Perspectives on AIPAC & its Role in  Helping to Shape
 U.S. Foreign Policy
in the Middle East

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How influential is AIPAC in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East? 

This has long been debated, but even more since the March 2006 publication by Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago  "The Israel Lobby".  We have found that even among those who oppose current U.S. policy of supporting Israeli occupation of Palestinian land there are many variations of opinion.  We present many of them here.  

The most important point here is not to persuade people to any particular perspective on AIPAC'S influence, and how that compares to other factors (US elites hunger for empire, control of energy resources, corporate interests, and so on).  People may come to different conclusions. 

More than anything we hope that this debate will lead to greater understanding of U.S. policy, and inspire people to challenge a lobby that supports US taxpayer subsidy of a brutal military occupation and other policies quite contrary to a commitment to peace and justice.  We aim not for people to take some abstract philosophical stance, but for people to work to change U.S. policy. 

Perspectives

The Israel Lobby

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt

Blaming the Lobby

Joseph Massad

AIPAC's Complaint

Eric Alterman

The Lobby and the Bulldozer: Mearsheimer, Walt and Corrie

Norman Solomon

Who's the dog? Who's the tail?

Uri Avnery

It's Not Either / Or
The Israel Lobby

Norman Finklestein

The Israel Lobby?

Noam Chomsky

Opening the debate on Israel

Norman Solomon

Israel Lobby Nutjobs on the Loose

Molly Ivins

A Lobby, Not a Conspiracy

Tony Judt

The Storm over the Israel Lobby

Michael Massing

The Israel Lobby:
 How Powerful is it Really?

Stephen Zunes

American Zionism --
The Real Problem

Edward Said

The Uproar Over The Israel Lobby

Alexander Cockburn
AIPAC North Dan Freeman-Maloy

Things Come ’Round in Mideast

Tom Hayden

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From the London Review of Books, a condensed version of the paper that ignited the current debate.  March, 2006 

The Israel Lobby

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt

For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.   --   More of Condensed Version from London Review of Books  

Full Version of the Mearsheimer & Walt paper.  PDF file, 83 pages. 

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Blaming the Lobby                  

by Joseph Massad

From Al-Ahram, March, 2006

As someone who has been facing the full brunt of the might of the pro-Israel lobby in the US, Joseph Massad explains the deceit behind blaming the lobby for US policies towards the Palestinians and the Arab world

In the last 25 years, many Palestinians and other Arabs, in the United States and in the Arab world, have been so awed by the power of the US pro-Israel lobby that any study, book, or journalistic article that exposes the inner workings, the substantial influence, and the financial and political power of this lobby have been greeted with ecstatic sighs of relief that Americans finally can see the "truth" and the "error" of their ways.

The underlying argument has been simple and has been told time and again by Washington's regime allies in the Arab world, pro-US liberal and Arab intellectuals, conservative and liberal US intellectuals and former politicians, and even leftist Arab and American activists who support Palestinian rights, namely, that absent the pro- Israel lobby, America would at worst no longer contribute to the oppression of Arabs and Palestinians and at best it would be the Arabs' and the Palestinians' best ally and friend. What makes this argument persuasive and effective to Arabs? Indeed, why are its claims constantly brandished by Washington's Arab friends to Arab and American audiences as a persuasive argument? I contend that the attraction of this argument is that it exonerates the United States' government from all the responsibility and guilt that it deserves for its policies in the Arab world and gives false hope to many Arabs and Palestinians who wish America would be on their side instead of on the side of their enemies.

More...  

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AIPAC's Complaint

Eric Alterman,  for The Nation

The University of Chicago's John Mearsheimer is among America's most admired political scientists. Stephen Walt is the academic dean and a chaired professor at Harvard's Kennedy School. Neither man has ever made any remotely racist or anti-Semitic utterance in the public sphere. And yet because they recently published an essay in The London Review of Books and (with full scholarly apparatus) on the Kennedy School website that critically and--this is key--unsentimentally examines the role of the "Israel lobby" in the making of US foreign policy, these two scholars have been subjected to a relentless barrage of vituperative insults in which the accusation "anti-Semite" is merely the beginning. Just a few of the most colorful: "Crackpot" (Martin Peretz); "Could have been written by Pat Buchanan, by David Duke, Noam Chomsky, and some of the less intelligent members of Hamas" (Alan Dershowitz); "As scholarly as...Welch and McCarthy--and just as nutty" (Max Boot); "puts The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to shame" (Josef Joffe); "resembles nothing so much as Wilhelm Marr's 1879 pamphlet The Victory of Judaism Over Germandom" (Ruth Wisse); "dishonest so-called intellectuals...entitled to their stupidity" (New York Representative Eliot Engel)

More...

