Louis Brandeis, flanked by Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise, founding secretary of the American Federation of Zionists (right) and Nathan Straus, co-owner of Macy’s (Source: Library of Congress)
Alison Weir is Executive Director If Americans Knew and President of the Council for the National Interest. She is available to give presentations on this topic and can be reached at contact@ ifamericansknew.org.
While many people are led to believe that U.S. support for Israel is driven by the American establishment and U.S. national interests, the facts dont support this theory. The reality is that for decades U.S. foreign policy and defense experts opposed supporting the creation of Israel. They then similarly opposed the massive American funding and diplomatic support that sustained the forcibly established state and that provided a blank check for its aggressive expansion. They were simply outmaneuvered and eventually replaced.
Like many American policies, U.S. Middle East policies are driven by a special interest lobby. However, the Israel Lobby, as it is called today in the U.S., consists of vastly more than what most people envision in the word "lobby."
As this article will demonstrate, the Israel Lobby is considerably more powerful and pervasive than other lobbies. Components of it, both individuals and groups, have worked underground, secretly and even illegally throughout its history, as documented by scholars and participants.
And even though the movement for Israel has been operating in the U.S. for over a hundred years, most Americans are completely unaware of this movement and its attendant ideology – a measure of its unique influence over public knowledge.
The success of this movement to achieve its goals, partly due to the hidden nature of much of its activity, has been staggering. It has also been at almost unimaginable cost.
In addition, this movement has been profoundly damaging to the United States itself.
It 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 our nations most fundamental freedoms and cherished principles.
All this for a population that is considerably smaller than New Jersey.
In the 1880s groups advocating the setting up of a Jewish state began popping up around the United States. Emma Lazarus, the poet whose words would adorn the Statue of Liberty, promoted Zionism throughout this decade. A precursor to the Israeli flag was created in Boston in 1891.
In 1887 President Grover Cleveland appointed a Jewish ambassador to Turkey (then under the Ottoman Empire), which at that time controlled Palestine, because of its importance to Zionists. Jewish historian David G. Dalin reports that presidents considered the Turkish embassy important to "the growing number of Zionists within the American Jewish electorate."
Every president, both Republican and Democrat, followed this precedent for the next 30 years. "During this era, the ambassadorship to Turkey came to be considered a quasi-Jewish domain," writes Dalin.
By the early 1890s organizations promoting Zionism existed in New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Boston, Philadelphia, and Cleveland. Reports from the Zionist World Congress in Basle, which four Americans had attended, gave this movement a major stimulus, galvanizing Zionist activities in American cities that had large Jewish populations.
In 1897-98 numerous additional Zionist societies were founded in the East and the Midwest. In 1898 the first annual conference of American Zionists convened in New York on the 4th of July, where they formed the Federation of American Zionists (FAZ).
By 1910 the number of Zionists in the U.S. approached 20,000 and included lawyers, professors, and businessmen. Even in its infancy, when it was still considered relatively weak, Zionism was becoming a movement to which Congressmen listened, particularly in the eastern cities.
The movement continued to expand, and by 1914 several additional Zionist groups had cropped up. The religious Mizrachi faction was formed in 1903, the Labor party in 1905 and Hadassah, the womens Zionist organization, in 1912.
By 1922 there were 200,000 Zionists in the U.S. and by 1948 this had grown to almost a million.
From early on Zionists actively pushed their agenda in the media. One Zionist organizer proudly proclaimed in 1912 "the zealous and incessant propaganda which is carried on by countless societies." The Yiddish press from a very early period espoused the Zionist cause. By 1923 only one New York Yiddish newspaper failed to qualify as Zionist. Yiddish dailies reached 535,000 families in 1927.
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