I was recently asked to answer the following question: In the original post there is mention of Israel controlling US policy. How exactly does that work?
The short answer is this: A highly influential and extremely well bankrolled collection of groups directs energy simultaneously in a number of directions: Political, media, academic, inter-faith, and other areas, in order to create consent for Israel's policies and to sway politicians to support those policies. The rest of this article examines this process in greater detail, primarily through the words of academics who have studied it for years.
To my mind, Israel's actions, and the extent to which they are enabled by the power of the Zionist lobby is -- or at least should be -- the central moral question confronting Jewish people worldwide, and especially in the US.
To the extent that it isn't, is the clearest indication of the moral degeneration, and ironically, the existential purposelessness which Zionism -- as an answer -- has provided to the Jewish people.
There are no two words which I find more distasteful than "Never Again" -- whether it comes from a Zionist, or my girlfriend. In the case of a Zionist, it is because of the sheer hypocrisy it entails; in the case of my girlfriend, because of its adamantine certainty. (OK, just injecting a little humor into a humorless topic.)
Israel's actions should be of equal concern to any human concerned with Justice and minimizing human suffering, especially Americans and Europeans whose governments support these unjust and genocidal polices, which potentially threaten to escalate and consume the entire world
Because of this, I have followed this topic very closely over the years (I produced and syndicated the first radio program dedicated to covering Palestine from the Palestinian perspective.) – so, rather than deluge people with sources, I will stick with four primary ones: Edward L. Bernays, to help us understand how power is wielded, the seminal paper on the Israel Lobby by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, and similar studies and observations by academic James Petras, and activist Jeffrey Blankfort.
First off, everyone knows that Chomsky is, in many ways, my intellectual godfather. But Chomsky is completely wrong on this issue, just as he is on 9-11. Many lite-Zionists seek to deflect attention away from Israel and Jews, and towards some abstract faceless conception of US State power.
I have written a lot about understanding power lately, but more as subsidiary to other issues, like understanding Obama. In reality, the topic deserves its own extended post and comments thread to fully flesh out my concepts. However, in the interests of time and space, let me be as brief as possible.
I do believe in the primacy of structural analysis in understanding the actions of Power. But Chomsky concentrates too much on executive power, at the expense of other types of power: Congressional, Judicial, and, especially, organizational.
It was Edward L. Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud, in his groundbreaking 1928 book, “Propaganda” who first develops the theory by which opinions are formed among people and power is wielded. It is as incumbent for anyone who struggles for any cause whatsoever to read this book, as it is incumbent upon one who seeks to understand Christianity to read the Bible. Here are some brief excerpts:
It is the purpose of this book to explain the structure of the mechanism which controls the public mind, and to tell how it is manipulated by the special pleader who seeks to create public acceptance for a particular idea or commodity.
THE conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society...
It is not usually realized how necessary these invisible governors are to the orderly functioning of our group life. In theory, every citizen may vote for whom he pleases. Our Constitution does not envisage political parties as part of the mechanism of government, and its framers seem not to have pictured to themselves the existence in our national politics of anything like the modern political machine. But the American voters soon found that without organization and direction their individual votes, cast, perhaps, for dozens or hundreds of candidates, would produce nothing but confusion. Invisible government, in the shape of rudimentary political parties, arose almost overnight. Ever since then we have agreed, for the sake of simplicity and practicality, that party machines should narrow down the field of choice to two candidates, or at most three or four.
In theory, every citizen makes up his mind on public questions and matters of private conduct. In practice, if all men had to study for themselves the abstruse economic, political, and ethical data involved in every question, they would find it impossible to come to a conclusion about anything. We have voluntarily agreed to let an invisible government sift the data and high-spot the outstanding issues so that our field of choice shall be narrowed to practical proportions. From our leaders and the media they use to reach the public, we accept the evidence and the demarcation of issues bearing upon public questions; from some ethical teacher, be it a minister, a favorite essayist, or merely prevailing opinion, we accept a standardized code of social conduct to which we conform most of the time...
As civilization has become more complex, and as the need for invisible government has been increasingly demonstrated, the technical means have been invented and developed by which opinion may be regimented...
When the Constitution was adopted, the unit of organization was the village community, which produced the greater part of its own necessary commodities and generated its group ideas and opinions by personal contact and discussion directly among its citizens. But to-day, because ideas can be instantaneously transmitted to any distance and to any number of people, this geographical integration has been supplemented by many other kinds of grouping, so that persons having the same ideas and interests may be associated and regimented for common action even though they live thousands of miles apart.
It is extremely difficult to realize how many and diverse are these cleavages in our society. They may be social, political, economic, racial, religious or eth- ical, with hundreds of subdivisions of each. In the World Almanac, for example, the following groups are listed under the A's:...
Present-day politics places emphasis on personality. An entire party, a platform, an international policy is sold to the public, or is not sold, on the basis of the intangible element of personality. A charming candidate is the alchemist's secret that can transmute a prosaic platform into the gold of votes.
The public is not made up merely of Democrats and Republicans. People to-day are largely uninterested in politics and their interest in the issues of the campaign must be secured by coordinating it with their personal interests. The public is made up of interlocking groups —economic, social, religious, educational, cultural, racial, collegiate, local, sports, and hundreds of others.
When President Coolidge invited actors for breakfast, he did so because he realized not only that actors were a group, but that audiences, the large group of people who like amusements, who like people who amuse them, and who like people who can be amused, ought to be aligned with him...
The political campaign having defined its broad objects and its basic plans, having defined the group appeal which it must use, must carefully allocate to each of the media at hand the work which it can do with maximum efficiency.
The media through which a political campaign may be brought home to the public are numerous and fairly well defined. Events and activities must be created in order to put ideas into circulation, in these channels, which are as varied as the means of human communication. Every object which presents pictures or words that the public can see, everything that presents intelligible sounds, can be utilized in one way or another.
At present, the political campaigner uses for the greatest part the radio, the press, the banquet hall, the mass meeting, the lecture platform, and the stump generally as a means for furthering his ideas. But this is only a small part of what may be done. Actually there are infinitely more varied events that can be created to dramatize the campaign, and to make people talk of it. Exhibitions, contests, institutes of politics, the cooperation of educational institutions, the dramatic cooperation of groups which hitherto have not been drawn into active politics, and many others may be made the vehicle for the presentation of ideas to the public.
But whatever is done must be synchronized accurately with all other forms of appeal to the public. News reaches the public through the printed word— books, magazines, letters, posters, circulars and banners, newspapers; through pictures—photographs and motion pictures; through the ear—lectures, speeches, band music, radio, campaign songs. All these must be employed by the political party if it is to succeed. One method of appeal is merely one method of appeal and in this age wherein a thousand movements and ideas are competing for public attention, one dare not put all one's eggs into one basket.
In March of 2006, the intellectual world was set aflame by the London Review of Books publishing an edited, but still quite substantial version of the paper by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, “The Israel Lobby.” Here are some excerpts:
So if neither strategic nor moral arguments can account for America’s support for Israel, how are we to explain it?
The explanation is the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby. We use ‘the Lobby’ as shorthand for the loose coalition of individuals and organisations who actively work to steer US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction. This is not meant to suggest that ‘the Lobby’ is a unified movement with a central leadership, or that individuals within it do not disagree on certain issues. Not all Jewish Americans are part of the Lobby, because Israel is not a salient issue for many of them. In a 2004 survey, for example, roughly 36 per cent of American Jews said they were either ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ emotionally attached to Israel.
Jewish Americans also differ on specific Israeli policies. Many of the key organisations in the Lobby, such as the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations, are run by hardliners who generally support the Likud Party’s expansionist policies, including its hostility to the Oslo peace process. The bulk of US Jewry, meanwhile, is more inclined to make concessions to the Palestinians, and a few groups – such as Jewish Voice for Peace – strongly advocate such steps. Despite these differences, moderates and hardliners both favour giving steadfast support to Israel.
They then go on to methodically detail just who those groups are and how they wield power.
Not surprisingly, American Jewish leaders often consult Israeli officials, to make sure that their actions advance Israeli goals. As one activist from a major Jewish organisation wrote, ‘it is routine for us to say: “This is our policy on a certain issue, but we must check what the Israelis think.” We as a community do it all the time.’ There is a strong prejudice against criticising Israeli policy, and putting pressure on Israel is considered out of order. Edgar Bronfman Sr, the president of the World Jewish Congress, was accused of ‘perfidy’ when he wrote a letter to President Bush in mid-2003 urging him to persuade Israel to curb construction of its controversial ‘security fence’. His critics said that ‘it would be obscene at any time for the president of the World Jewish Congress to lobby the president of the United States to resist policies being promoted by the government of Israel.’
