Mike Ghouse, August 27, 2007
The Israel lobby started out with a legitimate need; to protect and defend Israel’s right to exist.
Power is corruptive, and the lobby is no exception to that. In their enthusiasm and their ability to influence the President, Senate and the house, they have gone far off bringing diminishing returns. For every two steps they take, they will have to back at least one, and if they still don’t get it, the law of karma takes over and they may have to back peddle several steps to catch up with the eternal act of balancing.
The Law of Karma is simply based on the idea that for every good you do, you gain positive energy that is nourishing and brings peace to oneself and to the group. Where as, for every bad action, you loose your moral ground as well as your energy. There is a payback, trade off for every thing that is not just.
What is good? It is the act where one earns things for him/herself without taking advantage of others. Such benefits are temporary and deleterious to lasting peace. When applied to individuals; the relationships between spouses become unhealthy if one takes advantage of the other. The rulers have proven it as well, when they become unilateralists, we have seen what happens to them, and have seen them all. Whether they are fascists, dictators, monarchs or democratically elected rulers, they see no light at the end.
Organizations are no exception, the Israel lobby has extended it’s tentacles to its own disadvantages. The more they fight to suppress the sane voices, the more they will sink in the quick sand. It is yet to be known whether they schemed in defaming President Carter on his book, if they are involved in belittling the Jewish warriors of God documentary or if they attempted in blocking Passion of the Christ movie. There is a concerted effort out there to quell any dissent and the Australians have a word for it; Boomerang.
The best thing for the Lobby or any organization is to pursue the work for a world of co-existence through inclusiveness and participation. Let them direct their efforts towards justice and equity to both Israeli and Palestinian humans with a firm grounding in commonly held values.
The lobby’s policies are hurting Israel and their reluctance to repair their arrogance of being the most powerful lobby in the world, will weaken the security of very people they are claiming to protect.
It is in the interests of the Majority of Jews, Israelis’ to speak up and let them not be run over by a few. By their silence, they are allowing the wrong policies to perpetuate. The Israeli children deserve safety and security as much as the Palestinian Children, blaming the leaders of each other will not cut it, the majority has to speak up and debates must be carried out and above all, the dissenters and those who speak out must be allowed, as the truth emerges some where in between the extremes.
Are the majority of Israelis and Jews going to do it? Yes, they will. Why do they need to do it? Because they are powerful, they can take the lead with “Justice” as the foundation for any deal, if not it will not sustain in the long run. Justice is the only thing that will bring peace and security to any people.
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Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer and a Moderator. He is president of the Foundation for Pluralism and is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing interfaith, political and civic issues. He is the founding president of the World Muslim Congress with a simple theme: "Good for Muslims and good for the world." His personal Website is www.MikeGhouse.net and his articles can be found on the Websites mentioned above and in his Blogs: http://MikeGhouseforAmerica.Blogspot.com and http://MikeGhouse.Sulekha.com Mike is a Dallasite for nearly three decades and Carrollton is his home town. For a full bio: http://www.mikeghouse.net/ProfileMikeGhouse.asp . He can be reached at MikeGhouse@gmail.com
By: John J. Mearsheimer, Department of Political Science, University of Chicago
Stephen M. Walt, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
THE ISRAEL LOBBY AND U.S. FOREIGN POLICY
U.S. foreign policy shapes events in every corner of the globe. Nowhere is this truer than in the Middle East, a region of recurring instability and enormous strategic importance. Most recently, the Bush Administration's attempt to transform the region into a community of democracies has helped produce a resilient insurgency in Iraq, a sharp rise in world oil prices, and terrorist bombings in Madrid, London, and Amman. With so much at stake for so many, all countries need to understand the forces that drive U.S. Middle East policy.
The U.S. national interest should be the primary object of American foreign policy. For the past several decades, however, and especially since the Six Day War in 1967, the centerpiece of U.S. Middle East policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering U.S. support for Israel and the related effort to spread democracy throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized U.S. security.
This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the United States been willing to set aside its own security in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries is based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives. As we show below, however, neither of those explanations can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the United States provides to Israel.
Instead, the overall thrust of U.S. policy in the region is due almost entirely to U.S. domestic politics, and especially to the activities of the "Israel Lobby." Other special interest groups have managed to skew U.S. foreign policy in directions they favored, but no lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical.1
In the pages that follow, we describe how the Lobby has accomplished this feat, and how its activities have shaped America's actions in this critical region. Given the strategic importance of the Middle East and its potential impact on others, both Americans and non-Americans need to understand and address the Lobby's influence on U.S. policy.
Some readers will find this analysis disturbing, but the facts recounted here are not in serious dispute among scholars. Indeed, our account relies heavily on the work of Israeli scholars and journalists, who deserve great credit for shedding light on these issues. We also rely on evidence provided by respected Israeli and international human rights organizations. Similarly, our claims about the Lobby's impact rely on testimony from the Lobby's own members, as well as testimony from politicians who have worked with them. Readers may reject our conclusions, of course, but the evidence on which they rest is not controversial.
THE GREAT BENEFACTOR
Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing the amounts provided to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct U.S. economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War II. Total direct U.S. aid to Israel amounts to well over $140 billion in 2003 dollars.2 Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America's foreign aid budget. In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year.3 This largesse is especially striking when one realizes that Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to South Korea or Spain.4
Israel also gets other special deals from Washington.5 Other aid recipients get their money in quarterly installments, but Israel receives its entire appropriation at the beginning of each fiscal year and thus earns extra interest. Most recipients of American military assistance are required to spend all of it in the United States, but Israel can use roughly twenty-five percent of its aid allotment to subsidize its own defense industry. Israel is the only recipient that does not have to account for how the aid is spent, an exemption that makes it virtually impossible to prevent the money from being used for purposes the United States opposes, like building settlements in the West Bank.
Moreover, the United States has provided Israel with nearly $3 billion to develop weapons systems like the Lavi aircraft that the Pentagon did not want or need, while giving Israel access to top-drawer U.S. weaponry like Blackhawk helicopters and F-16 jets. Finally, the United States gives Israel access to intelligence that it denies its NATO allies and has turned a blind eye towards Israel's acquisition of nuclear weapons.6
In addition, Washington provides Israel with consistent diplomatic support. Since 1982, the United States has vetoed 32 United Nations Security Council resolutions that were critical of Israel, a number greater than the combined total of vetoes cast by all the other Security Council members.7 It also blocks Arab states' efforts to put Israel's nuclear arsenal on the International Atomic Energy Agency's agenda.8
The United States also comes to Israel's rescue in wartime and takes its side when negotiating peace. The Nixon Administration re-supplied Israel during the October War and protected Israel from the threat of Soviet intervention. Washington was deeply involved in the negotiations that ended that war as well as the lengthy "step-by-step" process that followed, just as it played a key role in the negotiations that preceded and followed the 1993 Oslo Accords.9 There were occasional frictions between U.S. and Israeli officials in both cases, but the United States coordinated its positions closely with Israel and consistently backed the Israeli approach to the negotiations. Indeed, one American participant at Camp David (2000) later said, "far too often, we functioned . . . as Israel's lawyer."10
As discussed below, Washington has given Israel wide latitude in dealing with the occupied territories (the West Bank and Gaza Strip), even when its actions were at odds with stated U.S. policy. Moreover, the Bush Administration's ambitious strategy to transform the Middle East-beginning with the invasion of Iraq-is at least partly intended to improve Israel's strategic situation. Apart from wartime alliances, it is hard to think of another instance where one country has provided another with a similar level of material and diplomatic support for such an extended period. America's support for Israel is, in short, unique.
This extraordinary generosity might be understandable if Israel were a vital strategic asset or if there were a compelling moral case for sustained U.S. backing. But neither rationale is convincing.
A STRATEGIC LIABILITY
According to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) website, "the United States and Israel have formed a unique partnership to meet the growing strategic threats in the Middle East . . . . This cooperative effort provides significant benefits for both the United States and Israel."11 This claim is an article of faith among Israel's supporters and is routinely invoked by Israeli politicians and pro-Israel Americans.
Israel may have been a strategic asset during the Cold War.12 By serving as America's proxy after the Six Day War (1967), Israel helped contain Soviet expansion in the region and inflicted humiliating defeats on Soviet clients like Egypt and Syria. Israel occasionally helped protect other U.S. allies (like Jordan's King Hussein) and its military prowess forced Moscow to spend more backing its losing clients. Israel also gave the United States useful intelligence about Soviet capabilities.
Israel's strategic value during this period should not be overstated, however.13 Backing Israel was not cheap, and it complicated America's relations with the Arab world. For example, the U.S. decision to give Israel $2.2 billion in emergency military aid during the October War triggered an OPEC oil embargo that inflicted considerable damage on Western economies. Moreover, Israel's military could not protect U.S. interests in the region. For example, the United States could not rely on Israel when the Iranian Revolution in 1979 raised concerns about the security of Persian Gulf oil supplies, and had to create its own "Rapid Deployment Force" instead.
Even if Israel was a strategic asset during the Cold War, the first Gulf War (1990-91) revealed that Israel was becoming a strategic burden. The United States could not use Israeli bases during the war without rupturing the anti-Iraq coalition, and it had to divert resources (e.g., Patriot missile batteries) to keep Tel Aviv from doing anything that might fracture the alliance against Saddam. History repeated itself in 2003: although Israel was eager for the United States to attack Saddam, President Bush could not ask it to help without triggering Arab opposition. So Israel stayed on the sidelines again.14
Beginning in the 1990s, and especially after 9/11, U.S. support for Israel has been justified by the claim that both states are threatened by terrorist groups originating in the Arab or Muslim world, and by a set of "rogue states" that back these groups and seek WMD. This rationale implies that Washington should give Israel a free hand in dealing with the Palestinians and not press Israel to make concessions until all Palestinian terrorists are imprisoned or dead. It also implies that the United States should go after countries like the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and Bashar al-Assad's Syria. Israel is thus seen as a crucial ally in the war on terror, because its enemies are America's enemies.
This new rationale seems persuasive, but Israel is in fact a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states.
To begin with, "terrorism" is a tactic employed by a wide array of political groups; it is not a single unified adversary. The terrorist organizations that threaten Israel (e.g., Hamas or Hezbollah) do not threaten the United States, except when it intervenes against them (as in Lebanon in 1982). Moreover, Palestinian terrorism is not random violence directed against Israel or "the West"; it is largely a response to Israel's prolonged campaign to colonize the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
More importantly, saying that Israel and the United States are united by a shared terrorist threat has the causal relationship backwards: rather, the United States has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around. U.S. 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.15 There is no question, for example, that many al Qaeda leaders, including bin Laden, are motivated by Israel's presence in Jerusalem and the plight of the Palestinians. According to the U.S. 9/11 Commission, bin Laden explicitly sought to punish the United States for its policies in the Middle East, including its support for Israel, and he even tried to time the attacks to highlight this issue.16
Equally important, unconditional U.S. support for Israel makes it easier for extremists like bin Laden to rally popular support and to attract recruits. Public opinion polls confirm that Arab populations are deeply hostile to American support for Israel, and the U.S. State Department's Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim world found that "citizens in these countries are genuinely distressed at the plight of the Palestinians and at the role they perceive the United States to be playing."17
As for so-called rogue states in the Middle East, they are not a dire threat to vital U.S. interests, apart from the U.S. commitment to Israel itself. Although the United States does have a number of disagreements with these regimes, Washington would not be nearly as worried about Iran, Ba'thist Iraq, or Syria were it not so closely tied to Israel. Even if these states acquire nuclear weapons-which is obviously not desirable-it would not be a strategic disaster for the United States. Neither America nor Israel could be blackmailed by a nuclear-armed rogue, because the blackmailer could not carry out the threat without receiving overwhelming retaliation. The danger of a "nuclear handoff" to terrorists is equally remote, because a rogue state could not be sure the transfer would be undetected or that it would not be blamed and punished afterwards.
