Tag Archives: Arab-Israeli Conflict

“A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror,” by Stephen M. Flatow

Review by Philip K. Jason

For many years, while waging a legal battle against Iran for sponsoring a suicide bus bombing in Israel that killed his daughter, Alisa, Stephen M. Flatow has told his story. His new book, which includes material not previously published, is less an account of the tragic event itself than it is a story about the nature of such loss in the context of a particular family’s history and values.

One thread of the story is the shortened life of Alisa: her promise, her personality, and her influence on others, as a child and then as a young woman. It was Alisa, readers learn, who from a very young age influenced the family to fully embrace Judaism and Israel. Flatow shows how much a parent can learn from a child, and how family members can work through their grief—though it never really ends.

Flatow

While the narrative generally proceeds from past to present, there are openings in the strict chronology that reveal additional background or impart new understandings and emotional resonance. These passages add to the book’s impact, providing it with heart and wisdom. . . .

To read the full Jewish Book Council review, click here: A Father’s Story

For a review of an  important related book, see The Bus on Jaffa Road

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“Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor,” by Yossi Klein Halevi

HarperCollins. 224 pages. Hardcover  $24.99.

Yossi Klein Halevi yearns for a meaningful conversation with a Palestinian counterpart who is willing to read, listen respectfully, and respond. He hopes to determine whether two peoples can share a land while maintaining their separate contiguous states. Halevi understands that his overture must be rooted in his own willingness to listen. With some admitted reluctance, he has accepted the two-state solution as the only way to move forward.

Halevi

Halevi makes this overture with the utmost sincerity and a fully nuanced understanding of modern Israel’s evolution and challenges. He seeks a Palestinian partner whose desire for peace is equally fervent, a person whose vision of the past includes the understanding that neither party can afford to be stuck in that past. The voice in the letters is filled with empathy, hope, and a bit of despair. It has an inviting, embracing, and winsome lyricism, as well as dignity and resolvethe perfect pitch for its colossal purpose.

Halevi has crafted a sequence of ten letters, imagined for a reader whose dwelling is nearby but who he hasn’t yet encountered. The letters have overlapping concerns, with undulating shifts in emphasis. These concerns include the functions of Holocaust memory, the need to pursue justice, and the many profound parallels in Jewish and Islamic holy texts and religious practices. . . .

To read the entire Jewish Book Council review, click here: Palestinian Neighbor

See also this Interview with Yossi Klein Halevi

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“Saving Sophie,” by Ronald H. Balson

  • St. Martin’s Griffin. 448 pages. Trade paperback $15.99.

This fast-paced, globe-spanning thriller takes readers from Hawaii to Hebron.

This exciting, information-packed novel is almost bursting at the seams of its ambition. In it, author Ronald H. Balson orchestrates several intersecting storylines that cover a broad geographical, generational, and geopolitical span.

The two main narratives follow an $88 million embezzlement case in Chicago and a sophisticated terrorist plot masterminded out of Hebron. When the payoff from a colossal business deal engineered in part by accountant (and single father) Jack Sommers goes awry, the money not deposited in the authorized account, Jack is among those under suspicion.

So he takes on a false identity and hides out in Hawaii.

The complicated legal case triggered by the embezzlement requires the skills of key characters from Once We Were Brothers, Balson’s first novel. They are attorney Catherine Lockhart, once fired from the firm that now needs her, and private eye Liam Taggart. These two have a long-simmering romance that percolates throughout.

They are also tied to the terrorist plot headed by Jack’s Muslim father-in-law, Dr. Arif al-Zahani, from his home in Palestinian Hebron. The doctor is a leader of the Sons of Canaan, a sinister group preparing a devastating action designed to kill thousands.