Similarly, when the president of the Israel Policy Forum, Seymour Reich, advised Condoleezza Rice in November 2005 to ask Israel to reopen a critical border crossing in the Gaza Strip, his action was denounced as ‘irresponsible’: ‘There is,’ his critics said, ‘absolutely no room in the Jewish mainstream for actively canvassing against the security-related policies . . . of Israel.’ Recoiling from these attacks, Reich announced that ‘the word “pressure” is not in my vocabulary when it comes to Israel.’
Jewish Americans have set up an impressive array of organisations to influence American foreign policy, of which AIPAC is the most powerful and best known. In 1997, Fortune magazine asked members of Congress and their staffs to list the most powerful lobbies in Washington. AIPAC was ranked second behind the American Association of Retired People, but ahead of the AFL-CIO and the National Rifle Association. A National Journal study in March 2005 reached a similar conclusion, placing AIPAC in second place (tied with AARP) in the Washington ‘muscle rankings’.
The Lobby also includes prominent Christian evangelicals like Gary Bauer, Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson, as well as Dick Armey and Tom DeLay, former majority leaders in the House of Representatives, all of whom believe Israel’s rebirth is the fulfilment of biblical prophecy and support its expansionist agenda; to do otherwise, they believe, would be contrary to God’s will. Neo-conservative gentiles such as John Bolton; Robert Bartley, the former Wall Street Journal editor; William Bennett, the former secretary of education; Jeane Kirkpatrick, the former UN ambassador; and the influential columnist George Will are also steadfast supporters.
The US form of government offers activists many ways of influencing the policy process. Interest groups can lobby elected representatives and members of the executive branch, make campaign contributions, vote in elections, try to mould public opinion etc. They enjoy a disproportionate amount of influence when they are committed to an issue to which the bulk of the population is indifferent. Policymakers will tend to accommodate those who care about the issue, even if their numbers are small, confident that the rest of the population will not penalise them for doing so....
The Lobby pursues two broad strategies. First, it wields its significant influence in Washington, pressuring both Congress and the executive branch. Whatever an individual lawmaker or policymaker’s own views may be, the Lobby tries to make supporting Israel the ‘smart’ choice. Second, it strives to ensure that public discourse portrays Israel in a positive light, by repeating myths about its founding and by promoting its point of view in policy debates. The goal is to prevent critical comments from getting a fair hearing in the political arena. Controlling the debate is essential to guaranteeing US support, because a candid discussion of US-Israeli relations might lead Americans to favour a different policy.
A key pillar of the Lobby’s effectiveness is its influence in Congress, where Israel is virtually immune from criticism. This in itself is remarkable, because Congress rarely shies away from contentious issues. Where Israel is concerned, however, potential critics fall silent. One reason is that some key members are Christian Zionists like Dick Armey, who said in September 2002: ‘My No. 1 priority in foreign policy is to protect Israel.’ One might think that the No. 1 priority for any congressman would be to protect America. There are also Jewish senators and congressmen who work to ensure that US foreign policy supports Israel’s interests.
Another source of the Lobby’s power is its use of pro-Israel congressional staffers. As Morris Amitay, a former head of AIPAC, once admitted, ‘there are a lot of guys at the working level up here’ – on Capitol Hill – ‘who happen to be Jewish, who are willing . . . to look at certain issues in terms of their Jewishness . . . These are all guys who are in a position to make the decision in these areas for those senators . . . You can get an awful lot done just at the staff level.’
AIPAC itself, however, forms the core of the Lobby’s influence in Congress. Its success is due to its ability to reward legislators and congressional candidates who support its agenda, and to punish those who challenge it. Money is critical to US elections (as the scandal over the lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s shady dealings reminds us), and AIPAC makes sure that its friends get strong financial support from the many pro-Israel political action committees. Anyone who is seen as hostile to Israel can be sure that AIPAC will direct campaign contributions to his or her political opponents. AIPAC also organises letter-writing campaigns and encourages newspaper editors to endorse pro-Israel candidates.
There is no doubt about the efficacy of these tactics. Here is one example: in the 1984 elections, AIPAC helped defeat Senator Charles Percy from Illinois, who, according to a prominent Lobby figure, had ‘displayed insensitivity and even hostility to our concerns’. Thomas Dine, the head of AIPAC at the time, explained what happened: ‘All the Jews in America, from coast to coast, gathered to oust Percy. And the American politicians – those who hold public positions now, and those who aspire – got the message.’
AIPAC’s influence on Capitol Hill goes even further. According to Douglas Bloomfield, a former AIPAC staff member, ‘it is common for members of Congress and their staffs to turn to AIPAC first when they need information, before calling the Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service, committee staff or administration experts.’ More important, he notes that AIPAC is ‘often called on to draft speeches, work on legislation, advise on tactics, perform research, collect co-sponsors and marshal votes’.
The bottom line is that AIPAC, a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on Congress, with the result that US policy towards Israel is not debated there, even though that policy has important consequences for the entire world. In other words, one of the three main branches of the government is firmly committed to supporting Israel. As one former Democratic senator, Ernest Hollings, noted on leaving office, ‘you can’t have an Israeli policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here.’ Or as Ariel Sharon once told an American audience, ‘when people ask me how they can help Israel, I tell them: “Help AIPAC.”’
Thanks in part to the influence Jewish voters have on presidential elections, the Lobby also has significant leverage over the executive branch. Although they make up fewer than 3 per cent of the population, they make large campaign donations to candidates from both parties. The Washington Post once estimated that Democratic presidential candidates ‘depend on Jewish supporters to supply as much as 60 per cent of the money’. And because Jewish voters have high turn-out rates and are concentrated in key states like California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania, presidential candidates go to great lengths not to antagonise them.
Key organisations in the Lobby make it their business to ensure that critics of Israel do not get important foreign policy jobs. Jimmy Carter wanted to make George Ball his first secretary of state, but knew that Ball was seen as critical of Israel and that the Lobby would oppose the appointment. In this way any aspiring policymaker is encouraged to become an overt supporter of Israel, which is why public critics of Israeli policy have become an endangered species in the foreign policy establishment.
When Howard Dean called for the United States to take a more ‘even-handed role’ in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Senator Joseph Lieberman accused him of selling Israel down the river and said his statement was ‘irresponsible’. Virtually all the top Democrats in the House signed a letter criticising Dean’s remarks, and the Chicago Jewish Star reported that ‘anonymous attackers . . . are clogging the email inboxes of Jewish leaders around the country, warning – without much evidence – that Dean would somehow be bad for Israel.’
This worry was absurd; Dean is in fact quite hawkish on Israel: his campaign co-chair was a former AIPAC president, and Dean said his own views on the Middle East more closely reflected those of AIPAC than those of the more moderate Americans for Peace Now. He had merely suggested that to ‘bring the sides together’, Washington should act as an honest broker. This is hardly a radical idea, but the Lobby doesn’t tolerate even-handedness.
During the Clinton administration, Middle Eastern policy was largely shaped by officials with close ties to Israel or to prominent pro-Israel organisations; among them, Martin Indyk, the former deputy director of research at AIPAC and co-founder of the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP); Dennis Ross, who joined WINEP after leaving government in 2001; and Aaron Miller, who has lived in Israel and often visits the country. These men were among Clinton’s closest advisers at the Camp David summit in July 2000. Although all three supported the Oslo peace process and favoured the creation of a Palestinian state, they did so only within the limits of what would be acceptable to Israel. The American delegation took its cues from Ehud Barak, co-ordinated its negotiating positions with Israel in advance, and did not offer independent proposals. Not surprisingly, Palestinian negotiators complained that they were ‘negotiating with two Israeli teams – one displaying an Israeli flag, and one an American flag’.
The situation is even more pronounced in the Bush administration, whose ranks have included such fervent advocates of the Israeli cause as Elliot Abrams, John Bolton, Douglas Feith, I. Lewis (‘Scooter’) Libby, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and David Wurmser. As we shall see, these officials have consistently pushed for policies favoured by Israel and backed by organisations in the Lobby.
The Lobby doesn’t want an open debate, of course, because that might lead Americans to question the level of support they provide. Accordingly, pro-Israel organisations work hard to influence the institutions that do most to shape popular opinion.
The Lobby’s perspective prevails in the mainstream media: the debate among Middle East pundits, the journalist Eric Alterman writes, is ‘dominated by people who cannot imagine criticising Israel’. He lists 61 ‘columnists and commentators who can be counted on to support Israel reflexively and without qualification’. Conversely, he found just five pundits who consistently criticise Israeli actions or endorse Arab positions. Newspapers occasionally publish guest op-eds challenging Israeli policy, but the balance of opinion clearly favours the other side. It is hard to imagine any mainstream media outlet in the United States publishing a piece like this one.
