The Israel Lobby

Originally the post with this title contained
material related to the published work of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt,
first their 2006-03 paper and then their 2007-09 book,
with the same title.
That material as of 2008-07-28 was moved to the post
Israel Lobby: M+W controversy.

This post now contains material related to
the subject of Mearsheimer and Walt’s work, namely,
the force in American politics which they (and others) have dubbed
“the Israel Lobby”.


AIPAC's Hold
By Ari Berman
The Nation, 2006-08-04

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

“The Bush Administration is bad enough in tolerating measures
they would not accept anywhere else but Israel,”
says Henry Siegman, the former head of the American Jewish Congress
and a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

the Congress, if anything, is
urging the Administration on
criticizing them even at their most accommodating.

When it comes to the Israeli-Arab conflict,
the terms of debate are so influenced by organized Jewish groups, like AIPAC, that

to be critical of Israel
is to deny oneself
the ability to succeed in American politics.”


The Israel Lobby and the Psychology of Influence
by Kevin MacDonald
Kevin MacDonald Blog, 2007-10-14

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Elaine McArdle was lobbied by the Israel Lobby.
Of course, this is not exactly unusual, nor is it illegal.
Indeed, it is standard practice among lobbyists of all kinds.
As she notes,
AIPAC provided first-class, all-expenses-paid trips to Israel
for 40 US congressmen

just last summer.
Journalists are eager to participate as well, although it appears that
this is viewed as less than ethical
by at least some mainstream news organizations.


What stands out about McArdle is that
she is very self-conscious about the psychological processes involved.
She is quite aware that persuasion often works at an unconscious level.
Giving someone a gift taps into a reciprocity norm
that is doubtless a remnant of our evolved psychology.
People who don’t reciprocate did not make good allies or friends,
and this happened over a sufficiently long period
to result in specialized brain mechanisms
designed to detect reciprocators and cheaters.
As McArdle notes, this is true the world over.
For the non-sociopaths among us,
when we receive something from someone else,
we feel a need to reciprocate
or at least have positive feelings toward that person.


In effect,
the people on the tour are being inculcated into a Jewish world view—
one in which Jews are the quintessential victims….


There is also
a sense of psychological bonding with Israelis at a person-to-person level.
McArdle refers to her experience as
“an unforgettable and emotionally charged week with warm, likable people —
generous hosts and tour guides whom I worried about
after returning to the safety of life in Massachusetts.”

She experiences empathy for these Israelis
as fellow ingroup members who are living in danger,
and she worries about their safety.
But she never gets to experience empathy with
the Palestinians on the other side of the wall—
the ones living in Bantustan-like concentration camps
in the apartheid West Bank.

McArdle also mentions that the experience was “emotionally charged.”
A great deal of psychological research shows that
experiences that have intense emotional overtones
are much more likely to be remembered and to have a long term influence.
As McArdle is well aware,
people need not be consciously aware of these memories
to be influenced by them.

Another psychological aspect of Jewish influence is that
Jewish intellectual and political movements
are promulgated from highly prestigious sources.
An important feature of our evolved psychology is
a greater proneness to adopt cultural messages deriving from
people with high social status.
This was certainly true of all the movements discussed in The Culture of Critique,
and there is no doubt that the Israel Lobby is intimately entwined with
elite media, elite universities, and well-funded think tanks.

And finally, it’s not only journalists like McArdle
who have to worry about the possibility of unconscious bias.
We all do.
Movements such as the Israel Lobby have typically presented themselves
not as furthering Jewish interests
but as furthering the interests of the society as a whole.
Neocons such as Richard Perle typically phrase their policy recommendations
as aimed at benefiting the US.
He does this despite evidence that he has a strong Jewish identity
and despite the fact that he has typical Jewish concerns, such as
anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and the welfare of Israel.
Perle poses as an American patriot despite
credible charges of spying for Israel,
writing reports for Israeli think tanks and op-eds for the Jerusalem Post,
and all the while having close personal relationships with Israeli leaders.


[For another example of this type of gift-giving, see


CFR Heavy Walter Russell Mead Says
Americans Love Israel Like Cherry Pie

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2008-06-20

[A very brief excerpt; emphasis is added.]