Furthermore, the U.S. relationship with Israel actually makes it harder to deal with these states. Israel's nuclear arsenal is one reason why some of its neighbors want nuclear weapons, and threatening these states with regime change merely increases that desire. Yet Israel is not much of an asset when the United States contemplates using force against these regimes, because it cannot participate in the fight.
In short, treating Israel as America's most important ally in the campaign against terrorism and assorted Middle East dictatorships both exaggerates Israel's ability to help on these issues and ignores the ways that Israel's policies make U.S. efforts more difficult.
Unquestioned support for Israel also weakens the U.S. position outside the Middle East. Foreign elites consistently view the United States as too supportive of Israel, and think its tolerance of Israeli repression in the occupied territories is morally obtuse and a handicap in the war on terrorism.18 In April 2004, for example, 52 former British diplomats sent Prime Minister Tony Blair a letter saying that the Israel-Palestine conflict had "poisoned relations between the West and the Arab and Islamic worlds," and warning that the policies of Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were "one-sided and illegal."19
A final reason to question Israel's strategic value is that it does not act like a loyal ally. Israeli officials frequently ignore U.S. requests and renege on promises made to top U.S. leaders (including past pledges to halt settlement construction and to refrain from "targeted assassinations" of Palestinian leaders).20 Moreover, Israel has provided sensitive U.S. military technology to potential U.S. rivals like China, in what the U.S. State Department Inspector-General called "a systematic and growing pattern of unauthorized transfers."21 According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, Israel also "conducts the most aggressive espionage operations against the U.S. of any ally."22 In addition to the case of Jonathan Pollard, who gave Israel large quantities of classified material in the early 1980s (which Israel reportedly passed onto the Soviet Union to gain more exit visas for Soviet Jews), a new controversy erupted in 2004 when it was revealed that a key Pentagon official (Larry Franklin) had passed classified information to an Israeli diplomat, allegedly aided by two AIPAC officials.23 Israel is hardly the only country that spies on the United States, but its willingness to spy on its principal patron casts further doubt on its strategic value.
A DWINDLING MORAL CASE
Apart from its alleged strategic value, Israel's backers also argue that it deserves unqualified U.S. support because 1) it is weak and surrounded by enemies, 2) it is a democracy, which is a morally preferable form of government; 3) the Jewish people have suffered from past crimes and therefore deserve special treatment, and 4) Israel's conduct has been morally superior to its adversaries' behavior.
On close inspection, however, each of these arguments is unpersuasive. There is a strong moral case for supporting Israel's existence, but that is not in jeopardy. Viewed objectively, Israel's past and present conduct offers no moral basis for privileging it over the Palestinians.
Backing the Underdog?
Israel is often portrayed as weak and besieged, a Jewish David surrounded by a hostile Arab Goliath. This image has been carefully nurtured by Israeli leaders and sympathetic writers, but the opposite image is closer to the truth. Contrary to popular belief, the Zionists had larger, better-equipped, and better-led forces during the 1947-49 War of Independence and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) won quick and easy victories against Egypt in 1956 and against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in 1967-before large-scale U.S. aid began flowing to Israel.24 These victories offer eloquent evidence of Israeli patriotism, organizational ability, and military prowess, but they also reveal that Israel was far from helpless even in its earliest years.
Today, Israel is the strongest military power in the Middle East. Its conventional forces are far superior to its neighbors and it is the only state in the region with nuclear weapons. Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties with Israel and Saudi Arabia has offered to do so as well. Syria has lost its Soviet patron, Iraq has been decimated by three disastrous wars, and Iran is hundreds of miles away. The Palestinians barely have effective police, let alone a military that could threaten Israel. According to a 2005 assessment by Tel Aviv University's prestigious Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, "the strategic balance decidedly favors Israel, which has continued to widen the qualitative gap between its own military capability and deterrence powers and those of its neighbors."25 If backing the underdog were a compelling rationale, the United States would be supporting Israel's opponents.
Aiding a Fellow Democracy?
American backing is often justified by the claim that Israel is a fellow-democracy surrounded by hostile dictatorships. This rationale sounds convincing, but it cannot account for the current level of U.S. support. After all, there are many democracies around the world, but none receives the lavish support that Israel does. The United States has overthrown democratic governments in the past and supported dictators when this was thought to advance U.S. interests, and it has good relations with a number of dictatorships today. Thus, being democratic neither justifies nor explains America's support for Israel.
The "shared democracy" rationale is also weakened by aspects of Israeli democracy that are at odds with core American values. The United States is a liberal democracy where people of any race, religion, or ethnicity are supposed to enjoy equal rights. By contrast, Israel was explicitly founded as a Jewish state and citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship.26 Given this conception of citizenship, it is not surprising that Israel's 1.3 million Arabs are treated as second-class citizens, or that a recent Israeli government commission found that Israel behaves in a "neglectful and discriminatory" manner towards them.27
Similarly, Israel does not permit Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens to become citizens themselves, and does not give these spouses the right to live in Israel. The Israeli human rights organization B'tselem called this restriction "a racist law that determines who can live here according to racist criteria."28 Such laws may be understandable given Israel's founding principles, but they are not consistent with America's image of democracy.
Israel's democratic status is also undermined by its refusal to grant the Palestinians a viable state of their own. Israel controls the lives of about 3.8 million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, while colonizing lands on which the Palestinians have long dwelt. Israel is formally democratic, but the millions of Palestinians that it controls are denied full political rights and the "shared democracy" rationale is correspondingly weakened.
Compensation for Past Crimes
A third moral justification is the history of Jewish suffering in the Christian West, especially the tragic episode of the Holocaust. Because Jews were persecuted for centuries and can only be safe in a Jewish homeland, many believe that Israel deserves special treatment from the United States.
There is no question that Jews suffered greatly from the despicable legacy of anti-Semitism, and that Israel's creation was an appropriate response to a long record of crimes. This history, as noted, provides a strong moral case for supporting Israel's existence. But the creation of Israel involved additional crimes against a largely innocent third party: the Palestinians.
The history of these events is well-understood. When political Zionism began in earnest in the late 19th century, there were only about 15,000 Jews in Palestine.29 In 1893, for example, the Arabs comprised roughly 95 percent of the population, and though under Ottoman control, they had been in continuous possession of this territory for 1300 years.30 Even when Israel was founded, Jews were only about 35 percent of Palestine's population and owned 7 percent of the land.31
The mainstream Zionist leadership was not interested in establishing a bi-national state or accepting a permanent partition of Palestine. The Zionist leadership was sometimes willing to accept partition as a first step, but this was a tactical maneuver and not their real objective. As David Ben-Gurion put it in the late 1930s, "After the formation of a large army in the wake of the establishment of the state, we shall abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine."32
To achieve this goal, the Zionists had to expel large numbers of Arabs from the territory that would eventually become Israel. There was simply no other way to accomplish their objective. Ben-Gurion saw the problem clearly, writing in 1941 that "it is impossible to imagine general evacuation [of the Arab population] without compulsion, and brutal compulsion."33 Or as Israeli historian Benny Morris puts it, "the idea of transfer is as old as modern Zionism and has accompanied its evolution and praxis during the past century."34
This opportunity came in 1947-48, when Jewish forces drove up to 700,000 Palestinians into exile.35 Israeli officials have long claimed that the Arabs fled because their leaders told them to, but careful scholarship (much of it by Israeli historians like Morris) have demolished this myth. In fact, most Arab leaders urged the Palestinian population to stay home, but fear of violent death at the hands of Zionist forces led most of them to flee.36 After the war, Israel barred the return of the Palestinian exiles.
The fact that the creation of Israel entailed a moral crime against the Palestinian people was well understood by Israel's leaders. As Ben-Gurion told Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress, "If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. . . . We come from Israel, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?"37
Since then, Israeli leaders have repeatedly sought to deny the Palestinians' national ambitions.38 Prime Minister Golda Meir famously remarked that "there was no such thing as a Palestinian," and even Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who signed the 1993 Oslo Accords, nonetheless opposed creating a full-fledged Palestinian state.39 Pressure from extremist violence and the growing Palestinian population has forced subsequent Israeli leaders to disengage from some of the occupied territories and to explore territorial compromise, but no Israeli government has been willing to offer the Palestinians a viable state of their own. Even Prime Minister Ehud Barak's purportedly generous offer at Camp David in July 2000 would only have given the Palestinians a disarmed and dismembered set of "Bantustans" under de facto Israeli control.40
Europe's crimes against the Jews provide a clear moral justification for Israel's right to exist. But Israel's survival is not in doubt-even if some Islamic extremists make outrageous and unrealistic references to "wiping it off the map"-and the tragic history of the Jewish people does not obligate the United States to help Israel no matter what it does today.
"Virtuous Israelis" versus "Evil Arabs"
The final moral argument portrays Israel as a country that has sought peace at every turn and showed great restraint even when provoked. The Arabs, by contrast, are said to have acted with great wickedness. This narrative-which is endlessly repeated by Israeli leaders and American apologists such as Alan Dershowitz-is yet another myth.41 In terms of actual behavior, Israel's conduct is not morally distinguishable from the actions of its opponents.
