Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April/May 1995, Pages 50, 92-93
J. William Fulbright: A Giant Passes
By Alfred M. Lilienthal
On February 9, Senator J. William Fulbright quietly passed away in his 90th year at his Washington, DC home. The Arkansan had served one term in the House of Representatives, where he introduced a resolution that helped lead to the 1945 establishment of the United Nations, and then moved to the Senate, where he served for another 28 years—16 of them as chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations. No one has ever worked harder or more courageously to leave his mark on the foreign policy of the United States. No one in public life since William Jennings Bryan better deserves the title of "The Great Dissenter."
Speaking at a memorial service for his political mentor at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, President Bill Clinton cited particularly Senator Fulbright's caution to his countrymen against The Arrogance of Power, the title of the second of the six books he wrote.
While the late senator is well known for introducing in 1945 the legislation that created the Fulbright Scholarship program, and for his outspoken opposition to continued U.S. intervention in Vietnam, all but forgotten is his fearless intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, where he challenged the Zionist lobby and its control over members of both parties and the five chief executives with whom he served.
It was Chaim Weizmann's autobiography, Trial and Error (1949), that led Fulbright into his first major move against Zionism. In the book the first president of Israel described how he had ensnared anti-nationalist Jews into creating the props for a separatist political movement of which many wanted no part: "Those wealthy Jews who could not wholly divorce themselves from a feeling of responsibility toward their people, but at the same time could not identify themselves with the hopes of the masses, were prepared with a sort of left-handed generosity on condition that their right hand did not know what their left hand was doing. To them the university—to be in Jerusalem—was philanthropy which did not compromise them; to us it was the National Renaissance. They would give—with disclaimers—we would accept—with reservations." It was not until years later that Senator Fulbright revealed the consequences to the American taxpayer of permitting such contributions intended for philanthropy to be used for state building.
On May 23 and Aug. 1, 1963, under Fulbright's chairmanship, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee conducted hearings on the Zionist movement as part of an examination into activities of various representatives of foreign entities, aimed at uncovering possible abuses of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Nearly 300 printed pages of testimony, originally classified, brought to light "one of the most effective networks of foreign influence," in the words of Newsweek of Aug. 12, 1963. It used tax-free United Jewish Appeal dollars, distributed through "conduits" (a term employed by Senator Fulbright) of the Jewish Agency's American section, a registered foreign agent, to mold American public opinion and exert pressure in the U.S. More than five million tax-deductible dollars from philanthropic Americans had been sent to Israel and then recycled back to the U.S. for distribution to organizations and individuals seeking to influence public opinion in favor of Israel.
Publicly disclosed for the first time was the highly complex process of passing funds among the three "Jewish Agencies." These were the Jewish Agency for Israel, Jerusalem; the Jewish Agency for Israel, Inc.; and the Jewish Agency-American Section, Inc., a registered foreign agent. Through them money reached many respected organizations molding opinion among Americans who were not aware of the original source of the funds. For example, more than 80 percent of the budget of the American Zionist Council (AZC), the coordinating body for nine major U.S. Zionist groups, was received for eight years from the Jewish Agency for Israel (unregistered).
Among the many pertinent operations and activities thus financed with tax-free charity dollars were the purchase and control of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) for distribution of news to Jewish publications; the establishment and maintenance of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; the subsidization of efforts by the Synagogue Council of America to explain to Christian leaders the relationship of American Jewry to Israel; travel "study" tours in Israel by the American Christian Palestine Committee; pressuring American newspapers to support Israel and to attack anti-Zionist groups; establishment of inter-university committees on Israel and setting up chairs of Hebrew culture at universities which had Middle East studies programs.
This penetration by masked funds, as revealed by Senator Fulbright, touched almost every aspect of Jewish and Christian relations, including such techniques to influence public opinion in favor of a pro-Israeli foreign policy as "placement of articles on Israel in some of America's leading magazines," arranging for radio and TV programs "sympathetic" to Israel, and subsidizing trips to Israel by such "public opinion molders" as Christian clergymen, academics and mass media representatives.
