A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, September 19, 2011

Senator Charles H. Percy, 1919-2011

Senator Charles H. "Chuck" Percy, onetime Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a major figure in Washington in the 1970s, died Saturday at the age of 91.

His New York Times obituary does not even mention the Middle East. Wikipedia does note that John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in The Israel Lobby claim that his 1984 defeat by Paul Simon was a result of AIPAC's lobbying, as if this was their discovery. Let me assure you that it was widely recognized at the time, not least by Senator Percy, and some in AIPAC actually claimed they were responsible for the victory of Simon, bringing down the powerful Foreign Relations Committee chair. (The Senate was then in Republican hands.)

Percy was no rabid Arabist; he sought a balanced approach to Arab-Israeli issues, at a time when that was rare. He was a liberal Republican, a species extinct today outside of New England, where even there the faintest whiff of national Republican ambitions turns them conservative. (See Romney, Mitt.) He was also a Republican willing, on occasion and by no means as some kind of crusade, to criticize Israel. He became more outspoken out of office, as others have as well.

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