Jewish Right To Israel

Jewish Right To Israel
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Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Story Behind LBJ And Israel

I wouldn't normally associate LBJ and Israel, so this comes as a pleasant surprise:
LBJ's newly released Oval Office recordings disclose his deep feelings toward Israel

Tapes of Lyndon Johnson's Oval Office conversations, released to the public for the first time on Wednesday, reveal that the American president had a personal and often emotional connection to Israel.

In the first public presentation of the tapes Wednesday at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Professor Robert Johnson said this connection influenced his policy decisions and helped lay the foundation for the special relationship between the two nations.

"I sure as hell want to be careful and not run out on little Israel," Johnson said in a March 1968 conversation with his ambassador to the United Nations, Arthur Goldberg. The recording was released to researchers on on May 1, according to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, in Austin, Texas.

President Johnson was known by his initials, LBJ. While he was in office from 1963 to 1969, the United States became Israel's chief diplomatic ally and primary arms supplier. He was also the first U.S. president to invite an Israeli premier on a state visit when he brought Prime Minster Levi Eshkol to Washington, D.C. in 1964.
That by itself is pretty impressive--but the part that this article leaves out is even more impressive:
The news report does little to reveal the full extent of Johnson’s actions on behalf of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Indeed, the title of “Righteous Gentile” is certainly appropriate in the case of the Texan. Most students of the Arab-Israeli conflict can identify Johnson as the president during the 1967 war. But few know about LBJ’s actions to rescue hundreds of endangered Jews 30 years earlier, actions that could have thrown him out of Congress and into jail.

The Texas congressman’s district had only 400 Jews, but clearly the Johnson family’s Christian teachings had given him a strong affinity for Jews and their return to the Holy Land.

Five days after taking office in 1937, LBJ broke with the “Dixiecrats” and supported an immigration bill that would naturalize illegal aliens, mostly Jews from Lithuania and Poland. In 1938, Johnson was told of a young Austrian Jewish musician who was about to be deported from the United States. With an element of subterfuge, LBJ sent him to the U.S. Consulate in Havana to obtain a residency permit. Erich Leinsdorf, the world famous musician and conductor, credited LBJ for saving his live.

Johnson Saved Hundreds of Jews

That same year, LBJ warned a Jewish friend that European Jews faced annihilation. Somehow, Johnson provided him with a pile of signed immigration papers that were used to get 42 Jews out of Warsaw. But that wasn’t enough. According to historian, James M. Smallwood, Congressman Johnson used legal and sometimes illegal methods to smuggle “hundreds of Jews into Texas, using Galveston as the entry port. Enough money could buy false passports and fake visas in Cuba, Mexico, and other Latin American countries. … Johnson smuggled boatloads and planeloads of Jews into Texas. He hid them in the Texas National Youth Administration…. Johnson saved at least four or five hundred Jews, possibly more..”

On June 4, 1945, Johnson visited the Dachau concentration camp. According to historian Smallwood, Lady Bird later recalled that “when her husband returned home, he was still shaken, stunned, terrorized, and ‘bursting with an overpowering revulsion and incredulous horror at what he had seen.’”

As President, Johnson met with Israel’s Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and undertook to replace the recalcitrant France as Israel’s principal arms supplier, providing Patton tanks and Skyhawk jets and Phantom jets.

Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin once asked Johnson why the United States supported Israel when there are 80 million Arabs and only three million Israelis. “Because it is right,” responded the straight-shooting Texan. [emphasis added]
LBJ has generally been criticized by historians as his legacy as president has been minimized--and information like this is not going to revive it.
But it should.

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