On the Israel/Zionist lobby in America and its influence on US policy: Why strategically and tactically focusing on this lobby maybe important
Howard Friedman, President of AIPAC, titled his letter of July 30, 2006 to friends and supporters of AIPAC "Look what you've done". He explained: "Israel is fighting a pivotal war for its life...the expected chorus of international condemnation of Israel's actions. ..only ONE nation in the world came out and flatly declared: Let Israel finish the job.. That nation is the United States of America--and the reason it had such a clear, unambiguous view of the situation is YOU and the rest of America Jewry....How do we do it? ... decades of long hard work which never ends." Ari Berman in The Nation stated that "The congressional reaction to Hezbollah's attack on Israel and Israel's retaliatory bombing of Lebanon provide the latest example of why AIPAC's lock on US foreign policy in the Middle East must be examined." (July 31, 2006 http://www.alternet.org/story/39679 ).
Was he just blustering? If so, can anyone explain why US imperialism bows at the foot of AIPAC every year in their annual convention. Why does Obama come to AIPAC trying to outbid others in pledging allegiance to Israel? Why does Israel get more money per capita of our federal taxes than any other country (and even most US States)?
It is IMHO important to engage in open discussion regardless of where one stands on these matters. The following four pages are not intended to be a comprehensive analysis but hopefully strings to begin this needed discussion. I would suggest actually that leftist groups, the Council for National Interest, ADC or other groups host a conference specifically to delve deeper into the questions raised. The Republican administration supported by the democrats who continue to fund the war (it takes only 40 senators to block funding) talks and acts based on a supposed common threat the Zionist coined "Islamofascism". But now that the Iraq war is winding down, there is a push for confliuct with Iran! Who is pushing it and why? Let us do a little research on this lobby and cite some resources. Here we divide this into two sections:
a) Articles that describe the lobby and its strong influence (perhaps not "lock") on US foreign policy, and
b) A list of situations where other elite interests (oil, weapons manufacturers) collided with the Israel lobby and the latter won. There are of course other situations where the lobby lost, especially early in its career (e.g. 1956 with Eisenhauer and the Suez crisis).
First a relevant quote from Nehemia Stessler writing in Haaretz, May 12, 1989: "Israel’s dependence on the United States is far greater than suggested by the sum of $3 billion. Israel’s physical existence depends on the Americans in both military and political terms. Without the US, we would not be equipped with the latest fighter planes and other advanced weapons. Without the American veto, we would have long since been expelled from every international organization, not to speak of the UN, which would have imposed sanctions on us that would have totally paralyzed Israel’s international trade, since we cannot exist without importing raw material"
A) RELEVANT QUOTES AND RESOURCES ON THE LOBBY AND ITS INFLUENCE
About the recent resolution in Congress to support Israel and condemn Hezbollah and Hamas (passed 410 to 8): "They (the Congress) were given a resolution by AIPAC, They didn't prepare one." former Carter Administration National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who addressed the House Democratic Caucus on July 19, 2006.
"The Bush Administration is bad enough in tolerating measures they would not accept anywhere else but Israel, But the Congress, if anything, is urging the Administration on and criticizing them even at their most accommodating. When it comes to the Israeli-Arab conflict, the terms of debate are so influenced by organized Jewish groups like AIPAC that to be critical of Israel is to deny oneself the ability to succeed in American politics." Henry Siegman, former head of the American Jewish Congress and a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.
"In 2002, two Democrats in Congress with records of voting against Israel's interests -- Reps. Earl Hilliard of Alabama and Cynthia McKinney of Georgia.. faced primary opponents who received substantial support from Jewish donors. A majority of AIPAC board members gave either to McKinney's challenger or Hilliard's or both. Hilliard and McKinney lost. Bill Banks, McKinney's campaign manger, charged that AIPAC had made her the "No. 1 candidate to try to remove from office." AIPAC denied the accusation." Washington Post, "Pro-Israel Lobby Has Strong Voice: AIPAC Is Embroiled in Investigation of Pentagon Leaks" 9/5/04
In 1997, Fortune magazine asked members of Congress and their staffs to list the most powerful lobbies in Washington. AIPAC was ranked second behind the American Association of Retired People, but ahead of the AFL-CIO and the National Rifle Association. A National Journal study in March 2005 reached a similar conclusion, placing AIPAC in second place (tied with AARP).
"My No. 1 priority in foreign policy is to protect Israel." Dick Armey, September 2002 (you would think it would be to protect America?)
"There are a lot of guys at the working level up here on Capitol Hill who happen to be Jewish, who are willing . . . to look at certain issues in terms of their Jewishness . . . These are all guys who are in a position to make the decisions in these areas for those senators . . . You can get an awful lot done just at the staff level." Morris Amitay, a former head of AIPAC.
