- Israel lobby in the United States
The Israel lobby in the United States is a term used to describe the loose coalition of groups and individuals who attempt to influence American foreign policy in support of Israel and its policies. [The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M Walt, Allen Lane (UK Edition), p113] Mearsheimer, John J. and Walt, Stephen.
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, " London Review of Books", Volume 28 Number 6, March 22, 2006. Accessed March 24, 2006.] Mitchell Bard[http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/lobby.html The Israeli and Arab Lobbies] ", Jewish Virtual Library, published 2006, accessed August 26 2006.]
According to former
American Israel Public Affairs Committeeofficial, Mitchell Bard, the "Israeli (or pro-Israel) lobby" is composed of formal and informal components. These components "tend to intersect at several points so the distinction is not always clear-cut."
Bard defines the "informal lobby" as the indirect means through which "Jewish voting behavior and American public opinion" influence "U.S. Middle East policy."
Bard describes the motivation underlying the informal lobby as follows:
American Jewsrecognize the importance of support for Israel because of the dire consequences that could follow from the alternative. Despite the fact that Israel is often referred to now as the fourth most powerful country in the world, the perceived threat to Israel is not military defeat, it is annihilation. At the same time, American Jews are frightened of what might happen in the United States if they do not have political power."
The formal component of the Israel lobby consists of organized lobby groups,
political action committees, think tanksand media watchdog groups. The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks lobbies and PACs, describes the ‘background’ of the ‘Pro-Israel’ as [ [http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/background.asp?cycle=2008&ind=Q05 Pro-Israel: Background | OpenSecrets ] ] ,
A nationwide network of local political action committees—generally named after the region their donors come from—supplies much of the pro-Israel money in American politics. Additional funds also come from individuals who bundle contributions to candidates favored by the PACs. The donors' unified goal is to build stronger U.S.-Israel relations and to support Israel in its ongoing negotiations (and armed conflicts) with its Arab neighbors.There are, according to Bard, two key formal lobbying groups:
American Israel Public Affairs Committee(AIPAC) which directly lobbies the legislative branch of the U.S. Government
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizationswhich "is the main contact between the Jewish community and the executive branch" of the U.S. Government.
These two key groups aim to present policy makers with unified and representative messages via the aggregation and filtering of the diversity of opinions held by smaller pro-Israel lobby groups and the American Jewish community at large. The diverse spectrum of opinions held by American Jewry is reflected in the many formal pro-Israel groups, and as such some analysts make a distinction within the Israel lobby between right-leaning and left-leaning groups.
US Foreign Policy scholars
John Mearsheimerand Stephen Waltdefine the core of the lobby as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Anti-Defamation Leagueand Christians United for Israel. [Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p113] Other key organizations which they state work to benefit Israel, in many cases by influencing US foreign policy, include the American Jewish Congress, Zionist Organization of America, the Israel Policy Forum, the American Jewish Committee, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Americans for a Safe Israel, American Friends of Likud, Mercaz-USA, and Hadassah[Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p116] . Chaim Waxman in 1992 in the American Jewish Yearbook listed more that 80 Jewish organisations specifically devoted to Zionist and pro-Israel activities. [Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p116] Fifty one of the largest and most important come together in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, whose self described mission includes “forging diverse groups into a unified force for Israel’s well-being” and working to “strengthen and foster the special US-Israel relationship” [Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p117]
John Mearsheimerand Stephen Waltstate in their best-selling book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policythat the contemporary Israel lobby is dominated by a number of right-leaning organizations. They state that the tone of the right-leaning component of the Israel lobby results from the influence of the leaders of the two top lobby groups: AIPAC, and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. They go on to list, as right-leaning think tanks associated with the lobby, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Hudson Institute. They also state that the media watchdog group Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in Americais part of the right-wing component of the lobby.
They state that the tone of the right-leaning component of the Israel lobby results from the influence of the leaders of the two top lobby groups:
AIPAC, and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. They go on to list, as right-leaning think tanks associated with the lobby, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Hudson Institute. They also state that the media watchdog group Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in Americais part of the right-wing component of the lobby.
In his book, "The Case for Peace",
Alan Dershowitzargues that the most right-leaning pro-Israel groups in the United States are not Jews at all, but in fact, they are Evangelical Christians. Dershowitz cites " [http://www.ifcj.org/site/PageServer?pagename=SFI_homepage Stand for Israel] , an organization devoted to mobilizing Evangelical Christian support for Israel" co-founded by " [f] ormer Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed."Dershowitz, Alan. "The Case For Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can Be Resolved". Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005.] Although the rhetoricof most groups like Stand for Israel is as pragmatic as their Jewish-based counterparts, some individuals have based their support on specific biblical passages, thus they have been vulnerable to criticism from Israelis and American Jews for having "ulterior motives" such as the fulfillment of "prerequisite to the Second Coming" or having "better access for proselytizing among Jews." [Berger, Matthew E. [http://www.ujc.org/content_display.html?ArticleID=75363 "Motives Questioned as Christians Rally for Israel."] " United Jewish Communities". 3 December 2006] Madeleine Albright has expressed similar views (see below).
