ISRAEL LOBBY ARCHIVES Progressive Review
1989: NORMAN FINKELSTEIN TAKES ON AIPAC FLACK WOLF BLITZER
WHO NEEDS JIMMY CARTER WHEN YOU CAN CHILL WITH REV JOHN HAGEE?
MUZLE WATCH - AIPAC's policy conference, which "annually draws half of the Senate and a third of the House," greeted pastor John Hagee of Christians United for Israel with multiple standing ovations for his "fiery pro-Israel" speech.
Talk2Action states that Pastor Hagee, one of the most powerful leaders of the Christian Zionist movement "blames the Holocaust on Jews themselves and states that Nazi persecution of Jews was God's way of driving Jews to Israel, seems to blame Jews for the death of Jesus Christ, holds that Jews cannot get into heaven, calls liberal Jews 'poisoned' and 'spiritually blind,' believes that the preemptive nuclear attack on Iran that he advocates will lead to a Mideast conflict that will kill most Jews in Israel and perhaps also lead to the Nuclear destruction of the East and West coasts of the United States of America, and meets frequently with top leaders of the GOP and with contenders for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.". . .
Jews on First has [a] very important piece which further describes the Faustian bargain being made between many Jewish organizations and the Christian right. Abe Foxman has played an interesting role"
"The major Jewish organizations do not welcome Jewish criticism of their embrace of Christian Zionists. These Christians are seen as crucial to Israel's tourism industry and its domestic popularity.
"One exception is Abraham Foxman, the director of the Anti-Defamation League. In 2005 he urged the big Jewish organizations to take a stand against the Christian right, which, he warned, wants to establish a theocracy in the United States. Foxman's colleagues publicly rejected his call and he largely stopped his public criticism.
"Recently Foxman broke his silence with an op-ed in Time, in which he expressed gratitude for the Christian right's support of Israel and continuing disagreement with the religious right's domestic agenda. Foxman also made it clear that the Christian right sees its support for Israel as a quid pro quo for Jewish silence on its domestic agenda.
But does appreciating Christian right so-called support for Israel also require Jews to shut up about the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism? Apparently so. Jewish Week reports:
"But Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a strong critic of many Christian right groups, said he is not alarmed about Hagee's role in the policy conference. 'I think there is a role for him,' Foxman aid. 'He has earned a certain recognition with the community because of his support for Israel.'"
With friends like Hagee, who needs enemies?
A LIBERAL RABBI ON AIPAC
RABBI MICHAEL LERNER, TIKKUN - The most frequently repeated injunction in Torah are variations of the following command: "Do not oppress the stranger (the 'other'). Remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt." Instead, the Jewish establishment has turned Judaism into a cheer-leading religion for a particular national state that has a lot of Jews, but has seriously lost siight of the Jewish values which early Zionists hoped would find realization there.
The impact of the silencing of debate about Israeli policy on Jewish life has been devastating. We at Tikkun are constantly encountering young Jews who say that they can no longer identify with their Jewishness, because they have been told that their own intuitive revulsion at watching the Israeli settlers with IDF support violate the human rights of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank or their own questioning of Israel's right to occupy the West Bank are proof that they are "self-hating Jews." The Jewish world is driving away its own young.
But the most destructive impact of this new Jewish political correctness is on American foreign policy debates. We at Tikkun have been involved in trying to create a liberal alternative to AIPAC and the other Israel-can-do-no-wrong voices in American politics. When we talk to Congressional representatives who are liberal or even extremely progressive on every other issue, they tell us privately that they are afraid to speak out about the way Israeli policies are destructive to the best interests of the United States or the best interests of world peace-lest they too be labeled anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. If it can happen to Jimmy Carter, some of them told me recently, a man with impeccable moral credentials, then no one is really politically safe. . .
When we approached some of the Israel peace groups to form an alliance with us to build the alternative to AIPAC we found that the hold of the Jewish establishment was so powerful that it had managed to seep into the brains of people in organizations like Americans for Peace Now (NOT the Israeli group Peace Now which has been very courageous), Brit Tzedeck ve'Shalom and the Israel Policy Forum or the Religious Action Center of the Reform movement--and as a result these peace voices are continually fearful that they will be "discredited" if they align with each other and with us to create this alternative to AIPAC. . .
AIPAC PRESIDENT EXPLAINS HOW ORGANIZATION KEEPS POLITICIANS IN LINE
HOWARD FRIEDMAN, PRESIDENT, AIPAC - My fellow American, look what you've done. . . Israel is fighting a pivotal war for its life. . . Only ONE nation in the world came out and flatly declared: Let Israel finish the job. . That nation is the United States of America - and the reason it had such a clear, unambiguous view of the situation is YOU and the rest of America Jewry. . . How do we do it? . . . Decades of long hard work which never ends. . .
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 U.S.-Israel relationship - so it's clear where they stand on the subject.
Members of Congress, staffers and administration officials have come to rely on AIPACs memos. They are VERY busy people and they know that they can count on AIPAC for clear-eyed analysis. We present this information in concise form to elected officials. The information and analyses are impeccable--after all our reputation is at stake. This results in policy and legislation that make up Israel's lifeline. . .
Now is the time for us, American Jews, to stand up and tell our elected officials that they must demand Iran halt its pursuit of atomic arms.
A RABBI ON WHY AIPAC IS BAD FOR ISRAEL AND AMERICAN JEWS
RABBI BRUCE WARSHAL, ST LOUIS JEWISH LIGHT - Oh my God, someone has publicly outed the "Israel Lobby." . . . I agree with Walt and Mearsheimer that AIPAC controls our American government policy toward Israel. But in their paper the two political scientists point out that, "In its basic operations, the Israel Lobby is no different from the farm lobby, steel or textile workers' unions, or other ethnic lobbies. There is nothing improper about American Jews and their Christian allies attempting to sway US policy; the Lobby's activities are not a conspiracy of the sort depicted in tracts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion."
Coming from South Florida, I am acutely aware that our government policy toward Cuba is dictated by the Cuban Lobby. Why else would we have such an absurd opposition to Castro? If we can make peace with Red China and the "evil empire" of the Soviet Union, why do we continue an embargo against an obscure Communist island, if it were not for domestic political pressure? So it is with the Jewish domestic lobby. My complaint is that the self-appointed Jewish leaders who control AIPAC and other positions of power within the Jewish community do not represent the best interests of Jews, Israel or the United States in the long run.
[After trying the purgatory of silence, the Israel lobby has struck back at a scholarly article that points out the damage this lobby has caused. It has been joined by a few American publications such as the Washington Post. The Review, in fact, is one of the few American publications to have printed excerpts. Incidentally, Wilmers, the British editor who published the article, is Jewish]
HOW THE ISRAEL LOBBY ENDANGERS THE UNITED STATES
[This is the best report on the Israel lobby we have ever seen. The full report gives considerable historical background omitted below. John Mearsheimer is the Wendell Harrison Professor of Political Science at Chicago. Stephen Walt is the Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. This is from the excerpt printed in the London Review of Books; the full report can be found at the Kennedy School site]
JOHN MEARSHEIMER AND STEPHEN WALT - Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing that given to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct economic and military assistance since 1976, and is the largest recipient in total since World War Two, to the tune of well over $140 billion (in 2004 dollars). Israel receives about $3 billion in direct assistance each year, roughly one-fifth of the foreign aid budget, and worth about $500 a year for every Israeli. This largesse is especially striking since Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to that of South Korea or Spain. . .