[Walter Russell] Mead is right about the polling
[showing that Americans support Israel].
But I [i.e., Weiss] say
this is a reflection of media distortion.
Let’s let all those Jacksonian divine Americans
see what is going on in the Occupied Territories,
which Mead of course elides here,
before they sign off.
As it is, the media give us a distorted view of the place and the politics.
Show the water those Palestinian kids are drinking.
Show the religious crazies on the ridgelines of Judea and Samaria.
I think
support would evaporate.

[In a later, 2008-10, piece, Weiss asks the very pointed question:]

When you look at Walter Russell Mead,
a three-barrelled Protestant minister’s son,
attacking Walt and Mearsheimer in Foreign Affairs,
how much is that a reflection of Mead’s need for employment at CFR,
which I am certain relies a lot on big Jewish donors?

Turning the Tables on the Israel-Firsters
by Michael Scheuer
Antiwar.com, 2008-07-16

[Paragraph numbers are added.]

Now that the dust has settled in
the spat between journalist Joe Klein and the ideologues at Commentary,
it is time to regret the ink spilled over the non-issue of “dual loyalties.”
The idea that there are U.S. citizens
who have equal loyalties to the United States and Israel
is passé.
American Israel-firsters have long since dropped
any pretense of loyalty to the United States
and its genuine national interests.
They have moved brazenly into the Israel first, last, and always camp.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Norman Podhoretz, Victor Davis Hanson,
the Rev. Franklin Graham, Alan Dershowitz, Rudy Giuliani, Douglas Feith,
the Rev. Rod Parsley, Paul Wolfowitz, James Woolsey, Bill Kristol,
the Rev. John Hagee,
and the thousands of wealthy supporters
of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)
appear to care about the United States only so far as
Washington is willing to provide
immense, unending funding and the lives of young U.S. service personnel
to protect Israel.
These individuals and their all-for-Israel journals –
Commentary, National Review, the Weekly Standard,
and the Wall Street Journal
amount to nothing less than a fifth column
intent on involving 300 million Americans in other peoples’ religious wars,
making them pay and bleed to protect a nation in which
the United States has no genuine national security interest at stake.

The Israel-firsters’ success is, of course, the stuff of which legends are made.
Most recently, for example,
we heard President Bush echo
Sen. Lieberman’s insane and subversive contention that
the United States has a “duty” to ensure
the fulfilling of God’s millennia-old promise to Abraham
regarding the creation and survival of Israel.
Bush told the Knesset
all Americans are ready to endlessly bleed and pay to ensure Israel’s security.
And where does the president derive authority
to make such a commitment in the name of his countrymen?
From the Constitution?
On the basis of America’s dominant religion?
From – heaven forbid – a thoughtful, hardheaded analysis of U.S. interests?

No, Bush’s pledge was based on none of these.
Bush’s decision to more deeply involve America in the eternal Arab-Israeli war
was based on nothing less than
the corruption wrought on the American political system by
the Israel-firsters,
AIPAC’s enormous treasury, and
the lamentable but growing influence of
America’s leading evangelical Protestant preachers.

The Israel-firsters started the Iraq war
and now have the United States locked into an occupation of that country
that may not end in any of our lifetimes.
Unless Americans ignore the likes of
Hanson, Podhoretz, Lieberman, Woolsey, and Wolfowitz,
the cost in blood and treasure will ultimately bankrupt America.

AIPAC is a perfectly legal organization,
and the wealth of its members is channeled into reliable campaign contributions
for any candidate from either party
who will put Israel’s interests above America’s.
From McCain to Obama,
from Pelosi to Giuliani,
from Hillary Clinton to Vice President Cheney,
AIPAC pumps money to any and every American politician
who is willing to adopt an Israel-first policy.

Leading American Protestant evangelical preachers –
men like Hagee, Parsley, and Graham –
are the newest and perhaps most anti-American members of this fifth column.
They serve two purposes:
  1. to reinforce in the minds of their flocks
    the Bush-Lieberman absurdity that
    the United States has a “duty” to ensure Israel’s survival;

  2. to use religious rhetoric to steadily convince the Muslim world that
    U.S. leaders are interested only in taming – and if need be, destroying –

The reality and power of this anti-American, pro-Israel triangle –
Israel-first politicians, civil servants, and pundits;
AIPAC’s corrupting influence; and
the warmongering of major evangelical Protestant preachers –
is so obvious and palpable that the only way its members can blur reality is
to deny the triangle’s existence and identify their critics as anti-Semites.
Well, the time has come
to simply ignore these folks’ knee-jerk hurling of that epithet.
Indeed, the slur ought to understood for what it is:
a sure sign that the Israel-firsters know that
their fifth column would be destroyed in a minute
if their fellow Americans come to recognize that
their sons and daughters are dying in Iraq and soon elsewhere
to protect an Israeli state
whose existence is just as important to U.S. interests
as the creation of a Palestinian state –
that is, of no importance whatsoever.