Liam is recruited to work with a beautiful counterterrorism agent, Kayla Cummings, who is at first identified as attached to the U.S. Department of State. The mission is to rescue Jack’s daughter, Sophie — who has been kidnapped by her grandfather, al-Zahani — and to foil the looming attack. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the Washington Independent Review of Books, click hereSaving Sophie | Washington Independent Review of Books

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Interview with Yossi Klein Halevi

Yossi Klein Halevi’s first book, Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist, was first published in 1995 and was reprinted in fall 2014. At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew’s Search for Hope with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land appeared in 2001. His latest book, Like Dreamers: The Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation, won the Jewish Book Council’s 2013 Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year Award and was released in paperback in fall 2014. Halevi is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. Philip K. Jason recently spoke with Yossi about his writing and his current project.

Philip K. Jason: In the course of your research and interviews for Like Dreamers, what were your most surprising discoveries?

Yossi Klein Halevi: I was constantly amazed at the intensity of life in Israel, from the very founding of the state. I kept wondering how one small country could contain so much history. One of the characters in the book, Arik Achmon, participated in every one of Israel’s wars, beginning in 1948. Where else does life make such demands on the citizens of a nation? Sometimes it seemed to me as if we were trying to compensate for centuries of Jewish life without sovereignty by cramming as much experience into our national life as possible.

I was struck too by the manic depressive nature of the Israeli experience. In 1967 we were euphoric with victory; in 1973, only six years later, we were in despair. And yet, militarily at least, the Yom Kippur War was in some senses more impressive than the Six Day War.

One pattern emerged in the post-67 story of Israel that has particular relevance today, and that is this: When Israelis feel that the international community is against them, they retreat into hardline positions. When they feel more accepted, they are ready to take risks for peace. The Oslo process was launched in an atmosphere of growing acceptance of Israel, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the first Gulf War. By contrast, the settlement movement became mainstream in the weeks following the 1975 UN Zionism-Racism resolution. Israelis pushed back by embracing the settlers.

PKJ: In Like Dreamers, you position yourself as a centrist, someone who is obligated to listen to both (or all) sides – perhaps more than listen. Has this stance helped you gain you access as a journalist?

YKH: Being open to hearing opposing voices gave me emotional access – allowed me to empathize with opposing camps. I moved to Israel at the beginning of the first Lebanon War in 1982, when Israelis were literally shouting at each other on the streets. That was the first time that war had failed to unite the country – worse, the war itself was dividing us. As a new immigrant I had two choices. I could either choose a camp, or learn to listen. I chose the second option and forced myself to listen deeply to what all of Israel’s political and cultural and ethnic groups were really saying. What were the fears of left and right? The visions of Israel being expressed by secularists and religious Zionists and ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israelis? I not only tried to become absorbed into Israeli society, but to absorb Israel, in all its complexity, into my being. That’s how I became an Israeli.

These exchanges are just the beginning of a hefty, provocative interview that appears in full on the Jewish Book Council blog. Click here: Jewish Book Council Interview With Yossi Klein Halevi. The interview also appears in Jewish Book World, Spring 2015, Vol. 33 no. 1. It was republished, with permission in the May 2015 issues of Federation Star (Jewish Federation of Collier County), L’Chayim (Jewish Federation of Lee and Charlotte Counties), and The Jewish News (Jewish Federation of Sarasota / Manatee).

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A Spellbinding Investigation of a Terrorist Act, Its Causes, Costs, and Consequences

The Bus on Jaffa Road: A Story of Middle East Terrorism and the Search for Justice, by Mike Kelly. Lyons Press. 320 pages. Hardcover $26.95.

When two young American Jews living in Israel, Sara Duker and Matthew Eisenfeld, boarded the Number 18 bus in Jerusalem, their immediate plans to visit Petra in Jordan disappeared. Their likely future as husband and wife vanished, as did the careers they were preparing for. Along with twenty-four other passengers, they were killed by a suicide bomber who got on this bus shortly after they did. The tragic, senseless deaths of Sara and Matthew reshaped the lives of their parents and siblings.

Loss and reshaping are central themes in journalist Mike Kelly’s brilliant telling of the short-term and longer-term story: what led to this horror, what were its consequences, what is its meaning, and what hope regarding the possibilities for peace and healing does it destroy or inspire.