April 2008, J Street, the first and only federal pro-peace, pro-Israel Political Action Committee(PAC), was established. Its goal is to provide meaningful political and financial support to candidates for federal office from Americans who believe a new direction in American policy will advance U.S. interests in the Middle East and promote real peace and security for Israel. Founded by former President Bill Clinton advisor Jeremy Ben Amiand policy analyst Daniel Levy and supported by prominent Israeli politicians and high-ranking officers (see Letter of support from prominent Israeli leaders), J Street supports diplomatic solutions over military ones, including in Iran; multilateral over unilateral approaches to conflict resolution; and dialogue over confrontation with a wide range of countries and actors. Stephen Zunes, in a response to Mearsheimer and Walt, lists "Americans for Peace Now, the Tikkun Community, Brit Tzedek v' Shalom, and the Israel Policy Forum" as "pro-Israel" organizations that, unlike the right-leaning organizations focused on by Mearsheimer and Walt, are opposed to "the occupation, the settlements, the separation wall, and Washington's unconditional support for Israeli policies." Stephen Zunes, [http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/3270 The Israel Lobby: How Powerful is it Really?] , Foreign Policy in Focus, May 16, 2006, accessed August 27, 2006.] These organizations, however, are not PACs and therefore are prohibited by campaign finance regulations from financially supporting political campaigns of candidates for federal office.
Means of influence
The means via which the Israel lobby exerts influence are similar to the means via which other similar lobbies, such as the
National Rifle Associationand the AARP(formerly known as "American Association of Retired Persons"), exert influence.
According to Bard, "Jews have devoted themselves to politics with almost religious fervor." He cites that "Jews have the highest percentage voter turnout of any
ethnic group" and that of the US Jewish population "roughly 89 percent live in twelve key electoral college states" which alone "are worth enough electoral votes to elect the president. If you add the non-Jews shown by opinion polls to be as pro-Israel as Jews, it is clear Israel has the support of one of the largest veto groups in the country." Bard goes on to say that for United States congressmen "there are no benefits to candidates taking an openly anti-Israel stance and considerable costs in both loss of campaign contributions and votes from Jews and non-Jews alike."
"Most important fact about the Jewish vote in America", according to
Jeffrey S. Helmreichof the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, "lies in the fact that it is a uniquely swayable bloc. [...] The issue of support for Israel [by a candidate] has proven capable of spurring a sizable portion of Jews to switch parties—in large enough numbers to tip the scales in national or statewide elections." [ Amy Wilentz, [http://nymag.com/news/politics/48675/ Who’s Afraid of Jimmy Carter?] , New York Magazine. July 20, 2008. Accessed July 22, 2008.]
"Political campaign contributions", writes Mitchell Bard, "are also considered an important means of influence; typically, Jews have been major benefactors."
According to Bard, objective quantification that the impact of campaign contributions have on "legislative outcomes, particularly with regard to Israel-related issues" is difficult. This is because raw analysis of contributions statistics do not take into account "non-monetary factors" and whether or not "a candidate is pro-Israel because of receiving a contribution, or receives a donation as a result of taking a position in support of Israel."
AIPAC does not give donations directly to candidates, but those who donate to AIPAC are often important political contributors in their own right. In addition, AIPAC helps connect donors with candidates, especially to the network of pro-Israel political action committees. AIPAC president Howard Friedman says “AIPAC meets with every candidate running for Congress. These candidates receive in-depth briefings to help them completely understand the complexities of Israel’s predicament and that of the Middle East as a whole. We even ask each candidate to author a ‘position paper’ on their views of the US-Israel relationship – so it’s clear where they stand on the subject.” [Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p154] Center for Responsive Politics’ Steven Weiss said, “If you are a candidate and you get the pro-Israel label from AIPAC, the money will start coming from contributors all over the country.” [Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p156]
This process has become more targeted over time according to Bard, "In the past, Jewish contributions were less structured and targeted than other
interest groups, but this has changed dramatically as Israel-related political action committees (PACs) have proliferated."
