Distorting U.S. Foreign Policy:
The Israel Lobby and American
by Michael Lind
Washington Report - On Middle
East Affairs, May 2002
Until recently, America's Middle East
policy was a peripheral part of its global strategy, which focused
on preventing the Soviet Union from intimidating U.S. allies in
Western Europe and East Asia. Britain was the dominant Western
power in the Middle East until the 1960s, and U.S. influence was
countered in much of the region by the Soviet Union until the
end of the Cold War. The indifference of much of the national
security elite and the public to the region, in between crises,
permitted U.S. policy to be dominated by two U.S. domestic lobbies,
one ethnic and one economic-the Israel lobby and the oil industry
(which occasionally clashed over issues like U.S. weapons sales
to Saudi Arabia).
Times have changed. The collapse of the
Soviet empire created a power vacuum which has been filled by
the U.S., first in the Persian Gulf following the Gulf war, and
now in Central Asia as a result of the Afghan war. Today the _
Middle East is becoming the center of U.S. foreign a policy-a
fact illustrated in the most shocking way by the al Qaeda attacks
on New York and Washington. A debate within the U.S. over the
goals and methods of American policy in the Middle East is long
overdue. Unfortunately, an uninhibited debate is not taking place,
because of the disproportionate influence of the Israel lobby.
Today the Israel lobby distorts U.S. foreign
policy in a number of ways. Israel's occupation of the West Bank
and Gaza, enabled by U.S. weapons and money, inflames anti-American
attitudes in Arab and Muslim countries. The expansion of Israeli
settlements on Palestinian land makes a mockery of the U.S. commitment
to self-determination for Kosovo, East Timor and Tibet. The U.S.
strategy of dual containment of Iraq and Iran pleases Israel-which
is most threatened by them-but violates the logic of realpolitik
and alienates most of America's other allies. Beyond the region,
U.S. policy on nuclear weapons proliferation is undermined by
the double standard that has led it to ignore Israel's nuclear
program while condemning those of India and Pakistan.
The debate that is missing in the U.S.
is not one between Americans who want Israel to survive and those-a
marginal minority-who want Israel to be destroyed. The U.S. should
support Israel's right to exist within internationally recognized
borders and to defend itself against threats. What is needed is
a debate between those who want to link U.S. support for Israel
to Israeli behavior, in the light of America's own strategic goals
and moral ideals, and those who want there to be no linkage. For
the American Israel lobby, Tony Smith observes in his authoritative
study, Foreign Attachments: The Power of Ethnic Groups in the
Making of American Foreign Policy (Harvard), "to be a 'friend
of Israel' or 'pro-lsrael' apparently means something quite simple:
that Israel alone should decide the terms of its relations with
its Arab neighbors and that the U.S. should endorse these terms,
whatever they may be."
The Israel lobby is one special-interest
pressure group among many. It is a loose network of individuals
and organizations, of which the most important are the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC: described by the Detroit
Jewish News as "a veritable training camp for Capitol Hill
staffers"-and the Conference of Presidents of Major American
Jewish Organizations. The Israel lobby is not identical with the
diverse Jewish-American community. Many Jewish-Americans are troubled
by Israeli policies and some actively campaign against them, while
some non-Jewish Americans most of them members of the Protestant
right- play a significant role in the lobby. Even pro-Israel groups
differ on the question of Israeli policies. According to Matthew
Dorf in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: "The Zionist Organization
of America lobbies Congress to slow the peace process. Their allies
are mostly Republicans. At the same time, the Israel Policy Forum
and Americans for Peace Now work to move the process along. Democrats
are most sympathetic to their calls."
The Israel lobby is united not by a consensus
about Israeli policies but by a consensus about U.S. policies
toward Israel. Most of the disparate elements of the pro-Israel
coalition support two things. The first is massive U.S. funding
for Israel. As Stephen M Walt writes in International Security
(Winter 2001/02), "In 1967 Israel's defense spending was
less than half the combined defense expenditures of Egypt, Iraq,
Jordan and Syria; today Israel's defense expenditure is 30 percent
larger than the combined defense spending of these four Arab states."
Israel receives more of America's foreign aid budget than any
other country-$3 billion a year, two-thirds in military grants
(total aid since 1979 is over $70 billion).
Along with aid, the Israel lobby demands
unconditional U.S. diplomatic protection of Israel in the U.N.
and other forums. To a degree, this is justified; the U.S. has
been right to denounce the ritual "Zionism-is-racism"
rhetoric of various kleptocracies and police states. The U.S.,
however, has been wrong to block repeatedly efforts by its major
democratic allies in the U.N. Security Council to condemn Israeli
repression and colonization in the occupied territories.