Contributors to the UJA provided the funds flowing through the American Zionist Council's pipeline not only for manipulation of congressmen and public opinion, but also to manipulate the contributors into giving more to Israel. The AZC was, the Senator pointed out, "a very thin way of insulating it and other recipients from the terms of the Foreign Agents Act."
Whereas the Jewish Agency had registered, most of those organizations and individuals who received funds from it had not. "The Department of Justice and therefore the public," said the Senator, "was unaware of the public relations activities in the interest of Israel carried on within the United States by the Agency. And the Jewish Agency supported organizations and individuals without itemization of such financial support publicly."
This exposure of Zionist plans for American citizens turned Senator Fulbright into an endangered species in the congressional environment. As a scholar, the Senator was well aware of the inequities of the 1947 United Nations resolution to partition Palestine, whereby the Israeli state was established, although the Arabs at that time still constituted 66 percent of the total population. (Earlier, in 1917, at the time of Britain's Balfour Declaration that provided the first legal underpinning for the Zionist state, the Muslim and Christian Palestinians had constituted 93 percent of the total population.)
Senator Fulbright pursued his role as dissenter from U.S. Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian policies despite the threat posed by the powerful Zionist apparatus and in disregard of implicit warnings in the writings of renowned political philosophers with which he was familiar. These included the comment of Alexis de Tocqueville that: "I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America." George Santayana also wrote on this theme that:
"There is no country in which people live under more overpowering compulsions... You must wave, you must shout, you must go with the irresistable crowd: otherwise, you will feel like a traitor, a soulless outcast, a deserted ship high and dry upon the shore...In a country where all men are free, every man finds that what most matters has been settled for him beforehand."
Such comments explained the inexorable hold that certain idées fixes exercised over American public opinion. But the Senator never allowed himself to be deterred by the almost pathological orientation of the United States toward Israel.
In the spring of 1960, the Egyptian (then UAR) ship Cleopatra was held up in the port of New York by the refusal of members of the Seafarers International Union and the International Longshoremen's Association to handle the ship's cargo. The action allegedly was in retaliation for blacklisting by the Arab League's Boycott Office of ships carrying petroleum and U.S. military cargoes to Israel. But, as acting Secretary of State Douglas Dillon pointed out, "of a total U.S. Maritime Fleet of 498, only 23 ships have been blacklisted, and there has been no instance of denial of transit of the Suez Canal." The Arabs charged that the union action was to serve the Zionist goal of interrupting U.S. Point Four shipments to Egypt and Syria, and to reverse the vast improvement in U.S.-UAR relations which had taken place during the eight-year presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Taking the Senate floor on April 25, Fulbright denounced the picketing as "irresponsible intervention into U.S. foreign policy-making." Noting that the Constitution confines the conduct of foreign policy to the president or his designated representatives, the Arkansas senator said:
"Actions on the part of individuals or organizations which interfere directly or indirectly with the constitutional exercise of governmental authority or activity in the conduct of foreign policy should be avoided as inimical to the total national interest...Our constitutional system is designed to give free expression to the will of citizens of the United States. It must not be corrupted by calculated influence and pressure from any other source."
Only through the intervention of President Eisenhower was the Cleopatra finally permitted to unload. But the harm had been done. The Arab conviction that the Zionist machine dominated American political thinking had been strengthened.
In May of 1960—a presidential election year which pitted Democratic challenger John F. Kennedy against incumbent Republican Vice President Richard Nixon—the Zionist bloc in the Senate, headed by Senators Kenneth Keating and Jacob Javits of New York, Clifford Case of New Jersey, and Paul Douglas of Illinois, had forced the adoption of the Douglas amendment to the Mutual Security Act to force the UAR to open the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping. The president was given the perogative to withhold mutual aid funds from any nation refusing to grant freedom of navigation through international waterways.
In probably one of the strongest and bluntest speeches ever delivered in the Senate chamber, Fulbright assailed the Douglas amendment as a "textbook case of how not to conduct international relations." Seeking unsuccessfully to win passage for a counter-amendment, the Senator decried "the existence of a pressure group in the U.S. which seeks to inject the Arab-Israeli dispute into domestic politics."
