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I'm sure we can talk about this without sounding conspiratorial
March 17, 2006 4:23 PM   Subscribe

The Israel Lobby. Writing the London Review of Books, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Harvard University's Stephen Walt argue that American foreign policy in the Middle East has been diverted from the national interest by a powerful domestic Jewish lobby:

[T]he thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’. Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.

The article is an edited version of a longer working paper (pdf). While the authors focus on the potency of the Jewish lobby, including organizations such as AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, they also point to the role of evangelical Christians who believe that Israel's existence is a necessary precondition of the Second Coming, a group whose importance has been remarked upon elsewhere.
posted by Dasein (145 comments total)

 
Mearsheimer and Walt are prominent foreign policy Realists. While comfortable with the exercise of American power, they are also concerned with America's global standing. In 2002, they made the most cogent case (pdf) against the Iraq War. More recently, Walt has argued for a new grand strategy for America that argued against trying to acheive hegemony.
posted by Dasein at 4:23 PM on March 17, 2006


remember, the only objective remains: constant turmoil in the ME.
posted by Substrata at 4:24 PM on March 17, 2006


from the painfully obvious files....
posted by coyote's bark at 4:28 PM on March 17, 2006


John Mearsheimer is obviously a raving anti-semite.
posted by mr.marx at 4:39 PM on March 17, 2006


While these terrorist lovers are obviously deserving of scorn, I do love it when they whine so eruditely -- it reveals the pathetic, cowardly weakness behind their disgusting agenda.
posted by MattD at 4:44 PM on March 17, 2006


Here's a happy post from a happy blogger.
posted by _aa_ at 4:53 PM on March 17, 2006


After convincing most people to surrender their class interests first.
posted by Brian B. at 4:53 PM on March 17, 2006


Is it really all that surprising we support Israel? The middle east is a strategically important area, and Israel is the only country in the region with a population that doesn't hate us. It's also the country we can relate to the best, being first world and democratic. It seems like it'd be a natural choice for an ally.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:55 PM on March 17, 2006


Is it really all that surprising we support Israel?

no, not at all.
posted by mr.marx at 4:57 PM on March 17, 2006


Yeah, it's not like our support for Israel is costing American lives or threatening American security.
posted by fleacircus at 5:06 PM on March 17, 2006


You know, I've wondered the same thing... WHY do we support Israel so strongly? They're more than strong enough to defend themselves. They'd probably give US a hell of a fight, and I suspect they could kick the asses of every army in the ME simultaneously. (and they might have to, admittedly....)

That's just with conventional arms. When you bring the fact that they're a nuclear power into the equation.... when they can glass the capitals of every ME country and barely touch their stockpile, what rational state is going to attack them? Anybody that did wouldn't have a state anymore.

What makes me particularly uncomfortable is their treatment of the Palestinians. I think state-sponsored assassination is just terrorism under a different label. I'm not happy that so much of our tax money is being used to buy bullets (well, missiles, really) to kill women, children, and basically anyone that Israel doesn't like.

Of course, we're not exactly on the high moral ground anymore. This whole line of thought (lean on Israel from a moral viewpoint to stop shooting people without trials) was very effectively shut down by the Iraq invasion. Not gonna happen anytime soon.

I have been called an anti-Semite for criticizing Israel, even though I have no opinion about the religion itself, and I've liked all the self-professed Jewish people I've met. I'm purely criticizing it as a state, exactly the way I would, say, India... and yet, the anti-Semitism card gets played. Makes it very hard to have a rational conversation.

I think the state is making grievous errors, and I believe it's a great example of why it's important to separate religion and government; a church with guns is a scary thing.

The most frightening thing I've seen on this subject, was an IRC chat I had with a middle-aged Jewish lady. I told her that I thought Israel's shooting of rock-throwing teenagers and children was extremely immoral.

"Malor," she said, "Israel defines morality."
posted by Malor at 5:14 PM on March 17, 2006


Here's a good interview with Mearsheimer, giving the realist view of the war in Iraq.
posted by russilwvong at 5:20 PM on March 17, 2006


fleacircus: Yeah, it's not like our support for Israel is costing American lives or threatening American security.

Are you sure it is, though? Bad blood has been simmering between the Middle Easterners and the Europeans (from which we derive) for hundreds of years. Furthermore, the leaders in that region maintain their power by scapegoating all of the internal problems they cause by hoarding resources on other countries and religious groups. I tend to think that even if we didn't support Israel, they'd still be hostile toward us.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:22 PM on March 17, 2006


I haven't been there, but my sense in reading about the daily lives of Israelis is that things are a hell of a lot worse since the invasion and occupation of Iraq, especially in terms of general piece of mind. Obviously there are other factors, but other than neocon chickenhawks who probably got a few more papers published and/or a series of bumps in their Halliburton stock, who's benefitted from this debacle?

Simpler question: Do Israeli citizens think a destabilized Iraq is good for their short- or long-term interests? How about a Shiite theocracy with ties to Iran? As monstrous as Saddam was, he was nothing but predictable.

As for the IDF, sure, they've got the best toys and training, and nukes, but take away US funding and that infrastructure will start to crumble, quickly. It'll never happen, and for various reasons I don't think it should, but Israel's government should expect Americans like me to lump them in with other "friendly" despotic regimes like Egypt and KSA as long as their attitude towards the Palestinians (obviously no angels either) doesn't improve.
posted by bardic at 5:37 PM on March 17, 2006


Malor why do you hate Hindus (and Muslims/Christians/Jains/Parsis/Jews/Misc)?
Heh, seriously, why is this a surprise to anyone?
posted by pantsrobot at 5:37 PM on March 17, 2006


The Flying Spaghetti Monster once again flies under the radar as he dishes out destiny to all living things.
posted by roguescout at 5:46 PM on March 17, 2006


So wait.... America doesn't have a pro-Israel lobby? At all? Thank God that's straightened out. Now I don't have to be an anti-semite.
posted by Decani at 5:50 PM on March 17, 2006


fleacircus: Yeah, it's not like our support for Israel is costing American lives or threatening American security.

In the future, before allying itself with anyone, the US should clear it with the Islamic world to make sure it doesn't upset them.
posted by ori at 5:56 PM on March 17, 2006


There are lots of powerful domestic lobbying groups (oil interests, the pharmaceutical industry) in the U.S. all trying to influence national policy -- some that you or I may like and others that we don't.

I can't help but sense some anti-semitic undertones in this statement :

[T]he thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’. Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.

I think it's the phrase: "but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest."

I'd nominate "big oil" and their lobbyists for the honor of diverting things most from the national interest -- not the aforementioned "Israel Lobby."

ps. I'm not Jewish.
posted by bim at 6:03 PM on March 17, 2006


I am Jewish and I think it might be pretty much a dead heat
posted by donfactor at 6:23 PM on March 17, 2006


At one time I was pretty strong in my support for Israel -- more so than some liberal Jews of my acquaitance. Since Abu Ghraib, and reflecting on Israel's at times similar tactics, after seeing how unwilling to coexist Bibi and some of the Likudniks are, after seeing Israeli settlers throwing stones at the IDF in a futile attempt to delay their evacuation for the Occupied Territories, after hearing American fundie Christians slobber all over Israel hoping the Israelis will supply the literal river of blood the fundies expect for Armageddon -- and being hip-deep in our own pointless unwinable Mid-East war -- well, now I'm much less concerned about supporting Israel.

You say God gave you the land when He helped you defeat the Canaanites? Maybe so, maybe so. But if you buy that, I guess I'd have to say God took the land back when He let the Romans defeat the Maccabees. So don't come to me asking Ameerica to help you where your God wouldn't. Now if you've got a deed to the land, signed over by all the various tribes and factions over the last five millenia, that's one thing. But if all you've got is God's ancient vouchsafe, well, go complain to God.

We should have given the Jews Bavaria. That would have been fair, that would have been equitable, that would have been just. Disposses the "Aryan" Bayern yahoos just like the Russians did the Junkers in East Prussia. The Balfour Declaratiuon was a sentimental favorite after Hitler's evil genocide, but in our guilty tears over not accepting Jewish refugees from Hitler's insanity, we apparently didn't see the irony in Britain making a Jewish State out of land Britain had stolen from Arabs. Or the silliness in urban Northern and Eastern European Jewish Holocaaust survivors, doctors and lawyers and department store owners -- and yes, some illiterate farmers from the shtetl -- heading off to a Mediterrean climate to grow oranges in a desert.


I'll deal with the Native Americans whose land I stole three centuries ago and the Iraqis I stole from three years ago. You deal with the Canaanites or the Palestinians or whatever "the other", "the enenmy" is called today. Don't ask for American treasure, don't ask for American boys to die defending the Invisible Deed that your Invisible Covenanting Friend gave you.

Once we get over our current fit of jingoism, America's going to be isolationist whether you, whether we, want to or not. 400 billion dollars and an army wrecked into pieces by fighting a hydra-headed insurgency will see to that. You Israelis are going to be on your own. Maybe Pat Robertson will send you some assassins to "help", but other than that, it's gonna be your mess. Get ready.
posted by orthogonality at 6:36 PM on March 17, 2006


Christianzionism.org has some interesting articles attacking Evangelical support for the Zionist movement. Most of the writers come from the Reformed perspective (i.e. Lutherans, Calvinists, Presbyterians, etc.), and at least one article by an Eastern Orthodox priest, none of whom take literally God's promise of the land to Israel. IANAC, so I don't necessarily buy their theology, but they do provide an interesting counterpoint to Evangelical Zionism. Among the more interesting articles is one on how the Israel occupation (and, indirectly, Evangelical support for Israel) has nearly driven the indigenous population of Palestinian Christians to near extinction.
posted by bcveen at 7:03 PM on March 17, 2006


I recall that it was Ralph Nader, of Lebanese heritage, and no great pro-Israel kid of guy, who noted with some scorn that those who make a big deal of the "Jewish lobby" miss the fact that there are other much more potent lobbys in Washington, including NRA and Pharmaceutial industry. Of course, the Israel lobby focus is upon foreign affairs often, whereas other s are not, and thus this lobby seems so central. As for American financial aid to Israel--true. Israel gets a larger chunk than any other nation, and Israel is a democracy. Second in line? Guess who?

