They Dare to Speak out

They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby (1985) by Paul Findley is a book about the power of the Israel lobby in the United States. The full text is available for free online.

Findley’s thesis is that the power of the pro-Israel lobby in the US is immense and that it substantially distorts US policy regarding the Middle East and has made peace less likely between the Israelis and the Palestinians by supporting the Israelis so strongly. In addition he adds that Israel has spied on the US and sold US secrets to the Soviet Union. He claims that pro-Israel money is sufficient to make US politicians afraid of criticizing Israel or hampering policy that Israel wants.

The book is a pre-cursor  to the book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. That book explored many of the same themes from a post 9/11 perspective where they allege that one of the most important motives for 9/11 and Al Queda was US support for Israel and that the US response was influenced heavily by the Israeli lobby.

The book goes through Findley’s own path of being reasonably strongly pro-Israel to having some misgivings and then toward regarding Israel as a serious problem. Initially Findley decided to help an American held hostage in Yemen. On this trip he went to Syria and was surprised to be warmly received. This led to further meetings with other Arab leaders. This led to a meeting with Arafat where Arafat declared to him, in November 1978, that the PLO would renounce violence, recognize Israel and live in peace with the neighbors in return for a Palestinian State in the Occupied territories.

Findley then spoke about the Middle East more and became a target for pro-Israel lobbying. People would refuse to endorse him because of views he expressed on Palestine. He would go on to lose his seat in 1983 in part because of pro-Israel money. This is despite consistently voting for aid to Israel.

After describing Findley’s experiences the book goes on to talk about AIPAC and it’s power in lobbying US politicians. The role of AIPAC in opposing arms sales to Arab states and various other activities is outlined.

The book goes through instances of how the Arab viewpoint has been frustrated and blocked. There are remarkable instances of grants and donations being made by Arab states for Arab studies which were then returned by University administrators.

The spying by Israel on the United States is also given some inspection with the remarkable Jason Pollard case being described.

The book is interesting from a historical perspective because it was written during the Israeli occupation of the Lebanon and before the start of the Intifada. The second edition covers the Intifada and the changes in the US scene. The start of pro-peace Israel lobbying and an Arab lobby in the US is written about.

It is interesting to reflect on what has happened in the years since the book has been published. The peace process of the 1990s that looked like it might result in a lasting peace has failed. The occupation of the Gaza Strip has ended, but the blockade of Gaza appears to be directed at keeping Gaza at as low level as possible without provoking a full scale humanitarian crisis.The West Bank, meanwhile, has gone from having an Israeli population of tens of thousands to one of hundreds of thousands. Politically in the US the Democrats have become less pro-Israel while the Republicans have become substantially more pro-Israel. But realistically the outlook for the Palestinians is still very bleak. Israel could change this, but the hundreds of thousands of settlers in the West Bank has made any settlement far, far more difficult. Finally, the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent US led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have radically altered the entire picture.

All these events have made the book more interesting to read. As the book was the first prominent, successful criticism of Israeli influence in the US it’s a dramatic and interesting read. The book is dense with detailed descriptions of the events described within. But for anyone with an interest in the Middle East and US policy there it’s well worth reading.

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