The cornerstones of the new campaign against the US "Israel Lobby," AKA the Jew
are that "they" have a great deal of power, and are able to prevent any US move against Israel, forcing the US to act against its own interests and prevent Middle East peace. This doctrine gained popularity from the publication of the Mearsheimer and Walt "Israel Lobby"
study and from Jimmy Carter's book
and the ways he has used to publicize it.
Supposedly these are new discoveries. In fact, however, the same themes have been voiced in private for many years by the hard core of US career Middle East diplomats and politicians who specialize in foreign policy. On the eve of the Six day war
, U.S. Ambassador John Smythe advised the State Department of what he claimed to be the sentiment of the U.S. Middle East diplomatic corps:
On scales we have Israel, an unviable client state whose ties, value to US primarily emotional, balanced with full range vital strategic, political, commercial/economic interests represented by Arab states. The folly of US pursuing present policy obvious without further elaboration.
Thus, we know that one of the foundations of the current campaign was in place before the Six Day War, and before the ascendancy of AIPAC and before the occupation.
Newly declassified Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing records from 1967 make it clear that the second key foundation, the belief that "they" (the Jews) have too much power, was also in place right from the start. In a hearing conducted on June 9, during the Six Day War, committee members were discussing the possibility of revoking the tax exemption for charitable donations to Israel. Chairman Fulbright was apparently unhappy that Israel had been able to act independently of the United States, because they had, in his view, used charitable donations made by United States citizens to buy French arms.
The following exchange took place:
The Chairman: The trouble is they think they have control of the Senate and they can do as they please.
Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri: What was that?
The Chairman: I said they know they have control of the Senate politically, and therefore whatever the Secretary tells them, they can laugh at him. They say, "Yes, but you don't control the Senate."
Senator Symington: They were very anxious to get every Senator they could to come out and say we ought to act unilaterally, and they got two, three.
The Chairman: They know when the chips are down you can no more reverse this tax exemption than you can fly. You could not pass a bill through the Senate.
Senator Hickenlooper: I do not think you could.
The Chairman: Changing that tax exemption contribution to the UJA. I would bet you ten to one you could not begin to pass a bill You do not believe they could under any circumstances.
Senator Symington: A bill to do what?
The Chairman: To revoke the tax exemption of gifts to the UJA. That is one of their major sources of income. You yourself have pointed out the money they paid for the French arms they got from the U.S.
Senator Symington: Each year the money we give annually for this is less than 1 percent of the cost of Vietnam
The Chairman: I agree with that.
Senator Hickenlooper: There you go.
The Chairman: But you know very well, you said yourself, that the arms they buy from France are largely paid for by contributions that come from this country.
Senator Symington: Because we would not sell it to them, so instead of selling them the arms...
Senator Symington was evidently trying to dissuade Fulbright from this course of argument, but Fulbright held his own, explaining his views about the Jewish people. It would be pointless to show Senator Fulbright that most of Israeli development and armament was financed by long term loans, and that charitable donations went to build hospitals and universities, plant trees, pave roads and fund irrigation projects. Regarding "the Jews," the "brilliant" Senator, a man who had so much influence over US foreign policy thinking, was, it seems, an ignorant and opinionated bigot. The result of policies like those he advocated, was that the US had not supported Israel more than circumspectly even after the Eisenhower era, and reneged on its commitments to Israel on the eve of the Six day war. Israel won a victory on its own, and the US had to try to "work" the situation so they could regain influence in the Middle East.
Be that as it may, the mantras of "the Jews have too much power" and "supporting Israel is not in the interests of the United States" seem to date from before the occupation and the Six Day war. The occupation itself has been in place for forty years. The mysterious question is "why now?" Why should the disproved thesis that supporting Israel is not in the interests of the United States rear its ugly head in public now? Why should the "Israel Lobby has too much power" thesis, or the "Israel Lobby" thesis for short, suddenly make its unabashed public appearance on the stage of US policy now, rather than twenty or thirty years ago?
The first reason is that with the end of the cold war, the Israeli-Arab conflict could no longer be viewed as a U.S-Soviet confrontation. From one point of view, the end of Itzhak Shamir's tenure as Prime Minister more or less coincided with the end of the period when the occupation could be shielded behind cold-war politics. Instead of a Soviet hand in the Syrian, Palestinian and Egyptian puppets and a US hand in the Israeli, Jordanian and Lebanese puppets, the U.S. hand was, so to speak, inside almost all of the puppets. This created, so it seemed, a great opportunity for peace, that came to fruition in the Madrid conference and the Oslo accords and seemed like it would lead to peace in the Middle East. The window of opportunity was slammed shut by the growth of Islamist extremism, the chaotic nature of Palestinian society, the failure of the United States to provide leadership, the assassination of Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin and the Israeli political dynamic it entrained.