Other recipients get their money in quarterly installments, but Israel receives its entire appropriation at the beginning of each fiscal year and can thus earn interest on it. Most recipients of aid given for military purposes are required to spend all of it in the US, but Israel is allowed to use roughly 25 per cent of its allocation to subsidize its own defense industry. It is the only recipient that does not have to account for how the aid is spent, which makes it virtually impossible to prevent the money from being used for purposes the US opposes, such as building settlements on the West Bank. Moreover, the US has provided Israel with nearly $3 billion to develop weapons systems, and given it access to such top-drawer weaponry as Blackhawk helicopters and F-16 jets. Finally, the US gives Israel access to intelligence it denies to its NATO allies and has turned a blind eye to Israel's acquisition of nuclear weapons.
Washington also provides Israel with consistent diplomatic support. Since 1982, the US has vetoed 32 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, more than the total number of vetoes cast by all the other Security Council members. . .
This extraordinary generosity might be understandable if Israel were a vital strategic asset or if there were a compelling moral case for US backing. . . Backing Israel was not cheap, however, and it complicated America's relations with the Arab world. For example, the decision to give $2.2 billion in emergency military aid during the October War triggered an OPEC oil embargo that inflicted considerable damage on Western economies. . .
The first Gulf War revealed the extent to which Israel was becoming a strategic burden. The US could not use Israeli bases without rupturing the anti-Iraq coalition, and had to divert resources (e.g. Patriot missile batteries) to prevent Tel Aviv doing anything that might harm the alliance against Saddam Hussein. History repeated itself in 2003: although Israel was eager for the US to attack Iraq, Bush could not ask it to help without triggering Arab opposition. So Israel stayed on the sidelines once again. . .
Saying that Israel and the US are united by a shared terrorist threat has the causal relationship backwards: the US has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around. Support for Israel is not the only source of anti-American terrorism, but it is an important one, and it makes winning the war on terror more difficult. There is no question that many al-Qaida leaders, including Osama bin Laden, are motivated by Israel's presence in Jerusalem and the plight of the Palestinians. Unconditional support for Israel makes it easier for extremists to rally popular support and to attract recruits.
As for so-called rogue states in the Middle East, they are not a dire threat to vital US interests, except inasmuch as they are a threat to Israel. Even if these states acquire nuclear weapons - which is obviously undesirable - neither America nor Israel could be blackmailed, because the blackmailer could not carry out the threat without suffering overwhelming retaliation. . .
A final reason to question Israel's strategic value is that it does not behave like a loyal ally. . . According to the General Accounting Office, Israel 'conducts the most aggressive espionage operations against the US of any ally'. . . Israel is hardly the only country that spies on the US, but its willingness to spy on its principal patron casts further doubt on its strategic value. . .
That Israel is a fellow democracy surrounded by hostile dictatorships cannot account for the current level of aid: there are many democracies around the world, but none receives the same lavish support. The US has overthrown democratic governments in the past and supported dictators when this was thought to advance its interests - it has good relations with a number of dictatorships today. . .
[Another] justification is the history of Jewish suffering in the Christian West, especially during the Holocaust. Because Jews were persecuted for centuries and could feel safe only in a Jewish homeland, many people now believe that Israel deserves special treatment from the United States. The country's creation was undoubtedly an appropriate response to the long record of crimes against Jews, but it also brought about fresh crimes against a largely innocent third party: the Palestinians.
This was well understood by Israel's early leaders. David Ben-Gurion told Nahum Goldmann, the president of the World Jewish Congress:
"If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country . . . We come from Israel, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that". . .
So if neither strategic nor moral arguments can account for America's support for Israel, how are we to explain it?
The explanation is the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby. We use 'the Lobby' as shorthand for the loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to steer US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction. This is not meant to suggest that 'the Lobby' is a unified movement with a central leadership, or that individuals within it do not disagree on certain issues. Not all Jewish Americans are part of the Lobby, because Israel is not a salient issue for many of them. In a 2004 survey, for example, roughly 36 per cent of American Jews said they were either 'not very' or 'not at all' emotionally attached to Israel.
Jewish Americans also differ on specific Israeli policies. Many of the key organizations in the Lobby, such as the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, are run by hardliners who generally support the Likud Party's expansionist policies, including its hostility to the Oslo peace process. The bulk of US Jewry, meanwhile, is more inclined to make concessions to the Palestinians, and a few groups - such as Jewish Voice for Peace - strongly advocate such steps. Despite these differences, moderates and hardliners both favor giving steadfast support to Israel. . .
Jewish Americans have set up an impressive array of organizations to influence American foreign policy, of which AIPAC is the most powerful and best known. In 1997, Fortune magazine asked members of Congress and their staffs to list the most powerful lobbies in Washington. AIPAC was ranked second behind the American Association of Retired People, but ahead of the AFL-CIO and the National Rifle Association. A National Journal study in March 2005 reached a similar conclusion, placing AIPAC in second place in the Washington 'muscle rankings'.
The Lobby also includes prominent Christian evangelicals. . . Neo-conservative gentiles such as John Bolton; Robert Bartley, the former Wall Street Journal editor; William Bennett, the former secretary of education; Jeane Kirkpatrick, the former UN ambassador; and the influential columnist George Will are also steadfast supporters. . .
The Lobby pursues two broad strategies. First, it wields its significant influence in Washington, pressuring both Congress and the executive branch. Whatever an individual lawmaker or policymaker's own views may be, the Lobby tries to make supporting Israel the 'smart' choice. Second, it strives to ensure that public discourse portrays Israel in a positive light, by repeating myths about its founding and by promoting its point of view in policy debates. The goal is to prevent critical comments from getting a fair hearing in the political arena. Controlling the debate is essential to guaranteeing US support, because a candid discussion of US-Israeli relations might lead Americans to favour a different policy. . .
A key pillar of the Lobby's effectiveness is its influence in Congress, where Israel is virtually immune from criticism. . . Another source of the Lobby's power is its use of pro-Israel congressional staffers. As Morris Amitay, a former head of AIPAC, once admitted, 'there are a lot of guys at the working level up here' - on Capitol Hill - 'who happen to be Jewish, who are willing . . . to look at certain issues in terms of their Jewishness . . . These are all guys who are in a position to make the decision in these areas for those senators . . . You can get an awful lot done just at the staff level.'
AIPAC itself, however, forms the core of the Lobby's influence in Congress. Its success is due to its ability to reward legislators and congressional candidates who support its agenda, and to punish those who challenge it. . .
