Or read the transcript below:
Transcript by J. C. Hendershot
Interview with Bernard Shapiro by Roger Aronoff
The “Take AIM” show on BlogTalkRadio, March 1, 2012.
Take AIM 3/1/12: Bernard Shapiro
ROGER ARONOFF: Good morning, and welcome to Take AIM, Accuracy in Media’s talk show on BlogTalkRadio. AIM is America’s original media watchdog, and every week we point out biased coverage and bring you the stories the mainstream media ignore. I’m Roger Aronoff, the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and of The AIM Report, which you can subscribe to by visiting our website at aim.org. Also, when you’re there, you can sign up to receive our daily E-mail so you can keep track of what the media are up to. Our guest today is Bernard Shapiro, the founder and Executive Director of the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies, and the author of the new book The Battle for Eretz Yisrael: Jews, G-d, and Israel, 1992-2011, which documents Israel’s attempts to gain its identity. Rendering the full impact of the Israeli struggle, this analysis contains a collection of articles, political cartoons, maps, mementos, flyers, and poetry written and compiled by Shapiro. The articles span nineteen years, and include a wide range of topics. We will be discussing a number of those. So we’ll welcome our guest. Good morning, Bernard—we’re very glad to have you here with us today on Take AIM!
BERNARD SHAPIRO: Good morning, Roger.
ARONOFF: Before we delve into your book, and ask some questions, I want to tell our listeners a little more about you. As I said, Bernard is the founder of the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies. It’s located in Houston, Texas. He’s the editor of the Center’s monthly magazine, The Maccabean Online, which provides political analysis and commentary on Israeli and Jewish affairs, and he’s the editor of the Freeman List. He’s a native Texan, but he traveled west to go to Berkley to get degrees in political science, communications, and public policy. He moved to Israel, where he lived for several years, and he continues to visit there to keep up with current developments. I should say that I have known Bernard for many years, probably somewhere around 50 years. He was a fixture at the House of Books in Houston—where I also grew up—which his family owned and ran for many years. Bernard, let’s start. Tell us a little more about your background. Describe the political journey that led to your life’s work.
SHAPIRO: Roger, I began in a religious school that was very anti-Zionist. It was a temple here in Houston, Texas that—believe it or not—had, as a part of their charter, that if you believed in the state of Israel, you could not be a member! It was only around 1956, with the Sinai campaign, that I became even conscious of Israel. 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. In other words, in defending Israel, their own holy land that God had given them, they’d become much stronger than all the enemies surrounding them—and there were a lot of enemies. Israel fought half a dozen hot wars, another half dozen cold wars. During the Holocaust, Roger, you might remember that 90% of the Jewish population was destroyed, and only 10% survived. When the War of Independence came in Israel, there was a complete change in what happened, militarily and strategically. Israel’s population was only like 600,000. They were attacked by millions of Arabs, who were armed by the British, the French, the Russians, and even the Americans—that, I have to tell you, sort of pains me, though Harry Truman did recognize Israel. He was one of the first Presidents to recognize Israel when it declared its independence. The State Department managed to have an embargo on weapons sales to Israel, so the Jews were left with a nice recognition from Harry Truman, but no arms to defend themselves. In the meantime, the British were pouring in arms to the Arabs, the French were pouring arms, and the other Arab countries had plenty of money because of their oil wells. They were buying weapons, and their goal was to wipe out the Jews. I’ve done the research.
ARONOFF: Who was your grandfather? I believe you’re named—or the Freeman Center is named—after him. Tell us a little about him, and the impact he had on your life.
SHAPIRO: 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.
ARONOFF: Let’s talk a little [about a] couple terms. You’ve referred to “Zionist” a couple of times—just for people to be clear, what do you mean when you refer to Zionists?
SHAPIRO: Okay. In the 19th century, different ethnic groups around the world wanted to establish a kind of a national home for themselves. Up until then, places like Italy and France and Britain were all divided into small principalities, and there was this urge to unite into an Italian state, a French state, a German state. 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. Basically, that’s what happened.
ARONOFF: A lot of people have the idea that Israel was something that was just post-Holocaust, that once the Holocaust happened, there came this realization that there was a need for a Jewish state. As you’re pointing out, it was actually going on much before that. But was the Holocaust something that was the immediate cause? Would it have happened at that time without the Holocaust? How do you see that part of history?