It is difficult to prove direct cause-and-effect
connections between the power of a lobby and America's foreign
policy positions. But, in the Middle East, it is hard to explain
America's failure to pressure Israel into a final land-for-peace
settlement-particularly since the Oslo deal in 1993-without factoring
in the Israel lobby. The influence of the lobby may be easier
to detect in the way U.S. positions have shifted on more specific
totems of the conflict. For example, Israeli settlements in the
occupied territories were regarded as illegal during the Carter
administration. Under Reagan, they shifted to being an "obstacle"
to peace and are now just a complicating actor. Similarly, East
Jerusalem vas considered by the U.S. to be part of the occupied
territories but recently its status has become rather more ambiguous.
Concern on the part of U.S. citizens about
the fate of members of their ethnic group or religion .n foreign
countries is nothing new. The Irish-American, Cuban-American and
Greek-American lobbies have all significantly influenced U.S.
foreign policy. And the desire to win over Catholic voters with
Eastern European relatives in the 1996 election is thought to
have been a factor in President Clinton's decision to expand NATO
to the east. However, the Israel lobby is different in strategy
and scale from other historic American ethnic lobbies.
Most ethnic lobbies-of which the German
and Irish diasporas were the most influential in the past-have
based their power on votes, not money. (Most immigrant groups
have been relatively poor at first, and have lost their ethnic
identity on becoming more prosperous.) The influence of these
lobbies has usually been confined to cities and states in which
particular ethnic groups have been concentrated-Irish-American
Boston, German-American Milwaukee, Cuban-American Miami. The emergent
Latino lobby is similar in its geographic limitation. The small
U.S. Jewish population (about 2 percent of the total) is highly
concentrated in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and a few other areas.
The Israel lobby, however, is not primarily
a traditional ethnic voter machine; it is an ethnic donor machine.
Unique among ethno-political machines in the U.S., the Israel
lobby has emulated the techniques of national lobbies based on
economic interests (both industry groups and unions) or social
issues (the National Rifle Association, pro- and anti-abortion
groups). The lobby uses nationwide campaign donations, often funneled
through local "astroturf" (phony grassroots) organizations
with names like Tennesseans for Better Government and the Walters
Construction Management Political Committee of Colorado, to influence
members of Congress in areas where there are few Jewish voters.
Stephen Steinlight, in an essay for the
Center for Immigration Studies, describes how the Israel lobby
uses donations to influence elected officials: "Unless and
until the triumph of campaign finance reform is complete...the
great material wealth of the Jewish community will continue to
give it significant advantages. We will continue to court and
be courted by key figures in Congress. That power is exerted within
the political system from the local to national levels through
soft money, and especially the provision of out-of-state funds
to candidates sympathetic to Israel." Steinlight adds: "For
perhaps another generation... the Jewish community is thus in
a position to divide and conquer and enter into selective coalitions
that support our agendas." Steinlight is the recently retired
director of national affairs at the American Jewish Committee
As well as campaign contributions, the
Israel lobby's power is exercised through influence on government
appointments. Until recently, Democrats and Republicans differed
in their attitude to he lobby but now both parties are significantly
influenced by it, although in different ways.
Historically, Jewish Americans have been
part of the Democratic coalition, and they remain the only white
ethnic group which consistently votes overwhelmingly for Democrats.
By contrast, between Eisenhower and the older Bush, many Republicans
shared the attitude attributed, perhaps apocryphally, to a former
Republican secretary of state: "F-the Jews. They don't vote
for us anyway." Influenced by big business and the oil industry
in particular, Republicans often tilted toward the Arabs (Arab
regimes, not voiceless Arab populations).
Although Nixon, an anti-Semite in his
personal attitudes, rescued Israel in the 1973 war, Eisenhower
infuriated the Jewish-American community by thwarting the joint
seizure of Egypt's Suez Canal by Israel, Britain and France in
1956. Another Republican president, George Bush Sr., enraged the
Israel lobby during the Gulf war by pressuring Israel not to respond
to Iraq's missile attacks, choosing not to occupy Baghdad and
promising America's Arab allies that the U.S. would push Israel
on the Palestinian issue. The elder Bush was the last president
to criticize the lobby publicly, in September 1991, when he complained
that "there are 1,000 lobbyists up on the Hill today lobbying
Congress for loan guarantees for Israel and I'm one lonely little
guy down here asking Congress to delay its consideration of loan
guarantees for 120 days."
