March 16, 2007

Published March 16, 2007, issue of March 16, 2007.
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Ford Motor Co. Helped Israel in Early Years

A February 16 Shmooze article on the National Jewish Democratic Council’s response to Mitt Romney launching his presidential campaign at the Henry Ford Museum demonstrates an extreme lack of historical understanding on the part of the NJDC (“Spinmeisters, Start Your Engines”).

While satirical in nature, the article raised the issue of Henry Ford and Ford Motor Company’s antisemitic views. I cannot deny Henry Ford’s dislike of most Jews — although his good friend Harvey Firestone, of tire-making fame, was Jewish — but the Ford Motor Company actually played an important part in the founding of Israel.

Henry Ford II, Henry Ford’s grandson, was a strong supporter of Israel and spoke personally with Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s president and international fundraising champion. Ford sold thousands of trucks to Israel at very liberal terms, as well as donated a special presidential limousine to Weizmann.

When we forget history, we lose our identity. The Jewish people should know and respect that fact more than anyone else. The NJDC should be ashamed at its blatant disregard of historical facts in its lambasting of Romney.

Eric Minoff
Wilmette, Ill.

Section Break

Syrian Soldiers Likely Lack the Fighting Spirit

Opinion writer Martin van Creveld fails to make his case that based on “the lessons of the recent war in Lebanon,” a plan he attributes to Syria for war in 2008 has “a reasonable chance of success” (“War Clouds Gather Over the Golan,” March 9).

He belittles the fighting morale of the Israeli military, calling them “crybabies” — or perhaps even worse, “Argentinean” — yet mentions nothing of the fighting spirit of the Syrian army, which has not seen war since before most of their soldiers were born. I find it hard to believe that Syrian soldiers would fight for former ophthalmologist Bashar Assad with the same fanaticism that fires Hezbollah, even if Syria’s new Russian weapons are all van Creveld believes them to be.

More importantly, van Creveld ignores the political differences. Israel went to war in Lebanon last year, but not against Lebanon, taking great pains not to bring down the Lebanese government. If Syria were to attack, Assad and his government would be top targets. And unlike in 1973, Russian weapons no longer come with the same warranty: A Defcon-level threat to the United States to keep Israeli tanks out of Damascus.

Van Creveld also doesn’t explain what Syria’s actual objective would be. Assuming it is to regain the Golan Heights, the emerging Syrian plan that he describes as a good one certainly would not achieve that. Van Creveld foresees no large-scale offensive action by Syria, just a provocation and then a defensive war against air and armor attacks, “to draw out the conflict… until Jerusalem finally throws in the towel.”

But if Syria does not control the Golan when the proverbial towel is thrown, why would Israelis feel pressure to withdraw from what many consider part of their sovereign territory? Israel may have “lost” in Lebanon last year, but it didn’t lose any territory.

To get back the Golan in van Creveld’s scenario, Assad would still have to follow Sadat’s route to peace through post-war diplomacy and concessions. In this age of smart bombs, doesn’t it make more sense for him to do so before war, while his palaces, country — and life — are still intact?

Paul Golin
New York, N.Y.

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