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THE LEFT AND THE ISRAEL LOBBY – by Joseph Anderson, Dissident Voice

by Joseph Anderson, Berkeley, CA Monday, Jun. 19, 2006 at 3:28 PM

Now that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer have broken the taboo in the mainstream American media establishment of not only pointing out that the Israel lobby exists, but actually analyzing it from their perspective, the only place that open discussion, analysis and debate about the lobby remain firmly taboo is, ironically, ON THE LEFT! It’s a taboo imposed on the left by certain leftist icons and their suppression – if not censorship – of free expression and debate on this topic in progressive venues (lectures, panels, press or broadcast). Even some Palestinian-Americans have been forced to knuckle under to these leftist icons’ denial of the power of the Israel lobby in exchange for those icons’ or certain progressive/leftist groups’ political support. For example, as of this writing, where is an informed rebuttal to Noam Chomsky's dismissive position on the Lobby or at least an honest, open debate about the lobby on the national radio program Democracy Now? So, I wanted to incisively debunk at least some of the major arguments used by certain Left icons in denying the power and influence of the Israel lobby in U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and in suppressing discussion of its power domestically. Now, some people will bring up a red herring list of other possible influences in U.S. Mideast foreign policy to deny my analysis, but here I am dealing with THE ISRAEL LOBBY and how leftist icons respond to that topic. My ultimate position is: whatever our positions on the lobby, do we get to honestly discuss and debate it in formal public settings? Please read more:

.



The Left and the Israel Lobby

by Joseph Anderson



There have been prominent responses to the recent debate over the influence of the Israel lobby sparked by the article, “The Israel Lobby,” by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, which was recently published in the London Review of Books. Some – predictably – condemn any attempt to raise the issue as “anti-Semitic” – metaphorically screaming, “Israel lobby? What Israel lobby?” This is arguably the largest lobby based in D.C. In fact, one might somehow surmise its power by the sheer marshalling of vehemence and overwhelming forces with which its power is denied.

The very people who, on the one hand, insist that there is no proof of the Israel lobby’s power, or say that it’s too difficult to study in Washington’s overall political environment, on the other hand, typically attack anyone as “anti-Semitic” who attempts to conduct the very research and analysis whose study could provide such proof.

One has not been allowed even to raise the very question about the Israel lobby (now finally broached in the establishment press by Mearsheimer & Walt), let alone study and investigate it, without being labeled, slurred or at least insinuated as being “anti-Semitic.” When these sharp attacks come from iconic and otherwise authoritative leftist intellectuals, I call it not only unethical and morally negligent (the Israel lobby being one of the most significant obstacles to justice for the Palestinians), but downright anti-intellectual. Indeed, they typically refuse to debate the issue publicly, but rather merely make one-sided strawman potshots and dismissals.

Other prominent progressives – including (sometimes closeted) Zionist apologists on the Left (headed by Left guru Noam Chomsky) – now employ a more sophisticated approach. Instead of denying the existence of the Israel lobby altogether or calling others “anti-Semitic” (or like Stephen Zunes’ fallback attack, saying it “parallels anti-Semitism,” in effect attacking questioners as thinking like anti-Semites), they admit to the existence of the Lobby, but dismiss it as inconsequential.

(I never understood the apparent proclivity of many in the Left not to be able to hold more than one factor in their minds at the same time: it, indeed, seems to be always either-or, instead of possibly both-and.)

“The Lobby is not the real problem,” they say; thus saying that progressives should just completely ignore it – but after that attempt at dissuasion, if you don’t, you must be anti-Semitic. But an analysis of these dissuaders’ arguments shows that they are rife with contradictions and, ultimately, just as analytically unpersuasive as the cruder ravings from their colleagues on the Right.

Unfortunately typical of these leftist minimizers of the Lobby is Norman Finkelstein, whom this writer otherwise greatly respects, but whose recent article entitled, "It's Not Either/Or: The Israel Lobby," appeared in the May Day, 2006, issue of Counterpunch. In fact, before a private respectful email debate with this writer, Finkelstein’s position, as I perceived it, was, indeed, much more like the old Chomsky line of absolute dismissal of the Lobby. But, the critical contradictions remaining in Finkelstein’s position still jump out almost immediately to examined analysis.

