The power of the Israel Lobby in the US
By Paul Craig Roberts
Online Journal Guest Writer
Nov 15, 2007, 00:20
Experts in the West and ordinary people in Arab lands have
understood for many years that the United States does not have an independent
policy toward the Middle East.
President Jimmy Carter, a man of good will, tried to use
American influence to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the source of
dangerous instability in the Middle East. However, Israel was able to block
Carter�s attempt, while blaming Yasser Arafat. Carter�s plan would have given
rise to a Palestinian state. Israel did not want any such state, because
obvious military aggression is necessary in order to steal the territory of an
official state with defined borders. It is much easier to steal land from a
By preventing the rise of a Palestinian state, Israel has
been able to continue with its theft of the West Bank. Palestinians who have
not been driven out have been forced into ghettos, cut off from schools,
hospitals, water, and their olive groves and farmlands. In a recent book,
President Carter called the existing situation "apartheid." Carter
was demonized by the Israel Lobby for his use of this word, but some experts
consider Carter�s choice of words to be an euphemism for the continuation of
what I. Pappe and N. G. Finkelstein call "the ethnic cleansing of
That the vast majority of Americans know nothing of this is
testimony to the power of the Israel Lobby.
A number of writers have exposed Israel�s misbehavior and
the power of the Lobby, but until now, the Lobby has been able to marginalize
its critics by smearing them as "anti-Semites," "Nazis,"
and "Jew-haters." In a new book, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M.
Walt have broken the Israel Lobby�s power to suppress truth by demonizing and
intimidating all who would criticize Israel.
Mearsheimer and Walt are distinguished scholars holding
distinguished appointments at the University of Chicago and Harvard University,
two of America�s most distinguished universities. Their book, The
Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, published by the distinguished American
publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, is a masterpiece of scholarship and
documentation. Footnotes comprise 23 percent of the book�s pages.
Mearsheimer and Walt easily succeed in making their case
that neither strategic nor moral grounds can explain U.S. support for Israel.
Only the power of the Israel Lobby can explain the juxtaposition of a dwindling
moral and strategic case with ever-increasing U.S. backing for Israel, even to
the disadvantage of U.S. national and strategic interests. Indeed, both
executive and legislative branches are so completely compromised by the Lobby
that the different elements of U.S. Middle East policy �have been designed in
whole or part to benefit Israel vis-�-vis its various rivals."
Chapter by chapter, Mearsheimer and Walt demonstrate the
deleterious effects the Lobby has had on U.S. relations with Palestinians,
Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Lebanon. The two scholars conclude: "The lobby�s
influence helped lead the United States into a disastrous war in Iraq and has
hamstrung efforts to deal with Syria and Iran. It also encouraged the United
States to back Israel�s ill-conceived assault on Lebanon, a campaign that
strengthened Hezbollah, drove Syria and Iran closer together, and further
tarnished America�s global image. The lobby bears considerable, though not
complete, responsibility for each of these developments, and none of them was
good for the United States. The bottom line is hard to escape, although
America�s problems in the Middle East would not disappear if the lobby were
less influential, U.S. leaders would find it easier to explore alternative
approaches and be more likely to adopt policies more in line with American
There is nothing anti-Semitic about this book. Mearsheimer
and Walt do not challenge Israel�s right to exist or the legitimacy of the
Israeli state. They believe the U.S. must defend Israel from threats to its survival.
They even regard AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, as a
legitimate American lobby and not as an unregistered agent of a foreign state.
The motives of the two scholars, apart from respect for
truth and the obligation to speak it, are to further Israel�s and America�s
legitimate interests. Mearsheimer and Walt agree with numerous Israeli
historians and commentators that Israel�s policy toward Palestine and the
Arabs, together with the Lobby�s suppression of critics, have been "directly
harmful to Israel." The inflexibility that Israel has imposed on U.S.
foreign policy has America mired in wars -- now a half decade or more old -- in
Iran and Afghanistan. Even as Muslim rage threatens to engulf America�s puppet
in Pakistan, Vice President Dick Cheney, Israel and its neoconservative allies
strive to initiate war with Iran.
This is a high price to pay for Israeli territorial
expansion even if the U.S.-Israeli policy of war and coercion succeed. If
military aggression fails to bring the Middle East under the hegemony of the
U.S. and Israel, the dangers to energy flows and Israel�s existence could
result in the use of nuclear weapons.
It is literally insane for the United States to expose the
world to such risks for the sake of Israel�s misguided policy toward Palestine.
Other scholars, especially those whose sense of justice is
offended by the cruel oppression Palestinians suffer at the hands of Israel,
are more critical than Mearsheimer and Walt. The latter do Israel and the Lobby
a service by defining the issue as one of U.S. and Israeli legitimate national
interests rather than casting it as a case of crimes, inhumanity, and
Instead of legitimate national interests, James Petras,
Bartle Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Binghamton University in New York,
sees "a level of crimes parallel to those of the Nazis in World War
Power of Israel in the United States, 2006). Petras writes that "the
architects of the Iraqi war planned a series of aggressive wars of conquest
based on the principle of domination by violence, torture, collective
punishment, total war on civilian populations, their homes, hospitals, cultural
heritage, churches and mosques, means of livelihood and educational institutions.
These are the highest crimes against humanity."
"The worst crimes," Petras writes, "are
committed by those who claim to be a divinely chosen people, a people with
�righteous� claims of supreme victimhood."
It remains to be seen how much more blood and treasure
Zionist fanaticism will extract from Americans. But one thing is certain: the
Israel Lobby is far too powerful for America�s good and Israel�s.
Forty years ago the Lobby was sufficiently powerful to force
President Lyndon Johnson to cover up the intentional Israeli attack on the
USS Liberty that resulted in 34 Americans dead and 174 wounded. Admiral
Thomas Moorer, Chief of Naval Operations and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff declared: "No
American President can stand up to Israel."
Forty years later the Israel Lobby is able to reach into
Catholic universities and to overturn tenure decisions. The courageous scholar
Norman Finkelstein was denied tenure
at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, because he is an effective critic of
In America today, academics and intellectuals who fail to
toe the Lobby�s line are unlikely to receive support from conservative or
liberal foundations. Even Mearsheimer and Walt�s article, "The Israel
Lobby," commissioned by the Atlantic Monthly and from which their
book evolved, had to be published overseas in The London Review of Books
when the Atlantic Monthly�s editors� courage failed them.
American patriots who glorify in their country�s status as
the "sole superpower" have much to learn about the subservience of
their country�s foreign policy to a tiny state of 5 million people.
There is no better place to begin than with Mearsheimer and
Craig Roberts [email him]was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the
Reagan Administration. He is the author of Supply-Side
Revolution : An Insider's Account of Policymaking in Washington;Alienation
and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown:
Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the
co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton ofThe
Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the
Constitution in the Name of Justice. Clickhere for Peter
Brimelow�s Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of
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