By George P. Shultz, secretary of state from 1982 to 1989. This is excerpted
from his introduction to The Deadliest Lies: The Israel lobby and the myth of
Jewish control by Abraham Foxman (Palgrave Macmillan).
September 15, 2007.
Israel is a free, democratic, open, and relentlessly self-analytical place. To hear
harsh criticism of Israel’s policies and leaders, listen to the Israelis. So
questioning Israel for its actions is legitimate, but lies are something else.
Throughout human history, they have been used not only to vilify but to
establish a basis for cruel and inhuman acts. The catalog of lies about Jews is
long and astonishingly crude, matched only by the suffering that has followed
Defaming the Jews by disputing their rightful place among the peoples of the
world has been a long-running, well-documented, and disgraceful series of
episodes across history. Again and again a time has come when legitimate
criticism slips across an invisible line into what might be called the “badlands,”
a place where those who should be regarded as worthy adversaries in debate
are turned into scapegoats, targets, all-purpose objects of blame.
In America, we protect all speech, even the most hurtful lies. We allow a virtual
free-for-all by which laws are adopted, enforced, and interpreted. Hundreds of
millions of dollars are spent yearly to influence this process; thousands of
groups vie for influence. Among these are Jewish groups that have come under
renewed criticism for being part of an all-powerful “Israel lobby,” most notably
in a book published this week by Profs. Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer.
Jewish groups are influential. They also largely agree that the United States
should support Israel. But the notion that they have anything like a uniform
agenda and that U.S. policy in Israel and the Middle East is the result of this
influence is simply wrong.
One choice. Some critics seem overly impressed with the way of thinking that
says to itself, “Since there is a huge Arab Islamic world out there with all the
oil, and it is opposed to this tiny little Israel with no natural resources, then
realistically the United States has to be on the Arab side and against Israel on
every issue, and since this isn’t the case, there must be some underhanded
Jewish plot at work.” This is a conspiracy theory, pure and simple.
Another tried and true method for damaging the well-being and security of the
Jewish people and the State of Israel is a dangerously false analogy. Witness
former President Jimmy Carter’s book Palestine – Peace Not Apartheid.
Here the association on the one hand is between Israel’s existentially
threatened position and the measures it has taken to protect its population from
terrorist attacks, driven by an ideology bent on the complete eradication of the
State of Israel, and, on the other, the racist oppression of South Africa’s black
population by the white Boer regime.
The tendency of mind that lies behind such repulsive analogies remains and is
reinforced by the former president’s views, spread across his book, which come
down on the anti-Israel side of every case. These false analogies stir up and
lend legitimacy to more widely based movements that take the same dangerous
Anyone who thinks that Jewish groups constitute a homogeneous “lobby”
ought to spend some time dealing with them. For example, my decision to open
a dialogue with Yasser Arafat after he met certain conditions evoked a wide
spectrum of responses from the government of Israel, its political parties, and
American Jewish groups who weighed in on one side or the other.
Other examples in which the United States rejected Israel’s view of an
issue, or the view of the American Jewish community, include the sale of arms
to Saudi Arabia and President Reagan’s decision to go to the cemetery at
The United States supports Israel not because of favoritism based on political
pressure or influence but because the American people, and their leaders, say
that supporting Israel is politically sound and morally just.
We are a great nation. Mostly, we make good decisions. We are not babes in
the woods. We act in our own interests. And when we mistakenly conclude
from time to time – as we will – that an action or policy is in America’s interest,
we must take responsibility for the mistake.
So, on every level, those who blame Israel and its Jewish supporters for U.S.
policies they do not support are wrong. They are wrong because, to begin with,
support for Israel is in our best interests.
They are also wrong because Israel and its supporters have the right to
try to influence U.S. policy.
And they are wrong because the U.S. government is responsible for the
policies it adopts, not any other state or any of the myriad lobbies and groups
that battle daily – sometimes with lies – to win America’s support.