The Democrats exploited this split between
the Israel lobby and the first Bush administration. In an address
to AIPAC in May 2000, presidential candidate A1 Gore recalled,
"I remember standing up against Bush's foreign policy advisers
who promoted the insulting concept of linkage, which tried to
use loan guarantees as a stick to bully Israel. I stood with you,
and together we defeated them."
In 1997, Fran Katz, the deputy political
affairs director of AIPAC, became finance director of the Democratic
National Committee; the previous year, the former chairman of
AIPAC, Steve Grossman, had become national chairman of the Democratic
Party, telling the press, "My commitment to strengthening
the U.S.-Israel relationship is unwavering."
Clinton also appointed Martin Indyk, a
veteran of a pro-Israel think-tank associated with AIPAC, as ambassador
to Israel, only a few days after this Australian citizen received
his U.S. citizenship papers. It is true that Clinton (and Indyk)
took the Palestinian cause seriously, and the U.S. administration
did push Israel further than it wanted to go on some issues prior
to the Wye River agreement and in the failed Barak-Arafat negotiations.
But the fact that so many of the senior U.S. administration officials
involved in those failed negotiations had ties to the Israel lobby
raised troubling questions about the ability of America to act
as an honest broker.
Furthermore, leading members of the Israel
lobby encouraged the greatest abuse of the presidential pardon
power in American history-Clinton's pardon of Mark Rich, a fugitive
billionaire on the EBI's Most Wanted List who had surrendered
his U.S. citizenship rather than pay the taxes he owed. A Who's
Who list of the Israeli and Jewish-American establishments successfully
lobbied Clinton to pardon Rich, including Prime Minister Ehud
Barak, the former head of Mossad and the head of the U.S. Anti-Defamation
League (many of the same individuals also supported a pardon for
the imprisoned American spy for Israel, Jonathan Pollard). In
a New York Times piece in February 2001, Clinton claimed he had
done it for Israel: "Many present and former high-ranking
Israeli officials of both major political parties and leaders
of Jewish communities in America and Europe urged the pardon of
Mr Rich because of his contributions and services to Israeli charitable
causes, to the Mossad's efforts to rescue Jews from hostile countries,
and to the peace process through sponsorship of education and
health programs in Gaza and the West Bank."
Most Jewish Americans are politically
hostile to George W Bush, whose alliance with the Christian right
disturbs them. Yet the younger Bush has, in practice, been influenced
more by the Israel lobby than by the oil lobby. The State Department
of Colin Powell, who has described himself as a "Rockefeller
Republican" and supports Palestinian statehood, has rapidly
lost influence to the Defense Department, where a cadre of pro-Israel
hawks allied with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz has
seized the initiative. AIPAC's advertising for its April 2002
conference, whose keynote speaker will be Ariel Sharon, describes
an invitation-only "president's cabinet brunch": "In
an elegant brunch session at the St. Regis Hotel, Deputy Defense
Secretary Paul Wolfowitz gives an insider's view of the Pentagon's
efforts in the war on terrorism."
Richard Perle, chairman of Bush's quasi-official
Defense Policy Board, co-authored a 1996 paper with Douglas J.
Eeith for the Likud Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Entitled
"A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,"
it advised Netanyahu to make "a clean break from the peace
process." Feith now holds one of the most important positions
in the Pentagon-deputy-under-secretary of defense for policy.
He argued in the National Interest in Fall 1993 that the League
of Nations mandate granted Jews irrevocable settlement rights
in the West Bank. In 1997, in "A Strategy for Israel,"
Feith called on Israel to re-occupy "the areas under Palestinian
Authority control" even though "the price in blood would
be high." On Oct. 13, 1997, Feith and his father were given
awards by the right-wing Zionist Organization of America, which
described the honorees as "the noted Jewish philanthropists
and pro-Israel activists."
The radical Zionist right to which Perle
and Feith belong is small in number but it has become a significant
force in Republican policymaking circles. It is a recent phenomenon,
dating back to the late 1970s and 1980s, when many formerly Democratic
Jewish intellectuals joined the broad Reagan coalition. While
many of these hawks speak in public about global crusades for
democracy, the chief concern of many such "neo-conservatives"
is the power and reputation of Israel. William Kristol, editor
of the right-wing Weekly Standard, explained the reason for the
rhetoric about global democracy to the Jerusalem Post (July 27,
2000): "I've always thought it was best for Israel for the
U.S. to be generally engaged and generally strong, and then the
commitment to Israel follows from a general foreign policy."