American voters must start using the democratic process
to begin removing themselves from
the religious war known as the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Disengagement will take time, hard work,
and a steadfast commitment to the rule of law.
Three actions are well within the voters’ capability,
and their use would bring pressure on federal officials
to stop killing America’s children in wars between Arabs and Israelis.
  1. Voters should press federal representatives
    to end taxpayer funding for the National Endowment for Democracy
    and other such organizations.
    These organizations’ main function is to promote
    the fallacy that U.S. interests are served by making sure that Israel –
    “the embattled island of democracy in the Middle East” –
    is protected,
    and that the lives of American children should be joyfully spent
    to bring democracy to foreigners
    in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

  2. Voters should not vote for any candidate for federal office
    who accepts contributions from AIPAC
    or any other Israel-first organization.
    This decision would be an important step in beginning to sweep clean
    the Augean stable that is American politics.

  3. Voters of all faiths must press their religious leaders
    to regularly, publicly, and specifically denounce
    the evangelical Protestant preachers
    whose fire-and-brimstone support for Israel
    involves Americans in religious wars
    in which U.S. interests are not threatened.

Neutralizing the Israel-first fifth column must be done,
but it must be accomplished using legitimate democratic tools:
voting, lobbying, free speech, and support for candidates
pledged to keep America out of other peoples’ religious wars.
The invocation of the anti-Semite epithet by the Israel-firsters should be ignored.
To be silenced by the slurs of the Israel-firsters
is to ignominiously invite the end of American independence
by subordinating U.S. interests to those of a foreign nation,
as well as to forget the warning of the greatest American.
“If men are precluded from offering their sentiments
on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences
that can invite the consideration of mankind,”
George Washington said in March 1783,
“reason is of no use to us;
the freedom of speech may be taken away,
and, dumb and silent, we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter.”
As long as the Israel-firsters can define the limits of acceptable public discourse,
Americans are on their way to the slaughter.

The Lobby Like No Other
Wants a War Like No Other

by Michael Scheuer
Antiwar.com, 2008-08-14

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

Having watched John McCain and Barack Obama
resolutely pledge their allegiance –
and their countrymen’s lives and treasure –
to the defense of Israel
via AIPAC, the media, and personal meetings with Israeli leaders,
it is worth asking what could possibly drive these men
to so ardently commit America
to participation in other people’s religious wars.
This question is particularly important today
as the Bush administration and the Israel-firsters
continue to push for an unprovoked U.S. attack on Iran.

Let me say that I harbor no resentment over the actions of Israel’s leaders.
For more than 60 years,
they have knowingly made their country a pariah in the Arab and Islamic worlds,
just as the Palestinians have made themselves pariahs in much of the West.
This is, of course, the right of both parties,
but neither seems to want to face the consequences of their decisions.
With demographic realities and increasingly radical, well-armed Arabs
making them panicky about Israel’s security,
Israel’s leaders naturally to try to lock down as much U.S. support as possible.
Having consciously – if unwisely –
put all their eggs in the U.S. basket since the 1973 War,
Israel’s leaders must do everything possible
to protect their relationship with Washington.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq, it seems, was not enough for the Israel-firsters.
Now, according to Sen. Joseph Lieberman,
a U.S.-launched war on Iran is needed because
“the threat that the U.S. and Israel face from the Islamic Republic of Iran
is today greater than ever.”
Though based on
the fantasy that Ahmedinejad’s tin-pot regime
is a threat to the world’s only superpower,

this is a perfectly commonsense position
for Israel and its U.S.-citizen backers in AIPAC to champion.
In their view,
U.S. wars with Muslims are
the ultimate good for Israel.

Recall, if you will,
the perfectly accurate April 2008, words of Benjamin Netanyahu,
likely Israel’s next prime minister:

“We [Israel] are benefiting from one thing,
and that is
the attack on the twin towers and the Pentagon,
and the American struggle in Iraq.”