Oddly, from the Israeli perspective, atleast among those I keep up with, it is the inteference and imposition of policy upon Israel that seems annoying to them. Example: it was ok for Iraq to drop some missles on Israeli territory but the US insisted Israel not fire back at its attackers. The Road plan is hardly an Israeli plan either. But then, similar to what the courts said about military recruiting on American campuses: you do what the US govt says cause they foot the bills...or don't take the money.
posted by Postroad at 7:08 PM on March 17, 2006


So, is there some kind of solution to this Jewish problem?
posted by soiled cowboy at 7:22 PM on March 17, 2006


Wow, Jewish interests hijacking American foreign policy. Next you'll be telling me that the sky is blue.
posted by Timberman at 9:11 PM on March 17, 2006


So, is there some kind of solution to this Jewish problem?

Umm, perhaps putting US interests before Israeli interests when deciding US foreign policy?

Naaah... that would never fly. Never mind.
posted by dopeypanda at 10:08 PM on March 17, 2006


Ortho: after seeing how unwilling to coexist Bibi and some of the Likudniks are, after seeing Israeli settlers throwing stones at the IDF in a futile attempt to delay their evacuation for the Occupied Territories, after hearing American fundie Christians slobber all over Israel hoping the Israelis will supply the literal river of blood the fundies expect for Armageddon -- and being hip-deep in our own pointless unwinable Mid-East war --

First things first - I'm Jewish, I've spent time in Israel (though not recently), I consider myself zionist, I believe that Israel has the right to exist in at least some of the land that it currently occupies. Now then:

Orthogonality, it strikes me that the things you list that contributed to you no longer supporting Israel are unfair. For my money, Bibi is as criminal as they come. Settlers, too. So are you saying that your support for Israel is contingent on acceptable (by your standards) behavior from EVERY Israeli? Before someone flames me, let me say that I am most certainly NOT condoning everything that Israel does - it is a complex society with every stripe of the political spectrum represented, including ones that I disagree with. As such, I think it deserves it's place as an ally of America. Is there room for improvement? Of course - overwhelmingly so. That said, there is no denying that Israel is an amazingly diverse country that at least strives to protect freedom of speech. Freedom of religion, too, for that matter - no one is forbidden from practicing Islam in Israel. (The fate of Israel's Arabs is much better than the fate of Iran's Jews, for example.)

I would also point out that, unlike Islam, Jerusalem in particular and Israel in general are central to the practice of Judaism - there are prayers and even entire holidays dedicated to Jerusalem that date back thousands of years. I haven't verified this myself, but I've heard from many sources (perhaps someone else can verify) that Jerusalem isn't mentioned once in the Qu'ran. I'm not saying that the Arabs don't have the right to worship in Jerusalem. It does seem, though, that the Israelis have often been willing to compromise, whereas the rhetoric that one hears from the Arabs (generally speaking) is that "the Jews must be driven into the sea".

It's also worth pointing out that the Palestinians have fared just as badly (if not worse) at the hands of the Arabs as they have at the hands of the Israelis. King Hussein of Jordan famously slaughtered 20,000 of them in September 1970 alone. I've also heard that Sadat was unwilling to sign on to the Camp David peace treaty unless Begin was willing to accept Gaza - Begin wanted Sadat to take the land and absorb the Palestinians rather than have them live as refugees under Israeli rule, but Sadat balked. It is certainly true that the Israelis could treat the Palestinians far better, but it also is very politically expedient to a variety of Arab regimes to have the Palestinians oppressed by the evil Zionist entity.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 10:18 PM on March 17, 2006


For many Jews around the world Israeli's are not some anonymous entity that we support blindly 100% no questions asked. For many they are family.

In South Africa I would bet that out of the country's 80 000 Jews, 50 000 have relations living in Israel. So when Sistani says he want to 'set Israel on fire', he's not just talking about the death of some Israeli I'll never meet and feel nothing about, he's talking about the death of my great aunt and great uncle, my 2nd cousin her husband and family (two sons, one daughter all fully grown with their own families), my fiancee's aunt, uncle and his 3 children.
posted by PenDevil at 11:40 PM on March 17, 2006


So what's the national interest again? When was that settled? I must have missed the press release.
posted by loquax at 11:54 PM on March 17, 2006


In the future, before allying itself with anyone, the US should clear it with the Islamic world to make sure it doesn't upset them.

Maybe not that. But it almost sounds sensible to stay away from creating states in the Middle East in the midst of several opposing hostile cultures.

Nah.
posted by namespan at 1:06 AM on March 18, 2006


Out of genuine curiosity, since WW2 where else apart from Israel has actually kept territory taken in war?
posted by A189Nut at 2:22 AM on March 18, 2006


I found this to be a very well written and researched paper, essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the Middle East better.
posted by cell divide at 3:46 AM on March 18, 2006


I tend to think that even if we didn't support Israel, they'd still be hostile toward us.

I think if you'll look into it, you'll discover that most Arabs were quite friendly towards the US -- the governments allied with the Soviets were, of course, ritually hostile, but the people tended to be friendly and curious. After 1967, the US started embracing Israel more and more closely and the Arabs started getting more and more hostile.

It may, of course, be a coincidence.
posted by languagehat at 4:39 AM on March 18, 2006


What Arabs and what "states" existed pre-WWII? The head guy in Cairo in fact was pals with Hitler. The Jews by contrast befriended the Brits, their enemy, becvause of Hitler and the German Jews...

When you lose land in warfare, you work out a settlement through negotiations and then, possibly some or all the land is given back. This has not yet happened in the 4 wars begun by the Arabs to eliminate Israel. Why give back the land to a people that refuses to accept your right to exist and boycotts you and supports Hamas, a group determined to destroy you? After WWII, when and how did we give back lands we had taken?
posted by Postroad at 4:53 AM on March 18, 2006


In his book, All The Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, Stephen Kinzer talks about CIA's coup d'etat in Iran in 1953. Iran was very friendly towards the USA, as many Iranians are still today, but it were the British, who made up stories about Iran starting to move towards the Russians, because the Iranians were getting tired of British business practices. Previous Shahs had almost given full run of the country to the British by allowing individuals rights to whole systems like the railways. Definitely, US policy towards Israel also plays into the hands of zealots on all sides. It is coming to a point that today's generation may not know or remember of a time when things were different and US was looked upon as affectionately in the Arab world.
posted by adnanbwp at 5:12 AM on March 18, 2006


Even if Israel didn't exist, our Mideast policy would be unchanged. This war is about big oil and keeping so-called "friendly" reactionary forces like the Saudis in power. If our government would put pressure on our auto industry to make cars that run on environment-friendly energy sources, these tinhorn dictators would collapse like a house of cards.
posted by worbid411 at 7:16 AM on March 18, 2006


I once asked a rabbi over at ask a rabbi to explain without referencing the bible why israel deserves to exist. Short answer he couldn't, but he gave me a lot of garbage about the land being purchased from absentee landlords.

I suppose they owned the land in the same way a duke would have owned the land his serfs lived on.
posted by sourbrew at 7:57 AM on March 18, 2006


See Robert D. Kaplan's, The Arabists, for details on the Arab goodwill and support towards the US that was squandered in the process, nevermind the discovery of oil. Particularly disturbing was the automatic demotion in the State department of anyone who was an Arab expert, hence the title. We were famously associated with all of the areas main hospitals and universities, and even Christian missions were welcome.

What Americans should be wise to by now is the suggestion that anyone who is not pro-Israel is therefore anti-Semitic. It is the twin fallacy of the false dilemma and ad hominem, used by those who despise our racial and cultural tolerance. It is also factually absurd considering that Palestinians are Semites genetically related to the Jews. They simply never left.
posted by Brian B. at 9:10 AM on March 18, 2006


So are you saying that your support for Israel is contingent on acceptable (by your standards) behavior from EVERY Israeli?

Massive financial support of the settlers has long been official Israeli policy. They wouldn't be there without constant infusions of government cash.

I haven't verified this myself, but I've heard from many sources (perhaps someone else can verify) that Jerusalem isn't mentioned once in the Qu'ran.

I'd be really surpised if it was, because the Dome of the Rock marks the place where Mohammed bodily ascended to Heaven. Unless he was transcribing the event in the manner of the knight in the Monty Python movie who died as he was writing about Castle Aarrrrrrrgh, it probably doesn't actually appear in the Qu'ran. But that doesn't make it unimportant to Islam. It's an extremely unfortunate turn of history, but for Israel to claim it exclusively for their religion is just not an acceptable solution.
posted by scalefree at 9:10 AM on March 18, 2006


I shoulda RTFA. It is in the Qu'ran, because he came back & wrote about it.
posted by scalefree at 9:15 AM on March 18, 2006


At one time I was pretty strong in my support for Israel -- more so than some liberal Jews of my acquaitance. Since Abu Ghraib, and reflecting on Israel's at times similar tactics, after seeing how unwilling to coexist Bibi and some of the Likudniks are, after seeing Israeli settlers throwing stones at the IDF in a futile attempt to delay their evacuation for the Occupied Territories, after hearing American fundie Christians slobber all over Israel hoping the Israelis will supply the literal river of blood the fundies expect for Armageddon -- and being hip-deep in our own pointless unwinable Mid-East war -- well, now I'm much less concerned about supporting Israel.