The liberalism and Democratic partisanship
of most Jewish Americans forces the Zionist right to find its
popular constituency, not in the Jewish community itself, but
in the Protestant evangelical right of Pat Robertson and others
many of whose members share the Christian Zionism of the early
British patrons of Israel. In 1995, after I exposed the anti-Semitic
sources of Pat Robertson's theories about a two-century-old Judaeo-Masonic
conspiracy in an essay in The New York Review of Books, Norman
Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary, denounced me rather than
Robertson. Podhoretz conceded that Robertson's statements about
Jewish conspiracies were anti-Semitic but argued that, in the
light of Robertson's support for Israel, he should be excused
according to the ancient rabbinical rule of batel b'shishim.
Like other lobbies whose power is based
on campaign money and appointments, the Israel lobby has influence
chiefly over elected officials and their staffs. It has little
ability to influence career public servants, such as those in
the military, the intelligence agencies and the foreign service.
At most, it can try to de-legitimize such officials when they
do not play along by, for example, vilifying members of the U.S.
foreign service as "Arabists." And the uniformed military
is often attacked in the pages of pro-Israel journals whose writers
(most of them armchair generals who never served in the military)
denounce the alleged pusillanimity of American soldiers who are
unwilling to "take out" states like Iraq and Iran that
particularly threaten Israel. Even the intelligence community
has been accused of anti-Semitism, for its principled opposition
to a pardon for the spy Jonathan Pollard.
The aborted career of Admiral Bobby Ray
Inman provides a troubling example of this dynamic at work. After
Clinton nominated Inman, a career Naval officer and the former
head of the National Security Agency, for the position of secretary
of defense, Inman was savaged in the press by William Safire,
a former Nixon speechwriter and conservative Republican who thought
George Bush Sr. was insufficiently pro-Israel. In his New York
Times column Safire damned Inman for having "contributed
to the excessive sentencing of Jonathan Pollard," Israel's
spy in the naval intelligence service (whom some Jewish Americans
treat as a martyred saint). Inman responded by charging that Safire
had secretly lobbied the CIA Director, William Casey, to overrule
a 1981 decision by Inman, then deputy CIA director, which limited
Israel's access to U.S. intelligence. For this reason, Safire
attacked Inman in The New York Times by charging him with an "anti-Israel
bias." Rather than face what he called the "new McCarthyism,"
After campaign contributions and high-level
appointments, media influence is the third major asset of the
Israel lobby. The problem is not that Jews in the media censor
the daily news; there are passionate Zionist publishers like Mort
Zuckerman and Martin Peretz, but their very ardor tends to discredit
them. The reporters of The New York Times, The Washington Post,
The Wall Street Journal and the television networks are reasonably
fair in their coverage of the Middle East. The problem is that
the Arab-Israeli conflict is presented in the absence of any historical
or political context. For example, most Americans do not know
that the Palestinian state offered by Barak consisted of several
Bantustans, crisscrossed by Israeli roads with military checkpoints.
Instead, most Americans have learned only that the Israelis made
a generous offer which Arafat inexplicably rejected. To make matters
worse, the conventions of reporting the Arab-Israeli conflict
in the mainstream press typically portray the Palestinians as
aggressors "In response to Palestinian violence, Israel fired
missiles into Gaza." No reporters ever say, "In response
to Israel's three-decade occupation of the West Bank and Gaza,
Palestinian gunmen fought back against Israeli forces."
Still, many journalists reporting from
the Middle East, both Jewish and non-Jewish, try hard to be objective.
It is not in the news stories, but in the opinion pages and the
journals of opinion-which ought to provide the missing context-that
propaganda for Israel has free reign. There are several widely-syndicated
columnists and television pundits who are apologists for the Israeli
right, like Safire, Cal Thomas, George Will and Charles Krauthammer.
Others like Anthony Lewis, Flora Lewis and Thomas Friedman do
criticize right-wing Israeli governments, but anything more than
the mildest criticism of Israel is taboo in the mainstream media.
