Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December 2008, pages 66-67

Waging Peace

Paul Findley Feted at Gala CNIF Dinner

  • (L-r) Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha, Paul Findley and Ambassador Robert Keeley at the CNI gala (Staff photo D. Hanley).

THE COUNCIL for the National Interest Foundation (CNIF) held its first annual gala dinner on Oct. 9, 2008 at Washington, DC’s Galleria at Lafayette Centre. The dinner honored former congressman, author and CNI founder Paul Findley (R-IL), who served in the U.S. Congress from 1961-83, and who has spent decades speaking out against the powerful Israel lobby and its role in driving U.S. foreign policy.

Master of ceremonies Dr. John Duke Anthony, president of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, welcomed guests and introduced speakers, who included CNI chairman Ambassador Robert Keeley; CNI vice chairman former Sen. James Abourezk (D-SD); CNI president Eugene Bird; and Congressman Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD).

Harvard professor Stephen Walt commended Findley for opening up discussion of the “taboo subject” of the Israel Lobby. There is nothing inherently wrong with a lobby that works on behalf of Israel, Walt pointed out. The problem is that the policy the lobby advocates is not good for the United States.

He described the reaction to The Israel Lobby, the book he co-authored with John Mearsheimer, which has sold 80,000 copies in the U.S., and been translated into 20 languages, and published in 21 different countries. Mainstream reviews have been uniformly negative inside the United States, Walt noted, whereas outside this country, eight out of nine times reviews have been positive. While Israel welcomed the authors on their book tour, he said, there has been no coverage of their presentations by the U.S. mainstream media, and the pressure to cancel the authors’ speaking engagements in this country has been relentless.

While the book has had no impact on American foreign policy, Walt said, at least thanks to it, along with Jimmy Carter’s Palestine:Peace Not Apartheid and books by Israel’s new historians, people are now discussing the taboo subject. Commentators covering political candidates pandering for votes now mention the subject: “I nearly fell off my couch when I heard Jon Stewart making fun of AIPAC on the ”˜Daily Show,’” Walt said. [The clip can be viewed at <//www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=171492&title=indecision-5768>].

  • Harvard professor Stephen Walt (Staff photo D. Hanley).

Walt concluded by saying that U.S. unconditional support for Israel is harmful to both countries. Congress overwhelmingly supported Israel’s disastrous invasion of Lebanon in 2006, he pointed out, and U.S. support for Israel’s occupation and settlement policy has prevented a two-state solution.

A binational democratic state will be the end of a Jewish state, Walt noted, adding, “It would have been better for Israel if the United States had prevented Israel from its self-destructive actions.”

After guests watched a video about Findley’s life, the congressman himself, escorted by his proud son Craig, came to the podium. Findley asked attendees why the Middle East mess is worse today than it was 40 years ago. When Findley asked that question during a family chat, he said, Craig’s wife, Karyl, offered this assessment: “Your work has not hit homes, literally. The policy bias that favors Israel is not seen as a real threat by the average family struggling with everyday challenges.”

“How do we send a message that literally hits home?” Findley asked the audience. “How do we make it easy for the average family to grasp how its well-being is directly and precisely threatened by our pro-Israel bias?”

The answer, Findley said, is to explain why the United States was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. The American people know what happened and they’ve heard the reason our president gave, which was: “it was the work of people who hate America and want to destroy our way of life.”

“That’s nonsense,” Findley said. “It is wrong to link Islam with the assault. In committing suicide and killing innocent people those professed Muslims committed serious violations of Islamic principles.

“Moreover, there is no evidence—none—that the bombers hated Americans and were bent on destroying our way of life,” Findley emphasized. “Destroy America’s way of life? Muslims want to join it, not destroy it. Eight million Muslims are already proud, law-abiding U.S. citizens.”

Despite recommendations by Lee H. Hamilton and Tom Keane, co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission, it never called for testimony on whether U.S. policy in the Middle East may have been a motivation for the suicide bombings, Findley pointed out. “Almost any testimony to the commission would report intense, worldwide hostility to our pro-Israel bias,” he said. Misunderstanding the rationale behind the 9/11 attacks has led to “ill-conceived decisions to start two wars, with all the towering costs they entail in blood and treasure,” Findley stated. “Relying on false, flawed and manipulated intelligence, America went to war against Afghanistan and against Iraq, a war sought by Israel and Israel alone.”

And, Findley warned, Israel is pushing for a war on Iran next.

“Instead of starting two wars, our government might have treated 9/11 for what it actually was: a terrible crime by individuals, not an act of war by a nation state,” Findley said. But what motivated their extremist behavior?

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a mastermind behind the 9/11 attack, explained his motivation in a sentence contained (but mostly overlooked) in the 9/11 Commission’s report. “By his own account, KSM’s [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experiences there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. policies favoring Israel.”

Our pro-Israel bias threatens the well-being of Americans, Findley concluded, and we should tell that to every U.S. household. Today, seven years later—and two wars and at least two trillion dollars later, he added—it is time to talk candidly about the motivation behind the terrible attacks on 9/11.

Delinda C. Hanley