The amendment, he noted,"would not in fact contribute to the reopening of the Canal to Israeli shipping but would, on the contrary, tend to prevent the achievement of this desirable objective, an objective which the officials of the U.N. and of our own Government are pursuing with as much attention and perserverance as they possibly can...What it will accomplish is to annoy the Arabs and fortify them in their conviction that in any issue arising from the Arab-Israel controversy, the U.S., because of domestic political pressures, will be on the side of the Israelis."
The Arkansas legislator closed his remarks with this perspicacious observation: "This Arab conviction, for which I regret to say history affords some justification, is the greatest single burden American diplomacy has to carry in the Middle East."
Senator Fulbright linked the passage of the Douglas amendment and the Cleopatra incident as coercive attempts "which I find disastrous in the functioning of our constitutional system. In what is probably the most delicate international situation which exists in the world today, 180 million Americans find their foreign policy being whip-sawed by an irresponsible maritime union and by a minority pressure group. The President cannot conduct our foreign policy in the Middle East under these circumstances. That policy is being directed by minority pressure groups."
Fulbright went on to address the broader implication of this particular incident: "It is the problem of the development in this nation of organized groups which bring into American political life the feuds and emotions that are part of the political conflicts of foreign nations. This is one of the things that our Founding Fathers came here to avoid when they created this nation.
"Just as we have witnessed the success of one group in forcing an amendment into the Mutual Security Act, we see other groups trying to force the President to tailor the summit agenda to satisfy other ethnic groups. There is no end to this.
"Mr. President, this nation has welcomed millions of immigrants from abroad. In the 19th century we were called the melting pot, and we were proud of that description. It meant that there came to this land people of diverse creeds, colors and races. These immigrants became good Americans, and their ethnic and religious origins were of secondary importance. But in recent years, we have seen the rise of organizations dedicated apparently not to America, but to foreign states and groups.
"The conduct of a foreign policy for America has been seriously compromised in this development. We can survive this development, Mr. President, only if our political institutions—and the Senate in particular—retain their objectivity and their independence so that they can serve all Americans."
Senator Fulbright's continued forthrightness on the Middle East issues cost him the post of secretary of state. Upon his election, President Kennedy, fearful of the political consequences, skipped Fulbright, his obvious choice, and instead picked the far less controversial, and less qualified, Dean Rusk.
On Israel's 21st birthday in 1969, a group of 59 senators and 238 representatives lent their names to an advertisement that appeared in the May 11 New York Times and that was "reproduced as a public service by AIPAC." This declaration, one of the most vociferously pro-Israel and anti-Arab pronouncements to have been publicly promulgated up to that time, attacked U.N. resolutions censuring Israel and contained no references whatsoever to the humanitarian needs, let alone the political rights, of the Palestinian Arabs. Senator Fulbright pointedly refused to lend his name to this advertisement.
In 1972, bidding for presidential primary votes centered on competitive legislative efforts to increase resettlement aid for emigrant Soviet Jews. The proposal of one of the most vociferous supporters of Israel, Senator Henry M. ("Scoop") Jackson (D-WA), called for $250 million for a two-year period. It was defeated in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a more modest $85 million bill sponsored by Senator Edmund Muskie (D-ME).
Protested Senator Fulbright, "We are proposing to give $85 million to Israel when I'm having trouble getting $8 million for a road in Arkansas because money is short."
Appearing on the Oct. 7, 1973 CBS "Face the Nation" television program two days after the outbreak of war in the Middle East, Senator Fulbright was asked, "which would be the best way to settle the Arab-Israeli war," and "would it not be in everyone's interest for the U.S. and the Soviet Union to refrain from furnishing weapons to either side?" Fulbright responded: "Yes, but the U.S. government alone is not capable of doing that, because the Israelis control the policy in the Congress and the Senate and unless we use the U.N. and do it collectively, we know the U.S. is not going to do that....Somewhere around 80 percent of the Senate of the United States is competely in support of Israel and of anything Israel wants."
In the course of December 1973 Foreign Relations Committee hearings on proposed legislation to grant Israel $2 billion in emergency military assistance so that it might replenish supplies exhausted in the 1973 war, Chairman Fulbright did not hesitate to argue that "instead of rearming Israel, we could have peace in the Middle East at once if we just told Tel Aviv to withdraw behind its 1967 borders and guarantee them."