Among politicians considered unfriendly to Israel who AIPAC has helped defeat include
Cynthia McKinney, Paul Findley, Earl Hillard, Pete McCloskey, Senators William Fulbrightand Roger Jepson, and Adlai Stevensonin his campaign for governor of Illinois in 1982 [Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p157-8] . The defeat of Charles H. Percy, Senator for Illinois until 1985, has been attributed to AIPAC-co-ordinated donations to his opponent after he supported the sale of AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia. Donations included $1.1 million on anti-Percy advertising by Michael Goland, who was also a major contributor to AIPAC. [Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p157-8] Former executive director of AIPAC, Tom Dine, was quoted as saying, "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". [ [http://www.newstatesman.com/200709130044 Saying the Unsayable] , Andrew Stephen, The New Statesman, 13 September 2007]
;Financial figuresBard points to a summary of pro-Israel campaign donations for the period of 1990 - 2004 collected by
Center for Responsive Politics. [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/israelpacs.html Pro-Israel Political Contributions] , Center for Responsive Politics, hosted by the Jewish Virtual Library, accessed August 27 2006.] The Washington Post summarized the data and concluded that "Pro-Israel interests have contributed $56.8 million in individual, group and soft money donations to federal candidates and party committees since 1990." [Glenn Frankel. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/12/AR2006071201627_pf.html A Beautiful Friendship] . The Washington Post. July 16 2006.] In contrast, Arab-Americans and Muslim PACs contributed slightly less than $800,000 during the same period. [Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p156] JJ Goldbergwrote in his 1994 book "Jewish Power" that 45% of the Democratic Party’s fundraising and 25% of that for the Republican Party came from Jewish-funded Political Action Committees. [J. J. Goldberg, Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment, ISBN 978-0201327984] Richard Cohen, a columnist for the Washington Post, updated those figures in 2006 citing figures of 60% and 35% respectively for the Democratic and Republican Parties. According to the Washington Post, Democratic presidential candidates depend on Jewish sources for 60% of money from private sources. [Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p163]
Education of politicians
Israel lobbyists also educate politicians by
"taking them to Israel on study missions. Once officials have direct exposure to the country, its leaders, geography, and security dilemmas, they typically return more sympathetic to Israel. Politicians also sometimes travel to Israel specifically to demonstrate to the lobby their interest in Israel. Thus, for example,
George W. Bushmade his one and only trip to Israel before deciding to run for President in what was widely viewed as an effort to win pro-Israel voters' support."
Coalitions with other interest groups
The Israel lobby seeks out other interest groups as coalition partners (a fairly common practice among interest groups) in part, Bard writes, because "even with the Jewish population concentrated in key states, there is still only a total of about six million Jews; therefore, the Israeli lobby is dependent on the support of non-Jewish groups and actively works to form coalitions with broad segments of American society."
The right-leaning component of the Israel lobby, according to Mearsheimer and Walt, finds support from "prominent Christian evangelicals like
Gary Bauer, Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reedand Pat Robertson, as well as Dick Armeyand Tom DeLay[...] all of whom believe Israel's rebirth is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy and support its expansionist agenda; to do otherwise, they believe, would be contrary to God's will." Madeleine Albrightsimilarly noted a "linkage between the Christian evangelicals and a lot of part of the Jewish lobby, if you want to call it that, because the Christian evangelicals in reading the Bible believe that Israel has to be—the people of Israel have to be free so that the Messiah can come back." Madeleine Albright, [http://www.cfr.org/publication/10606/mighty_and_the_almighty_rush_transcript_federal_news_service_inc.html The Mighty and the Almighty] , Council on Foreign Relations, May 1 2006, accessed August 27 2006]
Mearsheimer and Walt state that “pro-Israel figures have established a commanding presence at the
American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Security Policy, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. These think tanks are all decidedly pro-Israel and include few, if any, critics of US support for the Jewish state.” [Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p176]
In 2002, the
Brookings Institutionfounded the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, named after Haim Saban, an Israeli-American media proprietor, who donated $13 million toward its establishment [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EIN/is_2003_June_23/ai_103998774 Saban Family Foundation Announces $100 Million in Charitable Gifts] Find Articles2003-06-23] . Saban has stated of himself, “I’m a one issue guy, and my issue is Israel” [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/05/business/yourmoney/05sab.html?_r=1&oref=slogin Schlepping to Moguldom] , New York Times, 5 September 2004] , and was described by the New York Times as a “tireless cheerleader for Israel.” [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/05/business/yourmoney/05sab.html?_r=1&oref=slogin Schlepping to Moguldom] , New York Times, 5 September 2004] The Centre is directed by AIPAC’s former deputy director of research, Martin Indyk.
Frontline, an Indian current affairs magazine, asked rhetorically why the administration of George W Bush that seemed "so eager to please [Bush's] Gulf allies, particularly the Saudis, go out of its way to take the side of Ariel Sharon's Israel? Two public policy organizations give us a sense of an answer: the
Washington Institute for Near East Policy(WINEP) and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs(JINSA)." [http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2020/stories/20031010000906000.htm The myth of the `Jewish lobby'] , Frontline (magazine), 20(20), September 27 2003, accessed August 30 2006.]
Frontline reported that "WINEP tended to toe the line of whatever party came to power in Israel" while "JINSA was the U.S. offshoot of the right-wing
Likud Party." According to Frontline, JINSA had close ties to the administration of George W Bushin that it "draws from the most conservative hawks in the U.S. establishment for its board of directors" including Vice-President Richard Cheney, and Bush administration appointees John Bolton, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, Zalmay Khalilzad, Richard Armitage, and Elliott Abrams. Jason Vest, writing in the "The Nation" Jason Vest, [http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml%3Fi=20020902&s=vest The Men From JINSA and CSP] , The Nation, September 2, 2002] , alleges that both the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairsand the Center for Security Policythinktanks are "underwritten by far-right American Zionists" and that they both "effectively hold there is no difference between US and Israeli national security interests, and that the only way to assure continued safety and prosperity for both countries is through hegemony in the Middle East -- a hegemony achieved with the traditional cold war recipe of feints, force, clientism and covert action."
Media and Public Discourse
Stephen Zuneswrites that "mainstream and conservative Jewish organizations have mobilized considerable lobbying resources, financial contributions from the Jewish community, and citizen pressure on the news media and other forums of public discourse in support of the Israeli government."