SHAPIRO: The truth is, the modern building of Israel started in 1888. That’s not exactly post-Holocaust. The foundations for Israel began a long time before the Holocaust. In fact, the League of Nations mandated that whole area to the British after the First World War, to help build the Jewish state, in 1922—which, obviously, was not post-Holocaust. But the British had their other ideas. The British were basically, I would say, as bad as the Nazis in many ways. They decided, after the League of Nations gave them a mandate to help build a Jewish state, to set about destroying the possibility of building a Jewish state in giving 80% of that area to the Arabs, and then fighting the Jews over immigration, over letting Jews come in. In the days before the Holocaust, when Jews began to realize that they needed to escape from Europe, from Germany, from all the places Hitler was threatening—guess what the British did? They set up concentration camps to keep Jews from even entering the Holy Land. They had boats, they had the Navy—the British Navy was patrolling the coast and the Mediterranean, to keep Jews from escaping from the Holocaust. So, basically, the British facilitated, in many ways, the destruction of European Jewry. And, of course, the Americans did the same thing. There was the possibility of bombing the gas chambers, the railway lines going to Auschwitz and other deportation camps, but Roosevelt did not see any great advantage to America in saving Jewish lives. What that did, Roger—it’s not that Israel became a post-Holocaust phenomenon. What it did was to tell the Jews, once and for all, that no one cared about them, no one at all—except, maybe, God. But it was a situation like in the American Revolution, where you praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. You had to fight to survive, and if you didn’t fight, no one was going to help you. So they fought, and they defeated the Arabs. The Arabs keep coming back, over and over again, with this still wanting to finish Hitler’s job, which was to kill the Jews.
ARONOFF: You bring up this point about FDR. Of course, he is a hero—was a hero—to many Jews, many liberals, and many people throughout the country, but, as you were pointing out—and this has come to light more in recent years, there was a play called The Accomplices, there’s this Wyman Institute [for Holocaust Studies] that has looked into this—it raises a question of something else that’s been debated: Why Jews are so liberal, politically, and, especially, with FDR. As you point out, he was not helpful in allowing Jews to escape Europe to come here, or to help in the creation of the Jewish state. How do you see this issue of why Jews are liberal politically, and still devoted to FDR?
SHAPIRO: The younger generation doesn’t know FDR, but what has happened is that the Jewish religion has somehow transformed itself from a Jewish religion, based on Judaic principles, to a liberal religion based on liberal principles. So whatever the liberal cause of the day is, whether it’s helping the—in quotes—“Palestinians,” who never even really existed, or voting Democrat so you can help minority groups, that’s what a lot of them seem to do. It’s almost—I don’t know if you remember the quote from the Bible by Hillel—my grandfather used to repeat it all the time, and I have to say, I’m getting a little bit older, I don’t know if I can repeat it exactly right—that you’re supposed to help your own family first, and then, if you have time, energy, and money left, you help your community, which means the Jewish community. Then, if there’s any time or money after that, or energy, then you help the world. But the first thing you do is help your immediate family. The second is the Jewish community, if you’re Jewish. If you’re Hispanic, or Italian, or Chinese, naturally, you help your family first, and that community [second]. It’s a basic principle from the Bible, and it’s still true. The only problem is, the liberal Jewish community has turned it upside-down. They do help their families, but then, instead of helping their people, they help the community, and then, if there’s any money left over, they’ll help their own people. Statistics show that, out of literally hundreds of millions—even billions—of dollars of charity that wealthy Jews give each year, very few of it goes to Jewish community functions of any kind. Most of it goes to things—and these are good things, I’m not against them—like hospitals, theaters, art galleries—I’m not against that. I’m just saying that the proportions are wrong. Am I making any sense, Roger?
ARONOFF: Yes. You are. There’s so much ground to cover here—let’s come a little closer to modern times. About your book—the book is, again, titled The Battle for Eretz Yisrael: Jews, G-d, and Israel, 1992-2011—tell us a little, how you came to write/compile this, why now, and what you want people to get out of it.
