The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy (Anglais) Broché – 26 janvier 2012
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So if neither "shared values" nor "strategic asset" can explain the overwhelming U.S. support of Israel, what else is there? The power of the Israel lobby, which has brought about a situation in which it is impossible for elected officials to question support for Israel, much less redirect foreign policy in any way contrary to the perceived self-interest of Israel. This has led the U.S. to make critical mistakes, such as invading and occupying Iraq. The war on Iraq has proven disastrous; the authors argue that the U.S. would not have attacked Iraq, were it not for the influence of the Israel lobby.
In the end, perhaps what is most significant and remarkable about this book is that it has seen the light of day. It got published. Could it be that there is still hope for reasonable, open debate about the right courses of action in the Middle East? The authors have been and will continue to be vilified as anti-Semitic or worse. They are owed a debt of gratitude for having the courage to stand up and to refuse to be silenced.
The authors published a brief last year that examined the Israel lobby and its impact on U.S. Middle East policy. When the Atlantic Monthly cowardly reneged on their promise to publish the paper, they found refuge with the London Review of Books. Thank to the internet, the Lobby was not able to squelch their research. This paper has now circulated among millions of Americans. For this rather minor effort in questioning US-Israeli policy, they were subjected to slander, humiliation and threats. Faster than you could say AIPAC, the usual pro-Israel flacks, Dershowitz and Foxman, rolled out their worn out charge of anti-Semitism. I suspect if a dog's bark was construed as critical of Israel, Dershowitz and Foxman would be on the first morning talk show claiming the dog was an "anti-Semite!" I wish these two clowns would buy a thesaurus and find other words of insult. However, to their credit, Mearsheimer and Walt upped the anty and decided to publish a more detailed and documented book on the Israel Lobby.
The book examines in detail the power that the Israel Lobby now has over U.S. Middle East policy- manifested in the extreme by the invasion of Iraq. The book is well documented with over 100 pages of notes and citations. It first examines the true financial costs of the American-Israel relationship- it should surprise no one that this is one way relationship- the U.S. taxpayers shovel out billions of dollars every year (now exceeding $4 billion) getting little if anything in return. The authors then ask the critical question- is Israel a strategic asset or liability to the United States? Correctly they conclude that it has evolved into a major liability. The United States pays a high price for its blind support of Israeli policies. For example, take case of Lebanon. Though more than 25,000 American citizens were put in harms way by Israel's reckless brutal attack on Lebanon last year, I could count on one hand any members of Congress that raised objections. In fact, our politicians behaved more like a herd of swine running to the microphones to be the first to praise Israel for its willful slaughter of more than 1,000 Lebanese civilians. It was surreal and it was disgusting. Later the authors document the contest between the Lobby and the Palestinian people. See President Carter's book for further discussion on the brutalization of the Palestinian people by Israel. They also describe how Israel routinely undermines American presidents- publicly humiliating them through their virtual control of Congress. They tell the story of how an AIPAC member bragged that within an hour he could have over 70 Senators sign whatever resolution he wrote on a napkin! They then warn us how the Lobby is attempting to again manipulate Washington into another senseless war- this time against Iran and Syria. Finally, they ask, "What is to be done?" They are skeptical whether a "counter lobby" would be effective. They instead put their trust in open debate and open discourse. This reflects their intrinsic belief that "the truth will set you free." However, I am not sure about this. It may be that with the arrival of the internet the distribution of information can no longer be controlled by the Lobby and its fellow travelers. However, the recent disgraceful case of Professor Finkelstein denial of tenure by De Paul University gives me pause. Thus, I am now of another school. Polite scholarly ways will not work against organizations such as AIPAC. I believe that the Israel Lobby now represents an existential threat to the security of the United States. The Lobby's objectives are to engage the United States in perpetual confrontation and war in the Middle East solely to advance the interests of a foreign power- Israel. This requires an offensive response as aggressive as that of the Israel Lobby in its efforts to silence scholars such as Mearsheimer and Walt. Who, if nothing else, deserve the admiration of all patriotic Americans.
