I don’t know of a comedian who could make Jews laugh like Jackie Mason. The line that I truly get a kick out of is when he turns his body slightly, tilts his head to the side, and seemingly in confidence says, “Let’s be honest...” We’ve often heard from well-meaning leaders and politicians that America and Israel are staunch allies because we have “shared values,” an “unshakable bond,” and we are both “freedom-loving democracies.” So if shared values and love of democracy are so important, why is America such a close ally with Saudi Arabia? Is it the $110 billion weapons deal? It’s obviously not because of “shared values” and “democracy.” I can’t recall their last election for king – or their equal rights for women – or their freedom of religion. And what about those white outfits? The last time guys dressed in white sheets in America, most people didn’t take too kindly to it. But then again, there wasn’t much oil under those burning crosses. “Shared values” and “unshakable bonds” make good sound bites, but history tells a different story – that American presidents haven’t been such great friends of Israel.

In July of 1938, a conference was held in Evian, France, five years after Hitler’s rise to power. The situation for Jews in Europe was becoming more ominous. Germany had allowed some 180,000 Jews to immigrate to Palestine. One of Adolph Eichmann’s defenses at his trial in Israel was that he was truly a Zionist because he had facilitated the transfer of Jews to Palestine between 1935 and 1938, and it was America’s close ally Britain, with its White Paper, that betrayed its obligations under its Mandate that closed the doors to Palestine for rescue. So as a “humanitarian gesture,” President Roosevelt called 32 countries together for the Evian conference to solve the “European Jewish problem.” It was to be a gathering of humane, enlightened nations, requesting them to open their doors to Jewish rescue, while British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain protested, “If we must offend one side, let us offend the Jews rather than the Arabs.” Countries were asked to take in a few Jews, but all refused. Hitler laughed at the pathetic conference as even the United States refused to increase its meager quota for Jews. A few months later, on November 9, 1938, a pogrom called Kristallnacht signaled the beginning of what was to the “final solution” for six million Jews, and never did the U.S. raise its quota of German and Austrian Jews allowed to enter the country. But those were the days of infamy before there was a State of Israel, so let’s be honest.

In 1948, the U.S. State Department pressured David Ben-Gurion not to declare a State and to accept a trusteeship under the auspices of the United Nations. One of President Truman’s close advisers, Clark Clifford, reminded Truman that his opponent in the 1948 presidential election, Thomas Dewey, had already endorsed the establishment of the Jewish state, and if Truman wanted to have any chance of winning the election, he needed the support of the American Jewish community. Ben-Gurion declared a state in spite of American pressure. Eleven minutes after Ben-Gurion’s announcement, Truman instructed his representative at the United Nations, Warren Austin, to recognize the State of Israel. But what isn’t talked about is that it was on March 19, 1948 that Truman approved an embargo of all arms going to Israel, knowing full well that Israel was about to be attacked by five Arab armies. The U.S. State Department fully expected the Arabs to finish what Hitler began, and over 6,000 Jews were slaughtered in the War of Independence as the new State of Israel fought for her life. Our “good friend” Harry Truman was, after all, just another politician wanting to keep his paycheck.

In 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran in the Gulf of Aqaba and closed the Suez Canal to Israeli ships. America had signed a security agreement with Israel in 1957. In the Lyndon Johnson White House of 1967, there was some diplomatic handwringing, but Johnson’s only threat was toward Israel. According to various biographers, he vowed that “if Israel goes it alone, it will be alone.” This after the UN Secretary General had obliged Nasser by removing all UN peacekeeping troops from the Sinai “for their own protection” while the Egyptian press foretold of the intended slaughter of all the Jews in Israel. Amid chants of Allahu Akbar and Egyptian headlines boasting of “Return to Palestine” and “We are ready to die for our land,” Israel granted the Egyptians their death wish on the morning of June 5, 1967. And six days later, the world saw a modern-day miracle. As word of Egypt’s surrender spread, Israeli army headquarters received an urgent message: “Request permission to wash feet.” The headquarters commander wondered if this was some stupid joke. But as he read on, he smiled: “Request permission to wash feet in the Suez Canal!” Permission granted! The Temple Mount was in our hands, and an American president had again betrayed American commitments.

It should be remembered that in 1967, the American embargo of arms and assistance to Israel was still in place, so Israel had to fly the next best thing: Mirage and Mystere jets from – of all places – France. But it wasn’t the planes that won the war. It was an eternal commitment: “For I will be your shield, Abram” – but you must have the courage to be the sword! And so our Israeli soldiers showed the world there was a new Jew in town.

