Reactions to the Israel Lobby Study
In the three weeks since the Harvard and Chicago University professors'
study of the "Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy"
was published in the London Review of Books and placed on Harvard's
Kennedy School of Government website, there has been an enormous
response from pundits in the U.S. and Israel.
The initial hurt reaction of such pro-Israel personalities as Alan
Dershowitz and journalist Marvin Kalb could be described as inelegant
outrage. Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY), one of Israel's strongest
congressional supporters, weighed in noisly, calling the study "the same
old anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist drivel." In the New York Sun, he was
quoted as saying,"Given what happened in the Holocaust, it's shameful
that people would write reports like this."
This is typical of what any objective critic of Israel receives from the
Israel lobby and its supporters. It deliberately obfuscates and
generally does not deal with factual analysis. The drumbeat of
condemnation has been only partially balanced by responses by such
figures as Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, who noted
that "a sliver of the political spectrum, falsely insisting that it
represents all American Jews, manages to skew U.S. politics and
reporting on the issue of Palestine."
In Washington, the Post waited ten days before deeming the story
newsworthy enough. In a so-far unanswered letter to the ombudsman of the
Post about the article, international lawyer and frequent contributor to
the International Herald Tribune John Whitbeck, commented:
"[The Post article] provides commentary from eight mostly peculiar
sources -- of which only two (of which one is the now inevitable David
Duke) are favorable while the other six are scathing (using fine
analytic terms like 'ignorant propaganda,' 'masquerading as
scholarship,' 'biased, one-sided, foolish, repetitive,' 'academic
garbage,' 'piss-poor,' 'riddled with errors' and my personal favorite --
'ignores previous serious work on the subject')."
The Capitol Hill establishment that unconditionally supports Israel was
equally outraged and reportedly held a private meeting to discuss the
position they should take on the paper. But, according to the New York
Jewish-American paper the Forward, the lobby decided to bury the study
with silence. Only minor coverage of the 82-page report appeared in the
American press beyond the Post and scurrilous op-eds in pro-Israel
newspapers. The only television coverage was a gratuitous interview with
a true anti-Semite, David Duke.
Take Action to Contain the Israel Lobby!
Some years ago, the Council for the National Interest issued a brochure
with remarkably similar conclusions that indeed U.S. policy makers on
Capitol Hill, in the White House, and at the Department of State were
under continuous intimidation and pressure on behalf of Israel.
More recently, we have proposed a Foreign Lobby Registration Act (FLORA)
which for the first time would bring transparency into lobbying on
foreign affairs by groups tied closely to foreign governments. As Walt
and Mearsheimer note in their paper, AIPAC ''is a de facto agent of a
foreign government [and] has a stranglehold on the U.S. Congress."
The initial charges of anti-Semitism, at worse, coupled with the sudden
silence indicates that there is an organized lobby on behalf of Israel.
There is nothing wrong with that, but what is wrong is shutting down
debate and intimidating the whole political process on behalf of Israel.
At this moment lobbying legislation is working its way through Congress
that is both inadequate and fails to deal with the problem of lobbies
embedded with foreign governments. Read the Israel lobby report online
and sign the petition supporting a Foreign Lobby Registration Act.
Council for the National Interest Foundation
1250 4th Street SW, Suite WG-1
Washington, District of Columbia 20024