According to CUNY professor of journalism,
Eric Alterman, debate among Middle East pundits, “is dominated by people who cannot imagine criticising Israel”. In 2002, he listed 56 columnists and commentators who can be counted on to support Israel reflexively and without qualification.” Alterman only identified five pundits who consistently criticise Israeli behaviour or endorse pro-Arab positions. [Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p170] Journalists described as pro-Israel by Mearsheimer and Walt include: the New York Times’ William Safire, A.M. Rosenthal, David Brooks, and Thomas Friedman (although they say that the latter is sometimes critical of areas of Israel policy); the Washington Post’s Jim Hoagland, Robert Kagan, Charles Krauthammer and George Will [Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p170-1] ; and the Los Angeles Times’ Max Boot, Jonah Goldbergand Jonathan Chait.
Michael Massingwrites that "Jewish organizations are quick to detect bias in the coverage of the Middle East, and quick to complain about it. That's especially true of late. As The Forwardobserved in late April  , 'rooting out perceived anti-Israel bias in the media has become for many American Jews the most direct and emotional outlet for connecting with the conflict 6,000 miles away.'" Michael Massing, [http://www.thenation.com/doc/20020610/massing The Israel Lobby] , The Nation, June 10, 2002, accessed August 27 2006.]
The Forward relates how one individual feels:
"'There's a great frustration that American Jews want to do something,' said Ira Youdovin, executive vice president of the
Chicago Board of Rabbis. 'In 1947, some number would have enlisted in the Haganah,' he said, referring to the pre-state Jewish armed force. 'There was a special American brigade. Nowadays you can't do that. The battle here is the hasbarahwar,' Youdovin said, using a Hebrew term for public relations. 'We're winning, but we're very much concerned about the bad stuff.'"Rachel Donadio, [http://web.archive.org/web/20020822025326/http://www.forward.com/issues/2002/02.04.26/news8.html For U.S. Jews, the Media Is the (Biased) Message] , The Forward, April 26 2002, accessed via Archive.org August 27 2006]
Indicative of the diversity of opinion is a 2003
Boston Globeprofile of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in Americamedia watchdog group in which Mark Jurkowitzobserves: "To its supporters, CAMERA is figuratively - and perhaps literally - doing God's work, battling insidious anti-Israeli bias in the media. But its detractors see CAMERA as a myopic and vindictive special interest group trying to muscle its views into media coverage." [Mark Jurkowitz, [http://www.hnn.us/comments/8390.html Blaming the Messenger] , "Boston Globe Magazine" February 9, 2003: 10, "History News Network" ( George Mason University) April 24, 2006.]
Former spokesman for the Israeli Consulate in New York said that the result of this lobbying of the media was: “Of course, a lot of self-censorship goes on. Journalists, editors, and politicians are going to think twice about criticising Israel if they know they are going to get thousands of angry calls in a matter of hours. The Jewish lobby is good at orchestrating pressure.” [Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p172]
There are a number of organizations that focus on what could be called "pro-Israel activism" on college campuses. With the outbreak of the
Al-Aqsa Intifadain 2001, these groups have been increasingly visible. In 2002, an umbrella organization, that includes many of these groups, known as the Israel on Campus Coalitionwas formed as a result of what they felt were "the worrisome rise in anti-Israel activities on college campuses across North America". The mission of the Israel on Campus Coalition is to "foster support for Israel" and "cultivate an Israel friendly university environment" [ [http://israeloncampuscoalition.org/aboutus/mission/ ICC Home Page - Israel on Campus Coalition ] ] . Members of the Israel on Campus Coalition include the Zionist Organization of America, AIPAC, Americans for Peace Now, the Anti-defamation League, Kesher, StandWithUs, the Union of Progressive Zionists, and a number of other organizations. There has been at least one conflict among these groups, when the right wing Zionist Organization of America unsuccessfully attempted to remove the left wing Union of Progressive Zionists from the coalition when the latter group sponsored lectures by a group of former IDF soldiers who criticized the Israeli Occupation of the West Bankand Gaza[ [http://www.forward.com/articles/coalition-votes-not-to-toss-liberal-zionists/ "Coalition Votes Not To Toss Liberal Zionists - Forward.com" ] ] .
