Deliberate Deceptions: Facing the Facts about the U.S.-Israeli Relationship, 2d ed. – book reviews
Carlos A. Parodi
In April 1996, Israeli forces bombed a United Nations camp in Lebanon massacring scores of innocent civilians. Immediately after the attack, the Israeli government issued an apology for an unfortunate tactical error. International outrage for the massacre of innocent civilians led to further investigation by the United Nations. In its final report, approved by the majority of the General Assembly, the international body questioned the explanation of the Israeli government and raised the possibility that the act could have been the result of a systematic planned act against civilians. In short: the U.N. was arguing that there were reasons to believe Israel had committed genocide. Contrary to the U.N. positions, the United States government decided to support the Israeli government. Rejecting evidence that is conclusive for the majority of the nations, the official position of the United States government is that Israel remains a loyal ally and that what happened was indeed an unfortunate mistake by a government that was only trying to respond to a previous, “unprovoked” attack of Hizbollah, a “Lebanese terrorist organization.”
If the reader is asking why the United States takes sides with a government accused by the United Nations of genocide, Paul Findley, a former U.S. Representative from Illinois (1961-1983), provides a possible answer in his book Deliberate Deceptions. The United States government takes sides with Israel, first, because of the power the Israeli lobby has over foreign policy decision making and, second, because of the efficacy with which the American government “deliberately deceives” the American public. Findley’s book is an effort to reveal this deception. The author is convinced that, once the truth about the Israeli government is known, the American public will pressure its government to do the right thing.
Findley’s charges against the Israeli government are numerous and serious. Findley argues that Israel was the aggressor in the 1967 war. Following the war, Israel not only ignored U.N. Resolution 242 but continued its aggressive expansion by building Jewish settlements and terrorizing Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories. Israel has not only spied on America, but has killed American soldiers to defend its national security. According to Findley, Israel is also not a democracy, the electoral competition between Likud and Labor is deceptive: both have the same goal of expanding Israel through military force, the only difference being that Labor appears less obvious about it. Israel, thus, is not genuinely interested in peace. The unconditional support of the United States has reinforced Israeli intransigence and violence. Findley argues that to achieve peace, the U.S. should immediately suspend foreign aid and pressure Israel into complying with U.N. resolutions.
To make his case, Findley chooses a novel method of exposition. Each of the twenty-eight chapters is divided into sections consisting of a fallacy followed by a statement of fact. The contrast between fallacy-fact is quite effective in reminding the reader of the importance of knowing “how to read in-between the lines”. The following example is intended to show Findley’s technique and a major weakness of the book.
Findley cites the following 1989 statement by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as a fallacy:
No justification exists for selling the Saudis the most sophisticated aircraft in the American arsenal.
In the fact section, Findley counters:
Saudi Arabia deserves whatever it needs to defend itself. The value of America’s close special relationship with the kingdom, developed over half a century, is proven every day as Americans consume oil (pp. 99-100).
How can Findley be so critical of Israel and at the same time so incredibly lenient on Saudi Arabia, a government well-known for its human rights violations? Clearly, Findley appears guilty of the “appalling double standard” that he charges the U.S. government of committing when it comes to Israel.
More broadly, Findley’s support for Saudi Arabia exemplifies the contrast between the heavy hand with which he treats Israel and the absolute leniency with which he treats the United States. For Findley, Israel is definitely guilty on all counts; the U.S., on the contrary, is just blinded or being manipulated by the evil Israeli lobby. No American in his right mind would do what Israelis do to Arabs. Instead of confronting the possibility that America is a violent society that glorifies violence and systematically uses force to achieve its objectives, including killing innocent civilizations, Findley prefers to blame Israel for all the horrors committed in the Middle East. While Israel is guilty of committing human rights violations, the U.S. is guilty for colluding with Israel. Actually, the truth is that both the U.S. and Israel commit human rights violations in the Middle East.
In sum, Findley’s book may be read not only as a criticism of Israel but as a clever effort to let the U.S. off the hook. Readers of Findley’s book might want to keep in mind that it strains credibility to argue that Israel controls the United Sates or that Israel has more power than the U.S. in shaping outcomes in the Middle East. In Deliberate Deceptions Findley has put the wagon before the horse. Any serious analysis of Middle Eastern politics must start with the dominant presence of the U.S. in the area. The Gulf War was a recent manifestation of such power. The question is not why the Israeli lobby has so much power but how the U.S. uses Israel to achieve its goals. Findley cannot ask this question because he is convinced that the U.S. is acting against its own national interest by supporting Israel.
Going against its own national interest is just another way of saying that a government is being irrational. Claiming irrationality is certainly one way of avoiding responsibility. However, Findley should contemplate that by arguing irrationality on the part of the U.S. government he also seriously undermines his calls for U.S. leadership. Why would anyone follow an irrational leader?
Carlos A. Parodi is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Illinois State University, Normal.
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