For example, Finkelstein asserts that, “[a]part from the Israel-Palestine conflict, fundamental U.S. policy in the Middle East hasn't been affected by the Lobby.” But in the very same paragraph, he concedes that, “the alliance with Israel has abetted the most truculent U.S. policies…. The spectrum of U.S. policy differences might be narrow, but in terms of impact on the real lives of real people in the Arab world these differences are probably [probably?] meaningful, the Israeli influence making things worse.” And later in the same article, he admits that, “[i]n terms of alienating the Arab world, [the U.S.] had something to lose” by associating itself with Israel.

In an attempt to resolve the inconsistency of the above (no doubt obvious even to him), Finkelstein attempts to make a distinction between U.S. foreign policy with regard to the Palestinian issue, and that relating to “elsewhere in the Middle East.” However, these issues cannot be so cleanly separated. Because of the reaction (which Finkelstein admits is one of alienation to America) of much of the Arab populace to the mistreatment of the Palestinians, U.S. foreign policy with respect to Palestine inevitably impacts its relations with all other Middle Eastern countries.

The longer the Israeli-Palestinian conflict goes unresolved with no justice for the Palestinians (millions held stateless and others under ‘Jim Crow’), and the more various regimes in the Middle East are seen as having obeisance to U.S. pressures, the greater the movement toward popular (especially Islamic-based) resistance to those regimes. U.S. policymakers surely must know this.

Finkelstein essentially concedes the above when he presents his next argument for minimizing the importance of the Lobby: the U.S. relationship with Israel does affect the U.S. relationship with the remainder of the Middle East after all, but that’s what the U.S. wants. Israel, by this reasoning, is merely a proxy for the United States: it is the puppet, and the U.S. makes it dance.

The difficulty with this argument is that puppets don’t behave the way Israel does. The Israel lobby doesn’t fall all over itself trying to demonstrate to American politicians that Israel is an obedient and useful lackey. Quite the contrary: the Lobby puts its vast resources and constituent mobilizations into bullying and threatening these very same politicians in order to get its way. And woe unto any politician who doesn't comply.

But why would the Lobby – if Israel were indeed the essential tool of American imperialism that Finkelstein, et al., claim – need to be so aggressively threatening? That would only make sense if there were actually a genuine danger that many American politicians – absent those formidable and unignorable threats – might conclude that, in fact, Israel is not a very useful, let alone prerequisite proxy. (After all, foreign proxies are supposed to be doing our fighting there for us: we just supply any necessary arms, technical assistance and satellite reconnaissance.) Which in turn begs the question – how has Israel really served, if arguably at all, rather than upset, U.S. interests?

The first claim that is often made is that Israel helps the U.S. to create political instability in the Middle East, thereby enabling U.S. dominance of the region. The instability is obvious (even if its benefit to the U.S. is a matter of debate).

There is also the inane counterclaim to any assertions of the power of the Israel Lobby that, absent the Lobby, U.S. foreign policy in the “Third World” would still be nefariously imperialist. Well, duh-uhh…!: The answer is of course it would! The Israel lobby doesn’t oppose the imperialist interests of the U.S. in the Middle East; rather, it changes how the U.S. exercises those interests.

However, there is nothing magical about Israel in this respect. When so desired, the U.S. has always seemed to be able to manage to foster domestic instability in almost every Third World country or region of the globe without first setting up or sponsoring the creation of a non-native, apartheid state like Israel. Even absent Israel, the Middle East would be no exception. There is no great love between various regimes ruling Middle Eastern countries; any imperialist worth the name would find a way to continually exploit these differences.

The second claim, which is a specious fallback refinement of the above, is that while, yes, other countries could, theoretically, serve as tools of U.S. imperialism in the region, Israel is “unique and irreplaceable.” Because Israel is essentially a Western country, this argument goes, it will therefore always be loyal to the U.S.; this, in contrast to other regimes that the U.S. props up, only to see them overthrown by popular – and anti-American – uprisings, such as against the Shah in Iran. Israel is therefore, as Finkelstein put it, “the only stable and secure base for projecting U.S. power in this region.”