[Sounds like two things to me.]
These wars, Netanyahu said, have
“swung American public opinion in our favor.”
How much more must Netanyahu and AIPAC believe that
a U.S. war with Iran would add to this “swing” in Israel’s favor?

My own anger falls not on Israel, then, or on Palestine, for that matter;
as I have written elsewhere,
America would do just fine and would be better off without either or both.
It falls rather on the lobbying efforts of AIPAC,
that organization’s blatant purchasing of fealty
from U.S. politicians in both parties,
and the media’s obsequious parroting of specious canards about
“Israel’s right to exist” and
“the duty of Americans to support an island of democracy in the Middle East.”

[In my opinion, Scheuer is technically right but morally wrong
on the question of “Israel’s right to exist”.
For a careful approach to this ultra-sensitive issue
by two experts who have both thought deeply about it
and are (evidently) capable of separating America’s interests from those of Israel,
see ¶C.1.Israel of Mearsheimer and Walt’s The Israel Lobby;
for their bottom line, click here.]

While few would question the right of AIPAC leaders to
lobby U.S. politicians, legally bribe them with campaign contributions,
or limit their right to speak as they please in public,
not matter how scurrilous or libelous their words,
I sometimes wonder if Americans have focused on
what AIPAC lobbies for
and what its acolytes in politics and the media support.

It is a commonplace to say that
lobbying is a pervasive activity in U.S. politics at all levels of government,
especially at the federal level.
People lobby for tax advantages for business or tax breaks for individuals;
for the right to own guns or laws to ban them;
for subsidies for agriculture or vouchers for private schools;
for universal health care or smaller government.
Across this diverse array of lobbyists there are two common threads:
  1. None are working to push the United States to participate
    in other peoples’ wars; and

  2. All are arguing for things that will – from their perspective –
    improve America, whether by making it
    richer, better protected, more competently educated,
    healthier, freer, etc.
The anti-gun lobby, for example,
is no less confident than the NRA and its affiliates
that they are working for the best interests of Americans.
One or the other is wrong,
but their activities are shaped by
their perception of what is best for America.

It is this last point
that separates the lobbyists working for and with AIPAC –
most of whom are U.S. citizens –
from almost all other U.S.-based lobbyists.
AIPAC does not lobby, bribe, and libel
to make Americans and America better off.
It lobbies solely, forthrightly, and cynically
to make Israel richer, better protected,
and able to do as it pleases in its relations with Muslim states.
AIPAC makes no pretense of doing things meant to benefit America;
its members take pride in seeking a goal that runs directly counter to
the economic welfare and physical security of almost all other U.S citizens
by seeking to keep them involved in a religious war
in which no U.S. national interest is at stake.

Now, there are a few other similar anti-American lobbies –
those for Armenia, Lebanon, Greece, etc. –
but AIPAC is clearly primus inter pares in this dastardly group.
And given that every AIPAC success
is a net loss for U.S. security and the U.S. Treasury,
it seems odd that our so-called political leaders
take orders and funds from this fundamentally anti-U.S. organization.
Odd or not, however, that is the reality.
Senators Obama and McCain have become AIPAC poster boys,
each strengthening his support for Israel
over the course of the current presidential campaign.
Obama’s position, in fact,
has changed so drastically in a pro-Israel direction
that the Illinois senator appears to have no mind of his own on this issue.

He has simply and obsequiously
adopted the Democrats’ traditional abject subservience
to their small but powerful pro-Israel constituency.

McCain is an Israel-firster of the deepest hue.
Coached by Joe Lieberman –
who argues there is a U.S. duty
to ensure God’s promise to Abraham about Israel is kept –
McCain is now considering
Republican Congressman Eric Cantor for his running mate.
Rep. Cantor, needless to say,
is eager to spend American blood and treasure to secure Israel.
Speaking in Israel, Cantor pushed the same false assertion
that is the staple of U.S. leaders in both parties.
“What befalls Jerusalem,” Cantor said,
“threatens the security of the United States and its allies worldwide.
That’s because Jerusalem and Israel are Ground Zero
in the global battle between
tyranny and democracy, radicalism and moderation, terrorism and freedom.”