With the failure of the the Oslo accords, Israel was "stuck" with the occupation, which could no longer get support due to cold war considerations, and yet could not be abandoned owing to the intransigence, chaos and violence on the part of the Palestinians. It was inevitable that the supporters of the "Israel Lobby" policy would begin to gain ascendancy. Indeed, in the first months of the Bush Presidency, American response to the Palestinian violence was to cut off the delivery of military spare parts to Israel.
The apparent failure of the "war on terror" and the war in Iraq were crucial factors in the ascendancy of the "Israel Lobby" school. These same people, an entrenched political and social group who represent the US Middle East policy making establishment in the State Department and universities, are also those who supported the theory that radical Islamism could and would become democratic, and therefore the problem could be ignored. After 9-11, it was evident that all their theories were built on sand. It would be convenient to find an explanation for why Islamism is violent, and that explanation is the usual scapegoat.
The Islamists, we are told, are angry over US policies in the Middle East, meaning support of Israel. That explains presumably, not only why they toppled the Twin Towers, but why they are blowing themselves up in Iraq and Algeria. By inserting a linkage between salvation in Iraq and resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the Iraq Study Group report, the same people made certain that if the US fails to garner support for the Iraq war from their Arab clients, the failure can be blamed on the intransigence of Israel, rather than the recalcitrance of the Arabs. The bizarre idea that success in the dubious war in Iraq should be linked to success in solving the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict is attributed to a former CIA advisor, Ray Close. However, the idea was probably attractive to many who are glad to be relieved of the problem of explaining why Gulf regimes like that of Saudi Arabia, whose existence would be threatened by a US loss in Iraq are nonetheless unwilling to give the US meaningful assistance in stopping infiltration of terrorists to Iraq. The Arab states, of course, are all too happy to leverage on this idea, which gives them both an excuse for doing nothing to aid the USA, and a lever to pry concessions out of Israel.
The "Israel Lobby" thesis is not new. It is repackaged poison that has found a market because of changed circumstances.
Israeli leaders must assess the situation realistically and chose to defend Israel from a position they can hold, that is relatively invulnerable to pressures of the Israel Lobby school of thinking. It is probable that the disengagement strategy was conceived with these pressures in mind. Unfortunately, the mayhem that ensued following the Gaza disengagement made further withdrawals, negotiated or not, very difficult politically, and demonstrated that withdrawal represents a real security risk as well, at least as long as Hamas is in power.
It is vain to whine about anti-Semitism. Americans won't listen if they believe that their boys are being killed in Iraq, and their cities are threatened, because of the Israeli occupation. It won't help much to point out that after Israel, the Islamists will come after the Europeans and Americans and the moderates in the Muslim and Arab countries, and that in fact, they are doing so right now. Some already realize this, but the thesis that sacrificing the Jews will end the plague was always very attractive and it still is. What would you rather do, fight a long and dangerous war, or make some little far away country give up some land? In any case, the "war of civilizations" thesis is not particularly convincing as long as the skeptics can point to the occupation.
Those who insist that the only solution is that Israel must entrench itself behind maximalist strategies such as annexing the occupied territories or refusing to talk peace, forget that at present, without the diplomatic, and military support of the United States in the form of supplies and aid, it would be very difficult for Israel to meet a determined attack by Syria or Iran, an attack that would certainly be made if these countries were certain that Israel is diplomatically isolated.
The situation is complicated by Israeli dependence on the US. Dependence on a foreign power is never wise. It becomes extremely risky and foolhardy when the interests of the two parties begin to diverge. Yet Israel has continuously and systematically deepened its dependence on the United States since the Six Day War. This dependence was necessitated at first by the confrontation with Egypt, and later in order to shield Israel from pressure to end the occupation, and it part, it is maintained out of habit. We need to break the habit.
Israeli politicians should have had the foresight to realize the full implications of the fall of the USSR, which ended Israel's usefulness as a front line in the Cold War, as well as the pressure to abandon Israel that would eventually be generated on US policy in the wake of 9-11. The situation becomes more and more untenable as Americans get caught up in the "Israel Lobby" hysteria. The public theatrics of the AIPAC lobby exacerbate the problem, because they seem to prove the "Israel Lobby" thesis. American Jews are increasingly worried about their own position, and this provides an opening to be exploited by anti-Zionist groups.
Like the Saudis who are slowly distancing themselves from the US, Israel must anticipate the loss of US power in the Middle East that will ensue from a probable US debacle in Iraq. Israel must rehabilitate its military that has been neglected owing to the occupation, as well as its society. It must use its new economic strength to gain a bit of independence from the U.S. Israel must recognize that it no longer has the leverage to maintain the occupation indefinitely. Israel cannot afford to continue to expose itself in a position where it is vulnerable to diplomatic attack as an obstacle to peace and a strategic liability to the US. The US and world public, including the Arab world, must be made more fully aware of the increasing dangers of Islamist terror and chaos, but this must be unlinked from the issue of the occupation insofar as possible.
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