The Past as Prelude: Zionism and the Betrayal of American Democratic Principles,1917-48

Drawing on State Department records and other contemporary sources, this article shows how biblical romanticism took precedence over traditional democratic values in shaping the U.S. Middle East policy as far back as 1917, when it supported Zionism's aims in Palestine against the wishes of 92 percent of the population. The article also makes clear that a dynamic remarkably similar to later patterns was already in place as of the 1920s: a presidency swayed by religious belief and electoral considerations, a Congress powerfully influenced by the Zionist lobby, a State Department attempting to steer a middle course and resist Zionist pressures, and an Arab American community unable to gain an effective hearing. Thus, the anti-Palestinian rhetoric of today, with its "doublespeak" overtones, has deep roots in the past.

Lawrence Davidson, professor of history at West Chester University, is the author of America's Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood (University Press of Florida, 2001).