The United States, Israel, and the Lobby - Part 3

excerpted from the book

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt

Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2007, paperback

Israel is largely immune from criticism on Capitol Hill. This situation is remarkable by itself, because Congress frequently deals with contentious issues and competing viewpoints are usually, easy to find. Whether the issue is abortion, arms control, affirmative action, gay rights, the environment, trade policy, health care, immigration, or welfare, there is almost always a lively debate on Capitol Hill. But where Israel is concerned, potential critics fall silent and there is hardly any debate at all.

former Majority Leader Richard Armey, September 2002

My No. 1 priority in foreign policy is to protect Israel.

AIPAC's success is due in large part to its ability to reward legislators and congressional candidates who support its agenda and to punish those who do not, based mainly on its capacity to influence campaign contributions. Money is critical to U.S. elections, which have become increasingly expensive to win, and AIPAC makes sure that its friends get financial support so long as they do not stray from AIPAC's line.

This process works in several ways. To begin with, many of the same individuals who bankroll AIPAC are often important political contributors in their own right. Using data from the Federal Election Commission (FEC). the journalist Michael Massing found that "between 1997 and 2001, the 46 members of directors gave well in excess of $3 million in campaign contributions," and many f them remain generous donors to pro-Israel PACs and candidates today." "Since 2000," the Washington Post reported in 2004, "[AIPAC] board members have contributed an average of $72,000 each to campaigns and political committees."

Second, AIPAC helps connect political candidates to other donors and sources of funds. Despite its name, AIPAC is not a political action committee and does not officially endorse candidates or give money directly to their campaigns. Instead, AIPAC screens potential candidates and arranges meetings with potential donors and fund-raisers, and provides information to the growing number of pro-Israel PACs. According to the historian David Biale, "The American Jewish 'Israel lobby' has developed since the Six Day War into one of the most sophisticated and effective lobbying organizations in the United States Congress. It has done so in part by developing a national network of Jewish Political Action Committees for contributing funds to congressional candidates based on the criterion of support for Israel."" As AIPAC President Howard Friedman told the organization's members in August 2006, "AIPAC meets with every candidate running for Congress. These candidates receive in-depth briefings to help them completely understand the complexities of Israel's predicament and that of the Middle East as a whole. We even ask each candidate to author a 'position paper' on their views of the U.S.-Israel relationship-so it's clear where they stand on the subject."

Friedman's description of AIPAC's modus operandi is consistent with testimony from other political figures. Tom Hayden, the antiwar figure who was running for a seat in the California Assembly in the early 1980s, explains how he won support from the local power broker Michael Berman (brother of longtime California Congressman Howard Berman) on the condition that he would always be a "good friend to Israel." Hayden who won the election, notes that he "had to be certified 'kosher,' not once but over and over again. The certifiers were the elites, beginning with rabbis and heads of the multiple mainstream Jewish organizations... An important vetting role was held as well by ... [AIPAC], a group closely associated with official parties in Israel. When necessary, Israeli ambassadors, counsels general and other officials would intervene with statements declaring someone a 'friend of Israel."

Harry Lonsdale, the Democratic candidate who ran unsuccessfully against Senator Mark Hatfield (R-OR) in 1990, has described his own visit to AIPAC headquarters during that campaign. "The word that I was pro-Israel got around-,"he writes. "I found myself invited to AIPAC in Washington, D.C., fairly early in the campaign, for 'discussions.' It was an experience I will never forget. It wasn't enough that I was pro-Israel. I was given a list of vital topics and quizzed (read grilled) for my specific opinion on each. Actually, I was told what my opinion must be, and exactly what words I was to use to express those opinions in public ... Shortly after that encounter at AIPAC, I was sent a list of American supporters of Israel ... that I was free to call for campaign contributions. I called; they gave, from Florida to Alaska.

AIPAC keeps track of congressional voting records and makes these records available to its members, so that they can decide which candidates or PACs to support." Candidates or incumbents who are seen as hostile to Israel, on the other hand, can expect AIPAC to guide campaign contributions toward their opponents.

a prominent member of Congress asked the reason for the power of AIPAC in the legislature

Money, it's as simple as that.

