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Debate: US imperialism, the `Israel' lobby and the limits of solidarity

By Michael Shaik
The publication lin 2006 of the working paper The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy has awoken a long dormant debate among analysts of US foreign policy in the Middle East. Its thesis, that US policies in the Middle East are dangerously beholden to an “Israel lobby” that is diverting the US from securing its national interests in the Middle East, is hardly original, but its timing and authorship have served to provoke a storm of claims and counter-claims concerning the nature of the US-Israel relationship.

The paper was published in March 2006, a time of growing resentment toward the stridently Zionist neo-cons in the Bush administration, whose veneration of “noble lies” and gross incompetence were widely blamed for America’s costly and humiliating failures in Iraq. The authors of the paper were Stephen Walt, the Dean of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government (which has since removed its logo from the paper under pressure from “pro-Israel donors”) and John Mearsheimer, a political science professor at the University of Chicago.

Though retired members of Congress and civil servants with first-hand experience of the lobby’s power in Washington and several prominent advocates for the Palestinians, such as the late Professor Edward Said, have blamed the lobby’s influence for the US's naked pro-Israeli partisanship, their voices have been largely ignored among the mainstream left. The problem, so the narrative goes, is not the lobby but imperialism. The us supports Israel because Israel serves us interests in the Middle East. Of course there is an active Israeli lobby in the us, but suggesting that rich us Jews are influencing us foreign policy on behalf of Israel diverts attention from the real issue of us imperialism.

One of the more rigorous defences of this position is that offered by Michael Karadjis in issue 30 of Links.

Karadjis builds his case by demonstrating that Arab hostility towards the US can be explained, at least in part, without reference to Israel and proposes several ways in which Israel's ambitions coincide with those of US capital. Although not denying that the Israel lobby has some influence in us politics, he quotes the following passage by Joseph Massad in defence of his thesis that there can be no doubt as to the us role as senior partner: “What would have been different in us policy in the Middle East absent Israel and its powerful lobby? The answer in short is: the details and intensity but not the direction, content, or impact of such policies”.

The weakness of Karadjis’ approach is that it examines US foreign policy without reference to the domestic context within which it is formulated, leaving the motives behind any US action as matters of interpretation. Is Israel a strategic asset or strategic liability for the United States? Are the neocons Israeli agents who have infiltrated the US body politic or US imperialists who look to Israel for inspiration and assistance in securing US objectives in the Middle East? Does US support for an expansionist colonial state in the Middle East undermine public support for its Arab clients or serve to strengthen them by justifying their repressive measures in terms of the Israeli threat? If one focuses merely on US foreign policies, all of these questions can be answered either way with a fair degree of plausibility.

I propose a different approach to the study of the Israel-US relationship that starts with an examination of the domestic context within which US foreign policy is formulated. Having explored the role of the Israel lobby within this context, I intend to address the issue of to what extent the US-Israel alliance serves us interests in the Middle East.

What is the Israel lobby?

Walt and Mearsheimer define the Israel lobby as a “loose coalition of individuals and organisations who actively work to steer us foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction”.5 This is the definition I will be using in this essay, as it embraces the increasingly prominent groupings of non-Jewish Americans who support Israel for ideological or religious reasons, particularly the increasingly powerful Christian Zionist movement, which has served to create grassroots pro-Israeli constituencies in those parts of the us, such as the Bible Belt, with relatively insignificant Jewish populations.

The influence of the lobby within the us media, the organised labour movement, churches and other sectors of us society is beyond the scope of this essay, which will focus exclusively upon its influence on us foreign policy.

The primary means whereby the lobby influences US foreign policy is the same means with which the oil, pharmaceutical, military-industrial and automobile lobbies influence government policy: by using capital to buy influence. This should be obvious to any student of us politics, since capital is the lifeblood of the us political system. Yet, while capital is the common denominator that unites US elites, the interests of these elites tend to vary widely. As the us commentator Gabriel Ash notes:

The capital alliances that make Washington are heterogenous. Some are clearly defined by an industry, such as healthcare or agribusiness. Others are defined ideologically around a mobilizing issue, such as the gun lobby and the religious right. Yet others are defined by nationality/identity, and of these the most powerful is clearly the Israel Lobby … However, they all share one common characteristic—they all serve a capitalist interest. That is a truism, for the simple reason that you cannot play the Washington game without capital. You cannot offer career opportunities; you cannot dispense campaign funding; you cannot share a meaningful rolodex. And without these, you’re not in the game.6

Karadjis cites Ash’s analysis as implying a distinction between these lobby groups and the us ruling class, “as if the Israel lobby were similar to a more well-heeled version of the environment movement or the anti-war movement”.

