It was inevitable, I suppose. Once Ron Paul rose to the top-tier of candidates, it didn’t take long before the accusations began to fly. Old theories about his supposed racism, fueled by the continued discussion of the newsletters published some two decades ago, have gained new traction in the media. The new and old media have both been regurgitating the accusations, in spite of Ron Paul having disavowed them and his attempts to prove them false. We now have a former staffer who has came forward, claiming to have extensive knowledge of the real Ron Paul. Eric Dondero has written a fairly long article about his associations with Paul, including his “insider” knowledge of how the Congressman “really feels” about a range of issues. What I find odd about this is how Dondero’s word has been accepted as gospel by most in the media, yet when the Paul campaign points out that he was fired for performance issues, the media asks that they provide proof of that.
When I endorsed Ron Paul for the GOP nomination for President, I did not intend to turn Political Realities into a cheerleader for his campaign. I have written about him when I felt the need to do so, as was the case when I defended him against Michelle Bachmann’s charge that he would be a dangerous President. Such would be the case now, as I see the charges of racism, anti-Semitism, of generally being out of touch with his foreign policy, mount against him. To raise that defense, I want to use an email interview of Ron Paul by Haaretz.com, which addresses the issues of how he feels about Israel and about racism and anti-Semitism. Out of the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Haaretz has a unique perspective, in that they are a Jewish website.
Q. What was your reaction to your exclusion from the function held by the Republican Jewish Coalition, to which all the rest of the candidates were invited?
Paul: Well, it was a bit surprising and disappointing. I believe that Israel is one of our most important friends in the world. And the views that I hold have many adherents in Israel today. Two of the tenets of a true Zionist are “self-determination” and “self-reliance.” I do not believe we should be Israel’s master but, rather, her friend. We should not be dictating her policies and announcing her negotiating positions before talks with her neighbors have even begun.
Q. The RJC characterized your views on Israel as “misguided and extreme”. Why do you think they view your views in that way?
Paul: I do not know, as I am the one candidate who would respect Israel’s sovereignty and not try to dictate to her about how she should deal with her neighbors. I supported Israel’s right to attack the Iraqi nuclear reactor in the 1980s, and I opposed President Obama’s attempt to dictate Israel’s borders this year.
Q. Do you think that the American debate on Israel is stifled?
Paul: There is no question that the problems of the Middle East have been intractable and may take new solutions and ideas. These ideas should all be openly discussed. I believe that my opinions have been distorted by those who want to continue America’s current role as world policeman, which we don’t have the money or manpower to sustain.
My philosophy, like that of the Founding Fathers, is that we should use our resources to protect our nation. Our policies of intervention and manipulation in Iran and Iraq and other places have led to unintended consequences and have not made Israel safer. Many in the Jewish community share my opinion, and it’s vital for both nations that we continue to have an open dialogue.
Q. In a 2007 clip that is on YouTube, you say, “Israel should be treated like everybody else”. Is that still your position, or do you believe that Israel and the United States have a “special relationship”?
Paul: Well, we do have some unique arrangements. We trade intelligence in areas when it serves our mutual interest, for instance. But I believe we have gone too far, to Israel’s detriment. Instead of being her friend, we have dominated her foreign policy.
Q. In that same clip, you also say that the motivation of al-Qaida for the 9/11 attacks was American support for Israel. Do you still believe that?
Paul: I think most people in the Middle East and probably in Israel would agree that this was a major factor. That in itself does not make our policies right or wrong. Our policies need to be discussed on their own merits, but as a matter of course, yes, our support of Israel has made us enemies.
Other U.S. policies, such as our stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia and our support for repressive regimes in the region, also play a role in hostilities to the U.S. Those in the Arab world who object to the U.S.’ support for dictatorships and to our military presence there often see Israel as the agent of the U.S. Thus, not only do Israel’s relations with the U.S. cause some negative feelings toward America, but they further Arab hostility toward Israel, which is one reason why Israel would be better off without U.S. aid.
Q. In the Fox News presidential debate you expressed understanding and even sympathy for the Iran having nuclear weapons. But Israelis view an Iranian nuclear capability as an existential threat to their country. Do you disagree? Do you not believe Iranian leaders who say that Israel should be “wiped off the map”?
Paul: I am against the spread of nuclear weapons. But I do understand why other nations want them and why they don’t accept the nuclear monopoly as it now stands. You cannot change an opinion you don’t understand. I understand it and would try to change it.
