Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who is leading the polls in advance of next Tuesday’s Republican caucuses in Iowa, denies allegations that he has promoted anti-Semitism, saying that this would be “a betrayal of my own intellectual heritage.”
“Any kind of racism or anti-Semitism is incompatible with my philosophy,” Paul said in an interview with Haaretz, conducted by email. “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,” Paul said.
Paul said that he has “a terrific chance of doing very well in the Iowa caucuses”, but appeared to be dismissing speculation – though not unequivocally - that he would consider running as a third party candidate. “I have no intention or interest in running as a third party candidate. My staff and I are doing our best to win the GOP nomination,” he said.
Responding to questions submitted before the most recent flap about anti-Semitic and racist content in his newsletters, Paul reiterated his controversial positions that American support for Israel was one of the reasons for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and stuck by his opposition to any and all foreign aid. But he said that he viewed Israel as “one of our most important friends in the world” and that he supports Israel right to attack Iran in self-defense.
“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.”
Paul also said that he was “surprised and disappointed” at being left out from the debate sponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition, but that he had not asked nor expected the other candidates to insist on his inclusion.
Asked later about the controversial newsletters, Paul’s press secretary, Gary Howard, wrote: “Dr. Paul has stated repeatedly that he did not write those words, they are not his thoughts, he has disavowed them and apologized for such a serious lack of oversight of these things that went out in his name over 20 years ago.”
Here is the full text of the interview:
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. Were you disappointed with the lack of collegiality of the other candidates, who did not insist that you be invited as well?
Paul: No. I did not ask or expect them to boycott the event or insist to the organizers that I be invited.
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”?
Q. 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.
Q. Will you win the Iowa primaries? Do you realistically believe that you have a chance of becoming the Republican candidacy for the presidency? If not, would you consider running as a third candidate?
Paul: I have no intention or interest in running as a third party candidate. My staff and I are doing our best to win the GOP nomination, and, while I can’t know for sure what will happen, I think we have a terrific chance of doing very well in Iowa. I have great hope for America, and I have been deeply encouraged by the young people who have been able to understand the issues and stand courageously for the changes we need.
More on Haaretz.com:
Israeli female soldier accosted for rebuffing Haredi bus segregation
U.S. Navy: We will not allow Iran to stop flow of oil
First gathering of Tel Hai descendants sheds light on lesser-known Israeli heroes
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now