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The Lobby and the Bulldozer: Mearsheimer, Walt and Corrie

by Norman Solomon  Common Dreams

Weeks after a British magazine published a long article by two American professors titled "The Israel Lobby," the outrage continued to howl through mainstream U.S. media.

A Los Angeles Times op-ed article by Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Max Boot helped to set a common tone. He condemned a working paper by professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt that was excerpted last month in the London Review of Books.

The working paper, Boot proclaimed, is "nutty." And he strongly implied that the two professors -- Mearsheimer at the University of Chicago and Walt at Harvard -- are anti-Semitic.

Many who went on the media attack did more than imply. On April 3, for instance, the same day that the Philadelphia Inquirer reprinted Boot's piece from the L.A. Times, a notably similar op-ed appeared in the Boston Herald under the headline "Anti-Semitic Paranoia at Harvard."

And so it goes in the national media echo chamber. When a Johns Hopkins University professor weighed in last week on the op-ed page of the Washington Post, the headline was blunt: "Yes, It's Anti-Semitic." The piece flatly called the Mearsheimer-Walt essay "kooky academic work" -- and "anti-Semitic."

But nothing in the essay is anti-Semitic.    More...

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Who's the dog? Who's the tail?

by Uri Avnery  April 25, 2006 From ZNET

I DON'T usually tell these stories, because they might give rise to the suspicion that I am paranoid.

 

For example: 27 years ago, I was invited to give a lecture-tour in 30 American universities, including all the most prestigious ones -- Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Berkeley and so on. My host was the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a respected non-Jewish organization, but the lectures themselves were to be held under the auspices of the Jewish Bet-Hillel chaplains.

 

On arrival at the airport in New York I was met by one of the organizers. "There is a slight hitch," he told me, "29 of the Rabbis have cancelled your lecture."

 

In the end, all the lectures did take place, under the auspices of Christian chaplains. When we came to the lone Rabbi who had not cancelled my lecture, he told me the secret: the lectures had been forbidden in a confidential letter from the Anti-Defamation League, the thought-police of the Jewish establishment. The salient phrase has stuck to my memory: "While it cannot be said that Member of the Knesset Avnery is a traitor, yet..."

 

More....

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It's Not Either / Or
The Israel Lobby

By Norman Finklestein, May 3, 2006 From Znet

In the current fractious debate over the role of the Israel Lobby in the formulation and execution of US policies in the Middle East, the "either-or" framework -- giving primacy to either the Israel Lobby or to U.S. strategic interests -- isn't, in my opinion, very useful.

Apart from the Israel-Palestine conflict, fundamental U.S. policy in the Middle East hasn't been affected by the Lobby. For different reasons, both U.S. and Israeli elites have always believed that the Arabs need to be kept subordinate. However, once the U.S. solidified its alliance with Israel after June 1967, it began to look at Israelis ­ and Israelis projected themselves ­ as experts on the "Arab mind." Accordingly, the alliance with Israel has abetted the most truculent U.S. policies, Israelis believing that "Arabs only understand the language of force" and every few years this or that Arab country needs to be smashed up. The spectrum of U.S. policy differences might be narrow, but in terms of impact on the real lives of real people in the Arab world these differences are probably meaningful, the Israeli influence making things worse.

The claim that Israel has become a liability for U.S. "national" interests in the Middle East misses the bigger picture. Sometimes what's most obvious escapes the eye. Israel is the only stable and secure base for projecting U.S. power in this region. Every other country the U.S. relies on might, for all anyone knows, fall out of U.S. control tomorrow. The U.S.A. discovered this to its horror in 1979, after immense investment in the Shah. On the other hand, Israel was a creation of the West; it's in every respect ­ culturally, politically, economically ­ in thrall to the West, notably the U.S. This is true not just at the level of a corrupt leadership, as elsewhere in the Middle East but ­ what's most important ­ at the popular level. Israel's pro-American orientation exists not just among Israeli elites but also among the whole population. Come what may in Israel, it's inconceivable that this fundamental orientation will change. Combined with its overwhelming military power, this makes Israel a unique and irreplaceable American asset in the Middle East.

