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America and the 'Israel Lobby'

All Americans now have to view west Asia through pro-Israel contact-lenses, the mainstream media allow no other perspective. No one wishing to launch or continue a career in politics can hope to do so without obtaining a "pro-Israel" imprimatur of approval from an element of the "Lobby".

America and the ‘Israel Lobby’

All Americans now have to view west Asia through pro-Israel contact-lenses, the mainstream media allow no other perspective. No one wishing to launch or continue a career in politics can hope to do so without obtaining a “pro-Israel” imprimatur of approval from an element of the “Lobby”.


wenty years ago an American journalist and film-maker, Edward Tivnan, researched the influence that Jewish political power exerted on the foreign policy of the US and published his findings in a book entitled The Lobby: Jewish Influence on American Foreign Policy. By the “Lobby” he meant specifically the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the officially recognised representative and executive bureau of American Zionists; and, beyond that, the ramified structure of organised Jewry in the US that tirelessly, implacably and successfully deploys the wealth and ubiquitous influence of the community to advance the interests of Israel, to confound and bring down Israel’s critics and deter those who would support Israel’s enemies and victims. Soon after the creation of Israel its founding father Ben Gurion declared the obligation of every Zionist organisation everywhere “to help the Jewish state unconditionally and in all circumstances even if such a stance is in contradiction with the authorities of their respective nations”, and AIPAC exists to police that obligation in the US (there are kindred bodies in other countries). “Whoever criticises Israel policy can expect painful and incessant reprisals and even loss of his means of existence by the pressure of the Israel Lobby”, an ex-congressman victim wrote in 1985: “The president is afraid of it. Congress gives in to all its demands. The most prestigious universities see to it that in their programmes there is nothing which opposes it. The media giants and the military chiefs give in to its pressure” – and by the end of the century the “media giants” had become key parts of the Lobby.

Tivnan observed that “total support of Israel has become a requirement of leadership in local Jewish communities throughout America”. A reviewer of his book noted that the Lobby’s power “rests largely on the readiness of American Jews to donate generously to politicians of both parties deemed to be friends of Israel and to withhold donations from those who are not friendly enough” – a process of unnatural selection which, given the funding mechanism of American political parties, has over time and by now produced a legislature wholly answerable to and dependent upon Israel’s supporters. Whenever an issue, however contentious in theory, involves Israel the vote in the House of Representatives will always verge on unanimity, Israel’s way. For their part the senators are always ready to form a posse of between 70 and 90 (of the 100 membership) against the White House whenever the Lobby musters them.

Tivnan’s tone was cool and analytical and his book aroused no great indignation, its targets probably deciding it was better opposed with neglect than attack. The political weather in 1986 was favourable for him. Two years before Stephen Green had published his Taking Sides: America’s Secret Relations with a Militant Israel which dramatically documented that a report by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, America’s top servicemen, had warned as early as March 1948 that the “fanatical concepts of Jewish leaders” risked dragging the US into a campaign of territorial conquest aimed at “the establishment of Jewish military and economic hegemony over the entire Middle East”. Green also showed that the US/Israel “special relationship” involved no friendly reciprocity from the Israeli side: his documentation proved that Israel’s 1967 attempt to sink the US Navy ship Liberty with all hands was knowing and deliberate, as was president Lyndon Johnson’s cover-up of that truth.

In west Asia in 1986 Israel was invading Lebanon “to destroy the PLO”, an aggression which, unlike now, had aroused misgivings about the implications for the US. An American Jew, Jonathan Pollard, had just been gaoled for spying for Israel, arousing the old suspicion that the emergence of the Zionist state must create a “dual loyalty” dilemma for the diaspora. An Israeli noted: “For decades American Jews have been trying hard to convince American public opinion that their unconditional support for Israel didn’t effect their loyalty to the US: [Pollard’s spying] makes it difficult to trust them on this point and now those who talk about ‘double allegiance’ will find understanding ears”.

Power and Reach

Twenty years on the issue of Israeli influence on American foreign policy has surfaced again, in political circumstances much changed from those of 1986. The power and reach of the Israel Lobby has become even greater in the meantime. The tiny community (about six million, 2.3 per cent of the population) has been hugely reinforced by the allegiance of the Christian fundamentalist sects in their tens of millions, and morbid religiosity means that for many Americans to criticise Israel is next to blasphemy. All Americans now have to view west Asia through pro-Israel contact-lenses, the mainstream media allow no other perspective. No one wishing to launch or continue a career in politics can hope to do so without obtaining a “pro-Israel” imprimatur of approval from an element of the Lobby. Being even-handed or open-minded between Israel and its enemies counts as being “anti-Israel” or “anti-Semitic”, the two terms having become practically synonymous. In the US state department a bureau has been set up, under the direction of a committed Zionist, to monitor anti-Semitism around the world, as if it were a global plague. There is comprehensive surveillance of university teaching, with calls for withdrawal of federal funding from institutions found guilty of allowing “unbalanced” classroom criticism of Israel.

The Lobby’s grip on Congress has now extended to the executive arm of government: a cabal of Israel-firsters nicknamed “Neocons” has for several years been working to direct American power to serve the interest of the Zionist state by destroying any potential challenger to its regional hegemony, fulfilling the Joint Chiefs’ warning in 1948. Beneath the “war on terror” is Israel’s strategic objective of destroying all Muslim states in west Asia, fragmenting

Economic and Political Weekly August 26, 2006 them into their basic ethnic and religious components: Iraq is done with, Lebanon is currently being savagely pounded on the anvil. Syria and Iran await their fates, Egypt, bought and paid for, cowers, the Saudi and Gulf state rulers swing between helpless rage and fear.