[The evolution] of Senator Hillary Clinton whose support for Palestinian statehood in 1998 and public embrace of Suha Arafat (wife of Yasser Arafat) in 1999 provoked strong criticism from groups in the lobby. Clinton became an ardent defender of Israel once she began running for office herself, and she now gets strong backing, including financial support, from pro-Israel organizations and individuals. After Clinton appeared at a pro-Israel rally in July 2006 and expressed strong support for Israel's highly destructive war against Lebanon, Helen Freedman, executive director of the hard-line Americans for a Safe Israel, declared, "I thought her remarks were very good, especially in light of her history, and we can't forget her kiss to Suha." Pro-Israel PACs contributed more than $30,000 to Clinton's 2006 reelection campaign, and the Forward reported in January 2007 that Clinton was "expected to snare the lion's share of the Jewish community's substantial political donations in the race for the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination .

Jimmy Carter, February 2007

I don't see any present prospect that any member of the US Congress, the House or Senate, would say, 'Let's take a balanced position between Israel and the Palestinians and negotiate a peace agreement... It's almost politically suicidal ... for a member of the Congress who wants to seek reelection to take any stand that might be interpreted as anti-policy of the conservative Israeli government.

AIPAC, which bills itself as "America's Pro-Israel Lobby," has an almost unchallenged hold on Congress. One of the three main branches of the American government is firmly committed to supporting Israel. Open debate about U.S. policy toward Israel. does not occur there, even though that policy has important consequences for the entire world. As Senator Ernest Hollings (D-SC) noted as he was leaving office in 2004, "You can't have an Israeli policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here." Another senator, speaking on condition of anonymity, told a Washington Post reporter in 1991, "My colleagues think AIPAC is a very, very powerful organization that is ruthless, and very, very alert. Eighty percent of the senators here roll their eyes on some of the votes. They know that what they're doing isn't what they really believe is right, but why fight on a situation where they're liable to get beat up on?"

Small wonder, then, that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once told an American audience, "When people ask me how they can help Israel, I tell them-Help AIPAC," His successor, Ehud Olmert, agrees, remarking, "Thank God we have AIPAC, the greatest supporter and friend we have in the whole world."

Despite their small numbers in the population (less than 3 percent), American Jews make large campaign donations to candidates from both parties. As presidential adviser and former White House Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan wrote in a confidential memorandum to President Jimmy Carter, "Wherever there is major political fundraising in this country, you will find American Jews playing a significant role." Indeed, the Washington Post once estimated that Democratic presidential candidates "depend on Jewish supporters to supply as much as 60 percent of the money raised from private sources." Other estimates are lower, but contributions from Jewish Americans form a substantial share - between 20 and 50 percent - of the contributions made to the Democratic party and its presidential candidates." Israel is not the only issue that inspires these contributions, of course, but candidates who are perceived as hostile (or even indifferent) to Israel run the risk of seeing some of these funds go to their opponents.

Furthermore, Jewish voters have high turnout rates and are concentrated in key states like California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, which increases their weight in determining who becomes president. Although they still favor the Democratic party, their support for Democratic candidates can no longer be taken for granted. John F. Kennedy received 82 percent of the Jewish vote in 1960, for example, but George McGovern received only 64 percent in 1972, and jimmy Carter got a mere 45 percent in 1980. In close races, therefore, the so-called Jewish vote can tip the balance in key states. Jeff Helmreich of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs exaggerates only slightly when he writes that "American Jewish voters maintain the potential to be the decisive factor in national election results ... American Jews wield power through their high concentration in key states and their tendency to behave as a swing vote in ways that set them apart from virtually all other groups in American politics."" Because Jewish voters matter in close elections, presidential candidates go to considerable lengths to cultivate their support. Indeed, a 2007 story in the Jerusalem Post referred to this effort to court Jewish support as "a Washington ritual as reliable as the cherry blossoms." Candidates are especially eager to appeal to AIPAC and other organizations in the lobby-and not just to Jewish voters as a bloc-because they know that the seal of approval from these prominent organizations will facilitate fund-raising and encourage higher turnout on their behalf.

Elliott Abrams in a 1997 book

There can be no doubt that Jews, faithful to the covenant between God and Abraham, are to stand apart from the nation in which they live. It is the very nature of being Jewish to be apart - except in Israel - from the rest of the population.