As the chairman and editor of Middle East Perspective, who had come to the Capitol in 1973 to testify against that grant to Israel, I was particularly gratified to hear the Senator place on the record the specifics of our enormous military grants to Israel, to show, as he put it, that "we have not been niggardly with Israel." Assistance to Israel for that fiscal year, he pointed out, amounted to $833 for every man, woman and child in that country. Despite these facts, the emergency legislation was enacted.
The furious outcries following Fulbright's CBS remarks and his forthright stand against the emergency legislation only demonstrated the truth of his original statements about Israeli control of Congress. That phenomenon was confirmed when AIPAC founder I.L. Kenen boasted in The Congressional Quarterly that he had almost instantaneously mustered 67 senatorial signatories to the 1973 resolution calling for the shipment of Phantom military aicraft to Israel.
Senator Fulbright's forthrightness cost him the post of secretary of state.
Demonstrating Zionist determination to "get" Senator Fulbright, the Near East Report, a newsletter mailed to American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) members, accused him of being "consistently unkind to Israel and our supporters in this country." Zionist money poured into the campaign coffers of his rival, Arkansas Governor Dale Bumpers, in the May 1974 Democratic primary election.
On behalf of Arkansas Jews, Little Rock attorney Philip Kaplan announced that "Fulbright is a Neanderthal." Philip Back, Arkansas chairman of Bonds for Israel, said that the Senator's statement that Congress was controlled by Israel was "uniformly disliked by Arkansas Jews, and he should be retired to private life." A Bumpers lieutenant boasted to the Chicago Tribune: "I could have bought central Arkansas with the offers of money from the Jewish community—they came particularly from people in New York and California who have raised a lot of money in the Jewish community for political purposes."
Senator Fulbright was defeated in the 1974 Democratic primary, but before he returned to private life he again spoke out boldly. It was at the time the national media were calling Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. George S. Brown an "anti-Semite" for having told a Duke University audience that the "Jewish influence in this country could prevent Congress from taking adequate measures to prevent another Arab oil embargo." Speaking on "The Clear and Present Danger" at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., where Winston Churchill had made his famed "iron curtain" address, Fulbright charged that the "majority of office holders in the U.S. have fallen under Israeli domination."
He added:"Neither the Israelis nor their uncritical supporters in our Congress and in our media have appreciated what is at stake in the enormous distortion of American interests in our Mideast course. Endlessly pressing the U.S. for money and arms—and invariably getting all and more than she asks—Israel makes bad use of a good friend. We alone have made it possible for Israel to exist as a state. Surely it is not too much to ask in return that Israel give up East Jerusalem as the necessary means of breaking a chain of events which threatens us all with ruin."
Frankness, Candor and Keen Insights
It is more than coincidental that this rhetorical question posed by Senator Fulbright should provide the precise solution 21 years later toward saving the faltering Middle East peace process. His frankness, candor and keen insights brought him into bitter conflict with Zionist leaders and their powerful fellow travelers in all strata of American life, in particular the servile media and the compliant politicians. In the five Washington Post stories on his death and funeral, there was not a word about his resolute Middle East stands.
The Senator knew full-well, as he wrote in his book Old Myths and New Realities, "how nearly impossible it is to overcome an environment in which the surest route to advancement is conformity with a passive and oppressive orthodoxy." He deeply regretted that "foreign policies are based on old myths rather than current realities." To him, "discussion could bring to life new ideas and supplant the old myths."
This gentleman, scholar and statesman left his countrymen with a memorable warning that, should we continue to ignore his advice, might yet serve as the epitaph of American civilization:
"Gradually but unmistakably America is showing signs of that arrogance of power—the tendency of great nations to equate power with virtue and major responsibilities with a universal mission—which has affected, weakened and in some cases destroyed great nations in the past. In so doing, we are not living up to our capacity and promise as a civilized example for the world; the measure of our falling short is the measure of the patriot's duty of dissent. And, in a democracy, dissent is an act of faith." ❑
Dr. Alfred M. Lilienthal is the author of What Price Israel?, The Other Side of the Coin, There Goes the Middle East and The Zionist Connection.