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Israel’s Lobby debunked in a new book by two American professor | 02.01.2008 11:30 | Anti-racism | Repression | Terror War

Bungled wars, like the current debacle in Iraq, leave disastrous fallouts and kindle soul-searching for causes and culprits. Suddenly alliances are challenged, accepted truisms disputed and victims metamorphose into villains, villains into victims.
In this atmosphere of escalating introspection in the U.S. two American professors have managed to publish a meticulous investigation into the negative effects of the Israeli lobby over the last 45 years on the foreign policy of the United States.
In the process they exposed the intimidating power ‘The Lobby’ wields in suppressing academic and media criticism of the Jewish state.

Israel’s Lobby debunked in a new book by two American professors

By Uli Schmetzer

January 2, 2008 - Bungled wars, like the current debacle in Iraq, leave disastrous fallouts and kindle soul-searching for causes and culprits. Suddenly alliances are challenged, accepted truisms disputed and victims metamorphose into villains, villains into victims.
In this atmosphere of escalating introspection in the U.S. two American professors have managed to publish a meticulous investigation into the negative effects of the Israeli lobby over the last 45 years on the foreign policy of the United States.
In the process they exposed the intimidating power ‘The Lobby’ wields in suppressing academic and media criticism of the Jewish state.
Their book debunks decades of fake assertions and claims peddled by ‘The Lobby’ to U.S. politicians and a public nurtured on pro-Israeli films and fairytales whose images of heroic Jews and perfidious Arabs has remained inoculated in two generations of Americans. In reality the Jewish state was conceived and expanded thanks to massacres and atrocities committed against a native Palestinian population that was expelled, dispossessed and sometimes even exterminated (as former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami admits in his book: “Scars of War, Wounds of Peace.”)
The two American professors also expose the lobby’s bullying of media outlets considered compassionate to the plight of the Palestinians, critical of Israel’s excessive use of military force or questioning America’s biased role in the Middle East.
Already a best-seller ‘The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” by professors John J. Mearsheimer of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard depicts a Jewish state still piggy-backing on global sympathy from the Holocaust while committing brutal human rights violations and ‘targeted killings’ that are in reality officially sanctioned assassinations.
This Jewish state, so the authors found, has occasionally spied on and even betrayed the United States, their main benefactor and financier.
Yet from their very first pages the professors make it clear Jews have every right to a homeland and the existence of Israel is not in question. Nor is U.S. military involvement if Israel’s survival is threatened.
What is questioned is America’s unconditional and self-damaging support of Israel. This blinkered support places no onus on Israel to reach a settlement with the Palestinians.
The book demystifies the Jewish state and challenges The Lobby’s assertions. More baffling even: In spite of the negative effects of the pro-Israel policy American politicians, including each of the presidential candidates for next year’s election, seem convinced they can win an election only if the Israeli lobby (which represents just five million American Jews) supports them.
The authors show Arab or Moslem ‘terrorism’ gradually emerged as a desperate reaction by an inferior military power in its struggle against occupation by a far superior military power; the intransigence of Israel to make a deal with the Palestinians and Israel’s disproportionate military reactions to perceived threats to national security (a convenient excuse for any military operation these days, even by the U.S.).
But most significantly terrorism became the only effective tactic to counter-balance America’s total and biased support of the Jewish state.
During peace negotiations U.S. positions nearly always coincide with those of Israel even if such a position is detrimental to U.S. interests.
The book argues the Israeli lobby in the U.S. not only managed to neutralize any criticism of the Jewish state but convince Washington that America’s interests were tied to Israel’s interests and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East must coincide with Israel’s wish-list on foreign affairs, among them the destruction of Iraq, the isolation of Syria and hostility towards Iran.
‘The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy’ illustrates how easy it was (and is) to gradually push America into an alliance with Israel that may have been of some strategic value during the Cold War but has since become a strategic liability. Worse, the alliance has been expensive for U.S. taxpayers.
For decades Israel was assured it would always be protected from the threat of international boycotts or sanctions by the U.S. veto in the U.N. Security Council (nearly 50 vetoes so far). U.S. military power would rearm or upgrade Israel’s depleted arsenals and seemingly unlimited funds from Washington would refinance empty coffers.
This was possible only because a largely uncritical U.S. media consistently applauded and glorified the Jewish state or treated its ‘misdemeanors’ with kid gloves.