This, of course, is nonsense of a high order,
and Lieberman and Cantor know it.
Both men are committed to Israel as a religious idea,
not because it has anything to do with U.S. security.
According to Lieberman,
“The rabbis say in the Talmud that
a lot of rabbinic law is to put a fence around the Torah
so you don’t get near to violating it.
Well, McCain has
a series of very clear-headed policies toward terrorism and Islamic extremism
[that put] extra layers behind his support for Israel.”
He also told a conference of Christians United for Israel
that he was pleased they recognized it was America’s duty to defend Israel,
blithely lying to them that
“President Washington and the Founding Fathers“
would support America fighting Israel’s wars.
Cantor, playing to both the Israel-firsters and their U.S. evangelical allies,
also has made clear where his primary loyalty lies:
“Jerusalem is not merely the capital of Israel
but the spiritual capital of Jews and Christians everywhere.
It’s the site of the First and Second Temples,
which housed the Holy of Holies,
and it’s the direction in which we Jews face when we pray.
This glorious City of David is bound to the Jewish people
by an undeniable 3,000-year historical link.”

My own view is that if God promised Palestine to the Israelis,
God is perfectly capable of keeping that promise,
and America is no way committed
to expend the lives of its soldier-children
in a war over conflicting interpretations of God’s word.
The Israelis and the Muslims should be perfectly free
to fight over whether Yahweh and Abraham or Allah and Mohammed are right,
and Americans should be perfectly free to draw the correct conclusion,
that the United States does not have a dog in this fight.
In addition,
there is a genuine constitutional question of church-state separation
on this issue.
Why should American taxpayers
have their earnings and children’s lives spent
to defend a theocracy in Israel
or, for that matter, to protect an Islamic theocracy in Saudi Arabia.?
(Imagine the howls of protest and torrents of church-state separation rhetoric from the media and both parties
if a congressman introduced a bill calling for
the U.S. to designate that
an amount equivalent to what’s spent to protect Israel and Saudi Arabia
be sent to the Vatican – a nation-state like Israel and Saudi Arabia –
to improve its defenses against
the now well-articulated threat from al-Qaeda and other Islamists.)

Objectively, three realities are clear:
  1. U.S. survival is not at stake in the Israeli-Muslim war;

  2. the taxes of Americans should not be spent to defend theocratic states; and

  3. holy books are insane tools to use as guides for U.S. foreign policy.
In America, however, these realities lie unspoken
because of the lobbying efforts of AIPAC
and the pro-Israel mantras of the politicians it purchases
with campaign contributions and promises of media exposure,
including McCain and Obama.
By their consistent anti-American actions,
AIPAC and the U.S. politicians who do its bidding
have fully validated the words of the real George Washington –
not the figment of Washington painted by Joe Lieberman.
“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence,”
President Washington wrote in 1796,
“the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake,
since history and experience prove that
foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”

Biden and Israel
The Lobby Has Spoken
Counterpunch.org, 2008-09-18

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

[I]t’s hard for the average American to believe
that Israeli interests could have such influence on a presidential election.
Israeli propaganda does an outstandingly good job of
diffusing any meaningful debate on the Middle East
or Israel’s role in shaping our foreign policies.
Whether by
defaming Jimmy Carter for daring to speak out or by censoring or
ignoring important scholastic books
such as “The Israel Lobby” by Professors Walt and Mearsheimer
[That book was not simply ignored.
It was savagely (and unjustly) panned by every review in the mainstream media.
Nothing could be more conclusive proof of
the toxic hold of Zionists over mainstream debate in America.]
Americans are kept ignorant of
just how important it is to please Israel in order to have
a real chance at occupying an elected post in Washington.
Every politician, newsman, and pundit knows that
you cannot be elected in Washington without
the blessing of the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC),
known simply as “The Lobby” in Washington.

Under the Clinton administration,
the head of AIPAC had to resign after someone leaked a tape of him discussing
how AIPAC was negotiating with the president
about whom he should select for Secretary of State.
It is undeniably the most powerful foreign interest group in Washington,
and arguably the most powerful lobby in general.

Henry Siegman, former head of the American Jewish Congress
and a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations admitted that
“When it comes to the Israeli-Arab conflict,
the terms of debate are so influenced by organized Jewish groups, like AIPAC, that

to be critical of Israel
is to deny oneself
the ability to succeed in American politics.”