Think tanks that shape US policy are decidedly with the Lobby or even established as offshoots of the lobby: Washington Institute on Near East Affairs, the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Center for Security Policy, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. "The incestuous nature of the proliferating boards and think tanks, whose membership lists are more or less identical and totally interchangeable, is frighteningly insidious. Several scholars at the American Enterprise Institute, including former Reagan UN ambassador and long-time supporter of the Israeli right wing, Jeane Kirkpatrick, make their pro-Israel views known vocally from the sidelines and occupy positions on other boards.
Probably the most important organization, in terms of its influence on Bush administration policy formulation, is the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). Formed after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, specifically to bring Israel's security concerns to the attention of U.S. policymakers and concentrating also on broad defense issues, the extremely hawkish, right-wing JINSA has always had a high-powered board able to place its members inside conservative U.S. administrations. Cheney, Bolton, and Feith were members until they entered the Bush administration. Several lower level JINSA functionaries are now working in the Defense Department. Perle is still a member, as are Kirkpatrick, former CIA director and leading Iraq-war hawk James Woolsey, and old-time rabid pro-Israel types like Eugene Rostow and Michael Ledeen. Both JINSA and Gaffney's Center for Security Policy are heavily underwritten by Irving Moskowitz, a right-wing American Zionist, California business magnate (his money comes from bingo parlors), and JINSA board member, who has lavishly financed the establishment of several religious settlements in Arab East Jerusalem."
Previous CIA analysts Kathleen and Bill Christison write on the Israeli lobby http://www.counterpunch.org/christison09062004.html
Total Taxpayer Cost per Israeli: $23,240 (no other country comes even
close). "Other recipients get their money in quarterly installments, but Israel receives its entire appropriation at the beginning of each fiscal year and can thus earn interest on it. Most recipients of aid given for military purposes are required to spend all of it in the US, but Israel is allowed to use roughly 25 per cent of its allocation to subsidize its own defence industry. It is the only recipient that does not have to account for how the aid is spent, which makes it virtually impossible to prevent the money from being used for purposes the US opposes, such as building settlements on the West Bank. Moreover, the US has provided Israel with nearly $3 billion to develop weapons systems, and has given it access to such top-drawer weaponry as Blackhawk helicopters and F-16 jets. Finally, the US gives Israel access to intelligence it denies to its NATO allies and has turned a blind eye to Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weapons."
Mearsheimer and Walt, London Review of Books, 3/23/06 explain how the US policy in the Middle East is shaped by the lobby even against other elite interests http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n06/mear01_.html
Philip Zelikow, member of the president’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, and a counsellor to
Condoleezza Rice stated clearly at the University of Virginia in September 2002 that Iraq was not a threat to the US but the ‘unstated threat’ was a
‘threat against Israel’ adding that the government, "doesn’t want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell."
"Chomsky cites Stephen Zunes approvingly to the effect that 'there are far more powerful interests that have a stake in what happens in the Persian Gulf region than does AIPAC.' The practical implication of this statement is that it is wrong for anti-imperialists activists to pay too much attention to the Israel lobby. It’s a waste of resources and a diversion from the real target -- U.S. imperialism. The problem is that Zunes and Chomsky are again confusing their own leftist framework with the right wing framework they oppose. It is wrong to focus on identity as such, including the national/ethnic identity of Jews/Israelis who are key figures in the imperialist machinery. It is wrong to see the world as fundamentally a clash of tribal identities. But it is not wrong to strategically focus on the Israel Lobby. The “Israel Lobby” shouldn’t be an alternative framework that competes with 'U.S. imperialism' as an explanation to world events. The Israel Lobby should rather be a shorthand designation for a segment of the elites that fully participates in making U.S. imperialism happen. To insist on ignoring the Lobby is to help it maintain a 'safe zone' for U.S. imperialism to hide behind. This is indeed one of the many useful services the Lobby provides for the larger Washington power system. The Israel Lobby is today a major purveyor of racist and pro-war propaganda, which is shielded from public criticism by its association with Israel and the sword of fighting anti-Semitism. To ignore it is to create a safe zone for racism and war at the heart of the U.S. public sphere." Gabriel Ash, http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Apr06/Ash20.htm
“What happened to all those nice plans? Israel’s governments mobilized the collective power of US Jewry — which dominates Congress and the media to a large degree — against them. Faced by this vigorous opposition, all the presidents; great and small, football players and movie stars — folded, one after another.” Israeli journalist and peace activist Uri Avnery
B) EXAMPLES OF SKIRMISHES BETWEEN THE ZIONIST LOBBY AND OTHER ELITES IN WHICH THE FORMER WON
- 1930's: Career British diplomats issued a government backed white paper suggesting tying Jewish immigration to Palestine to Palestinian economic interests, not just the Yishuv capacity. Weissman and other British Zionists mobilized their forces en masse and the effort succeeded in reversing this policy quickly (well discussed in Tom Segev’s excellent book on this period).