However, there’s a key fact that it seems is being overlooked when my positions are discussed. I believe I’m the only candidate who would allow Israel to take immediate action to defend herself without having to get our approval. Israel should be free to take whatever steps she deems necessary to protect her national security and sovereignty.
Q. Do you support completely cutting all foreign aid, including the aid to Israel?
Paul: Yes, I am personally against all foreign aid. We give $3 billion to Israel and $12 billion to her avowed enemies. How does that help Israel? And in return, we act like her master and demand veto power over her foreign policy.
If I were President, such aid would not end until the Congress agreed and voted for it to end, because I would be President as the U.S. Constitution defines it. I am not running for dictator.
But I believe that federal foreign aid is absurd. We’re broke! We are like a man who used to be rich and is in the habit of paying for everybody’s meals and announces at a lavish dinner that he will pay the bill, only to then turn to the fellow sitting nearby and say, “Can I use your credit card? I will pay you back.” It is ridiculous for us to be borrowing money from China and giving it to Pakistan.
I have described foreign aid as taking money from poor people in rich countries and giving it to rich people in poor countries. I know that many in other nations are hurting, but I also know that the American people are a generous people. While we should end the unconstitutional federal foreign aid program, I would encourage Americans to continue to voluntarily contribute to the needs of other nations.
Q. In the past, you have been accused by various groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, of accepting the support of racist and anti-Semitic elements and of not doing anything to distance yourself from them. What is your reaction to this accusation?
Paul: I have always made it clear, and will continue to do so, that my message is based on the rights of all people to be treated equally. Any type of racism or anti-Semitism is incompatible with my philosophy. Ludwig von Mises, the great economist whose writing helped inspire my political career, was a Jew who was forced to leave his native Austria to escape the Nazis. Mises wrote about the folly of seeing people as part of groups rather than as individuals. Therefore, for me to advance anti-Semitism in any way would be a betrayal of my own intellectual heritage.
I know a series of questions and answers via email is not a definitive answer to the charges that are being thrown at Ron Paul. However, I think his answers give us a little insight as to how the man thinks and how he approaches the issues facing our country. He clearly has nothing against Israel, but he does want them to be treated fairly and equally. He has a point, in that our financial aid to them is dwarfed by the financial aid we give to some of her enemies. We should think about that, long and hard, before we classify Paul’s desire to cut off foreign aid to Israel and every other country who is holding out their hand. In my humble opinion, Paul’s position on Israel makes perfect sense.
I am not the only person who holds this opinion. According to Dr. Leon Hadar, who advised was an adviser to Ron Paul during his 2008 campaign, Eric Dondero’s classification of Paul being anti-Israel is simply not true. From Haaretz.com:
Speaking with Haaretz on Tuesday, Hadar discounted Paul’s characterization as anti-Israel, saying: “He is against Israel as I am against January. He is just against foreign aid, and does not see any reason to grant an aid to the country that is a member of OECD.”
“We should remember it’s the primaries, and the Republican party establishment is not happy about his popularity, because on many issues his positions run contrary to the traditional party’s agenda,” Hadar added.
The former aide also indicated that Rep. Paul was in favor of “economic cooperation with Israel, he was interested in the economic reforms in Israel.”
“He will be glad to see the conflict resolved and he said it’s the right of Israel to attack Iran if it thinks that is necessary – but it shouldn’t expect the U.S. to clean the mess,” he said, adding that Paul is “very familiar with Israel’s history. I didn’t hear his conversations with his former aide, but I personally have never heard him say anything against Israel or the Jews.”
Referring to claims according to which Paul was in favor of “handing Israel back” to the Arabs, Hadar said it was “absurd to say he is more supportive of Arabs or Iran than Israel – he just thinks the U.S. shouldn’t meddle in other countries issues.”
“I think it’s quite pro-Israeli, because the U.S. won’t stay in the Middle East forever, and Israel should figure out how to deal with its challenges,” Hadar said, adding that there “is little doubt the current campaign against him and the attempts to paint him as anti-Israeli might cause him harm among the Evangelicals, whose support is more significant during the primaries than the Republican Jewish support.”
As you can see, there are two sides to this story. Before we automatically accept a former staffer’s word of how Ron Paul “really feels” on certain issues, we need to take it all into context. All may not be as it seems.