However, Western sponsorship and a Western cultural identity do not necessarily guarantee unwavering loyalty and subservience to the U.S. Ask the British! They originally thought that Israel’s founders would never turn Zionist guns and bombs on them. Or ask the surviving sailors of the USS Liberty. In fact, it is that very "Western" orientation of Israel – and its accompanying colonialist outlook toward the "inferior peoples" of the Middle East – that drives its own imperialist ambitions. Israel, with the help of the Israel lobby, obviously wants to dominate the region and, if that’s accomplished, that means that Israel’s regional strategic interests may then significantly diverge from those of the U.S.

This doesn’t mean that Israel will ever be directly hostile to the U.S. For example, Europe and Japan are firmly in the Western camp, and are certainly not anti-American by any reasonable stretch of the imagination, and yet they nevertheless pursue their own economic and strategic interests. In many respects, they are rivals to U.S. imperial hegemony. Israel, should it succeed in unequivocally dominating the Middle East as it clearly wishes to do, could develop in the same direction. In the meantime, as Finkelstein points out, the Lobby significantly raises the point at which the "until and unless" threshold of Israel becoming a major liability is reached. Israel wasn’t eternally bound to the British empire after all: it found a new close ally. As a result, it is hardly a mere proxy (much less an irreplaceable one); rather, its relationship to the U.S. is far more complex.

It is this complexity that the minimizers of the Israel Lobby gloss over. They persist in framing the Lobby strictly as acting on behalf of an entirely external entity, wholly foreign to the U.S. economic and political establishment, and thus they attempt to persuade the Left that such a separate entity couldn’t possibly convince an imperialist superpower like the United States to act against its own interests. However, this is a ridiculous oversimplification, demonstrating a profound lack of understanding about how our system of government works.

In reality, the Israel lobby simultaneously operates both as an external interest and as internal "special" interest, represented within a faction of the U.S. ruling class and establishment that wishes to see the United States pursue an unequivocally Israelocentric foreign policy in the Middle East. This faction or special interest commands enormous power due to its domestic political (especially, voter) base: something that no other external, third-party interests possess the ability to do. As such, Israel and its American lobby represent a particular strain of American imperialism.

However, another faction has come to fore, and the debate breaking out in the mainstream represents a clash of viewpoints between these factions: the unequivocally Israelocentric faction (currently represented by the Bush administration) and the non-unequivocally-Israelocentric faction (represented by the Mearsheimer-Walt paper and implicitly articulated by Brzezinski). As the geopolitical cost and the (in part) Israelocentric strategy failure of the war in Iraq grows greater, this domestic intra-imperialist clash of strategies have become visible to the public. What the Mearsheimer & Walt paper is saying is that, under the circumstances, we need to be able to debate this strategy, if not yet in the Congress, at least in the public and our other institutions.

Some may ask why progressives should care whether various internal factions within the ruling class are fighting with each other. Ironically, Finkelstein answered this question himself: it is because these differences have an "impact on the real lives of real people in the Arab world [and many millions of Palestinians alone]..., the Israeli influence making things worse." The Israel Lobby, as he put it, "makes a huge and baneful difference." It is therefore incumbent upon all those who seek peace and justice in the Middle East to combat that baneful influence.



__________________________________________________________________________________

Joseph Anderson is a resident of Berkeley, CA, an occasional contributing political essayist to various

publications, a local media monitor, and a grassroots progressive political activist.



http://www.dissidentvoice.org/June06/Anderson08.htm



.