'The American Left (Dailykos) Also Is Claimed by the Israel Lobby'
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.org, 2008-09-21

No. Va. lawmakers want more ties to Israel
On JCRC trip to Israel,
officials says Jewish state can help the commonwealth's economy

by Adam Kredo
Washington Jewish Week, 2008-09-24

[This is of interest as an example of
what Kevin MacDonald wrote about (2007-10-14-MacDonald-Psychology-of-Influence).
Here is an excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Some Virginia lawmakers say it’s time that the commonwealth does more
to strengthen economic ties with Israel.

“There are things Virginia has to gain from strengthening relations to Israel” including jobs and technology,
Virginia Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Fairfax) said from aboard a bus last week
as he was leaving the Golan Heights in Northern Israel.

Deeds was visiting Israel on

a 10-day mission organized by
the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington
to give elected officials
an understanding of the Jewish homeland
and the significant issues surrounding Israel,

according to Debra Linick, the JCRC’s Northern Virginia liaison.

Unlike JCRC’s previous 22 missions, this one was the first time
the agency has exclusively hosted Virginia officials....

Deeds, who is planning to enter next year’s gubernatorial race,
said he will
aim to form connections within Israel’s booming technology market
as a means to increase jobs at home.


Linick said the JCRC had invited a “large group of officials,” with
the response so strong that a few had to be turned away.
Eleven participated in the mission,
along with JCRC staffers and lay leaders.

“We’re taking folks we think have a large voice” in government
and share the JCRC’s values of
promoting public policy issues
that are important to the local Jewish community.

Well into their third day of the trip, during the initial interviews,
some lawmakers said
their experiences have altered their perception of Israel,
mostly created by the media.

“People in Israel are peace loving,”
Deeds said.
“That’s the overwhelming perspective zooming through.”

[Note that,
at the same time the US provides Israel with extensive financial support
(see, e.g., Chapter 1 of M&W),
Americans desire that Israeli companies invest in the US.
I wonder if this seems strange to anyone besides me.]


Olmert's Claims Revive Israel Lobby Controversy
by Daniel Luban
Antiwar.com, 2009-01-14

The U.S. State Department fiercely denied
claims made by Ehud Olmert about
his influence over President George W. Bush,
in an incident that has stirred up old debates about
the role of the Israeli government and the so-called “Israel lobby”
in formulating Middle East policy in Washington.

On Monday [01-12],
Olmert claimed that he demanded and received
an immediate conversation with President Bush, during which
he convinced the president to
overrule the wishes of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and
abstain from a United Nations resolution
calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

In response,
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack on Tuesday
called Olmert’s claims
“wholly inaccurate as to describing the situation,
just 100-percent, totally, completely not true.”


Lobby? What Lobby?
by Michael Scheuer
Antiwar.com, 2009-02-10

The full text of this article is shown, with emphasis added, here.

The War on J Street
By Daniel Luban
LobeLog, 2009-10-21

Why the Attacks on J Street?
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2009-10-26

Because they’re pro-peace, pro-American, and pro-Israel

J Street Runs in the Wrong Direction
by Michael Brendan Dougherty
American Conservative Blog, 2009-10-29

I was pretty positive about J Street when it launched 18 months ago.
And of course, on balance I prefer J Street to the bellicose AIPAC.
The former does not advocate that America launch wars (Iraq)
that are not in its interest to fight.

But J Street’s premises may be flawed.
This “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby exists for two reasons.
1) To give American Jews, most of them progressive,
a sane alternative to AIPAC.
2) To convince Americans, and American policymakers
that a two-state settlement is both desirable and–
contrary to other pro-Israel groups–
that it is achievable if only America really tries.

In a country that happens to control
the largest, best equipped, and most hubristic military apparatus in the world,
J Street finds itself banging on the table, shouting,
“Yes, we absolutely agree with AIPAC that
it is vital for America to protect Israel’s interests.
And yes, we agree that many Arab state actors are monsters.”
Then, in an embarrassed whisper, it adds
“We think there are diplomatic solutions that America should begin imposing.”
Finally, it concedes in footnotes to be released later, that
“No, we don’t think America should really threaten
to withhold its money or technology from Israel to accomplish any of this.”

I’m sorry. This won’t work.


