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Two Knights and a Dragon

Two Knights and a Dragon
*Uri Avnery*

*6.10.07*

* *

*                                    Two Knights and a Dragon*

* *

*THERE ARE books that change people's consciousness and change history.
Some tell a story, like Harriet Beech Stowe's 1851 "Uncle Tom's Cabin",
which gave a huge impetus to the campaign for the abolition of slavery.
Others take the form of a political treatise, like Theodor Herzl's "Der
Judenstaat", which gave birth to the Zionist movement. Or they can be
scientific in nature, like Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species",
which changed the way humanity sees itself. And perhaps political
satire, too, can shake the world, like "1984" by George Orwell.*

*  *

*The impact of these books was amplified by their timing. They appeared
exactly at the right time, when a large public was ready to absorb their
message.*

* *

*It may well turn out that the book by the two professors, John
Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy",
is just such a book.*

* *

*It is a dry scientific research report, 355 pages long, backed by 106
further pages containing some thousand references to sources.*

* *

*It is not a bellicose book. On the contrary, its style is restrained
and factual. The authors take great care not to utter a single negative
comment on the legitimacy of the Lobby, and indeed bend over backwards
to stress their support for the existence and security of Israel. They
let the facts speak for themselves. With the skill of experienced
masons, they systematically lay brick upon brick, row upon row, leaving
no gap in their argumentation.*

* *

*This wall cannot be torn down by reasoned argument. Nobody has tried,
and nobody is going to. Instead, the authors are being smeared and
accused of sinister motives. If the book could be ignored altogether,
this would have been done - as has happened to other books which have
been buried alive. *

* *

*(Some years ago, there appeared in Russia a large tome by Aleksandr
Solzhenitsyn, the world-renowned laureate of the Nobel Prize for
Literature, about Russia and its Jews. This book, called "200 Years
Together", has been completely ignored. As far as I know, it has not
been translated into any language, certainly not into Hebrew. I asked
several of Israel's leading intellectuals, and none of them had even
heard of the book.  Neither does it appear on the list of /Amazon.com/,
which includes all the author's other works.)*

* *

* *

*THE TWO professors take the bull by the horns. They deal with a subject
which is absolutely taboo in the United States, a subject nobody in his
right mind would even mention: the enormous influence of the pro-Israel
lobby on American foreign policy.*

* *

*In a remorselessly systematical way, the book analyzes the Lobby, takes
it apart, describes its /modus operandi/, discloses its financial
sources and lays bare its relations with the White House, the two houses
of Congress, the leaders of the two major parties and leading media people.*

* *

*The authors do not call into question the Lobby's legitimacy. On the
contrary, they show that hundreds of lobbies of this kind play an
essential role in the American democratic system. The gun and the
medical lobbies, for example, are also very powerful political forces.
But the pro-Israel lobby has grown out of all proportion. It has
unparalleled political power. It can silence all criticism of Israel in
Congress and the media, bring about the political demise of anyone who
dares to break the taboo, prevent any action that does not conform to
the will of the Israeli government. *

* *

*In its second part, the book shows how the Lobby uses its tremendous
power in practice: how it has prevented the exertion of any pressure on
Israel to for peace with the Palestinians, how it pushed the US into the
invasion of Iraq, how it is now pushing for wars with Iran and Syria,
how it supported the Israeli leadership in the recent war in Lebanon and
blocked calls for a ceasefire when it didn't want it.*

* *

*Each of these assertions is backed up by so much undeniable evidence
and quotations from written material (mainly from Israeli sources) that
they cannot be ignored.*

* *

* *

*MOST OF these disclosures are nothing new for those in Israel who deal
with these matters.*

* *

*I myself could add to the book a whole chapter from personal experience.*

* *

*In the late 50s, I visited the US for the first time. A major New York
radio station invited me for an interview. Later they cautioned me: "You
can criticize the President (Dwight D. Eisenhower) and the Secretary of
State (John Foster Dulles) to your heart's content, but please don't
criticize Israeli leaders!" At the last moment the interview was
cancelled altogether, and the Iraqi ambassador was invited instead.
Criticism was apparently tolerable when it came from an Arab, but
absolutely not coming from an Israeli. *

* *

*In 1970, the respected American "Fellowship of Reconciliation" invited
me for a lecture tour of 30 universities, under the auspices of the
Hillel rabbis. When I arrived in New York, I was informed that 29 of the
lectures had been cancelled. The sole rabbi who did not cancel, Balfour
Brickner, showed me a secret communication of the "Anti-Defamation
League" that proscribed my lectures. It said: "While Knesset Member
Avnery can in no way be considered a traitor, his appearance at this
time would be deeply divisive In the end, all the lectures took place
under the auspices of Christian chaplains.*

* *

*I especially remember a depressing experience in Baltimore. A good Jew,
who had volunteered to host me, was angered by the cancellation of my
lecture in this city and obstinately insisted on putting it on. We
combed the streets of the Jewish quarters - mile upon mile of signs with
Jewish names - and did not find a single hall whose manager would agree
to let the lecture by a member of the Israeli Knesset take place. In the
end, we did hold the lecture in the basement of the building of my
host's apartment - and functionaries of the Jewish community came to
protest.*

* *

*That year, during Black September, I held a press conference in
Washington DC, under the auspices of the Quakers. It seemed to be a huge
success. The journalists came straight from a press conference with
Prime Minister Golda Meir, and showered me with questions. Almost all
the important media were represented - TV networks, radio, the major
newspapers. After the planned hour was up, they would not let me go and
kept me talking for another hour and a half. But the next day, not a
single word appeared in any of the media. Thirty-one years later, in
October 2001 I held a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington,
and exactly the same thing happened: many of the media were there, they
held me for another hour - and not a word, not a single word, was
published. *

