The following is a letter which I wrote that was published by the Wall Street Journal on January 11, 2014, reposted in its entirety here.
I can’t list all the points of disagreement that I have with Lewis Gould about my book, “The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert La Follette and U.S. Expansion” (Books, Jan. 11).
To pick one example of Mr. Gould’s imprecision, he presents Charles Richard Crane, a key figure in La Follette’s career, as a man fit only to be remembered as an anti-Zionist and hater of Jews. Mr. Gould admonishes me for failing to point out these grievous faults in my analysis of the 1919 King-Crane Commission report about the state of Middle East public opinion after World War I.
In fact, Crane’s thoughts and actions at the time of the report didn’t reflect the prejudices that Mr. Gould makes his defining character flaws. It is true, as I write in the book, that Crane became increasingly critical of Zionists for what he perceived to be their partisan manipulation of American policy in the Middle East and their heartlessness toward Arabs, whose interests he resolutely defended.
Yet Crane’s correspondence, right up to the time of the famous report, is filled with references to his Jewish friends and, in particular, to Louis D. Brandeis, whose candidacy for the Supreme Court he ardently promoted in 1916. Ordinarily, anti-Semites don’t lobby to make Jews Supreme Court justices.
Mr. Gould dismisses the King-Crane report as if it were nothing more than a monument to anti-Semitism. The report’s debatable flaws aside, it remains the best historical source available for understanding Arab concerns about the Middle East in 1919. We live today with the consequences of having ignored the Arabs at that fateful moment.