Now Available at Amazon!

Friday, January 17, 2020

TGIF: Warmonger Cotton Accuses Antiwar Think Tank of Anti-Semitism


If you wonder what the post-Trump Republican Party will look like, take a glimpse at Tom Cotton, one of the US senators from Arkansas (where I live). Cotton has waged a relentless campaign for war against Iran and has supported every horror produced by the US foreign-policy establishment for the last 20 years. He makes other American hawks look like pacifists. Cotton once said that his only criticism of the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where people are held indefinitely without charge or trial, is that too many beds are empty.

Typical of take-no-prisoners warmongers, Cotton savages critics of the prowar policy that has characterized US foreign policy in the 21st century. No baseless charge is beneath him. He recently attacked the Quincy Institute in the course of remarks about anti-Semitism. (You can see what’s coming.) According to Jewish Insider, Cotton said that anti-Semitism “festers in Washington think tanks like the Quincy Institute, an isolationist blame America first money pit for so-called ‘scholars’ who’ve written that American foreign policy could be fixed if only it were rid of the malign influence of Jewish money.”

This is worse than a series of malicious lies -- every word is false. In fact, it’s an attempt to incite hostility toward and even disruption of one of the bright spots on the mostly desolate foreign-policy-analysis landscape.

The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft (QI) started last year with money from, among others, the Charles Koch Foundation and George Soros’s Open Society Foundations. Its officers and staff include respected and sober foreign-policy analysts and journalists such as Andrew Bacevich, Trita Parsi, Jim Lobe, and Eli Clifton. Also associated with the institute are the well-credentialed foreign-policy authorities John Mearsheimer, Paul Pillar, Gary Sick, Stephen Walt, and Lawrence Wilkerson. This is indeed a distinguished team of foreign-policy “realists” who are heroically resisting America’s endless-war-as-first-resort policy.

Named for John Quincy Adams -- who as secretary of state famously declared that “America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy” -- QI “promotes ideas that move U.S. foreign policy away from endless war and toward vigorous diplomacy in the pursuit of international peace.” The QI website goes on to state:

The U.S. military exists to defend the people and territory of the United States, not to act as a global police force. The United States should reject preventive wars and military intervention to overthrow regimes that do not threaten the United States. Wars of these kinds not only are counterproductive; they are wrong in principle.

It then goes on to indict the current foreign-policy establishment:

The foreign policy of the United States has become detached from any defensible conception of U.S. interests and from a decent respect for the rights and dignity of humankind. Political leaders have increasingly deployed the military in a costly, counterproductive, and indiscriminate manner, normalizing war and treating armed dominance as an end in itself.

Moreover, much of the foreign policy community in Washington has succumbed to intellectual lethargy and dysfunction. It suppresses or avoids serious debate and fails to hold policymakers and commentators accountable for disastrous policies. It has forfeited the confidence of the American public. The result is a foreign policy that undermines American interests and tramples on American values while sacrificing the stores of influence that the United States had earned.

This may not be pure libertarian foreign policy (“U.S. interests” is too slippery a term for my taste), but compared to what passes for foreign-policy thinking these days, it’s pretty damn good.
So why is Tom Cotton so upset? It should be obvious. QI opposes the easy-war policy of the last 20 years. Of course Cotton is upset. Take away war, and he’s got nothing in his toolbox. He certainly doesn’t want to see the public turn antiwar before he’s had a shot at high office, say, secretary of state, secretary of defense, CIA director, or even the presidency.
Cotton’s charges against QI are wrong on every count.

QI is not isolationist as long as it supports trade with the world and diplomacy as the preferred method of resolving conflicts.

It’s not a blame-America-first outfit because the object of its critique is not America or Americans, but the imperial war-loving elite of the American political establishment. Cotton is part of that elite, but that does not entitle him to identify the mass of Americans with his lethal policy preferences.
It’s not a money pit. As you can see, QI boasts an eminent lineup thinkers and writers. So the money is obviously well-spent on badly needed analysis. QI should have been set up long ago. Cotton shows his pettiness by putting the word scholars in sarcasm quotes. He should aspire to such scholarship as Bacevich, Parsi, et al. have produced.

But where Cotton really shows his agenda is his absurd claim that anti-Semitism “festers” in QI (and other think tanks -- which ones?).