Ortho, torture in Abu Gharib was exposed in 2003; Netanyahu's prime ministership ended four years prior, in in '99. Your phrasing suggests the two events were contemporaneous. According to the latest polls, Netanyahu's Likud will win somewhere between 14 and 17 seats in the 120-seat Knesset in the upcoming (March 28) election, or in other words 12 to 14% of the vote -- which might go to show you that most Israelis share your opinion of Netanyahu.

As for the settlers: well, you're dislike them, and yet the specific image you decry is that of the IDF forcibly evacuating them. I don't understand: if you are against the settlers, wouldn't their forceful evacuation from the strip by the state be a cause to support Israel, rather than not?
posted by ori at 9:30 AM on March 18, 2006


I shoulda RTFA. It is in the Qu'ran, because he came back & wrote about it.

You should R your own FA as well: it's only mentioned as "the farthest mosque", and there is some debate about which locale it's actually referring to.
posted by ori at 9:33 AM on March 18, 2006


fingers_on_fire, I'd venture that most people would settle for decent behaviour from the Israeli government. Torturing of captured Palestinean fighters, sending out settlers in an aggressive and preemptive land-grab, and electing people like Bibi that you call extremists - well, I'd agree that those things are extreme and disagreeable, but it would appear that these sorts of positions and actions aren't 'extreme' in Israeli society. Those settlers are there because of government support, harsh interrogations of Palestineans suspected of violence have [again with government support] all-too-frequently been the norm, and, well, Bibi got to be prime minister. I certainly believe that there are many moderate and liberal Israelis who don't support that stuff - but like moderate and liberal Americans, their voices aren't being heard. Ultimately, it's what the government does that gets the most attention.

Regarding the lack of mentions of Jerusalem in the Qu'ran - Christianity, Judaism, and Islam may all be 'religions of the Book', but for most practicioners of those religions, the book isn't everything. The Talmud, the writings of Christian theologians, the hadith, etc. - these things have a great deal to do with how those religions are actually practiced, for many [though not all] believers. Jerusalem may not have been mentioned directly and by name in the Qu'ran, but it was considered an important and holy place very early on in Muslim history. Saying "but it's not mentioned in their holy book!" is a selectively narrowminded reading of what makes things important in a religion.
posted by ubersturm at 9:46 AM on March 18, 2006


This is anti-Semitism pure and simple.

Why not try finding out some actual statistics instead of quoting from Arab (virulently anti-Semitic) propaganda? Compare, for example, the number of Palestinians killed by Israel and the number of Palestinians killed by other Arabs. In the Black September revolt in Jordan, King Hussein killed 10,000 Palestinians in one month alone. That's more than 5 times the number of Palestinians killed in the entire Arab-Israeli conflict. But of course, I forgot, dead Palestinians only count if the Israelis kill them.

As far as whether or not others have kept territory since 1948: how about China; they've taken the entire country of Tibet, or haven't you noticed? That's just the beginning of war and conquest since 1948, but I guess that if it doesn't involve Jews it doesn't interest anyone.

Don't you guys get it? All fascist movements start with anti-Semitism. It is still the one universally accepted prejudice. The Arabs are anti-West and they have stated unequivocally their desire to kill us and place all of us under Islamic law. In the meantime, you guys are busy being diverted by whether or not the Jews deserve to be hated by the Arabs. Wake up! Or are we like the French and can't recognize fascism until it is marching down the Champs Elysee.
posted by DrAmy at 10:30 AM on March 18, 2006


Who needs statistics to prove that two wrongs make a right? I'm fairly certain that Israel was popularly established out of a sense of anti-Semitism, to consciously avoid mass migration of Jews to Britain and America. Naysayers don't seem to realize that Americans today who don't turn a blind eye to the problems of Israel are probably least likely to be racist or anti-Semitic.
posted by Brian B. at 10:59 AM on March 18, 2006


"Who needs statistics..."

Right, we wouldn't want the facts to get in the way of anti-Semitism.

"I'm fairly certain that Israel was popularly established out of a sense of anti-Semitism, to consciously avoid mass migration of Jews to Britain and America."

You may be fairly certain, but you are completely wrong. Israel was established for a variety of reasons, chief among them that the Jews fought for their historical, national homeland and secondarily, that Europeans were horrified that their unconcern contributed to the death of 6 million Jews, in ovens, no less.

"Americans today who don't turn a blind eye to the problems of Israel are probably least likely to be racist or anti-Semitic."

No, they are the most likely to be anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism is extemely high among the European Left and rising among the American Left. Moreover, they happily tolerate the racism, misogynism and homophobia of the Palestinians. Evidently, anti-Semitism is so satisfying that supporters of the Palestinians can turn a blind eye to the fact that they routinely violate the most cherished ideals of the Left.
posted by DrAmy at 11:22 AM on March 18, 2006


I haven't verified this myself, but I've heard from many sources (perhaps someone else can verify) that Jerusalem isn't mentioned once in the Qu'ran.

The answer to this comment isn't to look into the Qur'an. It's to ask: Are you really saying that the Palestinians' just title to the land depends on what we find in a religious composition more than a millennium old? I'd have thought, rather, that it depended on the fact that it had been lived upon, farmed, etc. in peace by umpteen generations of their ancestors!

Speaking of ancestry, it's important to remember that the tides of invasions, conquest, and linguistic change generally do not mean a wholesale exchange of people, as is naively assumed by many. The Palestinian "Arabs" are of course to a large extent the descendants of people who lived on that land before Arabic was ever spoken there. What is more surprising, if anything, is how many of them have maintained some cultural practices that predate the Arab presence (Christianity, most obviously) rather than converting wholesale to the mores of the conquering authorities.

Meanwhile, DrAmy's attempt to conjure a fog of moral relativism (hmmm, once we look at Chinese and Arab misdeeds, we ought to be just too jaded to care about whether Israel's dispossessions and life-terminations have a leg to stand on!) won't fly. If you want Israel to exist and have some justification for its existence (for the record, I do want this), it is very advisable to work up your material in a more positivistic, rather than rhetorical, spirit. I know so many otherwise sensible, well-meaning Jews who sort of grasp in the back of their minds that any historic compromise with the people whose villages Israel emptied in 1948 would be an undeserved miracle, but who, rather than supporting the accommodation that could actually realize the dream of an Israel with a future (namely, a reversion to status quo ante 1967), have a sudden mental short circuit, say, "But those Palestinians—their culture lets them make their kids blow themselves up to get us!" — and voila, the unpleasant brain-cramp of actually fixing this ugly historical mess has been washed over by the easy, smug, and self-righteous assurance that there's nothing to be done but more of the same. However: political tenability in the moment and support from the U.S. (A) doesn't create right, (B) doesn't create a future for Israel. The real tragedy here, in the long term, is only for the friends of Israel: they are the only ones who are losing as they make their choice between Israel's future, and getting a bigger advantage over the dastardly Palestinians in the present.
posted by Zurishaddai at 11:26 AM on March 18, 2006


Don't you guys get it? All fascist movements start with anti-Semitism.

This is not true. The original fascist movement, in Italy, had nothing to do with anti-Semitism until the late '30s, when the ever-tightening embrace of Nazi Germany forced Mussolini to issue anti-Semitic laws (see here for convenient summary; scroll down); in fact, there were quite a few Jewish members of the Partito Fascista in the early days. And it's simply not true that people who criticize Israel are "likely to be anti-Semitic," and that kind of statement is one reason fervent supporters of Israel are sometimes perceived as paranoid and/or willing to smear people for political advantage.
posted by languagehat at 11:33 AM on March 18, 2006


On non-preview: great comment, Zurishaddai.
posted by languagehat at 11:35 AM on March 18, 2006


Zurishaddai, FWIW, I largely agree with your call for "a reversion to status quo ante 1967", but some of your arguments merit further clarification. For example, many Palestinian Christians were converted to Christianity by European colonialist. Therefore, your claim that "many of them have maintained some cultural practices that predate the Arab presence (Christianity, most obviously)" is suspect. The "how many" is also misleading, since we're talking about roughly 6%, or one in seventeen Palestinians. By far the worst part of your argument is:

The Palestinian "Arabs" are of course to a large extent the descendants of people who lived on that land before Arabic was ever spoken there.

The wiki entry for the Palestinian people claims that "Palestinians, like most other Arabic speakers, thus combine pre-Arab and Arab ancestry; the precise mixture is a matter of debate". If you have any evidence for this that makes it such a non-issue as to merit an "of course", please do share it with us.

Finally, the last issue I want to take up is a rhetorical one:

it had been lived upon, farmed, etc. in peace by umpteen generations of their ancestors!

I'll grant you that this might be my predisposition to paranoia, but my feeling is that you are implicitly and perhaps unconsciously engaged with the cultivation of a pastoral myth about the Palestinian people. There is nothing false per se (except for the fact that if there is anything that the history of Israel/Palestine is not is peaceful), but nonetheless I find the constant apposition in mass media of the happy Palestinian hobbits with Israeli Imperialist techno-warrior shock troopers demagogic.
posted by ori at 12:11 PM on March 18, 2006


"DrAmy's attempt to conjure a fog of moral relativism"

Clearly, you misunderstood. What I am saying is that the actions of Israelis are being criticized precisely because they are Jews. In order to show that this is not anti-Semitism, you must show a principle that you are invoking to criticize the Israelis, and then you must show how the world is applying it to nations other than Israel.

If only the Israelis are criticized for actions that are otherwise ignored, it is anti-Semitism.

Furthermore, you must show why it is ideologically consistent to oppose racism, misogynism, and homophobia, but at the same time to support a people who are thoroughly racist, misogynistic and homophobic.