Israeli scholarship shows that the early Zionists were far from benevolent towards the Palestinian Arabs.42 The Arab inhabitants did resist the Zionists' encroachments, which is hardly surprising given that the Zionists were trying to create their own state on Arab lands. The Zionists responded vigorously, and neither side owns the moral high ground during this period. This same scholarship also reveals that the creation of Israel in 1947-48 involved explicit acts of ethnic cleansing, including executions, massacres, and rapes by Jews.43
Furthermore, Israel's subsequent conduct towards its Arab adversaries and its Palestinian subjects has often been brutal, belying any claim to morally superior conduct. Between 1949 and 1956, for example, Israeli security forces killed between 2,700 and 5000 Arab infiltrators, the overwhelming majority of them unarmed.44 The IDF conducted numerous cross-border raids against its neighbors in the early 1950s, and though these actions were portrayed as defensive responses, they were actually part of a broader effort to expand Israel's borders. Israel's expansionist ambitions also led it to join Britain and France in attacking Egypt in 1956, and Israel withdrew from the lands it had conquered only in the face of intense U.S. pressure. 45
The IDF also murdered hundreds of Egyptian prisoners-of-war in both the 1956 and 1967 wars.46 In 1967, it expelled between 100,000 and 260,000 Palestinians from the newly-conquered West Bank, and drove 80,000 Syrians from the Golan Heights.47 It was also complicit in the massacre of 700 innocent Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps following its invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and an Israeli investigatory commission found then-Defence Minister Sharon "personally responsible" for these atrocities.48
Israeli personnel have tortured numerous Palestinian prisoners, systematically humiliated and inconvenienced Palestinian civilians, and used force indiscriminately against them on numerous occasions. During the First Intifida (1987-1991), for example, the IDF distributed truncheons to its troops and encouraged them to break the bones of Palestinian protestors. The Swedish "Save the Children" organization estimated that "23,600 to 29,900 children required medical treatment for their beating injuries in the first two years of the intifida," with nearly one-third sustaining broken bones. Nearly one-third of the beaten children were aged ten and under."49
Israel's response to the Second Intifida (2000-2005) has been even more violent, leading Ha'aretz to declare that "the IDF c is turning into a killing machine whose efficiency is awe-inspiring, yet shocking."50 The IDF fired one million bullets in the first days of the uprising, which is far from a measured response.51 Since then, Israel has killed 3.4 Palestinians for every Israeli lost, the majority of whom have been innocent bystanders; the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli children killed is even higher (5.7 to 1).52 Israeli forces have also killed several foreign peace activists, including a 23 year-old American woman crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in March 2003.53
These facts about Israel's conduct have been amply documented by numerous human rights organizations-including prominent Israeli groups-and are not disputed by fair-minded observers. And that is why four former officials of Shin Bet (the Israeli domestic security organization) condemned Israel's conduct during the Second Intifada in November 2003. One of them declared "we are behaving disgracefully," and another termed Israel's conduct "patently immoral."54
But isn't Israel entitled to do whatever it takes to protect its citizens? Doesn't the unique evil of terrorism justify continued U.S. support, even if Israel often responds harshly?
In fact, this argument is not a compelling moral justification either. Palestinians have used terrorism against their Israeli occupiers, and their willingness to attack innocent civilians is wrong. This behavior is not surprising, however, because the Palestinians believe they have no other way to force Israeli concessions. As former Prime Minister Barak once admitted, had he been born a Palestinian, he "would have joined a terrorist organization."55
Finally, we should not forget that the Zionists used terrorism when they were in a similarly weak position and trying to obtain their own state. Between 1944 and 1947, several Zionist organizations used terrorist bombings to drive the British from Palestine, and took the lives of many innocent civilians along the way.56 Israeli terrorists also murdered U.N. mediator Count Folke Bernadotte in 1948, because they opposed his proposal to internationalize Jerusalem.57 Nor were the perpetrators of these acts isolated extremists: the leaders of the murder plot were eventually granted amnesty by the Israeli government and one of them was elected to the Knesset. Another terrorist leader, who approved the murder but was not tried, was future Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. Indeed, Shamir openly argued that "neither Jewish ethics nor Jewish tradition can disqualify terrorism as a means of combat." Rather, terrorism had "a great part to play c in our war against the occupier [Britain]."58 If the Palestinians' use of terrorism is morally reprehensible today, so was Israel's reliance upon it in the past, and thus one cannot justify U.S. support for Israel on the grounds that its past conduct was morally superior.59
Israel may not have acted worse than many other countries, but it clearly has not acted any better. And if neither strategic nor moral arguments can account for America's support for Israel, how are we to explain it?
THE ISRAEL LOBBY
The explanation lies in the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby. Were it not for the Lobby's ability to manipulate the American political system, the relationship between Israel and the United States would be far less intimate than it is today.
What Is The Lobby?
We use "the Lobby" as a convenient short-hand term for the loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to shape U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction. Our use of this term is not meant to suggest that "the Lobby" is a unified movement with a central leadership, or that individuals within it do not disagree on certain issues
The core of the Lobby is comprised of American Jews who make a significant effort in their daily lives to bend U.S. foreign policy so that it advances Israel's interests. Their activities go beyond merely voting for candidates who are pro-Israel to include letter-writing, financial contributions, and supporting pro-Israel organizations. But not all Jewish-Americans are part of the Lobby, because Israel is not a salient issue for many of them. In a 2004 survey, for example, roughly 36 percent of Jewish-Americans said they were either "not very" or "not at all" emotionally attached to Israel.60
Jewish-Americans also differ on specific Israeli policies. Many of the key organizations in the Lobby, like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations (CPMJO), are run by hardliners who generally supported the expansionist policies of Israel's Likud Party, including its hostility to the Oslo Peace Process. The bulk of U.S. Jewry, on the other hand, is more favorably disposed to making concessions to the Palestinians, and a few groups-such as Jewish Voice for Peace-strongly advocate such steps.61 Despite these differences, moderates and hardliners both support steadfast U.S. support for Israel.
Not surprisingly, American Jewish leaders often consult with Israeli officials, so that the former can maximize their influence in the United States. As one activist with a major Jewish organization wrote, "it is routine for us to say: 'This is our policy on a certain issue, but we must check what the Israelis think.' We as a community do it all the time."62 There is also a strong norm against criticizing Israeli policy, and Jewish-American leaders rarely support putting pressure on Israel. Thus, Edgar Bronfman Sr., the president of the World Jewish Congress, was accused of "perfidy" when he wrote a letter to President Bush in mid-2003 urging Bush to pressure Israel to curb construction of its controversial "security fence."63 Critics declared that, "It would be obscene at any time for the president of the World Jewish Congress to lobby the president of the United States to resist policies being promoted by the government of Israel."
Similarly, when Israel Policy Forum president Seymour Reich advised Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to pressure Israel to reopen a critical border crossing in the Gaza Strip in November 2005, critics denounced his action as "irresponsible behavior," and declared that, "There is absolutely no room in the Jewish mainstream for actively canvassing against the security-related policies . . . of Israel."64 Recoiling from these attacks, Reich proclaimed that "the word pressure is not in my vocabulary when it comes to Israel."
Jewish-Americans have formed an impressive array of organizations to influence American foreign policy, of which AIPAC is the most powerful and well-known. In 1997, Fortune magazine asked members of Congress and their staffs to list the most powerful lobbies in Washington.65 AIPAC was ranked second behind the American Association of Retired People (AARP), but ahead of heavyweight lobbies like 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) in the Washington's "muscle rankings."66
The Lobby also includes prominent Christian evangelicals like Gary Bauer, Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed, and Pat Robertson, as well as Dick Armey and Tom DeLay, former majority leaders in the House of Representatives. They believe Israel's rebirth is part of Biblical prophecy, support its expansionist agenda, and think pressuring Israel is contrary to God's will.67 In addition, the Lobby's membership includes neoconservative gentiles such as John Bolton, the late Wall Street Journal editor Robert Bartley, former Secretary of Education William Bennett, former U.N. Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and columnist George Will.
Sources of Power
The United States has a divided government that offers many ways to influence the policy process. As a result, interest groups can shape policy in many different ways-by lobbying elected representatives and members of the executive branch, making campaign contributions, voting in elections, molding public opinion, etc.
Furthermore, special interest groups enjoy disproportionate power when they are committed to a particular issue and the bulk of the population is indifferent. Policymakers will tend to accommodate those who care about the issue in question, even if their numbers are small, confident that the rest of the population will not penalize them.
The Israel Lobby's power flows from its unmatched ability to play this game of interest group politics. In its basic operations, it is no different from interest groups like the Farm Lobby, steel and textile workers, and other ethnic lobbies. What sets the Israel Lobby apart is its extraordinary effectiveness. But there is nothing improper about American Jews and their Christian allies attempting to sway U.S. policy towards Israel. The Lobby's activities are not the sort of conspiracy depicted in anti-Semitic tracts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. For the most part, the individuals and groups that comprise the Lobby are doing what other special interest groups do, just much better. Moreover, pro-Arab interest groups are weak to non-existent, which makes the Lobby's task even easier.68
Strategies for Success
The Lobby pursues two broad strategies to promote U.S. support for Israel. First, it wields significant influence in Washington, pressuring both Congress and the Executive branch to support Israel down the line. Whatever an individual lawmaker or policymaker's own views, the Lobby tries to make supporting Israel the "smart" political choice.
Second, the Lobby strives to ensure that public discourse about Israel portrays it in a positive light, by repeating myths about Israel and its founding and by publicizing Israel's side in the policy debates of the day. The goal is to prevent critical commentary about Israel from getting a fair hearing in the political arena. Controlling the debate is essential to guaranteeing U.S. support, because a candid discussion of U.S.-Israeli relations might lead Americans to favor a different policy.
A key pillar of the Lobby's effectiveness is its influence in the U.S. Congress, where Israel is virtually immune from criticism. This is in itself a remarkable situation, because Congress almost never shies away from contentious issues. Whether the issue is abortion, affirmative action, health care, or welfare, there is certain to be a lively debate on Capitol Hill. Where Israel is concerned, however, potential critics fall silent and there is hardly any debate at all.
One reason for the Lobby's success with Congress is that some key members are Christian Zionists like Dick Armey, who said in September 2002 that "My No. 1 priority in foreign policy is to protect Israel."69 One would think that the number 1 priority for any congressman would be to "protect America," but that is not what Armey said. There are also Jewish senators and congressmen who work to make U.S. foreign policy support Israel's interests.
Pro-Israel congressional staffers are another source of the Lobby's power. As Morris Amitay, a former head of AIPAC, once admitted, "There are a lot of guys at the working level up here [on Capitol Hill] c who happen to be Jewish, who are willing c to look at certain issues in terms of their Jewishness c. These are all guys who are in a position to make the decision in these areas for those senators c. You can get an awful lot done just at the staff level."70
It is AIPAC itself, however, that forms the core of the Lobby's influence in Congress. AIPAC's success is due to its ability to reward legislators and congressional candidates who support its agenda, and to punish those who challenge it. Money is critical to U.S. elections (as the recent scandal over lobbyist Jack Abramoff's various shady dealings reminds us), and AIPAC makes sure that its friends get strong financial support from the myriad pro-Israel political action committees. Those seen as hostile to Israel, on the other hand, can be sure that AIPAC will direct campaign contributions to their political opponents. AIPAC also organizes letter-writing campaigns and encourages newspaper editors to endorse pro-Israel candidates.
There is no doubt about the potency of these tactics. To take but one example, in 1984 AIPAC helped defeat Senator Charles Percy from Illinois, who, according to one prominent Lobby figure, had "displayed insensitivity and even hostility to our concerns." Thomas Dine, the head of AIPAC at the time, explained what happened: "All the Jews in America, from coast to coast, gathered to oust Percy. And the American politicians -- those who hold public positions now, and those who aspire -- got the message."71 AIPAC prizes its reputation as a formidable adversary, of course, because it discourages anyone from questioning its agenda.