Cotton here is performing that worn-out trick that, alas, still has some life in it: conflating criticism of Israel and its American lobby with people who are Jewish (and who may well oppose how the Israeli state mistreats the Palestinians). I’m sure he knows better: this is demagogy and not ignorance.
On its face, the proposition that virtually anyone who criticizes Israel’s conduct toward the Palestinians and its Arab and Iranian neighbors probably hates Jews as Jews is patently ridiculous. Any clear-thinking person dismisses that claim out of hand.

Undoubtedly Cotton has in mind primarily Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, authors of The Israel Lobby and Foreign Policy, published in 2008. (It began as an essay in The London Review of Books.) In that work, Walt and Mearsheimer reasonably attribute the lion’s share of influence on US policy in the Middle East to the Israel lobby, “a loose coalition of individuals and organizations that actively works to move U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction.” They add, “[I]t is certainly not a cabal or conspiracy that ‘controls’ U.S. foreign policy. It is simply a powerful interest group, made up of both Jews and gentiles, whose acknowledged purpose is to press Israel’s case within the United States and influence American foreign policy in ways that its members believe will benefit the Jewish state.”

This is hardly controversial stuff, although reasonable people can disagree over whether the lobby was decisive in any given case.

But does anyone doubt that American champions of Israel work overtime and spend a lot of money to advance what they see as Israel’s interests? If so, see this and my book Coming to Palestine. (Many non-Zionist Jews disagree with them about those interests.) Organizations like AIPAC often boast about their influence. That they sincerely believe Israel’s interests coincide with America’s interests is beside the point. (I won’t address that dubious contention here.) That influence, which supports massive annual military aid to Israel, has helped to facilitate the oppression of the Palestinians, wars against Lebanon, and attacks on Syria, Iraq, and Iran. It has also provoked hostility to America and vengeful terrorism against Americans. (For example, the 9/11 attacks as acknowledged by the government's commission.) Pro-Israel American political and military officials acknowledge this.

Cotton need not wonder why the lobby has succeeded so often since he himself is using the anti-Semitism canard to inhibit Israel’s critics. No one wants to be condemned as anti-Semite (or as any other kind of bigot), so we can easily imagine prominent people in the past withholding criticism of Israel for fear of being thought anti-Jewish. (It’s Israel and its champions, not Israel’s critics, who insist that Israel is the state of all Jews, no matter where else they may be citizens.) Thankfully, despite the efforts of Cotton, Kenneth Marcus, Bari Weiss, Bret Stephens, and others, the invidious conflation has lost much of its force. More than ever, people understand that to oppose the entangling alliance with Israel and to express solidarity with the long-suffering Palestinians do not constitute bigotry against Jews.

Can Cotton produce any evidence that anyone at QI believes that pro-Israel Jewish Americans should be barred from lobbying and making political donations or that such an obvious violation of liberty would fix American foreign policy? Of course not. There is no evidence. Moreover, I’m sure the QI realists understand that other interests also propel the prowar US foreign policy, including glory-seeking politicians and generals and the profit-craving military-industrial complex.

Those who reflexively and slanderously tar Israel’s critics as anti-Semites seem not to realize that the worthy effort to eliminate real anti-Semitism is undermined by their efforts to immunize Israel and its American champions from good-faith criticism.

TGIF -- The Goal Is Freedom -- appears occasionally on Fridays.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Stable Genius Is Good at Names

So, Trump wants to add Middle Eastern nations (so far unspecified) to NATO so that the alliance can be more involved in the region. We need another obligation to go to war there like a hole in the head. That's very peculiar for a Putin marionette who supposedly dislikes NATO, which by the way has grown already during his tenure. One always proposes larger missions for useless organizations. Such is the incoherence we've come to expect for the 45th occupant of the White House.

According to Politico, Trump said to reporters while describing in a call with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:

I think that NATO should be expanded, and we should include the Middle East. Absolutely ... because this is an international problem.... And we can come home, or largely come home and use NATO. It’s an international problem. We caught ISIS. We did Europe a big favor.

So, I have actually said that I think the scope of NATO should be increased. And they should be looking for ISIS. We will help. But right now the burden is on us, and that has not been fair.

He went on:

NATO, right, and then you have M-E, Middle East. You call it NATO-ME. What a beautiful name. I'm good at names.

No, uh, if you add the two words, Middle East, at the end of it, because that's a big problem. That’s a big source of problems. And NATO-ME, doesn’t that work beautifully, Jon? "NATO" plus "ME."

