- April 3, 2008
Is The “Israel Lobby” Losing Its Grip?
In an perceptive piece for The American Conservative under the headline OBAMA’S ISRAEL TEST, Scott McConnell asked, “Is the lobby losing its grip?” It seems so, but I think it’s important to understand the choice that will exist for the Jews of the world, and Jewish Americans especially, if American politicians (many if not all) and the mainstream media do stop being frightened of offending the lobby.
But first things first. The lobby in question is not what McConnell and others including Mearsheimer and Walt state it to be. It’s not “the Israel lobby”. It could only be called that if it represented the views of all Israeli Jews. It does not do so any more than AIPAC represents the views of all Jewish Americans. (According to recent polls, AIPAC probably speaks for not more than one-third of all Jewish Americans and possibly considerably less).
A more accurate (but not completely accurate) description of the particular phenomenon is “Likud lobby”, terminology which conveys the correct impression that the lobby is rightwing and very hardline, even extreme, and opposed to peace on any terms the vast majority of Palestinians and most other Arabs and Muslims everywhere could accept.
Way back in February 1980, I had a private conversation with Shimon Peres. He was then the leader of Israel’s Labour Party, the main opposition to Menachem Begin’s Likud dominated ruling coalition, which was speeding up the colonisation of the occupied West Bank. In the course of this conversation, I used the term “Israel lobby”. In a voice laced with despair and a hint of anger, Peres said: “It’s not an Israel lobby. It’s a Likud lobby. And that’s my problem.” (At the time Peres and almost the whole world including President Carter was hoping that he would win Israel’s next election and deny Begin a second term in office as prime minister. He didn’t).
In due course, after Ariel Sharon broke with Likud to form the Kadima Party, the lobby became the Likud-Kadima lobby, but it remained Likud in its core essence. The only major difference between Likud and Kadima is that the latter understands, as Prime Minister Olmert recently admitted, that the Zionist state of Israel would be finished, destroyed by the demographic time-bomb of occupation, if it did not withdraw from some of the West Bank. (Sharon did not withdraw from Gaza for peace but as a first step to defusing the demographic time-bomb; and, if he could do it without provoking a Jewish civil war, he was intending at some point to withdraw from about half, more or less, of the West Bank. He was not at all concerned that the 40 to 60 percent of it he was intending to withdraw from would not and could not constitute a viable Palestinian mini-state).
All things considered, including Israel’s on-going colonisation of those parts of the occupied West Bank its leaders intend to keep for ever, I think (and have long thought) that the best way to serve the cause of understanding is to give the particular phenomenon its proper name. It is not the Israel lobby, or even the Likud or Likud-Kadima lobby. It is the Zionist lobby.
For those who are unaware of what Zionism actually is – I mean political Zionism as opposed to spiritual Zionism – and why it is the complete opposite of Judaism, I offer the following brief explanation.
Judaism is the religion of Jews, not the Jews because not all Jews are religious. And, like Christianity and Islam, Judaism has at its core a set of moral values and ethical principles. All the religious Jews of the world look to Jerusalem as the centre of their religion and spiritual capital, and in that sense they could be said to be, and many do regard themselves as being, spiritual Zionists.
Political Zionism is the nationalism of some Jews, actually a tiny minority of the world’s Jews at the time of Zionism’s first public and dishonest mission statement in 1897, which colonised land, Palestine, to create a state for some Jews; an enterprise which required the incoming, alien Zionist colonisers – most if not all of whom had no biological connection to the ancient Hebrews, the first Israelites – to ethnically cleanse the land of most of its indigenous Arab inhabitants, the majority population at the time of the colonisation. A Zionist today is one, not necessarily a Jew, who (to quote Balfour) supports the Zionist state of Israel “right or wrong”, and who cannot or will not admit that a wrong was done to the Palestinians by Zionism, a wrong that must be righted on terms acceptable to the Palestinians for justice and peace.
The whole point of Zionism’s colonial enterprise was, as it still is, to take for keeping the maximum amount of Arab land with the minimum number of Arabs on it; an enterprise that was assisted by the obscenity of the Nazi holocaust, which gave Zionism a blackmail card to silence criticism of Israel throughout the mainly Gentile Judeo-Christian world and suppress informed and honest debate about who must do what and why for justice and peace.
In summary it can be said that Zionism makes a mockery of, and has contempt for, the moral values and ethical principles of Judaism. That being so, it’s all the more amazing that Zionist spin doctors succeeded in making the mainly Gentile Judeo-Christian world believe that Judaism and Zionism are one and the same thing. They are emphatically not. Zionism, as the title of my latest book asserts and its substance demonstrates, is the real enemy of the Jews, as well as being the biggest single threat to the peace of the region and arguably the world.