Mike Kelly in Jerusalem

Mike Kelly in Jerusalem

Using his wide range of resources and interviews superbly, Mike Kelly provides us with a strong sense of what exceptional people Sara and Matthew were. Matt was taking courses at the Schechter Institute as part of his rabbinical studies. Sara was busy working in a microbiology lab and planning to do graduate studies in environmental science. They were both high-level achievers with much to contribute.

With fewer, and yet abundant resources, Kelly takes us into the actions and mind of Hassan Salameh, the bombmaker and organizer for this and other suicide bombings. Once arrested, Salameh spoke extensively and matter-of-factly about his activities, and his conversations were recorded. He wished to be sentenced to death – a rarity in Israel – but he had to accept the harsher punishment of a life sentence (technically, many many life sentences).

Salameh always claimed his motive was to thwart Israel’s occupation of Palestine, not to murder individual people. It was just their bad luck to be in the way. He believed his actions to be sanctioned by the Koran and Allah.

busjaffa

A major part of the book closely examines the path toward finding some kind of justice for the bereaved. This pursuit was initiated by Stephen Flatow, father of a young woman who perished in a suicide attack almost a year before the number 18 bus incident that killed Sara and Matthew. This story line covers many years, and ends with a victory of sorts in which the absent defendant – Iran – was fined an astronomical sum in a civil trial that tests a very special piece of legislation that come into being during the Clinton administration.

The concept: make the funders and advocates of such terrorist acts suffer financially as a way of discouraging further such acts. Provide those awarded the judgments resources to take further political action.

The problem: enforcing payment, an objective undermined by other political goals of the Clinton White House.

Sara’s mother Arline (her father had died when Sara was eleven with two younger sisters) and the Eisenfelds were already bonded. Stephen Flatow became part of their emotional family and their mentor and exemplary figure through the years of struggling to shape public opinion and government policy to bring about significant action. After Flatow’s case is successful, Arline Duker and the Eisenfelds initiate a similar one that is also successful

Kelly’s exploration of the legal personalities, especially the presiding judge and the lawyers making the cases against Iran, is finely crafted and suspenseful. So is his portrayal of the emotional roller coaster that the plaintiffs endure.

It is inevitable that readers will encounter famous names in a book that uses its key figures to represent important historical dynamics on the bumpy road toward possible peace. Sketches of Yassar Arafat and other Palestinian leaders, Hassan Salameh’s collaborators, and several high profile Israeli leaders amplify the Bus 18 story. So do the appearances of U. S. government leaders like Senator Frank Lautenberg and multi-task upper echelon Clinton official Stuart Eizenstat.

Mike Kelly’s skill, besides digging into so much material and amplifying our knowledge base through his own interviews, is in mastering it all and weaving such a tight fabric of understanding elegantly expressed. One could say that this is just a great book about a suicide bombing. Or one could say this a great book about everything that is touched by a suicide bombing – by all the suicide bombings.

This review appears in the January 2015 issue of the Federation Star (Jewish Federation of Collier County), L’Chayim (Jewish Federation of Lee and Charlotte County), and The Jewish News (Jewish Federation of Sarasota/Manatee).

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Making David into Goliath: How the World Turned against Israel

 by Joshua Muravchik. Encounter Books. 296 pages. Hardcover $25.99.

At once impassioned and clear-headed, this abundantly researched discussion of Israel’s decline in world public opinion is necessary reading for all who care about this highly vulnerable country. How is it that an innovative, democratic, peace-seeking nation keeps losing the propaganda war? Murovchik shows us how in a series of well-crafted chapters.

The author begins by reminding readers of the high esteem with which Israel was gener­ally regarded in the first decades following its declaration of nationhood. To some measure, that esteem grew out of how the tiny new nation had overcome seemingly insurmount­able odds—and continued to do so.

Over time, however, various forces dimmed the luster of the glorious David. The chapter entitled “The Arab Cause Becomes Palestinian (and ‘Progressive’)” outlines the story well, exploring the psychological warfare in Arab and Muslim politics that slowly repositioned David and Goliath. Israel was positioned not as threatened by the Muslim masses, but as the demonical usurper of Palestinian rights. Losing underdog status in world opinion was a major blow.