AIPAC's influence on Capitol Hill goes even further, however. According to Douglas Bloomfield, a former AIPAC staff member, "It is common for members of Congress and their staffs to turn to AIPAC first when they need information, before calling the Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service, committee staff or administration experts."72 More importantly, he notes that AIPAC is "often called upon to draft speeches, work on legislation, advise on tactics, perform research, collect co-sponsors and marshal votes."
The bottom line is that AIPAC, which is a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on the U.S. Congress.73 Open debate about U.S. policy towards Israel does not occur there, even though that policy has important consequences for the entire world. Thus, one of the three main branches of the U.S. government is firmly committed to supporting Israel. As former Senator Ernest Hollings (D-SC) noted as he was leaving office, "You can't have an Israeli policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here."74 Small wonder that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once told an American audience. "When people ask me how they can help Israel, I tell them-Help AIPAC."75
Influencing the Executive
The Lobby also has significant leverage over the Executive branch. That power derives in part from the influence Jewish voters have on presidential elections. Despite their small numbers in the population (less than 3 percent), they make large campaign donations to candidates from both parties. The Washington Post once estimated that Democratic presidential candidates "depend on Jewish supporters to supply as much as 60 percent of the money."76 Furthermore, Jewish voters have high turn-out rates and are concentrated in key states like California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania. Because they matter in close elections, Presidential candidates go to great lengths not to antagonize Jewish voters.
Key organizations in the Lobby also directly target the administration in power. For example, pro-Israel forces make sure that critics of the Jewish state do not get important foreign-policy appointments. Jimmy Carter wanted to make George Ball his first secretary of state, but he knew that Ball was perceived as critical of Israel and that the Lobby would oppose the appointment.77 This litmus test forces any aspiring policymaker to become an overt supporter of Israel, which is why public critics of Israeli policy have become an endangered species in the U.S. foreign policy establishment.
These constraints still operate today. When 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean called for the United States to take a more "even-handed role" in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Senator Joseph Lieberman accused him of selling Israel down the river and said his statement was "irresponsible."78 Virtually all of the top Democrats in the House signed a hard-hitting letter to Dean criticizing his comments, and the Chicago Jewish Star reported that "anonymous attackers c are clogging the e-mail inboxes of Jewish leaders around the country, warning -- without much evidence -- that Dean would somehow be bad for Israel."79
This worry was absurd, however, because Dean is in fact quite hawkish on Israel.80 His campaign co-chair was a former AIPAC president, and Dean said his own views on the Middle East more closely reflected those of AIPAC than the more moderate Americans for Peace Now. Dean had merely suggested that to "bring the sides together," Washington should act as an honest broker. This is hardly a radical idea, but it is anathema to the Lobby, which does not tolerate the idea of even-handedness when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The Lobby's goals are also served when pro-Israel individuals occupy important positions in the executive branch. During the Clinton Administration, for example, Middle East policy was largely shaped by officials with close ties to Israel or to prominent pro-Israel organizations-including Martin Indyk, the former deputy director of research at AIPAC and co-founder of the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP); Dennis Ross, who joined WINEP after leaving government in 2001; and Aaron Miller, who has lived in Israel and often visits there.81
These men were among President Clinton's closest advisors at the Camp David summit in July 2000. Although all three supported the Oslo peace process and favored creation of a Palestinian state, they did so only within the limits of what would be acceptable to Israel.82 In particular, the American delegation took its cues from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, coordinated negotiating positions in advance, and did not offer its own independent proposals for settling the conflict. Not surprisingly, Palestinian negotiators complained that they were "negotiating with two Israeli teams -- one displaying an Israeli flag, and one an American flag."83
The situation is even more pronounced in the Bush Administration, whose ranks include fervently pro-Israel individuals like Elliot Abrams, John Bolton, Douglas Feith, I. Lewis ("Scooter") Libby, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and David Wurmser. As we shall see, these officials consistently pushed for policies favored by Israel and backed by organizations in the Lobby.
Manipulating the Media
In addition to influencing government policy directly, the Lobby strives to shape public perceptions about Israel and the Middle East. It does not want an open debate on issues involving Israel, because an open debate might cause Americans to question the level of support that they currently provide. Accordingly, pro-Israel organizations work hard to influence the media, think tanks, and academia, because these institutions are critical in shaping popular opinion.
The Lobby's perspective on Israel is widely reflected in the mainstream media in good part because most American commentators are pro-Israel. The debate among Middle East pundits, journalist Eric Alterman writes, is "dominated by people who cannot imagine criticizing Israel."84 He lists 61 "columnists and commentators who can be counted upon to support Israel reflexively and without qualification." Conversely, Alterman found just five pundits who consistently criticize Israeli behavior or endorse pro-Arab positions. Newspapers occasionally publish guest op-eds challenging Israeli policy, but the balance of opinion clearly favors the other side.
This pro-Israel bias is reflected in the editorials of major newspapers. Robert Bartley, the late editor of the Wall Street Journal, once remarked that, "Shamir, Sharon, Bibi - whatever those guys want is pretty much fine by me."85 Not surprisingly, the Journal, along with other prominent newspapers like The Chicago Sun-Times and The Washington Times regularly run editorials that are strongly pro-Israel. Magazines like Commentary, the New Republic, and the Weekly Standard also zealously defend Israel at every turn.
Editorial bias is also found in papers like the New York Times. The Times occasionally criticizes Israeli policies and sometimes concedes that the Palestinians have legitimate grievances, but it is not even-handed. In his memoirs, for example, former Times executive editor Max Frankel acknowledged the impact his own pro-Israel attitude had on his editorial choices. In his words: "I was much more deeply devoted to Israel than I dared to assert." He goes on: "Fortified by my knowledge of Israel and my friendships there, I myself wrote most of our Middle East commentaries. As more Arab than Jewish readers recognized, I wrote them from a pro-Israel perspective." 86
The media's reporting of news events involving Israel is somewhat more even-handed than editorial commentary is, in part because reporters strive to be objective, but also because it is difficult to cover events in the occupied territories without acknowledging Israel's actual behavior. To discourage unfavorable reporting on Israel, the Lobby organizes letter writing campaigns, demonstrations, and boycotts against news outlets whose content it considers anti-Israel. One CNN executive has said that he sometimes gets 6,000 e-mail messages in a single day complaining that a story is anti-Israel.87 Similarly, the pro-Israel Committee for Accurate Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) organized demonstrations outside National Public Radio stations in 33 cities in May 2003, and it also tried to convince contributors to withhold support from NPR until its Middle East coverage became more sympathetic to Israel.88 Boston's NPR station, WBUR, reportedly lost more than $1 million in contributions as a result of these efforts. Pressure on NPR has also come from Israel's friends in Congress, who have asked NPR for an internal audit as well as more oversight of its Middle East coverage.
These factors help explain why the American media contains few criticisms of Israeli policy, rarely questions Washington's relationship with Israel, and only occasionally discusses the Lobby's profound influence on U.S. policy.
Think Tanks That Think One Way
Pro-Israel forces predominate in U.S. think tanks, which play an important role in shaping public debate as well as actual policy. The Lobby created its own think tank in 1985, when Martin Indyk helped found WINEP.89 Although WINEP plays down its links to Israel and claims instead that it provides a "balanced and realistic" perspective on Middle East issues, this is not the case.90 In fact, WINEP is funded and run by individuals who are deeply committed to advancing Israel's agenda.
The Lobby's influence in the think tank world extends well beyond WINEP. Over the past 25 years, pro-Israel forces have established a commanding presence at 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, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). These think tanks are decidedly pro-Israel, and include few, if any, critics of U.S. support for the Jewish state.
A good indicator of the Lobby's influence in the think tank world is the evolution of the Brookings Institution. For many years, its senior expert on Middle East issues was William B. Quandt, a distinguished academic and former NSC official with a well-deserved reputation for evenhandedness regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. Today, however, Brookings's work on these issues is conducted through its Saban Center for Middle East Studies, which is financed by Haim Saban, a wealthy Israeli-American businessman and ardent Zionist.91 The director of the Saban Center is the ubiquitous Martin Indyk. Thus, what was once a non-partisan policy institute on Middle East matters is now part of the chorus of largely pro-Israel think tanks.
The Lobby has had the most difficulty stifling debate about Israel on college campuses, because academic freedom is a core value and because tenured professors are hard to threaten or silence. Even so, there was only mild criticism of Israel in the 1990s, when the Oslo peace process was underway. Criticism rose after that process collapsed and Ariel Sharon came to power in early 2001, and it became especially intense when the IDF re-occupied the West Bank in spring 2002 and employed massive force against the Second Intifada.
The Lobby moved aggressively to "take back the campuses." New groups sprang up, like the Caravan for Democracy, which brought Israeli speakers to U.S. colleges.92 Established groups like the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Hillel jumped into the fray, and a new group-the Israel on Campus Coalition-was formed to coordinate the many groups that now sought to make Israel's case on campus. Finally, AIPAC more than tripled its spending for programs to monitor university activities and to train young advocates for Israel, in order to "vastly expand the number of students involved on campus . . . in the national pro-Israel effort."93
The Lobby also monitors what professors write and teach. In September 2002, for example, Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes, two passionately pro-Israel neoconservatives, established a website (Campus Watch) that posted dossiers on suspect academics and encouraged students to report comments or behavior that might be considered hostile to Israel.94 This transparent attempt to blacklist and intimidate scholars prompted a harsh reaction and Pipes and Kramer later removed the dossiers, but the website still invites students to report alleged anti-Israel behavior at U.S. colleges.
Groups in the Lobby also direct their fire at particular professors and the universities that hire them. Columbia University, which had the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said on its faculty, has been a frequent target of pro-Israel forces. Jonathan Cole, the former Columbia provost, reported that, "One can be sure that any public statement in support of the Palestinian people by the preeminent literary critic Edward Said will elicit hundreds of e-mails, letters, and journalistic accounts that call on us to denounce Said and to either sanction or fire him."95 When Columbia recruited historian Rashid Khalidi from the University of Chicago, Cole says that "the complaints started flowing in from people who disagreed with the content of his political views." Princeton faced the same problem a few years later when it considered wooing Khalidi away from Columbia.96
A classic illustration of the effort to police academia occurred in late 2004, when the "David Project" produced a propaganda film alleging that faculty in Columbia University's Middle East studies program were anti-Semitic and were intimidating Jewish students who defended Israel.97 Columbia was raked over the coals in pro-Israel circles, but a faculty committee assigned to investigate the charges found no evidence of anti-Semitism and the only incident worth noting was the possibility that one professor had "responded heatedly" to a student's question.98 The committee also discovered that the accused professors had been the target of an overt intimidation campaign.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this campaign to eliminate criticism of Israel from college campuses is the effort by Jewish groups to push Congress to establish mechanisms that monitor what professors say about Israel.99 Schools judged to have an anti-Israel bias would be denied Federal funding. This effort to get the U.S. government to police campuses have not yet succeeded, but the attempt illustrates the importance pro-Israel groups place on controlling debate on these issues.