SHAPIRO: Roger, I’ve been writing for a long time. I think I knew you when you were in Houston, and I was writing for the Jewish Herald-Voice. I was their political columnist from 1990 to 1995, and some of the articles that are in the book I wrote back then, a long time ago—and they’ve all proven to be true. The book documents a whole journey, by me, through history—the last twenty years, basically—and my writing. It’s often got cartoons. It’s got correspondence. It’s just got a lot of things, like, in 1993, before the Oslo Agreement was signed on the White House lawn, with [Bill] Clinton, [Yasser] Arafat, [Yitzhak] Rabin, and Shimon Peres, the whole world exploded with the concept that peace was going to come. I published a press release from the Freeman Center and the Jewish Herald-Voice—thirteen days before it was actually signed on the White House lawn—in which I said it was all a hoax. In my book I have a photo of that press release. It’s all documented. Everything in my book is documented carefully. Anyone that’s gone through my book and looked at the articles will see that, for some reason, while I don’t claim to be a prophet—I’m not a prophet, prophecy ended during the time of the Bible, in my opinion—I am a very good analyst. I look at all the information, and I come to really good conclusions as to what’s really happening. Just going through my book, I have five pages of a table of contents—you don’t have to read straight through. The book is over 700 pages long, but it’s not a straight-through read. You can pick a chapter, which may be two or three pages about a different subject. You can go and look at cartoons. You can look at some of the correspondence. And you can see—I don’t want to break my arm slapping myself on the back, but, Roger, you’ve known me for a long time, and I think you’ll agree that most of what I’ve written has come true.
ARONOFF: No, I do. It’s an excellent read—and, like you say, you can pick it up, just open it anywhere, and you’re going to learn something new, or see an insight that seems to have been accurate. Why don’t you elaborate a little on the idea that the Oslo peace process was a hoax? You saw that in advance, and, now, twenty years later, nineteen years later, it sounds like your opinion has not changed on that. Just give us a brief explanation of how that was a hoax, why that wasn’t a real peace process.
SHAPIRO: Well—by the way, Roger, it’s not that my opinion didn’t change. The world didn’t change. The Arabs, from day one—in fact, this agreement was signed in ’93. In ’94, Arafat was speaking in Johannesburg, South Africa, and he said that it was a hoax, and other Arabs should know it. There’s a certain principle called Hudaybiyyah, which is a Muslim principle. When Mohammed was weak, he signed an agreement with the Jewish tribes in Medina. It was supposed to be a ten-year truce, but, five years later, he was strong enough to defeat them, so he went back to war. Even though he’d signed a treaty, he went back to war with them, and cut off the heads of the men, and took the women as slaves. In fact, that’s how Islam spread over the whole Middle East, over north Africa and the whole Middle East, all the way out to Pakistan and Iran. It was a religion of aggression, and you either converted to Islam, or you lost your head. That—
ARONOFF: So, many times now, we’ve seemingly come close to an agreement—in 2000, and then the intifada. In 2008 and 2009, it seemed Israel was ready to sign off on a so-called two-state solution. And each time, the Palestinians ended up backing away from that. How do you see that, as sort of the Oslo peace process? Why have they not accepted any of these deals that Israel was prepared to make?
SHAPIRO: First of all, the deals that Israel was prepared to make were not deals, number one, that God would accept. I don’t know about your audience, but I do believe in God, and I do believe that, in Genesis, He gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people in perpetuity. When the Jewish people go against what God wishes for them, they’re punished. These leaders, like [Ehud] Barak and [Ehud] Olmert and [Ariel] Sharon, and all the ones that have tried to make deals with these monster barbarians—they don’t succeed because, what are your chances of making a permanent peace with the barbarian? I mean, the Romans tried it, everybody’s tried it. It doesn’t work. There are all kinds of stories. I once wrote an article called “Making Peace with Wolves”. It’s in the book—I have a lot of parables in the book.
SHAPIRO: Sometimes, a parable, a short one—maybe just a page and a half—tells more than a whole article. But you go to make peace with a wolf, you offer to give him sheep to eat if he leaves your chickens alone. At some point, he eats all your chickens, and when you complain to the wolf, what does he do? He says, “You’re crazy! We’re wolves!” It’s like you know, I remember, years and years ago, there was an exhibit. During the Soviet “Peace Offensive,” during the Cold War, there was an exhibit in Moscow where they had a lion lying down with a lamb, just like in Isaiah in the Bible. Tourists would come by, and they would marvel at how peaceful it was, how the lion could lie down with the lamb. There was one journalist who was a little curious, so he got there early, and he talked to the zookeeper, and the zookeeper said, “It’s not that complicated. You just have to understand: We always feed the lion a lamb before the tourists come, so with the next lamb we put in, he’s not hungry.”
