J. William Kerry
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
As tempers flare between Israel and America over Secretary of State Kerry, the thing to remember is that he came into public life courtesy of Senator J. William Fulbright. It was Fulbright who, as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, lured the young Mr. Kerry onto Capitol Hill. Fulbright chaired the hearing at which Mr. Kerry, then just back from his brief tour in Vietnam, accused his fellow GIs of committing war crimes in Vietnam in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan. That was the act that set Kerry up for his long climb.
Fulbright, who died in 1995, stood for three things in his time. Capitulation to the communists in Vietnam, segregation of the races, and, most relevantly here, hostility to the Jewish state. This element of the story is being ignored by President Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, who is the administration official defending Mr. Kerry from criticism in Israel. She calls personal attacks on Mr. Kerry being heard from Israel’s cabinet ministers “totally unfounded and unacceptable.”
It’s not our purpose here to suggest that Mr. Kerry is an anti-Semite. It’s enough simply to recall that Mr. Kerry was ushered onto the national stage by a senator who really did have a messianic and obsessive hostility to Israel. It’s not that Fulbright, a Democrat from Arkansas, was without redeeming features; America set up a great scholarship program in his name. But where Fulbright stood on the Jewish state is all-too-well etched in the record. It gives a preview of how Mr. Kerry has gotten himself in such hot water with the Jewish community today.
In the same year that Fulbright invited Kerry to libel our GIs, the Dixiecrat made a speech at Yale in which he warned that, as the Associated Press put it, the United States “could be drawn into war with the Soviet Union by Israeli ‘Communist-baiting humbuggery.’” He insisted that America was permitting “client states like Israel and South Vietnam to manipulate American policy toward purposes contrary to our interests.” Not to put too fine a point on it, Fulbright made John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt look like Golda Meir.
Golda Meir, incidentally, was onto Fulbright’s game. “Can you remember when Senator Fulbright has said anything positive about Israel?” Israel’s fourth prime minister once asked an interviewer. That was after the Arkansan went on CBS’s Face the Nation to complain that the Senate was “subservient” to the Jewish state. Because of the charitable tax status of the United Jewish Appeal, Golda Meir quipped, “this is a man who hasn’t slept nights for years.”
Fulbright, in his Yale speech, sketched the principles that Mr. Kerry is following in trying to maneuver Israel into a settlement with the Palestinian Arabs. “It makes no sense at all,” Fulbright said, “for us to shrink in horror at the very notion of an ‘imposed’ solution.” He was talking about both Israel and Vietnam. He said he regretted that no such settlement “seems possible in Vietnam,” as the AP paraphrased him. But in the Middle East, he asserted, America had a “positive responsibility to bring an influence to bear.”
Fulbright left the senate ten years before Mr. Kerry came in. Kerry lost few opportunities to praise his long-time predecessor in the chairmanship of Foreign Relations. Kerry admired him, he was quoted in the Washington Post as saying at one point, “for a legacy of following the facts and speaking the truth despite the political risks.” We know all too well what Fulbright himself thought those political risks were. Fulbright thought of himself as constantly in political danger from the Israel lobby.
This is how Mr. Kerry is now positioning himself in respect of his current threats against the Israelis. He hasn’t yet spoken with the coarseness of Fulbright’s harangues about the Israel lobby. But he walked through the door that Fulbright held open. He wants to impose a solution. He thinks nothing of warning Israel that if it doesn’t do what he wants, it will be confronted by the movement for a boycott, divestment, and sanctions. Kerry didn’t promise to stand with Israel in facing down the BDS movement. What has him so upset is that whatever else one can say about the Israelis, they know their history.