The fix for Washington’s obsession with protecting Israel is not
a series of panel discussions on
what is really in Israel’s best interest.
Instead, our political class should focus on
what is in America’s best interest.

J Street’s problem is its internationalism.
In J Street’s view,
America is supposed to throw its weight around the region
toward a two-state solution.
Its supposed to stand up to the Israeli right.
Once America initiates this process, guides it, subsidizes it,
and perhaps defends it -
then America will reap some rewards.
In other words, J Street absolves Israel and Israelis
from responsibility for their own peace process.

My own view is that radical Palestinians may be just as aggrieved at
an American-imposed peace process,
as by an American-enabled Israeli occupation.
If by some miracle the dust ever settles in the Middle East,
it would be better for us
if our fingerprints were not discovered there.

My Problem with J Street
by Philip Giraldi
Antiwar.com, 2009-10-29

[An excerpt.]

I [Giraldi] believe that J Street is
just another Israel advocacy group
with a slightly more progressive and politically correct
and therefore acceptable message.
J Street wants carte blanche United States support for Israel
and, indeed, it might reasonably be described as
little more than a spin-off of the existing Israel Lobby
to make it more palatable to the liberal Democrats
that make up the Obama Administration.
It is one more voice pushing the same old agenda
with slightly different window dressing.
[T]he two pro-Israel lobbies clearly have the same overriding objective:
to preserve unlimited American support for the state of Israel,
not advancing the interests of the United States
except insofar as one assumes erroneously that
Tel Aviv’s and Washington’s interests are identical.
J Street calls continued massive US military aid to Israel
“an absolutely essential aspect of Israel’s security.”
If it is difficult to perceive
any pro-American element to the J Street program
it is because it is not about the United States at all –
it is about Israel.
J Street believes Washington should continue indefinitely
in its role as Israel’s patron, security guarantor, and financial supporter.

Moderate in America’s Jewish Lobby Causes a Stir
New York Times, 2009-10-31


The tensions and sharp disagreements
that have ripened among many American Jews
over President Obama’s approach to Middle East issues
were on public display here this week
as a fledgling Jewish group held its first convention.


The issue of
how much any American administration
should press an Israeli government to make concessions for peace

is at the heart of
delicate and long-unresolved questions among American Jews.
At the least, say the traditional supporters of Israel,
any disagreements should not be aired publicly.

At the height of the American-Israeli disagreement in June,
Aipac was able to get more than 300 members of Congress
to sign a resolution that in effect urged that
disagreements between Israel and the United States be dealt with privately.

On Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Lobby: A response to Peter Beinart
by Stephen M. Walt
walt.foreignpolicy.com, 2009-12-09


How much more evidence does one need?
By Stephen M. Walt
walt.foreignpolicy.com, 2010-02-10

Two and half years ago,
two political scientists published a book that said (p. 188):
“Anyone who criticizes Israeli actions
or says that
pro-Israel groups have significant influence over U.S. Middle East policy
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 AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents
are hardly bashful about describing their influence. ...
In effect, the lobby both boasts of its own power and
frequently attacks those who call attention to it.”

Over at The New Republic,
Leon Wieseltier has provided the latest example of this all-too-familiar tactic,
in the form of an incoherent and unwarranted smear of Andrew Sullivan.
Yglesias, Larison, and DeLong offer telling rebuttals.

[Also Greenwald, Luban, and a lengthy response by Sullivan himself.]

Where is the full-page letter in the NYT signed by prominent Jews
supporting Obama re settlements?

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.net, 2010-04-13

Israel Lobby Leadership Losing It
by Jim Lobe
Lobelog.com, 2010-04-15

Wish I'd said that ... (wait a minute ... I did!)
By Stephen M. Walt
walt.foreignpolicy.com, 2010-05-07

From the New Yorker profile of Haim Saban:

“His greatest concern, [Saban] says, is
to protect Israel,
by strengthening the United States-Israel relationship.
At a conference last fall in Israel,
Saban described his formula.
His ‘three ways to be influential in American politics,’
he said, were:
make donations to political parties,
establish think tanks, and
control media outlets.”

Presumably Abe Foxman will now denounce Saban
for peddling noxious anti-Semitic stereotypes about “Jewish influence.”
My view is different: I think Saban
is just a smart businessman who cares a lot about a single issue
and understands how the American system of interest group politics works.

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