With surgical precision the two professors dissect item by item the lobby’s much peddled claims beginning with the fake assertion Israel wanted peace the Palestinians did not. They show Israel’s offer of a Palestinian state at Oslo and Camp David was a joke since the deal ‘cantonized’ the Occupied Territories, leaving pieces of a Palestine wedged between Israeli territory, no right to an army, no right to airspace and all vital water resources under Israeli control.
Even Israel’s former foreign minister and chief negotiator, Shlomo Ben-Ami is quoted saying: “If I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David as well.”
In fact the book makes it clear hard core Zionism does not want and never wanted peace with the Palestinians but sees the West Bank as part of a Greater Israel. If peace had been their intention why was a notorious hawk like Ariel Sharon allowed to ascend to the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s second most sacred site, accompanied by one thousand policemen at a time when post-Oslo and Camp David negotiations between Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Ehud Barak appeared headed for a Palestinian state?
Sharon, vilified as a murderer in Lebanon by the Arabs, the man who exhorted 100,000 settlers to sink roots in the Occupied Territories and an outspoken opponent of any deal with the Palestinians wiped out any further negotiations with his Al Aqsa visit. He also precipitated the Second Intifada, the most savage.
(One may well ask how would the Israelis have reacted if Yasser Arafat and one thousand of his Fatah fighters had suddenly decided to visit the Wailing Wall at the same Temple Mount?)
What Mearsheimer and Walt make also clear is the hypocrisy of an Israeli lobby harping on the ‘terrorist’ tactics of Palestinians who, for good or for bad, are fighting to liberate their country from Israeli occupation.
They remind their readers the Zionists employed the same ‘terrorist’ tactics to wrest a homeland from Palestinians when Palestine was still a British mandate. They point out placing bombs in crowded buses and public places was first used in the region, with devastating consequences to civilians, by the Zionist ‘terrorist’ group Irgun in 1937. The group was headed by Menachem Begin who, together with another former Zionist ‘terrorist,’ Yitzhak Shamir, later became Prime Minister.
“The Arabs may well have learned the value of terrorist bombings from the Jews,” the book quotes author Benny Morris.
The book also quotes extracts from the diaries and statements of Israeli leaders to counter The Lobby’s claims the U.S. must be Israel’s partner on moral grounds and Israel pursues the same lofty and democratic ideals as the U.S.
“Neither Jewish ethics nor Jewish tradition can disqualify terrorism as a means of combat. Rather terrorism has a great part to play in our war against the occupiers (the British at the time)” wrote Shamir.
Later as Prime Minister he indignantly denounced the Palestinians for using the same tactics to liberate their land from the Israeli ‘occupiers.’ Terrorism may have been justified for the Zionists to gain the land but it was ‘inhuman’ for the Palestinians to use the same tactics in defense of their land.
On January 1, 1948 Ben-Gurion wrote into his diary his thoughts about dealing with Palestinians, an exhortation that seems to be still guiding Israeli forces today: “There is a need now for strong and brutal reaction. We need to be accurate about timing, place and those we hit. If we accuse a family, we need to harm them without mercy, women and children included. Otherwise this is not an effective reaction….there is no need to distinguish between guilty and not guilty.”
The book gives as example of this no mercy policy the murder by Israeli soldiers of hundreds of Egyptian prisoners of war in both the 1956 and 1967 wars, the expulsion of 100,000 to 260,000 Palestinians from the newly conquered West Bank in 1967 and the campaign to drive 80,000 Syrians from the Golan Heights, shooting dead many of those who tried to sneak back to their homes.
The book asks why as a victim of racism throughout Jewish history the Jewish state also practices this despicable scourge. The answer is simple: No one, especially the U.S., dares to rap Israel over the knuckles because the instant reaction would be a charge of ‘anti-Semitism.’
Yet Menachem Begin called Palestinians “beasts walking on two legs” and former IDF Chief of Staff Rafael Eiton called them “drugged roaches in a bottle.” And he added: “A good Arab is a dead Arab.” Former chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon said Palestinians were like ‘a cancer’ on which he was performing ‘chemotherapy.’
The authors of ‘The Israeli Lobby’ felt America would not tolerate such racist remarks expressed by public leaders in any other country, certainly not at home if these were made against Afro-Americans or Hispanics. But America tolerated and tolerates these and other racist slurs made in Israel without criticism.