After 1967, realizing it would be better to be on the winning side rather than remain neutral, America began to cooperate with Israel on a number of security levels. But could Israel really trust the relationship? The answer came on Yom Kippur in 1973, when Henry Kissinger and the U.S., knowing that Egypt intended to attack Israel again, misled or lied to Prime Minister Golda Meir about Egypt’s true intentions and then withheld vital military equipment from Israel “so the Jews would bleed a bit” and the Arabs would have their honor restored after the Six-Day War. Israel was ruthlessly attacked. The situation was dire until General Ariel Sharon crossed the Suez, encircled the Egyptian third army and was heading toward Cairo. But over 2,500 Jewish soldiers had been sacrificed because of the lies and deceit of an American administration and its devious “Jew-boy” Henry Kissinger.In 1972 Munich, Jewish athletes were slaughtered but the games went on, and America was silent. America was again silent at Entebbe, but Israel gave America and President Ford a beautiful 200th birthday present on July 4, 1976. And then there was the 1981 bombing of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor in Osirak. For some reason, this upset our good friends in the Reagan White House. After being chastised by Secretary of State Alexander Haig, Prime Minister Menachem Begin – in an unprecedented move – summoned the U.S. ambassador to Israel to his office in Jerusalem and read to him the following statement:

Three times during the past six months, the U.S. government has “punished” Israel. On June 7 we destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor “Osirak” near Bagdad. … This reactor was going to produce atomic bombs. … Therefore, our action was an act of national self-defense. We saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians, including tens of thousands of children. Nonetheless, you announced that you were punishing us – and you left unfulfilled a signed and sealed contract. Not long after, in a defensive act – after a slaughter was committed against our people … we retaliated and bombed the PLO headquarters in Beirut.

You have no moral right to preach to us about civilian casualties. We have read the history of World War Two and we know what happened to civilians when you took action against an enemy. We have also read the history of the Vietnam War and your phrase “body count.” We always make efforts to avoid hitting civilian populations, but sometimes it is unavoidable. … We sometimes risk the lives of our soldiers to avoid civilian casualties. Nonetheless, you punish us: you suspended delivery of F-15 planes. A week ago, at the instance of the government, the Knesset passed on all three readings by an overwhelming majority of two-thirds, the “Golan Heights Law.” Now you once again declare that you are punishing Israel. What kind of expression is this – “punishing Israel”? Are we a vassal state of yours? Are we a banana republic? Let me tell you who this government is composed of. It is composed of people whose lives were spent in resistance, in fighting and in suffering. You will not frighten us with “punishments.” I protest the very use of this term.

You have announced that you are suspending consultations on the implementation of the memorandum of understanding on strategic cooperation, and that your return to these consultations in the future will depend on progress achieved in the autonomy talks and on the situation in Lebanon. You want to make Israel a hostage of the memorandum of understanding. … No “sword of Damocles” is going to hang over our head. The people of Israel have lived 3,700 years without a memorandum of understanding with America – and it will continue to live for another 3,700 years. In our eyes, the U.S. suspension is an abrogation of the memorandum. We will not agree that you should demand of us to allow the Arabs of East Jerusalem to take part in the autonomy elections – and threaten us that if we don’t consent you will suspend the memorandum. You have thereby violated the word of the president. President Reagan gave his word that you would purchase 200 million dollars’ worth of Israeli arms and other equipment. Now you say it will not be so. This is, therefore, a violation of the president’s word.

You cancelled an additional 100 million dollars. What did you want to do — “hit us in our pocket”? In 1946 there lived in this very house a British general by the name of Barker. Today I live here. When we fought him, you called us “terrorists.” After we attacked his headquarters in the requisitioned building of the King David Hotel, Barker said: “This race will only be influenced by being hit in the pocket” and he ordered his soldiers to stop patronizing Jewish cafes. To hit us in the pocket – this is the philosophy of Barker. Now I understand why the whole great effort in the Senate to obtain a majority for the arms deal with Saudi Arabia was accompanied by an ugly campaign of anti-Semitism. First, the slogan was sounded, “Begin or Reagan?” And that meant that whoever opposed the deal is supporting a foreign prime minister and is not loyal to the President of the United States. And thus senators like Jackson, Kennedy, Packwood and of course Boschwitz are not loyal citizens.

Then the slogan was sounded, “We should not let the Jews determine the foreign policy of the United States.” What was the meaning of this slogan? The Greek minority in the U.S. did much to determine the Senate decision to withhold weapons from Turkey after it invaded Cyprus. No one will frighten the great and free Jewish community of the U.S. … They will stand by our side. This is the land of their forefathers – and they have a right and a duty to support it. [How things have changed in 40 years.]

Some say we must “rescind” the law passed by the Knesset. To “rescind” is a concept from the days of the Inquisition. Our forefathers went to the stake rather than “rescind” their faith. We are not going to the stake. Thank G-d, we have enough strength to defend our independence and to defend our rights.”

Let’s be honest. Israel will be a strategic asset to the United States only when Israel gets off its knees and decides it is a sovereign nation with all the rights of any other country. Israel is being treated the way it allows itself to be treated. There was a time when Jewish leadership both here and in Israel had self-respect and knew how to stand up for our people and our homeland. Let’s be honest. Sadly, too many Jewish Americans have chosen liberalism and material comforts as their new religion, betraying their grandfathers’ dreams and prayers of returning as a free people to our Biblical homeland. Hope is supposed to be a Jewish virtue – and that is why our national anthem is Hatikvah.

Shabbat Shalom, 06/30/2017                            Jack “Yehoshua” Berger

* * Back issues are archived at The Times of Israel.com