‘Shamir, Sharon, Bibi – whatever those guys want is pretty much fine by me,’ Robert Bartley once remarked. Not surprisingly, his newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, along with other prominent papers like the Chicago Sun-Times and the Washington Times, regularly runs editorials that strongly support Israel. Magazines like Commentary, the New Republic and the Weekly Standard defend Israel at every turn.
Editorial bias is also found in papers like the New York Times, which occasionally criticises Israeli policies and sometimes concedes that the Palestinians have legitimate grievances, but is not even-handed. In his memoirs the paper’s former executive editor Max Frankel acknowledges the impact his own attitude had on his editorial decisions: ‘I was much more deeply devoted to Israel than I dared to assert . . . Fortified by my knowledge of Israel and my friendships there, I myself wrote most of our Middle East commentaries. As more Arab than Jewish readers recognised, I wrote them from a pro-Israel perspective.’
News reports are more even-handed, in part because reporters strive to be objective, but also because it is difficult to cover events in the Occupied Territories without acknowledging Israel’s actions on the ground. To discourage unfavourable reporting, the Lobby organises letter-writing campaigns, demonstrations and boycotts of news outlets whose content it considers anti-Israel. One CNN executive has said that he sometimes gets 6000 email messages in a single day complaining about a story. In May 2003, the pro-Israel Committee for Accurate Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) organised demonstrations outside National Public Radio stations in 33 cities; it also tried to persuade contributors to withhold support from NPR until its Middle East coverage becomes more sympathetic to Israel. Boston’s NPR station, WBUR, reportedly lost more than $1 million in contributions as a result of these efforts. Further pressure on NPR has come from Israel’s friends in Congress, who have asked for an internal audit of its Middle East coverage as well as more oversight.
The Israeli side also dominates the think tanks which play an important role in shaping public debate as well as actual policy. The Lobby created its own think tank in 1985, when Martin Indyk helped to found WINEP. Although WINEP plays down its links to Israel, claiming instead to provide a ‘balanced and realistic’ perspective on Middle East issues, it is funded and run by individuals deeply committed to advancing Israel’s agenda.
The Lobby’s influence extends well beyond WINEP, however. Over the past 25 years, pro-Israel forces have established a commanding presence at the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Center for Security Policy, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). These think tanks employ few, if any, critics of US support for Israel.
Take the Brookings Institution. For many years, its senior expert on the Middle East was William Quandt, a former NSC official with a well-deserved reputation for even-handedness. Today, Brookings’s coverage is conducted through the Saban Center for Middle East Studies, which is financed by Haim Saban, an Israeli-American businessman and ardent Zionist. The centre’s director is the ubiquitous Martin Indyk. What was once a non-partisan policy institute is now part of the pro-Israel chorus.
Where the Lobby has had the most difficulty is in stifling debate on university campuses. In the 1990s, when the Oslo peace process was underway, there was only mild criticism of Israel, but it grew stronger with Oslo’s collapse and Sharon’s access to power, becoming quite vociferous when the IDF reoccupied the West Bank in spring 2002 and employed massive force to subdue the second intifada.
The Lobby moved immediately to ‘take back the campuses’. New groups sprang up, like the Caravan for Democracy, which brought Israeli speakers to US colleges. Established groups like the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Hillel joined in, and a new group, the Israel on Campus Coalition, was formed to co-ordinate the many bodies that now sought to put Israel’s case. Finally, AIPAC more than tripled its spending on programmes to monitor university activities and to train young advocates, in order to ‘vastly expand the number of students involved on campus . . . in the national pro-Israel effort’.
The Lobby also monitors what professors write and teach. In September 2002, Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes, two passionately pro-Israel neo-conservatives, established a website (Campus Watch) that posted dossiers on suspect academics and encouraged students to report remarks or behaviour that might be considered hostile to Israel. This transparent attempt to blacklist and intimidate scholars provoked a harsh reaction and Pipes and Kramer later removed the dossiers, but the website still invites students to report ‘anti-Israel’ activity.
Groups within the Lobby put pressure on particular academics and universities. Columbia has been a frequent target, no doubt because of the presence of the late Edward Said on its faculty. ‘One can be sure that any public statement in support of the Palestinian people by the pre-eminent literary critic Edward Said will elicit hundreds of emails, letters and journalistic accounts that call on us to denounce Said and to either sanction or fire him,’ Jonathan Cole, its former provost, reported. When Columbia recruited the historian Rashid Khalidi from Chicago, the same thing happened. It was a problem Princeton also faced a few years later when it considered wooing Khalidi away from Columbia.
A classic illustration of the effort to police academia occurred towards the end of 2004, when the David Project produced a film alleging that faculty members of Columbia’s Middle East Studies programme were anti-semitic and were intimidating Jewish students who stood up for Israel. Columbia was hauled over the coals, but a faculty committee which was assigned to investigate the charges found no evidence of anti-semitism and the only incident possibly worth noting was that one professor had ‘responded heatedly’ to a student’s question. The committee also discovered that the academics in question had themselves been the target of an overt campaign of intimidation.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of all this is the efforts Jewish groups have made to push Congress into establishing mechanisms to monitor what professors say. If they manage to get this passed, universities judged to have an anti-Israel bias would be denied federal funding. Their efforts have not yet succeeded, but they are an indication of the importance placed on controlling debate.
A number of Jewish philanthropists have recently established Israel Studies programmes (in addition to the roughly 130 Jewish Studies programmes already in existence) so as to increase the number of Israel-friendly scholars on campus. In May 2003, NYU announced the establishment of the Taub Center for Israel Studies; similar programmes have been set up at Berkeley, Brandeis and Emory. Academic administrators emphasise their pedagogical value, but the truth is that they are intended in large part to promote Israel’s image. Fred Laffer, the head of the Taub Foundation, makes it clear that his foundation funded the NYU centre to help counter the ‘Arabic [sic] point of view’ that he thinks is prevalent in NYU’s Middle East programmes.
No discussion of the Lobby would be complete without an examination of one of its most powerful weapons: the charge of anti-semitism. Anyone who criticises Israel’s actions or argues that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over US Middle Eastern policy – an influence AIPAC celebrates – stands a good chance of being labelled an anti-semite. Indeed, anyone who merely claims that there is an Israel Lobby runs the risk of being charged with anti-semitism, even though the Israeli media refer to America’s ‘Jewish Lobby’. In other words, the Lobby first boasts of its influence and then attacks anyone who calls attention to it. It’s a very effective tactic: anti-semitism is something no one wants to be accused of.
Europeans have been more willing than Americans to criticise Israeli policy, which some people attribute to a resurgence of anti-semitism in Europe. We are ‘getting to a point’, the US ambassador to the EU said in early 2004, ‘where it is as bad as it was in the 1930s’. Measuring anti-semitism is a complicated matter, but the weight of evidence points in the opposite direction. In the spring of 2004, when accusations of European anti-semitism filled the air in America, separate surveys of European public opinion conducted by the US-based Anti-Defamation League and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that it was in fact declining...
The story begins in late September 2001, when Bush began urging Sharon to show restraint in the Occupied Territories. He also pressed him to allow Israel’s foreign minister, Shimon Peres, to meet with Yasser Arafat, even though he (Bush) was highly critical of Arafat’s leadership. Bush even said publicly that he supported the creation of a Palestinian state. Alarmed, Sharon accused him of trying ‘to appease the Arabs at our expense’, warning that Israel ‘will not be Czechoslovakia’.
Bush was reportedly furious at being compared to Chamberlain, and the White House press secretary called Sharon’s remarks ‘unacceptable’. Sharon offered a pro forma apology, but quickly joined forces with the Lobby to persuade the administration and the American people that the United States and Israel faced a common threat from terrorism. Israeli officials and Lobby representatives insisted that there was no real difference between Arafat and Osama bin Laden: the United States and Israel, they said, should isolate the Palestinians’ elected leader and have nothing to do with him.
The Lobby also went to work in Congress. On 16 November, 89 senators sent Bush a letter praising him for refusing to meet with Arafat, but also demanding that the US not restrain Israel from retaliating against the Palestinians; the administration, they wrote, must state publicly that it stood behind Israel. According to the New York Times, the letter ‘stemmed’ from a meeting two weeks before between ‘leaders of the American Jewish community and key senators’, adding that AIPAC was ‘particularly active in providing advice on the letter’.
