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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Harry Truman’

John Judis’s Truman Book Backs my Theory

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Clarification: This post only deals with one small aspect of Judis’s book.  I have not read the book and nor was it sent to me for a review.  I doubt if I’ll ever see it in its entirety. There have been many complaints/criticisms about the book, such as by Ron Radosh referred to by comments on this post.

For the longest time I’ve been writing/blogging that the myth of United States President Harry Truman as great supporter of the Zionist aim to have a Jewish State made no sense to me. Here’s what I wrote in Has The United States “Unfriended” Israel?:

The two dove-tailed contradictory Harry Truman stories should be looked at carefully.  On one hand, legend has it that he was a great friend of Israel.  Nu, if that was the truth, why did his old buddy, a Jew, have to use protexia, force himself into an appointment with the busy US President and beg that Truman instruct the United States Delegation to the United Nations to vote for a Jewish State?  If Truman had really been so pro-Israel, then no pressure from his friend would have been needed.

I’m a CPA’s daughter.  I can frequently see facts as clearly as numbers, and if they don’t add up, you just can’t convince me that I’m wrong.  So I’m very excited to see that someone much more knowledgable than I has written a book proving me right!

The following is from the excerpt from Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict published in the New Republic.

But in the years leading up to, and in the months following, American recognition of Israel in May 1948, Truman was filled with doubt and regret about his role. The rosy portrayal of Truman’s unquestioning commitment to and constant sympathy with Israel, which is often linked to a picture of the younger Truman as a Christian Zionist, is dead wrong. As president, Truman initially opposed the creation of a Jewish state. Instead, he tried to promote an Arab-Jewish federation or binational state. He finally gave up in 1947 and endorsed the partition of Palestine into separate states, but he continued to express regret in private that he had not achieved his original objective, which he blamed most often on the “unwarranted interference” of American Zionists. After he had recognized the new state, he pressed the Israeli government to negotiate with the Arabs over borders and refugees; and expressed his disgust with “the manner in which the Jews are handling the refugee problem.”

I’m not blogging about this to knock down Truman’s reputation.  What concerns me is that American Jews and Israelis are so desperate to feel loved, to have allies that they we end up fabricating myths like the one about Harry Truman and his support for the nascent Jewish State.

Afterwards, Truman did accept Israel and considered himself a friend, but we must remember that he was prepared to instruct the American representatives to the United Nations to vote “no.”  If that had happened, there’s a good chance that other countries would have followed suit and Ben-Gurion would not have gotten the international support he felt necessary to declare statehood.

We must develop the confidence to act in ways best for Israel’s security without checking for international approval.  We don’t need more unreliable and imaginary allies.

I’m most worried by the fact that American Jews refuse to listen to the truth and prefer to cancel events that may prove their legends lies.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 9/16/11

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Dear Rachel,

I’m not sure this subject qualifies as a chronicle of crisis, but in the interest of all the people affected by this syndrome, I am hoping you will view my letter as worthy of publication.

I am B”H a mom and grandmother and so now have the leisure of observing nuances that may be missed in the course of child-rearing by an overwhelmed mother.

As I sit at the Shabbos table and delight in my extended family, I am reminded of my childhood and recall my younger sister being endlessly badgered by our father to eat with her right hand. I remember thinking at the time that it was a bad-luck habit my poor sister had picked up and apparently got stuck with, since she seemed to revert to using her left hand again and again, though she had to know she’d be scolded for doing so.

It is none other than my son-in-law who triggers my déjà vu recollection, by his insistence that his young son eat with his right hand, even as my grandchild demonstrates favoring his left.

My sister today blames many of her ills on the trauma she suffered as a result of being hounded in regard to her left-handedness. She is convinced that her natural inclination being messed with has left her physically and mentally impaired. She says, for instance, that her entire left side suffers from weakness and is more prone to achiness, pain and injury.

My point is that there seems to be quite a number of successful individuals who are by nature left-handed and that favoring left over right or vice-versa is not a choice. Education and a better understanding of the makeup and nature of the human being has enlightened our generation, but that nagging preference for right-handedness is still prevalent — especially when it comes to our own children, as indicated by my otherwise astute son-in-law.

Any light you can shed on this subject would be much appreciated and I’m certain would serve to further educate young parents who turn to your weekly column.