Terrorist assaults on Israel did one kind of damage, constantly diverting resources. Assaults on Jewish institutions in Europe weakened the moral fiber of European nations and also released latent anti-Semitism. On top of this, Arab countries were able to use the petroleum weapon to make Europe cower. The message was clear: If you want oil, detach yourself from Israel in every possible way. . . .

To read the entire review, at it appears on the Jewish Book Council web site and in the Winter 2014 issue of Jewish Book World, click here: Making David Into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel 

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East Side Story: A Plague on Both Their Houses

Ishmael’s Oranges, by Claire Hajaj. Oneworld Publications. 226 pages. Hardcover $24.99.

Novelists exploring Middle East tension and catastrophe occasionally focus on the possibilities of a loving relationship between an Israeli (or simply a Jew) and a Palestinian (or simply an Arab or Muslim). The couple’s hardships become a microcosm of the region’s perplexity. Rise: A Novel of Contemporary Israel, by Yosef Gotlieb (2011) is one impressive example of such works. Ishmael’s Oranges adds new dimensions to this way of examining recent Middle East history and wraps it in a highly evocative poetic style.  Ishmael'sOranges-9781780744940

Spanning forty years, 1948-1988, Ishmael’s Oranges begins shortly before Israel declares statehood but already has forces on the move, taking over or threatening Arab population centers. A seven year old Arab boy, Salim, is teased by a slightly older neighbor: “The Jews are coming for you! They’re going to kick you out and break your skinny arse like a donkey.” Salim is the middle son of a fairly prosperous farmer. Jaffa oranges are the family’s and the community’s treasure.

Jaffa’s harbor, beaches, orange groves, and downtown square are lavishly described, and we receive an ominous glimpse of Tel Aviv’s skyscrapers. The bully, Mazen, is the son of a local judge. He knows that the Jews will soon be taking over Jaffa.  The only Jew Salim knows is another neighbor and friend, Elia, son of Isak Yashuv – a man who “was nearly an Arab. You could never tell him apart from any other Palestinian.” Elia’s mother was a “white” Jew from outside of Palestine.

Salim’s mother, with her “white forehead and olive green eyes” is also a foreigner; Abu Hassan al Ishmaeli had taken a beautiful, much  younger Lebanese woman as his second wife.

In sketching this population, Hajaj smoothly introduces the complexities of racial and ethnic identities.

Soon, Salim’s family members are refugees, fleeing Jaffa for the relative safety of Nazareth. One thread of their story has to do with their dreams about and attempts to reclaim their Jaffa home and farm.

Salim’s story now begun, Claire Hajaj next introduces Judith’s story. In Sunderland, England (a Luftwaffe industrial target), a young girl is born to Dora Gold. It’s a difficult birth: “There was enough blood and ripped flesh for a battlefield and at the end a tiny, limp girl born of struggling for oxygen just as the new state of Israel was drawing its first breath.” Named Judit, after her mother’s mother who died in wartime Budapest, she adds the “h” when she is five years old and is later nicknamed “Jude” by a bossy school friend. Her other grandmother, Rebecca, is the true maternal force. That harrowing forty-eight hour delivery had chilled Dora’s maternal instincts.

Claire Hajaj

Claire Hajaj

Judith shares a room with Gertie, a Holocaust survivor sixteen years older than Judith who was adopted by Judith’s parents long before when Dora and Jack thought they were unable to have children. Growing up, Judith learns that her Uncle Max had fought in Israel’s War of Independence. Her Jewish identity is formed by these relationships. Although she studies for Bat Mitzvah, Grandma Rebecca’s death drowns her pleasure in reaching that goal.

Hajaj moves back and forth between Salim’s world and Judith’s world, often using important historical markers to focus scenes, until she has plotted a series of events that leads them to meet and fall in love. Judith is now eighteen and Salim is twenty-five.  One of the most brilliantly conceived episodes along the way takes place in 1956 when the Salim’s father attempts to obtain justice in a Tel Aviv governmental office, aided by his son-in-law Tareq. The attempt, a dismal failure, reveals that a Jaffa neighbor had betrayed the family’s interests.

