Mhambi has been redeployed.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Expanding Israel is heading for apartheid

US foreign policy is utterly in the grip of a loose but extremely effective group of pro-Isreal lobbyists. And this is not only bad for the US of A, but for Israel as well.

"Shema israel"
Originally uploaded by ido1.

Mhambi attended a speech on Friday evening by John Mearsheimer, who recently together with Stephen Walt, published a highly controversial book called 'The Israel lobby'. Controversial it should not be. It was a well argued but actually rather obvious point he made.

But the fact that it is so controversial just underscores his point. The lobby is stifling an open exchange of ideas around Israel's future.

Unconditional support

Mearsheimer argues that the USA is the only country with any real influence in the region. Consecutive US Governments have thought that the only possible successful resolution of the conflict, is a solution based on the Two States, and would entail the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

Yet even though Israel is the largest recipient of US Aid in the World, has been shielded by the USA in the security council, against express US wishes, Israel has continued to build and expand on Palestinian land.

So, what's the rational explanation for this unconditional support that the USA is giving Israel? It's not justified on strategic grounds. On the contrary, it's a strategic liability because the unconditional support is creating considerable resentment towards the USA in the Muslim world and elsewhere as well.

It can not be explained by US electoral pressure either. Surveys done in the US have shown that although US citizens have sympathy for Israel, this sympathy is not unconditional. They would rather their be a resolution to the Middle East conflict.

Is it not justifiable due to the fact that Israel is a democracy? There are many democracies, like Spain, and New Zealand, and they do not get unconditional support he argues.

So what explains this seeming irrational US foreign policy? The lobby he says. Who is this lobby? They are an extremely successful example of a typical American form of political organization. Another good example is the National Rifle Association.

The lobby consists of many groups, they are not centrally controlled, but are extremely well organized, well funded and very influential. Many of the are in fact Christian Zionists and other fundamentalist Christians and not Jews. And one of their most effective weapons is the smear.

Like for instance calling critics of Israely policy anti-Semites. As an example Mearsheimer mentioned Jimmy Carter, who's book which compared Israely policies with apartheid, was greeted with accusations that he is in bed with clansman David Duke.

So effective is the lobby, that no sitting US politician would dare criticize Israel. A few have, but very few have survived in their posts or progressed in their careers.

The lobby is harming Israel

But the result is not only bad for the USA, its actually harming Israel as well. Why?

Israel has basically three options if it does not choose the way of the Two State Solution and continues to pursue the path of a greater Israel.

The first is that greater Israel becomes a regular democracy affording all its citizens, including the Palestinians equal rights.

But says Mearsheimer, if he was a Jewish Israeli he would not be too excited by this option. Bi-national states do not have a very good track record. And what's more, soon the Palestinians will outnumber the Jews. (I would hazard a guess that not many Afrikaners would endorse this option as a sensible course for Israel to take.)

The second option is a kind of ethnic cleansing. This does not have to necessarily mean mass killings. But the expulsion of all the Palestinians from Palestine. It's unlikely that the Palestinians would leave without considerable resistance though. I say.

The third option is to have the Palestinians as second class citizens, so that they can not gain power even if the Jews are a minority. This option inevitably leads us to apartheid state.

Not great choices are they?

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Wessel said...

The guys at ItsallmostSuperNatural blog kindly responded to this article, but had difficulty posting, so I'm doing this for them:

Mhambi, I think its sad that what is really just a conspiracy theory has gotten so much mainstream attention.

The idea that a small group of Zionists (this is more sophisticated version) have manipulated American foreign policy for their own ends is just ludicrous against the will of the American people. The truth is that survey after survey shows that the vast majority of Americans are strongly pro-Israel and support the positions taken by successive American governments on this issue.
Many American are deeply religious and support Israel on those grounds. Others see in the Zionist narrative striking resemblances to the founding of their own nation. Others see Israel as a beacon of freedom in a very despotic part of the world and that freedom is under threat. Why there is not the same feeling for France and Spain is the neighborhood in which they live. When in previous decades freedom in Europe was under attack America rallied to her side be it in the 2nd World War or the Cold War.

I think the situation in South Africa is much more interesting. A Pew survey actually found that the majority of South African consider themselves more pro-Israel than Palestinian and yet our foreign policy does not reflect this. Maybe you should be looking for a lobby to blame.