My point is that you wouldn't know about and you certainly wouldn't care about the Palestinians unless the were anti-Semitic. You certainly don't seem to know about or care about unfortunate people who aren't attacking the Jews, and you certainly don't seem to know about or care about the people you support (the Palestinians) unless they are being opposed by Jews.

You can dress it up anyway you want to, but it is anti-Semitism pure and simple.
posted by DrAmy at 12:11 PM on March 18, 2006


Yeah, and people complained about apartheid because they hate the dutch. Or something.
posted by Artw at 12:28 PM on March 18, 2006


Dr. Amy, why must we show that? It doesn't matter if the Palestinians are racist or homophobic or misogynistic. Human rights are human rights. And I'm not sure why I should have to burnish my pro universal human rights credentials everywhere. But I will say that because Israel forms a good portion of our local politics, I am more concerned about Israel than about, say, Nigeria.

You either support human rights or you don't. You support human rights for people who think differently, or you apply them selectively.

Few people on the left support Palestinian terrorism: but just as any Palestinian who participates in violence deserves the appropriate response from the Israeli armed forces, the Israelis shouldn't be surprised when the ubiquitous everyday humiliation results in a hatred of the occupiers.

It always preplexes me that we expect Palestinians to feel jolly good and forgiving about the occupation, but we don't demand the same magnanimity from the occupiers.
posted by john wilkins at 12:30 PM on March 18, 2006


I don't think Jimmy Carter is anti semitic - Israel's colonisation of Palestine blocking peace, says Jimmy Carter
posted by adamvasco at 12:42 PM on March 18, 2006


Dr. Amy I'm sure you've spent a lot of time with Palestinians so you are qualified to make blanket statements about them. Show me a racist, misogynist, and homophobic Palestinian Imam, and I will find you his equal in the Orthodox or Shepardim community. You feel quite comfortable slandering an entire people in the course of 'defending' your own, which would be funny if it weren't so tragic.

Your assertions are ridiculous for the most part, although I do agree that anti-semitism among some (some!) supporters of Palestinian rights is a problem-- but that doesn't negate the validity of those rights. It's clear you've been fed a steady diet, probably since birth, that the entire world hates us and wants to get rid of us, and thus any lack of support for any Jew, Jewish cause, or Jewish action is 'clearly' anti-semitism.

This allows you to excuse any Israeli action because the perpetrator is Jewish. A backwards logic if there ever was one (because Jews have suffered, any criticism of suffering they impose on others is misguided). Allowing immoral acts just because criticism of those acts may possibly be motivated by anti-semitism is extremely damaging.

There is nothing remotely anti-semitic about this paper, in fact one of the primary conclusions is that the Israel Lobby in the United States hurts Israel and Jews in general. Did you read the paper? Do you have disagreements with the actual content, or do you reflexively shout anti-semitism and get into bizarre logic pretzels every time you hear about anything remotely critical of Israel?
posted by cell divide at 12:51 PM on March 18, 2006


What Artw and cell divide said.

DrAmy, you're offering some of the best PR the PLO has ever had.
posted by bardic at 12:55 PM on March 18, 2006


What I am saying is that the actions of Israelis are being criticized precisely because they are Jews.

No, they are not. Israel is being criticized for its human rights violations. Read the article. See also: criticizing China for its occupation of Tibet is not sinophobic, etc.

you must show a principle that you are invoking to criticize the Israelis

No, we do not. Critics of Israel are not by default anti-semites until they can prove their innocence, especially in your court, where you seem to have appointed yourself to be the prosecution, judge and jury. Rather, the onus is on *you* to substantially justify any anti-semitism accusations that you make in response to statements that you happen to disagree with. Otherwise your comments are just noise.
posted by carter at 12:57 PM on March 18, 2006


BTW thought-provoking post, Dasein, particularly as I hadn't come across this Realist school before.
posted by carter at 12:59 PM on March 18, 2006


DrAmy, that sort of shrill branding of others as antisemetic is perhaps one of the most laughable attempts at derailing a thread.

Perhaps you could launch into some godwin for us?

That said I love the jews, funny funny people, great with money... ad stereotype. However, its sad that a nation that routinely tops the list of UN human rights violations. In fact this week the US, Israel, the Marshall Islands, and Palau were the only four countries to vote against the new UN Human Rights organization.

The marshall islands, and Palau are effectively US puppets, so this is pretty damning of both the US and Israeli approaches to "interrogation."
posted by sourbrew at 1:05 PM on March 18, 2006


damn... "it's sad that it is a nation that...."
posted by sourbrew at 1:06 PM on March 18, 2006


If only the Israelis are criticized for actions that are otherwise ignored, it is anti-Semitism.
Thats a very simplistic attitude.
Israel likes to hold itself to a high moral standard ('only democracy in the middle east', 'IDF is the most moral army in the world', etc). Is is therefore not wrong to judge Israel on it's own quoted moral values? If we are to ignore acts perpertrated by one country because another perpertates worse acts, then I think the world will be in a very bad state.

The fact that the israeli state defines itself a jewish state does make it difficult to criticize and judge the actions of the state without criticizing the jewish religion, but it is nonetheless possible.

I also have the feeling that pro-israeli people hide behind the 'anti-semitism' label when answering critics, as it avoids having to actually address the issues -- the old 'ad hominem' response.
Don't you guys get it? All fascist movements start with anti-Semitism. It is still the one universally accepted prejudice.
I would generalise that all facist movements start with anti-anything -- Uniting the people against a common enemy helps to maintain control.
The Arabs are anti-West and they have stated unequivocally their desire to kill us and place all of us under Islamic law.
The Arabs? All of them? The entire populations of the north african, middle eastern and gulf states? Most of whom will sell their grandmothers to have a chance to live in the affluent west, drink coca cola and wear nikes?
And you complain about anti-semitic attitudes... (By the way, you forgot to include all the persians, pashtuns, chechens, malays and every other non-arab predominantly Islamic peoples)

(on preview: what everyone else said too: I type too slow!)
posted by nielm at 1:08 PM on March 18, 2006


I've noticed that no one chooses to address the central issue:

What is the principle by which you judge the Israelis and how does the world apply this principle to all other countries.

I suspect that the reason you haven't addressed this is that you can't. The real "principle" is that it's okay to criticize Jews for the same things that every other people does every single day.

"Yeah, and people complained about apartheid because they hate the dutch."

QED. Equating the Israeli response to Palestinian terror with apartheid IS anti-Semitism. They bear no relationship legally or morally, but why quibble about details.

"any lack of support for any Jew, Jewish cause, or Jewish action is 'clearly' anti-semitism"

How could I have gotten that idea? How many historical examples can you point to (you've got the last 5000 years) that illustrate how Jews were criticized as a group, but it was not anti-Semitic. I suspect you'll find precisely zero.

I'm supposed to believe that this time, supporting a failed pseudo-state of racist, misogynist, homophobic , virulently anti-Semitic group of people who equate Jews with pigs and dogs and share no values in common with the West are supported against a democratic, progressive State is simply a matter of human rights.

Where's the Brooklyn Bridge? I'll buy that before I buy the new, improved 21st century excuse for anti-Semitism.
posted by DrAmy at 1:09 PM on March 18, 2006


These days does the word "antisemitic" actually have a meaning other than "I would like to derail this thread about Israel"?
posted by Artw at 1:13 PM on March 18, 2006


"I'm supposed to believe that this time, supporting a failed pseudo-state of racist, misogynist, homophobic , virulently anti-Semitic group of people who equate Jews with pigs and dogs and share no values in common with the West are supported against a democratic, progressive State is simply a matter of human rights."

I don't think people here are claiming that the Palestinians are good people. I think they are saying that supporting Israel is leading to attacks on US interests, or in other words our people are dying because of this support.

You are attempting to equate the two to derail any actual discussion about the fact that maybe we should be looking at our policies and deciding what is best for the US, and not what is best for Israel.
posted by sourbrew at 1:15 PM on March 18, 2006


"we should be looking at our policies and deciding what is best for the US, and not what is best for Israel"

You're out of touch with the times. That's the 18th century anti-Semitic canard, that Jews are not loyal (Germans, French, British, Americans, take your pick) only loyal to the international cabal of other Jews.

Support of Israel IS in America's interest. If you think that the Arab dictatorships and kleptocracies of the Middle East are going to like us better if we ditch Israel, you are misreading the situation. Israel is the first step in an attack on the West, not the cause of the problem.
posted by DrAmy at 1:25 PM on March 18, 2006


How is it in Americas interest? We seem to spend a lot of money there, and get nothing out of it. Spreading democracy through the Middle East is a dead end at the moment, in fact trying to do more of it would no doubt only result in the death of more of our men in uniforms.

So again why is it in our interest, what do we get out of it? not oil, again our support has probably just made oil more difficult for us to obtain from the other arab nations by creating anti US sentiment.
posted by sourbrew at 1:30 PM on March 18, 2006


Equating the Israeli response to Palestinian terror with apartheid IS anti-Semitism.

"Israeli response to terrorism"... so the Israeli response to terrorism is what causes them to discriminate against their Arab citizens? 1.2m Palestinians are Israeli citizens, they have never been involved in terrorism except on the individual level and even then in very small numbers, and yet their schools, infrastructure, and equal application of rights under the law are severely diminshed. Full disclosure, I studied this issue as part of obtaining my Masters, and spent several years in Israel (and am writing this from outside Tel Aviv right now). No one can say that Israeli-Arabs have anywhere near the same rights as Jews in this country. It is progressive and Democratic... for Jews. South Africa was likewise progressive and Democratic-- for its minority rulers.

