To the Editor:
Michael Lewis's article, "Israel's American Detractors—Back Again," assumes that anyone who disagrees with Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu is a detractor of Israel. I fit Lewis's definition, as do my friends the late Israeli war hero and Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, his widow Leah, his successor Shimon Peres, Abba Eban, Teddy Kolleck, Mordechai Gur, and Ezer Weizman. According to recent polls, my views are shared by more than half of the Israeli electorate and far more than half of the American Jewish community.
I consider myself a dependable longtime supporter of the State of Israel. But I regard Netanyahu's policies as bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians, bad for the Arabs, and bad for the United States.
For ten years I criticized American policy in Vietnam, not as a "detractor" but as a patriot—a decorated bomber pilot against the Nazis in World War II—who regarded our military involvement in southeast Asia as politically, economically, militarily, and morally wrong. Few Americans any longer disagree with that position. And more and more Israeli citizens and supporters are alarmed by the negative policies of Netanyahu toward the peace process that was developed by the previous Israeli government and supported by nearly all Americans. It would be less than patriotic and responsible for any of this group to remain silent in the face of policies they regard as wrong.
Lewis refers to "George McGovern's Middle East Policy Council" as one of Israel's "detractors." The Council has a balanced, moderate bipartisan board that now includes a prominent Jewish artist, Yankel Ginzburg, who fought in the Israeli army in the 1967 war. We seldom take public positions as a council but encourage American policies that are in the best interest of the American people and their hope for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. We sponsor an excellent journal with contributors of varying viewpoints from all over the world. We also conduct teacher workshops with a genuine effort to avoid taking sides on controversial issues. Our Capitol Hill forums include Muslim, Jewish and Christian panelists, among others.
If it will bring any New Year's cheer to Michael Lewis, I have resigned as president of the Council to assume a position as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. (This appointment by President Clinton is, of course, subject to Senate confirmation.) The new president of the Council is the highly respected former Ambassador Chas. W. Freeman, Jr., who served as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm and as Assistant Secretary of Defense. He is not a "detractor" either, but a scholar and public servant of the first rank.
Blacklisting has taken many innocent victims, including some courageous Jewish dissenters from the political correctness of the recent past. The Middle East Quarterly diminishes itself by promoting such a dishonorable business.