News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Israel and US Joined At the Hip

Friday, May 26, 2006

Israel and US Joined At the Hip

With Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's visit to the US, we find the US President professing undying support for Israel. PM Olmert gave a speech to a joint session of Congress, where members from both houses of Congress showed their intense support for Israel and its policies in the mideast. Of course, the press coverage parroted the official line--inside government and the mass media--that Israel is indeed our bosom buddy for life and death. ...

In a press conference featuring Bush and Olmert, Bush's opening remarks informed gathered reporters:

I told the prime minister what I've stated publicly before: Israel is a close friend and ally of the United States. And in the event of any attack on Israel, the United States will come to Israel's aid.
BUSH: The United States is strongly committed and I am strongly committed to the security of Israel as a vibrant Jewish state.
For many, these remarks are not surprising for it has become a tacit assumption in US politics and in the public sphere that Israel and US political interests are indeed the same.

Indeed, as Bush and Olmert met, the US House or representatives was passing a bill that disallowed the President from providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, who are suffering from economic sanctions imposed by the international community in solidarity with the Israeli policy of non-negotiation with the democratically-elected Hamas.

Jim Lobe reports that the congressional action was pushed in congress by AIPAC:
Even as Olmert met with President George W. Bush at the White House Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted by an overwhelming 361-37 margin to impose strict conditions on aid to Palestinians, as demanded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Washington's most powerful pro-Israel lobby.
Questioning the assumption that US and Israeli policies are not coincident can get you in trouble. Scholars and politicians or anyone else for that matter will immediately be branded as an anti-semite. This has proven true in the latest controversey surrounding an article by respected scholars Mearshimer and Walt in a London newspaper.

According to noted historian Norman Finkelstein, questioining Israel's internal and external policies has not always been answered with accusations of this kind. This changed, says Finkelstein, after several Israeli historians published studies that cast the country's founding in a darker light. In a recent interview, Finkelstein says:
I think the answer is that in the past, if you take the 1960s. 1970s and early 80s, the scholarly record and the documentary record, it seemed to be supporting Israel's position. And so Israelis and their supporters didn't typically charge anti-Semitism. What they did was tell you to look at the record, look at the history and see that it supports their claims. Beginning in the late 1980s and 1990s the work of important Israeli historians as well as the documentary record of human rights organizations, Israel's record not as good as it once did. And it turned out that many of the things that people thought were the case when they came to Israel actually turned out not to be the case. Thus Israel's position both historically and in terms of its current human rights record as that position became more indefensible; it was then that the charges of anti-Semitism began to be hurled with reckless abandon. Because there was no other way to respond to the charges that Israel has done and is doing. It's wrong.
As I noted, Finkelstein's comments follow the publication of an article by noted scholars, Mearsheimer and Walt. The article itself was rejected for publication in the US, even though it had been commissioned by a US magazine. It appears that once the brunt of the article bacame known, magazine editors balked at publishing it. As of now, there has been only speculation about why they did not publish the article.

Given the thesis of the article--that the Israel lobby is one of the top two most poweerful lobbies that holds sway in the US congress--the fact that a major media outlet refused to publish the article might serve to prove at least part of the article's thesis.

The history of how the media and the Israel lobby in particular reacted to these scholars' work is reported by NYT's Michael Massing. Massing provides some critical remarks on the Mearsheimer-Walt article and then describes in detail the inner workings of AIPAC, the main organization behind the Israel lobby.

Massing concludes his essay:
The nasty campaign waged against John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt has itself provided an excellent example of the bullying tactics used by the lobby and its supporters. The wide attention their argument has received shows that, in this case, those efforts have not entirely succeeded. Despite its many flaws, their essay has performed a very useful service in forcing into the open a subject that has for too long remained taboo.

Update 6/26/06 According to AP:
The United States reached out to hostile Arabs three decades ago with an offer to work toward making Israel a "small friendly country" of no threat to its neighbors and with an assurance to Iraq that the U.S. had stopped backing Kurdish rebels in the north.

"We can't negotiate about the existence of Israel," then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told his Iraqi counterpart in a rare high-level meeting, "but we can reduce its size to historical proportions."

A December 1975 memo detailing Kissinger's probing conversation with Foreign Affairs Minister Saadoun Hammadi eight years after Iraq severed diplomatic relations with Washington is included in some 28,000 pages of Kissinger-era foreign policy papers published in an online collection Friday.
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