web analytics
August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

America’s Mideast Involvement Long Preceded ‘Israel Lobby’


In 1844, a biblical scholar and professor of Hebrew at New York University published a pamphlet urging the establishment of a Jewish state in the place then known as Palestine.

The name of this early Zionist who argued for the recreation of Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel: George Bush.

But the astonishing thing about this manifesto is not just that the author was a forebear of two later U.S. presidents of the same name. It was that his advocacy of a theological/political position known as “restorationism” – support for the “restoration” of the Jewish people to their historic homeland – was common in 19th century America.

This little-known fact is just one among many that can be discovered about attitudes toward the Middle East in what may well be one of the most important books on the subject to be published in this or any other year.

Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present, by Israeli historian Michael Oren, fills a void that has long existed in the historiography of the Middle East. Until the release of this beautifully written and meticulously researched volume this month, there simply was no comprehensive history of American involvement in the region.

Oren, who is based at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, has written a book overflowing with colorful tales of American travelers, pilgrims, businessmen, missionaries, diplomats, soldiers and sailors who weren’t merely observers of this pivotal area of the globe (the term for which was actually coined by the American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan). Americans have, from the very beginning of our own history as a nation, played a crucial role in shaping the Middle East. And as Oren illustrates, we, in turn, have been influenced by this interaction.

Indeed, the formation of the United States of America as a constitutional republic in 1789 is, in part, a result of our first encounter with the Arab and Muslim world: the long struggle with the semi-independent city states of North Africa known to us as the Barbary Pirates. It was the inability of the independent 13 American states – which had no federal government or navy – to protect shipping and sailors from the depredations of those early terrorists that motivated many to push for the enactment of the Constitution.

If that nearly forgotten war bears a strange resemblance to the contemporary conflict with Islamist terrorists, it is no coincidence. Oren recounts the shock of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams who, while serving as American ambassadors in Europe during the 1780’s, met with the Abd al-Rahman, a representative of the pasha of Tripoli, a major source of anti-American terror on the high seas.

In making exorbitant demands for American tribute, Al-Rahman told Adams and Jefferson that his country was fighting under the authority of the Koran, which authorized them to make wars on all non-believers and to enslave all Western prisoners in terms that Al Qaeda would have appreciated.

“Every Mussulman [sic] who should be slain in battle” with America, he said, “was sure to go to Paradise.”

Oren’s book is filled with a host of such encounters that may be new even to those who have been reading about the subject their entire lives. Such tales are a delight for history lovers. But aside from pleasure for the general as well as the specialized reader, there is a far broader moral to be learned from this volume that speaks directly to contemporary political debate.

Although the content of Power, Faith and Fantasy is far too comprehensive to be neatly summarized in even a lengthy review, there is a concise conclusion that can be drawn from the book. It is that the ideas promulgated by men such as former president Jimmy Carter or professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of the infamous “Israel Lobby” article in the London Review of Books, ignores two centuries of history, as well as smears Jews and other friends of Israel.

Oren illustrates throughout his book just how deep the roots of American support for Zionism run. The George Bush anecdote is but one of numerous incidents in which mainstream American Christians spoke out for the Jewish rights to Zion long before Theodor Herzl did.

About the Author: Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com, where this first appeared. He can be reached via e-mail at jtobin@commentarymagazine.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “America’s Mideast Involvement Long Preceded ‘Israel Lobby’”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Jewish Comedienne Joan Rivers gives an impromptu speech on why Hamas should be wiped out.
Joan Rivers in Critical Condition
Latest Indepth Stories
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz reviewing maps on the Golan Heights.

The bad news is that ISIS and Al Qaeda are on the Syrian Golan. The good news is that every terrorist in Syria is killing each other.

TorahScroll AoT17

The congregants, Ethiopians spanning generations, were beaming with joy and pride.

Troodler-082914

The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip nine years ago did not enhance Israel’s security.

Eisenstock-082914

How does a soldier from a religious home fall in love with a soldier from a non- religious kibbutz?

In 19th century entire ancient Jewish communities fled Palestine to escape brutal Muslim authorities

Responsibility lies with both the UN and Hamas, and better commitments should have been demanded from both parties in the ceasefire.

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

If this is how we play the game, we will lose. By that I mean we will lose everything.

Reportedly, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have formed a bloc that seeks to counter Islamist influence in the Middle East.

One wonders how the IDF could be expected to so quickly determine the facts.

While there is no formula that will work for everyone, there are some strategies that if followed carefully and consistently can help our children – and us – gain the most from the upcoming school year.

We risk our lives to help those who do what they can to kill to our people .

Twain grasped amazingly well the pulse of the Jewish people.

The entertainment industry appears divided about the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

More Articles from Jonathan S. Tobin
Bomb Shelter

One of the key talking points by apologists for Hamas in the current conflict is that it isn’t fair that Israelis under fire have bomb shelters while Palestinians in Gaza don’t have any. Among other factors, the lack of shelters accounts in part for the differences in casualty figures between the two peoples. But somehow […]

Jonathan S. Tobin is Senior Online Editor of Commentary magazine.

How will all this end? Hamas seems to think it will be Netanyahu who will blink first.

Nothing short of a stroke that will decapitate the leadership of this group will convince the Arabs that Hamas has made a mistake.

Z STREET will have the ability to compel IRS officials to testify as to their practices and produce all records.

“Death of Klinghoffer” opera frames the issue as Israel’s existence being the real crime.

Palestinian leaders claim the kidnapping is an Israeli hoax or the act of Jewish criminals rather than terrorists.

If Peres has outlasted some of his critics and is still considered popular, he cannot outrun history.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/americas-mideast-involvement-long-preceded-israel-lobby/2007/01/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: