Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Charlie Wilson (He of His War) Dies

Congressman, played by Hanks, was staunchly pro-Israel

Print Email

Charlie Wilson, the Texas congressman made famous by the book and then movie Charlie Wilson’s War, died yesterday at 76. A Democrat who was nonetheless to the right of most Republicans on foreign and defense issues, Wilson will always be most known for his tireless, one-man efforts—documented in the Mike Nichols-directed, Aaron Sorkin-penned film—to persuade the U.S. Congress to fund the radical Islamist mujahedeen who were resisting Soviet rule in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Wilson’s work here had a more-than-negligible impact in terms of hastening the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War; it also produced the historical irony (which Wilson was concerned about before almost anyone else) of U.S. funding in the 1980s of Osama bin Laden and some of his friends.

But today, Wilson may also be remembered as one of the best friends Israel ever had in the U.S. Congress. “I think that there were no Jews in his constituency, but he was a true friend,” said former Israeli diplomat Zvi Rafiah, referring to the east Texas district Wilson represented. “His support for Israel was based on his belief that we are a brave people, a sort of David to Goliath.” It was also based on his anti-Soviet hawkishness, and his belief that Israel was a crucial strategic Cold War ally. “Of special importance to the Jewish community was his staunch support for Israel,” the National Jewish Democratic Council said in a statement yesterday.

Rafiah—who is a prominent character in the movie; he’s the Israeli with ties to the arms industry there that Wilson and the CIA guy visit in Jerusalem—recalled that Wilson was the only congressman to request a briefing at the Israeli Embassy on the Yom Kippur War during its earliest, darkest days. “At the moment a ceasefire was declared, he immediately came to visit Israel and he came many times afterward,” Rafiah said. “Israel owes him a great deal.”

Charlie Wilson, Texas Congressman Linked to Foreign Intrigue, Dies at 76 [NYT]
Ex-Congressman and ‘Friend of Israel’ Dies at 76 [Haaretz]
Ex-Rep. Charlie Wilson Dies at 76 [JTA]

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Charlie Wilson (He of His War) Dies

Congressman, played by Hanks, was staunchly pro-Israel

More on Tablet:

Kerry Links Rise of ISIS With Failed Peace Talks

By Lee Smith — Secretary of State: ‘I see a lot of heads nodding’