Now, I won't say that Israeli-Arabs have a situation which approaches the brutality of Black South Africans under Apartheid. That paralel can really only be drawn between the situation in the West Bank and (formerly) the Gaza Strip. The paralels are too numerous to mention, but a quick rundown:

total lack of participation in political process
detention without trial
widespread use of armed response against unarmed protestors
widespread use of torture
mass arrests
collective punishment
Any Jew can choose to live in Israel or the West Bank as a settler, but Palestinians who fled or left in 1948 or 1967 are not allowed to live there.
Jewish only roads
Jewish only housing
Freedom of movement only for Jews

What is the principle by which you judge the Israelis and how does the world apply this principle to all other countries.

I personally stand against all repressive regimes and occupied land. I believe you mentioned Tibet-- against that occupation as well. Against Arab expulsions of Jews following birth of Israel. Against Nazis. Against racism in all its forms. Against occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco. Against brutality in Darfour. The list goes on. I am especially concerned with Israel for a few reasons: 1. I am Jewish, and I know more about this conflict then any other. 2. America is principal cause of the problem, and I am American. 3. This issue has festered longer then any other, and continues to create strife all over the world. 4. It is the last vestige of Ethnocentric colonialism in the world, and ought to have been solved a long time ago. Also, the situation is within our grasp and yet just out of reach, which is why I liked this paper as it puts that into bold relief. So don't impugn the movtives of people you don't know. Just because there are anti-semites who oppose Israel does not make the movement for Palestinian rights, for a fair and just settlement in the region, an anti-semitic one. Furthermore your comments are Palestinians are clearly based on racist attitudes you hold, so I find it ironic that you are basing much of your 'logic' on anti-racism.

How many historical examples can you point to (you've got the last 5000 years) that illustrate how Jews were criticized as a group, but it was not anti-Semitic. I suspect you'll find precisely zero.

Just as I suspect you'll find precisely zero instances of Jewish nationhood in the past 2,000 years. When you become a nation, the game has changed. No one (here) is critcizing Jews. They are criticizing Israel. Failure to distinguish between the two is (again, ironically as is much of the response to your posting) the real anti-semitism. As a nation, any Jew can choose to live in Israel. One can also choose not to.
posted by cell divide at 1:31 PM on March 18, 2006


How is it in Americas interest? We seem to spend a lot of money there, and get nothing out of it.

No no sourbrew, we're talking about Israel, not the UN in this thread.

Again, where was the "national interest" so clearly defined that these folks can state definitively that it would suggest something other than supporting Israel in the manner that the US currently does?
posted by loquax at 1:41 PM on March 18, 2006


"total lack of participation in political process
detention without trial
widespread use of armed response against unarmed protestors
widespread use of torture
mass arrests
collective punishment"

Really, then how come there are Palestinian members of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament)?

Furthermore, everything you mention applies to Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudia Arabia and every other Arab country, yet that's okay.

In addition, Palestinians are not allowed to become citizens of own land in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and every other Arab country, but they can become citizens and own land in Israel.

There is absolutely no question that Palestinians enjoy more rights in Israel (not to mention better nutrition, longer lives, lower infant mortality, etc) than in any other Arab country. Where are the protests against the treatment of Palestinians in other countries? Why is it acceptable that, among all Arab peoples, only the Palestinians are not allowed to become citizens or own property in all the countries that surround Israel? There are no protests, because people do not give a damn about the Palestinians as individuals. They are only useful insofar as they can be used as a cudgel to beat Israel.
posted by DrAmy at 1:46 PM on March 18, 2006


Why is it that when you're arguing with a dumb ass right-wing American troll on the inter web they always come up with this "give me one example of [x] when [y] is [z] and [alpha] isn't [beta] in the last 5000 years!" type crap. It's almost always some slightly loony slanted question where all kinds of odd assumptions have been made and all kinds of weird conditional clauses have been added in order to guide you to the "obvious" answer. It's like something a twelve year old that confuses facts with semantics would come up with.

Do they get them out of some kind of news-sheet or something?

I swear, he'll be ragging on us for not denouncing Stalin next.
posted by Artw at 1:46 PM on March 18, 2006


"No no sourbrew, we're talking about Israel, not the UN in this thread."

I only brought up the UN to talk about Israel's human rights violations, but you know whatever.
posted by sourbrew at 1:53 PM on March 18, 2006


I stand by my comment but will provide some requested clarifications.

1. Palestinian Christianity. A review of my comment will make it clear that this bore zero argumentative weight in making my point. While there are some complexities in the Palestinian case, the overall profile of modern Palestinian Christianity has much in common with that of Christian communities in neighboring countries. Which is to say it by and large goes right back to the region's Byzantine past. It is useful to compare the thriving Christian community in neighboring Syria. (Heck, a few of them still speak Syriac in their daily life.) Of course, the fate of Christians with the misfortune to live under governments that have persecuted them — please don't think I consider Israel unique in this regard, as Turkey, say, has been just as severe (see Dalrymple, From the Holy Mountain for a reasonable, broad-brush account of the legacy and variable modern fates of Byzantine Christianity) — has meant that their current numbers are not a good reflection of their presence in modern history more broadly (they are much more likely to emigrate). I realize well that the fires of Islamism are now fanned in such a way that the much more tenable situation, in Arab-majority lands, of Arabic-speaking Christians (or for that matter Arabic-speaking Jews) a hundred years ago, is no more. But it's always worth looking at the situation a hundred years ago as a reminder of just what a 20th/21st century politically engineered mess (and not an ancient "clash of civilizations") we have today.

2. Ancestry of Palestinian Arabs. The fact to which you stipulate agreement, "combine pre-Arab and Arab ancestry; the precise mixture is a matter of debate," is plenty sufficient to support my point (replace "to a large extent" with "to a significant extent" if you like). If you really harbor considerable doubts about the more general point about the normal "DNA impact" of conquest (especially in cases, like the Arabization of the Levant, where it is a case of a spreading world power, not of the displacement/migration of a group), I highly recommend that you study the conclusions drawn by scholars in one of the myriad historical cases where you do not attach any emotional significance to the facts. There are, of course, two sides to this coin. In places where Arab culture spread and was then eradicated (say, Andalusia or Sicily), local populations for their own reasons of national identity will often wish to understate the evident imprint of Arab culture and, for that matter, DNA.

3. Ori's suspicion that by stressing the Palestinians' deep roots in the land I'm engaging in some kind of romantic "hobbit" fantasy. I really meant this more as a point about the status of the population before the impact of modern political ideologies and Zionist immigration. The Palestinians displaced in 1948 were, by and large, still living a rural village life - I don't mean that they were all peasants, of course they were craftsmen, traders, political and cultural leaders, and everything else too (I actually neglected the pastoral demographic per se, I certainly shouldn't have, as shepherding has been pretty darn important to these folks' livelihood!). I hope it will help us claim some common ground if I stipulate, as I do very willingly, that modern Palestinian politics and ideology are as pathological — even cancerous! — a modern creation of our own era as any ugly modern "techno-warrior shock trooper" realities that have resulted from Israel's development of an even more modern state, military, and ideology. But, as I've suggested above, it is always healthy to remember that all of us human beings derive, if you go back a wee bit, from masses of simple people farming the land (or doing something equally harmless) in peace. From the bitter rhetoric with which Israeli extremists (say the expulsionist [would it really be polemical to say "ethnic cleansing"?] policies of the former Moledet party, still reflected at one not-negligible end of the Israeli spectrum today) explain how Palestinians brought everything in the last 60 years on themselves, you'd think there were no civilians trying to farm their great-great-grandparents' land in peace, just a bunch of revolutionary militias! (This de-facto error is IMHO as offensive as subscribing to the view that the Jews who migrated were seeking anything other than a very comparable kind of normalcy — the right to live simple and good lives, which they had so often been criminally denied, and which plays such an important part in the equally Romantic agrarianism of Zionism!) In this respect, the quaint and "romantic" view of Palestinian Arabs so lovingly reported by pre-Zionism visitors to the "Holy Land" is relevant to an understanding of the land's history and the peoples' identities, even if that well was poisoned long ago.

4. DrAmy's additional anti-Semitic smears. Call me an idealist, even an essentialist zealot who hasn't gotten the memo that there is no right and wrong in the world, but, no, I do not feel compelled to undertake a comparative study of world politics before I judge the moral consequences of Israeli policy on their own terms. Really, DrAmy, I hoped I had made clear that it is because I give a rat's ass about the soul and future of Israel that I hope to salvage some moral foundation for its future. If I cared so much about justifying the place of some other, non-Jewish nation in the world (I'm sure I do, say my own, which is a tough enough job too, but it's hardly at issue here), then I'm sure I would be doing harm to the cause of supporting that nation's rightful future if I didn't demand it nurture its best values and stick to them. Which brings me to

5. In which Zurishaddai throws down the gauntlet to his opponents. I am demoralized that the ostensibly "pro-Israel" attack voices here will not even try to reply to my point that my views, besides attempting to be founded on some moral foundation superior to "But the Chinese are wickeder still," are claimed by me to be the useful and necessary views for guaranteeing Israel a safe and prosperous existence in the future. I would have kept my trap shut — I don't have that much of an appetite for these silly I/P threads anymore! — if it were not that I needed to make the point that the policies in which the U.S. supports Israel — more confidently, in some cases, than the Israeli population supports them — are the single biggest threat to Israel. It is my studied opinion that the "champions of Israel" on the American and Israeli right, while in their apocalyptic own view they may forecast triumph, are, de facto (by failing to create a viable Palestinian state acceptable to the Palestinians — there is such a thing, it's status quo ante 1967! — and by doing everything possible to make the Palestinian West Bank fail to satisfy any of the minimal conditions for a state) working to bring about a One State Solution. If their policies prevail, if the "pro-Israel" (IMO anti-Israel) lobby gets its wishes, then there will be necessarily be a single state. This is simply inconsistent with what I hope for Israel: that it will exist as a state with a credible claim to being "democratic" and that it will not engage in atrocities beyond anything it's yet contemplated, or at least done ("removal," nuclear war).