Despite it [the lobby] being part of the ruling class, it appears it still has to use the traditional lobbying tactics of other social movements to get its way. This is a strange way for a section of the ruling class to act—for it to need to lobby continually, it must be a minority among the ruling class; yet these lobbying activities ensure its policies always dominate over those of the alleged ruling class majority.

In arguing that a distinction exists between the US ruling classes and groups that employ lobbying strategies, Karadjis is presenting a false dichotomy. All sections of the US ruling class have lobbies and employ professionals to lobby incessantly on their behalf. The energy companies, for example, have trumped public concern over global warming for the past fifteen years because they have the necessary capital to buy policy. That is how capitalist politics works to bypass democracy.

Like other lobbies, the Israel lobby buys influence by shaping policy makers’ perceptions of Israel. This includes measures such as providing “educational” tours of Israel in which professional propagandists present Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians as an existential struggle for survival.7 The most important way in which the lobby influences the perceptions of policy makers, however, was pioneered by Thomas Dine, the former director of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), who argued that by establishing itself as a reliable source of information on the Middle East, AIPAC would come to “own” policy makers by representing Israel as a US strategic asset.8

Today this function is performed by a host of multi-million dollar Zionist think tanks, including the Washington Institute of Near East Policy, the American Enterprise Institute, the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, the Hudson Institute and the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. By flooding both the government and the media with pro-Israel propaganda dressed up as “analysis”, such agencies have not only bypassed the state bureaucracies responsible for developing such analysis but also created a culture of political correctness that has stifled consideration of perspectives and policy alternatives that contradict the dominant narrative of interchangeable us and Israeli interests. As one official complained to a New York Times reporter under condition of anonymity, “a lot of real analysis is not even getting off people’s desks for fear of what the lobby will do”.9

The think-tank analysts’ greatest triumph, however, came with the creation of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans (OSP) in September 2002, in response to the CIAs and DIA’s failure to provide “policy-driven” analysis of the “Iraqi threat”. The OSP was overseen by Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defence for policy, co-founder of the One Jerusalem organisation, winner of the Zionist Organization of America’s Louis D. Brandeis Award and former board member of the Jewish Institute of National Strategic Affairs.

Working in close cooperation with a similar ad hoc operation inside Ariel Sharon’s office, the OSP, which never had more than ten full-time staff, hired over 100 temporary “consultants”, including, according to Guardian journalist Julian Borger, “lawyers, congressional staffers, and policy wonks from the numerous rightwing Washington think-tanks. Few had experience in intelligence”. Such expertise was supplemented by Israeli officials.

“None of the Israelis who came were cleared into the Pentagon through normal channels,” said one source familiar with the visits. Instead, they were waved in on Mr Feith’s authority without having to fill in the usual forms.10

Israel was thus able to use the OSP to bypass US intelligence-vetting procedures by “stovepiping” fabrications directly to key US decision makers. According to former CIA officers analysing the series of “intelligence failures” that were presented as justifications for the invasion of Iraq:

… the Office of Special Plans is responsible for providing the National Security Council and Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleez[z]a Rice and Rumsfeld with the bulk of the intelligence information on Iraq’s weapons program that turned out to be wrong. But White House officials used the information it received from the Office of Special Plans to win support from the public and Congress to start a war in Iraq even though the White House knew much of the information was dubious, the CIA agents said.

For example, the agents said the Office of Special Plans told the National Security Council last year that Iraq’s attempt to purchase aluminum tubes were [sic] part of a clandestine program to build an atomic bomb. The Office of Special Plans leaked the information to the New York Times last September. Shortly after the story appeared in the paper, Bush and Rice both pointed to the story as evidence that Iraq posed a grave threat to the United States and to its neighbors in the Middle East, even though experts in the field of nuclear science, the CIA and the State Department advised the White House that the aluminum tubes were not designed for an atomic bomb.