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. . .
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 antagonize them.
Key organizations in the Lobby make it their business to ensure that critics of Israel do not get important foreign policy jobs. Jimmy Carter wanted to make George Ball his first secretary of state, but knew that Ball was seen as critical of Israel and that the Lobby would oppose the appointment. . . 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'. . .
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 criticizing 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 criticize Israeli actions or endorse Arab positions. . .
The Israeli side also dominates the think tanks which play an important role in shaping public debate as well as actual policy. . . Over the past 25 years, pro-Israel forces have established a commanding presence at the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, 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 employ few, if any, critics of US support for Israel.
Take the Brookings Institution. For many years, its senior expert on the Middle East was William Quandt, a former NSC official with a well-deserved reputation for even-handedness. Today, Brookings's coverage is conducted through the Saban Center for Middle East Studies, which is financed by Haim Saban, an Israeli-American businessman and ardent Zionist. The centre's director is the ubiquitous Martin Indyk. What was once a non-partisan policy institute is now part of the pro-Israel chorus. . .
The Lobby also monitors what professors write and teach. In September 2002, Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes, two passionately pro-Israel neo-conservatives, established a website (Campus Watch) that posted dossiers on suspect academics and encouraged students to report remarks or behavior that might be considered hostile to Israel. This transparent attempt to blacklist and intimidate scholars provoked a harsh reaction and Pipes and Kramer later removed the dossiers, but the website still invites students to report 'anti-Israel' activity. . .
No discussion of the Lobby would be complete without an examination of one of its most powerful weapons: the charge of anti-Semitism. Anyone who criticizes Israel's actions or argues that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over US Middle Eastern policy - an influence AIPAC celebrates - stands a good chance of being labeled an anti-Semite. Indeed, anyone who merely claims that there is an Israel Lobby runs the risk of being charged with anti-Semitism, even though the Israeli media refer to America's 'Jewish Lobby'. In other words, the Lobby first boasts of its influence and then attacks anyone who calls attention to it. It's a very effective tactic: anti-Semitism is something no one wants to be accused of. . .
Israel's advocates, when pressed to go beyond mere assertion, claim that there is a 'new anti-Semitism', which they equate with criticism of Israel. In other words, criticize Israeli policy and you are by definition an anti-Semite. When the synod of the Church of England recently voted to divest from Caterpillar Inc on the grounds that it manufactures the bulldozers used by the Israelis to demolish Palestinian homes, the Chief Rabbi complained that this would 'have the most adverse repercussions on . . . Jewish-Christian relations in Britain', while Rabbi Tony Bayfield, the head of the Reform movement, said: 'There is a clear problem of anti-Zionist - verging on anti-semitic - attitudes emerging in the grass-roots, and even in the middle ranks of the Church.' But the Church was guilty merely of protesting against Israeli government policy.
Critics are also accused of holding Israel to an unfair standard or questioning its right to exist. But these are bogus charges too. Western critics of Israel hardly ever question its right to exist: they question its behavior towards the Palestinians, as do Israelis themselves. Nor is Israel being judged unfairly. Israeli treatment of the Palestinians elicits criticism because it is contrary to widely accepted notions of human rights, to international law and to the principle of national self-determination. And it is hardly the only state that has faced sharp criticism on these grounds. . .
Can the Lobby's power be curtailed? One would like to think so, given the Iraq debacle, the obvious need to rebuild America's image in the Arab and Islamic world, and the recent revelations about AIPAC officials passing US government secrets to Israel. . . But that is not going to happen - not soon anyway. AIPAC and its allies (including Christian Zionists) have no serious opponents in the lobbying world. They know it has become more difficult to make Israel's case today, and they are responding by taking on staff and expanding their activities. Besides, American politicians remain acutely sensitive to campaign contributions and other forms of political pressure, and major media outlets are likely to remain sympathetic to Israel no matter what it does.
The Lobby's influence causes trouble on several fronts. It increases the terrorist danger that all states face - including America's European allies. It has made it impossible to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a situation that gives extremists a powerful recruiting tool, increases the pool of potential terrorists and sympathizers, and contributes to Islamic radicalism in Europe and Asia.
Equally worrying, the Lobby's campaign for regime change in Iran and Syria could lead the US to attack those countries, with potentially disastrous effects. We don't need another Iraq. At a minimum, the Lobby's hostility towards Syria and Iran makes it almost impossible for Washington to enlist them in the struggle against al-Qaida and the Iraqi insurgency, where their help is badly needed.
There is a moral dimension here as well. Thanks to the Lobby, the United States has become the de facto enabler of Israeli expansion in the Occupied Territories, making it complicit in the crimes perpetrated against the Palestinians. This situation undercuts Washington's efforts to promote democracy abroad and makes it look hypocritical when it presses other states to respect human rights. US efforts to limit nuclear proliferation appear equally hypocritical given its willingness to accept Israel's nuclear arsenal, which only encourages Iran and others to seek a similar capability. . .
There is a ray of hope, however. Although the Lobby remains a powerful force, the adverse effects of its influence are increasingly difficult to hide. Powerful states can maintain flawed policies for quite some time, but reality cannot be ignored for ever. What is needed is a candid discussion of the Lobby's influence and a more open debate about US interests in this vital region. Israel's well-being is one of those interests, but its continued occupation of the West Bank and its broader regional agenda are not. Open debate will expose the limits of the strategic and moral case for one-sided US support and could move the US to a position more consistent with its own national interest, with the interests of the other states in the region, and with Israel's long-term interests as well.
LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS EXCERPT
KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT FULL REPORT http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06-011
THE MYSTERIOUS TRANSFORMATION OF THE AIPAC CASE
THE INDICTMENT OF TWO former AIPAC officials, Steven J. Rosen and Ketih Weissman, has, intentionally or not, created a confused situation out of something that initially was a lot clearer. In essence, despite the indictment, the Bushites may not really want to press the case to its logical conclusion because of the embarrassment to Israel and its American lobby. It is at least possible that the Bushites have thrown in a gratuitous attack on the free press - arguing that journalists can be prosecuted for reporting secret matters - in order to get the case of their backs.
Here's how the New York Times describes the matter:
|||| "The feeling in the Jewish community is one of indignation at AIPAC's being unfairly targeted by federal prosecutors for trying to find out what everyone in this town is trying to find out - what the government is thinking," said Douglas M. Bloomfield, who was a legislative director of AIPAC in the 1980's and who now writes a syndicated column on American Mideast policy. . .
The case has set off alarms among the policy groups, lobbyists and journalists who swap information, often about national security issues, with executive-branch officials and Congressional staff members. They were not reassured by a remark from the federal judge hearing the case, at Mr. Franklin's sentencing in January, that the laws on classified information were not limited to government officials.
"Persons who have unauthorized possession, who come into unauthorized possession of classified information, must abide by the law," the judge, T. S. Ellis III, said. "That applies to academics, lawyers, journalists, professors, whatever."