‘Third Rail Subject’

Most of the time the strength of Zionist political and social influence goes unremarked in the US, even ignored. It is what the Americans call a “third rail subject” – to touch it is lethal to careers. But the great taboo was broken this year by two academics, eminent specialists in the broad field of international relations: John Mearsheimer of Chicago University and Stephen Walt of Harvard. They knew that their temerity would bring down upon them a storm of opprobrium, that they would be smeared as “anti-Semites”, their scholarship denigrated, their professional futures curtailed. But so alarmed are they by what they see as the dangers to their country – and indeed to the international community – posed by Washington’s unconditional, unwavering and unlimited support of Israel’s aggressive and expansionist policies and actions that they dared their fate and wrote an alarm call, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy. The Atlantic Monthly commissioned their study but then refused to accept it, advising the authors that no serious American publication would touch it. It appeared only when the London Review of Books published it in March 2006, in shortened form. The authors thenput the full text on the Harvard website – to that university’s obvious embarrassment.

The Mearsheimer/Walt paper asks a simple question: “Why has the United States been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state?” It answers: because of the “stranglehold” the Israel Lobby has on Congress and its leverage within the executive arm. The authors are careful to point out that their subject is not the “Jewish Lobby”: by no means all American Jews support, or are part of, the Lobby, indeed those who do so comprise a minority; but, they write, “The core of the Lobby is comprised of American Jews who make a significant effort in their daily lives to bend US foreign policy so that it advances Israel’s interests”. They argue in their 80-page paper (half of it reference notes – curiously Tivnan’s precursor study is not mentioned) that the unbalanced commitment to Israel is clearly contrary to the strategic and political interests of the US. And they conclude with a negative answer to their own question, “Can the Lobby’s power be curtailed?” No, they answer: it will in fact inexorably grow still stronger – unless the subject can be brought into the open and debated within the US. It is precisely to stifle such debate that the Lobby has weighed in to trash and ridicule the paper and denigrate its authors. “Scurrilous”; “smelly”; “conspiratorial”; “nutty”; “amateurish trash”; “a meretricious, dishonest piece of crap” – and, of course, again and again, “anti-Semitic”: the attack is furious, virulent and sustained. Mearsheimer and Walt are both tenured professors and so cannot be dismissed, but they are marked men.

(In Israel there was generally a similar heated reaction but Ha’aretz struck a very different note, calling the paper a “serious and disturbing message [which] does not deserve condemnation – rather it should serve as a warning”.)

Centre for Research and Analysis on Livelihoods in South Asia (CRALSA) of Community Enterprise Forum International


One Senior Research Fellow for developing, guiding and managing research projects on livelihood related issues as well as strategising dissemination of research results. The ideal candidate will have a PhD/Masters degree in Natural Resource Management/Agriculture/Forest Management/Economics/SME Management with at least four years of relevant research experience. Candidates without any research experience (either academic or with public or private sector agencies) should not apply for this position. Salary: 6,00,000 per annum

Two Research Fellows for developing and carrying out research on livelihood issues under the guidance of the Senior Research fellow. Candidates to be considered for the position should at least have 2-3 years of active research experience with academic/public or private agencies. At least a masters degree in relevant areas is essential (PhD candidates will be preferred). Salary: 3,60,000 - 4,80,000 per annum (dependent on relevant skills and experience)

All three positions will be based in New Delhi with frequent travel across the South Asian region. Salary is not a constraint for the right candidate.

Interested candidates may apply to with a copy of their recent CV and evidence of earlier research work and two referees by September 15, 2006. Applications received without the copies of prior research work will be automatically rejected.

Economic and Political Weekly August 26, 2006

Will the Lobby’s furious onslaught succeed in reburying the subject for another 20 years? Perhaps not. There are surface indications that a subterranean struggle against the Lobby has begun within the structure of government. In the fall two former senior officers of AIPAC are to go on trial on espionage charges, following months, perhaps years, of surveillance of their organisation by the FBI: the prosecution will no doubt be strengthened by the fact that it can present the evidence of a co-conspirator already under a 12-year jail sentence which could be reduced if he “sings” loudly enough. Convictions in that case might trigger a move to make AIPAC register as a lobby for a foreign power: it has obviously always been that in practice but its forced registration as such would greatly weaken it. Another sign: it is reported in Washington that at high levels in the Pentagon and other national security bureaucracies questionsare being asked about the security clearance of officials with dual American/Israeli nationality or with extensive personal or family links with Israel, and in some cases clearance has been removed.

In the meantime, however, perhaps the international community should be coming to terms with the emergence of a new “double-bodied state”. Feeble shortlived precursors might have been the United Arab Republic formed by Egypt and Syria, or original Pakistan: both aspired to a statehood linking two physically separate, indeed mutually distant and very different polities. But if the US and Israel are considered as “USrael”, it can be seen that this double-bodied state has an immense advantage, a common ruling elite with a shared purpose: unrivalled global hegemony, beginning with that of its west Asian “realm” – and it has the crushing military and nuclear superiority to achieve it.

It was reported in Israel a few years ago that in cabinet one day Ariel Sharon put down a colleague with these words: “Every time we do something you tell me America will do this, do that [against us]. I want to tell you something very clear – don’t worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America…”. So far, perhaps, so true. But then he erred by adding “And the Americans know it”. The Americans certainly do not know it, and most probably they would be very angry indeed if they did. The urgency of the Lobby’s effort to preserve their ignorance is understandable. EPW

Economic and Political Weekly August 26, 2006

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