Finally, a number of Jewish philanthropists have established Israel studies programs (in addition to the roughly 130 Jewish Studies programs that already exist) so as to increase the number of Israel-friendly scholars on campus.100 NYU announced the establishment of the Taub Center for Israel Studies on May 1, 2003, and similar programs have been established at other schools like Berkeley, Brandeis, and Emory. Academic administrators emphasize the pedagogical value of these programs, but the truth is that they are intended in good part to promote Israel's image on campus. Fred Laffer, the head of the Taub Foundation, makes clear that his foundation funded the NYU center to help counter the "Arabic [sic] point of view" that he thinks is prevalent in NYU's Middle East programs.101
In sum, the Lobby has gone to considerable lengths to insulate Israel from criticism on college campuses. It has not been as successful in academia as it has been on Capitol Hill, but it has worked hard to stifle criticism of Israel by professors and students and there is much less of it on campuses today.102
The Great Silencer
No discussion of how the Lobby operates would be complete without examining one of its most powerful weapons: the charge of anti-Semitism. Anyone who criticizes Israeli actions or says that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over U.S. Middle East policy-an influence that AIPAC celebrates-stands a good chance of getting labeled an anti-Semite. In fact, anyone who says that there is an Israel Lobby runs the risk of being charged with anti-Semitism, even though the Israeli media themselves refer to America's "Jewish Lobby." In effect, the Lobby boasts of its own power and then attacks anyone who calls attention to it. This tactic is very effective, because anti-Semitism is loathsome and no responsible person wants to be accused of it.
Europeans have been more willing than Americans to criticize Israeli policy in recent years, which some attribute to a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. We are "getting to a point," the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union said in early 2004, "where it is as bad as it was in the 1930s."103 Measuring anti-Semitism is a complicated matter, but the weight of evidence points in the opposite direction. For example, in the spring of 2004, when accusations of European anti-Semitism filled the air in America, separate surveys of European public opinion conducted by the Anti-Defamation League and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press showed that it was actually declining.104
Consider France, which pro-Israel forces often portray as the most anti-Semitic state in Europe. A poll of French citizens in 2002 found that: 89 percent could envisage living with a Jew; 97 percent believe making anti-Semitic graffiti is a serious crime; 87 percent think attacks on French synagogues are scandalous; and 85 percent of practicing French Catholics reject the charge that Jews have too much influence in business and finance.105 It is unsurprising that the head of the French Jewish community declared in the summer of 2003 that "France is not more anti-Semitic than America."106 According to a recent article in Ha'aretz, the French police report that anti-Semitic incidents in France declined by almost 50 per cent in 2005; and this despite the fact that France has the largest Muslim population of any country in Europe.107
Finally, when a French Jew was brutally murdered last month by a Muslim gang, tens of thousands of French demonstrators poured into the streets to condemn anti-Semitism. Moreover, President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin both attended the victim's memorial service in a public show of solidarity with French Jewry.108 It is also worth noting that in 2002 more Jews immigrated to Germany than Israel, making it "the fastest growing Jewish community in the world," according to an article in the Jewish newspaper Forward.109 If Europe were really heading back to the 1930s, it is hard to imagine that Jews would be moving there in large numbers.
We recognize, however, that Europe is not free of the scourge of anti-Semitism. No one would deny that there are still some virulent autochthonous anti-Semites in Europe (as there are in the United States) but their numbers are small and their extreme views are rejected by the vast majority of Europeans. Nor would one deny that there is anti-Semitism among European Muslims, some of it provoked by Israel's behavior towards the Palestinians and some of it straightforwardly racist. 110 This problem is worrisome, but it is hardly out of control. Muslims constitute less than five percent of Europe's total population, and European governments are working hard to combat the problem. Why? Because most Europeans reject such hateful views.111 In short, when it comes to anti-Semitism, Europe today bears hardly any resemblance to Europe in the 1930s.
This is why pro-Israel forces, when pressed to go beyond assertion, claim that there is a 'new anti-Semitism', which they equate with criticism of Israel.112 In other words criticize Israeli policy and you are by definition an anti-Semite. When the synod of the Church of England recently voted to divest from Caterpillar Inc on the grounds that Caterpillar manufactures the bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian homes, the Chief Rabbi complained that it would 'have the most adverse repercussions on ... Jewish-Christian relations in Britain', while Rabbi Tony Bayfield, the head of the Reform movement, said: "'There is a clear problem of anti-Zionist - verging on anti-Semitic - attitudes emerging in the grass roots, and even in the middle ranks of the Church."113 However, the Church was neither guilty of anti-Zionism nor anti-Semitism; it was merely protesting Israeli policy.114
Critics are also accused of holding Israel to an unfair standard or questioning its right to exist. But these are bogus charges too. Western critics of Israel hardly ever question its right to exist. Instead, they question its behavior towards the Palestinians, which is a legitimate criticism: Israelis question it themselves. Nor is Israel being judged unfairly. Rather, Israeli treatment of the Palestinians elicits criticism because it is contrary to widely-accepted human rights norms and international law, as well as the principle of national self-determination. And it is hardly the only state that has faced sharp criticism on these grounds.
In sum, other ethnic lobbies can only dream of having the political muscle that pro-Israel organizations possess. The question, therefore, is what effect does the Lobby have on U.S. foreign policy?
THE TAIL WAGGING THE DOG
If the Lobby's impact were confined to U.S. economic aid to Israel, its influence might not be that worrisome. Foreign aid is valuable, but not as useful as having the world's only superpower bring its vast capabilities to bear on Israel's behalf. Accordingly, the Lobby has also sought to shape the core elements of U.S. Middle East policy. In particular, it has worked successfully to convince American leaders to back Israel's continued repression of the Palestinians and to take aim at Israel's primary regional adversaries: Iran, Iraq, and Syria.
Demonizing the Palestinians
It is now largely forgotten, but in the fall of 2001, and especially in the spring of 2002, the Bush Administration tried to reduce anti-American sentiment in the Arab world and undermine support for terrorist groups like al Qaeda, by halting Israel's expansionist policies in the occupied territories and advocating the creation of a Palestinian state.
Bush had enormous potential leverage at his disposal. He could have threatened to reduce U.S. economic and diplomatic support for Israel, and the American people would almost certainly have supported him. A May 2003 poll reported that over 60 percent of Americans were willing to withhold aid to Israel if it resisted U.S. pressure to settle the conflict, and that number rose to 70 percent among "politically active" Americans.115 Indeed, 73 percent said that United States should not favor either side.
Yet the Bush Administration failed to change Israel's policies, and Washington ended up backing Israel's hard-line approach instead. Over time, the Administration also adopted Israel's justifications for this approach, so that U.S. and Israeli rhetoric became similar. By February 2003, a Washington Post headline summarized the situation: "Bush and Sharon Nearly Identical on Mideast Policy."116 The main reason for this switch is the Lobby.
The story begins in late September 2001 when President Bush began pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Sharon to show restraint in the occupied territories. He also pressed Sharon to allow Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, even though Bush was highly critical of Arafat's leadership.117 Bush also said publicly that he supported a Palestinian state.118 Alarmed by these developments....
Jewish Leaders Caught In Iran Bind
As Walt-Mearscheimer book appears, efforts to keep military option open run counter to national mood
Jewish Leaders Caught In Iran Bind
As Walt-Mearscheimer book appears, efforts to keep military option open run counter to national mood.
James D. Besser/Washington - Washington Correspondent
Even as they fight revived charges that Israel and the pro-Israel community are beating the drums for war with Iran, Jewish leaders here are quietly trying to protect President George W. Bush’s ability to use military force to knock out that country’s nuclear weapons program if diplomatic efforts fail.
But they are running headlong into a national mood of skepticism and distrust about American foreign policy in general — and a surge of opposition to any new U.S. military involvements in particular.
Talking even indirectly about the war option is risky because “there is virtually no public support for an attack on Iran,” said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.
And a leading Jewish military analyst warned that Jewish leaders are playing with fire by talking about the military option without understanding its difficulties or dangers.
“Flirting with the military option without understanding its meaning is very dangerous,” said Shoshana Bryen, special projects director for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). “I don’t think Jewish leaders are pushing the administration to war, but by not understanding the consequences, they are not making themselves look good; they open themselves up to a lot of criticism by being glib about going to war.”
Bryen, whose group has strong ties to U.S. and Israeli military leaders, said there are no simple, clean military options for dealing with the Iranian threat, and that almost any U.S. attack would prompt massive retaliation against Israel.
Jewish leaders “say they don’t want to remove the military option, but when asked how we should exercise it, the answer is usually ‘uhhhh,’” she said. “That really weakens their case.”
Bryen said she agrees with most Jewish leaders that “the military option should never be taken off the table. But I would be very careful about how I throw it around out in public.”
The dilemma for Jewish leaders is this: While almost none advocates preemptive military action to end the threat of a nuclear Iran, most believe opposition to new military commitments is growing by leaps and bounds — a new version of the classic “Vietnam syndrome.”
And if Iran believes military action is unlikely, “you have no diplomatic leverage,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “I don’t think there is a great deal of understanding [among the American public] of the threat Iran poses to the United States and the entire region, including Israel.”
That was the driving force behind the successful effort earlier this year by pro-Israel groups to thwart legislation that would have forced Bush to get congressional backing before unleashing a depleted military on Iran.
“It’s probably a mistake to take military action off the table in any part of the world,” said Martin Raffel, assistant executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA). “The administration needs to have the capacity, when necessary, to use military force; if you take that off the table, you’re limiting your range of options.”
Keeping all options open remains a priority for the pro-Israel community, he said, along with ratcheting up diplomatic and economic pressure on the Tehran regime.
Raffel conceded that public frustration over the war in Iraq makes that argument “harder” when it comes to Iran. “The burden of proof is higher because of Iraq, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be met,” he said.
At the same time, Jewish leaders are painfully aware of the continuing chorus of those who blame Israel and pro-Israel groups for the war in Iraq.
In their new book, foreign-policy scholars Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer again claim that pro-Israel forces were a “critical element” in the decision to go to war in Iraq. “America would not be in Iraq today” without the efforts of the pro-Israel lobby, they write.
Now, the two say, pro-Israel groups have made war with Iran more likely by pressing the Bush administration to avoid negotiating with the Tehran regime.
Jewish leaders vehemently reject that charge, but recent developments — including a rising chorus of neoconservatives, many of them Jewish, calling for preemptive war and the growing association with hawkish Christian Zionists such as Pastor John Hagee who echo that call — could give it added credence with a war-weary public.
And last week a group of top Jewish Republicans, including major leaders of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, banded together under the name “Freedom’s Watch” to start a free-spending media campaign defending Bush’s policies in Iraq.
“They attacked us, and they will again,” the initial ad claims. “They won’t stop in Iraq. We are winning on the ground and making real progress. It’s no time to quit. It’s no time for politics.”
In that environment, Jewish leaders arguing that the military option should not be discarded while insisting they are not pressing for war are walking a “precarious line,” said Johns Hopkins political scientist Benjamin Ginsberg. “It’s harder for pro-Israel groups to avoid the charge that they are indifferent to American interests. And they have the added difficulty of being aligned with the Christian Zionists, some of whom are openly calling for war with Iran.”