The taboo against anti-Arab bigotry, however,
is weak. One of the saddest consequences of Israel's colonialism
has been the moral coarsening of elements of the Jewish-American
community. I grew up admiring Jewish civil rights activists for
their sometimes heroic role in the fight to dismantle segregation
in the U.S. But today I frequently hear Jewish acquaintances discuss
Arabs in general, and Palestinians in particular, in terms as
racist as those once used by southerners in public when discussing
blacks. "Israel should have given the Palestinians to Jordan
after 1967," a Jewish editor recently said to me, in the
same tone used by an elderly white southerner who once told me,
"We should have left them all in Africa." The parallel
can be extended. After 1830, the defense of slavery and later
segregation in the Old South led white southerners to abandon
the liberal idealism of the founding era in favor of harsh racism
and a siege mentality. Since 1967, the need to justify the rule
of Israel over a conquered helot population has produced a similar
shift from humane idealism to unapologetic tribalism in parts
of the diaspora, as well as in Israel. It is perhaps no coincidence
that the most important non-Jewish supporters of Israel in the
U.S. today are found in the Deep South among descendants of the
Within part of the Jewish-American population,
the influence of Zionism appears to be increasing. This is a recent
phenomenon. Traditionally, non-Orthodox Jewish Americans have
been divided among three broad traditions: universalist liberalism,
Marxist radicalism and ethnic Zionism. The first tradition has
been of enormous value in American history. Jewish activists and
philanthropists have played an invaluable role in supporting the
extension of civil rights to Americans of all races, religions,
and both genders. But Jewish liberalism is a victim of its own
success. Having eliminated barriers to Jewish advancement in American
society, like the quotas limiting Jewish students in Ivy League
universities and prestigious clubs, Jewish liberals are tending
to disappear through assimilation. More than half of Jewish Americans
marry outside the Jewish community and their children tend not
to be raised as Jews.
The attrition of Jewish numbers by assimilation
and intermarriage is producing alarm among Jewish-Americans devoted
to preserving Jewish distinctness, by means of conservative religious
observance, ideological Zionism, or both. Many have given up secularism
for observant religion in recent years (Joseph Lieberman, Al Gore's
vice-presidential candidate, is the most famous). Ironically,
many neo-traditionalist Jews now express a bitter hostility toward
the very secularism and pluralism that used to be identified by
anti-Semites with emancipated Jews. "Most American Jews have
two religions, Judaism and Americanism, and you can't have two
religions any more than you can have two hearts or two heads,"
wrote Adam Garfinkle, editor of the National Interest, in the
journal Conservative Judaism. Indeed, there is a parallel between
the rise of Jewish fundamentalism in the U.S. and Israel and the
rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Muslim world. In both cases,
reactionaries believe that their traditions are being destroyed
by secular Western values, including feminism, religious tolerance
and natural science. In both the Jewish and Muslim cases, the
antidote that is offered to "corrupting Western values"
is pre-modern religious law-the Jewish law or the sharia.
Ethnocentric political Zionism as the
basis of Jewish identity is more appealing to many former leftist
and liberal Jews in the U.S. than the adoption of a stringent
Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. But making political Zionism the basis
of Jewishness imposes a stark dual loyalty, as Stephen Steinlight
argues in the essay have quoted. "I'll confess it, at least:
like thousands of other typical Jewish kids of my generation,
I was reared as a Jewish nationalist, even a quasi-separatist.
Every summer for two months, for 10 formative years during my
childhood and adolescence, I attended Jewish summer camp. There,
each morning, I saluted a foreign flag, dressed in a uniform reflecting
its colors, sang a foreign national anthem, learned a foreign
language, learned foreign folk songs and dances, and was taught
that Israel was the true homeland. Emigration to Israel was considered
the highest virtue...Of course we also saluted the American and
Canadian flags and sang those anthems, usually with real feeling,
but it was clear where our primary loyalty was meant to reside...That
America has tolerated this dual loyalty-we get a free pass, I
suspect, largely over Christian guilt about the Holocaust-makes
it no less a reality."
The restraint on robust debate about Israel
in the political center means that the most vocal critics of Israeli
policy and the U.S. Israel lobby are found on the far left and
the far right. Critics on the left, like Edward Said and Noam
Chomsky, are not taken seriously outside of left-wing academic
circles because their condemnations of U.S. and Israeli policy
in the Middle East are part of ritualized denunciations of all
U.S. foreign policy everywhere.
On the far right, the so-called old right,
represented by Patrick Buchanan, there has always been a coterie
of writers who mingle their denunciations of Israel and the Israel
lobby with rants against secular humanists, homosexuals, feminists,
Third World hordes and other alleged enemies of a white Christian
America. The lunatic fringe represented by the militia movement
that spawned Timothy McVeigh refers to the federal government
as ZOG-the Zionist-Occupied Government. This kind of demonology
is also found among black nationalists, like Louis Farrakhan of
the Nation of Islam.