By late November, relations between Tel Aviv and Washington had improved considerably. This was thanks in part to the Lobby’s efforts, but also to America’s initial victory in Afghanistan, which reduced the perceived need for Arab support in dealing with al-Qaida. Sharon visited the White House in early December and had a friendly meeting with Bush.
In April 2002 trouble erupted again, after the IDF launched Operation Defensive Shield and resumed control of virtually all the major Palestinian areas on the West Bank. Bush knew that Israel’s actions would damage America’s image in the Islamic world and undermine the war on terrorism, so he demanded that Sharon ‘halt the incursions and begin withdrawal’. He underscored this message two days later, saying he wanted Israel to ‘withdraw without delay’. On 7 April, Condoleezza Rice, then Bush’s national security adviser, told reporters: ‘“Without delay” means without delay. It means now.’ That same day Colin Powell set out for the Middle East to persuade all sides to stop fighting and start negotiating.
Israel and the Lobby swung into action. Pro-Israel officials in the vice-president’s office and the Pentagon, as well as neo-conservative pundits like Robert Kagan and William Kristol, put the heat on Powell. They even accused him of having ‘virtually obliterated the distinction between terrorists and those fighting terrorists’. Bush himself was being pressed by Jewish leaders and Christian evangelicals. Tom DeLay and Dick Armey were especially outspoken about the need to support Israel, and DeLay and the Senate minority leader, Trent Lott, visited the White House and warned Bush to back off.
The first sign that Bush was caving in came on 11 April – a week after he told Sharon to withdraw his forces – when the White House press secretary said that the president believed Sharon was ‘a man of peace’. Bush repeated this statement publicly on Powell’s return from his abortive mission, and told reporters that Sharon had responded satisfactorily to his call for a full and immediate withdrawal. Sharon had done no such thing, but Bush was no longer willing to make an issue of it.
Meanwhile, Congress was also moving to back Sharon. On 2 May, it overrode the administration’s objections and passed two resolutions reaffirming support for Israel. (The Senate vote was 94 to 2; the House of Representatives version passed 352 to 21.) Both resolutions held that the United States ‘stands in solidarity with Israel’ and that the two countries were, to quote the House resolution, ‘now engaged in a common struggle against terrorism’. The House version also condemned ‘the ongoing support and co-ordination of terror by Yasser Arafat’, who was portrayed as a central part of the terrorism problem. Both resolutions were drawn up with the help of the Lobby. A few days later, a bipartisan congressional delegation on a fact-finding mission to Israel stated that Sharon should resist US pressure to negotiate with Arafat. On 9 May, a House appropriations subcommittee met to consider giving Israel an extra $200 million to fight terrorism. Powell opposed the package, but the Lobby backed it and Powell lost.
In short, Sharon and the Lobby took on the president of the United States and triumphed. Hemi Shalev, a journalist on the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, reported that Sharon’s aides ‘could not hide their satisfaction in view of Powell’s failure. Sharon saw the whites of President Bush’s eyes, they bragged, and the president blinked first.’ But it was Israel’s champions in the United States, not Sharon or Israel, that played the key role in defeating Bush.
But Mearsheimer and Walt's work, as powerful as it is, was criticized by some for “pulling their punches,” by describing the Lobby as just another lobby, if a more powerful than most. Additionally, their research was based upon the prior work of more radical intellectuals who have been largely excised from corporate coverage because of their critical views of the lobby -- among them Jeffery Blankfort and James Petras.
In addition to describing the structure and workings of the lobby in detail, they critically examine boycotts and divestment strategies, concluding that they are the only workable first option towards disempowering the lobby, and halting Israel's genocidal policies.
Petras has written two books on what he calls the “Zionist Power Configuration,” and produces an annual scorecard of its status and accomplishments. Here is some of what he had to say for 2008:
The strategy of the Jewish state is the complete Zionization of Palestine, the takeover of land, water, offshore gas (estimated to be worth $4 billion dollars) and other economic resources and the total dispossession of the Palestinian people... Recently Israel, through the ZPC in the US, has engaged in a comprehensive, intense and highly charged political, diplomatic, economic and military campaign to isolate and ultimately destroy the Islamic Republic of Iran as a political counterweight to its ambitions in the Middle East (“Israel: Iran building Nuclear Arms”, Aljazeera February 12, 2008). The principal propaganda tool of the ZPC and its Israeli patrons is to claim Iran represents a ‘military threat’ to Israel, Iraq, the Gulf oil producers and the US. This outlandish charge is repeatedly made by ZPC ideologues. According to the 2008 edition of the International Institute of Strategic Studies Military Balance, Iran’s total defense spending for 2006 was nearly 55% less than Israel despite having ten times the population of the Jewish state and facing hundreds of US- supported terrorist incursions across its borders. Per capita, Israeli military expenditures were 17 times more than Iran ($1,737 per Israeli – not counting US direct military assistance – versus $110 for each Iranian citizen). It is widely acknowledged that Israel has over 200 nuclear weapons capable of striking Iranian population centers while Iran has none. Israel receives over $3 billion US dollars a year in direct US military aid, including the most advanced offensive military technology – while Iran receives no foreign military aid and has little defensive technology. According to US Budgetary Hearings, from 2009 to 2018 Israel will receive a $30 billion dollar package of direct foreign military financing from the US, while Iran will receive nothing from any foreign state...
The second task of the ZPC in pursuit of Israel’s agenda is to ensure no major political candidate debates or questions Israeli genocidal policies toward the Palestinians and its military ambitions in the Middle East. In the US Presidential election of 2008, the ZPC’s role is to ensure that all major candidates endorse, support and promote the Israeli political agenda, despite its genocidal policies (see Gideon Levy, “The Lights have been turned off”, Haaretz February 4, 2008) and repudiation of international law. The ZPC has imposed on all Presidential candidates Israel’s bellicose posture toward Iran, and its explicit policy of liquidating Hamas political leaders. According to Israeli Minister of Housing and construction, Zeev Boim, “all members of Hamas political leadership are involved in terrorist acts against Israel…so they must be liquidated.” (Israeli Army Radio- Galei Tzahal, February 9, 2008 cited in Haaretz).
The third task of the ZPC is to use their strategic positions in the White House, Treasury, Pentagon and State Department to undermine Iran’s economy, politically isolate it and provoke internal and external confrontations...
The ZPC is made up of all the major Jewish organizations, pro-Israel plutocrats, media barons and government officials who are Israel Firsters. In the face of the unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe imposed by Israel’s food and energy blockade of Gaza, and its thorough repudiation of the terms of the Annapolis peace negotiation the Zionist power configuration had its work cut out for it in selling the Israeli genocidal agenda as a defensive, justifiable policy of a peace-loving democracy. The second task of the ZPC was to overcome the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran which refuted Israeli and White House propaganda painting Iran as a nuclear threat. The Israeli state propaganda machine went on an all out assault of the NIE, claiming to have superior knowledge of hidden Iranian research programs – without providing a shred of reliable evidence. Once the Israeli state defined its position to the NIE, the entire leadership of the Conference of the Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CPMAJO), all the major Zionist- controlled propaganda centers (‘think tanks’) and an army of Israel-First academics (self-styled ‘intelligence experts’) and ideologues deluged the print and electronic mass media with attacks on the NIE report, echoing and citing the rhetoric and claims of the Israeli state. The White House and Congress (with few exceptions) followed the line of the ZPC, downplaying and distorting the NIE, escalating their bellicose rhetoric and pressure for sanctions on Iran in the UN Security Council and among the EU and NATO countries. The success of the ZPC in sustaining US confrontational policies against Iran, and forcefully selling the Israeli policy to the US political elite even against the findings and report of all the US intelligence agencies is a measure of the decisive power of the ZPC over US Middle East policy. Never in the entire history of the US has a small and economically insignificant foreign power wielded so much influence over Washington in a strategic region through its overseas representatives over and against the advice of America’s entire intelligence establishment.
The key to Zionist power is its ability to leverage and multiply its influence through non-Zionist congressional, media, pension fund managers, state and municipal officials and a host of trade union, academic and other notables and civic organizations. Strategically placed Zionists focused on the single issue of Israel, bring to bear the economic and organizational resources of their 1 million affiliates, supporters and media publicists on targeting policy makers in all relevant fields. The targeted individuals and organizations representing many millions of American Gentiles and non-Zionist Jews usually capitulate to the pressure or payoffs or are persuaded to follow the lead of the aggressive focused Zionist zealots. The propaganda value of having non-Zionists with a mass organizational base carrying out Israeli policies is immense. Leveraging the ‘others’ allows the pro-Israel liberal ideologues to obfuscate, downplay and dilute the real power of Israel and the ZPC in the making of US Middle East policy. As a consequence, we find what I call ‘mish-mash’ analyses which argue that “The Zionist pro-Israel lobby (sic) is only one of many groups and interests influencing US Middle East policy”. In other words, Zionist leveraged politicians are given a degree of autonomy and attributed a set of interests, which effectively hides Zionist initiatives, pressures and tactical leverage.