Wessel said...

Well there are other examples of US special interest groups that do exactly what you describe. The Cuban exiles for instance. Which is to make the US government take positions that the American people do not really care for a great deal.

He agrees with you that US citizens do have an affinity for Israel, and he also says the US should act as a guarantee Israel's safety.

But the lack of open debate he says is leading Israel down a path which is becoming more dangerous for the US and Israel itself.

In their words:

"When Howard Dean called for the United States to take a more ‘even-handed role’ in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Senator Joseph Lieberman accused him of selling Israel down the river and said his statement was ‘irresponsible’. Virtually all the top Democrats in the House signed a letter criticising Dean’s remarks, and the Chicago Jewish Star reported that ‘anonymous attackers . . . are clogging the email inboxes of Jewish leaders around the country, warning – without much evidence – that Dean would somehow be bad for Israel.’

This worry was absurd; Dean is in fact quite hawkish on Israel: his campaign co-chair was a former AIPAC president, and Dean said his own views on the Middle East more closely reflected those of AIPAC than those of the more moderate Americans for Peace Now. He had merely suggested that to ‘bring the sides together’, Washington should act as an honest broker. This is hardly a radical idea, but the Lobby doesn’t tolerate even-handedness."

And Mike you do not address the second point. And this is more interesting to me. Surely an expanding Israel is harmful to Israels interests?

And anybody that would like to see a state for the jews, in other words the USA and other friends, should impress this upon them?

As regards to our governments position. In case you have not noticed, they also supported Burma in the security council (I doubt most South Africans would have.) They also supported Sudan in blocking pro gay NGO's affiliating with the UN.

And they also forgot to update our electricy grid, thus possibly causing us a loss of jobs and percentage points off our GDP.

All these things makes me think that our government really does not give two hoots about what voters think or human rights or even their own people's welfare and are very ideological in their policy choices.

That they ideologically support the Palestinians should come as no surprise to you though. The ANC today sees itself foremost as an indigenous nationalist movement against colonialists.

Wessel said...

Another post from Mike at Its Almost Supernatural:

That the lobby is stifling debate on Israel is the most laughable of arguments. If it were true how then would he be able to publish his book (a best seller)? The american and international media is full of criticism of Israel. And the Israeli media is even more robust in this regard. I advice you to read haaretz where you will quickly see that there are no holy cows in Israeli society. Even a former American president (Jimmy Cater) has come out strongly against Israel. So ironically he disproves by his actions that the lobby is all powerful.

Do some Jews play the anti-Semitism card. Sure. We have that same phenomenon here in South Africa as well as with the ANC playing the race card. While I generally do oppose it as a basis for argument, I do think that some (certainly not all or most) criticism of the ANC and the Israeli government does have racist overtones. I am afraid that a conspiracy theory about Jews controlling the world is a very old anti-Semitic canard. You must understand why then people get so upset by this argument.

The government of Israel, Steve and I all support your second point. We want a 2 state solution to avoid all of your horrible scenarios. It is the only way to secure Israel as a Jewish and democratic state which is our objective. But unfortunately peace talks or partitions requires negotiations. And we have just not had a sufficient partner on the Palestinian side for that. Israel even tried to do it unilateral something Steve and I both supported but which has failed horribly. Also you must understand the deep historical and religious connection between Jews and what will be the future state of Palestine. Many of our holiest cities are there. A mechanism needs to be found that allows Jews to continue to worship at those sites safely.

Wessel said...

Mearsheimer makes exactly the point you are making. He mentions that internationally there is allot more open debate about Israel than in the USA. Especially in Israel itself and he mentioned Haarets by name as an example in the talk.

But he says its a completely different ball game in the USA and according to him, the USA is the only game that really matters.

Mearsheimer as you might know was a very respected, well published and uncontroversial political theorist until very recently.

When he wrote the article that became the book, the publishers at the last minute refused to publish it. He could not find a publisher in the USA! But the London Review of Books pounced on it. The rest is history.

The book was on the political bestseller list of Amazon, and Obama's campaign wanted an add to run next to this list. When they were contacted that their add was running next to this book, Obama's people pulled the add immediately.