However, there are some who feel that pro-Israel activism on college campuses can cross the line from advocacy to outright intimidation. One highly publicized accusation comes from former President
Jimmy Carter, who complained of great difficulty in gaining access to a number of universities to discuss his new book . In October 2007 [http://defend.university.googlepages.com/adhoccommitteetodefendtheuniversitysigna about 300 academics] under the name [http://defend.university.googlepages.com/ The Ad Hoc Committee to Defend the University] issued a statement calling for academic freedom from political pressure, in particular from groups portraying themselves as defenders of Israel. [cite news
title=A Call to Defend Academic Freedom
Inside Higher Ed
2007-10-23] In December 2007, the New York Sun reported [ [http://www.nysun.com/article/67761 Pro-Israel Group Puts Emissaries on Campuses] , New York Sun, December 10, 2007] that student leaders who advocate pro-Israel films and groups on college campuses are eligible for being hired as "emissaries of the Jewish state" for their work and will receive up to $1000 a year for their efforts::"A group working to promote pro-Israel sentiment at American colleges is hiring students to act as campus emissaries of the Jewish state. Jewish student leaders from Columbia University, New York University, and Queens College will receive up to $1,000 a year from the advocacy group StandWithUs to bring speakers and films to campus that portray Israel in a positive light." [ [http://www.nysun.com/article/67761 Pro-Israel Group Puts Emissaries on Campuses] , New York Sun, December 10, 2007]
Coordination with Israeli officials
Rabbi Alexander Schindler, former chair of the Conference of Presidents, told an Israeli magazine in 1976, “The Presidents’ Conference and its members have been instruments of official governmental Israeli policy. It was seen as our task to receive directions from government circles and to do our best no matter what to affect the Jewish community.” Hymen Bookbinder, a high ranking official of the American Jewish Committee, said “Unless something is terribly pressing, really critical or fundamental, you parrot Israel’s line in order to retain American support. As American Jews, we don’t go around saying Israel is wrong about its policies.” [Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p121]
Bard writes that "by framing the issues in terms of the national interest, AIPAC can attract broader support than would ever be possible if it was perceived to represent only the interests of Israel. This does not mean AIPAC does not have a close relationship with Israeli officials, it does, albeit unofficially. Even so, the lobby some times comes into conflict with the Israeli government."
Mearsheimer and Walt make the more blunt statement that "American Jewish leaders often consult with Israeli officials, so that the former can maximize their influence in the United States."
Rebuttals to criticism of Israel
Zunes writes that "assaults on critics of Israeli policies have been more successful in limiting open debate, but this gagging censorship effect stems more from ignorance and liberal guilt than from any all-powerful Israel lobby." He goes on to explain that
"given that Israel is the world's only Jewish state and that some criticism of Israel really is rooted inZunes argues that the mainstream and conservative Jewish organizations have "created a climate of intimidation against many who speak out for peace and human rights or who support the Palestinians' right of
anti-Semitism, organized attacks against those opposing Israeli policies tend to carry more resonance since they involve alleged manifestations of prejudiceagainst a minority group. If a Jewish state were not the focus, many liberals would dismiss such attacks as passé McCarthyismand would not take them seriously." self-determination."
Zunes has been on the receiving end of this criticism himself "As a result of my opposition to US support for the Israeli government's policies of occupation, colonization and repression, I have been deliberately misquoted, subjected to slander and libel, and falsely accused of being "anti-Semitic" and "supporting terrorism"; my children have been harassed and my university's administration has been bombarded with calls for my dismissal."
"The many controversial issues concerning Palestine and the path to peace for Israel are intensely debated among Israelis and throughout other nations — but not in the United States. For the last 30 years, I have witnessed and experienced the severe restraints on any free and balanced discussion of the facts. This reluctance to criticize any policies of the Israeli government is because of the extraordinary lobbying efforts of the American-Israel Political Action Committee and the absence of any significant contrary voices. [...] What is even more difficult to comprehend is why the editorial pages of the major newspapers and magazines in the United States exercise similar self-restraint, quite contrary to private assessments expressed quite forcefully by their correspondents in the Holy Land." [Jimmy Carter, [http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1970058,00.html Israel, Palestine, peace and apartheid] , Guardian Newspaper]
George Sorospointed out that there are risks associated with what was in his opinion a suppression of debate:
"I do not subscribe to the myths propagated by enemies of Israel and I am not blaming Jews for anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism predates the birth of Israel. Neither Israel's policies nor the critics of those policies should be held responsible for anti-Semitism. At the same time, I do believe that attitudes toward Israel are influenced by Israel's policies, and attitudes toward the Jewish community are influenced by the pro-Israel lobby's success in suppressing divergent views." [Soros, George. [http://www.nybooks.com/articles/20030 "On Israel, America and AIPAC."] "New York Review of Books", April 12, 2007.]
Degree of influence
Morris Amitay, former AIPAC director “It’s almost politically suicidal…for a member of Congress who wants to seek reelection to take any stand that might be interpreted as anti-policy of the conservative Israeli government.” [Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p160] Michael Massingreports that a staffer sympathetic to Israel told him “We can count on well over half the House – 250 to 300 members – to do reflexively whatever AIPAC wants.” [Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p10] AIPAC official Steven Rosenin an illustration of AIPAC’s power to journalist Jeffery Goldberg put a napkin in front of him and said, “In twenty-four hours, we could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin.” [Mearsheimer and Walt (2007), p10-11]
Secretary of State George Shultzstated "... the notion. U.S. policy on Israel and Middle East is the result of their influence is simply wrong." [Forward by George Shultzin The Deadliest Liesby Abraham H. Foxman] [ [http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2007/09/18/todd.moran.vs.aipac.cnn Video - Breaking News Videos from CNN.com ] ] Tony Judt, writing in the New York Times, asks rhetorically " [does] the Israel Lobby affect our foreign policy choices? Of course — that is one of its goals. [...] But does pressure to support Israel distort American decisions? That's a matter of judgment." [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/19/opinion/19judt.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ei=5087&en=2706f771ea2e35aa&ex=1145592000 A Lobby, Not a Conspiracy] , Tony Judt, New York TimesOp-Ed, April 19, 2006] Dennis B. Ross, former U.S. ambassador and chief peace negotiator in the Middle East under Bill Clinton, who is now an official at WINEP, wrote:
"never in the time that I led the American negotiations on the Middle East peace process did we take a step because 'the lobby' wanted us to. Nor did we shy away from one because 'the lobby' opposed it. That is not to say that AIPAC and others have no influence. They do. But they don't distort U.S. policy or undermine American interests." Dennis Ross, [http://www.foreignpolicy.com/users/login.php?story_id=3508&URL=http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3508 The Mind-set Matters]
Foreign Policy, Jul/Aug 2006 ]
Mitchell Bard has conducted a study which attempts to roughly quantify the influence of the Israel lobby on 782 policy decisions, over the period of 1945 to 1984, in order to move the debate on its influence away from simple anecdotes. He
"found the Israeli lobby won; that is, achieved its policy objective, 60 percent of the time. The most important variable was the president's position. When the president supported the lobby, it won 95 percent of the time. At first glance it appears the lobby was only successful because its objectives coincided with those of the president, but the lobby's influence was demonstrated by the fact that it still won 27 percent of the cases when the president opposed its position."
