Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy - Keeping It Quiet By Charley Reese

THE first weapon of choice for the Israeli lobby when someone with prestige publishes a soundly researched paper or book critical of Israel or its powerful lobby is silence. If it’s a book, it rarely gets reviewed; its author doesn’t get interviewed. If it’s a paper, there are no news stories in the big corporate press, no interviews with the authors, no television appearances.

For the average American who depends on the press to tell him what’s going on, it’s as if the criticism never existed. The second weapon is, of course, to launch vicious personal attacks.

Both methods are being used against an astounding paper titled The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy [see this issue’s special “Other Voices” supplement]. It was written by two renowned academics, John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

So far as I’ve been able to determine with the help of Google, while the paper and talk about it are all over the Internet, they are missing from the big corporate press as of this writing. It was published in the London Review of Books, and you can read it or download an edited version at . There was one news story about it in the Christian Science Monitor and an attack on it by David Gergen in U.S. News & World Report. Gergen is editor at large of the magazine, which is owned by an ardent Zionist, Mortimer Zuckerman. Gergen is a professional spinmeister who has always served the people who have the butter for his bread.

The essence of the paper, which is thoroughly footnoted, is that Israel’s lobby has so skewed American foreign policy in the Middle East that the U.S. places the security of Israel ahead of security for the United States.

“This situation has no equal in American history,” the authors state.

The Anti-Defamation League was quoted in a Jewish publication as saying that if the paper gained the attention of the mainstream media, then a “more vigorous attack” would be launched. So far, it has not, though in the Christian Science Monitor story one of the attack dogs of the Israel lobby branded these two esteemed academics from prestigious universities as “incompetents.”

This paper isn’t the first to criticize the Israeli lobby. There have been lots of papers and books written by distinguished individuals, none of which you’ve probably ever heard of. They Dare to Speak Out, by former Rep. Paul Findley, and The Passionate Attachment, by George W. Ball, one of America’s most distinguished diplomats, are two that come to mind. It was the late Sen. J. William Fulbright who first called Congress “Israeli-occupied territory.”

What the authors of the current paper hope to do is start a sensible public debate about the Israeli lobby and America’s policy in the Middle East. Of course, avoiding an honest debate is one of the primary objectives of the lobby. That’s why it uses silence and, if that doesn’t work, vicious personal attacks. It has certainly buffaloed Congress and most of America’s news media.

Another author given the silent treatment as well as vicious personal attacks is Norman Finkelstein, a professor at DePaul University. He’s written three outstanding books you’ve probably not heard of: The Holocaust Industry,Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, and his latest, which got not a line of review, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History [all available from the AET Book Club]. Finkelstein, by the way, is Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors.

This is a most serious issue and deserves an honest public debate. Whether you agree with any of the above authors and academics, you should read what they have to say and not be deterred by cheap ad hominem attacks.

You’ve heard the same message from me, of course, but I’m only a country boy turned journalist with no fancy degrees. If you’re impressed with credentials, Finkelstein, Findley, Walt, Mearsheimer and Ball have them up to their armpits.

Charley Reese is a nationally syndicated columnist. This column was first syndicated April 3, 2006. Copyright ©2006 by King Features Syndicate, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

Silence of the Poodles

By Paul Findley

Words spoken years ago by George W. Ball, a distinguished diplomat, author and champion of human rights, have vivid, new currency: “When Israel’s interests are being considered, Members of Congress act like trained poodles. They jump dutifully through hoops held by Israel’s lobby.” In the same interview, Ball said, “The lobby’s most powerful instrument of intimidation is the reckless charge of anti-Semitism.” Sadly, his words ring true today, verified by my own experiences and those of many of my colleagues in the U.S. legislature.

Ball could have added that, except for exuberant praise of Israel, the poodles remain mute as they jump through the hoops, lest they lapse into free speech and say something that will spoil their chances for re-election.

The fear of being charged with anti-Semitism outranks all other worries that bedevil politicians, and the lobby has marketed it so efficiently that a wall of silence shields the American people from awareness of the lobby’s activities and U.S. complicity in Israel’s longstanding abuse of international law and Arab human rights, violations that the rest of the world follows with dismay and anger. Fear of the anti-Semitism stain is intensified these days, because the lobby has succeeded in redefining anti-Semitism to include any criticism of Israeli behavior, an inferred threat that prompts all major media to ignore or sanitize reports of Israeli violations.

