This issue, and the book that will follow in a few months, are the fruits of three years’ work for the study group that The Rockford Institute put together at the request of our board chairman, David A. Hartman. During this period, we were asked many times: Why? Not because peace in the Middle East is not important, but because the Institute has never been active in Middle Eastern affairs. Of our group, only Leon Hadar is a bona fide expert on the Middle East. The rest have expertise in tangential areas of ancient and modern history and current political studies. Considering the wide range of think tanks, study groups, academic departments, scholarly journals, and popular newsletters that have addressed this subject, what did we hope to bring to the issue?
The simple answer is perspective. We do not have any regional or religious axes to grind. Our group includes Jews and Christians of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant backgrounds. We invited several Islamic experts to contribute papers; two accepted, but we have not received either of their papers. Although we have one British historian in our midst and one Israeli-American, our primary orientation is as American conservatives whose overriding concern, to borrow a phrase from Dr. Srdja Trifkovic, is the American interest.
These days, the dominant model for policymaking in Washington is imperial. Neoconservative strategists speak openly of pursuing global hegemony and of fomenting democratic revolution around the globe. If the security and interests of the American people are mentioned, it is only to pay lip service to them. Many pundits simply ignore the American interest and speak as if our special relationship with Israel is all that matters, while others are so concerned with the sufferings of the Palestinians that they have no sympathy for what the Israelis have suffered. To both sides, we would cite the wise words of George Washington:
Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct. And can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period a great nation to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. . . .
In the execution of such a plan nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded, and that in place of them just and amicable feelings toward all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. . . .
So, likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld; and it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country without odium, sometimes even with popularity, gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation. . . .
Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government . . .
Washington concludes his admonition with a chilling prophecy that has been fulfilled in our own day:
Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests.
We wish nothing but good to the peoples of Israel and Palestine. As conservatives who believe in justice and fairness, we should advocate and support policies that promise hope of bringing a just and peaceful resolution of the conflict, but our primary concern is with the security and interests of the American people. Without passing judgment on any specific policy or action taken by either Democratic or Republican administrations, we do think it is time for Americans to reevaluate a Middle Eastern policy that seems to breed hostility and terrorism against Americans and our allies, a one-sided policy of support for Likud extremism that, in the belief of a great many Israelis, seriously threatens the security and even survival of Israel.