In 2008 Zionist direct and leveraged power is manifested in several decisively important areas of US politics, especially in foreign policy.
The ZPC and the Presidential Elections
All of the major presidential candidates have slavishly followed the most extreme pro-Israel positions promoted by the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations. John McCain, the Republican front-runner declares his unconditional support for Israel’s territorial expansion, settlements and genocidal policy toward Gaza. According to the Jewish weekly, The Forward (February 13, 2008), “On Israel,…McCain has been uncharacteristically conventional. He offers unqualified support, expressed in years of public statements…” The same article emphasizes how in 2006 McCain capitulated to Zionist pressure in a matter of days by recanting his position on Israel returning to its 1967 borders: “I’ve never held the position that Israeli should return to the 1967 lines and that is not my position today.” On February 7, 2008 McCain defined US-Iranian policy on strictly Zionist terms: “Those (Democratic) senators won’t recognize and seriously address the threat posed by an Iran with nuclear ambitions to our ally Israel in the region.” (McCain’s speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, February 7, 2008, quoted in Haaretz February 10, 2008). In 2007, McCain happily echoed Israeli demands to bomb Iran with the vulgar and sinister new refrain to an old Beach Boys rock song… “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb…Bomb-bomb Iran”.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have supported every major position and demand of the ZPC: Both have pledged unconditional support for Israel; they have backed Israel’s genocidal policies against Gaza, the expansion of settlements and the total takeover of Jerusalem. Hillary Clinton urges recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – contrary to the United Nations, the European Union and even the Bush Administration’s position. Zionist ideologues are among the top foreign policy and Middle East advisers of all three top contenders for their party’s presidential nomination. The public record reads Zionist decisive influence over the next US President’s Middle East policy. The only possible deviation is Obama’s statement that he is willing to negotiate with the Iranian government – a policy that the Bush regime, in part, already practices at a lesser official level via meetings in Iraq. For his minor discrepancy from the Zionist war rhetoric toward Iran, Obama was chastised by Malcolm Hoenlein, head of the CPMAJO (Haaretz January 18, 2008). To compensate for talking too much about ‘change’ which worries the paranoid Jewish leaders, like Hoenlein, Obama went out of his way to blame the civilians living in Gaza for the Israeli campaign to starve them into surrender and called on them to revolt against their democratically-elected Hamas government. The ZPC is the only major national political-social apparatus, which engages in a comprehensive, persistent and intensive campaign to direct US foreign policy into a full-scale (diplomatic, military and economic) confrontation with Iran.
Silencing Potential Critics of the ZPC
Almost every major centrist, leftist or progressive journal, weekly magazine, radio and web site has refused to discuss the singular influence of the ZPC over the Presidential candidates’ Middle East policy - a further indication of the reach and influence of the ZPC. The best indication that the ZPC is not ‘just another lobby’ as Mearsheimer and Walt claim, or a simply another bellicose neo-conservative current of opinion, is found in their slavish adherence to the Israeli state’s policies, even when they blatantly defy and repudiate the rightwing policies of President Bush. At Annapolis (November 2007) President Bush called on Israel to cease building new settlements in order to further peace negotiations. Exactly three months later Israel announced plans to build over 1,000 (1,250) new Jews-only homes in Palestinian East Jerusalem (BBC News, February 12, 2008). The Daily Alert propaganda sheet of the CPMAJO immediately endorsed the Israeli position and set in motion its major lobbyists, op-ed ideologues and media ‘experts’ to justify Israel’s crass repudiation of its agreement with President Bush.
Rather than confront this flagrant, highly public, unilateral and shameful Israeli repudiation of its agreement with the White House, President Bush , Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice and Defense Secretary Gates all played ‘Mickey the Dunce’. White House press secretary, Dana Perino, claimed she had not seen the report about Israel’s plans to build new apartments in East Jerusalem – though it was ‘news’ in all the mass electronic and print media. In fear of the ZPC, Perino responded as if the entire affair was simply a problem for the Palestinians: “But obviously, there is no doubt that an announcement of that sort (building 1,125 new Jews-only segregated apartments) would make the Palestinians concerned” (Santa Barbara News-Press February 12, 2008).
Zionist Power: Treasury Department
Within the government, the principal architect and key operative of the US worldwide campaign to strangle the Iranian economy is a top Treasury Department official, Stuart Levey, a zealous Zionist and key agent of the ZPC in the executive branch. Levey has successfully browbeat the reticent, persuaded the gullible and teamed up with co-thinkers who control state, municipal and private pension funds to withdraw investments from any enterprise which deals with Iran. Levey is a major architect of the Treasury’s economic sanctions policy, which Washington has promoted in the United Nations Security Council. Levey’s policies have succeeded in blocking Iranian private bank transactions. They have received the support of the White House and the National Security Council despite the NIE report, which found that Iran was not engaged in a nuclear weapons program. Mohamed El Baradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency have confirmed the position of the NIE (Associated Press, February 23, 2008). Unlike Levey, the NIE and the IAEA are agencies, which are not influenced by the Zionist power configuration.
Nevertheless, the Israeli demands (pushed by the ZPC) for further sanctions based on unfounded claims of continued nuclear arms programs trumps the NIE and IAEA intelligence findings. The White House, France, England and Germany demand new and harsher sanctions against Iran. Never in the history of Israeli influence over US Middle East policy has the pro-Israel power configuration so much influence as it has today: The US government (President to Congress to Presidential hopefuls) repudiate its own intelligence agencies in favor of the ‘intelligence’ claims of a foreign power. Never has the US Treasury Department been so influenced by Israel Firsters, like Stuart Levey, Daniel Glaser and their colleagues in putting the interests of Israel above and beyond the interests of the major US and European oil companies.
At every AIPAC meeting since 2004, in every publication of the Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations over the past 5 years, in each and every state and citywide conference of Jewish community councils, every effort has been made to promote US military action or economic sanctions against Iran. In fact, the ZPC escalated its campaign against Iran after the NIE was published and intensified their campaign in favor of Israel’s fabricated ‘intelligence claims’ (Daily Alert, November 2007 – February 2008). The dual power position of Israel Firsters in key policy positions and civil society defines their influence over US Middle East policy.
The International Dimension
The US ZPC has been immensely aided in securing its bellicose anti-Iranian agenda by the appointments of prominent Zionists to key foreign policy positions in England and France. David Milliband, the British Foreign Minister, has close family ties with Jewish settlers from Britain colonizing the occupied West Bank. During a visit to Israel, he spent several days with Israeli officials and an evening with his relatives, while totally ignoring the issue of the 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza suffering from Israel’s genocidal blockade. Milliband has been a fierce defender of keeping the ‘military option on the table’, heightening economic sanctions against Iran and is an unconditional supporter of Israel’s brutal policy preventing the shipment of food and fuel from reaching the suffering people of the Gaza strip.
Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister is a lifelong zealous Zionist who, upon taking office, pronounced himself in favor of a military attack on Iran ‘if negotiations fail’. As the new Foreign Minister, Kouchner went to US occupied Iraq and praised the occupation and puppet ‘government’ despite the over 1 million civilian deaths and 4 million destitute refugees which has resulted from the invasion and occupation. Kouchner (appointed by French President Sarkozy – under pressure from the Zionists), like president Bush gave strong backing to any Israeli ‘military pre-emptive action’ (offensive military assault), though a strong negative reaction from the French public forced him to tone down his overt support of Israeli military actions.
With such powerful political allies and co-thinkers in the American, French and British governments and the controlling role of the ZPC over US policymakers in the United Nations, it comes as no surprise that Israel received no reprimand for its daily murders and abductions of civilians and Palestinian officials in Gaza and the West Bank. Zion power prevents the UN from even applying its own basic international principles to prosecute crimes against humanity, including torture and collective punishment. Since its founding in the late 19th century and its spread to the US, especially after WWII, organized Zionism has never been so influential in so many spheres of government and had so much control over US Middle East policy as it possesses today. Most major pro-Israel Jewish leaders in moments of candor have publicly acknowledged that they are at the pinnacle of influence, to the effect that ‘we have never had an administration as favorable to Israel as under President Bush.’ Certainly this is an understatement that speaks to an underlying truth : Never has the US engaged in a very costly Middle Eastern war to benefit a foreign power; never has the US deliberately prevented big oil companies from signing billion dollar oil contracts by imposing economic sanctions on Iran in order to weaken a regional opponent of Israel.