Furthermore, the CIA had been unable to develop any links between Iraq and the terrorist group al-Qaeda. But under Feith’s direction, the Office of Special Plans came up with information of such links by looking at existing intelligence reports that they felt might have been overlooked or undervalued. The Special Plans office provided the information to the Pentagon and to the White House. During a Pentagon briefing last year, Rumsfeld said he had “bulletproof” evidence that Iraq was harboring al-Qaeda terrorists.

… President Bush said in his January State of the Union address that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium ore from Africa. Bush credited British intelligence for the claims, but the intelligence was based on forged documents. The Office of Special Plans is responsible for advising the White House to allow Bush to use the uranium claims in his speech, according to Democratic Senators and a cia agent who are privy to classified information surrounding the issue.11

The OSP has since been closed down and replaced by the Office of Iranian Affairs.

The most direct way in which the Israel lobby buys influence over US policy is through campaign financing, the positive effect of which needs little explanation. It is no secret that no one who aspires to public office in the United States can succeed without massive campaign donations. The Democratic Party is particularly vulnerable in this regard. According to the Washington Post, Democratic presidential candidates “depend on Jewish supporters to supply as much as 60 per cent of the money”.12

Such funding not only serves to buy political support for a pro-Israeli foreign policy but also to defeat politicians who do not follow aipac directives. A case in point is that of Earl Hilliard, a successful Alabama congressman, who had served five terms in Washington before he was brought down in the 2002 Democrat primaries by Artur Davis, a previously unknown lawyer with no prior record of political activity but whose campaign budget was $781,000 to Hilliard’s $85,000. Commenting on the donors to the Davis campaign, Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar noted:

Here are some of the names from the first pages of the list of his contributors: there were 10 Cohens from New York and New Jersey, but before one gets to the Cohens, there were Abrams, Ackerman, Adler, Amir, Asher, Baruch, Basok, Berger, Berman, Bergman, Bernstein and Blumenthal. All from the east coast, Chicago and Los Angeles. Itol’s highly unlikely any of them have ever visited Alabama, let alone the 7th Congressional District.

What do the Adlers and Bergmans have to do with an unknown lawyer running for a Congressional seat from Alabama? Why should Jews from all over the United States send hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign coffers? ... The answer can be found in the AIPAC index of pro-Israel congressmen. Hilliard, who once visited Libya, is paying (with) his Congressional seat for a number of votes the Jewish lobbyists didn’t like. The most recent vote was when he did not vote with the overwhelming majority of congressmen who passed a resolution in support of Israel’s war on terrorism. A little while later, his opponent, Davis, discovered that a shower of checks was pouring into his campaign chest. Most of the signatures on the checks had Jewish names. The message was clear—this is what happens to politicians who upset Israel’s friends.13

It is, of course, possible that Karadjis is correct in claiming that all of this activity is in fact superfluous and that the Israel lobby is merely encouraging US policy makers to do what they would do without such inducements. It could also be the case that the ten Cohens were merely fixing a glitch in the system by ridding Congress of an inconvenient senator who didn’t understand us interests in the Middle East and that Ariel Sharon was mistaken when he told a US audience, “when people ask me how they can help Israel, I tell them: ‘help AIPAC.’”14 To really test the power of the US Israel lobby, one must examine how it deals with a direct challenge to Israeli ambitions, not just by an obscure black congressman, but by a really powerful actor in US politics.

How about a us president, former CIA director and Texan aristocrat, who had just led the us to victory in a war against an evil dictator to secure us oil interests in the Persian Gulf?

AIPAC’s first warning that the President George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) might be trouble came when his secretary of state, James Baker III, addressed its annual convention in May 1990. His words were recorded for us by the Israeli foreign minister, Moshe Arens, in his book, Broken Covenant:

For Israel, now is the time to lay aside once and for all the unrealistic vision of Greater Israel. Israeli interests in the West Bank and Gaza, security and otherwise, can be accommodated in a settlement based on Resolution 242. Forswear annexation; stop settlement activity; allow schools to reopen, reach out to the Palestinians as neighbors who deserve political rights.15

In September 1991 the Gulf War was over and Bush was ready to put Baker’s words into action. In response to a surprise request for $10 billion of US guaranteed loans, he asked the Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, to defer the loan application for 120 days and made its approval conditional on Israel freezing its construction of Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories.