Knowledge of the difference between Judaism and Zionism is the key to understanding. It’s the explanation of why it is perfectly possible to be passionately anti-Zionist (opposed to Zionism’s colonial enterprise) without being in any way, shape or form anti-Semitic (anti-Jew). It’s also the explanation of why it it is wrong to blame all Jews for the crimes of the relative few. (As a matter of fact, almost all Arabs have always known the difference between Judaism and Zionism; and that’s why they call for the de-Zionization of Palestine, and not, repeat not, the destruction of the Jews now living in it).
McConnell noted that President Kennedy buckled under Zionst lobby pressure. He did indeed, and he was very angry about having to do so and become what he himself described as a “political whore”. As I document in Volume Two of my book, Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, presidential candidate Kennedy said the following to an old and trusted friend, newspaper columnist Charles Bartlett, after he, Kennedy, had been summoned to a fund raising meeting:
“As an American citizen I am outraged to have a Zionist group come to me and say – ‘We know your campaign is in trouble. We’re willing to pay your bills if you let us have control of your Middle East policy.” (In further remarks to Bartlett, a furious JFK emphasised “they wanted control!” My guess is that they didn’t put it that way, but that what they said left no room for JFK to doubt that control was what they wanted).
As I also document in my book, there is good evidence for believing that, if he had been allowed to live, a second term President Kennedy would have addressed the root cause of the conflict in and over Palestine, even at the cost of, Eisenhower-like, confronting the Zionist lobby. (I think – see McConnell’s obeservations below – that it’s not unreasonable to speculate that a second term President Obama, if he is allowed to live, could be the White House occupant who calls and holds Zionism to account).
McConnell wrote that several wars and many billions of dollars later (after JFK), the politics of Israel-Palestine are not exactly the same as 50 years ago but not that different either. “Israel is more powerful and more dependent on American largesse. Americans are far more deeply engaged in the Middle East and for the most part they are not happy about it.”
And this about the man most likely to be America’s next President: “On the surface, the tie between Barack Obama and Israel’s establishment supporters is warm and comfortable… Nonetheless, there’s a sense among the Jewish establishment (I imagine McConnell probably means the Zionist establishment) that all is not as it seems – and if the view has not yet crystallized that Obama has a less Israelocentric perception of he Middle East than any other major party nominee since Eisenhower, there is foreboding that times are a changin’.“ (My emphasis added).
And this is how McConnell sees change manifesting itself:
“For the first time in a presidential race, the Israel-Palestine issue will consist of something other than two men squabbling over who will more rapidly overrule the State Department and absolutely positively move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (I note that although he is sticking pretty much to Zionism’s script as all candidates must when running for office – all offices not just the highest – Obama has already indicated that he does not accept that Likud and Israel are synonymous).
“A welcome corollary will be realization that there are different ways for Americans to be “pro-Israel” and push back against the view that being pro-Israel means supporting the right of the Jewsh state to lord it over 5 million Palestinians in conditions increasingly seen as resembling South Africa apartheid. The alternative view won’t sweep the country, but it will migrate from its present home on university campuses and liberal Protestant churches into the wider body politic.”
And finally will come recognition, McConnell wrote, that “the Israel lobby’s power to dominate the American debate is beginning to weaken.”
The reason why I agree with McConnell can be simply stated. In the last few years, and for the first time ever, Zionism’s version of the history of the making and sustaining of conflict in and over Palestine has started to be exposed for the propaganda nonsense it is. And that is thanks in large part to the work and courage of Israel’s “new” or “revisionist” historians. (The terms “new” and “revisionist” in this context are euphemisms. The more accurate or proper adjective to describe Israel’s truth-telling professors of history – Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe are the giants in their field – is honest. Am I suggesting that before them Israel’s historians were dishonest by default if not design? Yes, I most certainly am). The task of telling the truth of history is also being assisted by a bottom-up media revolution made possible by the internet.
Zionism’s narrative, upon which the first and still existing draft of Judeo-Christian history is constructed, is rooted in denial of ethnic cleansing. (The most comprehensive and fully documented work on this subject is Ilan Pappe’s latest book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine).
There are people who’ll say that what’s done is done. Israel, no matter how it was created, exists. But that’s not the point. There is not a snowball’s chance in hell of a real peace process unless and until the Jews, and Israelis especially, are prepared to acknowledge the wrong done to the Arabs of Palestine by Zionism.
Zionism’s denial of ethnic cleansing is underpined by two great propaganda lies.
The first is that poor little Israel has lived in constant danger of annihilation – the “driving into the sea” of its Jews. The truth of history is that Israel’s existence has never, ever, been in danger from any combination of Arab force. Not in 1948/49. Not in 1967. And not even in 1973. Zionism’s assertion to the contrary was the cover which allowed Israel to get away where it mattered most, America and Western Europe, with presenting its aggression as self-defence and itself as the victim when, actually, it was and is the oppressor.