After their mother abandons their Nazareth home to return to Lebanon and rebuild her fortunes, sister Nadia, Tareq, and Abu Hassan hatch a plan to send Salim to his older brother Hassan, who has a small repair business in London. Salim, totally weary of his life as an Israeli Arab, takes the opportunity. He works hard, studies hard, and earns an economics degree at University College, London. He becomes a British citizen and holds a British passport. He has prepared himself for a new life.

At a party, he meets the slight, attractive young woman everyone calls Jude.

Now comes the heart of the book: their courtship and marriage; the painful negotiations with their respective families; and the individual sacrifices and promises made in the hopes of building their life together and starting a family. They have their eyes wide open, or do they?

Though Salim is climbing the ladder of success working for western businesses in Arab countries, there is a ceiling for people with his origins. He is betrayed by the big Satan – Western economic imperialism – that won’t fully acknowledge his worth.

Slowly, the spouses’ loyalties to their families of origin, their cultures, and their national identities make claims that threaten to destroy the marriage. Salim’s guilt over abandoning his Palestinian heritage is played upon by his PLO-influenced younger brother and others. By now the couple has children, a darker twin and a lighter twin, innocents who – through their parents’ personal crises – are victims of the crisis that continues to poison the Middle East.

Emotionally and intellectually powerful, and blessed with gorgeously rendered scenes in Beirut, Bagdad, Kuwait City, and elsewhere, Ishmael’s Oranges imaginatively tests the limits of crossing boundaries in a world in which one’s personhood remains colored – perhaps tainted – by undying prejudices and conflicting loyalties.

This review appears in the October 2014 issues of Federation Star (Jewish Federation of Collier County), L’Chayim (Jewish Federation of Lee and Charlotte Counties), and The Jewish News (Jewish Federation of Sarasota / Manatee).

 

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A brilliant mosaic of voices, genres, and insights

Zachary Lazar, I Pity the Poor Immigrant: a Novel. Little, Brown. 256 pages. Hardcover $25.00.

This high-end literary novel is challenging and enthralling. It points in many directions, but its intertwined journeys ultimately have a rich closure. A fiction made in part of purported memoir(s), it probes the nature of memoir both philosophically and psychologically. The psychology of immigrant status and identity is another concern, here understood as having a connection to the Jewish condition throughout history.  The novel also explores the violent edge of Jewish experience, using the poles of King David and Meyer Lansky as well as the quandary of an incessantly armed Israel. I Pity Cover

The novel’s time line begins in 2012 before shuttling back and forth at intervals large and small. We meet Hannah Groff, a journalist nearing forty, who opens her relationship with her readers by telling of a meeting with her father that underscored the distance between them. She mentions her first book, “a memoir of my brief marriage,” and then goes on to tell of her 2009 visit to Israel. Hannah feels compelled to research and investigate the murdered poet-essayist David Bellen.

But this quest leads to Gila Konig, a Hungarian-born refugee who once knew Hannah’s father all too well when Hannah was a child. In fact, Gila worked in the Hebrew School of the Temple the Groffs belonged to. As we will later discover, Gila knew Meyer Lansky at least as well. So, yes, all of these lives touch: Gila also knew Bellen, author of a book called Kid Bethlehem that fashions King David as a twentieth-century gangster.

And then we jump back to meet Gila Konig in Tel Aviv circa 1972 during the time of Lansky’s failed appeal for citizenship and asylum in Israel. The reputed tough guy is “understated” and mannerly. Konig and Lansky are both immigrants to different countries (Lansky to the U. S.) at different times. They are part of the immigrant nation that is the still-dispersed Jewish people and, somehow, accounts for the existence of a Jewish mafia – even an Israeli mafia.

Lazar

Lazar

Then we jump back to New York at the end of the Roaring Twenties and find a much younger Lansky, making his way in the world of crime and easily available women.