Additionally, readers are referred to "Foreign Agents- The American Israel Public Affairs Committee form the 1963 Fulbright Hearings to the 2005 Espionage Scandal" by Grant Smith; "The Power of Israel in the United States" by James Petras; "They Dare to Speak Out" by Paul Findley.
Documentation is not wanting for these claims. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. aid since WWII, amounting to some $154 billion (2005 dollars), and about $500/citizen today. Since 1982, the US has vetoed 42 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, more than the total number of vetoes cast by all the other Security Council members - and this does not even count those that did not come to a vote because of a U.S. veto threat. At the same time, the Israel lobby is also credited with pushing the U.S. away from Syria (had been providing al Qaeda intelligence post 9/11 and Iran (had supported U.S. airmen rescue efforts in Afghanistan, and offered an opportunity for a major agreement at the time Iraq fell).
This extraordinary support might be justified if there were some great moral reason or security need involved. Our military has not been able to use Israel as a base in either Gulf War, nor could we ask it to help for risk of triggering a calamity in the region. Further, the U.S. has a terrorism threat in common with Israel because of our support for that nation. Thus, Israel is far from an asset to the U.S. As for moral argument, Israel's past and present conduct involving continual abuse of the Palestinians after stealing their land offers no moral basis for preferring it over the Palestinians.
So how do we explain our extraordinary support for Israel? The answer, claim the authors, is the Israel lobby. AIPAC is the most powerful and best known; however, prominent Christians have also been involved - eg. Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Gary Bauer and numerous politicians believe Israel's rebirth is the fulfilment of biblical prophecy and support its expansionist agenda. One leading Israel lobbyist even bragged that he could easily get 70 U.S. Senators' signatures upon a napkin.
Senator Charles Percy's ouster in 1984 (for insensitivity to Israeli issues) has become the most visible example of the Israel lobby's influence. Although they make up only 3% of the population, it is estimated that their donations comprise 60% of Democrat donations, and their voters turn out in high percentages.
Influence is not limited to just elections. The Israel lobby also influences key appointments (eg. George Ball was not appointed Sec. of State because Carter knew he would be opposed), monitors professors' comments, newspaper editorials, etc. Neoconservatives, on the other hand, are pushed by the Israel lobby because of their support for strong U.S. action in the mid-East - most recently for taking action against Iran.
"The Israel Lobby" also provided recommendations. 1)Israel should be treated like a normal state. 2)The U.S. should strongly pursue an end to the Palestine-Israel conflict. 3)Campaign finance reform is essential to a more balanced debate on Israel - eg. public campaign financing. 4)Open debate should be encouraged. (The authors have been precluded from several speaking engagements due to Israel lobby pressure. Also note the adverse reaction to President Carter's book on the Israel-Palestine conflict.)
Kudos to the authors for shining light on this major problem.
Chapter 1 details the US state's aid to Israel: $154 billion, mostly grants, 75% military. Israel is the largest recipient of US aid ($500 per person per year), even though Israel ranks 29th in the world by income.
Chapter 2 asks whether Israel is a strategic asset to the USA, and concludes that it may have been during the Cold War, but is now a liability. Chapter 3 asks whether the US state backs Israel because of their shared values, or because Israel is `for peace', and answers no to both. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 examine the lobby's members, activities, funding and its influence on policy-making in Washington and on the public through the media and academia.
Part II studies the lobby's role in shaping recent US policy in the Middle East, and its effects. Chapter 7 examines the lobby's hostility to the Palestinians and shows how it has neutered any hints of US support for the two-state solution. Chapter 8 looks at how the lobby, among others, urged the disastrous attack on Iraq. Chapter 9 examines the lobby's hostility to negotiations with Syria and Chapter 10 looks at its threats to Iran.
Chapter 11 studies the US state's unconditional support for Israel's attack on Lebanon. War supporters lied that US policy `reflected the will of the American people', but most Americans did not back the war, though the Clintons did.
Finally, in Chapter 12 the authors note that US interests are to keep the oil flowing, discourage the spread of WMD and reduce anti-US terrorism. Current US policies, promoted by the lobby, fuel anti-Americanism, increase the terrorist threat and encourage the spread of WMD.
These policies have not been in either US or Israeli interests. As the authors write, "Enabling Israel's refusal to recognize the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations has not made Israel safer." Unfortunately, none of the presidential candidates wants any change in US Middle East policy. All uncritically support Israel.