A January legal brief by lawyers for Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman - written in part by Viet D. Dinh, a conservative former assistant attorney general in the Bush Justice Department - argued that the charges were a dangerous effort to criminalize conduct protected by the First Amendment. That argument gets fervent support from people who may not share the AIPAC officials' conservative views on foreign policy. . .
Peter Raven-Hansen, a law professor at George Washington University, said the case raised several legal issues and undoubtedly would end up in the next edition of his textbook on national security law. "Leaving aside the idea that this might chill exchanges with the press, this is a guaranteed formula for selective prosecution," Mr. Raven-Hansen said. In other words, he said, so many people have conversations involving borderline-classified information that the government will not be able to prosecute them all and will have to pick and choose, raising a fundamental fairness question. ||||
Notice how, curiously, what started out as what would have been called an espionage case if the alleged parties had been working on behalf of, say, Iran or Palestine instead of Israel - in which secret information was transferred to an Israeli diplomat - has been mysteriously transformed into a freedom of the press cause celebre even though the indicted parties were not journalists at all. This point, deliberately or not, as been badly muddled by the media and others with the help of a Bush administration that does not seem all that bothered by having this red herring raised.
It may help to go back the alleged events. For example, Antiwar reported last June:
||| From what we know about [their] breakfast meeting, Franklin handed over a draft of a presidential "finding," an internal policy paper that would set out the parameters of our actions vis-a-vis Iran. The indictment further relates that Franklin "disclosed to [Rosen] and [Weissman] national defense information relating to" the document. Franklin and his AIPAC friends certainly acted like espionage agents. At one point, they met at Union Station in Washington, D.C., early in the morning:
"In the course of the meeting, the three men moved from one restaurant to another restaurant and then finished the meeting in an empty restaurant."
If these were just three guys out to discuss U.S.-Israel relations over lunch, why all the cloak-and-dagger stuff? They obviously suspected they were being followed: with justification, as it turns out. Franklin insisted on faxing materials to Rosen's residence rather than the AIPAC office: no need to take unnecessary risks.
They were careful when it came to the possibility of being followed but threw caution to the winds when talking on the phone. They probably never suspected the FBI was listening: after all, in order to tap someone's phone, the cops have to go to a real live judge and come up with some compelling evidence that it's necessary. Apparently, the FBI had no trouble meeting that standard.
Rosen was apparently quite a braggart: in a conversation with a journalist about the purloined internal policy paper, he confessed, "I'm not supposed to know this" and averred that it was a "considerable story." His braggadocio may be his undoing, however, as this conversation helps make the case that Rosen knew he was breaking the law.
Rosen and Weissman soon passed their prize acquisition directly over to the Israelis: on Aug. 15, 2002, Naor Gilon, chief political officer at the Israeli embassy in Washington, met with Franklin at a Washington, D.C., restaurant, where Gilon explained to Franklin that "he would be the appropriate person with whom the defendant should talk" - that is, if he had anything really pressing to say. A month later, Franklin called the embassy, and they handed him over to Gilon. They met again on Jan. 30, 2003, after months of playing phone tag, at an unspecified location near the Israeli embassy building in Washington, where they discussed Iran's nuclear program. They met regularly from February through May and throughout the summer, sometimes at the Pentagon Officers Athletic Club; the focus seemed to be on Iran's nuclear program and the U.S. response. At one point, Gilon arranged for Franklin to meet with "former" top Mossad official Uzi Arad, now head of the Herziliya Center in Israel. The three of them chatted about Iran's nukes. ||||
Given that Israel, backed by the considerable political clout of AIPAC, is pushing us toward armed conflict with Iran, this is no small matter. The sort of policies that AIPAC supports have, in fact, been extraordinarily costly to the United States including the disastrous war against Iraq and the stunning loss of America prestige in the world as a result of our anti-Muslim jihad.
There are strong motivations to suppress the case against Washington's most powerful political lobby. As the NY Times notes, "Though AIPAC is not accused of wrongdoing, some lawyers say a trial could prove embarrassing for the group, because it could delve into the inner workings of the organization and the internal roles played by Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman.
||| "A trial has got to be a concern for AIPAC," said Neal Sher, a former federal prosecutor and a former executive director of AIPAC. "You don't know what might come out. A trial might reveal its inner workings, its dealings with the government and its dealings with Israel." Mr. Sher, like other former AIPAC officials, said one particularly sensitive point for the group would be any evidence that it ever acted at the behest of Israeli officials. AIPAC officials have never registered as agents of Israel and have never been required to, because they have not acted at the "order, request, direction or control" of Israel, said Philip Friedman, the group's general counsel.
But the question of dual loyalty, to the United States and to Israel, became touchy after the investigation was revealed. At last year's conference, the group broke with tradition and did not sing the Israeli national anthem. This year, officials have said, the tradition will be restored. Both the American and Israeli anthems are on the program. |||
Whatever happens, one things should be clear: this does not have to be a case about freedom of the press to be fairly prosecuted. And those who would make it such may have other things on their mind.
AUGUST 2005. . .
LOBBYISTS FOR ISRAEL CHARGED WITH SPYING
JERRY SEPER, WASHINGTON TIMES - Two former employees of a pro-Israel lobbying group were indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury in Virginia on charges of illegally receiving and disclosing classified U.S. defense information they obtained from a veteran Pentagon analyst -- who was arrested in May on charges of leaking secret documents. Steven J. Rosen, of Silver Spring, a 63-year-old former director of foreign policy issues for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and Keith Weissman, of Bethesda, a 53-year-old former senior Iran analyst at the organization, were accused of receiving national defense information and giving it to unauthorized persons, including an agent of a foreign government. The analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, 58, of Kearneysville, W. Va., was arrested by the FBI on charges of illegally disclosing classified information -- nearly two years after he first was identified as suspected of having passed national security documents involving Iran to AIPAC. Mr. Franklin, who has pleaded not guilty in the case, has been a Defense Department employee since 1979 and held a "top secret" security clearance. . .
The indictment said Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman, in an effort to "influence persons within and outside the United States," cultivated relationships with Mr. Franklin and others "to gather sensitive U.S. government information, including classified information relating to the national defense." . . . The surveillance is thought to have targeted Naor Gilon, a political adviser at the Israeli Embassy in the District.
DOUG IRELAND: PLAN INVOLVED ISRAELI ATTACK ON IRAN
DOUG IRELAND, DIRELAND - Here's what the stories in today's Washington Post and New York Times on the new indictments of the two AIPAC spies aren't telling you: their espionage was principally about helping to prepare an attack by Israel on Iran. And one of the Israeli embassy officials who knows all about AIPAC's role in helping plan the attack on Iran has been whisked out of the country and out of the reach of U.S. prosecutors, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reports this morning.
The neo-cons in the Pentagon had long been arguing for an attack on Iran to take out its nuclear facilities that had the potential to be converted for development of nuclear weapons. Wolfie's man Doug Feith had been particularly assiduous in pressing the case for a "forward strategy" against Iran. Feith's views are madly extremist. . .