NATO-ME -- as though America hasn't done enough damage in the region. This is our "stable genius" at work in the White House. Heaven help us.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Presidential War Power

"It is, however, insane and intolerable that peace depends on the restraint of the Islamic Republic and an American president given to rage-tweeting war-crime threats," the Cato Institute's Gene Healy, who studies presidential power, writes in "Trump the Decider."

"No one fallible human being should be entrusted with the war powers now vested in the presidency. Now, more than ever, Congress needs to do everything in its power to reclaim its authority over war and peace."

By what authority did Trump order the drone-assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and key Iraqi militia commanders in Iraq, all former allies in the fight against ISIS? Writes Healy:

For now, the official rationale is classified. In terms of public justification, all we have is some hand-waving by Trump’s national security adviser about the president’s "constitutional authorities as commander in chief to defend our nation" and the 17-year old Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq (2002 AUMF). Neither comes close to vesting the president with the power to set off a whole new war.

The 2002 AUMF authorizes the president to use military force in order to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq" and enforce various UN resolutions "regarding Iraq." Unless "45" is going to break out the presidential sharpie and change the "q"s to "n"s, that’s not going to cut it. Neither will the 2001 AUMF, as I’ve explained at length elsewhere (See: "Repeal Old AUMFs and Salt the Earth").

Healy disposes of the "self-defense" rationale for Trump's act of war without a congressional declaration of war. I'd only add that if no US troops were in Iraq, they would not be subject to attack by anyone there.

The Grammar of the Soleimani Assassination

By now we've heard enough official explanations of Trump's assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and others to realize they are all nonsense. (And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo now admits it.) Trump killed Soleimani because, egged on by his unsavory friends Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he has it in for Iran. So when the opportunity to pull off the murder-by-drone came along, he took it. It's not as though he thought he needed a special justification. It's good to be the king -- er, president.

Most official explanations have entailed some sort of threat to US military or diplomatic personnel, "interests," or "assets." And sometimes one US official has had no idea what another is talking about. Trump said four embassies were threatened, but his secretary of defense said that was news to him. Other explanations tie the killings to the breach of the US embassy in Baghdad that occurred after Iran and the US had exchanged strikes in Iraq that took the lives of 25 Iraqis and one American. In other words, it was retribution not prevention. (Killing Iran's top general while on a peace mission to Iraq seems, let's say, disproportionate to the temporary embassy breach in which no one was killed or injured.)

If all this is confusing, don't worry about it: Trump says none of it matters.

But I want to focus on the the initial claim, namely, that Soleimani had been planning "imminent" attacks of some unspecified nature. This, by the way, is debunked by an NBC report that the assassination was planned seven months ago. But we'll let that go right now.

Since no such attacks occurred, we are entitled to dismiss Trump's claim. Had attacks been imminent, why would anyone believe that killing Soleimani would stop them? Assassinating him would seem more likely to guarantee them. They were imminent after all.

But let's go a step deeper -- into the grammar, or logic, of all this. I realize that people can use words in differing ways, but I can't shake the thought that if you are planning to do something, the planned action cannot be imminent. If you tell me something is imminent, I take that to mean the planning is over; execution is next. (Pun unintended but noticed.)

So I would advise that the next time the government tells you it's killed someone because he was planning an imminent attack, it's lying.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Drop Everything and Read this Article!

"How to Avoid Swallowing War Propaganda" by Nathan J. Robinson is an extraordinarily important article. I cannot recommend it too highly. Read it now!

TGIF: Trump’s Escalation Imperils Innocents


While an eerie, surreal calm has fallen over US-Iranian relations, I wouldn’t assume we’re out of the woods yet. Trump had no reason to be confident that Iran’s response to his most recent escalation of violence would be little more than symbolic. Although he’s accepted that response more or less passively for now, with Trump, things can turn on a dime. Who can tell what determines his mood at any given time?

Contemplating Trump’s January 3 escalation of the previously relatively low-level conflict with Iran, one might be struck by how casually the US government (and others of course) treat innocent bystanders. That was among my first thoughts on hearing of the Trump-ordered drone assassinations of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani, Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and others in Iraq.

By innocent bystanders, I don’t mean the commander of Iran’s Quds Force or the leaders of Iraq’s Shi’ite militias, which are part of the Iraqi security establishment, all of whom were allies of US forces in the fight against the Islamic State. (Remember the Islamic State, don’t you?, which the US had fertilized the ground for by declaring open season on Syria’s ruler and Iranian ally Assad?) I take as a given that no one among the rulers and military leaders of countries in the Middle East has clean hands. The same can be said for the rulers and military leaders from powers outside the Middle East that have intervened in the region. The case for nonintervention has never depended on the presence of good guys in any particular conflict. That case stands  even when the targeted figures have been less than discriminating about whom they order shot. Interventionism is based simply on 1) the wisdom of keeping “one’s own” government on as tight a leash as possible and 2) the knowledge that the law of unintended horrific consequence is always in effect. After all we’ve lived through since 2001 -- Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, among others -- must we really be reminded of this?

