ISRAEL AND TOP ZIONIST LEADERS ATTACK INTELLIGENCE
December 8, 2007
“The most important thing (sic) that should be said about Bush is that had I told him that I was opposed to this move (Annapolis meeting), he wouldn’t have embarked on it. I could have blocked the move. Had I been unwilling to co-operate with him, Bush wouldn’t have coerced me….I spoke to the President with unparalleled sharpness about these matters (bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities) and my comments were extremely well received – regarding the freedom (to bomb Iran) we are reserving for ourselves and what we will and won’t do.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Haaretz November 29, 2007.
During and immediately after the Annapolis meetings to discuss peace, Israel abducted the student president of Beir Zeit University for dissent, launched over 50 attacks on Gaza killing and wounding over 50 Palestinian civilians, police and militia, set in motion a vast building project of 250 new apartments in Palestinian East Jerusalem, projected permanent Israeli military posts in the West Bank, rejected any time limits or specific goals in their negotiations with the PLO and launched a virulent dismissal of the major US intelligence report (National Intelligence Estimate) on the non-existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Israel’s presence at Annapolis had absolutely nothing to do with peace or promises to negotiate in good faith: Their purpose was to deflect attention from their meat-grinder style genocidal policies in Gaza and their relentless drive to savagely dispossess all Palestinians of any territory or semblance of autonomy, literally turning off the lights (energy), gas and water to 1.4 million Palestinians residing in Gaza. Since September 11, 2001 the Israeli state, Zionists inside the US government and the entire leadership of the Major American Jewish Organizations have been entirely devoted to pushing the US into Middle East wars on behalf of Israel. In the run-up to the Iraq War, Zionists in top strategic decision-making positions in the Pentagon, the Vice President’s Office, the White House and the National Security Council designed and executed war policy, fabricated evidence, wrote Presidential speeches, organized press conferences and presidential agendas, purged critics in the military and intelligence agencies and altered intelligence reports to suit their purposes.
Israeli and Zion-Con success in destroying Iraq however was secured at an enormous cost in US military casualties, demoralization and one trillion dollars (and counting) in cost to the US taxpayers. As a result, public opinion dramatically shifted against the war, despite the intervention of the Israeli regime in shaping US public opinion via its army of ‘Israel-First’ academic and journalistic scribes and propagandists with broad access to the US mass media.
As I pointed out in an earlier article, the devastating effects, which the Israeli-Zioncon-promoted Iraq War has had on the US military, and intelligence agencies, led to widespread opposition within the US state to the Israeli-Zionist push for mounting a new war against Iran. This historic struggle over Iran policy split the top echelons of the Washington policy making. On the one hand, the Israeli Firsters controlled or influenced the White House, the majority of Congress and key Congressional committee chairpersons, the financing of both major political parties, the leading presidential candidates and the bulk of the mass media. The opposition was led by senior active and retired military officers, backed by the great majority of middle level officers and ground troops, especially the reserves. The entire range of top intelligence officials were disgusted by the ‘Israel Firsters’ in the Pentagon because of their distortion of their previous reports and fabrication of ‘intelligence’ via newly invented agencies and their reliance on Israeli disinformation over US intelligence.
This monumental struggle within the government was not merely about US military policy toward Iran (which is crucial) but also about who rules the US, who commands the US military and who formulates intelligence reports that inform policy, and more basically whose interests are being served. The military command in the Middle East, led by Admiral William Fallon, came out publicly opposing the Israeli-Fifth Column policy to bomb Iran. The active commanders were meekly backed by the rubber-spined Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, and surreptitiously (at first) by the top intelligence chiefs. The Zion-Cons retaliated by launching the White House and Congress in a crusade to escalate economic sanctions and to ‘keep the military option’ on the table. Every major Israel-First academic and propaganda think tank followed up the Israeli war planning with a wave of op-ed articles and interviews throughout the mass media about Iran’s immediate nuclear threat. The President, who does nothing contrary to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (as trumpeted by Olmert himself), pronounced an apocalyptic message to the world in October 2007 (six weeks before the National Intelligence Estimate was finally released) proclaiming the advent of ‘World War Three’ against Iran’s nuclear weapons program and the threat of a nuclear attack (a ‘holocaust’) by Iran against the people of the US and Israel.
The White House was privy to the findings in the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran at least 9 months before they were made public, as witnessed by President Cheney’s frequent interventions to alter their content and conclusion and repeated efforts to postpone their publication because it undermined the basis for their push to attack Iran. The Israeli government and its US Fifth Column, well aware of the forthcoming publication of the findings of sixteen top US intelligence agencies, did everything in their power to precipitate a US war with Iran, from issuing hair-raising tales of the ‘existential threats to Israel’s survival’ to encouraging, rousing bellicose speeches by AIPAC, Zionist and Jewish community leaders. Israel went to war with Iran’s ally (Hezbollah) in Lebanon, bombed Syria which has a mutual security pact with Iran, escalated Israeli-trained Kurdish terrorist attacks across the Iranian border in order to provoke Iranian retaliation – to no avail. AIPAC and its Congressional allies led by Israeli-US Senator Lieberman pulled all stops to force a conflict, increasing sanctions against bankers and corporations dealing with Iran and even labeling the Iranian military special force, the ‘Republican Guards’ as an illegal ‘terrorist organization’ and thus an automatic target of US military attacks under the doctrine of the ‘War against Terror’. The hyper-activity, the vicious military attacks, the strident rhetoric against all critics of the military option, and the urgency, with which the Israelis and their US supporters acted, was not due to any imminent Iranian nuclear threat but a desperate effort to precipitate the war before the US NIE became public and undermined their entire war propaganda campaign and military preparations for an attack.
