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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

THE ISRAEL LOBBY AND U.S. FOREIGN POLICY

by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt originally printed in the London Review of Books, March 23, 2006. It caused a firestorm of controversy. For those who are not particularly interested in US-Israeli relations, the article still offers lessons about how a debate, any debate, can be stifled.

The following are some direct quotes from the article:

First, some quotes on how Israel is given special treatment by the US:
  1. Israel receives about $3 billion in direct assistance each year, roughly one-fifth of the foreign aid budget. . .
  2. Other recipients [of foreign aid] 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.
  3. It is the only recipient that does not have to account for how the aid is spent. . .
Some quotes on the reason for Israel's special treatment:
  1. The explanation is the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby.
  2. Jewish Americans have set up an impressive array of organisations to influence American foreign policy, of which AIPAC is the most powerful and best known.
  3. A key pillar of the Lobby’s [shorthand for the loose coalition of individuals and organisations who actively work to steer US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction] effectiveness is its influence in Congress, where Israel is virtually immune from criticism.
  4. According to Douglas Bloomfield, a former AIPAC staff member . . . notes that AIPAC is ‘often called on to draft speeches, work on legislation, advise on tactics, perform research, collect co-sponsors and marshal votes’.
  5. To discourage unfavourable reporting, the Lobby organises letter-writing campaigns, demonstrations and boycotts of news outlets whose content it considers anti-Israel.
  6. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of all this is the efforts Jewish groups have made to push Congress into establishing mechanisms to monitor what professors say.
  7. Anyone who criticises 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 labelled an anti-semite.
As the authors point out, many groups try to influence US policy. There is however a big difference between making a strong case and preventing your opponents from making their case.

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