The Show Must Go On
Not only does the ZPC directly influence US policy against Palestine, Iraq and Iran, but it has extended its campaign against ‘third parties’, countries like China which have economic relations with Sudan (a Muslim nation with an independent foreign policy which supports Palestinian rights). To an overwhelming degree, the propaganda campaign behind the so-called “Darfur genocide campaign’ is the Israeli state and its political apparatus in the US, namely the ZPC. Most of the media celebrities, led by prominent Hollywood Zionist director Steven Spielberg, have engaged in an exercise of selective moral indignation – supporting Israel, while ignoring its starvation blockade of Gaza, supporting the US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq while attacking China for its ‘immoral’ oil contracts with the Sudan. The CPMAJO has focused on the Darfur ‘genocide’ because by doing so it favors the brutal separatists in southern Sudan, armed and advised by Israel, as a means of depriving pro-Palestinian Sudan of a large oil rich region in the south of the country. The Darfur campaign deliberately and systematically excludes any mention of the Israeli Supreme Court’s approval of Israel’s food and fuel blockade and deliberate prevention of the movement of medical personnel in Gaza and the West Bank, its approval of Israel’s practice of torture (‘forceful interrogations’), armed assaults on the vital infrastructure and civilian population centers of Gaza.
Hollywood’s Darfur sideshow is a sham propaganda effort at selective humanitarian concern, which does not deviate a millimeter from the official line promoted by the Israeli state and publicized in the US by the Daily Alert, the principle bulletin of the ZPC....
From January to the middle of February 2008, Israeli had killed, wounded and arrested nearly a thousand Palestinians, mostly but not exclusively from Gaza. Over half of those killed, arrested and wounded were unarmed civilians, the rest include Hamas and PLO security officials, militia members and anti-colonial resistance fighters. Of the 700 primitive rockets and shells launched from Gaza, not a single Israeli Jew was killed and fewer than a dozen suffered serious bodily harm. Only a contract farm laborer from Ecuador died on the Israeli side from the rockets.
In a speech to Jewish-American leaders in mid-February, Prime Minister Olmert spelled out the gist of Israel’s totalitarian strategy. According to the BBC News (February 18, 2008) “Mr Olmert said, ‘Israel had a free hand to respond and attack anyone who has any kind of responsibility. This applied to everyone, first and foremost Hamas,” (my emphasis). The entire leadership of the major Jewish organizations, whole-heartedly approved the use of unrestrained and unlimited violence (a ‘free hand’) against the entire Palestinian population (‘any kind of responsibility’), which would include individuals who transport, feed, educate, shelter, vote for or interact with Hamas, their family members, friends, neighbors – 99% of the residents of Gaza. Giving priority to targeting ‘first and foremost Hamas’ includes several hundred thousand voters who elected Hamas in free and democratic elections.
The ZPC has succeeded in securing the near unanimous US Congressional support for Israel’s mass arrests and daily assaults on Gaza, even when a few mass media outlets published photos of Israeli colonial soldiers parading eighty arbitrarily arrested Palestinian civilians bound and blindfolded to notorious Israeli interrogation centers (BBC News February 18, 2008) for unlimited detention with no legal guarantees against physical and psychological torture.
The ZPC has swamped the US mass media with praise of Israel’s cross border assassinations, such as the international political murder of Hizbullah leader, Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, Syria (Daily Alert February 15, 2008). Reproducing articles from the Israeli press (Jerusalem Post, Haaretz) and Zionist think tanks and weeklys (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, New York Jewish Week, YNET News, CAMERA, New York Sun, and Middle East Strategy at Harvard) the Daily Alert has provided legitimacy to international assassinations by official state-directed death squads thereby extending the violence and counter-violence throughout the world. This is a fact recognized by the US FBI and Israeli officials. Heads of the Israeli international secret police, the MOSSAD, openly acknowledge the role of Israeli assassinations in provoking terrorist reprisals by putting a world-wide alert to Jews to avoid Islamic and Arab countries as well as locations where “there is a high concentration of Israelis” (Prime Minister’s Office, reprinted in the Daily Alert February 15, 2008). The Israeli practice of staging international assassinations of opposition leaders in major cities will not only invite retaliation against Israelis and Jews but also endanger sites in the US and EU, for tolerating these acts of state-sponsored terror. In other words, Israeli terror invites terrorist counter attacks like September 11, 2001. Israel, by provoking a new round in the Palestinian ‘war through global terror’ and the US and EU by embracing an Israeli car bomb assassination in Damascus endanger Western lives everywhere. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, their publicists and op-ed ideologues in the mass media are opening the entire Western world to terrorist attacks. By supporting Israeli terror and increasing the chance of Muslim reprisals, the ZPC strengthens the repressive structure of a growing police state in the US. (The ‘professional’ killing by Israeli operatives of a major figure in Damascus, Syria raises the question of the role of Israeli operatives in the as-yet unsolved series of car bomb assassinations in Lebanon – given Israel’s desire to maintain a state of internal tension in that country.) The brilliant and precocious Ivy League academic apologists of each and every act of official Israeli state-sponsored international terror apparently dissociate these acts of assassination from likely reprisals in our country and the consequent further destruction of our remaining precarious democratic freedoms. Could it be that Zionist American intellectuals welcome more US police state agencies and laws in order to prosecute a rising number of Americans who are critical of Zionist influence over the American political process? They might do well to recall that police state structures and laws could be used against them in the future.
Here's a selection from Petras' latest article The Politics of An Israeli Extermination Campaign: Backers, Apologists and Arms Suppliers:
From the moment that the Israeli Government decided it would destroy the newly elected Hamas government and punish the democratic electorate of Gaza with starvation and murder, the entire Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC) in the US, including the PMAJO, pulled all stops in implementing the Israeli policy. The PMAJO encompasses the fifty-two Jewish organizations with the largest membership, with the greatest financial clout and the most influential backers. The most prominent lobbyist within the PMAJO is AIPAC, which has over 100,000 members and 150 full-time operatives in Washington actively pressuring the US Congress, the White House and all administrative agencies whose policies may relate to the interests of the State of Israel. However Israeli political extends far beyond its non-governmental agencies. Over two score legislators in the Congress and over a dozen senators are committed Zionists who automatically back Israel’s policies and push for US funding and armaments for its military machine. Top officials in key administrative positions, in Treasury, Commerce and the National Security Council, senior functionaries in the Pentagon and top advisers on Middle East affairs are also life-long, fanatically committed Zionists, who consistently and unreservedly back the policies of the State of Israel.
Equally important, the majority of the largest film, print and electronic media are owned or deeply influenced by Jewish-Zionist media moguls who are committed to slanting the ‘news’ in favor of Israel. The composition and influence of the ZPC is central to understanding three main characteristics of Israel’s power: (1) Israel can commit what leading United Nations and international human rights experts have defined as ‘crimes against humanity’ with total impunity; (2) Israel can secure an unlimited supply of the most technologically advanced and destructive weapons and use them without limit on a civilian population in violation of even US Congressional restrictions and (3) scores of almost unanimous United Nations condemnations of the construction of genocidal apartheid barriers against a native population, starvation embargoes and the current extermination campaign in Gaza are always vetoed by the US representative...
The ZPC played a major role in all stages of Israel’s extermination campaign against Gaza including a sustained propaganda effort. The ZPC orchestrated a massive successful campaign through the extensive network of American mass media, which it controls and influences. It fabricated an image of the Hamas administration in Gaza as a terrorist organization, which allegedly seized power through violence – totally denying its rise to power through internationally supervised, democratic elections and its defense of its electoral mandate against a US-Israeli backed PLO military takeover. The entire Zionist Jewish leadership backed Israel’s land grabs, its ghetto wall around Palestinians, the hundreds of road blocks, the Jewish settlers violently taking over Palestinian homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the criminal, genocidal Israeli economic embargo on Gaza designed to systematically starve the Palestinians into submission. Throughout the two years of this Israeli extermination campaign, American Zionists played a major role in leading the servile US government at home and abroad in backing each totalitarian measure: The vast majority of local synagogues became bully-pulpits defending the starvation and degradation of 1.5 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza caged on all sides by deadly force...
The Zionist-controlled US print media, in particular the New York Times and the Washington Post, systematically fabricated an account that fit perfectly with Israel’s official line defending its massive assault on Gaza: Omitting any historical account ….
The Conference of President of the Major American Jewish Organizations, and the vast majority of Jewish communal groups and congregations, gave enthusiastic and unanimous support to Israel’s total war...