When Shamir refused, confident that AIPAC influence on Capitol Hill would deliver him the necessary congressional majorities to override a presidential veto, the president’s next move took both Congress and the Lobby by surprise.

Bush hastily called a press conference and made an extraordinary televised appeal to the American people. Visibly angry, pounding his fist on the lectern, he made it appear that Israel’s insistence on the guarantees was a threat not only to the forthcoming [Madrid peace] conference but to peace itself. “A debate now could well destroy our ability to bring one or more of the parties to the peace table... If necessary I will use my veto power to keep that from happening.”

Then the president took direct aim at the pro-Israel lobby. “We are up against some powerful political forces ... very strong and effective groups that go up to the Hill,” he said. “We’ve only got one lonely little guy down here doing it ... [but] I am going to fight for what I believe. It may be popular politically but probably not ... the question isn’t whether it’s good for 1992 politics. What’s important here is that we give the process a chance. And I don’t care if I only get one vote ... I believe the American people will be with me.” Then, his voice rising, the president said “Just months ago, American men and women in uniform risked their lives to defend Israelis in the face of Iraqi Scud missiles. And indeed Desert Storm, while winning a war against aggression, also achieved the defeat of Israel’s most dangerous adversary.” He also added that, during the current fiscal year, “despite our own economic worries,” the United States had provided Israel with more than $4 billion worth of aid, “nearly one thousand dollars for each Israeli man, woman, and child.”16

Public opinion backed the president:

Polls taken afterward indicated that Americans supported Bush by a 3-1 margin and half of those responding opposed providing any economic aid to Israel. Two weeks later, a NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey showed that while voters favored aid to the Soviet Union by a margin of 58% to 32%, and aid to Poland by a margin of 55% to 29%, voters opposed economic support to Israel by 46% to 44%. Moreover, 34% saw Israel as the greatest impediment to peace in the region while only 33% saw the Arab nations in that role.17

Chastened, AIPAC agreed to the delay but mobilised its allies in the us media to attack Bush’s performance regarding the economy. Eventually, Bush agreed to the loans on condition that money spent on settlements would be deducted from the total aid package. Yet this compromise did not save him from electoral defeat. In the words of Moshe Arens:

George Bush was defeated in his attempt to get a second term. His administration’s repeated attempts to interfere in Israel’s internal politics had been without precedent in the history of relations between the United States and Israel … Bill Clinton had narrowly defeated Bush for the presidency of the United States ... The Bush administration’s confrontational style with Israel, especially the withholding of the loan guarantees, had contributed to the Likud’s defeat and, considering Rabin’s slim margin of victory, might well have been decisive. Now, it seemed as if the same policy had also contributed to the Bush defeat.18

Karadjis interprets this conflict as a Bush victory, citing the fact that Bush held up the loan guarantees by 120 days as proof that he won. His narrow defeat by Clinton, he claims, was due to the fact that after “three terms of Republican rule … it really was time for a change”.

Be that as it may, Clinton wasted no time in rewarding his benefactors. Overturning State Department policy on conflicts of interest, he appointed the founder of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP—an AIPAC spin-off), Martin Indyk, as the first Jewish ambassador to Israel. Dennis Ross, another WINEP ideologue, was put in charge of the Oslo peace process. Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories (whose population increased by 90 per cent during the Clinton presidency) were dropped from the agenda in favour of a series of interim agreements that culminated in the breakdown of the Camp David talks and the second intifada.

Israel: watchdog or lap-dog?

To his credit, Karadjis dismisses the “unsinkable aircraft carrier” claim that Israel serves as a US watchdog that can be unleashed at will as outmoded, conceding that direct Israeli action on behalf of the US would be counterproductive. Nevertheless, he offers some curious examples of how Israel serves US interests, the most mystifying being his claim that it provides an ideological prop for US imperialism:

In supporting Israel, imperialism is supporting a country that it projects as a replica of advanced western “Judeo-Christian” civilisation, bluntly telling millions of Arabs who they must look up to if they want the cash, the technology, the arms and supposedly the standard of living.

