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 The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy

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Nombre de messages : 8069
Localisation : Washington D.C.
Date d'inscription : 28/05/2005

MessageThe Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy

The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy

Published on Tuesday, September 04, 2007.

Source: Times Online - John J Mearsheimer and Stephen M Walt

years ago, Atlantic Monthly commissioned two academics, John
Mearsheimer of Chicago University and Stephen Walt of Harvard, to write
a significant article about the influence of the Israeli lobby on
American foreign policy. When the piece was at last completed, the
magazine declined to publish, deeming it too hot for delicate American
palates. It eventually appeared in 2005, in the London Review of Books,
provoking one of the most bitter media and academic rows of recent
times. The authors were accused of antisemitism, and attacked with
stunning venom by some prominent US commentators. Mearsheimer and Walt
obviously like a fight, however, for they have now expanded their
thesis into a book.

argument is readily summarised. The authors support Israel�s right to
exist. But they are dismayed by America�s unconditional support for its
governments� policies, including vast sums of cash aid for which there
is no plausible accounting process. They reject the view articulated as
a mantra by all modern American presidents (and 2008 presidential
candidates) that Israel and America share common values, and their
national interests march hand in hand.

On the
contrary, say the authors, America�s backing for Israel does grave
damage to its own foreign-policy interests. And many Israeli government
actions, including the expansion of West Bank settlements and the
invasion of Lebanon, reflect repressive policies that do not deserve
Washington�s endorsement: �While there is no question that the Jews
were victims in Europe, they were often the victimisers, not the
victims, in the Middle East, and their main victims were and continue
to be the Palestinians.�

The authors argue that American policy towards Israel is decisively and
quote the experience of a Senate candidate who was invited to visit
AIPAC early in his campaign for �discussions�. Harry Lonsdale described
what followed as �an experience I will never forget. It wasn�t enough
that I was pro-Israel. I was given a list of vital topics and quizzed
(read grilled) for my specific opinion on each. Actually, I was told
what my opinion must be . . . Shortly after that . . . I was sent a
list of American supporters of Israel . . . that I was free to call for
campaign contributions. I called; they gave from Florida to Alaska�.

congresswoman Betty McCollum, a liberal with a solid pro-Israel voting
record, opposed the AIPAC-backed Palestinian AntiTerrorism Act, which
was also opposed by the state department, an AIPAC lobbyist told
McCollum�s chief-of-staff that her �support for terrorists will not be
tolerated�. Former president Jimmy Carter incurred not merely criticism
but vilification when he published a book entitled Palestine Peace Not
Apartheid, likening Israel�s policy towards the Palestinians to that of
the old white regime in South Africa towards its black majority.

view Europeans take of Israel, most find it difficult to comprehend the
sheer ferocity of American sentiment. Ian Buruma wrote an article for
The New York Times entitled How to Talk About Israel. He said how
difficult it is to have an honest debate, and remarked that �even
legitimate criticism of Israel, or of Zionism, is often quickly
denounced as antiSemitism by various watchdogs�.

remarks brought down a storm on his head. The editor of The Jerusalem
Post, also a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, published an open
letter to Buruma that began: �Are you a Jew?� He argued that nonJews
should discuss these issues only in terms acceptable to Jews.

American media, claim the authors, even such mighty organs as The New
York Times and The Washington Post, do less than justice to the
Palestinians, much more than justice to the Israelis. Robert Bartley, a
former editor of The Wall Street Journal, once said: �Shamir, Sharon,
Bibi � whatever those guys want is pretty much fine by me.� There is no
American counterpart to such notably Arabist British polemicists as
Robert Fisk.

and Walt�s book argues its points at such ponderous length that it
makes pretty leaden reading. But it is extraordinary that, in a free
society, the legitimacy of the expression of their opinions should be
called into question. �We show,� say the authors, �that although Israel
may have been an asset during the cold war it is increasingly a
strategic liability now that the cold war is over. Backing Israel so
strongly helps fuel America�s terrorism problem and makes it harder for
the United States to address the other problems it faces in the Middle

ring-fence Israel from the normal sceptical proc-esses of democracy,
while arguments for the Palestinians are often denounced as pernicious
as well as antisemitic. All the 2008 presidential candidates, say
Mearsheimer and Walt, know that their campaign would be dead in the
water if they hinted that Israel would receive less than 100% backing
if they win. They note that many Israelis are much bolder in attacking
their own governments than any American politician would dare to be.

Part of
the trouble is that AIPAC faces no significant opposition.
Palestinians, and indeed all Arabs, command negligible sympathy in
America, especially since 9/11. The authors think that the most helpful
step towards diminishing the Israel lobby�s grip would be for election
campaigns to be publicly financed, ending candidates� dependence on
private contributions: �AIPAC�s success is due in large part to its
ability to reward legislators and congressional candidates who support
its agenda, and to punish those who do not.�

But the
authors know reform will not happen. The Israel lobby is vastly
strengthened by the support of America�s Christian Zionists, an
important element of George W Bush�s constituency. Some may think these
people are lunatics, but there are an awful lot of them. They are even
more strident in their opposition to Arab rights in Palestine than the
Israeli Likud party.

and Walt conclude, weakly but inevitably, with a mere plea for more
open debate in the US about Israel. �Because most Americans are only
dimly aware of the crimes committed against the Palestinians,� they
say, �they see their continued resistance as an irrational desire for
vengeance. Or as evidence of unwarranted hatred of Jews akin to the
antisemitism that was endemic in old Europe.

we deplore the Palestinians� reliance on terrorism and are well aware
of their own contribution to prolonging the conflict, we believe their
grievances are genuine and must be addressed. We also believe that most
Americans would support a different approach . . . if they had a more
accurate understanding of past events and present conditions.�

Europeans, all this adds up to a bleak picture. Only America might be
capable of inducing the government of Israel to moderate its behaviour,
and it will not try. Washington gives Jerusalem a blank cheque, and all
of us in some degree pay a price for Israel�s abuses of it.

that remark, I shall be pleasantly surprised to escape an allegation
from somebody that I belong in the same stable of antisemites as Walt
and Mearsheimer. Yet otherwise intelligent Americans diminish
themselves by hurling charges of antisemitism with such recklessness.
There will be no peace in the Middle East until the United States faces
its responsibilities there in a much more convincing fashion than it
does today, partly for reasons given in this depressing book.

Le Mensonge peut courir un an, la vérité le rattrape en un jour, dit le sage Haoussa
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