And so it goes, layers of re-imagined history and biography with pure invention artfully blended into the mix, their several voices – all strangely haunted – wrapped inside of Hannah’s. Intriguing secondary characters, including Hannah’s father, an Israeli journalist named Oded Voss who serves as Hannah’s guide and interpreter during her research on Bellen, and a piecemeal portrait of King David – the primal Jewish gangster.

Hannah in particular, but also the other characters in this literary mosaic, is endlessly introspective.

One of the novel’s major sections is Hannah’s memoir of her investigation into Bellen’s death. She describes Bellen’s 2008 collection of poems as “in many ways a critique of current Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories.” This characterization suggests a motive for Bellen’s murder, but there are other possibilities. Following Bellen’s path allows Lazar, via Hannah, to bring the reader through Israel’s political, artistic, and physical landscape. It seems as if murder is everywhere.

Lazar also creates a voice and technique for Bellen’s own work, which forms another part of the intricate mosaic. When Hannah meets Bellen’s son Eliav, she learns even more about a heavy depression that clouds Israeli life. When she meets Eliav’s ex-wife, still other tones enter the novel.

Jewish mafia stories weave in and out of the novel, touching on Lansky’s later doings in Las Vegas, Cuba, and Miami.

The attraction of I Pity the Poor Immigrant lies in its sheer inventiveness, its surprising juxtaposition of incongruent elements that eventually click into place. Portions of the book are made up of short, polished vignettes that turn around in the reader’s brain like mismatched puzzle pieces until they fit. For example, as part of an extended linking of such short pieces – presented as a stretch of David Bellen’s essay called, of all things – “I Pity the Poor Immigrant,” Lazar juxtaposes a piece called “Intifada” and another called “Permanent War.” The first piece, set in Israel in 2001, records events of the Second Intifada while at the same presenting Bellen’s worry over his son’s further withdrawal from their relationship.

“Permanent War” jumps to the constant conflict between “American’s heartland Protestants” and the threatening immigrant tides. The tides brought those who would become the Italian and Jewish gangsters, sometimes attacking the establishment, sometimes murdering each other.

Zachary Lazar spins these two passages in a way that allows them to echo and reflect one another.

Eventually, the book becomes a hall of mirrors, its various narrators, tales, and techniques forcing the reader to do the work needed to own the important insights that it offers. Making that effort pays off big-time.

This review appears in the September 2014 issues of Federation Star (Jewish Federation of Collier County), L’Chayim (Jewish Federation of Lee and Charlotte Counties), and The Jewish News (Jewish Federation of Sarasota/Manatee).

 

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FLEXIGIDITY: THE SECRET OF JEWISH ADAPTABILITY

by Gidi Grinstein / review by Philip K. Jason

This is truly a most remarkable, original, and inspirational book. While aimed at building a body of knowledge and skills for a new leadership of the Jewish people in individual communities and worldwide, it deserves a readership among all Jews and, indeed, all students of the Jewish journey through history. It is nothing less than a map for the Jewish future based upon a keen understanding of the Jewish past and the challenges of the present situation – a mixture of prosperity and power on the one hand, vulnerability on the other.  flexigidity

Get past the gimmicky title: the jamming together of the counterpoint traits of flexibility and rigidity that Grinstein sees as the essential character of Jewish experience. Get past the unconventional but highly functional design, an extended outline form laced with text boxes and boldface passages that announce the most important concepts. Forgive what seems like a technical report or systems analysis approach. This book is nothing but good sense writ large.

Although the author takes us through almost all of Jewish history to make his points about the processes of Jewish survival, he pays particular attention to the last 130 years “of radical and fundamental transformations” resulting “from the compounded effect of repetitive disasters in Europe, as well as from the dramatic successes of Zionism and Americanism.” Grinstein urges the necessity of a productive respect among Zionists and Israelis for a healthy and growing Jewish diaspora and a powerful understanding in the diaspora about the essentiality of Israel for the Jewish future. . . .