-1940-1945: When there was strong sentiment in the US to help European Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, the Zionist lobby both in Britain and the US lobbied to limit Jewish immigration to the west and keep the door open only for one destination: Palestine (see Naeim Giladi’s book “Ben Gurion Scandals” and Lenni Brenner’s “51 Documents: History of the Nazi-Zionist collaboration).
- 1948: When the State Department, the Pentagon, and all major career diplomats in the US stood against support for the establishment of Israel, President Truman explained his decision to his cabinet (privately) very clearly as relating to the lobby and voting adding that “I have no Arab constituency” (Truman papers and many history books). The US went on to twist the arms of other countries to support partition and the imposing of a Jewish state on Palestine.
- June 1967: Israeli forces attacked the USS Liberty in international waters. Navy demands of an investigation were immediately attacked by the lobby in Congress. Senior Navy officers (and all survivors of the attack) were angry, but could do nothing in the face of a concerted Zionist media silencing campaign. Even in 2003 when new evidence emerged, little was reported on it. The Lobby's success in this case was against military elites (see http://www.ussliberty.org/)
- 1980's: Israel uses US technology and financing to develop its own arms export industry competing with US arms exporters but also giving advanced
technologies to US competitors. Many US arms industry leaders are unhappy, and some even complain openly, and Israeli-made "Python II" missiles now arm Chinese warplanes and in one instance threatened US planes. (see http://www.ifamericansknew.org/us_ints/p-krane.html).
- May 1987: The Reagan administration notified Congress of its intention to sell 1600 Maverick anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia. According to the NY Times: "Within half an hour, lobbyists from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the only group registered to lobby Congress on legislation affecting Israel, were on the telephone to lawmakers about the proposal. Over the next 13 days, the committee mobilized its nationwide network of supporters with a series of memorandums and telephone calls urging them to lobby Congress. Though it is unclear whether the committee, known as AIPAC, can take all the credit, more than 260 members of Congress co-sponsored resolutions to block the sale, prompting President Reagan to withdraw it." http://www.ifamericansknew.org/us_ints/pg-nyt2.html
- Early 1991: Israel asked the US for $10 billion in loan guarantees to settle Russian Jews. George HW Bush told Shamir that Israel could have the guarantees if it freezes settlement building and promises that no Russian Jews would be settled in the occupied areas. Shamir simply called the lobby leaders to help. Mobilization was so swift and powerful that Bush received a barrage of media questions in a Press conference in 1991.. Bush uttered his famous line “I am only this little guy in the white house …. there are these thousands on Capital Hill…” and then folded. Israel got its $10 billion and went on to increase the number of colonists/settlers in the occupied Palestinian areas from less than 200,000 in 1991 to over 450,000 in 2000. This was the main reason for the collapse of the peace process and increased resentment and anger in the world.
- 1992-1998: President Clinton brought to high office people who were previously employed by the various Israeli lobby groups. Dennis Ross, who worked for WIMEP and was then appointed as US Envoy to the Middle East, and then returned to work for WINEP (see
- Martin Indyk worked for AIPAC and to my knowledge is the only lobbyist for a foreign country ever appointed ambassador to that same foreign country. These folks and many others made clear their interest in merging US policy and Israeli policy. Thus it was not surprising that Clinton issued assurances saying that if the Camp David meetings failed no one will be faulted. But even as negotiations continued in Taba, Ross, Clinton, and Indyk blamed Arafat. The Clinton administration, under the influence of these lobbyists, continued to support an aggressive policy in Iraq and tried valiantly to thwart the International community and many leaders of US businesses (including multinational companies) who pushed for ending the sanctions that were killing 6000 children every month.
- September 2001, Bush urged Israel to show restraint in its crackdown on the Palestinians, and pressed Sharon to allow Shimon Peres to meet with Arafat (he also said publicly that he supported the creation of a Palestinian state). Sharon accused Bush of trying ‘to appease the Arabs at our expense’ and stated ‘we will not be Czechoslovakia’. Bush was reportedly furious at being compared to Chamberlain, and the White House press secretary called Sharon’s remarks ‘unacceptable’. The Lobby kicked into high gear. 89 Senators wrote a letter to Bush. Bush backed down. The New York Times stated that the letter ‘stemmed’ from a meeting two weeks before between ‘leaders of the American Jewish community and key senators’ with the involvement of AIPAC.