When, for purely electoral reasons with the Iraq occupation going so disastrously, the White House decided against a direct attack by the U.S. on Iran, the neo-cons went to Plan B -- an attack on Iran by proxy, from Israel. The principal classified documents leaked to Israel through AIPAC -- the leaks that that began the investigation of the AIPAC spy ring, which has been going on now for over a year -- concerned Iran. They were leaked by Feith's deputy, Larry Franklin, also now under a five-count indictment for spying.
The plan for an Israeli attack on Iran has been long envisioned -- both in Washington and by Sharon's government -- but this attack is now in a highy advanced state of planning and could come as quickly as Sharon snaps his fingers to order it. Back on March 13, the London Times -- in a report that was largely ignored in the U.S. -- reported that: "The inner cabinet of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, gave 'initial authorization' for an attack at a private meeting last month on his ranch in the Negev desert,"
The London Times went on to describe how "Israeli forces have used a mock-up of Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment plant in the desert to practise destroying it. Their tactics include raids by Israel's elite Shaldag (Kingfisher) commando unit and airstrikes by F-15 jets from 69 Squadron, using bunker-busting bombs to penetrate underground facilities. The plans have been discussed with American officials who are said to have indicated provisionally that they would not stand in Israel's way if all international efforts to halt Iranian nuclear projects failed...." And, the Times added, "US officials warned last week that a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities by Israeli or American forces had not been ruled out should the issue become deadlocked at the United Nations."
Just a few weeks before that revelation of the concretization of Israeli plans for the Iran attack, Bush let the cat out of the bag in an off-the-cuff remark captured by London's Daily Telegraph, in a February 18 article headlined, "AMERICA WOULD BACK ISRAEL ATTACK ON IRAN." The Telegraph reported that Bush said: "Clearly, if I was the leader of Israel and I'd listened to some of the statements by the Iranian ayatollahs that regarded the security of my country, I'd be concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon as well. And in that Israel is our ally, and in that we've made a very strong commitment to support Israel, we will support Israel if her security is threatened."
HOW THE ISRAEL LOBBY, CHRISTIAN ZIONISTS AND CORPORATIONS WORK TOGETHER
MITCHELL PLITNICK, JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE - In working for a just resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, we constantly bump into the fact that the powerful party is the state of one of history's most oppressed groups. Some get frustrated by always having to address anti-Semitism while working toward a just resolution to the plight of the Palestinians. But we're kidding ourselves if we believe for a moment that anti-Semitism is not an integral part of the problem. It is that history which creates the fear and anger that drive many Israeli policies. And if we fail to recognize the legitimate fear that history has instilled in the Jewish people, we fail before we start.
When dealing with the question of US support for Israel's occupation, this awareness is especially critical. One of the classic anti-Semitic myths is that of Jews manipulating governments and other seats of power behind the scenes. That pretty closely describes the work of a lobby, and there is a powerful one, with a Jewish face, working to push particular policies regarding Israel. . .
There is a real need to be clear about who "the Lobby" is. It is sometimes called "The Jewish lobby", which is inaccurate and misleading, and foments just the sort of conspiracy theorizing we must avoid. It implies that a population of 5.2 million Americans dictates a very crucial area of foreign policy to a nation of over 296 million.
The face and voice of the lobby is Jewish, because Jews are the most sympathetic and most passionate about this cause. But the votes that the lobby can deliver are not Jewish votes. Christian Zionist groups, numbering some 20 million strong, having their biggest strengths in areas where there are few or no Jews, and also voting at high rates, give the lobby its voting power. This is why many of the most radical bills in Congress are brought by members from Bible Belt states with virtually no Jews in them.
These two groups can mobilize votes and sympathy. They can mobilize some significant money as well, but nothing like what major corporations can raise. Corporations, which have enormous lobbying networks and many ways of funneling perfectly legal contributions to favored candidates, and who are involved in the sale of military and hi-tech equipment, derive huge benefits from the ongoing state of hostility in the region. . .
The fact that AIPAC, the ADL, B'nai Brith, the Conference of Presidents and other Jewish organizations work hard to convey to politicians and others that Jews have a large amount of power cannot be ignored. Jews' actual political power, while considerable relative to our numbers, is easily dwarfed by more powerful sectors of American society, such as Christian groups and large corporations.
Jews contribute a great deal of money to campaigns, but it is overwhelmingly given to Democrats and a great portion of it comes from wealthy Jews who historically have shown little attachment to Israel, but great attachment to the liberal-leaning ideals of the Democrats. Jewish contributions have never been based solely on Israel, and are less so now than they have been in the past.
AIPAC clearly played a pivotal role in its early days in the defeat of Illinois Representative Paul Findley and Senator Chuck Percy. However, claims of their influence on subsequent defeats of other members of Congress such as Pete McCloskey, Earl Hilliard and Cynthia McKinney, as well as other public officials such as Adlai Stevenson and George Ball are much more dubious. It is the reputation that matters politically, and AIPAC certainly has that. But their actual ability to determine the fate of particular candidates has been greatly exaggerated, not least by AIPAC's supporters and activists. . .
Further, when it comes to Congress, the biggest reason AIPAC is so successful is that there is no serious opposition. Elected officials see no political capital to be gained by voting against the wishes of the many constituents they hear from favoring unconditional support of Israeli policies. It's not that they don't believe that other voters would agree with them if they voted against the wishes of the pro-occupation lobby; it's that they see no evidence that they would gain votes and support, while they are getting a message that voting against AIPAC's wishes will cost votes and support. . .
American policy depends on the popularity of Israel in the US. The "almighty lobby" still needs to devote huge resources to PR to maintain that. Its power, as formidable as it is, is largely based in public perception of its strength and the absence of serious opposition. Its effects are mostly felt in the stifling of debate on the question of Israel, among the intellectual elites, in Congress and in the mainstream media. Policy continues to be decided by a perception of US interests, and the mainstream of that perception continues to see Israel as the key to US influence in the Middle East. Jews can be found on both sides of that debate.
THE BACK STORY: WHAT IS AIPAC UP TO
[An excellent piece on the covert power of AIPAC]
JUAN COLE, ANTI-WAR - The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is a lobbying group that used to support whatever government was in power in Israel, and used to give money evenhandedly inside the U.S. My perception is that during the past decade AIPAC has increasingly tilted to the Likud in Israel, and to the political right in the United States. In the 1980s, AIPAC set up the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as a pro-Israeli alternative to the Brookings Institution, which it perceived to be insufficiently supportive of Israel. WINEP has largely followed AIPAC into pro-Likud positions, even though its director, Dennis Ross, is more moderate. He is a figurehead, however, serving to disguise the far right character of most of the position papers produced by long-term WINEP staff and by extremist visitors and "associates" (Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer are among the latter).
WINEP, being a wing of AIPAC, is enormously influential in Washington. State Department and military personnel are actually detailed there to "learn" about the Middle East. They would get a far more balanced education about the region in any Israeli university, since most Israeli academics are professionals, whereas WINEP is a "think tank" that hires by ideology.