More....

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The Israel Lobby?

by Noam Chomsky  ZNet 

I've received many requests to comment on the article by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (henceforth M-W), published in the London Review of Books, which has been circulating extensively on the internet and has elicited a storm of controversy.  A few thoughts on the matter follow.

It was, as noted, published in the London Review of Books, which is far more open to discussion on these issues than US journals -- a matter of relevance (to which I'll return) to the alleged influence of what M-W call "the Lobby." An article in the Jewish journal Forward quotes M as saying that the article was commissioned by a US journal, but rejected, and that "the pro-Israel lobby is so powerful that he and co-author Stephen Walt would never have been able to place their report in a American-based scientific publication." But despite the fact that it appeared in England, the M-W article aroused the anticipated hysterical reaction from the usual supporters of state violence here, from the Wall St Journal to Alan Dershowitz, sometimes in ways that would instantly expose the authors to ridicule if they were not lining up (as usual) with power.
 
M-W deserve credit for taking a position that is sure to elicit tantrums and fanatical lies and denunciations, but it's worth noting that there is nothing unusual about that.  Take any topic that has risen to the level of Holy Writ among "the herd of independent minds" (to borrow Harold Rosenberg's famous description of intellectuals): for example, anything having to do with the Balkan wars, which played a huge role in the extraordinary campaigns of self-adulation that disfigured intellectual discourse towards the end of the millennium, going well beyond even historical precedents, which are ugly enough.  Naturally, it is of extraordinary importance to the herd to protect that self-image, much of it based on deceit and fabrication.  Therefore, any attempt even to bring up plain (undisputed, surely relevant) facts is either ignored (M-W can't be ignored), or sets off most impressive tantrums, slanders, fabrications and deceit, and the other standard reactions.  Very easy to demonstrate, and by no means limited to these cases.  Those without experience in critical analysis of conventional doctrine can be very seriously misled by the particular case of the Middle East(ME).
 
But recognizing that M-W took a courageous stand, which merits praise, we still have to ask how convincing their thesis is.  Not very, in my opinion.  More... 

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Opening the debate on Israel

by Norman Solomon  Irish Anti-War Movement

The extended controversy over a paper by two professors, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," is prying the lid off a debate that has been bottled up for decades.  

Routinely, the American news media have ignored or pilloried any strong criticism of Washington's massive support for Israel. But the paper and an article based on it by respected academics John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt, academic dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, first published March 23 in the London Review of Books, are catalysts for some healthy public discussion of key issues. 

The first mainstream media reactions to the paper - often with the customary name-calling - were mostly efforts to shut down debate before it could begin. Early venues for vituperative attacks on the paper included the op-ed pages of the Los Angeles Times ("nutty"), the Boston Herald (headline: "Anti-Semitic Paranoia at Harvard") and The Washington Post (headline: "Yes, It's Anti-Semitic"). 

But other voices have emerged, on the airwaves and in print, to bypass the facile attacks and address crucial issues. If this keeps up, the uproar over what Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt had to say could invigorate public discourse about Washington's policies toward a country that consistently has received a bigger U.S. aid package for a longer period than any other nation.   More....

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Israel Lobby Nutjobs on the Loose

by Molly Ivins   AlterNet

One of the consistent deformities in American policy debate has been challenged by a couple of professors, and the reaction proves their point so neatly it's almost funny.

A working paper by John Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, professor of international affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, called "The Israel Lobby" was printed in the London Review of Books earlier this month. And all hell broke loose in the more excitable reaches of journalism and academe.

For having the sheer effrontery to point out the painfully obvious -- that there is an Israel lobby in the United States -- Mearsheimer and Walt have been accused of being anti-Semitic, nutty and guilty of "kooky academic work." Alan Dershowitz, who seems to be easily upset, went totally ballistic over the mild, academic, not to suggest pretty boring article by Mearsheimer and Walt, calling them "liars" and "bigots."

