Pro-Israel lobby in U.S. under
United Press International
www.upi.com/, March 20, 2006
Two of America's top scholars have published
a searing attack on the role and power of Washington's pro-Israel
lobby in a British journal, warning that its "decisive"
role in fomenting the Iraq war is now being repeated with the
threat of action against Iran. And they say that the Lobby is
so strong that they doubt their article would be accepted in any
Professor John Mearsheimer of the University
of Chicago, author of "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics"
and Professor Stephen Walt of Harvard's Kenney School, and author
of "Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy,"
are leading figures American in academic life.
They claim that the Israel lobby has distorted
American policy and operates against American interests, that
it has organized the funneling of more than $140 billion dollars
to Israel and "has a stranglehold" on the U.S. Congress,
and its ability to raise large campaign funds gives its vast influence
over Republican and Democratic administrations, while its role
in Washington think tanks on the Middle East dominates the policy
And they say that the Lobby works ruthlessly
to suppress questioning of its role, to blacken its critics and
to crush serious debate about the wisdom of supporting Israel
in U.S. public life.
"Silencing skeptics by organizing
blacklists and boycotts -- or by suggesting that critics are anti-Semites
-- violates the principle of open debate on which democracy depends,"
Walt and Mearsheimer write.
"The inability of Congress to conduct
a genuine debate on these important issues paralyses the entire
process of democratic deliberation. Israel's backers should be
free to make their case and to challenge those who disagree with
them, but efforts to stifle debate by intimidation must be roundly
condemned," they add, in the 12,800-word article published
in the latest issue of The London Review of Books.
The article focuses strongly on the role
of the "neo-conservatives" within the Bush administration
in driving the decision to launch the war on Iraq.
"The main driving force behind the
war was a small band of neo-conservatives, many with ties to the
Likud," Mearsheimer and Walt argue." Given the neo-conservatives'
devotion to Israel, their obsession with Iraq, and their influence
in the Bush administration, it isn't surprising that many Americans
suspected that the war was designed to further Israeli interests."
"The neo-conservatives had been determined
to topple Saddam even before Bush became president. They caused
a stir early in 1998 by publishing two open letters to Clinton,
calling for Saddam's removal from power. The signatories, many
of whom had close ties to pro-Israel groups like JINSA (Jewish
Institute for National Security Affairs) or WINEP (Washington
Institute for Near Eastern Policy), and who included Elliot Abrams,
John Bolton, Douglas Feith, William Kristol, Bernard Lewis, Donald
Rumsfeld, Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, had little trouble
persuading the Clinton administration to adopt the general goal
of ousting Saddam. But they were unable to sell a war to achieve
that objective. They were no more able to generate enthusiasm
for invading Iraq in the early months of the Bush administration.
They needed help to achieve their aim. That help arrived with
9/11. Specifically, the events of that day led Bush and Cheney
to reverse course and become strong proponents of a preventive
war," Walt and Mearsheimer write.
The article, which is already stirring
furious debate in U.S. academic and intellectual circles, also
explores the historical role of the Lobby.
"For the past several decades, and
especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centerpiece of US
Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel,"
the article says.
"The combination of unwavering support
for Israel and the related effort to spread 'democracy' throughout
the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized
not only U.S. security but that of much of the rest of the world.
This situation has no equal in American political history. Why
has the U.S. been willing to set aside its own security and that
of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another
state?" Professors Walt and Mearsheimer add.
"The thrust of U.S. policy in the
region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially
the activities of the 'Israel Lobby'. Other special-interest groups
have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed
to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest,
while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. interests
and those of the other country - in this case, Israel -- are essentially
identical," they add.
They argue that far from being a strategic
asset to the United States, Israel "is becoming a strategic
burden" and "does not behave like a loyal ally."
They also suggest that Israel is also now "a liability in
the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states.
"Saying that Israel and the U.S.
are united by a shared terrorist threat has the causal relationship
backwards: the US has a terrorism problem in good part because
it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around,"
they add. "Support for Israel is not the only source of anti-American
terrorism, but it is an important one, and it makes winning the
war on terror more difficult. There is no question that many al-Qaida
leaders, including Osama bin Laden, are motivated by Israel's
presence in Jerusalem and the plight of the Palestinians. Unconditional
support for Israel makes it easier for extremists to rally popular
support and to attract recruits."
They question the argument that Israel
deserves support as the only democracy in the Middle East, claiming
that "some aspects of Israeli democracy are at odds with
core American values. Unlike the US, where people are supposed
to enjoy equal rights irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity,
Israel was explicitly founded as a Jewish state and citizenship
is based on the principle of blood kinship. Given this, it is
not surprising that its 1.3 million Arabs are treated as second-class
The most powerful force in the Lobby is
AIPAC, the American-Israel Public affairs Committee, which Walt
and Mearsheimer call "a de facto agent for a foreign government,"
and which they say has now forged an important alliance with evangelical
The bulk of the article is a detailed
analysis of the way they claim the Lobby managed to change the
Bush administration's policy from "halting Israel's expansionist
policies in the Occupied Territories and advocating the creation
of a Palestinian state" and divert it to the war on Iraq
instead. They write "Pressure from Israel and the Lobby was
not the only factor behind the decision to attack Iraq in March
2003, but it was critical."
"Thanks to the lobby, the United
States has become the de facto enabler of Israeli expansion in
the Occupied Territories, making it complicit in the crimes perpetrated
against the Palestinians," and conclude that "Israel
itself would probably be better off if the Lobby were less powerful
and U.S. policy more even-handed."_