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TITLE AUTHOR DATE
Ego driven wack job Tired of JA, hatin' and baitin' Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 9:48 AM
SchtarkerYid Watch JA fall apart Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 9:56 AM
Lobby Watch Wheres' Aipac? Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 11:56 AM
The article is a double post Scapegoated Jew Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 11:59 AM
The other thread was flooded with Zionist spam there they go again Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 3:18 PM
The twin thread was inundated with truth Scapegoated Jew Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 3:43 PM
Where's AIPAC? good question Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 4:03 PM
"by good question Monday, Jun. 19, 2006 at 7:03 PM " noise Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 4:39 PM
nessie "the signal of truth" -- haw! gehrig Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 5:34 PM
More names than what I listed tia Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 6:53 PM
tia's not the brightest bulb in the box: she's the _broken_ one. good question Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 7:19 PM
"nessie" off topic Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 7:25 PM
Bent, battered, burnt but not broken Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 7:25 PM
Oh, yeah, Rhodes scholar "dim" bulb Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 7:32 PM
And you, Nessie quite focused Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 7:34 PM
"you" off topic again Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 8:50 PM
you know the zionists are desperate when they harp on the Asbestos Study Group! zionists are killers in more ways than one! Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 8:52 PM
on zionism, asbestos and posting while drinking Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 9:06 PM
oh tia & pwd, look here: tia's too funny Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006 at 10:56 PM
To to follow. Its not hard Tia Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 4:04 AM
"they harp on the Asbestos Study Group!" no surprise Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 5:08 AM
They also harp on AARP harpist Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 5:21 AM
Chomsky on why JA is wrong Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 5:29 AM
SchtarkerYid Spammer is back Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 9:07 AM
I don't like spam. SchtarkerYid Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 9:10 AM
SchtarkerYid must be Toady Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 9:12 AM
Zionists, you've proved your point: AIPAC is just a toothless tiger. they can't handle the truth! Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 9:24 AM
Bigger fish to fry Tia Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 9:27 AM
So what's the problem, O spammer bozo? Scapegoated Jew Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 9:30 AM
SchtarkerYid must be Toady Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 9:33 AM
SchtarkerYid must be Toady-typical anti-zionist Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 9:40 AM
More on why Chomsky is wrong: CounterPunch on Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 9:43 AM
Listen, 'toady' Scapegoated Jew Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 9:47 AM
'toady', I've begun spamming Indybay Scapegoated Jew Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 10:11 AM
Did I mention that I like men? Scapegoated Jew Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 10:14 AM
Scapegoated Jew Suggestion Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 10:24 AM
I am spamming indybay. Scapegoated Jew Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 10:40 AM
Scapegoated Jew one question, 'toady' Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 10:45 AM
I see, Tia, chronic MECA basher, has 2 lists: one for AIPAC and another for MECA! Liechtenstein anyone? Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 10:45 AM
Scapegoated Jew re: "Liechtenstein anyone?" Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 11:01 AM
And I like men. Scapegoated Jew Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 11:03 AM
Your donation dollars at work Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 11:22 AM
"a lovely home in Sausilito" off topic Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 11:29 AM
"They are sooooooo predictable" bunk logic Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 11:32 AM
Not an ad hominem T'uh Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 11:33 AM
Scapegoated Jew off topic for a sec Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 12:01 PM
Wrong again, zionist breath i suppose blankfort is next Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 12:12 PM
Poow wittaw anti-Zionist vikkatumms! Scapegoated Jew Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 12:31 PM
believe what you want to believe, zionist - it's never stopped you before Wrong again, zionist breath Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 1:55 PM
who'da thought gehrig Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 2:06 PM
I am kind of beleaguered by the murderous cherubs you support Scapegoated Jew Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 2:27 PM
a good day for Israel gehrig Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 5:19 PM
who'da thought gehrig was as dim a bulb in the box as tia! Wrong again, zionist breath Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 5:35 PM
I remember!!! But it wasn't by a Zionist Becky Johnson Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 7:28 PM
