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Does the Israel lobby govern US foreign policy?

The United States is doing a lot of stupid things in the Middle East, but it's not the fault of American Jews.


[essay] Israeli and American security policy are closely intertwined, there is no conspiratorial allegation. But does the United States have a Middle East policy that opposes American self-interest? Is it "someone" who makes the world's most powerful country act unwise? The war against Iraq, and later possibly Syria and Iran – are the neoconservatives behind it, or is it someone behind it again? These few, we should believe political scientists and neo-realists John J. Mearsheimer (b. 1947) and Stephen M. Walt (b. 1955), are the Israeli lobby.

After the article "The Israel Lobby" was rejected by the American journal Atlantic Monthly, it came out in print in the London Review of Books last spring, creating a furore that has been compared to Samuel P. Huntington's controversial article "Clash of Civilizations?" 1993. No wonder when the first thing that happens is that right-wing extremists cheer and praise academia for coming late, but well on the field. The debate is still hot, and it will be so in the future. Recently it became clear that the American prestige publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux will be releasing an expanded version in book form. Mearsheimer and Walt, who are affiliated with the University of Chicago and Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, respectively, received the tag anti-semitics before the literature magazine came out of print. There is a characteristic we can save for larger occasions, but the article is not without its side. In Norway it has been swallowed raw, as a testament to the precarious state of things, by writers such as Heidi Skjeseth in Dagsavisen, Hans Olav Brendberg in Klassekampen and Haavard Koppang in Aftenposten. "The Israel Lobby" is reminiscent of a classic attempt by the left to unmask the real power relations that govern US foreign policy, but the question is whether it also comes under prejudice and old conspiracy theories about a vulnerable group.

Get a lot.

Here are the allegations: Israel is the largest recipient of aid from the United States, about $ 500 billion annually. This corresponds to one fifth of the US aid budget. Each US citizen each year gives Israel $ XNUMX each, even though the recipient is not exactly a developing country. In addition, Israel has received billions of dollars

irregular basis for developing weapons and technology that enable them to better protect themselves from enemies in the neighborhood. This is a positive economic discrimination that can make other countries green with envy, but the most important support is still political. Since 1982, the United States has vetoed 32 UN resolutions critical of Israel's expansive policies. In addition, the United States has repeatedly shown that it favors Israel over other countries in the Middle East, including by giving Israelis access to intelligence even other NATO countries do not receive.

This generosity would be understandable if Israel were of vital strategic importance to the United States, or the Americans had a bad conscience for some past sin, but neither part is true, we must believe the two political scientists. On the contrary, the strategic partnership with Israel has been a burden for the United States since the end of the Cold War, especially in the war on terror. So why is the United States doing something that is not in the country's interest? Is it simply due to leadership? Craving for oil in the Middle East? Religious Brotherhood? The reason, and the explanation for Israel's unique position in the US foreign policy worldview, is, according to Mearsheimer and Walt, the Israeli lobby. By "lobby" they mean a loose coalition of individuals and organizations working to influence American foreign policy for the benefit of Israel. Nor would this claim be so controversial if it were not for the fact that the authors of the article use the word "manipulate" about this political force.

A cornerstone of the great conspiracy theory about the Jews is precisely that they conspire and influence from their diffuse hiding places in the fringes of power. It does not help that what they call the Israeli lobby consists mainly of Jewish organizations and Jewish individuals. An Israeli is not necessarily a Jew and a Jew is not necessarily an Israeli. But if it were that simple – it would still be difficult to locate loyalty. It is problematic to claim something biased about the loyalty of others and to question it, especially when it comes to Jews, because Jews have in unusual times been accused of corrupting society's morals. The most prominent organization in the Lobby, as they call it (with a capital L), is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Aipac, with an annual budget of $ 50 million, a staff of 200 people and 100.000 members, has been repeatedly named the most powerful lobbying organization in the United States. The lobby, by Mearsheimer and Walt's broad definition, also includes so-called neoconservatives and Christian evangelists such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who believe the formation of the state of Israel is part of biblical prophecy. Congress, the media, think tanks and universities are also in the pocket of or are influenced by the lobby, we believe the article authors.

Ethnicity. There is little doubt that this lobby has good opportunities to influence American politics. That is the goal of political actors, and it would be strange if it did not apply to neo-conservative hawks like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz or powerful think tanks like WINEP, American Enterprise, Foreign Policy Research Institute or Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. It is usually difficult to measure the effect of lobbying, but Marsheimer and Walt believe that this lobby has fundamentally influenced American foreign policy. The result is that the United States supports Israel's oppression of the Palestinians. They have also managed to convince the United States to put pressure on Israel's competitors in the region, namely Iran and Syria, in addition to Iraq. The United States did not go to war against Iraq because of the oil, but the motivation was partly to make Israel a safer place. Meanwhile, the United States is increasing the terrorist threat not only for itself, but also for its European allies, Mearsheimer and Walt write. The US knee-jerk reaction to the Israeli regime also prevents lasting peace in the Israel / Palestine conflict. This gives the terrorists more gift packages than they deserve, and US soldiers can continue to dig their own graves. These are all purely political analyzes, which one can agree or disagree with. The right wing largely disagrees. Also many moderate. The crackdown on the United States in Iraq is not due to the lobby, but to poor American leadership, for example, Shlome Ben-Ami said in a panel discussion the London Review of Books recently invited to New York. He is a former Israeli foreign minister and author of the Israel-critical book Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy, and thus in itself an example of how difficult it is to equate Jewish political beliefs with the policy of the state of Israel. .

