America’s Connection with Zionism
Introduction of Allan Brownfeld to a Committee for the Republic Salon
Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)
Senior Fellow, the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University
January 11, 2018, Washington, D.C.
Good evening. I’m Chas Freeman. I chair the Committee for the Republic. Once a year, the Committee convenes a salon on the American relationship with Israel. We are honored to have Allan Brownfeld with us to lead our discussion tonight.
Israel has not fulfilled the high hopes of shared values and interests that many Americans initially had for it. Israel is a settler state, dominated by the descendants of European Jews and regulated by an intolerant school of Judaism. It is an outpost of European culture in a sea of Arab societies, none of which it has managed to befriend in the seventy years since it began to seize control of Palestine. Many Americans continue to profess a passionate attachment to the Zionist state. But this devotion is unrequited. Israel is not an ally but a protectorate of the United States, to which it has assumed no obligations and made no commitments.
Israeli politicians no longer bother to conceal their cynicism about their ability to extract enormous resources from Americans, some of whom support Israel as part of identity politics, some as part of a scheme to trigger the Second Coming of Christ, some because obeisance to Zionism is the key to large campaign contributions from wealthy Jewish donors, and some because they have been politically intimidated. The Israel Lobby exploits all of these motivations. It has come to epitomize both special interest activism and the venality of politics in the contemporary United States.
American protection of Israel from its ever more numerous critics abroad is isolating the United States internationally. This trend was clearly reflected in the recent UN Security Council and General Assembly repudiations of U.S. policy on Jerusalem. The United States has sometimes found it expedient to overlook serious violations of human rights and international norms elsewhere. In the case of Israel, American taxpayers generously subsidize them.
Israel receives at least $10.1 million in U.S. military aid daily. The cumulative total of direct U.S. government payments to the Zionist state is around $140 billion. This amount does not include tax-privileged private subventions amounting to billions of dollars more each year. Most U.S. aid to the Palestinian victims of Israeli policies is also paid to Israel, which disburses these funds and the taxes it collects from Palestinians as it sees fit. Or not. This is a relationship of codependency that, despite superficial cordiality, seems destined for crisis.
Here to discuss the past, present, and future of the American connection with Zionism is Allan Brownfeld. Anyone who is on the Committee’s salon listserv will have had occasion to admire Allan’s steely commentaries on American life and values, which I and others sometimes plunder from his widely-read syndicated column, “Allan Wrench,” and repost. He is affiliated with the American Council for Judaism, which was founded in 1942 by a group of eminent Reform rabbis. And, as you will see and hear, Allan Brownfeld is an eloquent proponent of a quintessentially American Jewish tradition of skepticism about Zionism and its real-world consequences.