5B. The challenge more succinctly expressed. Convince me, anyone, that your "hard line" today will preserve the possibility of such an Israel.
posted by Zurishaddai at 2:06 PM on March 18, 2006


P.S. DrAmy, add to your wonder-list of great parks to being an Arab citizen of Israel: "legally barred from ownership of 93% of the state's territory."
posted by Zurishaddai at 2:07 PM on March 18, 2006


If only the Israelis are criticized for actions that are otherwise ignored, it is anti-Semitism.

No, it's anti-Israel. It's anti-Israeli policy. It's anti-Israeli actions. It's anti-us giving them billions a year to perpetuate those policies and actions which oppress and hurt many people.

Anti-semitism is directed at all Jews--not just Israeli Jews. This is not anti-semitism.

Israel is held to a very different standard than other countries--for a variety of reasons. It's wrong, but it's fact that has to be dealt with. Our foreign policy has been inextricably entwined with theirs for decades and decades, and that won't be changing no matter who's president. What should be happening is that all the money should be tied to the better treatment on Palestinians, but i'm not going to hold my breath.

I'll also add that i hope no one mistakes the "Israeli lobby" as speaking for all American Jews--they don't--at all. And the vast majority of American Jews, at least, are far more concerned with domestic policy here, given that we're Americans, you know. And in fighting those who would turn us and others into those very Palestinians--right here.
posted by amberglow at 2:14 PM on March 18, 2006


and DrAmy, during Apartheid in South Africa, blacks could own property in their carefully delineated areas as well--it's not really a ringing endorsement of rights.
posted by amberglow at 2:18 PM on March 18, 2006


"legally barred from ownership of 93% of the state's territory."

Really? Quote the relevant law. I doubt that you can since there is no such law. This is just another piece of propaganda.

By the way, I notice that you didn't disagree that Palestinians are barred from owning 100% of the land in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, etc., etc. Why aren't there any international protests? Why hasn't the UN condemned such discriminatory behavior? We all know why. No one cares about the Palestinians. They are simply proxies, useful for criticizing Jews, but not, in themselves, deserving of sympathy or effort to improve their condition at the hands of their Arab brethren.
posted by DrAmy at 2:21 PM on March 18, 2006


Also, whether other countries in the region treat their Palestinians well or not has nothing to do with how our money perpetuates the injustice and harm done to Palestinians in Israel. It doesn't absolve anyone of responsibility in any way.
posted by amberglow at 2:21 PM on March 18, 2006


The attachment of American Jews to Israel has weakened measurably in the last two years, a recent survey demonstrates, continuing a long-term trend visible during the past decade and a half. ... Just 57% affirmed that "caring about Israel is a very important part of my being Jewish," compared with 73% in a similar survey in 1989.
The drop from 1989 appears consistent with a widely noted, long-term generational decline in attachment to Israel. However, generational change is unlikely to explain the dramatic shift during the last two years, which appears to reflect responses to current events in the Middle East.
Tellingly, as many as 37% agreed that they were "often disturbed by Israel's policies and actions," while another 30% were not sure. Just 33% said they disagreed, 4% of them "strongly." ...

posted by amberglow at 2:32 PM on March 18, 2006


Two wrongs don't make a right, unless you support the bankrupt policies of the Israeli state.
posted by bardic at 2:36 PM on March 18, 2006


from 2004: ...The real story behind the numbers is that most American Jews do not care much about Israel or their fellow Jews living there. Indeed the survey explicitly found that only 15% of American Jews listed Israel as the most important issue for them when determining for whom to vote. (Admittedly, that number somewhat understates the importance of Israel to American Jews. Many may have hesitated to name Israel as most important for fear of the dual loyalty rap.)
The low level of concern of American Jews with Israel reflects a low level of interest in Judaism. Nearly three-quarters told the pollsters that they attend synagogue no more than several times a year or hardly ever, and 60% belong to no Jewish organization.
The greatest fear for American Jews remains not the fate of other Jews in Israel, but rather American Christians. Not, mind you, the tony Episcopalians and Presbyterians with whom secular Jews interact on a regular basis, and who like most Jews have reduced their religion to a concern with "good deeds," such as boycotting Israel. No, the Christians who terrify American Jews are those who actually take their religion seriously, and who tell their elected representatives that America will be judged by her treatment of Israel.
An American Jewish Committee poll found that over 40% of Jews view most or many Christian conservatives as anti-Semitic. ...

posted by amberglow at 2:37 PM on March 18, 2006


Really, then how come there are Palestinian members of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament)

Is your reading comprhension that bad? I was clearly making a disctinction between the Arabs of Israel (who are more in a disenfranchised minority position then an apartheid one) and the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza under de-facto Israeli rule.

you didn't disagree that Palestinians are barred from owning 100% of the land in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, etc., etc.

That's incorrect, there are literally tens of thousands of Palestinians who own land, businesses, and other property in all of those countries. You are confused with ordinary Palestinians (who have the same rights as any other people vis-a-vis citizenship laws in any country) and official refugees who are in refugee camps in some of those countries. Their situation is deplorable, but it's easy for them to be kept in that condition because they quite literally have former homes in what is now Israel. The argument is that their compensation/land/rights etc. ought to come from the people who appropriated their land, not third parties. It's also argued (same argument Israel uses) that the national character of Lebanon would be changed irrevokably if those refugees were granted citizenship. Same logic wrt to property recovery goes for Jews who lost property in Germany, Austria, etc. After the holocaust, should 3rd party countries be required to make restitution to the Jews who lost homes and property? In Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, citizenship is nearly impossible to get for anyone, there are no special provisions against Palestinians.

Really? Quote the relevant law. I doubt that you can since there is no such law. This is just another piece of propaganda.

Of course-- everything you don't agree with is propaganda. Do you work hard at being so ignorant, or does it just come naturally?
The reason Arabs aren't allowed to own land in Israel is that most land is owned by the quasi-governmental Jewish National Fund. This makes it far easier to discriminate against Palestinians without having clear laws which make it so (and thus risk international censure). This is the same reason why Israel does not have a constitution. In practice, Arabs can only buy land from other Arabs or from land that is not owned by the JNF.

they can become citizens and own land in Israel.

Patently false. The only way an Arab can become a citizen of Israel is to be born there to Arab citizens of Israel. This applies to the hundreds of thousands who lived in what is now Israel. In theory, an Arab could convert to Judaism and claim right of return, but in practice this has been tried and rejected by the Rabbinical council.
posted by cell divide at 2:43 PM on March 18, 2006


Quote: The wiki entry for the Palestinian people claims that "Palestinians, like most other Arabic speakers, thus combine pre-Arab and Arab ancestry; the precise mixture is a matter of debate". If you have any evidence for this that makes it such a non-issue as to merit an "of course", please do share it with us.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4307083,00.html
posted by Brian B. at 3:03 PM on March 18, 2006


I don't think the last link I posted works. Try again.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4307083,00.html
posted by Brian B. at 3:06 PM on March 18, 2006


D'joo eat yet?
posted by languagehat at 3:10 PM on March 18, 2006


Really? Quote the relevant law. I doubt that you can since there is no such law. This is just another piece of propaganda.

Is gov.il a good enough source for the 93% figure? Now, since a little learning is a dangerous thing, perhaps you will learn a little & come back with some theory that constitutionally it's ok for Arabs to enjoy meaningful land tenure rights on this land (in Israeli parlance, to be "allocated" land) as long as it's not strictly JNF land. The reality is that residential development policies in Israel do not honor this principle, which produces the perverse result that the most integrationist of Arab citizens (professionals who want to live in Jewish suburbs) are thwarted (as shown by the case of the quixotic quest for allocation of ILA lands by Adel Kaadan [Ha-Arertz story]).

While I'm obviously not as ignorant about Israeli law as DrAmy, I have not been following the latest legal developments & would sincerely welcome anyone who can fill me in about more recent developments in the Israeli legislature and courts.

News bulletin to DrAmy: you would be a more credible and potent force against anti-Semitism if you learned something about the policies of the state you defend. Real supporters of Israel are the Jewish judges and citizens in Israel trying to enforce and support a legal framework that is less discriminatory. (They actually want a realistic future at peace on the Israeli land.) Real enemies of Israel are Americans, Jewish or gentile, who figure that supporting Israel means embracing its ugliest policies, yelling out a FOXNews caricature, and saying yee-haw to the fundies. I am very pleased to say that if these zealots moved to Israel tomorrow they'd find at least a third to a half of your Jewish compatriots in doubt about the "patriotic" and "pro-Israel" value of such extremist views.

Zurishaddai's rough left-to-right spectrum:
B'Tselem > Ha-Aretz > Israeli Supreme Court > Rabin > Israeli Jews on average > Arik > Bibi, AIPAC, DrAmy > Jerry Falwell

In the future I'm going to try to conserve my breath and address myself more to the "Israeli Jews on average" portion of the spectrum.
posted by Zurishaddai at 3:55 PM on March 18, 2006


Jerry Falwell, LOL. What I like about that spectrum is that it emphasises that there has to be a dialogue for all sides to survive, within Israel, within Palestine, and between Palestine and Israel (however sappy that may sound).
And absolutist rhetoric does not contribute to that.

One by-product of the lobbyist conspiracy, as I see it, is that the picture of internal Israeli politics presented in the US is often crude and inaccurate. So thanks for the insights of folks in this thread and others (whoi do come from all sides of the Israeli political spectrum) who have taken time to try and break it down for dunces like me.
posted by carter at 4:36 PM on March 18, 2006


I am still waiting for some one to come up with a principle that is not applied to Israel alone.

I asked for relevant law to be quoted and I did not notice any quotes.