The second great lie of Zionism’s version of history was that Israel had “no partners” for peace. On this account the truth of history includes the fact, for example, that Arafat the pragmatist opened the door to a genuine and viable two-state solution as far back as 1979, more than a quarter of a century ago. And long before that, another example, Eygpt’s President Nasser, who never had any intention of fighting Israel to liberate Palestine, authorised, and himself took part in, secret, exploratory exchanges with Israel in the hope of making an accomodation with it. (Avi Shlaim’s magnificent book, THE IRON WALL, Israel and the Arab World, which is informed in part by Avi’s access to de-classified Israeli state papers, leaves no room to doubt that it was Israel’s leaders, not Arab leaders, who never missed an opportunity to close the door to peace).
Professors Mearsheimer and Walt (the distinguished authors of The Israel Lobby) have declared that the best way of dealing with the lobby is “to encourage a more open debate… in order to correct existing myths about the Middle East and to force groups in the lobby to defend their positions in the face of well informed opposition.” (My emphasis added).
The problem for Zionism (as I’m sure Mearsheimer and Walt know) is that its positions are indefensible when they are challenged by those who are armed with the documented facts and truth of history. And that’s why the Zionist lobby is beginning to lose its grip.
My very dear friend Ilan Pappe told me that Zionism was more worried by my book than any other because of its title, which, he agreed, represents a great and profound truth in seven words. The more the citizens of the mainly Gentile Judeo-Christian or Western world become aware that Judaism and Zionism are opposites, the less Zionism’s propaganda maestros will be able to suppress informed and honest debate with the charge, almost always false and malicious, that criticism of Israel is a manifesation of anti-Semitism.
Ilan also offered me this observation:
“Zionism’s main defense is not money and military might but a wall of propaganda lies. If one or two of the main bricks in this wall can be dislodged, the whole thing might collapse faster than any of us would dare to imagine.”
At the time of writing, as in the past, the mainstream media, almost all publishing houses and virtually all politicians are still too frightened of offending Zionism to come to grips with the truth of history as it relates to the making and sustaining of conflict in and over Palestine; but despite this complicity in Zionism’s suppression of the truth of history, one or two of the main bricks in Zionism’s wall of propaganda lies are in the process of being dislodged.
So what are the implications if the Zionist lobby really is beginning to lose its grip?
The short answer is that the next American president will be more free than any of his predecessors to use the leverage he has to require Israel to behave in accordance with international law, and to be serious about peace in accordance with the will of the organised international community as expressed in the spirit as well as the letter of UN resolutions. (If I was writing a speech for the next president, I’d having him saying something like the following to Israel. Until now there have been two sets of rules for the behaviour of nations – one for all the nations of the world excluding only Israel, and one exclusively for Israel. This double-standard is no longer acceptable to the peoples and governments of the world).
If the next American president (or possibly his successor) was prepared to require Israel to be serious about peace on terms which the vast majority of Palestinians and almost all other Arabs and Muslims everywhere could accept, I think that what would actually happen would be determined by how the Jews of the world, and Jewish Amercans especially, responded.
Because the Zionist lobby is beginning to lose its grip, and does not anyway represent the majority of Jewish Americans, it’s my guess that most of them would say, perhaps not out loud: “We are Americans first, and if our president deems it to be in our national interest that leverage be used to require Israel to be serious about peace, so be it.”
But that would be mere acquiescence and it would not necessarily be enough. The hardest core Zionist leadership in Israel, political and military, is quite capable of telling the whole world, including the president of America, to go to hell. Why do I say that?
Many years ago, in private conversation, I asked General Moshe Dayan, Israel’s one-eyed warlord, why Israel had nuclear weapons. I said we both knew Israel didn’t need them vis-à-vis the Arabs. Dayan replied as follows. “Ben-Gurion was not stupid. I’m not stupid. We know how international politics work. We know that a day could come when even our best friends will want us to do something that we would not consider to be in Israel’s best interests.” Dayan meant, and obviously did not want to be more explicit, that if ever a day came when an American president said to Israel, “You must do this,” Israel could say, “Mr.President, don’t push us further than we are prepared to go because, if you do, we will be prepared to use all the weapons at our disposal.” (I am sometimes asked if I think that Bush and Blair would have invaded Iraq if Saddam Hussein had had nuclear weapons. My answer is always “No”)
My main point in summary is this. Even if the Zionist lobby really is losing its grip, and even if, as a consequence, an Amercan president feels himself free enough to use the leverage he has to require Israel to be serious about peace on terms almost all Palestinians, most other Arabs and Muslims everywhere could accept, a just and peaceful resolution of the conflict may still not be possible unless the Jews of the world, and Jewish Americans especially, end their silence on the matter of Zionism’s crimes and use all of the influence with the Jews of Israel.
Footnote: The day that Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews can be published in America, and reviewed by the mainstream media, is that day that I will say, without fear of contradiction, that the power of the Zionist lobby has been broken.