Mearsheimer says that in two branches of government there is no debate about Israel what-so-ever:"A key pillar of the Lobby’s effectiveness is its influence in Congress, where Israel is virtually immune from criticism. This in itself is remarkable, because Congress rarely shies away from contentious issues. Where Israel is concerned, however, potential critics fall silent. One reason is that some key members are Christian Zionists like Dick Armey, who said in September 2002: ‘My No. 1 priority in foreign policy is to protect Israel.’...

There is no doubt about the efficacy of these tactics. Here is one example: in the 1984 elections, AIPAC helped defeat Senator Charles Percy from Illinois, who, according to a prominent Lobby figure, had ‘displayed insensitivity and even hostility to our concerns’. Thomas Dine, the head of AIPAC at the time, explained what happened: ‘All the Jews in America, from coast to coast, gathered to oust Percy. And the American politicians – those who hold public positions now, and those who aspire – got the message.’

AIPAC’s influence on Capitol Hill goes even further. According to Douglas Bloomfield, a former AIPAC staff member, ‘it is common for members of Congress and their staffs to turn to AIPAC first when they need information, before calling the Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service, committee staff or administration experts.’ More important, he notes that AIPAC is ‘often called on to draft speeches, work on legislation, advise on tactics, perform research, collect co-sponsors and marshal votes’.

The bottom line is that AIPAC, a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on Congress, with the result that US policy towards Israel is not debated there, even though that policy has important consequences for the entire world. In other words, one of the three main branches of the government is firmly committed to supporting Israel. As one former Democratic senator, Ernest Hollings, noted on leaving office, ‘you can’t have an Israeli policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here.’ Or as Ariel Sharon once told an American audience, ‘when people ask me how they can help Israel, I tell them: “Help AIPAC.”’

Thanks in part to the influence Jewish voters have on presidential elections, the Lobby also has significant leverage over the executive branch. Although they make up fewer than 3 per cent of the population, they make large campaign donations to candidates from both parties. The Washington Post once estimated that Democratic presidential candidates ‘depend on Jewish supporters to supply as much as 60 per cent of the money’. And because Jewish voters have high turn-out rates and are concentrated in key states like California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania, presidential candidates go to great lengths not to antagonise them."

The reason Carter came out was exactly because he was a former US president and not an aspiring one.
Et etc.

He also mentions the media:

"The Lobby’s perspective prevails in the mainstream media: the debate among Middle East pundits, the journalist Eric Alterman writes, is ‘dominated by people who cannot imagine criticising Israel’. He lists 61 ‘columnists and commentators who can be counted on to support Israel reflexively and without qualification’. Conversely, he found just five pundits who consistently criticise Israeli actions or endorse Arab positions. Newspapers occasionally publish guest op-eds challenging Israeli policy, but the balance of opinion clearly favours the other side. It is hard to imagine any mainstream media outlet in the United States publishing a piece like this one.

‘Shamir, Sharon, Bibi – whatever those guys want is pretty much fine by me,’ Robert Bartley once remarked. Not surprisingly, his newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, along with other prominent papers like the Chicago Sun-Times and the Washington Times, regularly runs editorials that strongly support Israel. Magazines like Commentary, the New Republic and the Weekly Standard defend Israel at every turn."

Mearsheimer says there is nothing like the variety of opinions in the USA that you find in the media in Israel itself.

So if the Government of Israel does support the two state solution, why are the settlements still being expanded while in fact they should be dismantled? Is this not madness or is it just hubris?

I don't think the ostracizing of Hamas is going to lead you anywhere either, even though they have blood soaked actions and rhetoric. but then previously you had the PLO that you did not negotiate with either.

I realise the situation is more complicated than people think, I mean just look at South Africa. But it just seems to me as an Afrikaner, the jews are very lucky. They do have their homeland. Why risk it all?

You know the meeting I attended were full of left inclined starry eyed Canadians, that very much found Israel abhorrent. They booed Mearsheimer when he insisted that Israel was a democracy. And he bristled with indignation when they compared what is happening in Israel to the holocaust and very eloquently detailed why what they are saying is ridiculous.

I think critical friends are worth allot more than religious inspired sycophants.

I recommend you read the article above. It might surprise you.