A close reading of the most important propaganda organ of the PMAJO, The Daily Alert (TDA), during the first 5 days of Israel’s assault, reveals the propaganda tack taken by the leadership of the pro-Israel power configuration. TDA systematically worked to achieve the following:
1.Exaggerate the threats to Israel by the Palestinian missiles from Gaza, citing 4 Israeli deaths, while omitting any mention of the 2,500 Palestinian dead and wounded and the total destruction of their economy and living conditions (without safe water, electricity, food, cooking fuel, medicine and heat in the winter).
2.Promote Israel’s military assault as ‘defensive’, directed at eliminating Hamas rocket attacks while omitting mention of Israel’s clearly stated purpose of destroying all civil organizations, social welfare agencies, educational facilities, medical clinics and public security institutions connected in any way with the elected Hamas government and any auxiliary agencies.
3.Cite select statement from Israel’s allies and clients (Washington, the US media, Germany and the UK) blaming Hamas for the conflict without mentioning the vast majority of countries in the United Nations General Assembly condemning Israel’s brutality.
4.Reproduce Israeli slanders against any and all international human rights leaders and organizations that condemn the Jewish state’s policy of genocide against the native Palestinians. In this regard, TDA is the foremost ‘genocide denier’ in the United States and, perhaps outside of Israel, in the world.
5.Repeatedly cite Israeli political and military leaders’ claims of acting ‘with restraint’, ‘safeguarding civilians’, and ‘targeting military objectives’, even in the face of reports and images of mass civilian destruction and loss of life documented in the vast majority of (non-US) Western media.
6.Defend every Israeli bombing mission, every day, every hour, of every building, every home, and every economic, religious and educational institution in Gaza as ‘defensive’ or a ‘reprisal’, all the while quoting some of the most notorious, unconditional, perennial apologists of Israeli violence as if they were unbiased intellectuals, including Benny ‘Nuke Tehran’ Morris, Marty Peretz and Amos Oz.
7.The Daily Alert quotes US writers, journalists and editors who praise and defend Israel’s ‘total war’ without identifying their long-standing affiliation and identification with Zionist organizations, giving the false image of a wide spectrum of opinion behind the assault. Never has even the most moderate Jewish or Gentile critic of Israel’s massive extermination campaign appeared in any issues of The Daily Alert.
The principle American Jewish organizations have bombarded the US Congress, influencing, intimidating and purchasing the craven so-called ‘representatives’ of the American people, the media and public notables with lies in defense of Israel’s total war to exterminate a people.
Jeffery Blankfort has been bravely criticizing Israel and standing up for the Palestinians his entire adult life. (In order to understand the differences between his position and Chomsky's, see this article: The Chomsky/Blankfort Polemic.) Here is a little of what he says:
S.C. – Do you think that other countries have their equivalent of AIPAC?
Jeffrey Blankfort : AIPAC is very unusual because while it is a registered lobby for Israel, it does not have to register as a foreign lobby. And that gives it a unique situation in the country. In every hearing in the Congress that involves Middle East issues, you have staff members of AIPAC sitting in these committee hearings. No other lobbies, foreign lobbies, have this privilege. And they also write the legislation that Congress passes regarding the Middle East. For example, the recent Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, which was passed a couple of years ago and which lead to what we see in Lebanon and Syria today was written by AIPAC which later bragged about it. It is not a secret. The only people that pretend they don't know it is the Left. It's on AIPAC's website, it is in their publications. AIPAC also provides interns - young, bright Jewish college students to work in the offices of members of Congress. They go to a member of Congress and say: "We have this young person who is interested in working on Capitol Hill, they will come one year and they will work in your office." No member of Congress is about to refuse a volunteer.
Also AIPAC has a special foundation that provides free trips for members of Congress to Israel. Last year over a hundred members of Congress went to Israel, on a free trip, paid for by this foundation. Now there is a big debate about such trips in Congress paid for by various lobbies, but I do not believe that anything is going to happen there that would negatively affect AIPAC. Congress will make an exception when it comes to Israel. What is interesting is we have a country to the South of us called Mexico. Mexico is far more important to the United States, to our economy, and also there are many more people of Mexican-American extraction than Jews.
There are thousands of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who work here and are responsible for growing and picking the farm produce in the United States. And yet we don’t have Congressional delegations going to Mexico, we don’t have Congress talking about the importance of Mexico. If they go to Mexico, they go for a vacation, and yet here the focus is on Israel simply because of two things: money and intimidation. The Democratic Party has for years relied on wealthy Jewish donors for the majority of its contributions. AIPAC itself does not give money. AIPAC coordinates where the money should go, so if you are a wealthy Jewish donor and you want to do something to help Israel’s cause, AIPAC will let you know where to give it. Also, around the country, there are now about three dozen political action committees or PACs that exist only to give money to candidates who support Israel. None of them are identified by a name that has anything to do with Israel; so here in California we have something called the Northern Californians for Good Government”. You have in St.Louis, Missouri, the St. Louisans for Good Government. The biggest one is called the National PAC, NPAC. Then you have the Hudson Valley Political Action committee, Desert Caucus, et cetera.
If you look at the name of these committees, you have no idea what they are for, whereas the other lobbies identify themselves by their special interest. Why not Jewish supporters of Israel? But even more important for Democrats, and for some Republicans, is the money contributed by individual Jews. For example, in 2002, an Egyptian-born Israeli, named Haim Saban, who came to the United States and made billions of dollars with a Saturday morning children's program, gave $12.3 million dollars to the Democratic party, which was only about a million and a half dollars less than the arm manufacturers political action committees gave to the both political parties.
Now, this is just one man. And also Haim Saban, who founded the Saban Institute at the Brookings Institute which deals with Israeli issues,is also a big supporter AIPAC, and he funds events in Washington where AIPAC trains college students for pro-Israel advocacy. University campuses are a main battleground for the Jewish forces lobbying for Israel they have come together as the Israel Campus Coalition, 28 organizations, including AIPAC with Israel at the top of their agenda.
Today, a main lobby focus is to get to the colleges campuses to stop divestment programs directed towards Israel. They also are trying to influence the next generation of community leaders who are in the universities at the moment to act in Israel's behalf.
Someone here at MOA earlier (can't remember who, but thanks) linked to this extraordinary wide-ranging interview with Jeffrey Blankfort from San Francisco Independent Media Center. I highly recommend that the time be taken to read the entire article. He spends a lot of time analyzing how the left is corrupted or mislead into non-productive paths and what are effectively, reactionary positions. Here is an excerpt about the lobby:
It isn't just the money, however. Money is very important, but it's the way they approach politicians. AIPAC, for example, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is the only foreign lobby that isn't required to register as a foreign agent. They hold regional meetings around the country, at which they invite supervisors, mayors, city council people, public officials from the area, to come to these luncheons and dinners, where the speaker will be a US Senator or some very important government official, who will come into town, unknown to the media, with no notice to the media. He or she will make no other speeches, give no press conferences, and will leave. It will be reported in the local Jewish paper, but it will not be reported in the state where the person lives, except perhaps in the Jewish press there. And there's no interest in the media in following up why, for example, Senator Christopher Dodd, when he comes to San Francisco, or Mario Cuomo when he speaks out in Danville, why does he not have a press conference and talk to the media here.
In any case, they go to this meeting, and they, these Congress people . . I'm speaking from knowledge here because I joined AIPAC and I went to one of these luncheons and I saw what was going on there. And I said, my god, this is brilliant!! They have all the leading political figures from Northern California at the meeting, from whose ranks will come the next member of Congress, no doubt.
What happens after AIPAC leaves, then the Jewish Federation, or some local Jewish organization, maybe it's the Koret Foundation, will then send local supervisors, city council members, mayors, and so on, on all expense paid trips to Israel. They meet the Prime Minister, whoever it is, the Defense Minister, and so on, of both political parties, they take a trip to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, to Massada, where Jews supposedly committed suicide in Roman times, to the West Bank, where they may meet a House Arab, and they come back here knowing that they have good friends, important friends, in the Jewish community.
These people who go into politics, all of them are ambitious. So they know that if they want to run for office, it's not just a matter of money. It's a matter of personal acquaintances. And there are certain instances where I believe people are promoted to run for office by the Lobby, and so in a sense they become the Lobby's employee from the get-go. Take Sen. Daniel Inouye, the one armed bandit from Hawaii. His first job was selling State of Israel Bonds. He doesn't list that in his official biography, but the Jewish press has written about that. And he has been one of the foremost supporters of Israel. Tom Daschle from North Dakota is another. They seem to have been promoted into running for office.
