There have been some very cogent reviews of Mearsheimer and Walt's The Israel Lobby. The best of them show that their thesis is unfair, that it is simply incorrect to place the blame for the Iraq war on the Israel Lobby, that Israel
is in fact a strategic asset etc. The best of these reviews, if only because the author, a very senior former US diplomat, is not a member of the Israel Lobby faith, is the review by George Schultz
. But let's face it, this is a thesis whose time has come. Reviews are only going to boost the popularity of the book, no matter what is written in them. Buoyed by the constant publicity of the reviews, the book has maintained an Amazon sales rank of 55, which is phenomenal for a non-fiction book that is not written in large type, is not by a celebrity, and is not about how to eat all you want and lose weight. The great sales of this book, and of Jimmy Carter's Apartheid screed, are especially interesting in view of the complaints of the authors that the "Israel Lobby" doesn't let anyone voice criticism.
Sooner or later, the popularity of the Israel Lobby thesis is going to be so overwhelming that it must inevitably be translated into political reality. Supporters of Israel
have to learn the lessons of the Israel lobby well, and adjust strategy accordingly. Thus far, they have not been doing so. Until the big Jewish organizations, their Christian friends and the State of Israel change course, the clamor about the "Israel Lobby" is just going to get worse. There is no doubt that it represents a clear and present danger. The authors have hit on a winning strategy. Unless we do something, that strategy will be exploited, if not by them, then by others, to erode the standing of Israel with its last remaining firm ally.
The "Israel Lobby" strategy of the anti-Israel lobby lobby is a combination of deadly ingredients that strike at the weak points of Israeli policy and the general Israeli position, as well as the conduct of the Israel lobby itself, which has made egregious errors.
The major points are:
* Publicity and fanfare
* Exploitation of the "Jewish Problem"
* Foreign aid to Israel
* The occupationPublicity
Harry S. Truman noted that you can get a lot done in Washington if you don't insist on getting credit for it. Every major lobby other than AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups insist on virtual anonymity. Until their enemies put the spotlight on their activities, few were aware of the lobbies of the American Medical Association, the National Rifle Association, the tobacco Industry and others. Few are aware of the huge sums spent by Arab and Muslim countries, in various places, to buy influence: consultants, Middle East studies departments, lucrative contracts, "friendship associations".... When was the last time that the Aramco company held a big conference in Washington and invited a Saudi Imam to speak about the advantages of child marriages and keeping women in their place? When did a Presidential candidate have to speak in front of a Muslim group and pledge support for a united Muslim Jerusalem? The Jews get all the campaign pledges, but the Muslims and Arabs get the real support. No U.S. soldier ever had to fight to defend Israel, but nobody seems to notice that U.S. soldiers have been actively engaged in the defense of the Gulf states for about two decades.
The U.S. spends far more money supporting reactionary regimes in the Persian Gulf than it does supporting Israel. Yet the "Israel lobby" gets all the attention and opprobrium. This happens because the very real accomplishments of the other side are generally cloaked in secrecy and discretion, while even the tiniest and most meaningless expression of support that Israel lobbyists can wring from reluctant politicians is given huge headlines and heralded as a breakthrough. The Israel lobby is an industry. It needs to show this public output of "achievements" in order to attract more donations. The Jewish Problem
We had better recognize that there is, at minimum, a general dearth of sympathy for Jews
. A small hard core of people always believed, and a larger group suspects, that the "Israel Lobby" controls the press, the "Israel Lobby" controls the government and the "Israel Lobby" has a secret conspiracy. The thesis is planted on fertile ground. Most other Americans are not racist, but they don't necessarily have a great sympathy for Jews
. They don't want to spend their money on Jews, they don't want their sons to go to war because of Jews, and they don't want to pay $2.00 a gallon for gasoline because of Jews.
Supporters of Israel as well as the Israeli government have consistently erred by making it seem that every single issue related to Israel is about Jews and the Middle East. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has vowed to achieve a "world without America." He participated as a student in holding US diplomats hostage. His government hangs homosexuals, stones adultresses and metes out the death sentence to Christian missionaries. The Iranian government is doing its best to overthrow the U.S.-supported democratic regime in Lebanon, and is undermining U.S. efforts in Iraq. Ahmadinejad should be be as popular as strychnine in the United States.
There is only one way to make Ahmadinejad and Iran acceptable to a portion of the US electorate, and that is to make it seem like the only objection to him and to Iran has to do with the Jewish problem. When Ambassador Danny Gillerman said that inviting Ahmadinejad to Ground Zero would be like inviting Hitler to Auschwitz, he was making a gratuitous connection that is not there. 9-11 was not done by Ahmadinejad, and 9-11 didn't kill Jews for the most part. So what is the point of this tasteless remark, that will in any case have no practical effect?
Every time Jewish leaders bring up the Holocaust in connection with Israeli security or Muslim terror, they are hammering home the same point: it's all about Jews and anti-Semitism. This ploy may get donations to AIPAC from Jews, but it is self-defeating for the cause of Israel.
The Iraq war was, apparently, hatched to make the Persian Gulf safe for U.S. oil supplies and the regimes that provide that oil. The Israeli government made every effort to dissuade the US from a war in Iraq. Due in part to the incredible obtuseness of pro-Israel lobbyists, the war somehow got billed as an act supporting Israel. Though a lot of this spin was due to the work of enemies of Israel, there is no denying that "supporters" like Meyrav Wurmser and Richard Perle did a lot of the damage, and provided the raw materials for the plot of "The Jews started the war in Iraq." Foreign aid to Israel
Israel is the recipient of the largest sum of US foreign aid. The Begin government was incredibly shortsighted in agreeing to accept long term American monetary compensation for the Sinai pullout. A lump sum or commercial rights to Sinai oil and other concessions would have been forgotten. The reason why Israel is getting the aid is forgotten, but the fact of the aid remains, and Mearsheimer and Walt exploit it for all it is worth - which is about $3 billion a year. The United States government needs to maintain this aid to Israel because of the control it buys over Israeli policy, but the "Israel Lobby" people conveniently make believe they don't understand. Israel should be diversifying its alliances, and devoting a lot more effort to being self sufficient. The Occupation
Make no mistake. The same groups and interests who were opposed to Israel before 1967 are leading the "Israel Lobby" crusade today. Declassified documents of the Six Day War
period show that the U.S. diplomatic corps and Aramco were pressuring the US government to abandon Israel before the war, and U.S. Senators were complaining that "they" have too much power and would not allow any opposition to Israel. In that respect, nothing has changed. But the occupation, like the US aid, has made Israel extremely vulnerable. The United States remains just about the only country that is willing to support Israel, even after the Hamas
takeover demonstrated the real nature of Palestinian society and the very problematic prognosis for a healthy Palestinian state. Right or wrong, the occupation has no future. If it is continued for too long, it will bring about the result desired by Israel's enemies: total isolation and delegitimation of the Jewish state. The record of the Oslo years demonstrates that Any peace settlement is going to be a bad one. Already, a terrorist freed under the latest set of concessions has been caught back in the terror business again. It is quite probable that the arms and training supplied to Mahmoud Abbas's security forces, like those supplied previously, will be used primarily against Israel, rather than to keep the peace. There will not be any good peace deals on offer. Only bad ones and worse ones. But every Israeli government has to weigh the very real risks of a very bad peace deal, against the absolute certainty that continued occupation will alienate the last of Israel's world support. Ami Isseroff
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