This may be true in the sense that, as I have already noted, if one observes US foreign policy in isolation, its motives become matters of interpretation. Perhaps us support for Israel is motivated by such an “ideological” agenda, but there is not a shred of evidence that US foreign policy makers regard Israel as an “ideological prop”, nor is it clear how this would serve us interests in the Middle East.

Karadjis also claims that Israeli aggression shores up reactionary Arab regimes that use the Israeli threat as an excuse to repress opposition. This is certainly the case, but the regimes thus strengthened are those of Syria and Iran. Certainly, the pro-US rulers of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia don’t believe that the Israeli violence that their citizens watch on al-Jazeera is shoring up their regimes.

The strongest claim Karadjis makes in support of his case that Israel is a us asset in the Middle East is that Israel serves the us “in secondary but very important ways”. He quotes the following passage by Stephen Zunes in support of this claim:

Israel has also been supportive of U.S. military operations in Iraq by helping to train U.S. Special Forces in aggressive counterinsurgency techniques and sending urban warfare specialists to Fort Bragg to instruct assassination squads targeting suspected Iraqi guerrilla leaders. The U.S. civil administration in Iraq … was modelled after Israel’s civil administration in the occupied Arab territories … Israelis have helped arm and train pro-American Kurdish militias and have assisted U.S. officials in interrogation centres for suspected insurgents ... Israeli advisers have shared helpful tips on erecting roadblocks and checkpoints, have provided training in mine-clearing and wall-breaching methods, and have suggested techniques for tracking suspected insurgents using drone aircraft. Israel has also provided aerial surveillance equipment, decoy drones, and armored construction equipment.19

Such assistance is hardly indispensable, and much is of dubious value. If the US modelled its civil administration in Iraq on the Israeli regime in the Occupied Territories, this might go some way to explaining its failure to control any territory outside of the coalition bases and Baghdad’s Green Zone. Israel’s rule over a mostly unarmed and utterly defenceless occupied population is in no way comparable to the challenges America faces in Iraq. The Israeli army is mostly a glorified colonial police force, whose counter-insurgency and “urban warfare” techniques for the most part consist of “pacifying” stone throwing youth and enforcing curfews. In its thirty-four day war against Hezbollah it failed, after numerous attempts, to capture a single Lebanese village. What “helpful tips” the Israelis gave us troops in erecting roadblocks and checkpoints Zunes does not specify, nor does he explain how such incidental tactical assistance justifies Israel’s status as a US strategic asset.

Does it matter?

Should anti-imperialists care about which faction of the US ruling class predominates in defining US policies in the Middle East?

This surely depends on the agendas of each faction, the balance of power between them and our capacity to influence their struggle for ascendancy.

In December 2006, the Iraq Study Group (ISG), a committee of elder statesmen, retired intelligence analysts and business leaders headed by former Secretary of State James Baker III, submitted its report to Congress on the current and prospective situation in Iraq and the consequences of the war for US interests. The report concluded that the situation in Iraq was “grave and deteriorating” and warned of the dangers of a broader regional war, a drop in oil production, a loss of us standing and influence throughout the world and of US disillusionment translating into a loss of public support for future military deployments in defence of US global interests.20

The commission recommended the following actions to ward off further decline:

* engagement with Iran and Syria to stabilise Iraq and defeat al-Qaeda;

* a renewed Arab-Israeli peace drive based on the following principles:

* a US security guarantee for Israel,

--the return of the Golan Heights to Syria,

--support for a Palestinian unity government,

--a two-state solution based on UN Security Council recommendations calling on Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories;

* that the us declare that it had no wish to establish permanent bases in Iraq and no wish to control Iraqi oil;

* promotion of national reconciliation based on:

-- oil revenue sharing between Iraq’s provinces,

-- support for Iraqi amnesty proposals,

-- engagement with all parties to the conflict except al-Qaeda;

* That the us make no open-ended commitment to keep troops in Iraq.21

Two weeks before the release of the ISG report, the Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar reported on a briefing the Israeli prime minister gave to journalists on a return flight from the United States:

On his way home from Los Angeles, the prime minister “calmed” the reporters—and perhaps even himself—by saying there is no danger of U.S. President George W. Bush accepting the expected recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton panel [i.e. the ISG], and attempting to move Syria out of the axis of evil and into a coalition to extricate America from Iraq. The prime minister hopes the Jewish lobby can rally a Democratic majority in the new Congress to counter any diversion from the status quo on the Palestinians.22

His confidence was well placed. In January Condoleezza Rice spoke of a “new alignment” in the Middle East, on one side of which were the “responsible” Arab governments of Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf States and the Palestinian forces aligned with Mahmoud Abbas. On the other were the “extremist” forces of Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran.23 Those familiar with the Middle East will note that the sole criterion separating the two parties is their willingness to resist Israeli expansionism.

