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reprehensor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 12:02 PM
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"The Israel Lobby" - pros and cons
"The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" - John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007, 484 pages.

The Israel Lobby is a book that came about due to the ferocious reaction that the original essay, "The Israel Lobby", generated when it was published by The London Review of Books in March, 2006.

Mearsheimer and Walt tackle a contentious issue; the level of influence that groups who campaign for Israel's national interest have on the Congress (and Senate) of the United States, and by extension, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

They argue, with copious, accurate documentation, that the level of influence exceeds that of any other lobby, whether the lobby stands for corporate interests, or other foreign entities. By and large their argument carries a lot of weight and merit, the evidence for their claims is readily available in the public domain, and they point it out to the reader.

In a bluntly obvious move to counter the impact of the book, Abraham Foxmans book, The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control, was published less than 30 days after Mearsheimer and Walts book had hit the shelves.

This tipping of the hand by Foxman only lends credence to the general thesis of the book, which I tend to agree with. The authors of The Israel Lobby have indeed captured the state of relations between a lobby with very right-wing leanings and the direction of U.S. foreign policy. The authors are careful to separate the intentions of groups like AIPAC from the man on the street in Israel, noting that there is support for other directions in Israels foreign policy that would recognize a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, that is not evenly represented by the Israel Lobby.

However, in the framing of their arguments against the Lobby, the authors make a couple major mistakes. One of them being the scapegoating of the Lobby for the invasion of Iraq, and the other being the reinforcement of the legitimacy of the "war on terror".

The authors seem to present the invasion of Iraq as a manifestation of the Clean Break policy, put into words by Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser, and others for Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The authors say;
Pressure from Israel and the lobby was not the only factor behind the Bush administrations decision to attack Iraq in 2003, but it was a critical element. Many Americans believe that this was a war for oil (or for corporations like Halliburton), but there is little direct evidence to support this claim and considerable evidence that casts doubt on it.

Here the authors lose me, and exhibit a tendentious nature to their study that is not reflected generally in the book. To state that there is little direct evidence to support this claim flies in the face of reality. Investigative journalist Greg Palast provides evidence that strongly supports the war for oil thesis. In these two reports, OPEC and The Economic Conquest of Iraq and Bush Didnt Bungle Iraq, You Fools The Mission Was Indeed Accomplished, Palast provides direct evidence and a strong argument to support his perception that indeed is was for the oil predominantly.

From a more Leftist perspective, author Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed fleshes out a longer historical narrative that critically places the United States as the worlds current top Imperial aggressor, carrying the torch dropped by the British after WWII, and acting out the desires of the petroleum industry;

The period after the Second World War saw renewed imperial overtures from both Britain and the United States to regain hegemony over Iraq. After taking power in 1958, Iraqi president Abdul Qarim Qassem was tolerated by the Eisenhower administration as a counter to the pan-Arab nationalist aspirations of Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt. But by 1961, he challenged US-led Western interests again by nationalising part of the concession of the British-controlled Iraq Petroleum company. He also declared that Iraq had a legitimate historical claim to the oil-rich Western client regime Kuwait

He thus became regarded by Washington as a dangerous leader who must be removed. Consequently, plans were laid to overthrow him enlisting the assistance of Iraqi elements hostile to Kassims administration, with the CIA at the helm. In Cairo, Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad, American agents marshalled opponents of the Iraqi regime, notes the NY Times. Washington set up a base of operations in Kuwait, intercepting Iraqi communications and radioing orders to rebels. The United States armed Kurdish insurgents. Former Baathist leader Hani Fkaiki has confirmed that Saddam Hussein then a 25-year-old who had fled to Cairo after attempting to assassinate Kassim in 1958 was colluding with the CIA at this time

the CIA had even supplied the lists of people to be eliminated once power was secured. Approximately 5,000 people were killed in the 1963 coup, including doctors, teachers, lawyers, and professors, resulting in the decimation of much of the countrys educated class. Iraqi exiles such as Saddam assisted in the compilation of the lists in CIA stations throughout the Middle East. The longest list, however, was produced by an American intelligence agent, William McHale. None were spared from the subsequent butchery, including pregnant women and elderly men. Some were tortured in front of their children. Saddam himself had rushed back to Iraq from exile in Cairo to join the victors was personally involved in the torture of leftists in the separate detention centres for fellaheen and the Muthaqafeen or educated classes.