The authors propose a better policy: withdraw US forces from the Middle East and press Israel to withdraw from occupied Palestine. They urge the USA to treat Israel as a normal state, reduce its aid dramatically, and oppose its settlement policy and apartheid `wall'. Mearsheimer and Walt make a very good case that the Israel lobby is both effective and counter-productive.
While I've said in other reviews, the jury is still out on recorded books, they're great for those of us with limited time to read a volume as long as this one. The major objection I have of the recorded media is that, while listening, one has less time to absorb the facts, let alone a written page to which one may return and refer. Aside from that, the book is a masterpiece.
While I don't deny that some ethnic groups have suffered more than others, I've always had problems with a few who base their entitlement on their degree of victimization. (My inlaws insist that they, as Catholics are perpetually victimized. I remind them that we haven't had a candidate in the Know Nothing Party for a few years anyway!) Indeed, I've been afraid that the Israel lobby has triumphed at that art: we were bigger victims than anyone, therefore are entitled, to military aid, to a human rights record to put others to shame, etc., etc., etc. And the moment one challenges that entitlement, s/he is labled as an anti-Semite, even a Nazi sympathizer (!) or (?) a holocaust denier. That always struck me as at least intellectual dishonesty, if not worse.
(An irony of that too is that, as someone reminded me years ago, most of the Arabs who are shunned and demonized by the lobby are Semites too!)
The authors start with the fact that they'd been commissioned to write an article on the subject by a noted periodical, which, once the article was completed, turned them down. So eventually they wrote the book.
Again, I don't have a "text" here to review the specifics--hence my criticism of the "recorded" medium. But I do recall that they repeat several times that they do support a Jewish state. In other words, they're not "anti-Isreal." Yet they too, when critical of the subject which makes up the book's title, are called anti-Semitic.
The text allows for countless examples of how one-sided the "lobby" tends to be. In the US, we hear constantly of how victimized the Israelis are, yet hear little of the suffering of the Palestinians--colonized by Isreal with little if any regard for the rights of the colonized--or how the PLO, for example, WAS interested in treaties, yet the Israelis refuse to even consider them.
I wish I had the "hard copy" of the book here to refer to, but it does confirm my suspicion of the lobby. The authors provide ample evidence that even American Jews do not support much of what the lobby represents. And many who're stalwart supporters of the lobby are not Jewish. (There are some reviewers who've mentioned that many of the neocons who make up the spine of the lobby are Jewish, and infer anti-Semitism. I didn't know that many are Jewish, consider the fact irrelevant, and remind many that some of the strongest supporters, e.g., John Bolton, are NOT Jewish, but inflexibly neoconservative. Which label is more significant, Jewish or neocon?)
I also point out something that the authors remind the reader: that some of the harshest critics of Israeli policy are in the Israeli press. Those in Israel are more exposed to much of the absurdity of the lobby than we are here in the country whose credibility is under attack BECAUSE of our unwavering support of repressive Israeli policies.
I think it's very important that we be able to open doors to the discussion of the lobby's policies and US support of them, without being labled as evil entities. This book may have begun to open those doors, one hopes anyway. But I recommend you read it rather than listen to it, so you have more specifics in arguing with the lobby--and particularly challenging those many "lawmakers" who succumb to the lobby without challenge (some of those lawmakers are Jewish, many are neocon "Christians.")
By the way, I don't agree with everything the authors state. For example, they attribute our invasion of Iraq as having more to do with the lobby than that of the oil companies. That claim may be challengable. But let's at least talk about it!
I'm reminded of a conversation I had with the local Islamic Student Association late in 2001. After Bush gave his rousing speech after 9/11, one of the members of that association, with the agreement of others, said it was a pretty powerful testament, until Bush added, "and our support for Israel." At that point, the students suggested, Bush lost the support of a billion people.
Perhaps it's about time we're at least honest with each other about the inordinate power of the Israel lobby. Maybe it should fit more tightly within parameters of need--How much aide to we give to a relatively developed and small state?--and of credibility worldwide. Denying the open discussion may at least be a challenge to democracy, and our nation's credibility!