by M. Shahid Alam
Was there ever a time when a leading organ of the US media could speak the unvarnished truth about the links between the United States and Israel?
Consider this quote from Time magazine of January 1952, embedded in an article that explained its choice of Mohammed Mossadegh as its Person of the Year for 1951. It had no compliments for Mossadegh, the man who was spearheading his country’s bid to take back its oil resources from the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. No surprise there.
Surprising, however, is Time’s candor on Israel. It minces no words. US support for the creation of Israel had alienated the Middle East: it had been a costly error, motivated not by national interest but petty considerations of presidential politics. Truman had supported the creation of Israel in order to court American Jewish votes. This was the plain truth: a US President had placed his electoral chances ahead of a vital national interest. Apparently, in those days, Time could write the plain truth without worrying about the tide of flak from the American Jewish community.
Here is the quote, with italics added for emphasis:
“The word “American” no longer has a good sound in that part of the world [the Middle East]. To catch the Jewish vote in the U.S., President Truman in 1946 demanded that the British admit 100,000 Jewish refugees to Palestine, in violation of British promises to the Arabs. Since then, the Arab nations surrounding Israel have regarded that state as a U.S. creation, and the U.S., therefore, as an enemy. The Israeli-Arab war created nearly a million Arab refugees, who have been huddled for three years in wretched camps. These refugees, for whom neither the U.S. nor Israel will take the slightest responsibility, keep alive the hatred of U.S. perfidy.
“No enmity for the Arabs, no selfish national design motivated the clumsy U.S. support of Israel. The American crime was not to help the Jews, but to help them at the expense of the Arabs. Today, the Arab world fears and expects a further Israeli expansion. The Arabs are well aware that Alben Barkley, Vice President of the U.S., tours his country making speeches for the half-billion-dollar Israeli bond issue, the largest ever offered to the U.S. public. Nobody, they note bitterly, is raising that kind of money for them.”
Time does not see Israel as a victim. There is no mention of the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ either. Instead, Israel had been created “at the expense of the Arabs.” It refuses to “take the slightest responsibility” for the million Palestinian refugees. It is also the source of Arab hostility towards the United States.
Missing also is the cant – so common over the past half century – about Arab threats to Israel. Instead, Time speaks of Arab fears of Israel. “Today, the Arab world fears and expects a further Israeli expansion.” Prescient words too.
The true victims are recognized – the Palestinians – and there is sympathy for them too. “The Israeli-Arab war created nearly a million Arab refugees, who have been huddled for three years in wretched camps.” There is some obfuscation too: the Arab refugees were created by the Israeli-Arab war. Israeli propaganda had succeeded even at this early date. There is no admission of Israel’s planned ethnic cleansing of Palestinians or the massacres that attended this outrage.
Astonishing too is the spectacle of a US vice-president at this early date campaigning for an Israeli bond issue worth half a billion dollars: like a hired salesman, he tours the country, making speeches to sell Israeli bond. Did Israel raise the full value of the bond issue? It is a neat sum, enough to buy an army the best weapons in those days.
Notable too is the Time’s willingness – unthinkable today – to see the issue from an Arab perspective: how they see the world’s failure to send the refugees back to their homes. “These refugees, for whom neither the U.S. nor Israel will take the slightest responsibility, keep alive the hatred of U.S. perfidy.” It is not often that the US media speaks of “U.S. perfidy.”
Such journalistic candor was not good for Israel. The major Jewish organizations soon flexed their muscle: they organized to police what the US media could write or say about Israel. Their success was devastating. Israeli lies soon commanded unalloyed allegiance of every segment of American media.
Only recently that situation is beginning to change, as Israeli threats to US interests and to world peace become harder to ignore. This shift is tentative, however. Pro-Israeli forces are fighting back: and the few voices critical of Israel could be silenced by any number of events, not least another terrorist attack on US soil.
M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University. Most recently, he is author of Israeli Exceptionalism (Palgrave, 2009). Visit his website at http://qreason.com . Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.