In the same month President Bush rejected the isg recommendations in favour of a “surge strategy” that was clearly oriented towards a confrontation with Iran. Key elements of the new strategy were:

* increasing troops levels in Iraq,
*
deploying patriot missiles to protect the Gulf oil fields,

* deploying an extra aircraft carrier to the region,

* the mass arrest of Iranians in Iraq,

* deployment of British minesweepers to the Persian Gulf.

Under pressure from AIPAC, the Democrats removed language from the latest military appropriations act that would have required the president to get congressional approval before attacking Iran.24

And the anti-war movement?

While a year of intense protests had preceded the invasion of Iraq, in this instance, despite the gravity of the situation and abundant warnings, there has been a curious absence of public outrage. A recent star-studded antiwar rally in Washington overlooked the issue [of Iran] entirely … At a time when Israel is the only party visibly lobbying for the war, according to one report on the rally, the “antiwar” Rabbi Michael Lerner was pleased that there were “very, very, very few signs that had anything to do with Israel” at the rally. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, a leading participant said, “the lack of attention directed toward Israel was a credit to the peace movement.” Another participant was relieved that she “did not notice any criticism of Israel at the event.”25

Perhaps it is appropriate for the left to assume an attitude of indifference towards a power struggle among US ruling elites? Without doubt Israel’s partisans would respond to any attempt to expose their activities with howls of “anti-Semitism”, and it would certainly be easier and less risky to stick to an un-nuanced “anti-imperialist” dialectic than to admit that James Baker’s realist faction might represent a lesser evil than US Zionists.

But what of the consequences of our present course?

Despite stubborn public opposition to the war, the uncomfortable fact remains that active support for the anti-war movement has been falling steadily since early 2003 in every country except the US (where public disillusion and a steadily rising US body count have been the driving factors behind its resurgence). The public, it seems, are (not) voting with their feet because they no longer believe that the peace movement can either stop the war in Iraq or halt the slide to war with Iran.

Our problem is not that the public support the war but rather that, in refusing to acknowledge the role of Israel’s partisans in the formulation of US foreign policy, we have granted the main protagonists and beneficiaries of a prolonged and expanded war a safe haven in which to operate without fear of public exposure. Although it might be possible to revive the anti-war movement over the longer term, we would still have to pay the price of past mistakes. While “No blood for oil” is still a common enough slogan at rallies, “No war for Israel” would certainly be pushing the limits of political correctness.

It is to be hoped that the Palestinians, Iraqis and Iranians appreciate our sensitivity as they drag their relatives’ bodies from the rubble in the years ahead.

Notes

1. A good analysis of the neocons’ delusional dogmas is Grant F. Smith’s Deadly Dogma: How Neoconservatives Broke the Law to Deceive America, The Institute for Research: Middle East Policy, 2006.

2. The most well-known organisation of such individuals being the Council for the National Interest: http://cnionline.org/about/

3. See his chapter “America’s Last Taboo” in The New Intifada: Resisting America’s Apartheid, Verso, October 2001.

4. Joseph Massad, “Blaming the Israel Lobby,” Znet, March 29, 2006, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=107&ItemID=10010

5. Their paper can be found at http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n06/mear01_.html

6. Gabriel Ash, The Israel Lobby and Chomsky’s Reply, April 20, 2006, http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Apr06/Ash20.htm

7. Jim Abourezk “The hidden cost of free congressional trips to Israel”, Christian Science Monitor, January 26, 2007, http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0126/p09s01-coop.html

8. Kathleen and Bill Christison, “The Power of the Israel Lobby”, Counterpunch, June 16/18, 2006, http://www.counterpunch.org/christison06162006.html

9. Cited in Kathleen and Bill Christison, “The Power of the Israel Lobby”.

10. Julian Borger, “The spies who pushed for war,” Guardian, July 17, 2003, http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,999737,00.html