The thing that is so disturbing is the casualness of the anti-Semitism. No one has supplied any proof for their assertions and much of what is asserted has no basis in fact. If you want to claim that Israel perpetrates various crimes than you have to prove it and you also have to be knowledgeable about what other countries do in similar circumstances.

You don't have to take my word for it. Look it up. You think there is a particular Israeli law that persecutes Palestinians? Make sure it really exists.

Every one knew the Jews poisoned the wells. Everyone knew that the Jews in capitalist countries were communists, just as they knew that the Jews in communist countries were capitalists. Now every one knows that the Palestinians are oppressed by the Israelis. Well, guess what, they all have same basis --- not in fact, of course, but in anti-Semitism.
posted by DrAmy at 7:22 PM on March 18, 2006


DrAmy, you forgot SCIENCE!

Anyways, it's been fun flagging your posts as batshitinsane.
posted by bardic at 7:35 PM on March 18, 2006


DrAmy, you don't have to take my word for it. Has it occurred to you that, if you're going to be such a blowhard about how land discrimination against Arab Israeli citizens is "propaganda," if you were a conscientious person, you would, for yourself, go and learn the relevant facts? Go, research the issue. Read the Israeli newspaper accounts of the legal battles, starting with the one I linked, but please, go far beyond it, and don't stop until you are satisfied that you see the situation in its true colors. Come back, and support a claim about the truth that differs from mine. I came a lot closer to satisfying your demand for an ISRAELI JEWISH evidence trail for my claims than you have. Be warned - when you start digging into Israeli land laws, you'll find that they're quite intentionally cryptic and obscure. Israeli legislators did not want to write for all the world to read that "Jews" alone had certain civil rights, so there are various periphrases ("persons who would be eligible under the Law of Return were they outside the borders of Israel").

If you really believe that real anti-semitic smears (poisoned wells, etc.) are equivalent to highlighting inequality of Arab Israel citizens — then what, do you think Ha-Aretz is anti-Semitic? Please, just say, "I think Ha-Aretz is anti-Semitic. I think all the Israeli Jewish peaceniks and refuseniks are anti-Semitic. I think the Israeli courts are anti-Semitic when they question the IDF's illegal practices. And, I can't be bothered to find out whether my cherished beliefs would stand up to an investigation into Israeli legal institutions, but I know I'm right because some professor on Metafilter wouldn't go and be my unpaid research assistant on this matter."
posted by Zurishaddai at 7:36 PM on March 18, 2006


Even the US State Dept reports, "The Government did little to reduce institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against the country's Arab citizens."

Read the report of Israel's Or Commission. Especially Chapter 1 (I'll assume you read Hebrew), for a beginning insight (again, from an Israeli perspective) into issues keeping Israeli Arabs down (you'll see the report is no whitewash — I'm really trying to help you become more informed, here!).
posted by Zurishaddai at 7:57 PM on March 18, 2006


DrAmy writes "I am still waiting for some one to come up with a principle that is not applied to Israel alone."

Then stop telling us Israel is the only Western democracy in the region. You're asking that Israel be awarded for claiming to hold a higher standard, but not held to that standard.
posted by orthogonality at 7:59 PM on March 18, 2006


Sorry, that State Dept link should be to here (and that is a whitewash in some important respects, but you can't expect our State Dept. to be as anti-Semitic as the Israeli govt.).
posted by Zurishaddai at 7:59 PM on March 18, 2006


You can obfuscate all you want, but the fact remains that you can't answer the question.

What principle is Israel violating that is observed by all other countries in the world?

Furthermore, if it's so easy to find all the evidence, why can't you quote it? Telling me to look it up is virtually an admission that you don't where it is and whether it exists. In fact, it is virtually an admission that it does not exist.
posted by DrAmy at 8:00 PM on March 18, 2006


The Ha Aretz article alone -- with their previous coverage of the same case -- is plenty to prove the monstrous land discrimination against Arab Israeli citizens. I have linked it, and you haven't made clear whether you think Ha-Aretz are anti-Semitic liars, or whether you think the article does not document monstrous land discrimination. Adel Kaadan is special only in failing to get the system to work for him despite being the world's least threatening Israeli Arab (he once voted for Netanyahu) & in persisting to try to get vindication in the courts, which you can see doesn't count for a hill of beans. I leave you in disgust to your ignorance, which you obviously prefer to curiosity or knowledge. Read an Israeli newspaper every day for the next year — eventually you'd be less of an ignoramus, and maybe you would come to modify some of your current ideas, which are good ones to hold (as I've passionately said here in a pro-Israel vein) only if your chosen idea of Israel's future is either a bomb crater or a place surrounded by bomb craters.

I only wish I cared little enough about Israel to say, "And you can have your bomb craters and they serve you right." Such deafness!
posted by Zurishaddai at 8:09 PM on March 18, 2006


That's it? That's your proof? An article about how an Arab family was illegally discriminated against when they wanted to build a house in a particular community?

You'll have to do a lot better than that in order to show that Israel has violated the principles that govern all countries in the world.

What happened to the claims of:

total lack of participation in political process
detention without trial
widespread use of armed response against unarmed protestors
widespread use of torture
mass arrests
collective punishment
inability to own 93% of the land
apartheid?

Where's the quotes proving any of that?
posted by DrAmy at 8:32 PM on March 18, 2006


What principle is Israel violating that is observed by all other countries in the world?

Wow. DrAmy claims that Israel is no better than all the rest of them. Okay, fine. Therefore, it should be argued that we don't need to vouch for them and give them money and arms out of a sense of apparently misplaced moral duty.

DrAmy, you come across as anti-American, seeing us as convenient organ donors for a religious colonization that you claim requires no honor or values. I find that insulting and demeaning as a defense of American honor. I only have one citizenship to cherish and you just gave me a fresh reason to protect our reputation abroad.
posted by Brian B. at 8:37 PM on March 18, 2006


Not that you actually care, but you can find the information you claim to want in these places, and many others:

B'Tselem The Israeli Center for Human Rights You'll like it because they also discuss abuses by Palestinians.

US State Department Report contains reports of torture, detention without trial, denial of basic rights of prisoners, arbitrary detention, use of excessive force, and treatment of Arab citizens of Israel (different from Palestinians). On that matter, the report says clearly "The Government does not provide Israeli Arabs, who constitute 20 percent of the population, with the same quality of education, housing, employment, and social services as Jews. In addition, government spending is proportionally far lower in predominantly Arab areas than in Jewish areas." THe US State Department has been tracking this for many years, this is one report of many, but the issues are always the same.

Amnesty International has loads of reports on confiscation of Palestinian land, destruction of houses, lack of freed of movement, Jewish-only roads and housing estates, torture, and other abuses.

As for some of the other issues I mentioned, they should be obvious. There is total lack of participation in the political process because Palestinians in the West Bank are not citizens of Israel, and yet Israel claims domain over their lands, and can arrest them, invade their territory, destroy their property at will.

JNF and Land Ownership

Again, I'm sure you have no real interest in finding out the truth of the situation, which is quite complicated. It's not black and white for either party. Your wilfull ignorance is a tragedy in that you esentially support the weakening of Israel through ignorance.
posted by cell divide at 4:21 AM on March 19, 2006


here's one of the Amnesty report summaries: Israel and the Occupied Territories--Surviving under siege: The impact of movement restrictions on the right to work

There are multiple and clear violations of many international laws and conventions which Israel has signed on to. As an occupying power, they have many responsibilities to ensure wellbeing. ...In law as well as in practice, the Israeli authorities have breached their obligations under international law to respect and protect the rights of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The sweeping and indiscriminate restrictions imposed by Israel on the movement of people and goods in the Occupied Territories not only violate the right to freedom of movement, but also infringe the right to work and other economic and social rights of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
Some 60 percent of Palestinians now live below the poverty line of US$2 per day and most are forced to depend on aid. The high levels of unemployment, poverty, malnutrition and other health problems afflicting Palestinians are not just a humanitarian problem they are the direct result of the restrictions imposed by Israel on the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. ...

posted by amberglow at 6:45 AM on March 19, 2006


No, I did not ask for other people opinions about what is going on, be they international or Israeli. I asked for actual evidence, in the form of quoted laws and statistics to show that the claims made against the laws, policies and actions of Israel (see above) are factual or simply anti-Semitic propaganda.

Those who are so sure about Israel's supposed atrocities can't seem to come up with any facts. For example, you quote above that 60% of Palestinians in the territories live below the poverty line. What you neglect to mention is that makes them equally to or better off than Palestinians in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, etc. etc., proving my point that Palestinians fair no worse in the territories than they do at the hands of their Arab brethren.

However, you didn't know that and you don't care. The suffering of the Palestinians is meaningless to the rest of the world. The Europeans and the US turned over billions of dollars to the PLO, knowing full well that Arafat was hiding it in secret Swiss accounts. How many roads, or water plants or hospitals could have been built with that money? No one cares. The suffering of the Palestinians is meaningful only as a tool to beat the Israelis. The fact that they are deliberately left to rot by other Arabs, and not allowed citizenship and ownership of land in other Arab countries is evidently no big deal.

If Israel were indeed guilty of all the crimes it is smeared with, it would easy to answer my requests. Most especially, it should be very easy to identify the principle that Israel violates in its relationship to the Palestinians, that is observed by and applied to every other country in the world. No one can do that because there is no such principle. There are only special rules for Israelis and no one else.

I'll leave you now to your regularly scheduled propaganda, but I'll check back to see if anyone can answer my questions or provide any facts.
posted by DrAmy at 7:08 AM on March 19, 2006


Trans: "You cannot answer my slightly bizarre loaded questions in a way that satisfies me! Therefore you are all antisemites! Anyone who responds outside of my limited framework will be ignored!"