It is only a small exaggeration to say
that, if the far right hates Israel mainly because it hates Jews,
the far left hates Israel mainly because it hates America. With
critics like Chomsky, Buchanan and Farrakhan, the Israel lobby
has an easy time persuading most Americans that critics of Israel
are lunatic-fringe figures. Israel has also been fortunate in
its Palestinian enemies. Yasser Arafat is no Gandhi or Mandela,
Palestinian suicide bombers are indistinguishable from the al-Qaeda
fanatics in their tactics, though not their cause, and footage
of Palestinians dancing in the streets on learning of the Sept.
11 attacks appalled Americans otherwise sympathetic to the goal
of Palestinian independence.
Nonetheless, the Israel lobby's influence
on U.S. policy and public opinion is challenged by groups ranging
from the increasingly vocal Arab-American lobby and black Democrats
(who tend to sympathize with the Palestinians), to career military
and foreign service personnel and the Republican business establishment,
particularly oil executives, who are more interested in the Persian
Gulf than in the West Bank. In the long run, the relative diminution
of the Jewish-American population, as a result of intermarriage
and immigration-led population growth, will combine to attenuate
the lobby's power.
At present, however, members of Congress
from all regions are still reluctant to offend a single-issue
lobby that can and will subsidize their opponents; many journalists
and policy experts say in private that they are afraid of being
blacklisted by editors and publishers who are zealous Israel supporters;
top jobs in the U.S. national security apparatus routinely go
to individuals with close personal and professional ties to Israel
and its American lobby; and soldiers and career diplomats are
sometimes smeared in whisper campaigns if they thwart the goals
of Israeli governments. In these circumstances, how could U.S.
policy not be biased in favor of Israel?
The kind of informed, centrist criticism
of Israel which can be found in Britain and the rest of Europe,
a criticism that recognizes Israel's right to exist and defend
itself, while deploring its brutal occupation of Palestinian territory
and discrimination against Arab Israelis, is far less visible
in the U.S. What is needed at this moment in American and world
history is a responsible criticism of the U.S. Israel lobby which,
unlike the left critique, accepts the broad outlines of U.S. grand
strategy as legitimate and which, unlike the critique of the far
right, is not motivated by an animus against either Jewish Americans
or the state of Israel as such.
In the past, the Israel lobby had one
feature which distinguished it from, say, the Irish lobby: the
country it supported was threatened with extinction by its neighbors.
That is no longer the case. Moreover, most Americans would support
Israel's right to exist and to defend itself against threats even
if the Israel lobby did not exist. However, in the absence of
the Israel lobby, America's elected representatives would surely
have made aid to Israel conditional on Israeli withdrawal from
the occupied territories. It is this largely unconditional nature
of U.S. support for Israel that compromises its Middle East policy.
In the years ahead, we Americans must
reform our political system to purge it of the corrupting influence,
not only of corporations and unions, but also of ethnic lobbies-all
of them, the Arab-American lobby as well as the Israel lobby.
As the percentage of the US. population made up of recent immigrants
grows, so does the danger that foreign policy will be subcontracted
to this or that ethnic diaspora encouraged-by the success of the
Israel lobby-to believe that deep attachment to a foreign country
is a normal and acceptable part of US. citizenship.
Public policy cannot prevent bias toward
foreign countries among ethnic voting blocs, although assimilation
can weaken it. By contrast, ethnic donor machines can be all but
eliminated by the regulation of political donations. Campaign
finance reforms in the US. that ban out-of-state and out-of-district
donations, or replace private with public funding, are desirable
on their merits. Among their other benefits, reforms like these
would cripple all national pressure groups that rely on donations
rather than on debate, without unfairly singling out any particular
special interest, like the Israel lobby. In addition to campaign
finance reform, the U.S. needs to curtail the number of appointed
positions in national security agencies. Reducing the number of
"in-and-outers" in the national security elite would
reduce opportunities for those affiliated with ethnic lobbies
and economic interests like the oil industry to affect U.S. foreign
policy from within government. Until Americans have ended this
corruption of our democratic process, our allies in Europe, Asia
and the Middle East will continue to view our Middle East policy
The truth about America's Israel lobby
is this: it is not all powerful, but it is still far too powerful
for the good of the U.S. and its alliances in the Middle East
Michael Lind, a senior fellow at the New
America Foundation, is the former executive editor of The National
Interest and a former senior editor of The New Republic. This
article first appeared in the April 2002 issue of Prospect. Reprinted