The authors argue this lack of criticism allowed Israel, between 1967 and 2003, to demolish more then 10,000 homes in the Occupied Territories, confiscate more then 40,000 acres of Palestinian land build 250 miles of settlers’ bypass roads, 30 new settlements and sent 100,000 new settlers onto Palestinian land doubling the number of settlers.
The claim Israel practices restraint when it comes to dealing with its enemies (as The Lobby keeps proclaiming) went up in smoke in the brutal carpet-bombing of Lebanon in 2006, so the authors content.
The book concludes there are neither moral, strategic or material benefits for the current U.S. alliance with Israel. Worse, it finds the alliance is mainly responsible for the escalation of terrorism, global anti-Americanism and a messy Middle East situation.
The two blame the Israeli anti-Iraq agenda for exaggerated information that helped push the U.S. into the disastrous invasion of Iraq. In fact they argue it was not U.S. oil interests that wanted U.S. troops in Iraq but the Israelis.
Today The Lobby wants the U.S. to ‘punish’ their other perceived enemy, Iran, a nation the Israelis armed with weaponry during the Iraq-Iran war (when the U.S. supported Iraq) and supplied with military equipment even in the days when the Iranians held hostage American diplomats. This kind of commercial back-stabbing, the authors feel, is not expected from an ally. Yet Israel frequently placed such business deals above its friendship with the U.S.
What the two strongly question is the superior moral tone the Israeli lobby has adopted vis-à-vis the Palestinians, as if the Palestinians who have lived in Palestine for 1,300 consecutive years had no rights to live on territory now claimed by Jews. In order to wrest this land from the Palestinians the Zionists committed the same kind of atrocities as did Europeans in the conquest of the Americas, Africa and Australia.
The Lobby has turned these acts of aggression into acts of self-defense, the perpetuators into the victims, their aggression into a desperate endeavor by displaced persons seeking a home and the Arabs into anti-Semite fanatics rather then defenders of their homes against invaders. It is obvious the Palestinians would have fought back also if these invaders had been Americans, Germans or Mongolians.
These twisted moral justifications for the occupation of Palestine are then supposed to excuse what the two professors define as excessive military retaliation by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) and even Israeli historians have labeled ‘massacres’ and ‘atrocities.’
There is not one single argument by ‘The Lobby’ that is not debunked including the myth of the Israeli ‘David verses Goliath’ victories against Arab forces superior in numbers - when the opposite was true.
“Israel won the 1948 war so conclusively,” writes Ben-Ami “precisely because her forces were larger and better trained then the poorly equipped and ill-commanded armies of her enemies.”
The authors content Israel at times supplied misleading intelligence information ‘in order to encourage the US to take an action that Israel wanted” (e.g. alarmist reports about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction).
But all this did not dent the perception of Americans who, so the authors say, continue to view Arabs as villains and cowards and the Jews as victims and heroes.’
This belief, they said, goes back to Leon Uris’ emotional 1960 best-seller ‘Exodus.’ The legacy of the book has left an indelible impression on American psyches, an impression still lingering unfairly today and which served as the foundation on which the Israeli lobby build its image of a heroic Jewish state battling vicious enemies all around.
The authors write today Israel, a never-declared nuclear power, faces no viable external threats to its survival. In fact the Jewish state should not be exempt from criticism or sanctions for violations of human rights by the memory of the vile Holocaust and the historic persecution of Jews.
But what the book probably demands most is a reassessment of America’s alliance with Israel.
The authors say for years, ever since the end of the Cold War, the Jewish state has not merited nor required the annual injection of about $4.3 billion in American grants, soft loans, military equipment and way-out-front favored son treatment. Israel is the only recipient nation that receives these grants 12 months in advance. This allows the Jewish state to invest not immediately required funds in U.S. bonds so accruing another $600 million in interest that could have been earned by the donor nation, the U.S.
Since the early 1960s when John F. Kennedy’s administration decided Israel needed to be supported (to the initial tune of 200 M48A tanks shipped via West Germany so as not to upset the Arabs) United States taxpayers by 2005 had poured $154 billion dollars, most of it in direct grants, into Israel’s coffers.
The authors argue this amount is significantly higher if one includes other forms of material assistance, most of it in military hardware under different tags and the annual millions of dollars in donation from American Jews.