Key elements in the [Israel] lobby strive to influence discourse about Israel in the media, think tanks, and academia, because these institutions are critical to shaping popular opinion. They promote efforts to portray Israel in a positive light and they go to considerable lengths to marginalize anyone who questions Israel's past or present conduct or seeks to cast doubt on the merits of unconditional U.S. backing. Pro-Israel forces are well aware that dominating discussions about the Jewish state is essential to their agenda. These efforts do not always succeed, of course, but are still remarkably effective.

A key part of preserving positive public attitudes toward Israel is to ensure that the mainstream media's coverage of Israel and the Middle East consistently favors Israel and does not call U.S. support into question in any way. While serious criticism of Israel occasionally reaches a large audience across the United States, the American media's coverage of Israel tends to be strongly biased in Israel's favor, especially when compared with news coverage in other democracies.

The [Israel] lobby's perspective on Israel is widely reflected in the mainstream media in part because a substantial number of American commentators who write about Israel are themselves pro-Israel. In a 1976 comparison of domestic interest groups and U.S. Middle East policy, Robert H. Trice found that "one of the most serious political handicaps of pro-Arab groups during the 1966-1974 period was their inability to gain support from any of the best-known and nationally-syndicated columnists." Trice also found that "pro-Israel groups could count on media support not only from national columnists but also from the editors of some of the country's most widely read newspapers."

Although these papers [New York Times and Washington Post] occasionally publish guest op-eds that challenge Israeli policy, the balance of opinion clearly favors Israel. There is no American commentator comparable to a Robert Fisk or a Patrick Seale, who are often sharply critical of Israel and who publish regularly in British newspapers, and no one remotely like Israeli commentators Amira Hass, Akiva Eldar, Gideon Levy and Bradley Burston, all of whom are openly critical of particular policies that their country pursues. The point here is not that these individuals are always right and pro-Israel commentators are wrong; the point is that voices like theirs are almost entirely absent from major American newspapers.

Norman Podhoretz to a gathering of journalists

The role of Jews who write in both the Jewish and general press is to defend Israel, and not join in the attacks on Israel.

To discourage unfavorable reporting on Israel, groups in the lobby organize letter-writing campaigns, demonstrations, and boycotts against news outlets whose content they consider anti-Israel. As the Forward reported in April 2002, "Rooting out perceived anti-Israel bias in the media has become for many American Jews the most direct and emotional outlet for connecting with the conflict 6,000 miles away."° One CNN executive has said that he sometimes gets six thousand e-mail messages in a single day complaining that a story is anti-Israel, and papers such as the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Miami Herald, the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Washington Post have faced consumer boycotts over their Middle East reporting. One correspondent told the journalist Michael Massing that newspapers were "afraid" of AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups, saying that "the pressure from these groups is relentless. Editors would just as soon not touch them." As the former spokesman for the Israeli consulate in New York, Menachem Shalev, once put it, "Of course, a lot of self-censorship goes on. Journalists, editors, and politicians are going to think twice about criticizing Israel if they know they are going to get thousands of angry calls in a matter of hours. The Jewish lobby is good orchestrating pressure."

The WINEP [Washington Institute for Near East Policy] is funded and run by individuals who are deeply committed to advancing Israel's agenda. Its board of advisers includes prominent pro-Israel figures such as Edward Luttwak, Martin Peretz, Richard Perle, James Woolsey, and Mortimer Zuckerman, but includes no one who might be thought of as favoring the perspective of any other country or group in the "Near East." Many of its personnel are genuine scholars or experienced former officials, but they are hardly neutral observers on most Middle East issues and there is little diversity of views within WINEP's ranks.

The lobby's influence in the think tank world extends well beyond WINEP... over the past twenty-five years, pro-Israel individuals have established a commanding presence at the American Enterprise Institute, 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. These think tanks are all decidedly pro-Israel and include few, if any, critics of U.S. support for the Jewish state.

Another indication of the influence in the think tank world is the evolution of the Brookings Institution. For many years, its senior expert on Middle East issues was William B. Quandt, a distinguished academic and former NSC official with a well-deserved reputation for evenhandedness regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. In the mid-1970s, in fact, Brookings released an influential report on the Middle East that emphasized the need for Israeli withdrawals, Palestinian self-determination (including the possibility of an independent state), open access to religious sites in Jerusalem, and security guarantees for Israel. The Brookings study was produced by a diverse group of experts and is widely seen as the blueprint behind the Carter administration's successful efforts to negotiate an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.