11. Jason Leopold, “CIA Probe Finds Secret Pentagon group Manipulated Intelligence on Iraqi Threat”, http://www.antiwar.com/orig/leopold11.html

12. Cited in Walt and Mearsheimer, “The Israel Lobby”.

13. Cited in “An Alabama Primary That Went Global”, The Nation, June 27, 2002, http://www.thenation.com/blogs/thebeat?pid=79

14. Cited in Walt and Mearsheimer, “The Israel Lobby”.

15. Moshe Arens, Broken Covenant, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1995, p. 56. Cited in Jeff Blankfort, “Damage Control: Noam Chomsky and the Israel-Palestine Conflict”, Left Curve, #29, April 2005, http://www.leftcurve.org/LC29WebPages/Chomsky.html

16. Arens, Broken Covenant, pp. 246-247, cited in Blankfort, “Damage Control”.

17. Blankfort, “Damage Control”.

18. Cited in Blankfort, “Damage Control”.

19. Cited in Karadjis, “The us and Israel”, pp. 13-14.

20. The Iraq Study Group Report, http://bakerinstitute.org/Pubs/iraqstudygroup_findings.pdf

21. ibid.

22. Akiva Eldar, “The Gewalt Agenda,” Haaretz, November 20, 2006.

23. Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, January 11, 2007, http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2007/78605.htm.

24. John Walsh, “Why is the Peace Movement Silent About AIPAC?” Jewish Voice for Peace, April 17, 2007, http://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/publish/article_835.shtml

25. Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, “‘Anyone Can Go To Baghdad; Real Men Go To Tehran’”, The Fanonite, March 4, 2007, http://fanonite.org/2007/02/27/%E2%80%9Canyone-can-go-to-baghdad-real-me...

[Michael Shaik is the Public Advocate for Australians for Palestine. He has been active in the Palestine solidarity movement for five years. Shaik was the media coordinator for the International Solidarity Movement in Palestine until he was arrested and deported from Israel in July 2003. He is the contributor to two books on the role of international peace activists in the struggle against the occupation and has commented on Israeli-Palestinian affairs for ABC Radio National's Perspectives program, Melbourbe Age, Green Left Weekly and the Canberra Times.]

Comments

There is no lesser evil

First, the good news. The slogan "No War for Israel" has been taken up by some people - albeit not on the Left, but the far Right. Still, you are always looking for new allies.
Second, though the neo cons and Israel lobyists in Washington may all insist the invasion of Iraq was to save Israel, the Israeli strategists and intelligence analysts actually did not see Saddam Hussein's Iraq as a threat, did not nuy the WMD's story and some at least advised against the war, if Washington was listening. Their attitude on Iran might be different, of course, though behind it is their own wars in Gaza and Lebanon rather than the nuclear bogey.
The war and the lobby do serve another purpose however, which is America's war on European rivals. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Washington no longer felt it had to be nice to allies. Gaining control of oil resources is not just about needing the oil but about ensuring US economic dominance.
The lobby has served to smear foreign governments but it also has another aspect, which you ignore. People who opposed US foreign policy and support for reactionary regimes, including liberral or left-wing Jews, were told their attitude might harm Israel, or even be thereby "antisemitic", as Israel armed central American dictators and aided the Argentine junta (which was antisemitic!) Now at least two thirds of American Jews polled, while concerned for Israel, do not go along with its complete denial of rights to Palestinians, or aggressive wars. But it suits US politicians to listen to AIPAC and the Christian Right and what talks in Washington is big money, not ordinary folk's dissent or uncertainty. But by ignoring or hiding these distinctions and differences you actually sustain the lobby's claims to authenticity.
esides which, I wonder whether you will rewrite American history to suit your "lesser evil"? You could explain that America went to war with Spain because the Navy mistook Philippines and Palestine, that JP Morgen was really Morgenstern, the US was tricked into entering the Second World War or ought at lesat to have stuck to the Pacific, Admiral Forrestal was a progressive hero, and David Duke (as hosted in Tehran) a misunderstood patriot.
Incidentally, talking of "sensitivity", I have not heard of Bush attacking the Saudis, even when fighters stream over the border into Iraq. But nor have we had any demonstrations yet over the Saudi walls being built by companies like Raytheon on the borders with Yemen and Iraq, the latter to keep out fleeing Iraqi refugees. we had a small left-wing demonstration here in London against the Saudi royal visit, but the government suppresed an investigation into corrupt arms deals, and most of the anti-war movement here did not get involved. Must be those Cohens and Abrahams again.