A Concerned Grandma

 

Dear Concerned,

There is no question that throughout history favoritism has leaned towards right-handedness across the board. To begin with, a left-handed Kohen was disqualified from serving in the Bais HaMikdash for his left-handedness was considered a blemish that would interfere in the carrying out of specific duties.

Among our people, even the father who would not necessarily be bothered by his child’s tendency of favoring his left over his right hand still needs to ascertain the actuality of such an inclination early on due to the effect this will eventually have on his son’s performance of certain mitzvos. Some examples: the placement of Tefillin (always on the weaker hand); the order of the three steps taken upon the start and conclusion of the shemoneh esrei (left-handers starts with the right versus left foot); the way the lulav and esrog would be held; etc.

In addition, ambidexterity (equal proficiency of left and right) needs to be ruled out or confirmed in order to make the proper determination as far as religious rites are concerned.

Statistically, about ten percent of the population is believed to be left-handed. In view of the fact that nine U.S. presidents fit the bill (James Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama), there may be something to the test results arrived at in one study at St. Lawrence University in New York that found higher IQs (over 140) in left-handed people.

The fact is that some of the world’s greatest talents and intriguing personalities happen to be members of the left-handers league. To mention just a few: Queen Elizabeth; Queen Victoria; Winston Churchill; Julius Caesar; Napoleon; Alexander the Great; Benjamin Franklin; Mark Twain; Albert Einstein; Charlie Chaplin; Jerry Seinfeld; Art Garfunkel; Paul Simon; Danny Kaye; John Lennon; Dick Van Dyke; Paul McCartney; Vincent Van Gogh; Bach; Rachmaninoff; Sandy Koufax; Babe Ruth; Benjamin Netanyahu; Nelson Rockefeller; Colin Powell; Oprah Winfrey and Michael Bloomberg.

The following are some fascinating tidbits on the topic of left-handedness: Women are more likely than men to be right-handed. The left-handed may be more allergy or asthma prone.

Older mothers (past 40 at her child’s birth) are much more likely to have a left-handed child than a woman in her 20s. Left-handers have a flair for math and architecture, while right-handers tend to be verbally talented. Left-handedness runs in families, as manifested by the British royals, which include the left-handed Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and Prince William. Left-handers are seen as pushier, more dominant, manipulative, and self-centered individuals (the makings of a good politician).

Research links an increased chance of being left-handed with trauma during gestation or birth. Connections between the right and left sides of the brain are faster in the left-handed, making them more efficient at using both sides of the brain more easily and in dealing with multiple stimuli.

Stuttering and dyslexia occur more often in left-handers (particularly when they are forced to change their writing hand as a child).

Last but not the least intriguing: Four of the five original designers of the Macintosh computer were left-handed.

In the course of gathering data for this column, I puzzled over being unable to unearth the trait of left-handedness in any of our eminent tzaddikim — and was duly informed that such detail was considered too insignificant to highlight or pay heed to.

The consensus is that a parent should not unduly force a child to use his or her right hand when it becomes apparent that s/he has an innate propensity for left-handedness. It is for sure a shame to create friction between parent and child over something the latter has no control over.

And, Grandma, if I were you, I would stay out of it where my son-in-law is concerned. If your daughter is a JP reader, she can show him this column.

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to  rachel@jewishpress.com  or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

Ranking The Presidents

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

The Dec. 29 front-page essay on Harry Truman by this modest scrivener continues to generate a heartening response – and not just from Jewish Press readers, as the piece was featured on FrontPageMag.com and reprinted by the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle in Truman’s home state of Missouri.

Several respondents have taken the opportunity in their e-mails and letters to rate the various U.S. presidents who’ve held office since the creation of Israel and ask for the Monitor’s own assessment.

The following ranking, subjective and open to argument as such things always are, goes from worst (11) to best (1) and is based on an overall assessment of a president’s attitude, actions and consistency as well as whether his decisions and policies were a help or hindrance to Israel.

11. Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) – Sure, he was the mediator between Egypt and Israel at Camp David, but Sadat’s initiative caught him completely by surprise after he’d foolishly agreed to bring the Soviets into Mideast talks. He never hid his intense dislike for Menachem Begin, made disparaging comments about Jews, and his foreign policy team was unusually hostile to Israel.

10. Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961) – The atmosphere improved to some degree during Ike’s final three years in office, but the relationship between the U.S. and Israel remained lukewarm throughout his tenure. Even so, it may have been an improvement over the Truman years – as Isaac Alteras writes in his comprehensive study Eisenhower and Israel (University Press of Florida), “if the Eisenhower administration was less free with pro-Israel declarations [than the Truman administration had been], it was more forthcoming with pro-Israel deeds.”