The NIE findings temporarilyclosed the book on the White House-Israeli-Zionist Big Lie that Iran was engaged in developing weapons to launch a nuclear war. The NIE report refuted its own previous conclusions of 2005, which were heavily influenced by the White House and its Zionist-Israeli backers. The reversal of conclusions was not based on ‘new data’ or information techniques as is claimed. The change resulted from a dramatic shift in the balance of forces within the US government and in particular the strengthening of the US military elite versus the pro-war Zionist Power Configuration, a shift shaped by the enormous and unending American losses in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A key factor in pushing the US intelligence agencies to break with their past subjugation to White House manipulation and Israeli-Zionist fabricated intelligence was the repeated failures and incredible stupidity of the Israeli intelligence agencies – leading to a loss of their credibility. Israeli intelligence blundered and miscalculated on Hezbollah’s strength and organization which led to a debacle when Israel invaded Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Israeli estimates on Iraqi capacity to resist invasion and foreign occupation (so eagerly accepted and propagated by top Zionist Pentagon officials in the lead up to the invasion) led to the now 6 years of a US war of attrition in Iraq with no end in sight. Israel’s intelligence totally underestimated Hamas’ electoral strength in the run-up to their electoral victory over the PLO. Israeli intelligence overestimated the PLO’s military capacity to defeat and destroy Hamas in Gaza. Israel’s claim to have detected a nuclear facility in Syria, which it bombed, was an international joke – as even Moses could not have destroyed a (fictional) nuclear facility without producing a speck of radioactive dust! Learning from Israeli intelligence agencies’ tendency to feed disinformation to its clients in the US Government in order to further Greater Israel’s claims to Mid-East hegemony at the expense of Washington’s long term interests, the US national intelligence community asserted its independence and published its report denying each and every Israeli-Zionist-White House assertion concerning Iran’s nuclear weapons program and, in particular, pointing to the end of research into nuclear weapons as far back as the fall of 2003.
Israel Rejects the US NIE
While governments, the United Nations and experts around the world recognized the rigorous, systematic, comprehensive methods used to compile the data leading to the report declaring that Iran was free of nuclear weapons programs, one and only one state objected: The Jewish State of Israel. And in the USA only one nationwide configuration of organizations refused to reconcile itself to the absence of any Iranian military threat to Israel (not to speak of the US, a distant secondary consideration) and that was predictably the Zionist Power Configuration, specifically the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations.
Speaking for the Israeli Government, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, with the predictable arrogance and contempt that Israeli officials treat any US policy analysis or statement that doesn’t pass their editorial approval and toe their line, dismissed the NIE: ‘We cannot allow ourselves to rest just because of an intelligence report from the other side of the earth (sic) even from our greatest friend’. (Guardian of London, December 4, 2007). Though the NIE may weaken the White House drive to war, the fact that Israel rejects the report means that its war preparations will continue and that means that its entire Zionist Power Configuration in the US will continue to pursue Israel’s interest in destroying Iran.
Following Orwellian logic AIPAC twisted the NIE report to fit Israel’s rejectionist lead (as it never fails to do) by arguing that the NIE report bolsters the case for continued confrontation, belligerency and isolation (Jewish Telegraph Agency, December 4, 2007). In fact according to the perverse argument of AIPAC spokesman Josh Block, the absence of any Iranian nuclear weapons threat should result in greater pressure on Iran! ‘All in all, it’s (the NIE) a clarion call for additional and continued (my emphasis) effort to pressure Iran economically and politically to end its illicit nuclear program.’(Jewish Telegraph Agency, December 4, 2007).
Once again the Israel Firsters – embracing all the major Zionist organizations and community councils – defy all logic, and the most comprehensive and in depth empirical intelligence report of the US in favor of the propaganda emanating from the failed Israeli intelligence agencies and the Israeli regime. In a continuous barrage of articles and television interviews, the entire Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC) buried the NIE report, refocusing attention on themes like ‘Iran’s nuclear program still a threat’ (Daily Alert, December 7, 2007). During the entire week (December 3-7, 2007) the Presidents of the Major American (sic) Jewish Organizations – covering the entire range of financially powerful Jewish organizations in the USA – published an average of nine articles (nearly 50) propagating the Israeli line. The articles disparaged, distorted and dismissed the NIE and continued to push for the ‘military option’ (euphemism for launching a massive attack on Iran) as well as new economic sanctions to destroy the Iranian economy and the livelihood of its 70 million citizens. The euphoria of anti-war critics who claim the NIE report laid to rest the threat of a new US war with Iran is premature, as is their idea that the ‘Israel Lobby’ was dealt a decisive blow. The ZPC never lost a beat: Israel Firster and Zion-Con fanatic, US Treasury Undersecretary, responsible for terrorism and financial intelligence, Stuart Levey, succeeded in convincing China to tighten trade credit, making trade more difficult and costly for Iran’s private sector. (Financial Times, December 6, 2007, p. 1).
