by Philip Greenspan
(Swans - February 12, 2007) A recent poll of over twenty-five thousand consumers in thirty-five countries (1) that measured how the world sees the world across six areas of national competence placed Israel last amongst those countries. Israel's former sterling image has been seriously tarnished in spite of its influential mastery of the major media. Negative impressions have emanated over a period of time from various sources. Amongst them were the recent overkill that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) inflicted in Lebanon; the report "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy" by two prominent professors; the campaigns for divestment from Israel by churches, universities, and communities; the pressures to cancel and later to pan the play "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" in New York; the extensive tours to synagogues, churches, colleges, etc., of the "refuseniks" (IDF veterans who disagree with the policies of the army in the occupied territories) and of Israeli/Palestinian peace groups; and Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.
The Israel lobby constantly fights back, frequently hurling ad hominem charges at informants when it is unable to adequately respond to the issues. Its most recent dilemma concerns Carter's book. He is too well known and admired for character assassination to be effective. And so it became necessary to knock the book. Kenneth Stein, a Carter Center Fellow for Middle East Affairs and an Emory University history professor -- what great credentials for the task -- accordingly resigned in protest of the book and has been lecturing around the country to explain his reasons.
On a recent Sunday evening at a New Rochelle, NY, synagogue, a Stein two-hour lecture promoted by 30 synagogues or other Jewish organizations brought out about 700 mostly loyal Israeli supporters. Included within that number were my wife, Fran, me, and several other members of the Middle East Committee of WESPAC, a Westchester County group opposed to the Zionist policies in the occupied territories, who were trying to provide a rebuttal to the speaker's assertions.
Stein refused to have his words recorded, yet complained that his talk would be incorrectly commented upon on Web sites the next day. He pointed out several possible misstatements in the book basing most of his claims on personal experience of the incidents referred to. He was most disparaging of Carter's statement that suicide bombings and acts of terrorism will end with Israel's acceptance of the goals for peace. He dismissed the book as an inadequate historical work that amounted to nothing more than an enlarged op-ed. Aren't most popular non-fiction books never considered historical texts but as polemics of their subject matter?
The event was exactly what Carter has been objecting to -- a sterile lecture that blocked out any contrary discussion or opinion. Our group was not permitted to hand out any printed material, not even in the parking lot outside the synagogue. Although questions were encouraged, they had to be submitted on cards that were screened by the sponsors. Only three questions were answered before the speaker decided to conclude the evening.
A disappointed commercial photographer, denied permission to film the lecture, decided to film the comments of attendees after the lecture. She had spotted the peace symbol on Fran's necklace as we searched for seats and immediately asked if we'd be willing to speak on camera at the conclusion of the lecture. Before leaving I obliged her with some thoughts. I pointed out that the suicide bombings and terrorist actions were responses to the shameful, unprovoked, and immoral murders and injuries that the IDF inflict on the Palestinians on illegally-occupied territory. In reality, this is a counterattack by a poorly armed underdog against the fourth most powerful military force in the world. Shortly after I started speaking, some of the people standing nearby, hearing my remarks started shouting and denouncing me and my comments. It wasn't long before antagonisms arose between other attendees and our group. Stein's pep talk was successful -- the choir is still singing the proper patriotic tunes!
Not only is the lobby retaining a substantial number of wealthy elderly Jews, but their lock on the US political establishment is still intact. At this year's annual Herzliya Conference in Israel -- an important event for presenting the planned initiatives of the top leaders of Israel that are often precursors of subsequent government policies and actions -- several prominent Americans expressed opinions in person, by video, or by satellite. Would you believe that almost a year before the first presidential primary, four presidential hopefuls -- Republicans Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and John McCain and Democrat John Edwards -- were giving very important campaign speeches for their political future? And what did they say? Just what the Zionists want to hear. War cries against Iran! Each attempting to out-hawk the others! Each hopes he'll pass muster and get some AIPAC moolah, but at least his campaign won't be destroyed by the lobby's wrath.
Israel and its benefactor, the U.S., formerly had the support and good will of peoples throughout the world, but steadily and increasingly their public relations image has been crumbling. They are desperate and time may be running out for them but they are still financially and politically formidable and intend to strike. Watch out IRAN!
1. Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK, and the USA. (back)
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