9. George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) – In many respects not as bad on Israel as his reputation would suggest. His administration successfully pushed the UN to rescind its 1975 “Zionism equals racism” resolution and rushed anti-missile defense systems to Israel during the first Gulf War, but his 1991 lectern-pounding attack on pro-Israel lobbyists and the hostility toward Israel exhibited by his secretary of state will forever overshadow any positives.

8. Gerald Ford (1974-1977) – The Kissinger-Ford “reassessment’’ of American policy caused a strain for several months, but U.S.-Israel relations remained relatively strong for the duration of Ford’s brief term.

7. John Kennedy (1961-1963) – Viewed in his day as friendly toward Israel, his Mideast policy was in fact almost as “even-handed’’ as Eisenhower’s. Hectored Israel almost non-stop on the Jewish state’s nuclear program and in 1962 wrote an absolutely craven letter to Egypt’s Nasser pleading for friendship and implying support for Eisenhower’s tough line toward Israel during the 1956 Sinai war.

6. Bill Clinton (1993-2001) – After enjoying an excellent relationship with the Rabin-Peres Labor government, showed a much colder face to Likud prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Showered terror chief Yasir Arafat with respect and affection, inviting him to the White House more than he did any other foreign leader.

5. Harry Truman (1945-1953) – His decisions to support partition in 1947 and statehood in 1948 were monumental, but his administration’s policy toward Israel from 1949 through 1952 was lukewarm. He refused to sell arms to Israel, and whatever economic aid he did extend was belated and miserly. His recognition of Israel would have been absolutely meaningless had the Arabs prevailed militarily.

4. Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) – Probably felt personally closer to Israel than any other president save George W. Bush, but his administration had a number of serious policy disagreements with various Israeli governments through the 1980’s. Nevertheless, U.S.-Israel ties grew immeasurably stronger during his two terms in office.

3. Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969) – Dramatically increased economic aid and upgraded military sales to Israel. In contrast to Eisenhower in 1956, did not squeeze Israel to unilaterally retreat after the Six Day War.

2. George W. Bush (2001-present) – In his book The Price of Loyalty, former treasury secretary Paul O’Neill disclosed that just ten days after his inauguration Bush met with his senior national security team and declared: “We’re going to correct the imbalances of the previous administration on the Mideast conflict. We’re going to tilt back towards Israel.” Arguably the most pro-Israel of all U.S. presidents.

1. Richard Nixon (1969-1974) – His support for Israel was not as sentimental as Johnson’s or as heartfelt as Bush’s, but the bottom line is he saved the state from near-certain catastrophe in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. And that alone qualifies him for the number one spot on a list of this kind.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007

Truman’s Anti-Israel Policies

 
   Jason Maoz is correct that Harry Truman was a most “ambiguous” friend, and not just because of his anti-Semitic diatribes (“Harry Truman Without Fanfare,” front-page essay, Dec. 29).
 
   Just before the ’48 war ended, the Israelis went on the offensive and captured a large chunk of the Sinai Peninsula. The Truman administration joined the British in pressuring Israel to withdraw immediately, without demanding that Egypt sign a peace treaty in return.
 
   At the time, Egypt was ruled by King Farouk, an obese playboy whose family roots were in Albania. Farouk was no Arab nationalist; with the right amount of pressure, a land-for-peace deal could have been concluded – and the whole Arab-Israeli conflict might have been nipped in the bud. The Palestinians weren’t the only ones who missed opportunities.
 
   Worse still, after the Israelis left the Sinai, the U.S. refused to support Israel’s demand that Syrian forces withdraw from three small pieces of Israeli land. In other words, the Truman administration only supported the withdrawal of Israeli forces, not Arab forces (despite the fact that the Arabs started the war). The battle for these three pieces of Israeli territory continued until the 1967 war.
 

Uri Kaufman

(Via E-Mail)
 

 

Dewey And Dulles
 
   In his article about Harry Truman, Jason Maoz writes that Thomas E. Dewey was a friend of the Jews and campaigned as a supporter of Israel. But we should not forget that Dewey’s foreign policy advisor in his 1948 campaign was John Foster Dulles. Based on this, it’s safe to assume that if Dewey had been elected in 1948, Dulles would have been appointed secretary of state.
 