Of course there is an Israeli lobby in America -- its leading working group is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It calls itself "America's Pro-Israel Lobby," and it attempts to influence U.S. legislation and policy.   More...

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A Lobby, Not a Conspiracy

By TONY JUDT   NY Times

In its March 23rd issue the London Review of Books, a respected British journal, published an essay titled "The Israel Lobby." The authors are two distinguished American academics (Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago) who posted a longer (83-page) version of their text on the Web site of Harvard's Kennedy School.

As they must have anticipated, the essay has run into a firestorm of vituperation and refutation. Critics have charged that their scholarship is shoddy and that their claims are, in the words of the columnist Christopher Hitchens, "slightly but unmistakably smelly." The smell in question, of course, is that of anti-Semitism.

This somewhat hysterical response is regrettable. In spite of its provocative title, the essay draws on a wide variety of standard sources and is mostly uncontentious. But it makes two distinct and important claims. The first is that uncritical support for Israel across the decades has not served America's best interests. This is an assertion that can be debated on its merits. The authors' second claim is more controversial: American foreign policy choices, they write, have for years been distorted by one domestic pressure group, the "Israel Lobby."    More...

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The Storm over the Israel Lobby

By Michael Massing  New York Review of Books

Not since Foreign Affairs magazine published Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations?" in 1993 has an academic essay detonated with such force as "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy," by professors John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Published in the March 23, 2006, issue of the London Review of Books and posted as a "working paper" on the Kennedy School's Web site, the report has been debated in the coffeehouses of Cairo and in the editorial offices of Haaretz. It's been called "smelly" (Christopher Hitchens), "nutty" (Max Boot), "conspiratorial" (the Anti-Defamation League), "oddly amateurish" (the Forward), and "brave" (Philip Weiss in The Nation). It's prompted intense speculation over why The New York Times has given it so little attention and why The Atlantic Monthly, which originally commissioned the essay, rejected it.

The objects of all this controversy are two eminent members of the academic establishment. Mearsheimer is a graduate of West Point, a veteran of five years in the Air Force, and the author of three books, including The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. In 1989, Mearsheimer persuaded Walt to leave Princeton and to join the faculty at Chicago, and they worked closely together until 1999, when Walt left for Harvard's Kennedy School; he's been its academic dean for the last three years. Last year, he published Taming American Power: The Global Response to US Primacy. As their book titles suggest, both professors belong to the "realist" school of international relations, viewing national interest as the only effective ground for making foreign policy.        More...

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The Israel Lobby: How Powerful is it Really?

Stephen Zunes   Foreign Policy in Focus

Since its publication in the London Review of Books in March, John Mearsheimer and Steve Walt's article “The Israel Lobby”—and the longer version published as a working paper for Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government—has received widespread attention from across the political spectrum. These noted professors put forward two major arguments: the first is the very legitimate and widely acknowledged (outside of official Washington) concern that U.S. Middle East policy, particularly U.S. support for the more controversial policies of the Israeli government, is contrary to the long-term strategic interests of the United States. Their second, and far more questionable, argument is that most of the blame for this misguided policy rests with the “ Israel lobby” rather than with the more powerful interests that actually drive U.S. foreign policy.

The Mearsheimer/Walt article has been met by unreasonable criticism from a wide range of rightist apologists for U.S. support of the Israeli occupation, including Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel (who accused the authors of being “anti-Semites”), Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz (who falsely claimed that the authors gathered materials from websites of neo-Nazi hate groups), pundits like Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes, and publications like the New York Sun and the New Republic. The authors have also been unfairly criticized for supposedly distorting the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though their overview is generally quite accurate. The problem is in their analysis.   More...

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American Zionism -- The Real Problem

Edward Said - Media Monitors Network   March 2001 

This is the first article in a series on the misunderstood and misjudged role of American Zionism in the question of Palestine. In my opinion, the role of organised Zionist groups and activities in the United States has not been sufficiently addressed during the period of the "peace process," a neglect that I find absolutely astonishing, given that Palestinian policy has been essentially to throw our fate as a people in the lap of the United States without any strategic awareness of how US policy is in effect dominated, if not completely controlled, by a small minority of people whose views about Middle East peace are in some way more extreme than even those of the Israeli Likud.

Let me give a small example. A month ago, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz sent over a leading columnist of theirs, Ari Shavit, to spend several days talking with me; a good summary of this long conversation appeared as a question-and-answer interview in the August 18 issue of the newspaper's supplement, basically uncut and uncensored. I voiced my views very candidly, with a major emphasis on right of return, the events of 1948, and Israel's responsibility for all this. I was surprised that my views were presented just as I voiced them, without the slightest editorialising by Shavit, whose questions were always courteous and un-confrontational.

A week after the interview there was a response to it by Meron Benvenisti, ex-deputy mayor of Jerusalem under Teddy Kollek. It was disgustingly personal, full of insults and slander against me and my family. But he never denied that there was a Palestinian people, or that we were driven out in 1948. In fact he said, we conquered them, and why should we feel guilty? I responded to Benvenisti a week later in Ha'aretz: What I wrote was also published uncut. I reminded Israeli readers that Benvenisti was responsible for the destruction (and probably knew about the killing of several Palestinians) of Haret Al-Magharibah in 1967, in which several hundred Palestinians lost their homes to Israeli bulldozers. But I did not have to remind Benvenisti or Ha'aretz readers that as a people we existed and could at least debate our right of return. That was taken for granted.

Two points here. One is that the whole interview could not have appeared in any American paper, and certainly not in any Jewish-American journal. And if there had been an interview the questions to me would have been adversarial, hectoring, insulting, such as, why have you been involved in terrorism, why will you not recognize Israel, why was Hajj Amin a Nazi, and so on. Second, a right-wing Israeli Zionist like Benvenisti, no matter how much he may detest me or my views, would not deny that there is a Palestinian people which was forced to leave in 1948. An American Zionist for a long time would say that no conquest took place or, as Joan Peters alleged in a now-disappeared and all but forgotten 1984 book, From Time Immemorial (that won all the Jewish awards when it appeared here), there were no Palestinians with a life in Palestine before 1948.

More....  Part 1  2  3 

The Uproar Over The Israel Lobby

By ALEXANDER COCKBURN

For the past few weeks a sometimes comic debate has simmering in the American press, focused on the question of whether there is an Israeli lobby, and if so, just how powerful is it?

I would have thought that to ask whether there's an Israeli lobby here is a bit like asking whether there's a Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor and a White House located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC. For the past sixty years the Lobby has been as fixed a part of the American scene as either of the other two monuments, and not infrequently exercising as much if not more influence on the onward march of history.

The late Steve Smith, brother in law of Teddy Kennedy, and a powerful figure in the Democratic Party for several decades, liked to tell the story of how a group of four Jewish businessmen got together two million dollars in cash and gave it to Harry Truman when he was in desperate need of money amidst his presidential campaign in 1948. Truman went on to become president and to express his gratitude to his Zionist backers.

Since those days the Democratic Party has long been hospitable to, and supported by rich Zionists. In 2002, for example, Haim Saban, the Israel-American who funds the Saban Center at the Brooking Institute and is a big contributor to AIPAC, gave $12.3 million to the Democratic Party. In 2001, the magazine Mother Jones listed on its web site the 400 leading contributors to the 2000 national elections. Seven of the first 10 were Jewish, as were 12 of the top 20 and 125 of the top 250. Given this, all prudent candidates have gone to amazing lengths to satisfy their demands. There have been famous disputes, as between President Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin, and famous vendettas, as when the Lobby destroyed the political careers of Representative Paul Findley and of Senator Charles Percy because they were deemed to be anti-Israel.    More....

AIPAC North

Dan Freeman-Maloy 

A look at the Canadian equivalent of AIPAC, the  Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC), formed in late 2005. 

Writer/Activist Dan Freeman-Maloy  was subject to efforts by the York University President to expel him for his political activism.  He eventually won that fight.   

Naturally, this article has the most relevance to our Canadian neighbors.  However, i think Dan's summary is true for our work here in the U.S. as well.  
Dan's summary follows.

The Need for a Public Confrontation

Samuel Huntington, a Harvard professor and loyal theorist of U.S. power, once provided a bit of advice that UIAFC and CIJA appear to appreciate: "The architects of power in the United States must create a force that can be felt but not seen. Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight it begins to evaporate."[4] In avoiding sustained public attention and scrutiny, Canada's Israel advocacy apparatus has indeed retained its strategic advantage. Its base of resources cannot be challenged in the immediate future; its limited public profile, on the other hand, can.

This is not a matter of confronting an ethnic lobby. The racist imagination has long conjured up images of Jews subverting governments or controlling them, spreading communism or hijacking banking systems, and on down the list. Such hallucinations must be exposed and rejected in the clearest terms possible. Anti-Semitic diatribes about the mythical social power of Jews form part of a terrible tradition of delusion and bigotry, and should be denounced as such.

But people of conscience cannot allow opposition to anti-Semitism to be reduced to a self-defense tactic for the Israel advocacy agenda. In downplaying the actual influence of their lobby while hiding behind disingenuous rhetoric about "Jewish interests," Israel advocates find themselves buttressing anti-Semitic myths, not weakening them. By masking corporate and colonial structures under the guise of mainstream Jewish organization, the Israel advocacy apparatus obscures the fact that far from representing the Jewish community, it represents a limited (if powerful) political hierarchy. Denying the activities or influence of the associated organizations does not discredit anti-Jewish racism so much as it legitimizes it. Internationalist politics, grounded in principled and unwavering anti-racist and class analysis, remain the best defense against genuine anti-Semitism. It is, in any event, exceedingly difficult to take the Friends of Schwartz and Wiesenthal seriously as they try to lay claim to the history of Jewish ghetto suffering, all the while cheering for the open-air imprisonment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

The challenge to these maneuvers, and to the Canadian policy regime they are designed to defend, is not going to come from within this country's economic or political establishment. It is not going to come from UIAFC's "agents," and it will be crudely smeared by the likes of B'nai Brith. Nonetheless, many outside of these circles will persist in building this challenge, and all people of conscience in this country have a stake in seeing it strengthened.

Read the three part   Comprehensive Article. 

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Carter shares insight on peace in Mideast

By Marty Rosen
Special to The Courier-Journal
 

Former President Jimmy Carter's new book, "Palestine -- Peace Not Apartheid," reflects a lifetime of contemplation on the Middle East. Mixing memoir and policy, it recounts his youthful fascination with the Holy Lands, his long acquaintance with the political leaders who have shaped the modern history of the Arab and Israeli worlds, and it makes a strong case for renewed debate about the best path to peace in a long-troubled part of the world. In a telephone interview, Carter spoke in detail about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his hopes for peace. Here are his unedited responses:

Q. Earlier this year the London Review of Books published an article by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt called "The Israel Lobby." That article, which generated much controversy, argued that American foreign policies in the Middle East, especially regarding Israel and Palestine, are not reflective of genuine American interests in the region and instead reflect very influential and successful lobbying efforts on the part of Israel and American supporters of Israel. Do you think that assessment is correct?

Carter: That's correct. Over the last 30 years of my life, one of my strongest commitments has been to bring peace to Israel and to have its existence accepted by all nations. I've traveled all over Israel. In fact, I've been to the Golan Heights three times, and we've conducted three elections there for the Palestinians. I've seen the intense debate in Israel about Israeli government policies, with the majority of Israelis habitually favoring the withdrawal from occupied territories in exchange for peace. But that debate does not even exist in the United States. A member of Congress would not dream of coming out in favor of Israel's withdrawal from occupied territories or condemn Israel's treatment of Palestinian people. And very few of the news media in this country would ever bring out an intense analysis of the issues involved in the Middle East as they are brought out fervently in Israel and throughout Europe. There's no doubt that there is a strong aversion to criticizing Israel in this country. I wouldn't say it's all because of intimidation, but that is one factor.

How did lobbying affect your presidential administration's relationship with issues in the Middle East? Specifically, in the book you write about a March 1978 PLO attack in which a bus was seized and dozens of Israelis were killed. You immediately condemned that attack. A few days later, Israel invaded Lebanon. You write that before making any diplomatic response to that, you consulted with congressional supporters of Israel before stating that you expected Israel to withdraw from Lebanon, and before approaching the U. N. Did you feel under pressure in shaping the U.S. response to the invasion?

Carter: Yes, there was a lot of pressure exerted on members of Congress and so forth on behalf of Israel. At that time, there was a general consensus between me and the key members of Congress, and that included Sen. (Jacob) Javits (of New York), who was Jewish, that there was a presumption that Israel would withdraw from the occupied territories. When I negotiated with (Israeli Prime Minister Menachem) Begin and (Egyptian President Anwar) Sadat, that was one of the things I insisted upon, that both of them agreed to accept. If you read the Camp David Accords, which are in the book, they call for the withdrawal of Israel's military and political forces from the West Bank and Gaza, for full self-determination for the Palestinians. And the Knesset of Israel agreed with that in a Likud administration. So I felt then and now that the main thrust of my effort was to bring permanent peace to Israel, on the premise that they would accept international law and withdraw to their own territories. That was subsequently confirmed in the Oslo Agreement in 1993, and more recently the international quartet's (the U.S., Russia, the European Union and the United Nations) "Roadmap" also requires that Israel withdraw from occupied territories as its main premise.

In the meantime, Israel has been occupying and confiscating and colonizing increasing areas of Arab territory, which in my opinion is inimical to any sort of prospect of peace for Israel.

In response to the 1978 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, your administration supported and the United Nations passed a resolution calling for the withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon. How many times over the last half-century has the United States sponsored resolutions that could be construed as anti-Israel? It strikes me as a rare thing over the last 60 years.

Carter: Well, it has been. I mention in the book that we've vetoed resolutions, some of them overwhelmingly supported by the world community, probably now about 45 times, in fact twice within the last two weeks when Israel attacked the Gaza people and killed those 18 civilians. The United States vetoed the resolution that condemned that action. And I have to tell you that I have always considered myself a supporter of Israel -- but with the premise that Israel comply with international law and withdraw from occupying territories of the West Bank and Gaza. And what's degenerated in recent years, to a very disturbing degree, is the gross abuse of the Palestinians by the Israeli occupying powers. It's one of the most serious human-rights abuses about which I'm familiar. It aggravates and alienates not only the Palestinians and the Arab world, but most of the rest of the world.

More

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Challenging the Power of the Jewish Lobby:
What Should Be Done?

James Petras

www.dissidentvoice.org
September 28, 2006

A number of writers have recently written critical articles or reviews about the power of the pro-Israel or Jewish Lobby and its influence on US policy in the Middle East. Most of these writings emphasize the power of the lobby over Congress, the two major parties (especially the Democrats) and the Executive branch. Some even describe the pro-Israel lobbies and the allied Jewish federations, the numerous propaganda institutes described as ‘think tanks’, publications as well as their influence or control over the mass media, from Hollywood, the print media, television to corporate “public” radio. However these critics and analysts paint themselves into a corner, attributing to the Jewish lobby so much power as to virtually incapacitate any effort to counter its influence and change the direction of US policy. The image of a near-omniscient and omnipotent Jewish lobby overlooks its vulnerability and significant issues around which an opposition or counter-hegemonic movement can be organized in the United States. 

 

A starting point for building such a movement in some cases already exists in single issue campaigns; in other instances, some of the critical reports on the actions and behavior of the Lobby can become rallying points for organizing and pressing for new legislation and improving legislative restraints on Lobby activities.  More

 

Israel, the “lobby,” and the United States
The watchdog, not the master

 

THE DEBATE about the relationship between Israel and the U.S, in particular about the power of the Israel lobby, has been raging since spring 2006 when two respected academics, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, published a paper, “The Israel lobby and U.S. foreign policy.” This led to a flood of articles, a well-publicized debate at Cooper Union in New York, and now a book by James Petras, The Power of Israel in the United States.

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Despite some valid arguments Mearsheimer and Walt make about the role of the pro-Israel lobby in squelching debate about U.S.-Israel relations, their central contention, that an all-powerful lobby dictates U.S. policies in the Middle East that run counter to the interests of the United States, must be rejected. This “tail wags the dog” argument reverses the dynamic of the relationship between the United States (the dog) and Israel (the tail), and flies in the face of any logical assessment of how the United States determines its own foreign policy. It is simply not credible to argue that the American Empire is being hoodwinked into acting against its own interests by the Israeli state in cahoots with a powerful lobby in Washington and their latest converts to Zionism, evangelical Christians. Multibillion-dollar yearly aid to Israel, military intelligence, political cover for Israel’s ongoing terror against the Palestinians, and America’s pugnacious Middle East policies all serve U.S. imperial interests. Israel is the watchdog, not the master.  More

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