I did some consulting with one U.S. company that had a government contract, and they asked me about WINEP position papers (many of them are just propaganda). When I said I would take them with a grain of salt, the guy said his company had "received direction" to pay a lot of attention to the WINEP material. So discipline is being imposed even on the private sector.
Note that over 80% of American Jews vote Democrat, that the majority of American Jews opposed the Iraq war (more were against it than in the general population), and that American Jews have been enormously important in securing civil liberties for all Americans. Moreover, Israel has been a faithful ally of the U.S. and deserves our support in ensuring its security. The Likudniks like to pretend that they represent American Jewry, but they do not. And they like to suggest that objecting to their policies is tantamount to anti-Semitism, which is sort of like suggesting that if you don't like Chile's former dictator Pinochet, you are bigoted against Latinos. . .
It should be admitted that the American Likud could not make U.S. policy on its own. Its members had to make convincing arguments to Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush himself. But they were able to make those arguments, by distorting intelligence, channeling Ahmed Chalabi junk, and presenting Big Ideas to men above them that signally lacked such ideas. . .
It was these WINEP and AIPAC-linked U.S. Likud backers in the Defense Department who had the Iraqi army dissolved as soon as Saddam was overthrown. This step threw Iraq into chaos and led to the deaths of nearly a thousand U.S. servicemen so far, since an Iraq without an army would inevitably depend on the U.S. military. . .
The Likud policies of reversing Oslo and stealing people's land and making their lives hell has produced enormous amounts of terrorism against Israel, and the Likudniks have cleverly turned that to their political advantage. Aggression and annexation is necessary, they argue, because there is terrorism. . .
The drawback for the U.S. in all this is that U.S. government backing for Sharon's odious policies makes it hated in the Muslim world. (Note that Muslims who oppose Israeli aggression are often tagged as "terrorists" by the U.S. government, but right-wing Jews who go to Palestine to colonize it, walking around with Uzi machine guns and sometimes shooting down civilians, are not "terrorists.") This lack of balance is one big reason that bin Laden and al-Zawahiri hit the U.S. on Sept. 11. In fact, bin Laden wanted to move up the operation to punish the U.S. for supporting Sharon's crackdown on the second Intifada.
Likud apologists have carefully planted the false story that al-Qaeda did not care about Palestine, but that is absurd. Bin Laden always complained about the occupation of the three holy cities (Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, the first two because of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, and the third under Israeli occupation). When bin Laden came back from Afghanistan to Jidda in 1989, his first sermon at the local mosque was about the Israeli repression of Palestinians during the first Intifada.
Now the U.S.' occupation of Iraq is making it even more hated in the Muslim world. It is a policy hatched in part by AIPAC, WINEP, and their associated "thinkers." The cynical might suggest that they actively want the U.S. involved in a violent struggle with Muslims, to make sure that the U.S. remains anti-Palestinian and so will permit Israeli expansion. . .
On the rare occasion when a brave member of Congress dares stand up to this unrelenting AIPAC tyranny, that person is targeted for unelection in the next congressional campaign, with big money directed by AIPAC and/or its analogues into the coffers of the senator's or congressman's opponent. Over and over again, AIPAC has shaped the U.S. Congress in this way, so successfully that no one even dares speak out any more.
AIPAC is not all that rich or powerful, but politics in the U.S. is often evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Because many races are very close, any little extra support can help change the outcome. AIPAC can provide that little bit. Moreover, most Americans couldn't care less about the Middle East or its intractable problems, whereas the staffers at AIPAC are fanatics. . .
The situation has reached comedic proportions. Congress is always drafting letters to the president, based on AIPAC templates, demanding that lopsided U.S. policy in favor of Israel be revised to be even more in favor of Israel. U.S. policy recently changed to endorse the expansion of Israeli colonies in Palestinian, West Bank territory. . .
AIPAC currently has a project to shut up academics such as myself, the same way it has shut up Congress, through congressional legislation mandating "balance" (i.e., pro-Likud stances) in Middle East programs at American universities. How long the U.S. public will allow itself to be spied on and pushed around like this is a big question. And, with the rise of international terrorism targeting the U.S. in part over these issues, the fate of the country hangs in the balance.
THE AIPAC STORY
SAM SMITH, MARCH 2003 - One of the reasons Rep. Jim Moran thinks Jewish leaders are powerful is because the ones he sees are. Jews outside of Washington - like gun-owners, doctors, and Chamber of Commerce members outside of Washington - don't have a strong sense of just how precisely their "community" is being defined daily by their capital lobbyists.
There is no doubt - if one considers the 'Jewish community' as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and various large Jewish campaign contributors - that Rep. Moran was quite correct in saying that they could have had a significant effect on the course of our policy in the Middle East. For example, it took only three days for them to have a significant effect on the course of Rep. Moran's career, getting his cowardly colleagues to force him out of his House leadership position. Earlier, they helped to have a similar effect on Rep Cynthia McKinney, who went down to defeat thanks in part to an influx of pro-Israel money. AIPAC, after all, is a lobby powerful enough that at its most recent conference, one half of the Senate and one-third of the House showed up.
The fact that the Washington leadership may not accurately reflect the diversity of its national constituency is not uniquely a Jewish problem; it is part of the displacement of democracy from the consensus of the many to the will of a select few that is speeding the decline of the Republic. And never have the selected been fewer than under the present Bush.
In talking about the Jewish manifestation of this, politicians and the media use two different approaches. One is the sanitized patois of ethnic sensitivity as when the perpetually clichéd Eleanor Clift wrote: "Moran apologized, but the historical echoes that he awakened are so antithetical to what Democrats claim to stand for that he might as well bid goodbye to his political career."
But in the same article in which he quotes Clift, Greg Pierce of the Washington Times also writes, "One political analyst said he counseled two Democratic presidential campaigns to call for Moran's resignation. 'It would be a cheap way to reassure Jewish voters,' he said. 'I don't understand why they haven't done it yet.'"
In other words, what is considered anti-Semitic when stated at a town meeting, becomes in another context just your standard keen political analysis.
When you look at the facts rather than the Washington rhetoric, you find that Moran was even more right than it appeared at first. A study by Belief Net found that only the Southern Baptist Convention and some Jewish groups supported the military approach and every other listed major denomination opposed it. True, the Southern Baptists were unequivocally in favor of war while the Jewish groups - Orthodox Union, Union Of American Hebrew Congregations (Reform), and United Synagogue Of Conservative Judaism - wanted to exhaust other alternatives first, but every other religion Belief Net checked opposed the war including the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Episcopal Church, Greek Orthodox Church in America, Mormons - Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Presbyterian Church (USA), Quakers - American Friends Service Committee, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Unitarian Universalist Association. The Catholics weren't included but the Pope took a clear stand against the war.
So why go to such efforts to deliberately conceal and prevaricate concerning the role of key Jewish organizations in supporting the Iraq invasion?