- April 2002. Israel's push into the West Bank embarrases Bush and he asked its government to halt the incursion and withdraw from Palestinian cities. He repeated this twice. Even Condaleeza Rice (then National Security Adviser) emphasized "Withdraw now means withdraw now". The Lobby swung into action. Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, and Trent Lott told Bush to back off. On April 11, White House press secretary said that Bush believed Sharon to be a "man of peace". No more was heard about withdrawals.
- March 2005: In a snub to the White House, AIPAC managed to get a bill severely restricting aid to the Palestinians and even denying the usual clause for a presidential waiver for national security http://www.ifamericansknew.org/us_ints/p-nir.html
- April 2005. After initially complaining about Israel's plans to increase settlement activities to surround Jerusalem (Maale Adumim area) in violation of the US drafted "road map", the Bush administration backed down in the face of the lobby; http://www.ifamericansknew.org/us_ints/p-softenbush.html
- Year after year the US State Department Human right reports have become increasingly less critiical of Israeli human rights violations (which violate arms exports act) while all other human rights organizations (Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, UN Comissioner on human rights, Btselem) have become more vocal in their criticism. The hypocricy has cost the US dearly in public relations around the world. ARAMCO (the Saudi and US joint company that develops oil in Saudi Arabia) published a number of articles in their official magazine that pinted this out. It had made life very difficult for US companies operating in the Arab and Islamic world.
Shattering the myths as important both tactically and strategically:
There are many implications and ramifications of understanding the power and influence of the the lobby. What if Nehemia Stessler is correct as cited above that without US support Israel would not be able to continue its policies (which are now so clear in their impact on native Palestinians and Lebanes)? What if indeed there are many instances (as cited above) that Zionist special interests win against other special interests (oil and military)? What if fortune Magazine and CIA and other analysts are correct about the power of this lobby in America? What if this lobby can be defeated (as was shown in some cases)? What if it can't? How does this relate to the war on Iraq (pushed for by neocon Zionists)? How does one resolve the fact that Israel is now directly competing with US Weapons manufacturers in exporting high tech weapons even as most of this was made possible by US transfer of military technology and money to Israel? How does one reconcile the facts that Congress and the White House frequently interfere to protect Israel from repercussions of its violations of US and international laws regarding proliferation, arms export, use of arms against civilians etc?
There were rare times when the lobby was not as powerful in pushing the myth of equivalency of US and Israeli interests. In 1956 President Eisenhower listened to career diplomats and US elites, and pressed for Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza and Sinai despite rumblings from Congress (itself influenced by the lobby). But any such minor resistance vanished after 1967 when the lobby pushed the idea that US weapons in Israeli hands are keeping the Soviets/Communism out of the Middle East (a lie because communism could never get a foothold in Arab society). It is misleading to say that Israel rules US foreign policy. But it would be even more misleading (and especially self-defeating for anti-war activists) to ignore the central role of this lobby in shaping US foreign policy in the Middle East and in building support by various means. Nor would it be fair to ignore the PR aimed at exaggerating the “strategic use” argument to outright misinformation about threats and responses to promoting a particular and false view of Christianity (“Christian Zionism”). For those of us interested in freedom and equality (i.e. human rights), it is simply not correct to try to ignore history and facts and accept the language of our oppressor. It is playing into both Zionist and Imperial hands by accepting their claim that the reason for support of Israel (and for the war on Iraq) is a “strategic relationship” directed to serving only US elite interests (oil, military, and other corporate interests).
The hypocrisy in US foreign policy is now visible to most people around the world and even here in the US with a self-censoring media it is hard to avoid it. Take this simple fact that Israel has WMD, has violated 65 UN Security Council Resolutions and was shielded from 35 others by a US Veto (because of the strong lobby), discriminates against people based on religion and the US supports it. Iraq violated very few UN SC resolutions by invading Kuwait and the US bombed Iraq to a pre-industrial age (destroying water purification, sewage, electrical, transportation and other critical facilities), subjected it to sanctions (even after the withdrawal from Kuwait) that killed over 1 million civilians, and then bombed and occupied Iraq intending to build 14 permanent military basis in Iraq and installing a new regime!! Is it any wonder that people ask why we have such hypocrisy and question the given answers formulated in Tel Aviv. After all, Iraq will continue to be a magnet of resistance fighters pouring in from other Arab and Islamic countries as long as Israel is supported in its continued ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (i.e. As long as this hypocrisy is evident).
