Jewish World Review May 1, 2003/ 29 Nissan, 5763

A matter of honor

By Steven Zak | It's a matter of honor.

We ended the tyranny of Saddam Hussein in but a few weeks -- but we didn't do it alone. The honorable course of action would be, at the least, to acknowledge that we had some very significant help from our friends.

I'm not talking about the Brits, the Aussies or the Poles, who all, generously, offered manpower. I'm talking about the Israelis, who provided brainpower.

Our capable ally not only supplied us with weaponry for use in Iraq, including Israeli-armored bulldozers and Israeli-made pilotless planes, but, as reported in USA Today, played "a key role in U.S. preparations" for the war, even "helping to train soldiers and Marines for urban warfare, conducting clandestine surveillance missions in the western Iraqi desert and allowing the United States to place combat supplies" within her borders.

We also went to the Israelis for advice on such things as how "to spot a suicide attacker on his way to attack, how to deal with roadblocks, overpowering a suicide bomber," reported the mass circulation Israeli daily, Ma'ariv. That paper reported too that before the start of war Israeli Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz "was summoned for a few consultations" with Washington and "recommended a great increase in the number of soldiers (from 50,000 to a quarter million), to combine air strikes with broad ground operations, to attack Baghdad from many directions and be careful not to wind up in a death trap inside the city. In the end, the Americans are doing precisely that."

One can only guess, then, how many American lives the Israelis are responsible for saving.

Also revealed this week, to U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA.) by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was that the Jewish State played a key role in providing critical initial intelligence that helped locate U.S. Army PFC Jessica Lynch and other American military. This, according to the New York Post and Maariv.

Shamefully, though, we have shunned our ally from manifest participation in our "coalition of the willing." Like a faithless teenage girl afraid to be seen with an unpopular friend, we prefer to associate with Israel out of public view. So rather than welcome our ally to stand beside us openly -- a powerful statement that we will no longer pander to the Arab world's rejection of Israel's existence -- we instead treat that country's friendship as a dirty little secret.

Our failure to behave honorably toward that loyal ally is nothing new. During the first Gulf War, too, as Israel's then-Defense Minister Moshe Arens writes in his scathing book, "Broken Covenant," Secretary of State James Baker and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney "avoided Israel like the plague." The Americans "seemed to have forgotten that Israel was their ally."

Today, even the American press is likely to forget. Thus, for instance, before the start of action in Iraq the New York Post wrote that "the United States of America has one wholly reliable ally on this troubled, turbulent and dangerous planet: Great Britain," while the Washington Times opined that "Turkey retains its position as our most underappreciated ally."

Apparently, in politics and punditry, discretion counsels against putting "Israel" and "ally" in the same sentence unless it is whispered.

American reluctance to be associated with causes that might be perceived as "Jewish" dates back at least to World War II when Franklin Roosevelt refused to publicly address the issue of the Nazi death camps because, as Michael Beschloss notes in his book, "The Conquerors," the president was "sensitive to complaints that his government was too abundant with Jews." It is a similar nod toward the sensibilities of anti-Semites that we are reticent about our friendship with the Jewish state.

Blacklisting a friend from our war coalition would be perfidious at any time. But with a gathering movement worldwide trying to isolate Israel through economic, cultural and academic boycotts, our improbity is all the more unconscionable.

But then, so is George Bush's failure to keep his promise of May 2000 that his administration would move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem -- "the city Israel has chosen as its capital." And so is the Middle East "peace plan" known as the "roadmap," which, as Israeli columnist Israel Harel put it, "is about to be forced down our throats."

How easily the line blurs between the pretense that we are no friend to Israel and the actuality.

On the more hopeful side, 75 senators and 250 members of the House of Representatives so far have signed a letter to President Bush urging him not to pressure Israel through the roadmap. These statesmen understand the meaning of the Marine Corps creed, semper fidelis -- that loyalty is a matter of honor.

The president needs to understand it, too.

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JWR contributor Steven Zak is a screenwriter and attorney in Los Angeles. Comment by clicking here.

03/24/03: Hollywood --- then and now


© 2003, Steven Zak