Internationally, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary David Millband – a long-time supporter of Israel with close family ties to the Zionist state – predictably followed the Bush-Israel-ZPC line in all but dismissing the NIE report and emphasizing the need to ‘keep the pressure on Iran’. Millband, who on his recent visit to Israel, refused to even pass a glance at Israel’s shutdown of electricity and fuel to the 1.4 million Palestinians caged up in Gaza, spent an entire evening exchanging pleasantries with his settler relatives in Tel Aviv. He accused the non-nuclear Iran of being a major threat to the international community because it produces what he called ‘fissile material’ and ‘missiles’. Every large and medium size country in the world produces enriched uranium and possesses missiles; to impose a sinister construction on Iran’s civilian and defense projects is laughable. (Financial Times, December 6, 2007) Millband dismisses out of hand their civilian application and parrots word for word his Israeli mentors’ line about ‘hidden programs’ and other such unsubstantiated Zionist propaganda. Recent revelations of large-scale, long-term Zionist financing of the highly indebted Labor Party’s electoral campaigns by millionaire moguls and self-proclaimed ‘Labor Friends of Israel’ (Independent, December 6 2007) suggests that Millband’s rapid rise to head the Foreign Ministry had less to do with his minimal international affairs experience and more to do with the ‘special relations’ between millionaire Zionist fundraisers and past and present Labor Party leaders, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
In France President Sarkozy appointed Zionist zealot Bernard Kouchner, (a fervent supporter of humanitarian intervention including the US invasion of Iraq), to head the Foreign Ministry after ‘consultations’ with leading French Jewish organizations, which had rejected an earlier candidate, deemed not pro-Israel enough. Bernie Kouchner and Nicky Sarkozy immediately picked up the Israeli line, dismissing the NIE Report and calling for new economic sanctions even as the original justification (Iran’s so-called nuclear weapons program) was found to be a lie. Nicky and Bernie called for a new UN National Security Council resolution adding greater sanctions against Iran (AFP, December 7, 2007). The Bush-Millband-Kouchner-Israeli logic parallels Stalinist-Nazi logic -- the more the intelligence reports demonstrate the absence of a nuclear weapons program, the greater the nuclear threat; the lesser the present threat, the greater the future threat; the lesser the empirically verifiable threat, the greater the secret threat. The NIE report made liars of the White House and Congressional Democrats and the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations who ‘knew’ Iran had a nuclear weapons program. Even more revealingly, it demonstrates that for the same war mongers, Iranian nuclear weapons is not the motivating force for their drive to attack Iran. Leaving out the weapons motive, it is abundantly clear that attacking Iran through sanctions and military threats is deeply rooted in the Israeli priority of destroying Iran as an adversary to its Middle East power grab and its assault and territorial dispossession of Palestinians.
The ZPC, Millband, Kouchner, Olmert, and the White Houses’ efforts to push for a third round of UN sanctions is likely to be rejected. On December 4, China’s UN Ambassador, Wang Guangya, announced that the NIE report called into question the need for new sanctions, ‘I think we all start from the presumption that now things have changed. I think council members will have to consider that.’ (Al Jazeera, December 5, 2007). China, with $17 billion dollars in direct trade with Iran and up to $30 billion via Dubai, and with Iran as a major Middle East oil supplier and with no Zionist lobby to reinforce Israeli diplomatic pressures, is free to pursue its own national interests. The case can be made that Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, will follow China’s lead and object to new sanctions. Nevertheless, the US Congress and in particular its influential Committee chairpersons continue to blindly follow Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s pronouncement post-NIE: ‘It is vital to pursue efforts to prevent Iran from developing a capability like this (sic) in the United States’. Leading Congressional Israeli-American zealot, Thomas Lantos, convoked a congressional hearing on the NIE Report and invited two top ex-government advisers and ultra-Zion zealots, David Wurmser and Martin Indyk to testify.
There is no question that the anti-(Iran) war groups in the US military and intelligence agencies struck a serious blow to the ongoing war plans of the White House, Israel and their agents in the ZPC. The setback includes a temporary defeat of its massive war propaganda and their fabrication of an ‘existential threat’ to the world community (Israel)’. Nevertheless the publication of the NIE hit the headlines for only a few days, followed by a barrage of hostile propaganda in all of the US mass media which called into question the peaceful intentions of Iran and even twisted certain probabilistic phrases to contradict the main findings.
From the vantage point of Americans trying to free their government and the American public of Israeli and ZPC tyrannical monopoly of opinion, the NIE Report struck a blow against the credibility of the White House and Zionist spokespeople in the Congress, National Security Council, Homeland Security and the Justice and Treasury Departments regarding Iran’s so-called nuclear weapons program. But the quickness, depth and scope of the Israeli response especially magnified by its representatives in the US, the French and British foreign offices, demonstrates that the pro-war Israel Firsters are still deeply embedded in positions of political power and willing to defy the US intelligence and military establishment. Without shame or substance, with aggressive outbursts and manipulative semantical skills, the ZPC moves forward toward new sanctions, despite the systematic empirical refutation of its principle argument. Only a blind, irrational tribal-ethnic loyalty to Israel can account for the ready denial of the NIE report and automatic embrace of Israel’s continued fabrications. As in the thirties when overseas Nazi sympathizers defended Hitler’s’ lies about Communists torching the Reichstag and Communist fellow travelers defended Stalin’s purges as exemplary judicial processes, our Zionists continue to deny every systematic empirical report (like the NIE) which contradicts Israel’s lies and fabrications about Iran’s nuclear weapons programs.