By innocent life I’m also not even referring to American military and diplomatic personnel. Americans in Iraq may indeed be killed, injured, and captured as a result of Trump’s assassinations, but they are hardly innocent. On the contrary, they are there because Bush II ordered an invasion force into Iraq and his successors have carried on the operation and have extended it beyond Iraq. Absent that program (or something equally insane), we would not now be at this juncture.

No, the innocent lives I’m talking about are Iraqi and Iranian (among others) -- lives that Americans have been treating like garbage for years: the lives, that is, of foreigners. I realize that for many, and maybe most, Americans, foreign lives don’t rank high on their list of concerns. It’s the prerogative of history’s presumed chosen nation to put itself first and only, and indeed it has. You’ll often hear how many Americans have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq (or Vietnam), but rarely how many Afghans and Iraqis (or Vietnamese) were murdered by Americans. Nor will you hear how America’s economic warfare against Iranians and others have cost countless lives because of its effect on food and medical supplies.

So my thoughts are with the overlooked innocent foreign lives that are on the line. Consider their predicament of powerlessness: they won’t even be able to vote in the upcoming presidential election. (Not that the one “cherished” vote that each American 18 and older possesses is worth terribly much.) I’m beginning to see why foreigners might want to “intervene” in American elections: it’s so easy for them to be on the receiving end of America’s lethal militarist imperial foreign policy; they certainly have an interest in the outcome of US presidential elections. The only country to blame for providing an incentive for foreign election intervention is the United States itself. 

The threat to innocent Iranians from a war with the US -- whatever form it may take -- doesn’t take much imagination. One need only look up the US record of civilians deaths in the region and beyond to see what I mean.

But let’s not overlook the potential Iraqi victims. After all, Trump had the arrogance to assassinate the Iranian Soleimani on “friendly” Iraqi soil, and Iran’s missile response (though it apparently was bloodless) also occurred there. The battleground, if it eventuates, could mainly be in Iraq. (But let’s not forget Syria.)

By the way, Soleimani flew to Iraq after Trump had urged the Iraqis to facilitate a de-escalation of tensions between Iran and US best buddy Saudi Arabia. Soleimani had flown openly to Iraq’s international airport to deliver his response to a Saudi proposal at a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. That’s when he was killed by the American drone strike ordered by Trump. Who says? Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi does.

Thus did Trump add dishonor to murder.

With the killing of the top Iranian military/political operative and Iraqi militia leaders -- again, all of them US allies against the Islamic State -- fragile Iraq could spin out of control, with grave consequences for regular innocent Iraqis, Shi’ite and Sunni. Iraq is mostly Shi’ite, of course, but it has pro-Iranian and not-so-pro-Iranian factions, not to mention Sunni Arab and Kurdish populations. How much influence Iran should have in Iraq’s internal affairs is a contentious matter there. (Since 2003 the US strangely has favored the pro-Iranian factions over their more nationalist rivals.) If Trump’s lethal strike ignites a civil war, no doubt he’ll be safe and sound at Mar-a-Lago or in the White House. So it’s no big deal to him. Small comfort for the bystanders thousands of miles away.

But even if the strike ends up uniting Iraqis against the US presence, the results could still be deadly to bystanders as the cycle of violence intensifies. Moreover, as veteran war correspondent Patrick Cockburn points out, with the shift in US attention from the remnants of ISIS to the Iraqi Shi’ites and Iran, “The biggest cheer in Iraq after the US drone strike [that killed Soleimani et al.] will have come from ISIS commanders in their isolated bolt-holes in the desert and mountains of Iraq and Syria.”
Sure, some American military and diplomatic personnel may bite the dust too, but that would just give Trump another pretext to order his military into heroic action. So no big deal. He’ll be adored at rallies, and maybe he’ll throw in a photo op with a Gold Star family or two.

I’m not worried about Trump. I worry for the innocent bystanders.

TGIF -- The Goal Is Freedom -- appears occasionally on Fridays.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

About that Air Base in Iraq

After the Iraqi parliament (sans Sunni and Kurdish members) voted to oust US troops from Iraq, Trump said, "We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before, ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame. We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it.”