Today Israel is one of the most modern military powers, an industrial high-tech powerhouse and the 26th richest nation in the world. It hardly needs U.S. largesse to survive and thrive – but still receives it.
The core of the book examines in detail the composition and modus operandi of the Israeli lobby (often called the Jewish lobby).
It finds ‘The Lobby’ is not a cabal, not a unified movement with central leadership “but a broad coalition of individuals and groups that work to shape U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction.”
They quote historian Melvin J. Urofsky saying: “No other ethnic group in American history has so extensive an involvement with a foreign nation.”
Scientist Robert H. Trice found the lobby comprises at least 75 separate organizations that push and support Israel’s actions and policies writing letters to politicians and news organizations, making financial contributions to pro-Israel candidates and influencing senior legislators and presidential advisers through close friendships and campaign funds.
Mearsheimer and Walt believe the core of the neo-conservative school (The Chicago Boys) which has virtually guided U.S. affairs and believes in military force to impose U.S. interests was basically a pro-Israel school of thought. They write that neo-conservatism ‘has been described as American-Jewish conservatism.’
But they point out not all neo-cons are Jewish. Among those who are not but are staunch advocates of the school are former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, Jeane Kirkpatrick and former CIA director James Woolsey.
The book attributes the success of ‘The Lobby’ to America’s right of free speech and a system in which campaign contributions are ‘weakly regulated.’ This gives interest groups (especially intense ones) a chance to gain influence by directing campaign contributions to favored candidates.
Another factor is that American Jews are relatively prosperous, well-educated, philanthropic and heavily represented in academia and the media.
According to the Washington Post 60 per cent of a presidential candidate’s campaign funds can come from private Jewish supporters. Jewish voters have high turnout rates. John F. Kennedy received 82 per cent of the Jewish vote in 1960 (and repaid it by sending Israel 200 tanks) while Jimmy Carter’s more even handed approach to the Middle East dilemma won him only 45 per cent of the Jewish vote in 1980.
(Carter’s recent book “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid’ became the target of the most savage smear-campaign by The Lobby, according to the two professors, one of the reasons that prompted them to write their book).
Already presidential candidates John Edwards, Mitt Romney, John McCain and Hillary Clinton made euphoric speeches and promises to Jewish voters and Israel, perhaps to avoid the fate of Howard Dean in 2004 whose presidential ambitions virtually collapsed after he called for a more even-handed American approach to the Israel-Palestinian question. (Dean’s wife is Jewish and his children are Jewish educated).
‘The Lobby,’ the authors found, ‘does not want an even-handed approach by the U.S.’
Commenting on the fact that Jews make up only three per cent of America’s population but their vote has a lopsided effect on elections the two authors write the lobby is an example ‘that in a democracy even small groups can wield disproportionate influence if they are deeply committed.”
Though media experts may differ, the authors assert ‘The Lobby’ is most successful on Capitol Hill among legislators, staffers and donors.”
At the same time they admit that “a key part of preserving positive public attitudes towards Israel is to ensure that the mainstream media’s coverage of Israel and the Middle East consistently favors Israel and does not call U.S. support into question in any way…..the American media’s coverage of Israel tends to be strongly biased in Israel’s favor….media critic Eric Alterman in 2002 listed 56 columnists and commentators who can be counted upon to support Israel reflexively and without qualification. He identified only five critics who hold a pro-Arab position.”
(The Jewish state annually sponsors visits by U.S. talk show hosts and commentators. In Israel they are wined, dined and flooded with the positive images of the Jewish state. Few of them ever venture into the Occupied Territories and if they do it is on ‘safe’ settlers’ roads and to visit Israeli settlements on their hilltops and surrounded by ‘hostile Arab villages.’
The authors comment: “The (Wall Street) Journal, along with other prominent newspapers like the Chicago Sun-Times, the New York Sun and the Washington Times regularly run editorials that read as if they were written by the Israeli Prime Minister’s press office.”
However they feel reporting from Israel is often less slanted because, unlike commentators and columnists, reporters do go into the Occupied Territories on their own where they witness Israeli aggression, violence and bullying and develop sympathies for the Palestinians as underdogs.