Millitary spending

This issue becomes clearer if the US aid to Israel is looked at in context with it's over-all military spending.

Aid to Israel - over $134 billion since 1949
US military budget - Approximately $623 per year

Unfortunately I am unable to find the figures for spending on US bases in the Middle East outside Israel - but I do know that it is much higher than annual aid to Israel.

In this context Israel is an extremely cheap investment for US imperialism.

A few comments

Firstly, thanks for your reply Michael, and while I disagree I think you've made many useful points. I'm sorry this piece took so long to appear; the previous Links editor, John Percy, had discussed it with me early last year and had agreed to put your reply into the then print edition of Links, due out mid-year. As the editors changed over at about the same time Links became a web journal, your article seems to have been 'lost in transition'. I want to stress that I'm not suggesting any issue with either the previous or current Links editors, I mean really 'lost in transition'. The reason I did not realise is that John had already sent me your reply and I read it, so it never occurred to me to search the website when it was launched some months later, simply assuming it was up. I was rather surprised when I recently found out your reply was not yet up.

I may comment more substantially later, but I want to very quickly make two points.

Firstly, you write:

"Karadjis also claims that Israeli aggression shores up reactionary Arab regimes that use the Israeli threat as an excuse to repress opposition. This is certainly the case, but the regimes thus strengthened are those of Syria and Iran."

Yet in fact I spent considerable time in my original article stressing that I meant specifically Saudi Arabia and the reactionary Gulf oil monarchies. You may disagree, but I would have preferred you to take on my arguments about this, which was quite important in my article.

Secondly, I find your conclusion a little troubling. You write:

"Our problem is not that the public support the war but rather that, in refusing to acknowledge the role of Israel’s partisans in the formulation of US foreign policy, we have granted the main protagonists and beneficiaries of a prolonged and expanded war a safe haven in which to operate without fear of public exposure. Although it might be possible to revive the anti-war movement over the longer term, we would still have to pay the price of past mistakes. While “No blood for oil” is still a common enough slogan at rallies, “No war for Israel” would certainly be pushing the limits of political correctness."

"It is to be hoped that the Palestinians, Iraqis and Iranians appreciate our sensitivity as they drag their relatives’ bodies from the rubble in the years ahead."

Whether or not the slogan “No war for Israel” should be used depends first and foremost on whether we think it is politically accurate, which is precisely the difference we have here. So the fact that we reject this slogan has no relation to “sensitivity” or “political correctness” (in its euphemistic meaning), and everything to do with the very real political arguments I put in my article. Michael should not try to confuse this.

However, even if we happened to agree with your analysis, there would still be tactical issues over whether or not this would be a good slogan. A slogan to mobilise a mass movement needs to be one that can pull in the largest spectrum of public support, to try to build the movement more massively. This is important, since it is so obvious that the mass character of the anti-war movement dropped off virtually as soon as the war was launched.

Michael’s implication from the above is that the slogan “No war for Israel”, if we were agreed on its political content, would be more effective in mobilising the movement, thus more likely to end and/or prevent the slaughter of Palestinians, Iraqis and Iranians. Not using this slogan will more likely maximize the number of deaths. This seems to me a tall order Michael. The decline of the anti-war movement had complex causes, not mainly due to slogans, in my opinion. I think you would need to do a more thorough job showing that such a slogan would have this magic mass mobilising effect you predict, much more so than “No war for oil” or other slogans, before implying some alleged “sensitivity” of those who disagree with you is dragging more bodies through the rubble.

I see nothing about that in your piece, and cannot think of any reason why it would mobilise any greater numbers of people (and probably significantly fewer), except possibly for some ultra-rightists, Hansonites, Klansmen, and monkeys wearing swastikas. “Mobilising” such scum would most likely have a very *demobilizing* effect on the rest of the anti-war population.

All in all, I think your conclusion does not do justice to many of the more useful political points you’ve made in your article.

In any case, let’s continue the debate.

My original article that Michael Shaik polemicised against above is at http://links.org.au/node/205

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