Zionism Has Distorted U.S. Foreign Policy, Says Allan Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld speaks at a Committee for the Republic event at Washington, DC’s Metropolitan Club. [Staff Photo Phil Pasquini]

Washington Report columnist Allan C. Brownfeld, also the editor of Issues, the quarterly journal of the American Council for Judaism, spoke Jan. 11 on Zionism and Jewish-American relations with Israel at Washington, DC’s Metropolitan Club. The Committee for the Republic hosted the well-attended evening event.

Briefly reviewing the history of Zionism, Brownfeld pointed out that when the nationalist movement first arose in the 19th century in Europe, the majority of Jews rejected it. “Historically, Zionism was a minority movement in Judaism,” he claimed. “If it had not been for the rise of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, Zionism would most likely have been a minority view among Jews and the state of Israel never would have been created.”

He went on to describe the Palestinians as “the final victims of the Holocaust,” noting that “People who were sitting in the Middle East minding their own business, having nothing to do with it, have paid the price.”

In the late 19th century when Zionism began, he said, “Jews constituted only 4 percent of the population of Palestine. Even in 1948, when the United Nations created the Jewish state, Jews represented a minority in that state. This is a very important point to be made, because many people do not view Zionism as a settler colonial movement, which is, indeed, what it is.”

Regarding President Donald J. Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Brownfeld said: “From my own research, it seems to me that Sheldon Adelson was the major reason for the decision being made at the present time, because of the massive amount of money he contributes to the Republican party.” The casino magnate contributed $15 million to Trump’s inauguration.

Also in response to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and the appointment of David Friedman—a man who rejects the creation of a Palestinian state—as U.S. ambassador to Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party has voted to annex portions of the West Bank, Brownfeld said.

Discussing U.S. aid to Israel, Brownfeld noted, “In September 2016 the U.S. agreed to provide Israel a record $38 billion in new military aid over the next decade. The agreement equates to $3.8 billion a year, the largest bi-lateral aid package ever.” This represents a 20 percent increase from the previous agreement of $3.1 billion annually. Roughly 20 percent of the United States’ entire foreign aid budget goes to Israel. It has been the largest recipient of direct U.S. economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War II.

Israel recently banned all groups which support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement from entering Israel—including the American Friends Service Committee, which, during World War II and the Holocaust, rescued large numbers of Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe and today are doing the same thing for the Palestinians, Brownfeld told his audience.

At the end of World War II, Brownfeld noted, the U.S was highly thought of in the Arab world. “We were an anti-colonial power, and under our influence the British and French left Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, which became independent countries,” he pointed out. “Our anti-colonial tradition, I think, was abandoned when we imposed Israel upon the Middle East. Continuing to support the settler colonial state in the Middle East set us back and fuels ISIS and other terrorists around the world. It will be even worse if Israel annexes the West Bank.”

On the controversial topic of Judaism as a religion rather than a nationality, Brownfeld considers Judaism to be a religion of universal values, not a nationality. “I believe that American Jews are American by nationality, and Jews by religion,” he said. “But, if you believe that Jews are a people and Israel is their homeland, you have every right to believe that and immigrate to that homeland.”

Warning his audience not to be pessimistic about the future, Brownfeld noted that within the American Jewish community, especially young people, there is growing outrage at Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and its 50-year occupation. “Hopefully, in the future,” he concluded, “Judaism will return to the moral and ethical standards it brought into the world.”

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