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: The So-Called "Israel Lobby"

 From: Jack Matlock
Date: Wed, Jun 11, 2008 at 10:17 PM
Subject: The So-Called "Israel Lobby"
To: Robert Keeley


Hi Bob,
 
I share your outrage at the influence AIPAC and allied organizations have on American politics. The only difference I have with Mearsheimer and Walt is their title.  We should call it the Likud Lobby, because it does not defend genuine Israeli interests.  It's amazing to me how blind academics can be to the political use of language.  The Bolsheviks were in a minority in the Russian SD Party, but because they happened to have a slight majority at a meeting when most representatives couldn't come, they grabbed the name "Bolshevik" meaning member of the majority.  And, I can tell you, that really helped later since most Russian peasants didn't know the difference and thought they would be better off with the majority than with a minority. The Mensheviks, incredibly, let them get by with it even though they had three or four times more RSDP members.
 
Now I will bet that almost nobody other than we policy wonks has actually read Mearsheimer and Walt's book.  But when the title is "The Israel Lobby," then those with an emotional attachment to Israel will immediately react with "What's wrong with that!  We are all for Israel!"  In effect, it conveys the impression that the Israel lobby is lobbying for Israel's real interests.  But it isn't. (I know that the authors make that point in the book, but it is sure not in the title!  Why didn't they call it something like "Israel's Undertakers"?) AIPAC and friends are lobbying for the positions of the extreme right, the Likud and its offshoots, usually more vehemently than even most Likudniks in Israel would wish.  Any public effort must start with explaining why these policies will never work and are not in Israel's interest.  And there are plenty of Israelis that can make that point, as you well know.
 
So the initial argument has to be that the ideas pushed by AIPAC are, in effect, anti-Israel, because they support policies that will in the long run do more damage to Israel's security and Israel's ability to have a future than Iran or other outside countries ever could.  Why do we let them get by with calling the extremist Likud lobby an Israel lobby?  Not smart.
 
Also, bleating in blogs and op-eds is not going to get us very far. Also beating up on Obama.  It's too bad he had to make some of the statements he did, but I'll tell you he will almost certainly be a darn sight better on Israel than McCain would be--and, for that matter, Senator Clinton. If your freinds think they can get Pat Buchanan elected, they are welcome to try, but I can't think of any other candidate who would dare make some of the statements you would like to hear, until the political ground has been prepared. Opponents of the Likud lobby must play a smarter game.  
 
If you really want to change things you are going to have to band together with the Israeli peaceniks whom you like to quote, with like-minded American Jews (and there are a lot of them, particularly in academia), and with others, to put together a hard-hitting lobby.  And find enough financing that you can assure candidates that take a view critical of Likud-Netenyahu policies that they will cover any campaign financing lost as a result of the stand.
 
More important: the anti-AIPAC group must really concentrate on education among Jewish voters. Most do not know the facts and have been trained to a knee-jerk defense of Israel.  There has to be an effort, led by Israelis and American Jews, to make clear to them that the policies in the occupied territories are not in Israel's interest.  Why not take advantage of the organization's acronym and call it the "Anti-Israel Political Action Group"?  (That would be a nice little whisper campaign!)
 
An organized public relations effort, of course, will take time.  But a lot could be done with grass roots organization and quiet lobbying with the less rabid financial supporters of AIPAC.  Of course, to be effective, the effort must be led by Israelis and American Jews and must make clear that it is operating in Israel's true interest, which is to make a settlement along the lines of UNSC 242.
 
How about something like American Committee for a Secure Israel (unless it is already taken)?
 
All the best,
 
Jack
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