Trump threatens economic warfare as casually as other people announce their intention to go shopping. We couldn't count the number of times he's done so. At any rate, it seems like a strange way to treat a presumed friend that the US government created. What's a few more miserable Arabs anyway?

As for demanding money "back" for the airbase, that is even more bizarre. The US government didn't buy the base for the Iraqis; it was for the American power elite and military-industrial complex. Were Iraqis free to reject it when the base was first proposed? The US government made a risky "entrepreneurial" decision when it built the base, so if access is denied, well, tough luck. It was an "investment" gone bad. You know about such things, don't you, Mr. Trump?

Was Soleimani Lured into a Trap?

Donald Trump says he had to have Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani assassinated on friendly Iraqi soil because of an "imminent" threat to Americans. (Suddenly he believes the intel agencies?) But that seems unlikely since an imminent threat would not have been prevented merely by killing Soleimani.

But now we learn that, according to acting Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, Soleimani was had gone to Baghdad to deliver a response to a de-escalation proposal initiated by Iran-rival Saudi Arabia. The Daily Mail reports:

Adel Abdul Mahdi, Iraq’s caretaker prime minister, told his parliament on Sunday that President Trump called him to ask for help in mediating with Iran after the American embassy in Baghdad was attacked....

The attack on the embassy on Tuesday unfolded after thousands attended the funerals of the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah fighters killed in the American airstrikes last Sunday.

If this is indeed the case, Trump's assassination of Soleimani and others, including an Iraqi military leader, is even worse than it first appeared. It would mean that Soleimani was on a peace mission that Trump had urged on Iraq's prime minister. In other words, Soleimani was lured into a trap.

This would support Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal's contention (in recent interviews) that Trump's strike on Soleimani is right out of the Israeli playbook. More than once, Israeli forces have assassinated Palestinian leaders during truces and discussions on behalf of truces.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Trump and anti-Semitism

Trump's no anti-Semite. He's merely an exemplar of the historical intersection of Zionism and anti-Semitism. That's why people ignorant of or in denial about the intersection are so shocked.

Friday, December 13, 2019

TGIF: But Mr. Trump, Is Israel Lovable?

Speaking before Sheldon Adelson's Israeli-American Council the other day, Trump took a shot at Jewish Americans who he says don't "love Israel enough."

"We have to get the people of our country, of this country, to love Israel more," Trump said. "We have to get them to love Israel more because you have people that are Jewish people, that are great people – they don’t love Israel enough. You know that."

Typical of Trump, this is scatter-brained. He begins by talking about "the people of our country," which sounds like everyone, but ends up focusing on Jews who "don't love Israel enough." In either case, Trump talks rubbish.

First off, observe that although Trump stands accused of fomenting anti-Semitism by such remarks, he actually turns the loyalty issue upside-down. He doesn't say that some Jewish Americans are too loyal to Israel (presumably at the expense of America), which is what a classic anti-Semite would say, but that they are not loyal enough. Recall that he previously labeled Jews who vote for Democrats "disloyal." Disloyal to whom? Disloyal to Israel! We know this because he's criticized the Democratic Party for "defending [Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who sympathize with the Palestinians] over the State of Israel." Trump's critics seem to overlook this twist because it doesn't fit their stock narrative.

But turning to the matter at hand, Trump now entitles us to ask: what's so lovable about Israel anyway? The modern state was founded through a campaign of ethnic cleansing -- violent expulsion of Arabs, that is, non-Jews, from their long-held properties -- and outright massacres and terrorism. For the next couple of decades it subjected those who avoided expulsion to martial law. Then in 1967 it conquered the remainder of Palestine, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, creating new refugees. Since then Israel has denied the inhabitants of those territories all rights while the Israeli occupiers built privileged Jewish-only settlements and otherwise usurped the land it acquired through aggressive force -- contrary to morality and international law. The West Bank today resembles apartheid South Africa. But things are even worse in Gaza, a small, crowded piece of land under blockade that dissenting Israelis call a concentration camp and others euphemistically refer to as merely the world's largest open-air prison. Gaza consists largely of refugees from the 1947-48 ethnic cleansing and their families.

So, I ask again, what's lovable about Israel? Is it because Israel calls itself the nation-state of the Jewish people (whether or not they live or want to live there) and Jews were treated horribly by Christian Europe, culminating in the monstrous Nazi Judeocide? That doesn't make Israel lovable. It is accountable for its crimes against humanity in Palestine regardless of the atrocities Jews suffered elsewhere. Israel is not exempt from moral judgment.