Today, however, Brookings's work on these issues is conducted through its Saban Center for Middle East Policy, which was established in 2002 with a $13 million grant, primarily financed by Haim Saban, an ardent Zionist. The New York Times described him as "perhaps the most politically connected mogul in Hollywood, throwing his weight and money around Washington and, increasingly, the world, trying to influence all things Israeli." This "tireless cheerleader for Israel" told the Times, "I'm a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel." His efforts led Ariel Sharon to describe him as "a great American citizen and a man who always stood by Israel and the Jewish people in times of need. The man chosen to run the Saban Center was Martin Indyk, the former Clinton administration official who had previously served as AIPAC's deputy director of research and helped found WINEP.

It is hard to imagine that a research institute funded by Saban and directed by Indyk is going to be anything but pro-Israel. To be sure, the Saban Center occasionally hosts Arab scholars and exhibits some diversity of opinion. Saban Center fellows-like Indyk himself-often endorse the idea of a two-state settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. But Saban Center publications never question U.S. support for Israel and rarely, if ever, offer significant criticism of key Israeli policies.

The largest and most visible foreign policy research institutions in Washington usually take Israel's side and do not question the merits of unconditional U.S. support.

The [Israel] lobby's campaign to mold debate about Israel has faced the greatest difficulty in academia. Not only do many professors have tenure (which insulates them from many forms of pressure), but they also work in a realm where intellectual freedom is a core value and where challenging the prevailing wisdom is common and often prized. There is also a deep-seated commitment to freedom of speech on college and university campuses. The internationalization of American universities over the past, thirty years has brought large numbers of foreign-born students and professors to the United States, and these people are often more critical of Israel's conduct than Americans tend to be.

Even so, groups in the lobby did not devote significant efforts to shaping discussion on campus during the 1990s.

This campaign to cultivate students has been accompanied by efforts to influence university faculty and hiring practices. In the early 1980s, for example, AIPAC recruited students to help it identify professors and campus organizations that might be considered anti-Israel. The findings were published in 1984 in The AIPAC College Guide: Exposing the Anti-Israel Campaign on Campus. At the same time, the ADL, which was compiling files on individuals and organizations it considered suspect regarding Israel, surreptitiously distributed a small booklet containing "background information on pro-Arab sympathizers active on college campuses" who "use their antiZionism as merely a guise f their deeply felt anti-Semitism. '114 This effort intensified 'n September 2002, when Daniel Pipes established Campus Watch, a website that posted dossiers on suspect academics > and, stealing a page from AIPAC's playbook, encouraged students to report comments or behavior that might be considered hostile to Israel.

Pro-Israel groups and individuals have fought a multifront battle against students, professors, administrators, and the curriculum itself itself-to shape discourse on campus. Their efforts have not been as successful in academia as they have been on Capitol Hill or even in the media, but their work has not been in vain. Despite the continued turmoil in the region and Israel's continued expansion in the Occupied Territories, there is less criticism of Israel on college campuses today than there was five years ago.

No discussion of how the lobby operates would be complete without examining one of its most powerful weapons: the charge of anti-Semitism. Anyone who criticizes Israeli actions or says that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over U.S. Middle East policy stands a good chance of getting labeled an anti-Semite.

Supporters of Israel have a history of using fears of a "new antiSemitism" to shield Israel from criticism. In 1974, when Israel was under increasing pressure to withdraw from the lands it had conquered in 1967, Arnold Forster and Benjamin Epstein of the ADL published The New AntiSemitism, which argued that anti-Semitism was on the rise and exemplified by the growing unwillingness of other societies to support Israel's actions .16 In the early 1980s, when the invasion of Lebanon and Israel's expanding settlements triggered additional criticisms, and when U.S. arms sales to its Arab allies were hotly contested, then ADL head Nathan Perlmutter and his wife, Ruth Ann Perlmutter, released The Real Anti-Semitism in America, which argued that anti-Semitism was on its way back, as shown by the pressure on Israel to make peace with the Arabs and by events like the sale of AWACS aircraft to Saudi Arabia. 87 The Perlmutters also suggested that many "a-Semitic" actions, which they define as acts not motivated by hostility to Jews, may nonetheless harm Jewish interests (and especially Israel's well-being), and could easily bring back genuine anti-Semitism."

