Swans Commentary » swans.com April 24, 2006  



Is The Israel Lobby Effective?


by Philip Greenspan





(Swans - April 24, 2006)  The repercussions that have occurred since "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy" appeared seem to bear out the premise of the piece, the immense power and influence of that lobby. The article by two prominent professors, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard consisting of 82 pages (a 42-page report with 40 pages of notes) was published as a working paper on Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government Website. An edited version appeared in the London Review of Books, followed by reports and commentary in the foreign news media and on the Internet, some quite heated from the expected sources.

Although it was commissioned by the Atlantic Monthly, no major American publication would dare touch the report. Shortly after the brouhaha arose, Harvard withdrew its university logo from the paper and announced that Walt's term as dean will terminate in June.

Two knowledgeable critics of the occupation, Noam Chomsky and Joseph Massad, a Palestinian professor at Columbia University who was targeted by pro-Zionist students and activists as an anti-Semite who intimidated Jewish students, wrote reviews of the essay that surprised me. Both are more aware of the activities of the lobby and of its immense power and influence than what appears in the essay, yet they downplay the role of the lobby. They claim its existence has a negligible effect on US positions and actions in the Middle East and it does not alter US policy. They correctly maintain that Israel in pursuing its own interests coincidentally advances interests of the U.S. -- common interests, yes, but not identical interests.

George Washington's farewell address warning against foreign entanglements was heeded by many US administrations and has been referred to over the years because of the many gems of advice he bequeathed to the nation. Amongst those gems are some that I think are apropos:

. . . a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists . . . gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country without odium, sometimes even with popularity . . . Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. . . . Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests.

Unfortunately, the U.S. frequently ignored the admonitions of Washington. As the U.S. stretched its power and authority beyond its borders it engaged in intriguing alliances in attempts to gain advantages but was often duped by foreign powers into their squabbles. When the U.S. played favorites it was routinely played for a sucker.

American bankers and industry favored the British and French in WWI by providing loans and armaments. Protecting their investments were factors that induced the U.S. into that war. Involvement was not in the best interests of the majority of American citizens who opposed it until the skillful foreign propagandists duped them to hate the Hun. J. P. Morgan, his banker friends, and the Merchants of Death, did very well, however, thanks to President Woody Wilson and a responsive Congress.

Although the public was overwhelmingly opposed to entry into WWII, FDR, while insisting he was neutral, was aiding the British. Favoring one side again led the U.S. into another wrongful intervention. "The Good War"? Yes, good for the industrialists but not for the citizenry who paid dearly!

The decision of Harry Truman to vote in favor of the partition of Palestine was not easily reached. The State Department and several cabinet members disagreed. They deemed it more rational to stick with the wealthy Arabs who possessed the Middle Eastern oil than to side with the Jews. FDR, Truman's predecessor, had promised King Ibn Saud, a major tap to that oil, that the U.S. would not change its policy towards Palestine without prior consultation with Arabs and Jews. Alternate proposals were considered. A plan to permit immigration of 100,000 Jews and the creation of a federal state in Palestine, which Truman thought reasonable, was rejected by the Zionists. An informal lobby of Jews flooded the White House with demands for partition and was instrumental in Truman's ultimate decision. Harry, the underdog in the 1948 election, realized that to win reelection he would have to please that lobby!

WWI, WWII, the creation of a Jewish state, were all instances where Washington's warnings were ignored. What would have happened if the U.S. had heeded his advice? No one knows. But conditions in the Middle East couldn't be much worse and perhaps might be more promising for all than what exists today.

Although Chomsky and Massad are probably more knowledgeable than the two authors of "The Israel Lobby," I am convinced that their arguments lack merit -- the actions of the lobby essentially support US interests.

Why would the intelligent and shrewd pro-Israel lobbyists contribute almost forty million bucks, $39,865,672 to be exact, between 1978 and 2004, to politicians for their campaigns, if they were not expecting something special in return? It is no secret that lobbyists invariably get many quids for every quo they contribute, and Israeli lobbyists ain't no Santa Claus. The business of lobbying is a perpetual bull market for all involved -- the givers and the takers. Hounding the politicians and inundating them with campaign contributions results in a fabulous dividend return. Opponents who cannot be bought -- are there still any? -- can expect retaliation in the next election, which invariably results in a loss for the incumbent.

The extremely influential Israeli lobby adds immense weight to the tug-of-war between contending Israeli and Palestinian forces for political advantages. The inordinate advantages in favor of Israel would not have emerged without the lobby.

While US global policies are inimical to Third World peoples, they never sank to such a state of repression as they do in Palestine. Nowhere else are they so unbalanced; atrocities committed by Israelis are condoned, whereas puppet leaders who would act similarly would be severely censured.

The U.S. would readily accept a Palestinian puppet like the puppets of other countries dominated by the U.S. Israel is unwilling to accept a puppet. A puppet would equate to a state. In reality, Israel wants to appropriate more land and transfer the Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. The lobby, coming to the rescue, has been able to stifle opposition to the settlements, a precursor of additional land confiscation, from both Democratic and Republican administrations.

If any other country attacked a US navel vessel, resulting in 34 deaths and 171 injuries, would such an assault have been covered up? Since 1967 no Congressional inquiry has examined the USS Liberty incident! Would any other country that has been condemned almost unanimously in the UN again and again receive consistent support from the U.S.?

The lobby has intimidated the media as well as the politicians. As a result the general public is unaware of the bestial occupation endured by innocent Palestinians who struggle to survive.

Many years ago, in 1946, when the New York Times still provided reliable news coverage, the paper of record disliked and opposed the coercive tactics of the Zionists. This most powerful news source was hit, even before the existence of AIPAC, with an advertiser boycott that swung the paper from an anti-Zionist to a pro-Zionist position.

There is just so much overwhelming evidence of the power of the Israel lobby that it seems strange, mighty strange indeed, that Chomsky and Massad as well as other prominent and credible individuals like Stephen Zunes and Phyliss Bennis would conclude that its impact is minimal. Why? The only answer I can come up with, in light of their excellent reporting of the situation that exists in Palestine, is that it might take some of the heat off the intense criticisms that they are continually receiving by reporting the truth. More powerful voices, much more powerful voices, have succumbed completely. I may disagree with their conclusions on this one issue but I still say hooray, hooray, hooray, for all of them! I wish there were many more critics!


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Published April 24, 2006