   Dulles, of course, did eventually become secretary of state under President Eisenhower and he maintained (and possibly aggravated) the anti-Israel policy of the State Department that existed in the Truman years. During his seven years as Eisenhower’s foreign policy architect, Dulles made several visits to Arab states but one token visit to Israel. Furthermore, it was Dulles who in 1956 threatened Israel with sanctions if it did not immediately pull back from the Sinai.
 
   Truman’s relationship with Israel was far from perfect. But there is no guarantee things would have been any better with Dewey as president.
 

Joseph A. Levy

Rego Park, NY

 

 

Kudos To Bush
 
   Saddam Hussein killed hundreds of thousands of people, bombed Israel, paid suicide bombers $25,000 to murder Jewish children, and polluted the earth when he blew up oil wells.
 
   The United States stopped him. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and company stopped this Hitler-type tyrannical, maniacal dictator. They put him on the run, captured him, and turned him over to his own people, who did the normal thing: they tried and executed him. How good it would have been had Hitler been stopped before he could do what he did.
 
   President Bush deserves praise and thanks for doing pretty much what the U.S. did in World War II, only sooner.
 

Robert Harris

Chicago, IL

 

Ineffective Sanctions

   Last week’s page 3 news story “Iran Hit With Sanctions – Sort Of” makes clear the fallacy of sanctions as an effective tool in dealing with the profound threat posed by the Iranian regime.
 

   Not only is it clear that stiff sanctions will never be adopted by the world community, but it should be more apparent than ever that there is no effective alternative to military action. The differing agendas of the various world powers guarantee both watered-down sanctions and ineffective implementation.

Thelma Gordon

Los Angeles, CA

 

Palestinian Prisoners

   My stomach turned when I read last week that Olmert’s Cabinet backs the release of Palestinian prisoners. It is not for me, a private citizen of the United States, to decide the cost of securing the release of Gilad Shalit. Nor is it my place to criticize the Israeli government’s decision. It’s a heartbreaking situation all around.

 
   However, if the Palestinian prisoners in question merited incarceration, the reality doesn’t change simply because an Israeli soldier was kidnapped. And I fear that freeing Palestinian prisoners en masse will just tell terrorists they have little to fear in the long run, because even if they’re apprehended, they’ll likely be freed in some future prisoner release.
 

Irving Snow

(Via E-Mail)
 

 

Rude Telemarketers

 

   Reader Leibel Gross accurately depicted the frustration and even anger felt by so many of us at the “browbeating” we are subjected to by telemarketers for tzedakah (Letters, Dec. 29).
 
   It is ineffably sad that this ordeal is experienced by too many hapless people ready to give tzedakah but completely turned off by the crude and boorish tactics of some charity telemarketers.
 
   We must all stand firm and hang up on them if they persist in this manner and hopefully they will be summarily dismissed if their results are deemed inadequate.
 

Fay Dicker

Lakewood, NJ

 

 

Belated Outrage

 

   Why the sudden outrage, the talk of cherem, the upcoming demonstration against Neturei Karta? This group has for decades brazenly broadcasted its vitriolic message of hatred for Israel. Joining together with an archenemy of the Jewish people is normal behavior for Neturei Karta members, who on several occasions were photographed embracing and kissing Yasir Arafat and who attended Arafat’s funeral.
 
   This fall at a rally in Manhattan in support of Israel and against the prime minister of Iran (who’d been invited to speak at the UN), a large contingent of Neturei Karta demonstrated on behalf of the Iranian leader and against Israel. Years ago they marched with Israel’s enemies in Washington on Shabbos Kodesh, promulgating their well-known anti-Zionist message through the news media.
 
   Why has the entire Torah world only now erupted in such outrage and disgust? Even those who agree with Neturei Karta’s anti-Zionism are sickened and angered that the group publicly trampled and desecrated the memory of our six million kedoshim.
 
   Maybe we all waited too long to stand up and shout: Enough.
 

Caren V. May

(Via E-Mail)
 

 

Enlightening Article
 
   With the hectic Chanukah season finally over, I can sit down to write. I wanted to let you know that Rachel Weiss’s Chanukah front-page essay “From Light to Shining Light” (Dec. 15) was truly an inspiring and heartwarming article.
 
   In this busy world it is nice to know there are still people such as Mr. and Mrs. Weiss, who devoted a substantial portion of their lives to caring for their parents. And to write about it with such compassion takes a tremendous amount of character and is further testament to Mrs. Weiss’s middos.
 
