Rewriting Israeli, and American Jewish, History to Suit New Prejudices

Published in November of 2022, the message of We Are Not One: A History of America’s Fight Over Israel is that American Jews no longer share much in common with their brethren in the Jewish state and shouldn’t want to. Its author, Eric Alterman, a leading leftwing journalist who in the past has defended Israel against some of its fiercest detractors, seems to argue in this book that Jews in the U.S. have never had good reason to sympathize with the country. Allan Arkush writes in his review:

The brief historical account of Zionism with which We Are Not One begins is almost too perfunctory and disorganized to deserve attention, but it is nevertheless revealing. Alterman explains Theodor Herzl’s transformation into a Zionist as a response to the demoralizing “anti-Semitic fury” directed in Paris against the alleged spy Alfred Dreyfus. This is a well-known biographical myth; . . . Herzl was not particularly moved by the anti-Dreyfus outbursts at the beginning of 1895. He was, however, profoundly affected by the pervasive anti-Semitism he witnessed throughout Europe—the racism, the implacable prejudice, the discrimination—especially in Vienna, where he lived. Alterman, for his part, gives his readers very little sense of the true magnitude of “the Jewish problem” in Herzl’s day.

Such slipshod history, Arkush writes, characterizes much of the book, which goes on with familiar accusations about mistreatment of Arabs and Jewish neoconservatives. Arkush concludes:

It seems as if Alterman’s latter-day rejection of Israel has led him to a rather jaundiced reassessment of the Zionist project as a whole. . . . We Are Not One has almost nothing favorable to say about the state of Israel apart from some brief words of praise for Yitzḥak Rabin’s efforts at peacemaking. This is either because Alterman genuinely believes there is nothing else that can be said in favor of the country or he doesn’t want to admit that there is. . . . It seems more likely . . . that Alterman really believes that only people wearing Exodus-tinted glasses could possibly see much that is worthy of praise in the way that the Jewish state has conducted itself over the past 75 years.

But this doesn’t give Alterman the right to recast Israeli history to suit his new convictions, or to impugn the motives, in facile and misleading ways, of Israel’s more constant—if not untroubled—friends. . . . And the story of American and American Jewish support for Israel is richer and much more complicated than the vicarious search for thrills that Alterman disdainfully describes.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American Jewry, Eric Alterman, Israel and the Diaspora, Israeli history


An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy