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January, 2008



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The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt
By Charlotte Prozan

Reviewed by Charlotte Prozan, Stinson Beach. (In the interest of full disclosure I am Jewish, a Zionist, and horrified, ashamed and deeply hurt and disappointed by Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.)
In the fall of 2002, The Atlantic magazine invited the authors to write a feature article on the Israel lobby. A manuscript was submitted in January 2005, incorporating all the suggestions they had received from the editors. A few weeks later the manuscript was rejected. Someone gave an American academic, who remains mysterious, a copy from the Atlantic and he suggested to the authors that they submit it to the London Review of Books where it was published on March 23, 2006.

It was also posted in a fully documented version on the Faculty Working Paper website of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of government. What followed has been described as "breathtaking", "a firestorm of criticism" and a "tsunami".

Mearsheimer is a Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and the co director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago. Walt is a Professor of International Affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and was academic dean of the Kennedy School from 2002 to 2006. They have each published several academic books. However these credentials have not stopped many critics from trashing the book such as Leslie Gelb in the N. Y. Times Book Review who described the book as "mostly wrong as well as dangerously misleading."

The authors in a reply letter point out that Gelb refers to their book as about "The Jewish Lobby," when in fact they never used the words "Jewish lobby." Freudian slip? They have variously been called "anti-Semites", "neo Nazis" and worse. They have been accused of making numerous historical or factual mistakes, all wrong, according to the authors. Ironically, this vitriolic response illustrates the main thesis of the book, that open discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian problem is not permitted in the U.S. (although it is in Israel) because of the inordinate power of the Israel Lobby.

Readers may be familiar with a similar response to the book by Jimmy Carter, "Palestine, Peace not Apartheid." Poor Jimmy Carter was skewered and vilified as an anti-Semite as well. Yet /Foreign Affairs /described the article as "hard-headed analysis." In response to the tremendous attention they received, Mearshiemer and Walt decided to expand the LRB article into a book and did succeed in getting Farrar, Straus and Giroux to publish it this year (2007). It appears that the tide may be turning.

The authors enraged the lobby and its supporters with such statements as "The Israel Lobby has successfully convinced many Americans that American and Israeli interests are essentially identical. In fact, they are not." They also hold the Israel Lobby responsible, though not exclusively, for our invasion of Iraq and our threatening of Iran. A chapter describing U.S financial support for Israel is shocking. It goes far beyond the published figures of aid and loans. The power of the Lobby over Congress, the President, the media and universities is enormous. We keep hearing that the Bush administration had done nothing to work towards an Israeli-Palestinian peace for seven years but we learn that in fact George Bush did make some efforts to curb Israeli expansion but the reaction of the lobby was so condemnatory that the authors say Bush was "humiliated" and like so many others, backed off.

Here is a list of just some of the politicians who the Lobby set out to unseat and succeeded because they dared to state that the U.S. policy towards Israel-Palestine should be more even-handed. It is well known in Washington that angering the Lobby is the kiss of death and their intimidation and brutish treatment of such poor souls is legendary: Sen. Charles Percy (R- IL), Ned Lamont of Connecticut, (defeated by Joseph Lieberman running as an independent), Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), (defeated by Sheldon Whitehouse) Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), eleven term Congressman Paul Findley (R-IL), Congressman Pete McCloskey (R-CA), Sen. William Fulbright (D-AR)

On the other side, those who do follow the line of the lobby get large financial contributions. Senator Alan Cranston said that the fate of those who get defeated by the lobby "has sort of struck terror into the hearts of senators." The same ruthless thuggery applies to members of the media, university professors and NGO's such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for their reporting of Israel's horrendous and illegal destructiveness during the second Lebanon War especially the dropping of cluster bombs.

The modes operandi of the Lobby is to punish those who don't tow their line by drying up financial support for them and to pour in money from throughout the country to elect their opponents, men and women who promise the lobby to be "a friend of Israel." It is a fact that Jews are big contributors to political campaigns and therefore their influence outweighs their numbers. They believe it is a matter of Jewish survival. Sadly, the Jewish people have been so traumatized by the Holocaust and centuries of oppression that psychologically for some of them it is as if the Holocaust happened yesterday and will happen again tomorrow.

Of course the Palestinians have been traumatized by centuries of occupation by the Turkish Empire and then the British. Thus each side comes from a place of pain and mistrust. In addition, I believe that an attempt to compensate for the total failure of the Jewish male to protect himself and his family from the Nazis has produced a super-macho, aggressive and militaristic nation of warriors.

I have focused on only a small portion of the book, which is a thorough analysis of U.S. policy in the Middle East. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for the full story of the "special relationship" between the U.S. and Israel, a close-up view of the way American democracy works at its worst, and the corrosive influence of money on issues that effect us all.

Note:
Organizations working to effect a change in U.S. policy include: Council for the National Interest, www.cnioline.org and Brit Teed V'Shalom, www.btvshalom.org Please send all hate mail to my attorney.


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