According to a public opinion poll by
Zogby Internationalof 1,036 likely voters from October 10-12, 2006, 40% of American voters at least somewhat believe the Israel lobby has been a key factor in going to war in Iraq. The following poll question was used: "Question: Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree that the work of the Israel lobby on Congress and the Bush administration has been a key factor for going to war in Iraq and now confronting Iran?" [http://www.cnionline.org/learn/polls/czandlobby/X-CNI.pdf]
Rupert Cornwellcites journalist Edward Tivnanas statinging in 1987 that the "pro-Israel lobby" in the United States had become "an obstacle to peace in the Middle East". [ [http://comment.independent.co.uk/commentators/article356228.ece Rupert Cornwell: At last, a debate on America's support for Israel] " The Independent", April 7 2006] ] Michael Lindproduced a cover piece on the Israel lobby for the UK publication Prospect in 2002 which concluded "The truth about America’s Israel lobby is this: it is not all-powerful, but it is still far too powerful for the good of the U.S. and its alliances in the Middle East and elsewhere.". [ [http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=5003 The Israel Lobby] , Michael Lind, "Prospect" no. 73, April 2002]
Lobbying for a U.S. ally
Israeli academic and peace activist
Jeff Halpersaid that "Israel is able to pursue its occupation only because of its willingness to serve Western (mainly U.S.) imperial interests" and that rather than influencing the United States via the lobby, Israel is actually "a handmaidenof American Empire."
In 2006 former UN weapons inspector in
Iraq Scott Ritterpublished "Target Iran: The Truth About the White House's Plans for Regime Change" (ISBN 1-56025-936-1). In his book Ritter statess that certain Israelis and pro-Israel elements in the United States are trying to push the Bush administration into war with Iran. [ [http://www.forward.com/articles/groups-fear-public-backlash-over-iran/ Groups Fear Public Backlash Over Iran] ] He also accuses the U.S. pro-Israel lobby of dual loyaltyand outright espionage(see Lawrence Franklin espionage scandal) [ [http://www.forward.com/articles/book-israel-lobby-pushing-iran-war/ Book: Israel, Lobby Pushing Iran War] ] .
In a 2008 editorial,
Israeli-American historian and author Michael B. Orenwrote that Israel and the United States are natural allies, despite what the opposition from "much of American academia and influential segments of the media." This is because Israel and the United States share similar values such as "respect for civic rights and the rule of law" and democracy. Israel and the United States share military intelligence in order to fight terrorism. Oren also notes that "more than 70% of [Americans] , according to recent polls, favor robust ties with the Jewish state." [Oren, Michael B. [http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121011902390872015.html "Israel Is Now America's Closest Ally."] " The Wall Street Journal". 7 May 2008. 7 May 2008.]
As detailed earlier, the formal aspect of the Israel lobby, according to some analysts, can be divided into right-leaning and left-leaning components. Of these two components, the right-leaning component is dominant according to Mearsheimer and Walt. They write "Many of the key organizations in the Lobby, such as the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee(AIPAC) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, are run by hardliners who generally support the [right-leaning] Likud Party's expansionist policies, including its hostility to the Oslo Peace Process."
Thomas B. Edsall and Molly Moore reported in the
Washington Postthat some Israeli politicians regard AIPAC, the leading pro-Israel lobby organization, as "representing the more hawkish factions within the Israeli government."Thomas B. Edsall and Molly Moore, [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A62438-2004Sep4.html Pro-Israel Lobby Has Strong Voice] , Washington Post, September 5 2004, accessed August 27 2006] Edsall and Moore go on to quote Yossi Beilin, Israeli Minister of Justice under Ehud Barakand member of the Meretzparty, who complains that AIPAC has "their own agenda [...] They contradicted our [center-left Labor] government. When there was a unity government, they would say, 'But you only represent Labor,' even if I was representing the prime minister."
