to blame the atrocities on America’s supposedly misguided support for Israel – and on Jewish Americans who supposedly manipulate the system to tilt our policy the wrong way.” Let me say first, Mr. Goldberg, that I am a subscriber to your weekly, the oldest Jewish newspaper in America, going back to 1897, and that I have been praising the tone and wisdom of your editorials since Sept. 11, when other Jewish opinion leaders in the national press have been practically advocating total war against Islam.

What I liked most about the editorial, Mr. Goldberg, is its straight talk to your readers, many of whom I gather have been in denial about any connection between U.S. support of Israel and Osama bin Laden’s declared holy war against the United States. The party line coming out of Bill Kristol and the kooks at the Weekly Standard has been that the Islamic fundamentalists will not stop until they have defeated “the West,” which means the Judeo-Christian world. If that is the case, we should prepare for total war, but you reject that argument:

[W]e needn’t search the theology texts to divine bin Laden’s motives. He’s spelled them out repeatedly in various public statements. He’s on a self-declared holy war against “Crusaders and Jews,” with a three-fold goal: “liberating” Mecca and the rest of Arabia from American “occupation,” “liberating” Al Aqsa in Jerusalem from Jewish “occupation” and lifting the Western embargo on Iraq. They’re always stated in that three-fold form, and usually in that order. The fact is, Israel is one of the issues, though not the only one, driving bin Laden and his cohorts. It is foolish to deny it; that merely undermines the credibility of Israel’s defenders at a time when Israel sorely needs defending.

Well said, Mr. Goldberg. My only quibble is that each of the three reasons bin Laden gives for his jihad against America and the West are tied to our support of Israel. If the Israeli government could make peace with the Palestinians, including a resolution of the Muslim holy place in Jerusalem where they believe Mohammed went to heaven, you surely must see that the two other issues would dissolve.

If you get right down to it, the only reason U.S. troops are in Saudi Arabia is to protect Israel. And the reason the embargo has been kept on Iraq for the last decade has been the insistence of the Israeli Lobby in Washington. If the Israeli government this afternoon quietly passed the word to the American-Israel Political Action Committee that it would like the Iraq embargo lifted, you would see Senator Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., announcing tomorrow afternoon that he thinks the Iraq embargo should be lifted. We know Saddam does not have any nukes and if he had bio-chem weapons he would only use them if threatened by Israel’s nukes. If Israel was at peace with a friendly, neighborly Palestinian state, all of the reasons Osama bin Laden gives for his war against America and the West would be dissolved.

I’m not saying the Muslim extremists would embrace Israelis, only that their hatred would first turn to mere suspicion and dislike, which are human emotions that do not lead to suicide bombings. The problem of the extremists like Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz, our deputy defense secretary who wants to go to war with Iraq as soon as possible, is that they have persuaded themselves that Israel cannot be secure even if it concluded a peace with the Palestinians. They are now frantic because they fear Secretary of State Colin Powell will succeed in his diplomacy and there will be a push for a Palestinian state, with the attendant concessions required of the Israeli state. Your editorial makes the very important point, with which I agree wholly, that “America and Israel are allies, not because of some cabal of Jewish lobbyists, but because their two peoples demand it. America’s support for Israel is not misguided, but profoundly moral.”

It is because of the reasoned opinions of the Forward and the many Jews I know as friends and clients who share them that I am actually encouraged to think peace is just around the corner. So far, as you reported a few weeks back, the American Jews who want to make a serious effort at peace with the Palestinians are still not willing to be quoted, which leaves the field to the belligerent, blustering hawks. Your line of reasoning is much more constructive and I congratulate you for it. The more you can coax the doves out of their corners with the argument that Israel’s security will depend on good relations with its neighbors and the ultimate backing of America, the sooner we will all be free of the threat of Osama’s terrorism.


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