Beyond the important issue of dual loyalties (very much in evidence in the ZPC’s response to the NIE report) there is the re-emergence of the question of a US-backed Israeli war with Iran. The military option will be buttressed by an Israeli military intelligence propaganda report dismissing the NIE. It will claim secret Iranian nuclear weapons programs buried somewhere near the center of the earth and therefore undetected by US intelligence informants, satellite photos, UN inspectors, defecting (or kidnapped) Iranian Generals or any other US source. Only Israel’s superior intelligence agencies (which failed in Lebanon, Iraq and the Gaza Strip), based on its Chosen People (with their unassailable intelligence hot-line to the ‘Omniscient One’ – the same ‘One’ who does the ‘Choosing’) can be right – even if they have to once again ‘cook the data’ to make the case to the uninitiated.
The NIE and the US Military have struck a blow against the planners of World War III. Will this lift the US Congress off its collective knees to finally address US interests in the Middle East? Will it re-awaken a currently moribund peace movement, terrified to confront the most virulent organized warmongers? Will it allow Congress and the US public to challenge the ZPC’s stranglehold on US-Middle East policy?
Will the British public and peace movement dare to challenge a Labor Government and Foreign Office bought and paid for by the ‘Labor Friends of Israel’? Will the French public and intellectuals of Paris recover their republican credentials and reject its first and foremost Israel First regime?
Two weeks after the Annapolis Meeting, Israeli Housing Minister Zeev Boim gave US Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice the ‘bristly cucumber’ (a Mediterranean style ‘slap in the face’) when she pleaded with the Jewish state to stop building new settlements in Palestinian East Jerusalem because, ‘it doesn’t help to build confidence’. Boim went on to say, ‘Secretary of State Rice should be congratulated for her efforts in re-launching the peace process (sic)…but this cannot be constantly linked to the cessation of construction in Jerusalem…There is thus nothing to prevent construction anywhere else in Israel.’ (Al Jazeera, December 8, 2007).
Just as the Jewish state can dismiss its vague promises to the Bush regime on the so-called ‘peace process’ in short order, so does Israel reject the NIE report on the absence of a nuclear weapon program in Iran and prepare for war – backed by the entire ZPC.
Surprisingly it is not liberal or leftist opinion leaders who have raised the relevant issues pertaining to the questions of war and peace in the Middle East, the Israeli-White House threats of starting World War III. It is the spy agencies in the US and their allies in the US military, the paragons of past wars and present destabilization campaigns (read – Venezuela). It is an irony of history. But just the same, this is the real world in which we live, where Western intellectuals and cultural heroes have abdicated their responsibility to challenge the Zionist Power Configuration operating on behalf of an aspiring Middle East colonial power.
James Petras ‘latest books are The Power of Israel in the United
States(Clarity Press 2006) and Rulers and Ruled in the US
Empire:Bankers ,Zionists and Militants(Clarity Press 2007)
Date: Mon, 03 Dec 2007 20:31:11 -0800
From: "Jeff Blankfort"
Subject: American Conservative: The Lobby Strikes Back
"By the end of October, two months after The Israel Lobby appeared in stores, there had not been a single positive review in the mass-market media. For a long time it seemed that no editor dared trust the subject to a gentile, causing blogger Philip Weiss to ask cheekily, “Do the goyim get to register an Opinion Re Walt/Mearsheimer?” By then, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the New York Sun, and The New Republic between them must have printed 25 attacks on Walt and Mearsheimer, virtually all of them designed to portray the authors as beyond the pale of rational discourse....
This is a thoughtful review from the American Conservative which is far better than anything I have seen in the traditional ideologically oriented "Left" journals, another example of how the Left keeps its eyes shut and its mouth closed when the lobby's puppets genuflect to Israel as if that is part of the natural order of things. As the article points out, just like the by-lines of non-Jews can almost never be found on stories regarding Israel, and just like every ambassador to Israel has to be Jewish, any gentile that has the temerity to criticize Israel publicly will quickly find herself or himself branded as an "anti-semite" or considered as such by those "pwogwessive" Jews who act as if they are the only ones (apart from Palestinian Arabs who don't have the same access to the general public) with the right to criticize Israeli policies towards the Palestinians. Hence, we have Jews-only demonstrations of which gentile supporters are not informed and to which they are not invited. Someone, after all, might just show up with a sign that reads "Zionism = Racism."
This sentence alone, further down in the article, is a real winner. Discussing the neocons, McConnell writes: "But in view of their convictions and pivotal positions inside the executive branch and ability to shape policy at the very top, to say that neoconservatives “overlap” with the Israel lobby hardly does them justice: the faction might more properly be described as, to borrow the well-known phrase, the highest stage of the Israel lobby." http://www.amconmag.com/2007/2007_12_03/cover.html
December 3, 2007 Issue
The Lobby Strikes Back
A new book riles the AIPAC crowd, but makes it to the bestseller list anyway.
by Scott McConnell
One prism through which to gauge the impact of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy is a September incident involving Barack Obama. His campaign had placed small ads in various spots around the Internet, designed to drive readers to its website. One turned up on Amazon’s page for the Walt and Mearsheimer book. A vigilant watchdog at the New York Sun spotted it and contacted the campaign: Did Obama support Walt and Mearsheimer?
The answer came within hours. The ad was withdrawn. Its placement was “unintentional.” The senator, his campaign made clear, understood that key arguments of the book were “wrong,” but had definitely not read the work himself. In short, Walt and Mearsheimer had reached a pinnacle of notoriety.
