The Battle For Israel—An Interview With Bernard Shapiro
March 19, 2012
By Roger Aronoff
“I’m sick of the Israelis, the Americans—everybody talks too much! If you’re going to attack Iran, you attack it! You don’t talk about it endlessly, obnoxiously, ad nauseam-ly.” So said, Bernard Shapiro, founder and chairman of the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies and editor of The Maccabean Online, in a recent interview with Accuracy in Media. “This has been going on for how many years?,” added Shapiro. “You’d think the Israelis didn’t know that the Iranians were building this five years ago? Ten years ago? Every day they sit and talk about it and question it and endlessly debate it, the Iranians dig deeper, more Israeli soldiers are going to be killed, the more dangerous it will be to put it out of commission.”
Shapiro has been a fierce advocate for Israel for more than 50 years. He is the author and editor of the new book, The Battle for Eretz Yisrael: Jews, G-d, and Israel, 1992-2011, which documents Israel’s attempts to find and gain its identity. Shapiro is a native Texan, but he attended Berkeley in California where he obtained degrees in political science, communications, and public policy. He moved to Israel, where he lived for several years. I have known Bernard for nearly 50 years. He was a fixture at the House of Books in Houston—where I also grew up—and which his family owned and ran for many years.
In addition to his views on the current confrontation with Iran, Shapiro gave his views on Zionism, his beloved grandfather who was the inspiration for his love of Israel, the so-called “Oslo peace process,” the Holocaust and the creation of the state of Israel. He also delves into media bias and double standards when it comes to Israel, and what he describes as Barack Obama’s “big, pro-Muslim offensive.” While his views at times are controversial, his knowledge of these subjects is unquestionably vast. He has brought together some of the great analysts and thinkers on these subjects, whose articles and reports appear regularly on Shapiro’s websites.
Below, in quotes, are excerpts from the interview. You can listen to the entire interview or read the transcript here.
“I used to be very upset about the Holocaust. I used to have a certain amount of anger at God because He let the Jews die so easily during the Holocaust, and religious Jews didn’t seem to revolt against the Nazis. But when I began to learn about Zionism and Israel, I saw a whole new dimension to my political and ideological beliefs. I saw that Jews on their own soil—that means in the land of Israel—were much stronger than their arms and men.
“My grandfather was Harry W. Freeman, and he lived between 1886 and 1959. He died when I was eighteen years old, but he raised me like his son. He taught me to write, to love poetry, to love music—but most of all, he had a certain passion for the Jewish people, and he was one of the founders of the Zionist movement in Houston. Of course, he was in constant dispute with the German Jews who were in Houston and were anti-Zionist. You know, the German Jews felt like, if Israel existed, then they would lose their status as Americans, they would be accused of a double loyalty. Of course, my grandfather never believed that. He was a rebel all his life. He was born in the Russian-Poland area of Europe, he rebelled against the czar, and ended up being driven from Europe by the czar’s secret police back in 1907. But it was fortunate for me, because he ended up in Texas, and I didn’t get killed during the Holocaust. He was a strong believer in social justice, women’s rights, education for everyone. He argued the case before the Supreme Court that got blacks the right to sit on Texas grand juries. He was a remarkable person. In 1933—I have clippings from the local Houston papers, where he was traveling around, telling the community to worry about Hitler, that there was a Holocaust coming. Roger, I have to tell you and your audience that no one listened to him. One of the goals—my goals—in founding the Freeman Center is to raise the alarm for the Jewish communities of the world that a second Holocaust is coming, that the Arabs want to finish the job that Hitler started. That’s why I’m here, and that’s why I’m working.
“The Jews had been scattered in the Diaspora—which means there were a few here, a few there, scattered all over the world. But while they were scattered all over the world, they had no power. They were victims of whoever they lived with. If the people they lived with decided they wanted to kill Jews, they killed them. My grandfather told me stories that would curl your teeth. In parts of Russia, there were groups called Cossacks, and the rulers of those areas used to attack the people greatly, and then, when the people got angry, they would say, “Well, it’s not us, it’s the Jews!” And they would send the Cossacks into Jewish villages and let them just kill Jews at will for a while—get the murder out of their systems. So the only answer for the Jewish people was to reestablish their own nationality. It’s something that Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Theodor Herzl both conceived of. Herzl was not religious, Jabotinsky was religious, but they both had this concept of a renewed Jewish state that would be able to defend the Jewish people against anybody.
“The idea that you’re going to make peace in the Middle East, with these people, is a fantasy. When Obama, by the way, thinks his big pro-Muslim offensive—like when he started his speech in Cairo—is going to work, it’s a hoax. It’s all a hoax. In fact, surveys show that anti-American feelings among Muslim countries is much [higher] than it was before Obama’s Muslim offensive. You know, when it looks like you give in to your enemies, and screw your friends, you lose respect—and America has lost respect all over the world because of the way it treated Israel, the way it’s treated all its friends. And then it goes running after the people who hate it the most.”
ARONOFF: One other thing in your book—you have this page, “Media Bias in the Arab/Israeli Conflict.” Media bias, of course, is an issue most interesting to our audience. In this, you’re talking about the conflict, but this could be about many subjects. You list “Media Methods of Distortion”—double standards, excessive focus on Israel, anti-Semitism, unfair comparisons to Nazis, code words, twisted logic, lack of context, use of false history. Like I say, these could be applied to many issues, as far as methods of media distortion. How much do you see the role of the media impacting what’s going on there today, and over the past decade?
SHAPIRO: Roger, you’ve been watching the media, sometimes, even closer than I have. What has the media done over the last ten years? It’s turned the colleges and the universities—with, of course, a lot of Arab money behind them—into anti-Semitic organizations. I mean, you can’t even be pro-Zionist in most American universities without being called a fascist or a racist! Pro-Israel speakers have chairs thrown at them. All the political campaigns, especially the Democrats, have become masters of media distortion, and that’s something I worry about. Obama has been so bad as a President, but he’s so good at twisting and turning the words, and people are mesmerized. I don’t know why. Sometimes I wish I’d studied psychiatry instead of political science, because I just don’t have the answer to all these questions.
“My best analysis is that the U.S. is trying to screw Israel out of doing anything. That’s my best analysis. By talking too much. I’m sick of the Israelis, the Americans—everybody talks too much! If you’re going to attack Iran, you attack it! You don’t talk about it endlessly, obnoxiously, ad nauseam-ly. This has been going on for how many years? Five, ten years? You’d think the Israelis didn’t know that the Iranians were building this five years ago? Ten years ago? Every day they sit and talk about it and question it and endlessly debate it, the Iranians dig deeper, more Israeli soldiers are going to be killed, the more dangerous it will be to put it out of commission. That all disgusts me, Roger. I don’t have any formal military training, but I will tell you: The military people in Israel sometimes do the stupidest things in the world. How could they agree to the Oslo arrangement? I mean, Rabin was a military man all his life! How could he even agree to that? All I can say—and I can’t predict anything—so don’t take anything I say seriously. All I can say is, “Stop talking, and just do what has to be done to save Israel.”
“Some people told me I should have called [the book] The Battle for Israel. I used the Biblical words Eretz Israel, which is Hebrew for “Land of Israel.” I did that on purpose. I did it because I wanted to emphasize that I’m defending what God gave the Jewish people, not necessarily what other people want to call it.”