George McGovern is quite disingenuous in his letter to the editor [MEQ, March 1998], misrepresenting his own views and those of the Middle East Policy Council (from which he just resigned as president) on matters connected to Israel. Further, he wrongly equates Michael Lewis's well-researched and cogent article ("Israel's American Detractors—Back Again, MEQ, Dec. 1997) with blacklisting and other dishonorable activities.
On the first matter, Mr. McGovern's claim of intellectual fellowship with the former leaders of Israel's Labor Party and half of Israeli and American Jewry is plainly absurd, for his record hardly reflects the views of those he calls his "friends"—Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Abba Eban, Teddy Kolleck and Ezer Weizman.
Here are three examples. In 1992 Mr. McGovern urged Jews in the former Soviet Union to remain there since there was "no real practical place for them in Israel. . . [and they] are needed in the former Soviet Republics."1 In 1993 the Middle East Policy Council recommended restoration of the 1967 borders, defining the walled city of Jerusalem as an international city under a U.N. trusteeship, and treating Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem as if they were in occupied territory.2 Also, in 1993 the Council called on the U.S. government "not only to withhold planned disbursements of loan guarantees to Israel but also to reduce or suspend its regular military and economic assistance and to impose trade sanctions."3 Calling for trade sanctions hardly strikes me as the sign of a "dependable longtime supporter" of Israel. More to the point, no political figure of any standing in Israel would agree with any of these views.
Second, Mr. McGovern ascribes to Michael Lewis the view that "anyone who disagrees with Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu is a detractor of Israel." Hardly: the whole point of Lewis's analysis is to show that a host of American groups either never ceased their vilification of Israel or else resumed doing so after an only short break after September 1993. In other words, he shows that their advocacy of pressure on Israel and strident criticism of Israel's supporters began not when Netanyahu became prime minister in June 1996 but when Rabin and Peres had been in charge.
1 MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, Mar. 24, 1992.
2 Middle East Policy, Spring 1993.