The troubling logic of this argument is revealed by the fact that there was little mention of anti-Semitism during the 1990s, when Israel was involved in the Oslo peace process. Indeed, one Israeli scholar wrote in 1995 that "never before, at least since the time Christianity seized power over the Roman Empire, has anti-Semitism been less significant than at present."

Israel and its American supporters constantly emphasize that it deserves special treatment because it is the "only democracy in the Middle East." Israel, in other words, is expected to behave like contemporary Britain, Canada, Denmark, the United States, and so forth, and not like the military junta in Burma, Pervez Musharraf's Pakistan, or Fidel Castro's Cuba. Israel's treatment of the Palestinians elicits criticism because it is contrary to widely accepted human rights norms and international law, as well as the principle of national self-determination.

The charge of anti-Semitism remains a widely used weapon for dealing with critics of Israel, especially in the United States. This tactic has been effective for a number of reasons. First, anti-Semitism is a set of beliefs that led to great evils in the past, including the monstrous crimes of the Holocaust, and it is now utterly discredited in most segments of society. The charge of anti-Semitism is one of the most powerful epithets one can level at someone in America, and no respectable person wants to be tarred with that brush. Undoubtedly, the fear of being called an anti-Semite discourages many individuals from voicing reservations about Israel's conduct or the merits of U.S. support.

Second, smearing critics of Israel or the lobby with the charge of antiSemitism works to marginalize them in the public arena. If the accusation sticks, the critic's arguments will not be taken seriously by the media, government officials, and other influential elites, and groups that might otherwise pay attention to that person's views will be discouraged from soliciting them. Politicians will be especially reluctant to associate themselves with anyone who has been charged as anti-Semitic, because doing so could have a chilling effect on their own careers.

Third, this tactic works because it is difficult for anyone to prove beyond all doubt that he or she is not anti-Semitic, especially when criticizing Israel or the lobby. Proving a negative is hard to do under any circumstances, especially when it comes to something like intentions and motivations that cannot be observed directly, and pointing to other behavior that is inconsistent with anti-Semitism is not likely to carry much weight. Until recently, therefore, the charge of anti-Semitism has been a potent way to make sure that criticisms of Israel or the lobby were rarely spoken and were either ignored or disparaged when they were.

When faced with criticism of Israel's policies, some its defenders are quick to invoke the charge of anti-Semitism. The first and most visible case is the heated reaction to jimmy Carter's recent book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Despite its provocative title, the book is neither polemical nor unsympathetic to Israel's strategic situation. Carter is certainly critical of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and what that means for the Palestinians living there, and he correctly observes that it is difficult to have a candid discussion of these issues in the United States. But as Yossi Beilin, a prominent Israeli politician, noted, "There is nothing in the criticism that Carter has for Israel that has not been said by Israelis themselves." Even Carter's use of the term "apartheid"-which seems to have provoked much of the ire directed at him-echoes the use of the term by Israeli critics of the occupation and by prominent South Africans such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu and current Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils.

The ADL and CAMERA attacked Carter's book in prominent ads in major newspapers, and though a number of critics addressed the substance of Carter's claims, others immediately launched personal attacks on the former president. Abraham Foxman said, "I believe he is engaging in anti-Semitism," while Martin Peretz wrote that Carter "will go down in history as a Jew-hater. " Deborah Lipstadt, the historian who won a landmark suit against notorious Holocaust denier David Irving, wrote in the Washington Post that "Carter has repeatedly fallen back-possibly unconsciously on traditional anti-Semitic canards" and suggested that there was a strong similarity between some of Carter's views and those of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. As Carter himself said, "I have been called an antiSemite. I have been called bigot. I have been called a plagiarist. I have been called a coward [by the Israel lobby]." It was a remarkable reaction to the man who in his stewardship of the Egyptian-Israeli peace process had done as much as any human being to enhance Israel's overall security.

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine

When we talk to Congressional representatives who are liberal or even extremely progressive on every other issue, they tell us privately that they are afraid to speak out about the way Israeli policies are destructive to the best interests of the United States or the best interests of world peace lest they too be labeled anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. If it can happen to jimmy Carter, some of them told me recently, a man with impeccable moral credentials, then no one is really politically safe.

William Kristol, the Wall Street Journal

The mainstream Jewish organizations have played the 'anti-Semitism' card so often that it has been devalued.

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

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