Oh ME the poor "Scapegoated Jew": might makes right, huh? Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 10:37 PM
Meca's finances Tia Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 2:22 AM
...Dim-witted, slope-browed, slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging??? Becky Johnson Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 4:52 AM
About the coins.... Becky Johnson Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 5:00 AM
Palestinian currency = dollars gehrig Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 6:19 AM
You support Hamas, right? Scapegoated Jew Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 6:31 AM
Oh 'yeah', you're just _SO_ important Tia: you MUST be eliminated! Osama bin Laden Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 8:23 AM
On to another person with self-delusions of grandeur: to two nuts in a pod Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 8:35 AM
_GOOD!_ and GOOD RIDDANCE! to two nuts in a pod Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 8:42 AM
Retorting to a supportter of Muslim Supremacism Scapegoated Jew Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 8:52 AM
SchtarkerYid Didn't see JA Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 8:53 AM
Follow the momey Tia Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 9:18 AM
Damnit! We'll get you NEXT time, Tia. Osama bin Laden Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 9:21 AM
Will the rally be reported on ZombieTime? Scapegoated Jew Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 9:23 AM
Tia, why don't you just hold your breath until it does. to two nuts in a pod Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 9:25 AM
no single ethnic group morally "owns" a modern country note Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 10:17 AM
Jews consider themselves all related _by blood_ -- i.e., RACIALIZED. to _three_ nuts in a pod Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 10:18 AM
The mad antisemite keeps on raving Scapegoated Jew Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 10:49 AM
gehrig you _know_ this clown SJ? to _three_ nuts in a pod Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 12:18 PM
SchtarkerYid Looking for you JA Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 12:29 PM
SJ is testing his resource material for 'The Fritz & Scapegoated Jew Show"! to _three_ nuts in a pod Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 2:13 PM
There they go again so predictable Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 3:09 PM
SchtarkerYid just more Nessie droppings Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 3:12 PM
Maybe JA just got dumber and SY is right Scapegoated Jew Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 3:29 PM
So tell us, Thug, just wondering Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 3:51 PM
Now tell us, 'nessie' Scapegoated Jew Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 3:56 PM
Some rally photos on Indybay Tia Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 5:04 PM
to SJ: sorry to _TWICK_ you with the facts! to _three_ nuts in a pod Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 10:40 PM
begging the question, a typical Zionist ploy bunk logic Thursday, Jun. 22, 2006 at 10:55 PM
Noam Chomsky: a lightning rod? HR Friday, Jun. 23, 2006 at 4:57 AM
Wasting bandwidth is no substitute to readjusting psycho-active meds Scapegoated Jew Friday, Jun. 23, 2006 at 9:35 AM
SchtarkerYid it occurrs to me that... Friday, Jun. 23, 2006 at 9:52 AM
wha'sa matter SJ? you afraid to give JA the _whole_ names?: PUT UP or SHUT UP. i smell jewish CHICKEN soup! Friday, Jun. 23, 2006 at 2:45 PM
So JA, is it true??? Becky Johnson Friday, Jun. 23, 2006 at 3:25 PM
Yo JA- junior debate coach Friday, Jun. 23, 2006 at 3:35 PM
The Windy Wendy syndrome Scapegoated Jew Friday, Jun. 23, 2006 at 3:36 PM
it's so easy to rattle the zionists' cages and get 'em spooked i smell jewish CHICKEN soup! Tuesday, Jun. 27, 2006 at 3:42 PM
Juif Antagoniste, your cover is blown in case you missed that part Scapegoated Jew Tuesday, Jun. 27, 2006 at 3:55 PM
Rumor on the streetis you've been banned from Indybay Is it true JA? Tuesday, Jun. 27, 2006 at 4:06 PM
this is a wrap to _three_ nuts in a pod Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2006 at 12:47 AM
four thousands words gehrig Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2006 at 3:46 AM
IDF did...forcibly drove out the Arab residents Becky Johnson Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2006 at 7:41 AM
Yup, the NOI Palinazi back wasting bandwidth Scapegoated Jew Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2006 at 9:55 AM
"claims to the land of Israel" history buff Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2006 at 11:09 AM
claims to Falastin history buff Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2006 at 11:29 AM
"by history buff Tuesday, Jun. 27, 2006 at 2:29 PM " there they go again Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2006 at 12:24 PM
"by there they go again Tuesday, Jun. 27, 2006 at 3:24 PM " there he goes again Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2006 at 12:30 PM
so predictable see what I mean? Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2006 at 12:36 PM
"see what I mean?" debate coach Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2006 at 1:03 PM
"by debate coach Tuesday, Jun. 27, 2006 at 4:03 PM " just wondering Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2006 at 1:08 PM
"by just wondering Tuesday, Jun. 27, 2006 at 4:08 PM " curious Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2006 at 1:35 PM
SchtarkerYid Nesse droppings stunt another thread Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2006 at 1:59 PM

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