With public sentiment against new military conflicts running at flood tide, “It’s a difficult situation for pro-Israel groups to be in,” Ginsberg said. “They have to lie low and bring pressure from the sidelines.”
Signs of the shifting public mood are everywhere. Rep. Steve Israel (D-L.I.) sees it every time he goes home to his district.
“I am hearing a lot of this from constituents,” said Israel, who opposes efforts to take the military option off the table. “People are writing and saying, we just don’t buy the arguments about enriched uranium, we don’t want you contemplating a military solution. Iran is one of the things that keeps me up at night, but it would be exceedingly difficult for me to stand up at a town meeting on Long Island at some point and make the case that that if diplomacy has failed, we have to consider the military option.”
While polls show widespread awareness that a nuclear Iran would pose a significant security threat to U.S. interests, support for military action is low and — according to some surveys — dropping.
A CBS survey in March showed that although 65 percent of those questioned agreed that Iran is supplying arms to Iraqi insurgents, only 18 percent favored immediate military action. Early in the year, respondents in a Pew Research Center poll were asked: “Which is more important: to take a firm stand against Iranian actions or to avoid a military conflict?” The result was an even split.
It’s not just Iran that worries voters. Although few analysts predict a return to the isolationism of the past, numerous commentators have noted that the idea of cutting back U.S. involvement overseas is gaining traction in some political circles, driven by fear of new military conflicts.
In the 2008 presidential race, one modest surprise has been the performance of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), whose quixotic candidacy is steeped in the view that American meddling in foreign countries — and particularly in the Middle East — is responsible for many of the nation’s woes.
Also, an attempt by Republican leaders in June to hold up a foreign-aid bill that included Israel’s huge $2.4 billion annual allotment was driven, at least in part, by growing dissatisfaction with U.S. involvement overseas. “The Republicans were going back to the old isolationist argument that in a tough economy, we shouldn’t be spending on other countries,” Israel said.
“A failed, costly, bloody foreign war always makes the American people look inward,” said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. “Iraq has been a disaster on the order of Vietnam — not as many troops killed, but arguably even more damaging to our international standing. Naturally, the public will be hesitant to intervene abroad, anywhere soon. It will be one of George W. Bush’s legacies.”
“After every war, there is major isolationist sentiment,” said Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC). “It’s not just a Republican or a Democratic problem; after World War ll, it was largely a Republican problem, after Vietnam it was partly a Democratic problem. But the risks of significant disillusionment are particularly high in the wake of the Iraq fiasco.”
Jennifer Laszlo-Mizrahi, founder and president of The Israel Project, said that it’s not so much traditional isolationism as a deep and spreading distrust of leaders in both parties that is generating pressure against U.S. intervention in the Middle East in general and Iran in particular.
“Politicians are not popular because they’re seen as not successful,” said Mizrahi, whose organization has done extensive polling on attitudes about Iran. “People say they know what’s going on Iran, but given that we can’t seem to organize a one-car funeral in our public policy, why engage in another problem?”
She said the wariness about U.S. policy toward Iran “is an enormous problem. People see Iran as a real threat to America, but when you ask them what should be done, they feel that their leaders are not equipped to deal with the problem. So they turn to the UN, to the European Union.”
Washington’s credibility crisis and signs of a mood of international retreat have led Jewish groups to seek new strategies on Iran.
“It’s one of the reasons we have focused so much on divestment at the state and local level,” Laszlo-Mizrahi said. “It’s something Americans do like; it’s not a bunch of politicians, it’s people taking action in their own portfolios, state and local-level politicians divesting their pension funds.”
And increasingly, Jewish groups are portraying divestment, sanctions and other forms of economic leverage as a kind of anti-war tactic — a way to avoid a new conflict the American people are not ready to support.
“Communities are calling for the most vigorous economic and diplomatic efforts as a way of heading off the possibility of war with Iran,” said Martin Raffel, assistant director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA). “Divestment and other strategies are essentially anti-war initiatives.”
Here is a list of other articles in this section
Jewish Portugal:A Brief History
Published on The Smirking Chimp (http://www.smirkingchimp.com)
Attacking Iran Would be Madness and a Capital Crime
By Dave Lindorff
Created Aug 30 2007 - 9:26am
With the Bush administration clearly pushing for war with Iran, as crazy as
that would be, not just for an already over-extended, burned out military,
but because of the havoc it would wreak on the global economy, it is time to
call attention to a few points that are being ignored.
First of all, even US intelligence experts were saying only last year that
Iran was at least 10 years away from having a bomb, so the alarmist claims
being made by Bush and his gang, echoing the nonsense we heard in the run-up
to the Iraq invasion, about the threat of nuclear holocaust, are simply
scare tactics and should fool nobody.
Secondly, we should be asking why Iran would be trying to build a nuclear
bomb in the first place, and what kind of threat it would pose if they did
build one, or even several. Certainly an Iranian bomb would pose no threat
to the U.S., any more than a North Korean bomb poses a threat to the U.S.
With tens of thousands of bombs, including huge city-vaporizing H-bombs, in
the US arsenal, no country except for Russia has the ability to seriously
threaten America. The same goes for U.S. allies, whether in Europe or the
Middle East. If Iran were to threaten Kuwait or Israel with nuclear attack
it would simply be committing suicide because of US retaliation.
Clearly, the motive for Iran obtaining the bomb is then defensive. Iran is
confronted by Israel, which does have a considerable number of nuclear
bombs, and the means of delivering them to Iran. This is a real threat to
Iran, and just as America and Russia developed a program of MAD (Mutually
Assured Destruction) to prevent nuclear holocaust, just as India and
Pakistan, both nuclear powers, have developed a program of MAD, so Iran
wants to protect itself from a nuclear Israel by establishing a condition of
MAD. The US only adds to the pressure on Iran’s leadership to get themselves
into the nuclear club by its repeated bellicose threats to attack that
The historical record shows that America does not attack nations that have
their own nuclear weapons, and Iran understandably wants to achieve that
kind of protected status.
The fevered rhetoric emanating from the White House regarding alleged fears
of a nuclear Iran also should be put in historical context. The
administration keeps asking why Iran, the second-largest oil-exporting
nation in the world, would need nuclear power, implying that the only reason
for Iran’s wanting to build nuclear power plants and to develop the
capability to refine uranium, would be to develop bombs. In the 1960s
however, the US actively encouraged the Shah of Iran (installed in that
country courtesy of a CIA-backed coup that overthrew Iran’s elected
government) in his campaign to build 20 nuclear reactors, and also supplied
him with a research reactor. The Shah was also known to the US to be working
aggressively at developing nuclear weapons. At the nuclear research
facility, which the US built for the Shah, there was known to be research on
nuclear weapons design, on plutonium extraction, and on laser-enrichment
processes. Indeed, by 1979, when the shah was overthrown by the Islamic
Revolution, Iran was widely known to have the most advanced nuclear program
in the Middle East—all accomplished with America’s blessing and assistance.
(The Shah even had discussions in the late 1970s with Israel about modifying
Israel’s Jericho surface-to-surface missile for Iranian use—a missile that
is nuclear capable.)
So clearly, the US has not in the past thought it improper for Iran to be
conducting nuclear weapons research, or to be constructing nuclear power
Now let’s just summarize why an attack on Iran, as reportedly being urged by
Vice President Dick Cheney, and threatened by President Bush, would be a
disaster even worse than the 2003 invasion of Iraq. First of all, attacking
Iran, a Shia Muslim nation, would inevitably lead Iran to order retaliation
by its Shia allies in Iraq against already strapped US forces in Iraq. Shia
militias such as the Badr Brigade, which to date have largely ignored US
forces, would be likely to turn out in force against American forces. With
American supply lines already vulnerable, US forces could quickly be cut off
from all but aerial supply. They would also be heavily outnumbered. Iranian
sappers and their Shia allies in Iraq and in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait could
be expected to do major damage to Persian Gulf refineries, oil pipelines and
loading terminals, effectively shutting down production in most of the
region. Iran, once it was at war with the US would also surely make use of
the hundreds of anti-ship missiles that it has reportedly set up along the
eastern coast of the Persian Gulf, striking both US Navy vessels and
vulnerable oil tankers. Oil shipments through the Gulf would cease, even if
Iran failed to block the narrow Straits of Hormuz by sinking a couple of
ships in the narrow channel, if only because of the soaring cost of
insurance that would follow the start of hostilities. That in turn would
lead, according to some analysts, to global oil prices of perhaps $200 per
barrel—about three times the current price.
Iran, following an American attack, would also be free to retaliate against
American targets anywhere in the world. It is extremely likely that just as
the U.S. reportedly already has special forces in Iraq engaged in acts of
sabotage and of incitement of sectarian violence, Iran has its own special
forces overseas, and in the U.S., preparing for sabotage. If the US were to
bomb Iranian nuclear power plants and government installations, under the
international rules of reciprocity in warfare, Iran would be justified in
attacking American nuclear power plants and government offices. And this is
not even taking into consideration the freelance terrorists who would flock
to the cause from all over if the US were to invade yet another major
There is also the matter of how a US attack on Iraq would affect politics in
other Muslim countries. Many analysts believe that a US attack on or war
against Iran would lead to an Islamic revolution in Pakistan which could
turn that already nuclear nation into an Islamic Republic, solidly aligned
against the US and armed with nuclear weapons and missiles to carry them.
America’s standing in other Muslim countries like Malaysia, Egypt and Saudi
Arabia, already low, would also sink.
War with Iran is then, clearly madness.
It’s high time to demand that the American government explain how any of
this is in American interest. War with Iran is also criminal.
Invading a country that poses no immediate threat to the nation initiating
hostilities is the gravest of war crimes. It is, under the Nuremburg
Charter, a “Crime Against Peace,” and the perpetrators of such crimes are
guilty of a capital offense and as such should be tried, convicted, and
About author Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal . His new book of columns titled "This Can't be Happening! " is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff's new book is "The Case for Impeachment ," co-authored by Barbara Olshansky. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org 
Do We Have the Courage to Stop War with Iran?
By RAY McGOVERN
Former CIA Analyst
Why do I feel like the proverbial skunk at a Labor Day picnic? Sorry; but I thought you might want to know that this time next year there will probably be more skunks than we can handle. I fear our country is likely to be at war with Iran-and with the thousands of real terrorists Iran can field around the globe.
It is going to happen, folks, unless we put our lawn chairs away on Tuesday, take part in some serious grass-roots organizing, and take action to prevent a wider war-while we still can.
President George W. Bush's speech Tuesday lays out the Bush/Cheney plan to attack Iran and how the intelligence is being "fixed around the policy," as was the case before the attack on Iraq.
It's not about putative Iranian "weapons of mass destruction"-not even ostensibly. It is about the requirement for a scapegoat for U.S. reverses in Iraq, and the White House's felt need to create a casus belli by provoking Iran in such a way as to "justify" armed retaliation-eventually including air strikes on its nuclear-related facilities.