As for Jewish Americans in particular not loving Israel enough, Trump has again stuffed his foot in his mouth, something so commonplace that most people don't notice it. Like other Americans, Jewish Americans are not obligated to love Israel. How could they be? They are not part of a supposed Jewish national people -- they are Americans with a particular private religious faith (unless they are secular). If they wanted to become Israelis, they would have done so.

Israel, despite what it claims, cannot be the nation-state of all Jews everywhere (even atheists with Jewish mothers); it is the state only of its own Jewish citizens/nationals. The 25 percent of non-Jewish Israeli citizens unfortunately are out of luck, but then it shouldn't call itself a democracy. Jewish Americans have roots in many countries, yet no one would say they are obliged to love those places.

We may ask: what does today's state of Israel have to do with the Jewish creed, especially the universalism of the prophets? Little, really: Zionism was a secular movement that disparaged traditional and secularized Jews in Europe and America. Theodor Herzl et al. promised a new Jew in his own state, strong and hardy farmers and soldiers, unlike the frail bookish scholars and rootless "parasitic" financiers of the so-called "diaspora." (It wasn't a diaspora since the Judeans were not exiled by the Romans in 70 CE.) That's one reason Zionism was a minority movement for a long time.

No one is clear about what it means to be a Jewish state. True, you have to be a properly credentialed Jew to get the benefits the Israeli state offers, but that only means having a Jewish mother or being converted by an approved rabbi. Jews and non-Jews may not marry each other, but that is not a religious injunction for Israelis; rather it's a matter of secular (pseudo-)ethnic purity. It's feared that Israeli children of interfaith marriages are less likely than other children to identify as Jewish -- but then what would happen to the "Jewish people's" state?

In fact, no Jewish national ethnicity exists to be kept pure, but many Israelis (who do constitute an Israeli ethnicity) don't accept that. Nevertheless, Jews worldwide are of virtually every ethnicity, culture, language group, and color, and despite what Israel's apologists say today, Hitler was wrong: there is no Jewish race (or gene or blood). Most Jews descend from the converts of many ethnicities -- Judaism was a wide-ranging proselytizing religion roughly from 200 BCE to 200 CE (and later) -- and most ancient Israelites, Judahites, Yehudis, and Judeans never left their homes, although many of their offspring converted to Christianity or Islam.

For the record, ancient kingdoms of Israel, Judah, Yehud, and Judea, according to the Old Testament, were no more lovable bastions of enlightenment than any other kingdom in the vicinity, what with their authoritarian monarchies, military conquests, genocides, Hebrew and gentile slave labor, animal and occasional human sacrifice, forced conversion of gentiles, suppression of religious pluralism among the Hebrews, and persecution and even capital punishment of sundry peaceful nonconformists, such as homosexuals and dissenters.

Moreover -- and I wouldn't expect Trump to know this -- there is a long and honorable tradition of Jewish anti-Zionism. It goes back to the days of Herzl, though his idea of a "return" to Canaan originated earlier with non-Jews for perhaps less-than-honorable reasons. On different grounds, Orthodox and Reform Jews vehemently opposed Herzl's movement. (See details on this and other matters discussed here in my book Coming to Palestine.) The Orthodox regarded the Zionists as charlatans because a "return" was not to occur until the Messiah appeared in order to redeem the sinful Jews; the Orthodox anti-Zionists did not regard any of the atheists running the Zionist movement as Messiahs -- even if they had Jewish mothers.

The Reform shared that disdain for the Zionists and Zionism but on different grounds. First, they rejected the premise that the people around the world who profess Judaism constitute an exiled national people, race, or ethnicity. Judaism is just a religion, they said. Second, they objected to a country that would proclaim itself the nation-state of all the "Jewish people," including Jews who don't and won't live there. This, they said, would harm the Jewish citizens of other countries and the non-Jewish residents of Israel. Third, they knew that Palestine was not a "land without a people," and so they rejected the land theft and expulsion they knew would be required to make a Jewish state there. I would say the Reform were right. (The remnant of this movement resides at the American Council for Judaism.)

So, Mr. Trump, I can't see how Jewish Americans, who when surveyed rank justice high on their list social concerns, have an obligation to love Israel -- or how this admonition from you, an enthusiast for Palestinian oppression, could possibly be taken seriously.

TGIF -- The Goal Is Freedom -- appears occasionally on Fridays.