Though The Israel Lobby was on the way to best-sellerdom and has become perhaps the most discussed policy book of the year, the presidential candidate touted as the most fresh-thinking and intellectually curious in the race hastened to make clear he had not been corrupted by the toxic text.
The episode illustrates one of the book’s central arguments: the Israel lobby is powerful, and American politicians fear its wrath. Any Democrat running for president—drawing on a donor stream that is heavily Jewish, very interested in Israel, and perceived as hawkish—would have reacted as Obama did.
In their book’s introduction, Walt and Mearsheimer summarize the consequences of this power. In an election year, American politicians will differ radically on domestic issues, social issues, immigration, China, Darfur, and virtually any other topic. But all will “go to considerable lengths to express their deep personal commitment to one foreign country—Israel—as well as their determination to maintain unyielding support for the Jewish state.” The authors find this remarkable and deserving of analysis, which they provided first in a paper, posted last year on Harvard’s Kennedy School website and published in the London Review of Books, and now expanded into a book.
This is not the first time a prominent American has taken on the subject. George Ball, undersecretary of state in the Johnson and Kennedy administrations and the government official most prescient about Vietnam, a bona fide member of the Wall Street and Washington establishments, called for the recalibration of America’s Israel policy in a much noted Foreign Affairs essay in 1977, and at the end of his life co-authored a book on the subject with his son. Eleven-term congressman Paul Findley, defeated after a former AIPAC president called him “a dangerous enemy of Israel,” wrote a book that became a bestseller, and there are others.
But no one with the combined skills and eminence of Walt and Mearsheimer has before addressed the subject systematically. These two are mandarins of American academia, having reached the top of a field that attracts smart people. They have tenure, job security, and professional autonomy most journalists lack. They have the institutional prestige of Harvard and the University of Chicago behind them. Most importantly, they bring first-rate skills of research, synthesis, and argument to their task.
One might wish that their book had been different in some ways—more literary, more discursive, more precise in some of its definitions, deeper in some areas, more (my favorite, from blogger Tony Karon) “dialectical.” But The Israel Lobby is an extraordinary accomplishment, completed with great speed—a dense, factually based brief of an argument that is often made but rarely made well.
In public appearances discussing their book, Walt and Mearsheimer are tremendously effective: measured, facts at their fingertips, speaking with the fluency of men accustomed to addressing demanding audiences. Most of all, while treating a subject where hyperbole is common, they are moderate. They are respectful of Israel, admiring of its accomplishments, and extremely aware that criticism of Israel or the Israel lobby can turn ugly and demagogic. As might be expected of top scholars in America, they are fully conscious of what Jews have suffered in the past and how much anti-Semitism has been a moral blot on the West as a whole. So while they have none of the excessive deference, guilt feelings, and reluctance to engage so typical of the remaining WASP elite, they are very well-modulated. Their detractors would have preferred loose-tongued adversaries, Palestinians whose words are raw with loss and resentment, a left wing anti-Zionist like Noam Chomsky, or genuine anti-Semites. Instead, with Walt and Mearsheimer, they are encountering something like the American establishment of a vanished era at its calm, patriotic best.
It is obvious that The Israel Lobby, both the article and the book, would be extremely unwelcome to those pleased with the status quo. Under the current arrangement, the United States gives Israel $3-4 billion in aid and grants a year—about $500 per Israeli and several orders of magnitude more than aid to citizens of any other country. Israel is the only American aid recipient not required to account for how the money is spent. Washington uses its Security Council veto to shield Israel from critical UN resolutions and periodically issues bland statements lamenting the continued expansion of Israeli settlements on the Palestinian land the Jewish state has occupied since 1967. When Israel violates U.S. law, as it did in Lebanon by using American-made cluster bombs against civilian targets, a low-level official may issue a mild complaint. These fundamentals of the relationship go unchallenged by 95 percent of American politicians holding or running for national office.
Walt and Mearsheimer’s goal was to ignite a conversation about the lobby—which they define expansively as an amorphous array of individuals, think tanks, and congressional lobbying groups that advocate Israeli perspectives—and its consequences, which they believe are damaging to America’s core strategic interests in the Middle East. They support Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, and while they readily summarize Israeli blemishes, drawing on Israeli sources and the arguments of the country’s revisionist “new historians,” they are fully aware that no modern state has been built without injustices. They seek a more normal United States relationship with Israel, rather like we have with France or Spain, and an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement that can start to drain the poison out of American relations with the Arab world.
At least in a preliminary sense, they have started a discussion. The initial working paper on the Kennedy School website was downloaded 275,000 times, throwing Israel’s most ferocious partisans into a panic. Deploying a McCarthyite tactic, the New York Sun quickly sought to link the authors to white supremacist David Duke. The New Republic published a basketful of hostile pieces. Several pro-Israel congressmen initiated an embarrassing effort—ignored by the institution’s president—to get the Naval War College to cancel scheduled lectures by the two. In a column about “the Mearsheimer-Walt fiasco,” neoconservative writer Daniel Pipes summed up his dilemma: it would have been better, Pipes said, to have ignored the essay by “two obscure academics” so that it disappeared “down the memory hole” instead of becoming “the monument that it now is.” Pipes was wrong about this. Hostile reaction to the piece hadn’t inspired a quarter of a million downloads. With the United States mired in a quagmire in Iraq, increasingly detested in the Muslim world, and wedded to an Israel policy that, beyond America’s borders, seems bizarre to friend and foe alike, Walt and Mearsheimer had touched a topic that was crying out for serious analysis.