Bush's Aug. 28 speech to the American Legion comes five years after a very similar presentation by Vice President Dick Cheney. Addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Aug. 26, 2002, Cheney set the meretricious terms of reference for war on Iraq.
Sitting on the same stage that evening was former CENTCOM commander Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who was being honored at the VFW convention. Zinni later said he was shocked to hear a depiction of intelligence (Iraq has WMD and is amassing them to use against us) that did not square with what he knew. Although Zinni had retired two years before, his role as consultant had enabled him to stay up to date on key intelligence findings.
"There was no solid proof that Saddam had WMD...I heard a case being made to go to war," Zinni told Meet the Press three and a half years later.
(Zinni is a straight shooter with considerable courage, and so the question lingers: why did he not go public? It is all too familiar a conundrum at senior levels; top officials can seldom find their voices. My hunch is that Zinni regrets letting himself be guided by a misplaced professional courtesy and/or slavish adherence to classification restrictions, when he might have prevented our country from starting the kind of war of aggression branded at Nuremberg the "supreme international crime.")
Cheney: Dean of Preemption
Zinni was not the only one taken aback by Cheney's words. Then-CIA director George Tenet says Cheney's speech took him completely by surprise. In his memoir Tenet wrote, "I had the impression that the president wasn't any more aware than we were of what his number-two was going to say to the VFW until he said it."
Yet, it could have been anticipated. Just five weeks before, Tenet himself had told his British counterpart that the president had decided to make war on Iraq for regime change and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
When Bush's senior advisers came back to town after Labor Day, 2002, the next five weeks (and by now, the next five years) were devoted to selling a new product-war on Iraq. The actual decision to attack Iraq, we now know, was made several months earlier but, as then-White House chief of staff Andy Card explained, no sensible salesperson would launch a major new product during the month of August-Cheney's preemptive strike notwithstanding. Yes, that's what Card called the coming war; a "new product."
After assuring themselves that Tenet was a reliable salesman, Cheney and then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld dispatched him and the pliant Powell at State to play supporting roles in the advertising campaign: bogus yellowcake uranium from Niger, aluminum tubes for uranium enrichment, and mobile trailers for manufacturing biological warfare agent-the whole nine yards. The objective was to scare or intimidate Congress into voting for war, and, thanks largely to a robust cheering section in the corporate-controlled media, Congress did so on October 10 and 11, 2002.
This past week saw the president himself, with that same kind of support, pushing a new product-war with Iran. And in the process, he made clear how intelligence is being fixed to "justify" war this time around. The case is too clever by half, but it will be hard for Americans to understand that. Indeed, the Bush/Cheney team expects that the product will sell easily-the more so, since the administration has been able once again to enlist the usual cheerleaders in the media to "catapult the propaganda," as Bush once put it.
Iran's Nuclear Plans
It has been like waiting for Godot...the endless wait for the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear plans. That NIE turns out to be the quintessential dog that didn't bark. The most recent published NIE on the subject was issued two and a half years ago and concluded that Iran could not have a nuclear weapon until "early- to mid-next decade." That estimate followed a string of NIEs dating back to 1995, which kept predicting, with embarrassing consistency, that Iran was "within five years" of having a nuclear weapon.
The most recent NIE, published in early 2005, extended the timeline and provided still more margin for error. Basically, the timeline was moved 10 years out to 2015 but, in a fit of caution, the drafters settled on the words "early-to-mid next decade." On Feb. 27, 2007 at his confirmation hearings to be Director of National Intelligence, Michael McConnell repeated that formula verbatim.
A "final" draft of the follow-up NIE mentioned above had been completed in Feb. 2007, and McConnell no doubt was briefed on its findings prior to his testimony. The fact that this draft has been sent back for revision every other month since February speaks volumes. Judging from McConnell's testimony, the conclusions of the NIE draft of February are probably not alarmist enough for Vice President Dick Cheney. (Shades of Iraq.)
According to one recent report, the target date for publication has now slipped to late fall. How these endless delays can be tolerated is testimony to the fecklessness of the "watchdog" intelligence committees in House and Senate.
As for Iran's motivation if it plans to go down the path of producing nuclear weapons, newly appointed defense secretary Robert Gates was asked about that at his confirmation hearing in December. Just called from the wings to replace Donald Rumsfeld, Gates apparently had not yet read the relevant memo from Cheney's office. It is a safe bet that the avuncular Cheney took Gates to the woodshed, after the nominee suggested that Iran's motivation could be, "in the first instance," deterrence:"
"While they [the Iranians] are certainly pressing, in my opinion, for a nuclear capability, I think they would see it in the first instance as a deterrent. They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons-Pakistan to the east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west, and us in the Persian Gulf."
Unwelcome News (to the White House)
There they go again-those bureaucrats at the International Atomic Energy Agency. On August 28, the very day Bush was playing up the dangers from Iran, the IAEA released a note of understanding between the IAEA and Iran on the key issue of inspection. The IAEA announced:
"The agency has been able to verify the non-diversion of the declared nuclear materials at the enrichment facilities in Iran and has therefore concluded that it remains in peaceful use."
The IAEA deputy director said the plan just agreed to by the IAEA and Iran will enable the two to reach closure by December on the nuclear issues that the IAEA began investigating in 2003. Other IAEA officials now express confidence that they will be able to detect any military diversion or any uranium enrichment above a low grade, as long as the Iran-IAEA safeguard agreement remains intact.
Shades of the preliminary findings of the U.N. inspections-unprecedented in their intrusiveness-that were conducted in Iraq in early 2003 before the U.S. abruptly warned the U.N. in mid-March to pull out its inspectors, lest they find themselves among those to be shocked-and-awed.
Vice President Cheney can claim, as he did three days before the attack on Iraq, that the IAEA is simply "wrong." But Cheney's credibility has sunk to prehistoric levels; witness the fact that the president was told that this time he would have to take the lead in playing up various threats from Iran. And they gave him new words.
The President's New Formulation
As I watched the president speak on Aug. 28, I was struck by the care he took in reading the exact words of a new, subjunctive-mood formulation regarding Iran's nuclear intentions. He never looked up; this is what he said:
"Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust."
The cautious wording suggests to me that the White House finally has concluded that the "nuclear threat" from Iran is "a dog that won't hunt," as Lyndon Johnson would have put it. While, initial press reporting focused on the "nuclear holocaust" rhetorical flourish, the earlier part of the sentence is more significant, in my view. It is quite different from earlier Bush rhetoric charging categorically that Iran is "pursuing nuclear weapons," including the following (erroneous) comment at a joint press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in early August:
"This [Iran] is a government that has proclaimed its desire to build a nuclear weapon."
The latest news from the IAEA is, for the White House, an unwelcome extra hurdle. And the president's advisers presumably were aware of it well before Bush's speech was finalized; it will be hard to spin. Administration officials would also worry about the possibility that some patriotic truth teller might make the press aware of the key judgments of the languishing draft of the latest NIE on Iran's nuclear capability-or that a courageous officer or official of Gen. Anthony Zinni's stature might feel conscience bound to try to head off another unnecessary war, by providing a more accurate, less alarmist assessment of the nuclear threat from Iran.
It is just too much of a stretch to suggest that Iran could be a nuclear threat to the United States within the next 17 months, and that's all the time Bush and Cheney have got to honor their open pledge to our "ally" Israel to eliminate Iran's nuclear potential. Besides, some American Jewish groups have become increasingly concerned over the likelihood of serious backlash if young Americans are seen to be fighting and dying to eliminate perceived threats to Israel (but not to the U.S.). Some of these groups have been quietly urging the White House to back off the nuclear-threat rationale for war on Iran.
The (Very) Bad News
Bush and Cheney have clearly decided to use alleged Iranian interference in Iraq as the preferred casus belli. And the charges, whether they have merit or not, have become much more bellicose. Thus, Bush on Aug. 28:
"Iran's leaders...cannot escape responsibility for aiding attacks against coalition forces...The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops. I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities."
How convenient: two birds with one stone. Someone to blame for U.S. reverses in Iraq, and "justification" to confront the ostensible source of the problem-"deadeners" having been changed to Iran. Vice President Cheney has reportedly been pushing for military retaliation against Iran if the U.S. finds hard evidence of Iranian complicity in supporting the "insurgents" in Iraq.
President Bush obliged on Aug. 28:
"Recently, coalition forces seized 240-millimeter rockets that had been manufactured in Iran this year and that had been provided to Iraqi extremist groups by Iranian agents. The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased in the last few months..."
Recent U.S. actions, like arresting Iranian officials in Iraq-eight were abruptly kidnapped and held briefly in Baghdad on Aug. 28, the day Bush addressed the American Legion-suggest an intention to provoke Iran into some kind of action that would justify U.S. "retaliation." The evolving rhetoric suggests that the most likely immediate targets at this point would be training facilities inside Iran-some twenty targets that are within range of U.S. cruise missiles already in place.
Iranian retaliation would be inevitable, and escalation very likely. It strikes me as shamelessly ironic that the likes of our current ambassador at the U.N., Zalmay Khalilizad, one of the architects of U.S. policy toward the area, are now warning publicly that the current upheaval in the Middle East could bring another world war.
The Public Buildup
Col. Pat Lang (USA, ret.), as usual, puts it succinctly:
"Careful attention to the content of the chatter on the 24/7 news channels reveals a willingness to accept the idea that it is not possible to resolve differences with Iran through diplomacy. Network anchors are increasingly accepting or voicing such views. Are we supposed to believe that this is serendipitous?"
And not only that. It is as if Scooter Libby were back writing lead editorials for the Washington Post, the Pravda of this administration. The Post's lead editorial on Aug. 21 regurgitated the allegations that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is "supplying the weapons that are killing a growing number of American soldiers in Iraq;" that it is "waging war against the United States and trying to kill as many American soldiers as possible." Designating Iran a "specially designated global terrorist" organization, said the Post, "seems to be the least the United States should be doing, giving the soaring number of Iranian-sponsored bomb attacks in Iraq."
As for the news side of the Post, which is widely perceived as a bit freer from White House influence, its writers are hardly immune. For example, they know how many times the draft National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program has been sent back for redrafting...and they know why. Have they been told not to write the story?
For good measure, the indomitable arch-neocon James Woolsey has again entered the fray. He was trotted out on August 14 to tell Lou Dobbs that the US may have no choice but to bomb Iran in order to halt its nuclear weapons program. Woolsey, who has described himself as the "anchor of the Presbyterian wing of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs," knows what will scare. To Dobbs: "I'm afraid within, well, at worst, a few months; at best, a few years; they [Iran] could have the bomb."
As for what Bush is telling his counterparts among our allies, reporting on his recent meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy are disquieting, to say the least. Reports circulating in European foreign ministries indicate that Sarkozy came away convinced that Bush "is serious about bombing Iran's secret nuclear facilities," according to well-connected journalist Arnauld De Borchgrave.
