Book review of Alison Weir’s “Against Our Better Judgment” – by Ziad Hafez

Book review of Alison Weir’s “Against Our Better Judgment” – by Ziad Hafez

By Ziad Hafez*, Contemporary Arab Affairs, The Levant News — Many ask about the role of the United States in the creation of Israel.  The book under review provides an unequivocal answer: the United States was instrumental in the creation of a Jewish state in the Arab lands of Palestine at the expense of its inhabitants who were there for centuries.  Yet, the book shows how pro-Israel American Zionists have manipulated the government, the media to promote the interests of Israel at the expense of the interests and ideals of the United States.  The book sheds a new perspective unknown to many about the manipulations of the pro-Israel group in the United States and Great Britain.  It is a ‘must read’ for the general reader as well as for the scholar.

None of the established book publishers in the United States is publishing the book under review.  Its copyrights are the property of the author Alison Weir, the Executive Director of an organization called “If Americans”, or “What every American needs to know about Israel/Palestine”.  The organization has its logo on the book’s spine and back cover. The low price is an indication that the publishing organization does not have the same overhead costs of established publishing houses! 

The author is also the President of another organization called the Council for National Interest (CNI), an organization founded by two former US Congressmen Paul Findley and Paul McCloskey.  Both organizations are devoted to the advocacy of a US foreign policy in the Middle East consistent with American interests and not those of a foreign power, i.e. Israel.   The contents of the book are probably the reason why no book publisher in the United States would consider publishing it because of the explosive and meticulously documented information about the duplicity and outright illegal if not criminal behavior of the Zionist movement in the United States, Europe, and of course Palestine.

The book was originally a paper to set the record straight about the US-Israel relationship (p .iii).  However, “the article grew longer and longer as [she] realized how much there was to be explained” (p. iii).  As she received more information that needed confirmation and as further research confirmed such received information and uncovered more facts “the article became a book” (p. iii).   The gist of the argument developed in the book is that the pro-Israel movement in the United States “has promoted policies that have exposed Americans to growing danger, and then exaggerated this danger (while disguising its cause), fueling actions that dismember some of the nation’s most fundamental freedoms and cherished principles” (p. 2).  She tersely adds, “All this for a population that is considerably smaller than New Jersey’s” (p. 2).

It is a short book covering sixteen chapters and a preface.  Its 241 pages include 94 pages of text, and surprisingly 109 pages of endnotes, a bibliography of 24 pages, an extra list of readings not necessarily quoted in the book (3 pages), and 10 pages of ‘index’.   Yet, this short book is quite powerful and displays historical accounts and analyses supported by a solid documentation showing scholarly knowledge and objective reporting.   Again, this reviewer vents his frustration to see ‘endnotes’ at the end of the book instead of ‘footnotes’ at the end of each page.  In this particular instance, the reader who may resent the ‘back and forth’ between the text and the notes may miss crucial information and sometimes true gems. 

The bibliography used by the author is quite impressive.  Of particular importance is the use of American Jewish scholars, American Zionists, and Israeli scholarship to document the author’s work.  The reader will learn many facts buried in obscure books as well as in known works such as biographies of prominent Zionist figures, memoirs of political leaders, and scholarly work recognized internationally.  This reviewer was surprised to learn about the collusion between Zionist leaders in Palestine and the United States with Nazi figures before and during World War II (chapter 6).  In particular, the cynicism demonstrated by Zionist leaders in preventing President Roosevelt and other Western leaders from providing safe havens for fleeing Jews from countries under Nazi control is particularly horrifying (p. 29).  They deliberately sought the sacrifice of Jews in order to use it as a moral blackmail over Western leaders in the promotion and protection of Israel.  Quoting journalist Erskine B. Childers in The Spectator in 1960: “One of the most massively important features of the entire Palestine struggle was that Zionism deliberately arranged that the plight of the wretched survivors of Hitlerism should be a ‘moral argument’ which the West had to accept” (p. 30)!

The book is targeting an American readership.  It is part of an effort to educate the American public about the lies and deception by American Zionists and advocates of Israel, within Congress, in the media, and in academia, and how the United States of America were used to create Israel.  Yet, its scholarly content makes it an indispensable tool for any researcher on the root cause of Middle Eastern turmoil.  The author has extensively researched the history of Zionism in the world in general and in the United States in particular. Its main strength is the absence of any anti-Semitic streak or references that will make it hard for pro-Israel sympathizers to attack. This reviewer considers this book more effective and persuasive than the seminal work of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer about the Israeli Lobby (2007).