Media coverage of lobby
Michael Massingargues that there is a lack of media coverage on the Israel lobby and posits this explanation: "Why the blackout? For one thing, reporting on these groups is not easy. AIPAC's power makes potential sources reluctant to discuss the organization on the record, and employees who leave it usually sign pledges of silence. AIPAC officials themselves rarely give interviews, and the organization even resists divulging its board of directors." Massing writes that in addition to AIPAC's efforts to maintain a low profile, "journalists, meanwhile, are often loath to write about the influence of organized Jewry. [...] In the end, though, the main obstacle to covering these groups is fear." Steven Rosen, a former director of foreign-policy issues for AIPAC, explained to Jeffrey Goldberg of " The New Yorker" that "a lobby is like a night flower: it thrives in the dark and dies in the sun." [ Jeffrey Goldberg, [http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/050704fa_fact Real Insiders] , The New Yorker, July 4 2005, accessed August 27 2006.]
The Diane Rehm Show" (December 11, 2006), Middle East experts Hisham Melhem and Dennis Ross, when asked about the pervasive Israeli influence on American foreign policy in the Middle East mentioned in former President Jimmy Carter's 2006 book "" said: [H. Melhem] "When it comes to Israel [discussing Israeli and/or Jewish American issues] , it is still almost a taboo in certain parts, not everywhere...there are certain things that cannot be said about the Israeli government or America's relationship with Israel or about the Israeli lobby. Yes there is, excuse me, there is an Israeli lobby, but when we say an Israeli lobby we are not talking about a Jewish cabal. The Israeli lobby operates the way the NRA operates, a system of rewards and punishment, you help your friends by money, by advocacy and everything, and sometimes they pool money in to the campaigns of those people that they see as friendly to Israel. This is the American game" [http://www.wamu.org/programs/dr/06/12/11.php#12530] . The interview continued on in which the Dennis Ross responded. (radio interview: ≈16:30-20:05)
Numerous books and commentaries by scholars, academics, professors and Government officials have been written criticising the influence of the Israel Lobby on the US Governments foreign policy, especially in the
Some of these are: Professors
John J. Mearsheimerand Stephen Walt's The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, Professor James Petras's The Power of Israel in the United States, Former Representative/Congressman Paul Findley's They Dare to Speak Out, Professor Kevin B. MacDonald's Understanding Jewish Influence and and Professor Norman G. Finkelstein's The Holocaust Industryand Beyond Chutzpah, Jonah Jacob Goldbergs , Former US President Jimmy Carter's Palestine Peace Not Apartheidand Commentary on Palestine Peace Not Apartheidand Professor Tony Judt's [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/19/opinion/19judt.html?ex=1303099200&en=309d2e3dc279ff48&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss A Lobby, Not a Conspiracy]
As well as books published by notable academics, influential government officials have also commented on the Israel Lobby's influence. For example, British Labour MP and House of Commons representative, Sir
Tam Dalyell[ [http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12956,949651,00.html Dalyell may face race hatred inquiry | Special Reports | Guardian Unlimited Politics ] ] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2999219.stm BBC NEWS | Politics | Dalyell's 'Jewish cabal' remarks denied ] ] [ [http://politics.guardian.co.uk/labour/story/0,9061,950116,00.html Dalyell steps up attack on Levy | Special Reports | Guardian Unlimited Politics ] ] [ [http://news.scotsman.com/politics.cfm?id=511982003 Scotsman.com News ] ] [ [http://web.archive.org/web/20041213055343/http://www.nationalvanguard.org/story.php?id=2280 Lies and Deceit Brought the UK Under Zionist Control ] ] [ [http://www.spearhead.com/0404-af.html Alistair Fenner: Is Britain Under Zionist Control? ] ] and American Representative and Congressman James P. Moran[ [http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/03/11/moran.jews/ CNN.com - Lawmaker under fire for saying Jews support Iraq war - Mar. 12, 2003 ] ] [ [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/14/AR2007091402171_pf.html Moran Upsets Jewish Groups Again - washingtonpost.com ] ] [ [http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2007/09/18/todd.moran.vs.aipac.cnn Video - Breaking News Videos from CNN.com ] ]
In relation to special interest groups
Noam Chomsky, political activist and professor of linguistics at MIT, writes that "there are far more powerful interests that have a stake in what happens in the Persian Gulf region than does AIPAC[or the Lobby generally] , such as the oil companies, the arms industry and other special interests whose lobbying influence and campaign contributions far surpass that of the much-vaunted Zionist lobby and its allied donors to congressional races." [Noam Chomsky, [http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=9999 The Israel Lobby?] ZNET, March 28, 2006] Eric Altermanwrites in " The Nation", that "while it's fair to call AIPAC obnoxious and even anti-democratic, the same can often be said about, say, the NRA, Big Pharma and other powerful lobbies." [ Eric Alterman, [http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060501/alterman AIPAC's Complaint] The Nation, May 1, 2006 (posted April 13, 2006)] Zbigniew Brzezinskiagreed stating that " [t] he participation of ethnic or foreign supported lobbies in the American policy process is nothing new." Brzezinski ranks the three most effective ethnic lobbies in the United States as the Israeli American Lobby, the Cuban American lobby and the Armenian American lobby. [Brzezinski, Zbigniew. "A Dangerous Exemption." " Foreign Policy" 1 July 2006: 63.]