* *

*In 1968, a very respected American publishing house (Macmillan) brought
out a book of mine' "Israel Without Zionists", which was later
translated into eight other languages. The book described the
Israeli-Arab conflict in a very different way and proposed the
establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel - a revolutionary
idea at the time. Not a single review appeared in the American media. I
checked in one of the most important book stores in New York and did not
find the book. When I asked a salesman, he found it buried under a heap
of volumes and put it on top. Half an hour later it was hidden again.*

* *

*The book dealt with the "Two States for Two peoples" solution long
before it became a world-wide consensus, and with my proposal for
Israel's integration in "the Semitic Region". True, I am an Israeli
patriot and was elected to the Knesset by Israeli voters. But I
criticized the Israeli government - and that was enough.  *

* *

* *

*THE BOOK by the two professors, who criticize the Israeli government
from a different angle, cannot be buried anymore. This fact, by itself,
speaks volumes.*

* *

* The book is based on an essay by the two that appeared last year in a
British journal, after no American publication dared to touch it. Now a
respected American publishing house has released it - an indication that
something is moving. The situation has not changed, but it seems that it
is now possible at least to talk about it.*

* *

*Everything depends on timing - and apparently the time is now ripe for
such a book, which will shock many good people in America. It is now
causing an uproar.*

* *

*The two professors are, of course, accused of anti-Semitism, racism and
hatred of Israel. What Israel? It is the Lobby itself that hates a large
part of Israel. In recent years is has shifted even more to the Right.
Some of its constituent groups - such as the neo-cons who pushed the US
into the Iraq war - are openly connected with the right-wing Likud, and
especially with Binyamin Netanyahu. The billionaires who finance the
Lobby are the same people who finance the extreme Israeli Right, and
most of all the settlers.*

* *

*The small, determined Jewish groups in the US who support the Israeli
peace movements are remorselessly persecuted. Some of them fold after a
few years.  Members of Israeli peace groups who are sent to America are
boycotted and slandered as "self-hating-Jews".*

*  *

*The political views of the two professors, which are briefly stated at
the end of the book, are identical with the stand of the Israeli peace
forces: the Two-State Solution, ending the occupation, borders based on
the Green Line, and international support for the peace settlement.*

* *

*If this is anti-Semitism, then we here are all anti-Semites. And only
the Christian Zionists - those who openly demand the return of the Jews
to this country but secretly prophesy the annihilation of the
unconverted Jews at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ - are the true
Lovers of Zion.*

* *

* *

*EVEN IF not a single bad word about the pro-Israel lobby can be uttered
in the US, it is far from being a secret society, hatching conspiracies
like the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion". On the contrary, AIPAC, the
Anti-Defamation League, the Zionist Federation and the other
organizations vociferously boast about their actions and publicly
proclaim their incredible successes.*

* *

*Quite naturally, the diverse components of the Lobby compete with each
other - Who has the biggest influence on the White House, Who scares the
most senators, Who controls more journalists and commentators,. This
competition causes a permanent escalation - because every success by one
group spurs the others to redouble their efforts. *

* *

*This could be very dangerous. A balloon that is inflated to monstrous
dimensions can one day burst in the face of American Jews (who, by the
way, according to the polls, object to many positions adopted by the
Lobby that claims to speak in their name.) *

* *

*Most of the American public now opposes the Iraq war and considers it a
disaster. This majority still does not connect the war with the actions
of the pro-Israel lobby. No newspaper and no politician dares to hint at
such a connection - yet. But if this taboo is broken, the result may be
very dangerous for the Jews and for Israel.*

* *

*Beneath the surface, a lot of anger directed against the Lobby is
accumulating. The presidential candidates, who are compelled to grovel
at the feet of AIPAC, the senators and congressmen, who have become
slaves of the Lobby, the media people, who are forbidden to write what
they really think -  all these secretly detest the Lobby. If this anger
explodes, it may hurt us, too.*

* *

*This lobby has become a Golem. And like the Golem in legend, in the end
it will bring disaster on its maker.*

* *

* *

*IF I may be permitted to voice some criticism of my own:*

* *

*When the original article by the two professors appeared, I argued that
"the tail is wagging the dog and the dog is wagging the tail". The tail,
of course, is Israel.*

* *

*The two professors confirm the first part of the equation, but
emphatically deny the second.  The central thesis of the book is that
the pressure of the Lobby causes the United States to act against its
own interests (and, in the long run, also against the true interests of
Israel.) They do not accept my contention, quoted in the book, that
Israel acted in Lebanon as "America's Rottweiler" (to Hizbullah as
"Iran's Doberman"). *

* *

*I agree that the US is acting against its true interest (and the true
interests of Israel) - but the American leadership does not see it that
way. Bush and his people believe - even without the input of the Lobby -
that it would be advantageous for the US to establish a permanent
American military presence in the middle of this region of huge oil
reserves. In my view, this counter-productive act at was one of the main
objectives of the war, side by side with the desire to eliminate one of
Israel's most dangerous enemies. Unfortunately, the book deals only very
briefly with this issue. *

* *

*That does not diminish in any way my profound admiration for the
intellectual qualities, integrity and courage of Mearsheimer and Walt,
two knights who, like St. George, who have sallied forth to face the
fearful dragon.*
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