To read the entire review, as it is posted on the Jewish Book Council website for later publication in Jewish Book World, click here: Flexigidity: The Secret of Jewish Adaptability

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The Arab Lobby: not a myth but a menace

The Arab Lobby, by Mitchell Bard. Harper. 432 pages. $27.99 hardback, $14.99 paperback.

This book fills an important need. Though it may at first seem that it was needed to counter outlandish claims about the power that Israeli and Jewish interests have over U. S. policy decisions, the real necessity goes far beyond such a rationale. American citizens are for the most part totally ignorant about the many-headed Arab lobby, its enormity, and its essentially subversive agenda. Dr. Bard’s 70-year history sets the record straight. 

One long-lived component of the Arab lobby is the partisan mind-set of our own Department of State. Arabists in high government positions have long promoted policies favoring supportive relationships with Arab/Muslim governments of the Middle East in spite of the sorry human rights records of these governments, none of which is a true democracy. Arabist motives range from an almost romantic attachment to the exotic east, to an ingrained anti-Semitism, to a recognition of America’s high priority need for access to petroleum resources in those lands.

A second component of the Arab lobby is made up of the national and international oil companies. Pressure on U. S. policy comes from, and is paid for by, petroleum corporations needing to do business with those energy-rich countries and ready to do their bidding in the halls of our congress and in the offices of our government agencies.

Of course, the countries themselves – through their diplomatic missions, gift-giving, and investment policies, form another component of the Arab lobby. Here, none is more forceful than Saudi Arabia. Writes Bard: “The United States has developed a pathological relationship with Saudi Arabia over the last seven decades. American’s political leaders have allowed themselves to be blackmailed by the Saudi Monarchy because of their belief that capitulation to Saudi demands is necessary to ensure the continued flow of oil on which the American economy depends.”

Unfortunately overlooked, according to Bard, is “the Saudi-Funded War on America.” Saudi money (and that of other Arab nations) regularly finds its way to Islamic terrorist groups, undermining American security. That same money supports, at U. S. universities, programs in Mid-Eastern Studies that are obvious vehicles for undermining U. S. values, rewriting the history of the Middle East, and demonizing Israel AND ITS SUPPORTERS. That is, for access to oil, we are allowing the countries that support terrorist violence to implant intellectual terrorism in our classrooms and conference halls.  

All this is worrisome enough, but Mitchell Bard also presents irrefutable evidence that materials for K-12 classroom use in our public (and private) schools are prepared by Arab lobby organizations with the goal of promoting “anti-Israel and propagandist views.” In short, brainwashing is going on in our grade schools, middle schools, and high schools as well as in our universities. Freedom of speech abuses are undermining our country. That’s the real cost of dependence on Arab oil.

Mitchell Bard

That same oil money supports supposedly nongovernment organizations whose main purpose is to spread extreme Islamic ideology wherever and however it can. Bard believes that as much as 80% of America’s 1,200 mosques are run by Wahhabi imams. Many Islamic cultural centers in the U. S.  promote intolerance of Judaism and Christianity.

In these ways, the oil money is busy shaping the outlook of another “head” in the hydra-headed Arab lobby: the Arab-American community!

Although the Saudi public relations machine announces how Saudis have fouled terrorist plots and paints a picture of Saudi Arabia as an ally in the war on terror, following Saudi money paints a very different and terrifying picture.

There is also a very large anti-Zionist array of Christian denominations that comprise a formidable dimension of the Arab lobby.  In fact, Bard argues, outside of the Evangelicals, most major (and minor) Christian church bodies are anti-Zionist.

After reading Mitchell Bard’s book (and checking his sources), one can no longer believe that the Arab lobby is a myth. Though it is not a unified entity and does not have a lead organization parallel to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), it is – in its totality – an imposing force with immense resources.

Bard concludes: “Now that it has been exposed, it is time to shake off the influence of the Arab lobby and to bolster ties with countries that do share our values and interests.”

This review appears in the January 2012 issues of Federation Star (Jewish Federation of Collier County, Florida), L’Chayim (Jewish Federation of Lee & Charlotte counties), and The Jewish News (Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee counties).

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