Presbyterian Paul Findley was one of the first to speak out against Israel’s oppression of Palestinians

Posted on Aug 9, 2019

Alison Weir writes:

I’m deeply saddened to inform you that one of our founding board members, Paul Findley, has passed away at the age of 98. I urge you to view this moving documentary about his life.

Paul Findley was a forefather of the movement for justice in Palestine, speaking and writing about Palestine for over 40 years. I was honored to have him as a friend.

Paul Findley speaking at National Summit 2014

 

Paul was a Republican Congressman from Illinois when he began speaking out about Palestine in the 1970s. Before long, the Israel lobby targeted him, and after serving 22 years in Congress, he was pushed out in 1982.

Not one to take things lying down, Paul then wrote a groundbreaking book: They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby. He described in riveting detail how Israel partisans had similarly worked to push out other Americans who had spoken out about Palestine, from positions in Congress, the media, academia, and elsewhere. (A PDF is available here.)

I remember a friend phoning me almost 20 years ago, when we were both just starting to learn about Palestine, to tell me that she was reading “the most terrifying book” she had ever read. It was Paul’s book.

In the introduction to They Dare to Speak Out, Paul wrote:

“Much of the information provided here is volunteered by career government officials who want the public to be aware of how the lobby functions but insist that their own names be withheld. These requirements tell a lot about the sensitivity of the subject matter.”

It was extremely difficult to get the book published. Paul described the situation:

“Declining to represent me, New York literary agent Alexander Wylie forecast with prophetic vision that no major U.S. publisher would accept my book. He wrote, ‘It’s a sad state of affairs.’

Bruce Lee of William Morrow and Company called my manuscript ‘outstanding,’ but his company concluded that publishing it ‘would cause trouble in the house and outside’ and decided against ‘taking the heat.’ Robert Loomis of Random House called it an ‘important book’ but reported that the firm’s leadership decided the theme was ‘too sensitive.’ Twenty other publishers also said no.”

Eventually, a small company published the book, and for a brief time it was a Washington Post bestseller. Soon, however, the book was largely buried. Today even many Palestine activists haven’t heard of Paul Findley or his book – a testament to the degree to which information about the Israel lobby continues to be obscured from general knowledge.

Paul went on to write several more books, including an excellent introduction to the issue, Deliberate Deceptions: Facing the Facts About the U.S.–Israeli Relationship and Silent No More: Confronting America’s False Images of Islam.

He also cofounded a nonprofit organization in Washington DC to work for rational, moral U.S. Mideast policies, the Council for the National Interest that is continuing this work today.

Paul was a profoundly principled, committed, brave warrior against racism and injustice.

A Midwestern Presbyterian who grew up in depression America and served in World War II, Paul was soft spoken, passionate about the need for justice, and quietly intelligent. His quiet warmth and self-deprecating humor may have misled the Israel partisans who tried to bully him, only to have him produce a devastating exposé of their tactics.

Paul spoke out for Palestinians when most people were silent.

I hope that today’s young Congress members who are courageously daring to speak out – and coming under the same vicious assaults – will take a moment to remember Paul Findley, with whom they have so much in common.

Paul’s book helped to wake me up, and his long fight for human rights for all has been an inspiration. I will always be indebted to him.