And the book could do more than the article. Arguments could be filled out, footnotes could be easily read. The 2006 Lebanon War—which saw the American Congress endorse the Israeli bombardment by the kind of margin that would satisfy Nicolae Ceausescu, while seeming genuinely puzzled that moderate Arab leaders did not join their applause —was analyzed as a test case. A book could continue the discussion and deepen it. But the book’s enemies (how odd that a book could have enemies, but there is no better word for it) had time to prepare their ideological trenches, and within a month or two of publication, one could see the shape of the defense.
By the end of October, two months after The Israel Lobby appeared in stores, there had not been a single positive review in the mass-market media. For a long time it seemed that no editor dared trust the subject to a gentile, causing blogger Philip Weiss to ask cheekily, “Do the goyim get to register an Opinion Re Walt/Mearsheimer?” By then, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the New York Sun, and The New Republic between them must have printed 25 attacks on Walt and Mearsheimer, virtually all of them designed to portray the authors as beyond the pale of rational discourse.
Anti-Semitism was not a credible charge. The authors make clear that the lobby isn’t representative of the views of all or even most American Jews, and they support an Israel within recognized boundaries. Their recommendation that the United States treat Israel like a normal country is hard to demonize. Ditto their repeated assertions that lobbying is a perfectly normal part of the American system and that conflicted or divided loyalties have become commonplace in the modern world. But what many did was to discuss the book in a context of anti-Semitism, to convey the impression that The Israel Lobby was a deeply anti-Semitic book without explicitly saying so. Thus Jeffrey Goldberg, in a 6,000-word New Republic piece, introduced Walt and Mearsheimer after a detour through Osama bin Laden, Father Coughlin, Charles Lindbergh, and, of course, David Duke. He eventually called the book “the most sustained attack … against the political enfranchisement of American Jews since the era of Father Coughlin.”
Samuel G. Freedman in the Washington Post opened his discussion of the book by invoking the New Testament concept of original sin, whose burden one can escape only through acceptance of Jesus Christ. A passage from Romans, Freedman claims, framed the book’s argument—“if unintentionally.” When was the last time the Washington Post introduced a serious foreign affairs book with Bible talk that had no bearing on the work in question?
One of several Wall Street Journal attacks on the work claimed, “it is apparently the authors’ position that ... [in the face of Arab lobbying efforts] American Jews are obliged to stay silent.” This statement is more than a misrepresentation of Walt and Mearsheimer’s argument, it is a flat-out lie. Did the editors who assigned and published the piece know this? Was discrediting the book so important that normal American journalistic standards had to be waived?
Another track of the demonization campaign was the repeated effort to cancel the authors’ appearances or to demand that opposing speakers be invited to “rebut” their noxious views, a format hardly typical for authors on book tours. Unfortunately, these initiatives sometimes succeeded, as when the Chicago Council for Global Affairs cancelled an event at a venue where the two professors had spoken many times before. Some efforts to marginalize the book were more like parody, as when Congressman Elliot Engel complained that Professor Mearsheimer had been invited to participate in a Columbia University forum on academic freedom.
It would be naïve to think that the campaign waged against the authors had no impact. It managed to muddy the debate about the book. Even on some of the wonkier Washington blogs, where there was manifest interest in contending with the book’s arguments, the focus got shifted to whether The Israel Lobby was anti-Semitic. As one frustrated commenter on Ezra Klein’s blog wrote, “[P]art of the theory is that the power of the ‘lobby’ is to effectively remove certain topics from the debate. And the closest we come to debating those topics is a meta-discussion of whether debating those topics is appropriate or some evidence of anti-semitism/self hating Jewry.” Klein rued that “marginalizing the authors as anti-semitic is more effective than arguing back their viewpoint.”
The barrage also had an intimidation effect, a sort of “shock and awe” for the political journalism set. What humble book-review editor could fail to be impressed by the sheer volume of rhetoric painting the book as disreputable or avoid wondering what bombs might explode under his own career if he asked former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft or Palestinian-American professor Rashid Khalidi to review the book. Television producers took note as well. While Mearsheimer managed an amiable ten minutes on “The Colbert Report,” the authors got nowhere near the regular public-affairs discussion shows. Scholars and writers got the message: if men as esteemed in their field as Walt and Mearsheimer were subject to the Coughlin/Duke treatment and had their appearances cancelled, surely those less cushioned by tenure and eminence had good cause to keep silent. This probably explained the sheer ferocity of the campaign against The Israel Lobby.
Not all the negative reviews were as egregious as those cited above. But those that tried to address the substance of the book tended to land weak blows. Les Gelb’s critique in the New York Times was representative. His central point was that if the Israel lobby—actually, he incorrectly claimed that Walt and Mearsheimer called it a “Jewish lobby” —was indeed so powerful, why has every American president over the past 40 years “privately favored” the return of the Palestinian territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state, and why has Washington consistently “expressed displeasure” at Israel’s settlement expansion? This is precisely the question to which Walt and Mearsheimer provide an answer. If, as is indeed the case, most American presidents have “privately” sought Israeli withdrawal, and since Israel is extraordinarily dependent on American largesse, why has the United States never seriously put pressure on Israel to stop the settlements and give back the land? How did Israel manage to move 400,000 settlers into the West Bank in 40 years, often using American funds, if this was contrary to the wishes of every president? Gelb goes on to acknowledge that Walt and Mearsheimer were prescient in their opposition to Bush’s Iraq folly, but asserts that the Israel lobby had nothing do with the decision to go to war. Bush and Cheney needed no lobbying on this point, and they don’t about Iran either.