   Once again, kudos to Mrs. Weiss. I look forward to seeing more of her inspiring Yom Tov-related front-page essays gracing The Jewish Press.
 

Rose Bernath

(Via E-Mail)

 


 

 

Unjustified Portrayal Of Day Schools

 

      Re Chananya Weissman’s December 22 front-page essay “Rethinking Standards in Jewish Education”:
 
      I cannot understand why the author wrote so negatively about the day school system. We should be very proud of what has been accomplished in just fifty years and work together to guarantee the continued growth of our school programs.
 

      To write in such denigrating terms about the quality of the teachers in our yeshivas is unacceptable. While there may be a very small percentage of faculty members not suited for the job, the great majority are men and women dedicated to the education of their students.

      Of course these teachers deserve higher salaries, and everything possible should be done to accomplish that goal. However, many are the factors that prevent these dedicated individuals from earning the salaries available in other fields. And while money is certainly appreciated, recognition in other forms should – and often is – extended.
 
      I myself, as someone with many years of experience in the field of Jewish education, both in the classroom and as an administrator, have written at length about the high cost of day schools. I have offered some solutions but to date they have not been acknowledged by the community at large. I believe we should consider our day schools to be at least as important as the public school system, which is free to students and underwritten by taxpayers. I feel we should, and could, provide similar free tuition but apparently there are many other pressing needs on the community’s agenda.
 
      But all that does not give us the right to assume there is anything even approaching serious mismanagement of funds in our yeshiva and day school systems. Yes, we must continue to demand the highest standards of educational achievement in these schools and must strive for constant improvement. But we also must appreciate the fact that the challenge to make significant Jewish education a top priority has been met here in the U.S.
 
      It is not a perfect system, but it isn’t nearly as bad as Rabbi Weissman seems to imply.
 

Rabbi Simcha A. Green

Santa Barbara, CA

Not Your Typical Summer Reading List

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

Not exactly light beach reads, the following books on American presidents deal with Mideast issues in an extended and intelligent manner. These are not necessarily the best all-around biographies or studies of the individual presidents listed (though some rank right up there), but the strongest in terms of exploring presidential attitudes and policies toward Israel.

Truman, the Jewish Vote and the Creation of Israel by John Snetsinger (Hoover Institute Press, 1974): Superior to anything else written on the struggle for a Jewish state during the first three years of the Truman presidency. Very strong on how the 1948 presidential election influenced U.S. policy.

Conflict and Crisis, The Presidency of Harry S. Truman, 1945-1948 and Tumultuous Years, The Presidency of Harry Truman, 1949-1953 by Robert J. Donovan (W.W. Norton, 1977 and 1982): This two-volume history of Truman’s years in the White House stands head and shoulders above the many books on the Truman presidency, including David McCullough’s much-acclaimed 1992 biography.

Eisenhower and the American Crusades by Herbert S. Parmet (Macmillan, 1972): A thorough look at the Eisenhower administration, with considerable attention paid to the Suez Crisis of 1956. Despite its having been written before the release of many classified Eisenhower-era documents, the book has aged well.

“Let Us Begin Anew”: An Oral History of the Kennedy Presidency by Gerald S. and Deborah Hart Strober (Harper-Collins, 1993): Real inside stuff here; the Strobers interviewed dozens of surviving Kennedy-era officials and opinion-makers who spoke candidly and on the record, many for the first time, on the major issues of the day.

Support Any Friend: Kennedy’s Middle East and the Making of the U.S.-Israel Alliance by Warren Bass (Oxford University Press, 2002): Though some have argued that Bass gives Kennedy too much credit for a U.S.-Israel relationship that really began to bloom in the Johnson and Nixon years, any student of U.S. foreign affairs would be well served to read this book.

Flawed Giant – Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973 by Robert Dallek (Oxford University Press, 1998): Second and concluding volume of a well-written, authoritative biography, focusing on Johnson’s vice presidential and presidential years.

Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972 and Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990 by Stephen E. Ambrose (Simon & Schuster, 1989, 1991): Parts two and three of a magisterial three-volume biography of Nixon, with plenty on the evolution of the Nixon administration’s Middle East policies.

Nixon: An Oral History of His Presidency by Gerald S. and Deborah Hart Strober (HarperCollins, 1994): The Strobers do for Nixon’s presidency what they did for Kennedy’s. Essential reading for anyone who wants to know the thoughts and reminiscences of the actual participants.

