MIDDLE EAST HISTORY: IT HAPPENED IN AUGUST; Fulbright Called for U.S. Defense Pact with Israel but Was Labeled Anti-Semite

By Neff, Donald | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September 3, 1997 | Go to article overview

MIDDLE EAST HISTORY: IT HAPPENED IN AUGUST; Fulbright Called for U.S. Defense Pact with Israel but Was Labeled Anti-Semite


Neff, Donald, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


MIDDLE EAST HISTORY: IT HAPPENED IN AUGUST; Fulbright Called for U.S. Defense Pact With Israel But Was Labeled Anti-Semite

It was 27 years ago, on Aug. 22, 1970, when Democratic Senator J. William Ful-bright of Arkansas proposed that the United Nations impose peace on Israel and Arab states and that the United States guarantee Israel's borders within its pre-1967 boundaries. His proposal also urged that the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation be granted self-determination, that Jerusalem become an international city, as man- dated in the original U.N. partition of Palestine, and that Israeli ships be guaranteed passage through the Straits of Tiran and the Suez Canal.(1)

Fulbright was the respected chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and generally a foe of U.S. commitments abroad. Nonethe-less, in a 15,000-word speech titled "Old Myths and New. Realities -- the Middle East," he said it may be necessary to commit U.S. troops to the Middle East in order to gain peace. He proposed that the United States enter into a bilateral treaty with Israel to "guarantee the territory and independence of Israel within the borders of 1967."

Fulbright added: "The supplementary, bilateral arrangements with Israel would obligate the United States to use force if necessary, in accordance with its constitutional processes, to assist Israel against any violation of its 1967 borders which it could not repel itself, but the agreement would also obligate Israel, firmly and unequivocally, never to violate those borders herself."

It was an extremely favorable proposal for Israel, giving it recognized sovereignty over the Palestinian land it had captured and held by force before 1967, free naval passage through the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, and a formal defense treaty with the United States, which it had long sought. But it did not give Israel sovereignty over Jerusalem and, significantly, it would mean the return of vast areas of Arab territory it had captured in 1967 and on which it al ready was constructing illegal settlements.

Instead of using Fulbright's plan to talk peace, Israel sharply rejected it as unfair, and Israel's U.S. supporters increased their personal attacks on the senator. Fulbright had long been characterized as an "anti-Semite" by American Jews because of his critical views of Israel's aggressive policies and its enormous influence in Washington. His critics, and there were many, particularly on the right after he spoke out against the Vietnam War in the mid-1960s, delighted in referring to him as "Senator Halfbright."

But it was Zionists who especially despised him. Fulbright had earned the ever-lasting enmity of Israel and its friends as early as 1963, when his Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on foreign lobbies, including Israel's lobby. The hearings concluded that Israel operated "one of the most effective networks of foreign influence" in the United States. It found that Israel used tax-free dollars donated to the United Jewish Appeal for charities in Israel in the United States to influence U.S. opinion.

These funds eventually were used to purchase the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, to establish and maintain the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and to pressure U.S. newspapers to support Israel and to attack critics of Israel, among other activities. Fulbright revealed that the Zionist pursuit of promoting Israel included "placement of articles on Israel in some of America's leading magazines," arranging for radio and TV programs sympathetic to Israel, and subsidizing trips to Israel by such "public opinion molders" as Christian clergymen, academics and mass media representatives.(2)

As the years went on, Fulbright became an increasingly outspoken critic of Israel. During the 1973 war in the Middle East said that the best way to have peace was the United States and the Soviet Union refuse to provide Arabs and Israelis weapons, adding: "but we are not going to do that.

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