This last area is easily the most disputed point between Walt and Mearsheimer and those reviewers who sought to answer their book rather than smear it. The Israel lobby, the two assert, helped drive the United States into Baghdad. It couldn’t have done it by itself—that required 9/11 and Bush and Cheney. But, argue Mearsheimer and Walt, “absent the lobby’s influence, there almost certainly would not have been a war. The lobby was a necessary but not sufficient condition for a war that is a strategic disaster for the United States.”
This is a powerful polemical charge, if only because tens of millions of Americans who could care less who has sovereignty over the West Bank recognize that the Iraq War has been a painful failure on every level. But is it true? The Economist says the argument about Iraq “doesn’t quite stand up,” but might make sense if “neoconservatives and the Israel lobby were the same thing.” Leonard Fein, who writes on the dovish Americans for Peace Now website, called the charge “monstrous” and accused the authors of treating the lobby and neoconservatives “as if the two are interchangeable.” Are they?
On one aspect of the argument, the historical record is clear. The two authors do valuable service by documenting the near hysterical “attack Iraq now” recommendations made by various Israeli politicians to American audiences during the run-up to the war. Benjamin Netanyahu, whom the U.S. Congress customarily treats with the kind of deference it might reserve for a Lincoln returned from the dead, warned senators and congressmen that Saddam was developing nukes that could be delivered in suitcases and satchels, and Shimon Peres told Americans that Saddam was as dangerous as bin Laden. The lobbying was so blatant that some political consultants warned Israel to cool it, lest Americans come to believe that the war in Iraq was waged “to protect Israel rather than to protect America.” AIPAC, too, pushed for the invasion. It is clear that the Israel lobby, as everyone understands it, was part of the rush-to-war atmosphere that swept the capital in 2002.
But the critics do have a point: AIPAC and similar groups played a comparatively minor part in the frenzy. But what of the neoconservatives, who had openly pushed for war against Saddam since the late 1990s and who held several key posts in the Bush administration?
For Walt and Mearsheimer, neoconservatives are an integral part of the lobby, and indeed, for their argument to make sense, the lobby has to be defined broadly. Of course there is AIPAC, which exists to influence Congress, and its myriad associated groups that raise money for candidates. The recent emergence of Christian Zionism as an electoral force is an important addition, adding ethnic and social diversity and increased political weight to the lobby. This is a sociologically and psychologically rich area, which the authors don’t explore as deeply as they might. What currents in American Protestantism suddenly made Israel so compelling? It is interesting to learn, for example, that in 1979, Menachem Begin gave Jerry Falwell a private jet as a gift and soon after bestowed upon him the Jabotinsky Medal for “outstanding achievement.” (Other recipients include Elie Wiesel and Leon Uris.) But such facts, intriguing as they are, don’t entirely speak for themselves. And whatever enhanced political clout Christian Zionism brought to the lobby, it did not include access and influence to inner decision-making sanctums of the Pentagon and White House or the ability to start a war.
That required the neoconservatives. The path that took the United States from 9/11 to Iraq has yet to be precisely documented, but it is generally accepted that Bush, Cheney, and other key policymakers became converts to neoconservative views after the attack, if they weren’t already sympathetic. This is important because neoconservatism has a broad gravitational pull that more focused lobbying groups, no matter how effective, can never match.
It is one thing to motivate a senator or congressman to vote for “pro-Israel” legislation—and AIPAC does that well. The recent Kyl-Lieberman bill labeling Iran’s military “terrorist” was reportedly first drafted by AIPAC, and an AIPAC aide’s boast that he could have the signatures of 70 senators on a napkin within 24 hours was altogether believable.
But that kind of lobbying has obvious limitations. How many of those 70 senators would vote the lobby’s way while discretely rolling their eyes, disliking the pressure they are subjected to but willing to go along because it is the course of least resistance? People don’t start wars for such reasons.
Neoconservatism is something far more than advocacy of the interests of a foreign country. It is a full-blown ideological system, which shapes the way people interpret events and view their own society and its relation to the world. Yes, its foreign-policy views are strongly pro-Israel. The main shapers of neoconservatism would readily argue that their foreign-policy positions were good for Israel, while those they opposed imperiled the Jewish state. No one who has spent time with major neocons would doubt the centrality of Israel to their worldview or their attachment to the no-compromise-with-Arabs parts of the Israeli political spectrum. But such attitudes come embedded in a larger set of viewpoints, which are now fairly disseminated among the American elite. While it is one thing for a lawmaker to accommodate the Israel lobby over something like the Kyl-Lieberman bill, it is quite another for an executive-branch policymaker to see the world through a neocon perspective, to have fully internalized slogans like “moral clarity” and “Islamofascism” and “the lessons of appeasement” and elevated them as lodestars.