Part of the answer can be found in none other than the hypocritically outraged Washington Post, in an article written by its White House correspondent, Dana Milbank, last November:
A group of U.S. political consultants has sent pro-Israel leaders a memo urging them to keep quiet while the Bush administration pursues a possible war with Iraq. The six-page memo was sent by the Israel Project, a group funded by American Jewish organizations and individual donors. Its authors said the main audience was American Jewish leaders, but much of the memo's language is directed toward Israelis. The memo reflects a concern that involvement by Israel in a U.S.-Iraq confrontation could hurt Israel's standing in American public opinion and undermine international support for a hard line against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. . .
The Iraq memo was issued in the past few weeks and labeled 'confidential property of the Israel Project,' which is led by Democratic consultant Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi with help from Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and Republican pollsters Neil Newhouse and Frank Luntz. Several of the consultants have advised Israeli politicians, and the group aired a pro-Israel ad earlier this year. 'If your goal is regime change, you must be much more careful with your language because of the potential backlash,' said the memo, titled 'Talking About Iraq.'
"It added: 'You do not want Americans to believe that the war on Iraq is being waged to protect Israel rather than to protect America.' In particular, the memo urged Israelis to pipe down about the possibility of Israel responding to an Iraqi attack. 'Such certainty may be Israeli policy, but asserting it publicly and so overtly will not sit well with a majority of Americans because it suggests a pre-determined outcome rather than a measured approach,' it said."
This is not the first time this strategy has been tried. For example, in January 1991, David Rogers of the Wall Street Journal wrote:
When Congress debated going to war with Iraq, the pro-Israel lobby stayed in the background - but not out of the fight. Leaders of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee now acknowledge it worked in tandem with the Bush administration to win passage of a resolution authorizing the president to commit U.S. troops to combat. The behind-the-scenes campaign avoided AIPAC's customary high profile in the Capitol and relied instead on activists-calling sometimes from Israel itself-to contact lawmakers and build on public endorsements by major Jewish organizations. "Yes, we were active." says AIPAC director Thomas Dine. "These are the great issues of our time, If you sit on the sidelines, you have no voice. . . "
The debate revealed a deep ambivalence among Jewish lawmakers over what course to follow, pitting their generally liberal instincts against their support of Israel. Friends and families were divided. And even as some pro-Israel advocates urged a more aggressive stance, there was concern that the lobby risked damaging Israel's longer term interests if the issue became too identified with Jewish or pro-Israel polities.
. . . AIPAC took pains to disguise its role, and there was quiet relief that the vote showed no solid Jewish bloc in favor of a war so relevant to Israel. "It isn't such a bad idea that we were split," says one Jewish lawmaker. . .
Pro-Israel PACs have poured money into campaigns for Southern Democrats not immediately identified with their cause. For example, the Alabama delegation voted in a bloc with Mr. Bush in both the House and Senate. At first glance, this can be ascribed to the conservative, pro military character of the state. But pro-Israel PACs have also cultivated Democrats there in recent years."
It is hard to imagine such a frank description of ethnic politics today. Thus it is not surprising that few know that the aforementioned Thomas Dines - then executive director of AIPAC and now head of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty - is a member of the advisory committee of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.
The Post, which didn't mentioned Dines' involvement in plotting the seizure of Iraq, described the new organization as "modeled on a successful lobbying campaign to expand the NATO alliance."
In fact, the last time prior to the war itself that the Post even mentioned AIPAC was back in August before the Iraq invasion plot took full shape. So you had to look elsewhere to find out what the Jewish leadership was up to. For example, the Jerusalem Post reported last October:
After weeks of debate and consideration, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which represents 52 Jewish national groups, announced its support for US military action against Iraq "as a last resort." In a statement released Saturday, the Conference of Presidents announced that all of its member groups "support President [George W.] Bush and the Congress in their efforts to gain unequivocal Iraqi compliance with the obligation to divest itself of weapons of mass destruction and the means to develop such weapons." The statement also endorsed the Bush administration's "efforts to enlist the United Nations and international cooperation to secure Iraqi compliance, including the use of force as a last resort.
The chairman of the group, Mortimer Zuckerman went a bit further, declaring that the failure to attack Iraq would "ruin American credibility in the Muslim world."
Now let us imagine that the 52 Jewish organizations had instead reached a consensus that invading Iraq was illegal, unwise, unconstitutional, and an act of reckless endangerment against the whole world. Would that have influenced American policy? Of course it would.
Here's what happened instead, as described by Nathan Guttmann of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:
An unusual visitor was invited to address the annual conference held last week in Washington by AIPAC, the pro-Israeli lobby in the United States: the head of the Washington office of the Iraqi National Congress, Intifad Qanbar. The INC is one of the main opposition groups outside Iraq, and its leaders consider themselves natural candidates for leadership positions in the post-Saddam Hussein era. Qanbar's invitation to the conference reflects a first attempt to disclose the links between the American Jewish community and the Iraqi opposition, after years in which the two sides have taken pains to conceal them.
The considerations against openly disclosing the extent of cooperation are obvious - revelation of overly close links with Jews will not serve the interests of the organizations aspiring to lead the Iraqi people. Currently, at the height of rivalry over future leadership of the country among opposition groups abroad, the domestic opposition and Iraqi citizens, it is most certainly undesirable for the Jewish lobby to forge - or flaunt - especially close links with any one of the groups, in a way that would cause its alienation from the others.
"At the current stage, we don't want to be involved in this argument," says a major activist in one of the larger Jewish organizations. In the end, Intifad Qanbar did not attend the AIPAC conference. . .
The Jewish groups maintain quiet contacts with nearly every Iraqi opposition group, and in the past have even met with the most prominent opposition leader, Ahmed Chalabi. The main objective was an exchange of information, but there was also an attempt to persuade the Iraqis of the need for good relations with Israel and with world Jewry. . . .
Aside from the annual AIPAC conference, two other major events in the United States last week underscored the gamut of opinions and perspectives in the American Jewish community on the war. The positioning of the AIPAC people behind the coalition forces and behind those who sent them is not surprising. AIPAC is wont to support whatever is good for Israel, and so long as Israel supports the war, so too do the thousands of the AIPAC lobbyists who convened in the American capital.
There is no such uniformity among the various religious Jewish movements, and indecisiveness is still very much the case. In Los Angeles, members of the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly gathered and tried to clarify their position on the . . . In the end, the issue was submitted to an executive council, which issued a draft resolution that offered support for the war, albeit with reservations. . .
The dilemma is more pronounced among Reform Jews. They also convened last week to formulate a joint position, and they too were careful not to launch any strident criticism of the war itself. . . The only decision relevant to the war was agreement on a prayer for the welfare of the soldiers at the front, and recognition of the fact that there are a variety of opinions on the war. The resolution that was adopted is very far from constituting an expression of support of any kind for the war, but is also far from constituting criticism of it.