More surprisingly, solid left-wing activists such as Christopher Hitchens, Noam Chomsky, Tony Judt and Stephen Zunes also have fundamental objections. Judt, Hitchens and Chomsky are themselves Jews. Chomsky and Zunes believe the United States uses Israel, not the other way around. Judt believes the United States would go to war against Iraq anyway. Hitchens calls it "smelly." Mearsheimer and Walt are respected academics, but the debate in the wake of the article has largely revolved around ethnicity. Political scientists must take some of the blame for this. Aipac is an interest organization with an open, legitimate and transparent agenda.

Almost no matter how well one documents one's claims with quotes, circles of acquaintances and previous positions, it is not possible to transfer the organization's purpose clause to individuals who are outside. It is a dubious logic that leaves more questions than answers. Many Americans supported or supported the government on the issue of Iraq and many supported Israel against Palestine. Do you automatically end up in the Israeli lobby if you are a Jew and a supporter of government policy in the Middle East? And are they supporters of government policy because they are Jews? Many of those who are taken as income for Aipac's agenda are not particularly Jewish. They are not Jews because they believe or practice rituals, but because their parents were Jews. Like most Jews in Israel, they are secular. Marsheimer and Walt do not claim, like the British humorist Sacha Baron Cohen, that it was the Jews' fault that the dinosaurs were exterminated. But they go to great lengths to blame many Jews in the United States for the Iraq war and the oppression of Palestinians.

Danger to world peace.

It is possible to deal with the topic without linking it so closely to the Jewish one. On August 3, 2006, The Economist, who is not known for sympathizing with Kristin Halvorsen, published a case asking the question: "Why is America so much more pro-Israeli than Europe?" They referred to recent figures which showed that 48 percent of Americans sympathized with Israel, while only 13 percent sympathized with Palestine – in contrast to, for example, Spain, where only nine percent sympathized with the Israelis, 32 percent with the Palestinians. The answer to the question The Economist asked, the magazine took care of itself: "The most obvious answer lies in the power of two very visible political forces: the Israeli lobby (Aipac) and the religious right."

The relationship between the United States and Israel undoubtedly has a strong champion in an organization like Aipac. But whether it is Aipac's fault that Americans are more benevolent towards Israel than Europeans is more doubtful. Maybe there is something wrong with Europe as well. Europeans' responsibility for the Holocaust should have made us friends of Israel forever and ever, but anti-Semitism is far more widespread in Europe than in the United States, and at times anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel slide into a blissful soup, as historian of ideas Håkon Harket shows in Hate of jews. The history of anti-Semitism from antiquity to the present day (2005). He cites figures that show that six out of ten Europeans believe that Israel is the greatest danger to world peace, and that around 25 percent in countries such as France, Britain and Germany believe that Jews have too much influence in the world. The Economist's article briefly claims the same as Mearsheimer and Walt in The Israel Lobby, without the former having given rise to the same reaction. The explanation for all the "fuss" is therefore elsewhere. The uproar is due to the authors' inability to distinguish between Israeli lobbying in particular and American Jews in general.

In addition, there is one more thing that contributed to the uproar: Racist and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke embraced the article in March in The New York Sun and said he was glad that the academy had finally understood what he had long claimed. A sad place to get support, of course. Marsheimer and Walt's article is not anti-Semitic, but it is used by far-right sites for all it's worth. The utility value is great precisely because it pretends to be scientific. News about Israel and Jews by definition makes headlines. "Jews are news", as it is called over there. Journalist, researcher and author Adam Garfinkle, who is both a so-called neoconservative and a Jew, wrote an article in American Interest in November 2006 in which he dealt with what he calls "jewcentricity" in American intellectual life, and reserved the right not to be special. Jewish all the time. "Suppose some of us are not in the mood to be chosen?", As he wrote.

The solution or problem.

Mearsheimer and Walt's article "The Israel Lobby" has sharpened the links between Israeli and American politics and initiated a debate, but it gives nothing but academic weight to already established political clichés. Moreover, the structure of the article is taken from the myth of the Jewish conspiracy. The lobby, with a capital L, assumes an almost metaphysical size. Many, both in the Christian and the Muslim world, are convinced that the Jews still have far too much and unfortunate influence in the world. As a people without land, this conspiracy was previously linked to some power. Once upon a time it was the Freemasons or the Communists. Today it is the United States. At the same time, they should not be entirely to blame for the debate becoming messy. The Jewish-Israeli organizations in the United States also confuse criticism of Israel with criticism of the Jews – when it suits them.

If one is to think big, then it is difficult to see that one gets out of this vicious circle without also loosening the ties between the Zionist project and the state of Israel, as Göran Rosenberg, among others, advocates in The Lost Land (1998). . Any state based on narrow ethnic, national or religious criteria is a challenge to its environment. Every human being who inherits his or her overall identity has no choice but to embrace it – or reject it. Reducing the struggle between Israel and Palestine to a struggle between Jews and Muslims, as Samuel P. Huntington does, is misleading. Reducing it to a question of the Israeli lobby's influence on the United States is equally reductionist and misleading. Mearsheimer and Walt's article "The Israel Lobby" is not part of the solution, but part of the problem. It has not made it easier to criticize Israel, but more difficult.

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