Neoconservatives did play a crucial role in preparing the Iraq War—in the press, in generating dubious intelligence conclusions and piping them into the executive branch, and in framing an argument that George Bush would be “surrendering” to terror if he didn’t attack Iraq. It was a performance that more conventional lobbying organizations like AIPAC or the Zionist Organization of America couldn’t match in their wildest dreams. Walt and Mearsheimer don’t go into this history deeply. (In The Assassin’s Gate, New Yorker writer and author George Packer gives one of the most nuanced portraits of the attitudes of the Bush administration’s intellectuals, exploring the difficult to pin down matter of how intellectuals’ attitudes seep into policy choices.) But in view of their convictions and pivotal positions inside the executive branch and ability to shape policy at the very top, to say that neoconservatives “overlap” with the Israel lobby hardly does them justice: the faction might more properly be described as, to borrow the well-known phrase, the highest stage of the Israel lobby.
Moreover, as an ideological movement, neoconservatism has a reach that more focused pro-Israel advocacy could never duplicate. Does one call Donald Rumsfeld a neoconservative? Few do. While obviously quite capable, he isn’t known as an intellectual, isn’t Jewish (though of course not all neocons are Jewish), isn’t an ex-liberal or leftist. He is usually described as a Republican “nationalist,” though he pretty much delegated Iraq policy to men—Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, and others—who fit most classical definitions of “neoconservative.” But there are connections: in the 1980s Rumsfeld was enlisted by Midge Decter to chair the neoconservative Committee for the Free World, so certainly the neocon cast of mind was not unfamiliar to him. In short, just as the boundaries of the Israel lobby are blurry, so are those of neoconservatism. The revival of terms like “fellow traveler” would probably be helpful.
The most striking aspect of the reception of The Israel Lobby was the distance between the reviews in the U.S. and those abroad. In England, reviewers for the major papers (including the Murdoch-owned Times) treated the book’s argument as self-evidently true. Geoffrey Wheatcroft, author of a prize-winning book on Zionism, noted in The Guardian that it must be obvious to a 12 year old that the Israel alliance, “far from advancing American interests, gravely damages them and has hindered every American endeavour in Arab countries or the whole Muslim world.” Israel’s most influential paper, Ha’aretz, ran a review by Daniel Levy, who was involved in the last serious round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. He told his readers that Walt and Mearsheimer’s most shrill detractors either had “not read the book, are emotionally incapable of dealing with harsh criticism of something they hold so close, or are intentionally avoiding substantive debate on the issue.” Like others, Levy draws a line between the neocons and the Israel lobby proper and explains the Iraq War as a sort of perfect storm: Bush and Cheney, 9/11, many neoconservatives in the executive branch, and for the first time a Republican administration with Christian Zionists as a substantial part of its electoral base. He regrets that mainstream parts of the lobby have been co-opted by the neocons and closes with a plea for moderate Israelis to take American politics seriously and devote as much attention to forming American alliances as the Israeli Right does. This is very welcome advice, for Americans as well, because, as Walt and Mearsheimer stress (and Levy helpfully repeats), it is not Israel per se but Israel as an occupier that constitutes a major strategic liability for the United States.
But it should be noted that casual newspaper readers in Israel, in Britain, and soon in the rest of Europe, where the book is being translated into seven languages, are being treated to far more nuanced and serious discussion of The Israel Lobby than Americans have been.
At least there has been the blogosphere. One wouldn’t know it from the major American newspapers or magazine reviews, but a fresh breeze is beginning to blow. The Israel Lobby did receive more attention on the serious blogs than any other book this year. M.J. Rosenberg, the director of policy analysis for Israel Policy Forum and a prominent “two-state solution” advocate, describes the influence of the book as enormous: “Capitol Hill staffers are talking about the book, everybody is arguing about it, people are intrigued. … it has opened up discussion.”
Despite, or perhaps because of, ferocious attacks in The New Republic and the Wall Street Journal, The Israel Lobby made it onto the New York Times bestseller list. It remained there only a couple of weeks, soon displaced by Alan Greenspan’s memoir and Laura Ingraham’s latest. But the book’s influence is still early in its trajectory. International sales will be large, there will be paperback editions, and the book will be assigned in course readings. The Israel Lobby will be around a long time, perhaps longer than AIPAC itself. Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery has already compared the work to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Philip Weiss to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. To build upon Tony Karon’s analogy that glasnost is breaking out in the American Jewish community, and that younger Jews are questioning Israel like never before, The Gulag Archipelago didn’t receive good reviews in Russia when it came out either.
Walt and Mearsheimer haven’t written the last word on American-Israeli relations. Other books, more psychologically probing and more discursive, are in the works or waiting to be written. But in clearing the first path since the pivotal date of 9/11, these two authors have done their country a great service.
AIPAC Pushing US to War with Iran for Israel: http://neoconzionistthreat.blogspot.com/2007/10/re-aipac-is-pushing-us-to-war-with-iran.html
Here is a tiny URL of the above one: http://tinyurl.com/22br9u
Newt Gingrich Propagandist for Israel: http://neoconzionistthreat.blogspot.com/2007/12/newt-gingrich-propagandist-for-israel.html
Here is a tiny URL for the above one: http://tinyurl.com/yv55zp
Israel considering strike on Iran despite US intelligence report http://www.itszone.co.uk/zone0/viewtopic.php?p=402392#402392
JINSA/PNAC/AEI Neocon Richard Perle Still Playing Chess With The Middle East (for Israel): http://tinyurl.com/37ksut
Iran War: American Military vs. Israel Firsters: http://www.itszone.co.uk/zone0/viewtopic.php?p=400387#400387
Additional at the following URLs: http://neoconzionistthreat.blogspot.com http://nomorewarforisrael.blogspot.com