Zunes describes that some groups who lobby against current U.S. policy on Israel "have accepted funding from autocratic Arab regimes, thereby damaging their credibility" while others have "taken hard-line positions that not only oppose the Israeli occupation but challenge Israel's very
right to existand are therefore not taken seriously by most policymakers." Zunes writes that many lobbying groups on the left, such as Peace Action, are "more prone to complain about the power of the Israel lobby and its affiliated PACs than to do serious lobbying on this issue or condition its own PAC contributions on support for a more moderate U.S. policy" in the region.
George Soros. [http://www.nybooks.com/articles/20030 On Israel, America and AIPAC] . New York Review of Books. April 12 2007.
*Zev Chafets. "A Match Made in Heaven: American Jews, Christian Zionists, and One Man's Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Evangelical Alliance". HarperCollins, 2007. ISBN 0060890584.
*Murray Friedman. "The Neoconservative Revolution: Jewish Intellectuals and the Shaping of Public Policy". Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN 0521545013.
John Mearsheimerand Stephen Walt. " The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" [http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06-011] . " London Review of Books", Volume 28 Number 6, March 22, 2006.
James Petras. "The Power of Israel in the United States". Clarity Press, 2006. ISBN 0932863515.
*Stephen Schwartz. "Is It Good for the Jews?: The Crisis of America's Israel Lobby". Doubleday, 2006. ISBN 038551025X.
*Glenn Frankel. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/12/AR2006071201627_pf.html A Beautiful Friendship] .
The Washington Post. July 16 2006.
*Janice Terry. "U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East: The Role of Lobbies and Special Interest Groups". Pluto Press, 2005. ISBN 0745322581.
*Timothy P. Weber. "On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel's Best Friend". Baker Academic, 2005. ISBN 0801031427.
Douglas Little. "American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East since 1945". University of North Carolina Press, 2004. ISBN 0807855391.
*Nasser Aruri. "Dishonest Broker: The Role of the United States in Palestine and Israel". South End Press, 2003. ISBN 0896086879.
Paul Findley. "They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel's Lobby". Lawrence Hill, 2003. ISBN 155652482X.
*Paul Findley. "Deliberate Deceptions: Facing the Facts About the U.S.-Israeli Relationship". Lawrence Hill, 1995. ISBN 1556522398.
Cheryl Rubenberg. "Israel and the American National Interest: A Critical Examination". University of Illinois Press, 1989. ISBN 0252060741.
Benjamin Ginsberg. "The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State". University of Chicago Press, 1999. ISBN 0226296660.
*Edward Tivnan. "The Lobby: Jewish Political Power and American Foreign Policy". Touchstone Books, 1988. ISBN 0671668285.
Jonah Goldberg. "Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment". Basic Books, 1997. ISBN 0201327988.
*D. H. Goldberg. "Foreign Policy and Ethnic Interest Groups: American and Canadian Jews Lobby for Israel". Greenwood Press, 1990. ISBN 0313268509.
*Stephen J. Green. "Taking Sides: America's Secret Relations With Militant Israel". William Morrow & Co., 1984. ISBN 0688026435.
*Edward Tivnan. "The Lobby: Jewish Political Power and American Foreign Policy". Touchstone Books, 1988. ISBN 0671668285.
Abraham H. Foxman. "The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control". Palgrave MacMillan, 2007.
America-Israel Friendship League
Lobbying in the United States
Israel-United States relations
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy"
Diaspora politics in the United States
Ethnic interest groups in the United States
List of Jewish American politicians
AIPAC espionage scandal
Arab lobby in the United States
* [http://www.scribemedia.org/2006/10/11/israel-lobby/ Video] From the Israel Lobby Debate
* [http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06-011/$File/rwp_06_011_walt.pdf The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy] , a research paper by
John Mearsheimerand Stephen Walt
* [http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=5539456 Former Envoy: Israel Lobby Not All-Powerful] - transcript of
Dennis Ross' interview at NPR Morning Edition July 7, 2006.
* [http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article20155.htm The Israel Lobby] -- 2007
* [http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1167467657033&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull Most Jews ever set to enter Congress] -- from "
The Jerusalem Post" (Jan. 7th, 2007)
* [http://www.usnews.com/usnews/opinion/baroneblog/archives/060804/republicans_mor.htm Republicans more pro-Israel than Democrats] -- from "
U.S. News and World Report"
* [http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060515/weiss Ferment Over 'The Israel Lobby'] -- from "
* [http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2006/12/19/israellobby/index.html "The other Israel lobby"] -- from
* [http://www.salon.com/opinion/kamiya/2007/03/20/aipac/index.html?source=rss Can American Jews unplug the Israel lobby?] -- from
* [http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/03/16/aipac/index.html?source=rss Inside America's powerful Israel lobby] -- from
* [http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070423/weiss "AIPAC Alternative?"] -- from "The Nation" (April 2007)
* [http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/71B0C3D9-B04C-4717-88D8-33FBE1F1533A.htm Election power of the Israel lobby] - from
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.