The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford by John Robert Green (University Press of Kansas, 1995): The definitive history of the Ford administration has yet to appear, but readers wishing a good overview will find one in this slim but informative volume (which includes an examination of the Kissinger-Ford Mideast policy).

The Presidency of James Earl Carter, Jr. by Burton I. Kaufman (University Press of Kansas, 1993): As with Ford, a comprehensive history of the Carter presidency remains to be written; in the meantime, this concise account touches on all the important points. Contains some interesting details on the Camp David negotiations.

President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime by Lou Cannon (Simon & Schuster, 1991): A big book by a reporter who covered Reagan longer than just about anyone else.

Reagan: The Man and His Presidency by Gerald S. and Deborah Hart Strober (Houghton Mifflin, 1998): The third and, apparently, final entry in the Strobers’ superb series of oral histories.

George Bush – The Life of a Lone Star Yankee by Herbert S. Parmet (Scribner, 1997): The first full-length Bush biography. Fair to its subject and rigorously researched, with a detailed account of the Gulf War and the Bush-Baker Mideast policy.

American Presidents, Religion, and Israel: The Heirs of Cyrus by Paul Charles Merkley (Praeger Publishers, 2004): Fascinating examination of how the religious backgrounds of American presidents have influenced U.S. foreign policy.

The Unfinished Presidency by Douglas Brinkley (Viking, 1998): Books are rarely written about the activities of presidents once they’ve left office, but private citizen Jimmy Carter is a special case. In this revealing look at Carter’s post-presidential years, his obsession with the Palestinians and affection for Yasir Arafat are made clear as never before.

Truman Diaries Expose Toothless Watchdog

Wednesday, August 20th, 2003

The Monitor really hadn’t planned on writing once again about Harry Truman. Last week’s column, which wondered why everyone was professing shock and surprise at the anti-Semitic statements expressed in a recently discovered diary of Truman’s, elicited plenty of debate and discussion on several popular websites, including FrontPageMag.com and FreeRepublic.com.

The Monitor’s main point was that evidence of Truman’s anti-Semitism had been in abundant supply for at least three decades, beginning with the release in the early 1970′s of Merle Miller’s popular Truman oral biography (Plain Speaking) and Margaret Truman’s best-selling biography of her father (Harry S. Truman).

Thirty years and countless books later - David McCullough’s 1992 effort, Truman, was a colossal commercial success, but the best overview of the Truman presidency can be found in Robert J. Donovan?s two-volume opus, Conflict and Crisis and Tumultuous Years, published, respectively, in 1977 and 1982 - it’s simply unfathomable how any thinking, politically aware person can sincerely claim to be shocked at the very idea that Harry Truman had, shall we say, issues when it came to Jews.

All of which brings us to Abraham Foxman, the ever-visible national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Given all the information available about Truman’s feelings toward Jews, Foxman was either insincere or unthinking and politically unaware when he penned the op-ed column that appeared in last week’s Forward under the title “Harry Truman, My Flawed Hero.”

Here’s Foxman’s opening paragraph: “Okay, the Richard Nixon tapes were one thing. But Harry Truman - A heroic president to Jewish people, with institutes and forests in Israel named after him – and now we learn from the recently discovered Truman diaries of 1947 that he, too, was capable of the most sordid anti-Semitic attitudes.”

The first question that comes to mind upon reading this meaningless pastiche is why Foxman sets up what he hopes readers will accept as a meaningful contrast between Nixon and Truman. Foxman implies that with Nixon, well, what better could one expect anyway – but Truman, ah, now there was a giant, and who would have expected such impurities to cross his lips?

What Foxman seems to be saying is that the taped revelation of Nixon’s anti-Semitism was hardly a shock because he was, after all, Nixon – the very embodiment of evil to every good liberal of a certain age. But we know that Nixon harbored anti-Semitic feelings only because we’ve heard those White House tapes or read the transcripts, and the fact that Nixon’s anti-Semitism was as shocking when it was first revealed as Truman’s was when it first came to
light gives the lie to Foxman’s shrug-of-the-shoulders statement that “Okay, the Richard Nixon tapes were one thing.”

Probably even more disturbing is Foxman’s claim that “now we learn from the recently discovered Truman diaries” about Truman’s anti-Semitism. As argued above, this is clearly not the case, and if Foxman is only learning now, at this late date, of the anti-Semitism of a president of the United States, what in heaven’s name is he doing sitting atop an organization that bills itself the world’s foremost watchdog against anti-Semitism?

