Responses to my January 2nd article “Why Are Ron Paul’s Followers So Touchy?” prompted me to look more closely at Dr. Paul’s position on Israel, and what I found raised some serious red flags, especially his “concentration camp” remarks made on Iran’s state-run PressTV in January, 2009.
The fact is, before last week, I had not written a single word about Congressman Paul, despite the faulty recollection of some readers like “bdrake,” who commented, “Michael, your past references to Ron Paul have been all but positive. While you may try to make them seem innocent here, I have read your articles in the past and you do shoot Ron Paul down regularly.” (Sorry, bdrake, but there were no past articles or past comments.)
Ironically, it was the comments of some of Paul’s quite level-headed supporters that challenged me to look more deeply at his policies, specifically as they relate to Israel.
In Paul’s favor, he has said that, “We should be [Israel’s] friend and their trading partner. They are a democracy and we share many values with them. But we should not be their master. We should not dictate where their borders will be nor should we have veto power over their foreign policy.”
Paul also reminded his critics that when Israel bombed Iraq’s nuclear plant in 1981, “I was one of the few who defended her right to make her own decisions on foreign policy and to act in her own self-interest.” And Paul stated that, “We should honor our pledge to refuse any arms sales that would undermine Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. . . . And Israel should stop sacrificing their sovereignty as an independent state to us or anybody else, no matter how well-intentioned.”
On the other hand, in his 2011 book Liberty Defined he made clear that he was sympathetic to sentiments expressed by President Jimmy Carter in his infamous 2007 volume Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.
Specifically, on pages 317-319, Paul made reference to “the apartheid conditions that Palestinians are subjected to,” expressing his sympathies with this perspective before stating, “Even given all of this, my position on Israel is the same as my position with regard to any other countries.” (In other words, “even given” the alleged “apartheid conditions that Palestinians are subjected to.”) Paul also wrote, “Our strong support for Israel practically eliminates any desire for it to work out differences in the region by direct negotiations with organizations like the Arab League.”
The reality, of course, is that Israel already feels more than enough pressure to “work out differences in the region,” since Israelis live every day of their lives with the reality that they are surrounded by hostile nations, that radical Muslims are devoted to their destruction, and that they must spend an inordinately large percentage of their income on military buildup. And do you think that Israelis enjoy sending all their sons and daughters into army service?
As for the Arab League, which at the time of Paul’s writing included both Syria and Yemen, since when have the member states been itching to make peace with Israel?
More serious still – to the point of being outrageous – were Paul’s statements made on Iranian TV in January, 2009 during Operation Cast Lead. Not only did he dub the war on Hamas terrorists an “atrocious massacre” and speak of America “blindly” supporting Israel, but he commented, “To me, I look at it [meaning Gaza] like a concentration camp and people are making homemade bombs and, uh, like they’re the aggressors?”
A concentration camp? Could Paul have possibly found a more offensive and less accurate description to use? And to think that he made this statement on the state-run TV network of Iran, a country whose leaders deny the Holocaust and call for the annihilation of Israel.
And could Paul have painted a more false picture of the realities surrounding Israel’s attack on Hamas in Gaza? (Dare we forget that Hamas is still recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States and that the Hamas charter still calls for the complete destruction of Israel?)
In 2005, Israel pulled its troops out of Gaza and forcibly uprooted thousands of its own citizens who were living there in order to surrender the territory to Palestinian sovereignty, only to be rewarded by constant Hamas attacks, including 5,700 rockets and 4,000 mortar shells which subjected Israelis living within range of the bombings to day and night terror (including fatalities and maimings).
Perhaps Dr. Paul would like to tell the residents of nearby Sederot – especially the multiplied hundreds of children who were severely traumatized by the incessant attacks – that Hamas was not the aggressor and that all the terrorists had at their disposal was “homemade bombs” (such as Qassam rockets).
Although Paul made clear that politically, he didn’t want America to be involved in the conflict, he explained that he wanted to say, “Well, you know, I think the Palestinians have been ripped off and therefore all the blame is on Israel.” But if he said those words, which reflected his “personal opinion,” he would have “sort of stepped in a little more than I wanted to.”
Such are the sentiments of Congressman Paul. My thanks to his supporters for challenging me to look at his words more closely. Perhaps they should do the same.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.