The author starts by making the argument that American Zionists made their mark first by pushing the United States of America to participate in World War I, even though that “most analysts consider WWI a pointless conflict that resulted from diplomatic entanglements rather than some travesty of justice or aggression” (p. 15).  The United States joined this unnecessary war “a few years into the hostilities, costing many American lives, even though the U.S. was not party to the alliances that had drawn other nations into the fray” (p. 15).  The author states unequivocally that “diverse documentary evidence shows that Zionists pushed for the US to enter the war on Britain’s side as part of the deal to gain British support for their colonization of Palestine” (p. 16).  The author notes that the Americans had strongly opposed entering the war and that President Woodrow Wilson had won the presidency with slogan “he kept us out of war” (endnote 60 quoting the White House archives).  It is eerily resembling President Obama’s promise of withdrawing from military confrontations in the Middle East and not embarking upon new wars, and yet here we are facing a creeping military involvement in Syria and Iraq and God forbid with Iran, to the benefit of Israel!

Zionist endeavors to push the United States into war is because “from the very beginning of their movement, Zionists realized that if they were to succeed in their goal of creating a Jewish state on land that was already inhabited by non-Jews, they needed the backing from one of the ‘great powers’” (p. 16).  Hence, having the United States siding with Great Britain in World War I would achieve their goal of having Great Britain supporting Zionist efforts.  This is the essence of the efforts leading to the Balfour Declaration.  

The author adopts a historical as well as an analytical narrative describing succinctly yet effectively the rise of the American Zionist lobby.  It sheds light on the role of Max Norday, Louis Brandeis, and Felix Frankfurter among others in establishing, structuring, and promoting Zionism among American elites.  At first, American Jews were not particularly impressed by Zionism and felt their loyalty was primarily to the United States.  Quoting Zionist leaders who decried what they considered a problem with American Jews: “The American Jew thinks of himself first and foremost as an American citizen….Loyalty to America is now the supreme watchword” (p. 36 and endnote 145).

Having established the lobby and having succeeded in enrolling American Jews by means of indoctrination, cajoling, and threats the various Zionist organizations in the United States went out to establish a firm grip on US media.  Quoting Richard Stevens, the author states: “Zionists early on learned to exploit the essential nature of the American political system that policies can be made and un-made through force of public opinion and pressure.  Procuring influence in the media, both paid and unpaid, has been a key component of their success” (p. 85 and endnote 340).  The author devotes the last chapter narrating the demise of America’s most famous female journalist Dorothy Thompson who valiantly tried in the late forties to tell Americans about Palestinian refugees (chapter 16).

The endnotes have fascinated this reviewer.  Indeed, there are true gems of information that could have been part of the main text.  Yet, the text in its present form makes its arguments quite straightforward.  Endnotes are used to flesh out the narrative with many scholarly quotes and sometimes not well-known pieces of information.

Among the endnotes that caught the reviewer’s attention endnote 69. Quoting William Yale, the author of The Near East: A Modern History. Yale, a descendant of the founder of the Yale University, was an authority of the Middle East.  He had worked with the State Department in a number of roles in the Middle East including as a member of the King Crane Commission (p. 124).  Yale writes: “  the Zionists in England set about winning British support for Zionism….The methods by which the conquest of the British government was made were diverse and of necessity in some cases devious” (p. 124).

As the Allied cause in 1916 was far from bright, and quoting Zionist leaders, the latter worked to persuade British officials that “the best and perhaps the only way (which proved to be so) to induce the American President to come into the war was to secure the cooperation of Zionist Jews by promising them Palestine, and thus enlist and mobilize the hitherto unsuspectedly powerful forces of Zionist Jews in America and elsewhere in favor of the Allies on a quid pro quo contract basis.    In other words, an unnecessary war gone badly required the intervention of the United States in order to secure the support of the British government in establishing a Jewish state in Palestine.

Another interesting endnote is endnote 197 where the author quotes history professor Lawrence Davidson about Clark Clifford’s commitment to Zionism.  It is part of a section in chapter 8 where the author indicates how State Department officials opposed the pro-Israel movement and how Clifford circumvented them.   The latter justified his sympathy toward the plight of Jews as part of his ‘humanitarian’ make up!  Yet, Davidson doubts that “given Clifford’s uncaring attitude toward the United States’ diplomatic staff in the Middle East, it is hard to believe that he was much moved by high principle.  More likely, his decision to back a Zionist state in Palestine, with all its violent and destabilizing consequences for millions of people, was made simply on the basis of its ability to help forward the political ambitions of the man he worked for [Truman]” (p. 161).

The book has focused on the development of Zionism in the United States.  The book would have gained even more weight had the authors listed the disastrous effects of American unilateral alignment with Israel. Indeed, such policies have been detrimental to the Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular but also to the ideals and interests of the United States.  However, this may be the subject of another book.

Mearsheimer, John, J. and Walt, Stephen, M. The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy, New York, Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2007.

Yale, William, The Near East: A Modern History, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1968.

*Ziad Hafez is General Secretary for the Arab National Conference, the leading Arab nationalist organization. A leading intellectual with a background in economics, political science, law, and university teaching, Hafez is the author of numerous books and articles in Arabic, French, and English. This review was first published in Contemporary Arab Affairs, a quarterly journal issued in London by Taylor and Francis and sponsored by the Center of Arab Unity Studies. It was also distributed by Al-Hewar Center

Related: More reviews of Against Our Better Judgment are on the book website.

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