You also have something else called blackmail, which the Left never considers as a reason for somebody doing something. But the Anti-Defamation League is a major spying organization, the largest private spying organization in the country. They spied on me. In the Bay Area, in Northern California, they spied on twelve thousand individuals, about 600 hundred organizations. Every organization, progressive, ecological, NAACP, the Asian Law Caucus, Filipino groups, Irish Northern Aid, all of them, and Jewish groups as well, progressive Jewish groups. Why do they do this? Information is important. They don't get information just gratuitously and pay people to do that.
I was spied on, but nothing compared to a politician. So, for example, Congressman, Tom Harkin, of Iowa, who was on the Board of Directors of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, was visited one day by a member of the Anti-Defamation League and AIPAC, and sent his employees home, and the next day, Harkin, soon to run for senator, is all for Israel, totally for Israel. What did they do? Did they offer him money? I doubt it. They probably found something out about Congressman Harkin. They'd given Congressman Harkin reasons why he should be pro Israel and how they would make him a US Senator, perhaps, and afterward they gave him a lot of money through campaign contributions.
I know of another case of a progressive congressman who never would criticize Israel and who had something serious to hide, and if I knew that, so would the Israel Lobby. They have people working on this 24/7. There are many people who think that in Britain, Tony Blair is being blackmailed to support the United States. There is no good reason for the British to support the United States. Materially, they gain nothing. Their corporations have made nothing from the war. And given the British public school education, photographs could have been taken . . . there's a very good likelihood that Blair might be being blackmailed. People try to find all kind of reasons for people's actions and there may be no other political reasons than self survival.
These are all aspects, so AIPAC has this job, this role, of directing funds to various politicians who support them. Also, even if they don't give money, the threat of them giving money to an opponent is there. So in August, 1989, a pro Israel congressperson told Morton Kondracke of the New Republic that it's not out of affection for Israel that Israel gets three billion a year and that there's no debate on the floor of Congress. It's the fear that if you do so, you will wake up the next morning to find that your opponent has a half a million dollar war chest to use against you. That was '89. Today, the war chest would be larger. So there are these threats.
Also something that isn't generally known is the use of political consultants. There's an organization that's called Committee for an Effective Congress or something like that which is part of the lobby.
It was started by Eleanor Roosevelt and is is one of a number of consultant groups. What these consultant groups do is go to a young Congress person. They'll loan them money. They'll also provide them with a databank of their district, critical information on each voter. This is a very expensive proposition if you want to do it on your own. These groups tend to be Zionists. So you're running for office and they come to you, and they want to take care of you, and suddenly you're in their embrace.
Cynthia McKinney resisted AIPAC from the very beginning. One of the things they did with her, and with Earl Hilliard, who also criticized Israel, was to redraw their districts. When the Democratic Party, or the Republicans who have their own consulting groups, the members of Congress go to these groups because they have all the data. There was a congressman named Gus Savage in Illinois. Savage had a problem. He was a critic of Israel. He supported the Palestinians. And he gave a talk in which he listed and gave all the names of all the Jews outside the Chicago area who were giving money to his opponent's campaign. That, of course, was "anti-Semitic." And the Washington Jewish Week ran a headline entitled "Savaged Savage." Talk about racist, huh? And he was defeated. What they did was they redrew his district. And they did the same with Earl Hilliard and Cynthia McKinney to get certain voters who supported them out of their district. And, of course, they got no support from the Democratic party.
It's interesting because the Democratic Party, as I said, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Israel Lobby. And anyone who thinks that things can change by supporting an individual Democrat, other than McKinney, maybe, is crazy.
The head of the Democratic Party Senate campaign, the one who determines where the money is going to go, is Charles Schumer, an open, leading, Jewish Zionist from New York. For the House, it's Rahm Emmanuel, who, when he was working for Bill Clinton as a high level staff member, took time off during the first Intifada to do volunteer work in Israel for the Israeli Defense Force. His family is Israeli. He says he's not. In any case, here you have two Jewish Zionists, one running the Democrats' House campaigns and one running the Senate campaigns, determining who is going to get the money in the 2006 election. It's flagrant. And yet you can't discuss this on the Left, because they'll say that sounds like anti-Semitism, or say that, "it's not important that they're Jewish," like it's not important that the Pope's Catholic. This is what we're dealing with.
And out here in San Francisco, we have Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Whip, and Tom Lantos, one of the most important persons on the House International Relations Committee. He's the ranking Democrat, and also serves Israel as a diplomatic representative in countries where Israel has no diplomatic relations, according to the Jerusalem Post. We see major political events against the Iraq war, even for Palestine here, and yet do we hear criticism of Pelosi or Lantos?
Just before 9/11, Steve Zeltzer and I, the Labor Committee on the Middle East no longer existing, decided we would picket of Tom Lantos, who was being given the Jewish National Fund's Man of the Year award at the Fairmont Hotel, the Jewish National Fund being the organization that took over the Palestinian land and the villages in 1948. They plant trees on Palestinian land where the trees have been uprooted. They tear out Palestinian trees in order to plant Jewish trees.
So we decided to have a picket. It was right after the Durban conference on racism. At a meeting at the Arab Cultural Center, I asked one of the leaders of ANSWER, "Will you endorse this picket of Tom Lantos?"
And she looked at a fellow ANSWER official there, and, kind of hesitant, asked "What do you think?"
And he said, "I think we have to."
So we had the picket, and about 65 people turned up. One person turned up from ANSWER, and it was that person. He turned up at the end of the picket. You'll never hear criticism of local the Democratic Party from ANSWER and ANSWER has to answer for that.
There was a big turnout for Nancy Pelosi speaking at the Marina Middle School some months back. Global Exchange was there, as was the ISO, but not ANSWER. Nancy Pelosi is one of the most important politicians in the United States, and she's supportive of the war. She also has acknowledged that she knew about the government wiretapping. She knew about the phone lists being turned over. She's admitted that. Are we going to see a picket or protest against Nancy Pelsosi?
Even when Global Exchange had a picket of her at the Fairmont Hotel against the war in Iraq, I had to get a hold of a microphone to remind people that she's been supporting Israel against Palestine, and pledging her loyalty to Israel every year, and I passed out copies of a speech she had made at an AIPAC convention, in which she pledged her loyalty and America's loyalty to Israel a half a dozen times.
There should be some kind of law about that, when a Congress person pledges her allegiance to a foreign country, but when it comes to Israel there's what I call the "Israeli exception." But here we are, in what used to be a progressive community, and Tom Lantos gets no criticism whatsoever. The Labor Council supports him because he's good on labor issues, and he's good on some other human rights issues. He's also very good on pets and animal rights. He just put out some legislation on animal rights. But he is one of the main proponents of the war in Iraq and the war against the Palestinians.
He was heavily and directly involved in the phony incubator story back in 1991, in which his Congressional Human Rights Caucus, which is actually not a part of Congress . . . it's not an official part of Congress, it's housed in the headquarters of the Hill and Knowlton PR firm in Washington, brought in a Kuwaiti nurse who had witnessed Iraqi soldier coming in and taking Kuwaiti babies out of incubators, throwing them on the floor and taking the incubators back to Iraq, where they didn't have any incubators, obviously, and it turned out the story was a total fabrication. The so-called nurse was the Kuwait ambassador's daughter and hadn't even been in Kuwait. John MacArthur wrote about it in Harper's and the New York Times. Bob Scheer wrote about it in the LA Times. There was no follow up on this, no demand from the Left to follow up on this.
If people in Lantos' own district and Pelosi's own district don't take these people on, how can we expect anybody around the country to do it? The Left is a total failure in San Francisco, an utter failure. It's a betrayal of the Iraqis. Forget the slogans. Forget "No Blood for Oil!" Forget "End the Occupation!" They have betrayed the Palestinians and the Iraqis because they haven't dealt with the political figures in this community who are responsible for the present situation.
Politics is local. And it may appear to give you some good credits or props to picket George Bush, but we have to deal with the issues here.
The failure to put any kind of pressure on Pelosi, over the years, even for her support of fast track on NAFTA is extraordinary.
She's good on the Gay issues, on AIDS, of course. In San Francisco she would be. This does not take courage. This is smart politics. She was good on opposing aid to the Contras, but I asked her, when she was running for office the first time, if she would support aid to the Contras if aid to Israel was tied to it, and she said she would. She'd support the appropriation. I made a flyer out of it.
In conclusion, a small, wealthy, highly organized, and unprecedentedly powerful group of people are leading the world – largely against their will – down a very destructive and risky path. Only by understanding the ways and means by which this is being accomplished can we hope to staunch their power and stop their plans.--MORE--"