SHAPIRO: So we’re talking about not reality, we’re talking about fantasy. 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: Got a few minutes left, and I want to cover some ground, so let’s try to do some lightning round stuff. One thing—you mentioned Ariel Sharon in there, and I think that may surprise some people because he had such a reputation of being such a warrior, someone that, I believe, even in his earlier years, you were a great admirer of. Just for people who may not remember, he’s actually been in a coma now for about six or seven years. We don’t hear much about him anymore, but—at least, I believe he’s still in this coma. Why does he belong on that list as well?
SHAPIRO: Because he drove the Jews out of Gaza. He used to be a good guy, Roger. When he came to Houston—I don’t know if you remember this—in the ’70s, I’m the one who introduced him at United Orthodox Synagogue. We raised $70,000 at that program to build new homes and Jewish villages in Judea and Samaria. He was a great guy. He used to believe in all that. Then he changed. I don’t know what happened to him. [Menachem] Begin was tough, too. Sometimes, when men get older, they can have minor little strokes or something that changes their personalities.
[I have] a copy of his book, Warrior, signed by him, thanking me for helping him raise the money for Yesha. Then he went and ran for election on the Likud party—do you remember this, Roger?
SHAPIRO: And the moment he won the election—the person who was opposed to him was wanting to leave Gaza, [Sharon] said “We can’t leave Gaza,” and the Likud voters had given him a 70% margin—he changed the name of his party, he became a Leftist, and he drove the Jews out of Yesha. He drove, I think, 6,000 or 7,000 out of Yesha, and another few thousand out of Samaria.
ARONOFF: When you say “Yesha”—tell people what that means.
SHAPIRO: What, Yesha?
ARONOFF: Yesha, yes.
SHAPIRO: That’s Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.
ARONOFF: Okay. So let me jump. 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.
SHAPIRO: 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.
SHAPIRO: How do you make people think with their own brains, and not with some subliminal message coming out of some program or PR people? If they can make you buy a new cereal, why can’t they make you buy a new President that has no background, no skills—a total Leftist.
ARONOFF: For right now, we’ve just got a little time left, so I’m going to ask you a question, the one that’s dominating the news today: This situation with Iran. Recently, Secretary of Defense Panetta came out and stated that it looks like Israel is planning to attack in the spring. The question—why would he even come out and say that? How do you view this situation between Israel, the U.S., and Iran? What’s going on there right now? Do you have any prediction? What are your thoughts on that one?
SHAPIRO: Okay, Roger. At the beginning of the interview, I told you I’m not a prophet. Okay? 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.”
ARONOFF: Okay. In our last remaining minutes, is there any other point you would like to make to our audience here? Then I want you to tell people how they can get the book, and how they can read your work, follow your work.
SHAPIRO: Okay. The book is at Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble. It’s also an E-book.
ARONOFF: And, again, it’s called The Battle for Eretz——Yisrael, and it’s by Bernard Shapiro.
SHAPIRO: Some people told me I should have called it 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. It’s at Amazon, it’s at Barnes & Noble, and it’s an E-book which is super-cheap—$3.99 or something. You can find it either through my name, or just go to Barnes & Noble, put in the title. My website address. It’s www.freeman.org. Make sure it says “org,” because I’m a 501(c)(3) organization.
SHAPIRO: Freeman is spelled exactly the way it sounds: It’s “Free Man.”
SHAPIRO: Like a man that’s free.
ARONOFF: So, quickly, in summation: Will you go the optimist or pessimist route? Do you think peace can be had? Are we destined for war? We’re almost out of time here, so just take a few seconds and give me your response.
SHAPIRO: Roger, I refuse to admit to being a pessimist or an optimist.
SHAPIRO: I’m what’s called a “realist.” — If you ask me whether there will be peace in the Middle East, all I know is, if you go back to the Bible, 3,000, 4,000 years ago, there has never been peace in the Middle East. When peace comes to the Middle East, that will be when the Messiah comes. Okay?
ARONOFF: Okay. We’re going to have to leave it there. Our guest today has been Bernard Shapiro. Again, the book, The Battle for Eretz Yisrael: Jews, G-d, and Israel, 1992-2011. Freeman.org is the website, and I encourage you to visit it, to get the book. It’s full of lots of great material. We will be back with more of Take AIM! Bernard, thank you so much for joining us today on Take AIM!
SHAPIRO: Thank you, Roger, for having me.
ARONOFF: Okay. And that’s it for this week. We will be back with you soon! So long!