This is often reflected in their reports. However even these reports are watered down by editors afraid of massive letter-writing and phone-call campaigns or demonstrations outside their offices by the activated members of the Jewish lobby who are quick and ruthless in issuing boycotts or charges of anti-Semitism against mass media outlets.
The book quotes Menachem Shalev, former spokesman for the Israeli consulate in New York saying: “Of course a lot of self censorship goes on. Journalists, editors and politicians are going to think twice about criticizing Israel if they know they are going to get thousands of angry calls in a matter of hours. The Jewish lobby is good at orchestrating pressure.”
This book is obligatory reading for those who dislike being mislead, for those who say ‘enough’ to American largesse to a wealthy state, those angered by Israel’s use of disproportionate, often massive military reaction to perceived threats to national security and those of the mass media who for years grudgingly regurgitated the same arrogant and repetitive Israeli explanations for military excesses and crimes.
As a former foreign correspondent covering Israel periodically for an American daily I was often stunned by the vicious and unfair campaigns unleashed whenever The Lobby considered a story negative to Israel’s image and positive to the Palestinians.
Once you are on their black list The Lobby pursues you like a pack of wolves waiting for a weakness.
On one occasion I wrote about a German doctor killed in an Israeli artillery attack on a Palestinian village. This was considered by the ‘Jewish Media Watch’ (CAMERA) as pro-Palestinian propaganda and filled with factual errors (like all critical reports) prompting my editor to plead with me over the phone: ‘Can you find something on the Israeli side to shut them up?”
I went to a hospital in Jerusalem to interview crippled victims of past Palestinian suicide bomb attacks and filed it the same day, something I would not have done in normal circumstances since the injuries were old news that had already been reported.
Just how acutely editors in the US fear the lobby’s threats to cut off advertising and classify the paper as ‘anti-Semitic’ was illustrated to me when I quoted a foreign minister saying Israel would build its security fence (known by the Palestinians as the Apartheid Wall) along the route it had chosen ‘whether America likes it or not.’
The stand-in foreign editor substituted this quote for an old citation from then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. During a visit to Washington Sharon had placated his hosts by saying Israel would ‘consider the U.S. recommendations about changing the route of the security fence.’
This gave the story about Israeli deference to American wishes a completely different slant. In the end, of course, Israel did not change the route of the security wall, ignoring America’s suggestions, as bluntly stated by the minister.
The same editor, whether for fear of adverse reaction or personal sympathy, also refused to run a quote by a senior mayor of an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The outspoken lady mayor said she considered the security fence built on Palestinian land ‘blatant land grabbing’ by the State of Israel. The editor called the mayor ‘a well-known nutcase.”
The Lobby also bitterly complained when I called the security fence (which annexed 13 percent of Palestinian land) another ‘Berlin Wall.’ They argued the Israeli ‘fence’ was to protect people while the Berlin Wall had imprisoned people.
But doesn’t the Israeli ‘fence’ also imprison people or do Palestinians no longer qualify as people?
Not surprisingly I often found Israelis far more critical of their own government and its actions then Americans and the Israeli media far more critical then the American media. The Israeli government rarely, if ever, complained about unfair reporting. Perhaps it left these complaints to its U.S. lobby. Besides, nearly all Israelis are former soldiers in the IDF (the draft) and realize and often admit privately that “bad things do happen out there.’
In the end, for the sake of being left alone, the American media capitulates often to pressure and appoints Israeli-Americans (dual passport holders) as correspondents to Israel. This is not only highly unfair to readers but to the Jewish correspondent caught between loyalty to his profession and loyalty to his ethnicity.
It is obvious, as the authors of ‘The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy’ point out, that only a more critical and more even-handed U.S. policy can bring about a solution to the Israel-Palestinian question and defuse the indignation of the Moslem world with America’s lopsided Middle East politics.
At the same time the Israeli lobby must be curbed by more open and more courageous discussions on the Jewish state - for the good of both countries.
And news organizations must stand up to The Lobby by going public each time the lobbyists threaten them with boycotts or sanctions, instead of caving in quietly as they do now.

* Uli Schmetzer, a veteran foreign correspondent, is completing a novel on the brotherhood between a post-war German and a Diaspora Jew, both burdened by the Holocaust. The friendship flourishes but begins to fall apart once the German, a journalist, periodically covers news events in Israel and the Diaspora Jew keeps visiting Israel as a guest of Zionist organizations.

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