Some argue whether the Lobby is the tail that wags the dog or the dog that wags the tail (ignoring teh possibility that there is a pack of wild dogs atacking John Q Public and the conflict may not be between the tail and head of one dog!). Some believe the attack on Iraq was for corporate profits. Some believe it was WMD, defeating terrorism, and most lately bringing “democracy” and freedom. Few want to consider third possibilities. Many try desperately to ignore the big elephant in the room. Many US TV and newspapers consider a discussion outside this permissible duality as taboo (and in a way it becomes self-fulfilling prophecies). People are now getting facts about the Israeli lobby from international media, books, and most importantly the Internet. This explains why an increasing number of Democrats, Republicans, Greens, and Independents in the US are asking some serious questions that go beyond these well protected dualities. More people are realizing that without discussing the role of the Israeli lobby in pushing for endless wars, the story would be very incomplete at best and misleading at worse. This alone would be a good reason to tackle it. But it is also from a utilaterian and pragmatic angle that we must discuss this. If we can't even explain the instability and mayhem beyond the vague "US Capitalism" or the preposterous "Islamofascism", then how can we develp strategies to bring peace? Counteracting destructive policies cannot be done in isolation of understanding who shapes these policies and why. Pragmatically we can also learn nuances and differences between competing elitist powers so that we can use these divisions to effect positive policy changes (this is unfortunately how politics work). Pragmatically, we can also work to convince those who chose to be our enemies that they are doomed to failure and self destruction by continuing their policies (something we cannot do if we only have a vague notion of who they are let alone what motivates them). If someone is an alcoholic, isn't it best to directly confront them with their alcoholism rather than allow them to continue to perpetuate their own myths blaming others? Isn't that called enabling?
Many within the Israeli lobby, the military lobby, and the oil lobby (among others) are beginning to see the light and leaving that destructive work (because ultimately it is short term gains and their children will pay dearly for their arrogance, greed and errors). For example, thousands of ex-Zionists and hundreds of military and career diplomats are openly speaking about the destructive power of the Israeli lobby (not only destructive for Palestinians but for Americans and Israelis). The ground is shifting as Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others who believe in human rights and do not support political Zionism join hands not only to point out the elephant in the room but also to take the old elephant out of the room and to an overdue retirement. That political Zionism is failing is not in doubt. What is in doubt is whether enough US citizens will wake up in time and join us to prevent the US economy and the public welfare from being dragged down by and with this self-destructive ideology of political Zionism.
-On why the war on Iraq http://www.qumsiyeh.org/connectingthedotsiraqpalestine/
-On think tanks, see http://www.sovereignty.org.uk/siteinfo/newsround/iraq4.html
- On How to Deal with The Lobby: The De-Zionization of the American Mind By JEAN BRICMONT http://www.counterpunch.org/bricmont08122006.html
-On Neocons (someone suggested we call them corporatists), see http://www.csmonitor.com/specials/neocon/index.html
-On elite interests collaborating and competing http://www.ifamericansknew.org/us_ints/
- The Armageddon Lobby: Dispensationalist Christian Zionism and the Shaping of US Policy Towards Israel-Palestine
-Where anti-Arab prejudice and oil make the difference. The contrast in western attitudes to Darfur and Congo shows how illiberal our concept of intervention really is. Roger Howard, Wednesday May 16, 2007, The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2080265,00.html
-AIPAC and the Anti-War Movement: Missing in Action? by Gabriel Ash http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Apr07/Ash21.htm
-Why is the Peace Movement Silent About AIPAC? By JOHN WALSH http://www.counterpunch.org/walsh04172007.html
-James Petras and Norman Finkelstein Debating the Primacy of The Pro-Israel Lobby http://www.pacificfreepress.com/content/view/1163/81/
- The Final Act of Submission, By Scott Ritter To state that AIPAC, and by extension Israel, is above the law in this regard is to acknowledge the reality that American national sovereignty no longer matters when it comes to the state of Israel. http://www.palestinechronicle.com/story-04160775640.htm
- Pelosi: The AIPAC Girl http://mparent7777-3.blogspot.com/2007/03/aipac-girl.html
- Here are Presidential Candidates pledging allegiance to Israel http://blogcentral.jpost.com/index.php?cat_id=9&blog_id=73&blog_post_id=1145
Excellent books by conscientious Jews:
"Out of the Ashes" by Marc Ellis
"The myths of Zionism" by John Rose
"51 Documents: History of the Nazi-Zionist Collaboration" and "Zionism in the age of dictators" by Lenni Brenner
"Beyond Chutzpah" and "Image and Reality of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" by Norman Finkelstein