The situation is simpler among the Orthodox. Immediately upon the outbreak of the war, the Orthodox Union, the umbrella organization of the community, released a statement that expressed unequivocal support for President Bush and his decision to launch the war on Iraq, which was described as having "noble aims."
Despite the ambivalence within the various religious segments of Judaism, not to mention the split among Jews themselves, AIPAC carried on its aggressive pro-war activity with impunity.
Of course they had some help, as Michael Lind pointed out in the New Statesman:
Most neo-conservative defense intellectuals have their roots on the left, not the right. They are products of the largely Jewish-American Trotskyist movement of the 1930s and 1940s, which morphed into anti-communist liberalism between the 1950s and 1970s and finally into a kind of militaristic and imperial right with no precedents in American culture or political history. Their admiration for the Israeli Likud party's tactics, including preventive warfare such Israel's 1981 raid on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, is mixed with odd bursts of ideological enthusiasm for "democracy." They call their revolutionary ideology "Wilsonianism" (after President Woodrow Wilson), but it is really Trotsky's theory of the permanent revolution mingled with the far-right Likud strain of Zionism. Genuine American Wilsonians believe in self-determination for people such as the Palestinians.
The neo-con defense intellectuals, as well as being in or around the actual Pentagon, are at the center of a metaphorical "pentagon" of the Israel lobby and the religious right, plus conservative think-tanks, foundations and media empires. . .
The major link between the conservative think-tanks and the Israel lobby is the Washington-based and Likud-supporting Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which co-opts many non-Jewish defense experts by sending them on trips to Israel. It flew out the retired General Jay Garner, now slated by Bush to be proconsul of occupied Iraq. In October 2000, he co-signed a JINSA letter that began: "We . . . believe that during the current upheavals in Israel, the Israel Defense Forces have exercised remarkable restraint in the face of lethal violence orchestrated by the leadership of [the] Palestinian Authority."
The Israel lobby itself is divided into Jewish and Christian wings. [Pentagon officials Paul] Wolfowitz and [Douglas] Feith have close ties to the Jewish-American Israel lobby. Wolfowitz, who has relatives in Israel, has served as the Bush administration's liaison to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Feith was given an award by the Zionist Organisation of America, citing him as a "pro-Israel activist". While out of power in the Clinton years, Feith collaborating with Perle, co-authored for Likud a policy paper that advised the Israeli government to end the Oslo peace process, reoccupy the territories and crush Yasser Arafat's government.
Such experts are not typical of Jewish-Americans, who mostly voted for Gore in 2000. The most fervent supporters of Likud in the Republican electorate are southern Protestant fundamentalists. The religious right believes that God gave all of Palestine to the Jews, and fundamentalist congregations spend millions to subsidize Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.
Then, of course, there is Israel itself which has been a huge beneficiary of American aid only to have repeatedly thwarted the better efforts of American presidents and other leaders - including those in Israel - seeking a bit of rationality in the Middle East. Much of this subversion of sanity has been masochistic; de facto, right wing Israelis have been among the world's most effective anti-Semites.
In a recent Counterpunch article, Kathleen and Bill Christison offer an explication of this phenomenon;
[Jeff Halper] is an Israeli anthropologist, until his retirement a year ago a professor at Ben Gurion University, a transplant 30 years ago from Minnesota, a harsh critic of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and, as founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, one of the leading peace and anti-occupation activists in Israel. . .
Zionism, he says, "is a very compelling narrative, but it is totally self-contained, a bubble in which Israelis separate themselves from all others." Israelis regard everyone else as irrelevant. When it is suggested that fear motivates this self-absorption, Halper disagrees. "It's not so much fear," he says; Israelis "just don't give a damn. They make everyone else a non-issue. They see themselves as the victim, and if you're the victim, you're not responsible for anything you do."
Anything goes if you are the victim, he explains: you don't care about the consequences of your actions for other people, you need not take any responsibility for the effect of your policies on others, you don't care about how others feel. Israelis always think they're right, he says. They believe everything they do is right because the Jewish nation is "right," because they are only responding to what others do to them, only retaliating. "If you combine three elements: the idea that we are right, with the notion that we're the victim, and with our great military power," he says, you have a lethal combination. . . . Israel can act with brutality, but the responsibility, the fault, lies elsewhere.
To define good Jewishness - or conversely, anti-Semitism - by one's reaction to the Sharon government makes no more sense than to define good Americanism by one's reaction to Bush. Sharon not only blasphemously mocks the lessons supposedly learned from the Holocaust, his policies represent a huge departure from the humanistic and progressive politics that long characterized American Judaism. This tradition, born in European socialism and blended with American populism, helped mightily to form the social democracy our country increasingly enjoyed during the 20th century.
I, in fact, grew up alnost believing that there were three branches of Judiasm: Orthodox, Reform, and Liberal Democratic. And it often seemed that the last was the most powerful. In fact, you couldn't be an urban progressive of my age without becoming part Jewish.
But history doesn't stop, and just as greater America moved sharply right after 1980s, so did this country's Jewish politics. It wasn't alone. Feminism forgot lower class women, labor forgot its own members, the biggest thing the Congressional Black Caucus did anymore was an annual dinner, the environmental movement became embedded in the Washington bureaucracy, and white liberals in general looked the other way as our civil liberties disintegrated.
To sweep this problem under the bed, to fail to discuss the disaster that pro-Israeli politics have become for fear of being called anti-Semitic is both cowardly and dangerous. At a time when the Washington Post is urging its readers to stock up on several days' food and buy gas masks because of the possible consequences of the internationally criminal policies it so vigorously supports, we no longer have time or tolerance for such cynical games. If you want to die for your own faith, fine, but you have no right to take the rest of the world with you.
The danger of the dishonest debate about the Middle East was well described by Joan Didion in a recent New York Review of Books:
[We need to] demystify the question of why we have become unable to discuss our relationship with the current government of Israel. Whether the actions taken by that government constitute self-defense or a particularly inclusive form of self-immolation remains an open question. The question of course has a history.
This open question, and its history, are discussed rationally and with considerable intellectual subtlety in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Where the question is not discussed rationally, where in fact the question is rarely discussed at all, since so few of us are willing to see our evenings turn toxic, is in New York and Washington and in those academic venues where the attitudes and apprehensions of New York and Washington have taken hold. The president of Harvard recently warned that criticisms of the current government of Israel could be construed as 'anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent.'
The very question of the US relationship with Israel, in other words, has come to be seen as unraisable, potentially lethal, the conversational equivalent of an unclaimed bag on a bus. We take cover. We wait for the entire subject to be defused, safely insulated behind baffles of invective and counter-invective. Many opinions are expressed. Few are allowed to develop. Even fewer change."
We are entangled, in major part, in a religious war in which bin Laden, Bush and Sharon comprise a triptych of theological terror that is putting everyone at great risk. They are each involved in a vicious heresy, falsely defining their own myopic, immoral, and sadistic ambitions as their religion's moral faith. This is no time for politeness, politics, or silence. And while Jews are far from alone in needing to call their leadership back to sanity, neither are they exempt.