It Is Up To US
Air strikes on Iran seem inevitable, unless grassroots America can arrange a backbone transplant for Congress. The House needs to begin impeachment proceedings without delay. Why? Well, there's the Constitution of the United States, for one thing. For another, the initiation of impeachment proceedings might well give our senior military leaders pause. Do they really want to precipitate a wider war and risk destroying much of what is left of our armed forces for the likes of Bush and Cheney? Is another star on the shoulder worth THAT?
The deterioration of the U.S. position in Iraq; the perceived need for a scapegoat; the knee-jerk deference given to Israel's myopic and ultimately self-defeating security policy; and the fact that time is running out for the Bush/Cheney administration to end Iran's nuclear program-together make for a very volatile mix.
So, on Tuesday let's put away the lawn chairs and roll up our sleeves. Let's remember all that has already happened since Labor Day five years ago.
There is very little time to exercise our rights as citizens and stop this madness. At a similarly critical juncture, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was typically direct. I find his words a challenge to us today:
"There is such a thing as being too late.... Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with lost opportunity.... Over the bleached bones of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: 'Too late.'"
Ray McGovern was a CIA analyst from 1963 to 1990 and Robert Gates' branch chief in the early 1970s. McGovern now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). He is a contributor to Imperial Crusades, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. He can be reached at: email@example.com
A shorter version of this article appeared originally on Consortiumnews.com
August 31, 2007
Showdown Over Iran
We can stop the coming war with Iran – but concerned Americans must act quickly
by Justin Raimondo
More rumors of war with Iran are circulating here (via Juan Cole), with inside scuttlebutt from inside the neoconservative network:
"They [the source's institution] have ‘instructions' (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don't think they'll ever get majority support for this – they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is plenty."
This comes via Barnett R. Rubin, Director of Studies and Senior Fellow at New York University's Center on International Cooperation, and a leading expert on Afghanistan, who has it from "a friend who has excellent connections in Washington and whose information has often been prescient." According to Rubin's anonymous sibyl – or is that seer? – we can look forward to "a big kickoff on September 11."
This pretty much comports with what we've been reporting on Antiwar.com for the past few months, and with recent reports of an imminent US assault on Iran: see my last column on this subject. So have a nice vacation, soak up as much sun as you can, because dark days lie ahead.
The propaganda campaign is already picking up, but this time the battle is going to be less one-sided. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the War Party had the field practically to themselves. Not a single major politician or political figure rose to question the "patriotic" lies that flooded the airwaves and inundated readers of newspapers and blogs – not a one. This time, however, it is going to be different: the War Party may win, in the end, but they won't triumph without a fight.
It's true that none of the major Democratic presidential candidates have dissented from the "approved" script on Iran, and that all are kowtowing long and low to the Israel lobby, which is the powerhouse behind this latest rush to war. It is also true that – naturally – the majorRepublicanpresidentialcandidates are even more vehemently calling for an attack – and they won't rule out using nukes. The only sane Republican in the lot – Ron Paul, of course – is plainly horrified by this, but the Republicans' willingness to contemplate a nuclear Armageddon in the Middle East is hardly surprising, coming from a party effectively in the grip of deranged "born-again" dispensationalists – for whom rumors of nuclear war are part and parcel of the "good news" that Christ is returning. It has been widely noted that the Republicans have become a party of authoritarians, but it's much worse than that: they've morphed into a party of lunatics, as well.
The Democrats, however, aren't taking advantage of this: indeed, Hillary Clinton, her party's leading candidate for the presidential nod, refuses to rule out using nukes in any situation – even when it comes to Pakistan, and, for god's sake, Afghanistan. The Lobby is just as firmly ensconced in the supposedly "antiwar" party as it is in the GOP, as the stripping of a provision from the recent defense appropriations bill that would have required the President to come to Congress for authorization for a strike on Iran made all too clear.
The war whoops are scheduled to reach a crescendo on September 11, at which point I expect the War Party to roll out a new narrative that portrays Iran as the protector and enabler of al-Qaeda, or even the real author of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Perhaps they'll run the complete works of Laurie Mylroie through a word processor, and, in true Orwellian fashion, insert Ahmadinejad's name where Saddam's once appeared, replacing "Iraq" with "Iran."
Presto, change-o! – and we have yet another war myth, a fresh load of prefabricated propaganda with which to bamboozle the masses, befuddle the media, and defuse dissent in the leadership of the major political parties.
The media, and the political leadership won't give them too many problems, although a few dissidents may protest loudly enough to provoke retaliation (a smear job, perhaps a firing or three, and the sudden loss of campaign funding in the case of candidates for office): but, really, not a whole lot of discipline will be required to yank the elites into line.
The real problem for the neocons is going to come with the supposedly indifferent and ignorant antiwar majority, which is firmly opposed [.pdf] to attacking Iran. Say all you want about the advanced state of decadent torpor that seems to define the 21st century American, but ordinary citizens are unlikely to sit idly by while the price of gas skyrockets and the Middle East goes up in flames. It is hard to say what form public outrage will take, but one can easily imagine the return of the kind of domestic unrest that roiled the 1960s and almost tore this nation apart. Massive demonstrations that turn into major riots: the unleashing of the vast spying-and-repression machine created with the passage of the PATRIOT Act, the Military Commissions Act [.pdf], and all the post-9/11 legislation that limited our rights in the name of "security" and the "war on terrorism" – and worse. Much worse …
The War Party is playing for keeps. Are we?
There is one hope, and one hope only, that could save us, albeit it's only a stop-gap measure, and that is the passage by a veto-proof margin of a congressional resolution explicitly forbidding the President from launching an attack on Iran without a vote by the people's representatives.
As noted above, this was present in the defense appropriations bill as approved by the Democratic leadership but deleted from the final bill at the insistence of AIPAC – the primary instrument of Israeli influence in Washington – and with the complicity of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In the Senate, Democrat Jim Webb introduced a separateresolution – Senate bill 759 – at the beginning of the year that would have established the same let's-vote-on-it requirement for an attack on Iran, but that seems to have gone nowhere. House Resolution 3119, introduced in the House by Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) on July 19 of this year, is virtually identical, and is similarly stuck in committee. Speaker Pelosi, who faces increasing discontent within Democratic ranks over the Iraq issue, could easily rescue it, but presently shows no inclination to do so.
The strategic conundrum the antiwar forces face is underscored by the current campaign of a group called "Americans Against Escalation," which is running television ads exclusively in Republican-held congressional districts taking legislators to task for their support of the Iraq war – as the administration gets ready to bomb Tehran with very little interference from the Democrats. Yet war with Iran would be the most extreme escalation imaginable – so why the silence from "Americans Against Escalation"?
Sustained public pressure to move the Webb-Udall legislation forward could slow down, if not entirely stop, the rush to war with Iran – but we don't have much time for the antiwar movement to get its act together.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
So, what about those alleged Iranian nukes that are supposedly being prepared by the New Saddam, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Well, if you read the headlines, you get two entirely different stories – the International Herald Tribune reports "Iran expanding its atom program, UN agency reports," which takes three paragraph to blurt out the truth, or at least an approximation of it:
"More than 650 more centrifuges are being tested or are under construction. That number is far short of Iran's projection that by now it would be running 3,000 of the machines, which produce fuel useful either to make electricity or in a bomb program, raising questions whether Iran is facing technical difficulties or has made a political decision to slow down its expansion effort."
So, the story encapsulated in the headline is the exact opposite of the real story: the Iranian nuclear program is contracting, not expanding, and furthermore Tehran has agreed to a timetable for making their entire program transparent, and bringing it within the parameters established by the IAEA. As Reuters put it: "Iran atom work at slow pace and not significant: IAEA."
Before the conflict takes shape on the ground in Iran and environs, the battle of competing narratives will be fought here in the States, and Antiwar.com is on the front lines. This is, first and foremost, an information war, and the winner will get to determine the fate of the Middle East – and the US – for many years to come. That's why Antiwar.com is playing a key role in the fight against this latest lunacy – perhaps the key role. And that's why your continued support is so important. We're thrilled that our last fundraising campaign was a success, but with these latest war moves against Iran we realize that Antiwar.com needs to expand its operations, and its coverage: we must to make an all-out effort to stop this new war before it starts.
Won't you help?
If you contributed to our summer fundraising drive, then you might want to consider signing up to make a monthly contribution. Our Sustainers' program is the core of our support: it means we can count on a certain income in the months to come. That gives us vital breathing space to plan a strategy in line with our resources. It's really the best way to contribute to Antiwar.com, and these kinds of donations are needed now more than ever.
You can help avert war with Iran in two vitally important ways – call your congressional representatives after the Labor Day holiday in support of the Udall-Webb resolutions, and continue to support Antiwar.com with your tax-deductible donation. It's a twofer for peace.
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Book Review: New book challenges US support for Israel - Author unknown
NEW YORK: An upcoming book challenging whether diplomatic and military support for Israel is in the best interests of the United States is set to spark fresh debate on Washington's role in the Middle East.
"The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy," written by two of the United States' most influential political science professors, is set to hit the bookshelves next Tuesday and promises to break the taboo on the subject. Written by John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt from Harvard, the book follows an article they published last year that stirred impassioned debate by setting out a similar position.
Their thesis is that US endorsement of Israel is not fully explained by strategic or moral reasons, but by the pressure exerted by Jewish lobbyists, Christian fundamentalists and neo-conservatives with Zionist sympathies.
The result, according to the book, is an unbalanced US foreign policy in the Middle East, the US invasion of Iraq, the threat of war with Iran or Syria and a fragile security situation for the entire Western world. "Israel is not the strategic asset to the United States that many claim. Israel may have been a strategic asset during the Cold War, but it has become a growing liability now that the Cold War is over," the authors said.
"Unconditional support for Israel has reinforced anti-Americanism around the world, helped fuel America's terrorism problem, and strained relations with other key allies in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia," they added.
According to the two writers, "backing Israel's harsh treatment of the Palestinians has reinforced Anti-Americanism around the world and almost certainly helped terrorists recruit new followers." Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, described the book as "an insidious, biased account of the Arab-Israeli conflict and of the role of supporters of Israel in the US," in an interview with AFP.
"Everything about American policy toward the conflict is presented in exaggerated form, as if America is completely one-sided in support of Israel and that those policies are simply the product of the Israel lobby." He is countering Mearsheimer and Walt's book with his own title: "The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control," due out on the same day.
Mearsheimer and Walt highlight the three billion dollars in US economic and military aid that Israel receives every year - more than any other country. They also point to Washington's diplomatic support: between 1972 and 2006, the United States vetoed 42 United Nations Security Council resolutions that were critical of Israel, while watering down many others under threat of veto. Foxman counters that the special relationship works both ways and that the United States has gained much out of its ally.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs canceled a public debate on the issue planned for September and featuring Mearsheimer and Walt when they were unable to schedule a time that Foxman could also manage.
In the conclusion of their book, Mearsheimer and Walt say that the United States must change its policy towards Israel. "The United States would be a better ally if its leaders could make support for Israel more conditional and if they could give their Israeli counterparts more candid advice without facing a backlash from the Israel lobby." With just over a year until the 2008 US presidential election, however, they said the issue was unlikely to even enter the debate.