US intelligence was integrally involved in planning the details of the operation. According to the CIAs royal collaborator: Many meetings were held between the Baath party and American intelligence - the most critical ones in Kuwait. Although Saddams Baath party was then only a minor nationalist movement, the party was chosen by the CIA due to the groups close relations with the Iraqi army. Aburish reports that the Baath party leaders had agreed to undertake a cleansing programme to get rid of the communists and their leftist allies in return for CIA support. He cites one Baath party leader, Hani Fkaiki, confessing that the principal orchestrator of the coup was William Lakeland, the US assistant military attache in Baghdad.

Its clear that there is ample evidence, spread out over a long span of time, to show that indeed, Iraq was just another notch on the belt for Western ambitions, and more, that Iraq was no virgin. She had been taken before, by generally speaking, the same economic powers. The authors leave a gaping hole in their thesis with this section of their book, and give ground for charges of inaccurately portraying the power of the Lobby.

The authors also err by accepting the idea of the war on terror uncritically. For such an important book, taking such a critical view of U.S. and Israeli foreign policy, to do this negates the broader influence that this book had the potential to generate regarding the fraudulent war on terror.

For one thing, the notion of International Terrorism is an idea that has been busily framed by right-wing ideologues in Israel and the United States for over 30 years. In the essay, Islamophobia and the "War on Terror": The Continuing Pretext for U.S. Imperial Conquest, Canadian author Diana Ralph writes;

The war on terror has nothing to do with protecting the U.S. and worlds people from terrorists, and everything to do with securing the American empire abroad and muzzling democracy and human rights at home. The 9-11 attacks were the pretext, which sold the tale of evil Muslim terrorists imminently threatening Americans. That tale allowed the Cheney-led members of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) to initiate a plan for world domination, which they had planned since 1990. The war on terror is modeled on Islamophobic myths, policies, and political structures developed by the Israeli Likud in 1979 to inspire popular support for U.S. world conquest initiatives

The concept of a war on terror pre-dates 9-11 by 22 years. Its seeds were first planted in 1979 at the Jerusalem Conference on International Terrorism (JCIT) organized by Benjamin Netanyahu (future Israeli Prime Minister). JCIT kicked off a campaign for a war on terror against international terrorism. It featured: pre-emptive attacks on states that are alleged to support terrorists; an elaborate intelligence system apparatus; slashed civil liberties, particularly for Palestinians targeted as potential terrorists, including detention without charge, and torture; and propaganda to dehumanize terrorists in the eyes of the public. George H.W. Bush Sr. and (...) George Schultz, Reagans Secretary of State enthusiastically endorsed this concept. Bush Sr. gave a speech at JCIT advocating precisely the type of war on terror that his son implemented in 2001. But he acknowledged that such a policy would be highly unpopular:

... I must urge drastic surgery as the only reasonable course and by that I mean determined action, firmness under the duress of blackmail, and swift and effective retribution. ... The problem for the open society is how to have, build up and preserve this essential tool of defence which in the long run is indispensable for the protection of ordinary people and not so outrage the liberal conscience that the legitimate exercise of state power is frustrated.

Following the 1979 JCIT, Israel independently implemented these policies. It planned a massive invasion of Lebanon, called Peace for Galilee to secure its hold over the Occupied Territories. The pretext incident and the 1982 invasion itself hauntingly foreshadowed the 9-11 attacks and the Bush war on terror. In both cases, a terrorist pretext justified preemptive military conquest and long-term occupation. (Ralph, Diana. Islamophobia and the "War on Terror": The Continuing Pretext for U.S. Imperial Conquest, in 'Research in Political Economy No. 23; The Hidden History of 9-11-2001', p.261, Zarebmka ed., Elsevier, 2006.)

Along with an uncritical acceptance of the war on terror comes the associated acceptance of Al-Qaeda as it has been portrayed by the American establishment, even thought there is much reason to doubt this official narrative.

Unfortunately, these two errors make The Israel Lobby a much less than perfect book. On the one had it should be praised for pointing to groups like AIPAC and how they go about business, but on the other, the book incorrectly distorts the on-the-ground reality of the Iraq causus belli, (or should I say under-the-ground, as in, How did our oil get under their sand?), and perpetuates an unhelpful conception that the war on terror is legitimate.

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ayeshahaqqiqa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 12:17 PM
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1. Thanks for the summary and analysis
As with most things,this whole issue is a lot more complex than is generally recognized. In this age of sound bites and short attention spans, it is difficult to really get to the heart of the matter. And yet this is what is needed to come to peace in the Middle East.
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