Alfred M. Lilienthal (December 25, 1915 in New York City – October 6, 2008) was an American of Jewish heritage who was a prominent critic of Zionism and the state of Israel.

Early life

As a schoolboy he counted among his friends the future novelist and playwright Herman Wouk, with whom he spent many hours debating the virtues of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Lilienthal studied at both Cornell and Columbia Universities and, graduating from the latter in 1938 with a law degree, was admitted to the bar. In 1940 he acted as president of the Republican First Voters League, and became Fusion Party candidate for the New York City Council in 1941. During the Second World War, he worked for the State Department (1942–1943, Division of Defense Materials, and again 1945–1948) and served in the U.S. Army in the Middle East (1943–1945). While based in Egypt Lilienthal made his first visit to the Holy Land, and was struck by the multi-racial composition of Jerusalem's citizens at that time.

Foreign policy career

In 1945 he was consultant to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San Francisco. He used this knowledge of the inner workings of the U.N. in his later critical writings on the formation of the state of Israel. From 1947 to 1952 he was counsel to the Washington Chapter of the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism.

Israel criticism and related controversies

Lilienthal first came to prominence in the early 1950s as a Jewish critic of Zionism and Israel. When Reader's Digest hosted a debate on the Zionist movement, his article "Israel's Flag is Not Mine" warned against charges of dual loyalty that American Jews might receive as a result of Zionism. The specter of the Holocaust also loomed large among Zionists of the time, but Lilienthal wrote this article with an eye toward the Cold War. Anti-Communism was then at its height and Israel's socialist politics, for better or worse, may have been one implied object of his criticism. The publication of the Digest article led to an irreparable split with Wouk, who privately condemned Lilienthal for making his criticism of the Zionist movement public.


The first of Dr. Lilienthal's books on Zionism and the Palestinian question was What Price Israel? (1953), which was published by the Henry Regnery Company with some controversy in the mainstream press. The book offered a brief history of the Zionist movement in Europe and the United States, and provided a sober analysis of the political machinations behind the U.N.'s initial vote on the partition of Palestine. Soon after its publication, Lilienthal traveled to the Middle East and discovered that he had become a celebrity through a pirated Arabic-language edition. Although he never received royalties from its publication, the Arabic edition soon gained Lilienthal access to the leaders of the Arab world; among other contacts, he was the first person of the Jewish faith allowed to travel in Saudi Arabia, and was invited to a private meeting with King Ibn Saud. Lilienthal enjoyed cordial relations with many Arab leaders; knowing that many of whom were anti-Semitic he still felt it important to give them a glimpse of a different side of Judaism, one that did not have territorial or nationalist designs in their region. Naturally, these friendships further damaged Lilienthal's relations with the mainstream Jewish community in both Israel and the United States.

Lilienthal continued to speak throughout the United States on Middle East issues, and some of his speeches were anthologized in mainstream journals dedicated to political rhetoric. In 1956, he founded and chaired the National Committee for Security and Justice in the Middle East and in 1960 the American Arab Association for Commerce and Industry. In 1969, he was awarded the Juris Doctor degree by Columbia University.

Other publications by Alfred Lilienthal include There Goes Middle East (1957), The Other Side of the Coin (1965), The Zionist Connection: What Price Peace? (1978) and The Zionist Connection II: What Price Peace? (1982).[1] He was a lecturer, TV and Radio commentator, author of magazine articles and syndicated news pieces as well as columnist with the Nashville Banner and the Arizona Daily Star. He even assisted in the photography and editing of a 16mm documentary film, The Turbulent Middle East, for his lecture use.

Over time, Lilienthal's criticism of Israel grew harsher; he created a self-published newsletter to protest Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, and the vehemence of his language would earn him more enemies. In 1965 Senator Jacob Javits described Lilienthal as "a lecturer and journalist whose vehemently anti-Israel views are well known."[2] Lilienthal has also written for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Radio Islam describes him as one of "Israel's harshest-ever critics".[3]

According to Oscar Kraines, "Despite its unsubtle partisanship and unrestrained vitriol, [What Price Israel] is a serious, 'angry, provocative' book. It lacks, however, the degree of objectivity which a book should have if it is to be a valuable contribution to the literature on Middle Eastern affairs."[4]

Lilienthal maintained that the creation of the State of Israel, has dealt great harm to the Jewish people because statehood gives anti-Semites justification for charging Jews with dual loyalty. Lilienthal denied that Israel is democratic, and asserts that if the foreign aid now given to Israel were given instead to Arab countries they would rapidly become democratic societies. He demanded that Zionists renounce their claim on world Jewry, so that the state of Israel can stand on its own.[4]

Alan T. Davies describes Lilienthal as "useful" to anti-Semites because he is Jewish and "opposes the State of Israel on principle."[5]

Manfred Gerstenfeld describes Lilienthal as a "hard core extremists" among anti-Israel activists. In the introduction to his book, The Zionist Connection, Lilienthal praised the UN resolution which equated Zionism with racism and racial discrimination.[6]

Tariq Majeed praises Lilienthal for following in the footsteps of Henry Ford who "sounded the alarm in the 1920s on the accumulation and subversive use of political power by the Jews and the threats it posed to the American nation. Ford's book, The International Jew, is a classic in this sphere. Among the others, who followed Ford in this field, the names of Professor Alfred Lilienthal and Congressman Paul Findley stand out."[7]

Former Louisiana State Representative and white nationalist David Duke praises Lilienthal for daring to "expose the truth" about "Jewish supremicism."[8]

Lilienthal, along with Noam Chomsky and 500 others, signed a controversial petition supporting French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson's right to academic freedom and freedom of speech.[9]

Lilienthal believed that it is an "anthropological fact" that "many Christians may have much more Hebrew-Israelite blood in their veins than most of their Jewish neighbors."[10]


  1. book listing.
  2. Bates College: Ladd Library: Muskie Archives & Special Collections Library
  3. Mission Statement
  4. 4.0 4.1 "What Price Israel by Alfred M. Lilienthal", reviewed by Oscar Kraines The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 1. (March 1955), pp. 123–125.
  5. Antisemitism in Canada: History and Interpretation by Alan T. Davies , 1992, p. 260.
  6. "Jews against Israel", by Manfred Gerstenfeld, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, No. 30, 1 March 2005 / 20 Adar Rishon 5765,
  7. The Nation
  8. David Duke, A Margin of Hope, New York, 1982, p. 276.
  9. Partners in Hate; Noam Chomsky and the Holocaust Deniers by Werner Cohn, 1985, 1995 Published by Avukah Press, Cambridge
  10. Alfred M. Lilienthal, Jr., What Price Israel (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1953), p. 223.

External links

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