Nor was Foxman’s choice of words a careless slip. When news of Truman’s diary first broke earlier this month, the ADL put out a press release stating that it “was shocked [emphasis added] to learn that President Harry S. Truman…had given voice to anti-Semitism in his personal diary.”

That same press release quoted Foxman saying that “The diary entries reveal that, sadly, President Truman was a man of his times…. it is shocking [emphasis added] to learn that this great American leader was afflicted” with anti-Semitism.

So much shock and dismay over something that’s been common knowledge for so long. Doesn’t anybody over at the ADL read books?

Note to Readers: Nominations for the Monitor’s forthcoming ‘Favorite Websites’ list will be accepted for only two more weeks.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Bush, Jews And Democrats (Part III)

Wednesday, November 6th, 2002

The presidential election of 1928 is seen by most political historians as something of a demarcation line in the history of Jewish voting loyalties.

It was in that election that the Democrats first began polling landslide numbers among American Jews, as New York governor Al Smith, a Roman Catholic of immigrant stock (whose campaign manager happened to be Jewish) captured 72 percent of the Jewish vote.

Despite his overwhelming Jewish support, and the equally strong backing of fellow Catholics, Smith carried only 8 states against Republican Herbert Hoover and failed to win his own home state of New York. (Jews throwing their support in large numbers to presidential candidates who were decidedly unpopular with the general electorate would become something of a political phenomenon in the 1970′s and 80′s, when the country as a whole shifted to the right.)

The trend of lopsided Jewish support for Democratic presidential candidates solidified four years later when another New York governor, Franklin Roosevelt, won the votes of better than 8 in 10 American Jews.

Roosevelt, whom Jews idolized more than any other politician before or since, went on to win 85 percent of the Jewish vote in 1936 and 90 percent in both 1940 and 1944.

Harry Truman was the next Democrat to benefit from Jewish party loyalty, though his share of the Jewish vote in 1948 slipped from the Rooseveltian 90 percent to a “mere” 75 percent, thanks to the third-party candidacy of Henry Wallace, whose left-wing campaign attracted those 15 percent of Jewish voters for whom Truman apparently was not liberal enough.

Whether Roosevelt or Truman was deserving of such Jewish support is a painful question that most Jews were reluctant even to ask until relatively recently. As the journalist Sidney Zion wrote several years ago, Roosevelt “refused to lift a finger to save [Jews] from Auschwitz…. Then, in 1948, the Jews helped elect Harry Truman, who recognized Israel but immediately embargoed arms to the Jewish state while knowing that the British had fully armed the Arabs.”

The Republican share of the Jewish vote – an embarrassing 10 percent in 1940, 1944 and 1948 ? improved significantly in the 1950′s as Dwight Eisenhower won the support of 36 percent of Jews in 1952 and 40 percent in 1956.

Eisenhower’s opponent in both elections was Adlai Stevenson, a one-term governor of Illinois whose persona of urbane intellectualism set a new standard for the type of candidate favored by Jewish liberals.

Actually, Stevenson was not at all what he seemed: his biographer, John Barlow Martin, conceded the fact that Adlai hardly ever cracked open a book, and the historian Michael Beschloss, in a New York Times op-ed piece (“How Well-Read Should a President Be?” June 11, 2000), noted that when Stevenson died, there was just one book found on his bedside table – The Social Register.

Fortunately for politicians, though, perception is at least as important as reality, and John Kennedy followed in Stevenson’s footsteps as a non-intellectual who, with the help of compliant reporters and academic acolytes like Arthur Schlesinger Jr., managed to come across as a Big Thinker – in marked contrast to his well-earned reputation as an intellectual lightweight that dogged him throughout his years in Congress.

Despite the fact that his books were ghost-written (the journalist Arthur Krock was in large measure responsible for Why England Slept, while Kennedy speechwriter Theodore Sorensen was the primary author of Profiles in Courage) and his choice of reading material ran mainly to spy novels, Kennedy like Stevenson benefited from the perception that he was made of sterner intellectual stuff.

This was particularly true when it came to Jewish voters, who gave Kennedy 82 percent of their votes in 1960 and continued to support him in similarly high numbers for the duration of his presidency.

(Continued Next Week)

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/media-monitor-62/2002/11/06/

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