My authority for making these statements comes from having been a close student of the lobby for over 30 years, the first 22 as a member of Congress. The lobby leaders chose me as their number one target because I met unashamedly with PLO leader Yasser Arafat and later demanded the suspension of U.S. aid to Israel for its unlawful use of U.S.-donated military supplies. In 1982, when the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the main center of Israeli lobbying in Washington, claimed credit for keeping me from election to a 12th term in the House of Representatives, I became the lobby’s prize trophy. Two years later, Sen. Charles Percy (R-IL), who was also guilty of failing to toe the AIPAC line, joined me on the trophy shelf. Our fate has tended to focus the minds of other members of Congress, discouraging them from the temptation to speak out about Israel’s misbehavior.

Israel’s U.S. lobby is peerless among the hundreds of lobbies in our nation’s capital for one main reason: it alone is armed with the ultimate persuader, an ample supply of indictments for anti-Semitism. The supply promotes automatic cooperation when legislation on behalf of Israel moves forward. It is the modern-day Sword of Damocles, a fearsome instrument that hangs over almost every head in our government. Until recently, it seemed to cow all of the nation’s prestigious scholars, except for a few hardy ones like Prof. Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Juan Cole of the University of Michigan.

“When Israel’s interests are being considered, Members of Congress act like trained poodles.”

In February, in a rare burst of academic candor, two other distinguished professors, John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard’s Kennedy School, broke the silence with the publication of their 81-page, heavily footnoted study titled, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.

In the study, they conclude that the flagrant, longstanding pro-Israel bias in U.S. Middle East policy has enabled Israel to tilt U.S. policy in ways that benefit Israel to the disadvantage of U.S. national interests, luring America even into costly wars and a rising tide of ill fame worldwide. They pin much of the blame on the influence of Israel’s U.S. lobby. One of their most significant conclusions: “The U.S. has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel.”

Mearsheimer and Walt quickly discovered why most of their academic colleagues behave much like the political poodles on Capitol Hill. Their study instantly became controversial, the subject of a vigorous U.S. discussion over Israel’s role in U.S. foreign policy for the first time since the Jewish state came into being in 1948. A shorter version edited by the authors was published in the respected London Review of Books because no U.S. periodical was brave enough to give it a public audience. The study provoked such strong trans-Atlantic shock waves, thanks mainly to the Internet, that the wielders of the modern Sword of Damocles have gone public with a barrage of full-throated epithets, charging Mearsheimer and Walt with “ignorant propaganda, academic garbage, anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist drivel.” The Harvard Crimson quoted Harvard Prof. Alan Dershowitz as labeling the authors “liars” and “bigots.” Two other academics, in a letter to the London Review of Books, wrote ominously: “Accusations of powerful Jews behind the scenes are part of the most dangerous traditions of modern anti-Semitism.” They overlooked the fact that the lobby also includes powerful Christians.

In the New York Daily News, a less strident critic, Harvard Prof. David Gergen, rebuked the authors by declaring that “over the course of four tours in the White House I never once saw a decision in the Oval Office to tilt U.S. foreign policy in favor of Israel at the expense of America’s interest.” An experienced politician himself, Gergen must know that such tilts would never be recorded for anyone to see, even in the privacy of the Oval Office. In the column, Gergen mistakenly credited President Ronald Reagan with stopping Israel’s 1982 bloody assault on Lebanon. To the contrary, as George W. Ball recorded in his book Error and Betrayal in Lebanon (p. 45), Israeli Prime Minister Begin was defiant, conveying his refusal in these words: “Nobody, nobody is going to bring Israel to her knees. You must have forgotten that the Jews kneel but to God.”

No matter what lies ahead, Mearsheimer and Walt have already well served the American public. Their initiative has broken through a dangerous wall of silence. Thanks to publicity arising from their study, many thousands of U.S. citizens are aware for the first time that a domestic lobby on behalf of Israel exerts a significant role in forming U.S. Middle East policy, even on decisions of war. They are also now aware that religious communities—minority elements of both Christianity and Judaism—are the main pillars of the lobby.

This knowledge may bestir enough public curiosity for a civilized and edifying public debate to ensue. It is difficult to conceive of a topic more urgently worthy of public examination.

Paul Findley (R-IL), who served in the U.S. Congress from 1961 to 1983, is the author of the bestseller, They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby, available from the AET Book Club. He and Mrs. Findley reside in Jacksonville, IL, where he can be reached via e-mail at .