It's like DrAmy has a version of Google China inside his/her brain...
posted by Artw at 8:04 AM on March 19, 2006


I would reply, DrAmy, but your blatant anti-Semitism and disregard for the well-being of Israelis has left me shaking with anger.

Maybe when you get back from your Hitler Youth production of "ZOG: A Musical" or whatever, and bring some facts, we can talk.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:14 AM on March 19, 2006


The sources I quoted are full of statistics, even the original article quotes statistics from a variety of locations including the Israeli government (a huge source of anti-semitic propaganda in your twisted cosmology). They are not opinions.
posted by cell divide at 9:30 AM on March 19, 2006


Wow. This has gone well.
posted by Dasein at 2:05 PM on March 19, 2006


I've seen worse.
posted by Artw at 5:42 PM on March 19, 2006


Yeah, don't let it put you off. I thought the article was very interesting, and there was some great follow-up stuff in the comments.
posted by carter at 6:15 PM on March 19, 2006


On Oct. 17, 2004 Israeli military forces invaded Balata, a dense, poverty-stricken community deep in Palestine's West Bank (Israel frequently invades this area and others). . . . The witnesses state that there was no Palestinian resistance--no "clash," no "crossfire," not even any stone-throwing. At one point, after most of the vehicles had finally driven away, an Israeli soldier stuck his gun out of his armored vehicle, aimed at a pre-pubescent boy nearby, and pulled the trigger.

We went to the hospital and interviewed the boy, Ahmad, his doctors, family, and others. Ahmad had bandages around his lower abdomen, where surgeons had operated on his bladder. He said he was afraid of Israeli soldiers, and pulled up his pants leg to show where he had been shot previously.

In the hospital there was a second boy, this one with a shattered femur; and a third boy, this one in critical condition with a bullet hole in his lung. A fourth boy, not a patient, was visiting a friend. He showed us a scarred lip and missing teeth from when Israeli soldiers had shot him in the mouth.

This was not an unusual situation. When I had visited Palestinian hospitals on a previous trip, I had seen many such victims; some with worse injuries. Yet, very few Americans know this is going on. AP's actions in regard to Ahmad's shooting may explain why.

We discovered that an AP cameraman had filmed the entire incident. This cameraman had then followed what apparently is the usual routine. He sent his video--an extremely valuable commodity, since it contained documentary evidence of a war crime--to the AP control bureau for the region. This bureau is in Israel.

What happened next is unfathomable. Did AP broadcast it? No. Did AP place the video in safe-keeping, available for an investigation of this crime? No.

According to its cameraman, AP erased it.
posted by orthogonality at 7:05 PM on March 19, 2006


Gee, it seems at least as plausible that the Israeli lobby is a complete failure, as evidenced by our tolerance of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Saddam's Iraq, Egypt, and G-d only knows how many other hellish regime for, what, 50 years?

If the Israeli lobby was actually "successful," we would have gone to war against the aforementioned regimes decades ago.

Which doesn't mean I won't be supporting AIPAC in every way possible.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:07 PM on March 19, 2006


And yes, if the Israeli lobby was so great, wouldn't Arafat have been taken out, say, circa, 1980?
posted by ParisParamus at 7:16 PM on March 19, 2006


... Up to 1.3 million people in Gaza - half of them children - could be going without bread soon, Mr Shearer of the UN office for humanitarian affairs warned.
Bakeries had begun to close for lack of flour, leaving people without a staple of their diet, he said.
"Unless food stocks come in, we can't see an end to this," he told BBC World television.
Israel and the Palestinians have feuded over the Karni crossing before. Last year, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice brokered a deal to keep it open except in case of immediate security threats.
But it has been open for only a few weeks since the beginning of the year. ...

posted by amberglow at 7:32 PM on March 19, 2006


amberglow writes "... Up to 1.3 million people in Gaza - half of them children - could be going without bread soon,"

Let them eat cake!
posted by orthogonality at 7:33 PM on March 19, 2006


Carter: BTW thought-provoking post, Dasein, particularly as I hadn't come across this Realist school before.

Political realism. Notable realists: George F. Kennan, Hans Morgenthau, Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft.

Relevant advice from Morgenthau in Politics Among Nations (6th ed., p. 589):
Never Allow a Weak Ally to Make Decisions for You

Strong nations that are oblivious to the preceding rules are particularly susceptible to violating this one. They lose their freedom of action by identifying their own national interests completely with those of the weak ally. Secure in the support of its powerful friend, the weak ally can choose the objectives and methods of its foreign policy to suit itself. The powerful nation then finds that it must support interests not its own and that it is unable to compromise on issues that are vital not to itself, but only to its ally.
languagehat: I think if you'll look into it, you'll discover that most Arabs were quite friendly towards the US -- the governments allied with the Soviets were, of course, ritually hostile, but the people tended to be friendly and curious. After 1967, the US started embracing Israel more and more closely and the Arabs started getting more and more hostile.

A similar turning point was the US decision to support partitioning Palestine in 1947, and to recognize Israel in 1948. Marshall and the State Department opposed these positions, but were overruled by Truman and Clifford. See this timeline, particularly the entries for September 17, 1947 and following, and May 12, 1948.

A couple criticisms of the Mearsheimer/Walt article:

This extraordinary generosity might be understandable if Israel were a vital strategic asset or if there were a compelling moral case for US backing. But neither explanation is convincing.

I think Mearsheimer and Walt underestimate the moral argument. In short, Americans felt guilty for their failure to help the Jews during World War II, and in the wars of 1947-1948, 1967, and 1973, they perceived the Arab states as the aggressors. My impression is that US public opinion would support Israel even without AIPAC, although of course the invasion of Lebanon and the first and second Intifadas have damaged Israel's image.

Kennan, writing in 1972:
Aside from NATO and South Korea, already mentioned, [the United States] has only two major and serious commitments: one to Japan, the other to Israel. ...

As for Israel, the commitment is founded less on demonstrable geopolitical interests than is the case with Japan, but it is no less real. No one could deny that the United States, by its conduct over the course of 25 years, has incurred a heavy moral commitment to the preservation of the state of Israel and the protection of its inhabitants against massacre or political disaster at the hands of their irreconcilable Arab neighbors. As in all such cases, the main burden of responsibility lies, of course, with the people to whom the commitment is made. The commitment assumes a reasonable degree of prudence, restraint and good will on their part. It is not a blank check for any and all behavior. The task of American policy-makers, as they themselves have well understood, consists of trying to assure to the Israelis that which is really essential to the maintenance of their existence as a state, of dissuading them from claiming more than is essential to that purpose, and of avoiding any escalation of the situation into a serious Soviet-American conflict. This is a thankless, complex task -- a species of Sisyphean labor --
I think Mearsheimer and Walt also underestimate the precariousness of Israel's situation. Israel has no strategic depth and no ability to absorb large population losses. Israel can't afford to lose a single war. Given the disparity in population, in the long term, once the Arab and Muslim states modernize and catch up to the West, Israel's going to be extremely vulnerable. (Which is why I think it's in Israel's interest to settle the conflict with the Palestinians sooner rather than later, but that's a separate topic.)

There is no doubt about the efficacy of these tactics. Here is one example: in the 1984 elections, AIPAC helped defeat Senator Charles Percy from Illinois--

James Zogby (brother of pollster John Zogby) argues that AIPAC's actual power is exaggerated, and addresses the Percy case specifically.

Mearsheimer and Walt also don't mention that traditionally Jewish voters have favored the Democrats, and that Bush I did put pressure on Israel to move forward with the peace process. (James Baker III, Bush's secretary of state: "Fuck the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway.") Even if domestic politics is driving foreign policy, it doesn't always work out the way AIPAC wants.

What should the US be doing now? Here's what Hume Horan had to say, a few months after September 11:
The United States, with its never-equaled political and economic and military might, should peremptorily put a stop to the Arab-Israeli conflict. It has already wasted too many lives, taken up too much of our attention, and consumed resources that could have helped move the area forward. It has been too much of a distraction. The expression "confidence-building measures" has a fantastical, even cynical air of unreality to it, at least as applied in the Middle East. The so-called "peace process," has proven to be little more than a diplomatic perpetual-motion machine. It provides excuses for all to keep things on hold. Between Arab anti-Semitism, and Jewish fear of Arab revanchism, no agreement is likely to be reached or to hold unless we take a strong hand.

To us and to many other friends of the region, the outlines of a settlement are pretty clear: they would resemble the Camp David proto-accords. There would be a Palestinian state committed to living in peace with Israel; Israel's West Bank settlements -- a bone in the throat to any peace effort -- would be dismantled. There would be security guarantees for both Israel and the Palestinians. As a corollary to any agreement, there should be measures in place to monitor the sort of Palestinian state that would emerge; one Taliban-dominated state has been enough.

We should work hard to enlist the association and support of our Western allies in this effort. But we should not get bogged down in details. We should ignore and bypass by those who would slow our peace efforts by reviving objections drawn from over 50 years of failed peacemaking. It has been my experience, that when the United States makes it clear to all the world that we are utterly determined that something must be done, reality tends to rearrange itself in a complaisant pattern. Once we do, Arab and Israeli leaders could turn to their populations, and say with a shrug, "What could I do against the might and desire of the United States?"
posted by russilwvong at 2:29 PM on March 20, 2006


If the Israeli lobby was actually "successful," we would have gone to war against the aforementioned regimes decades ago.

That actually is a really good point. Whenever I hear people say "Israel totally controls foreign policy, man!" I say bullshit, they control something like 70% of US policy towards Israel, which itself is a tiny part of the middle east. But I think that's the thrust of this article, not that the lobby has undue influence over greater policy.
posted by cell divide at 3:20 PM on March 20, 2006


Aside from NATO and South Korea, already mentioned, [the United States] has only two major and serious commitments: one to Japan, the other to Israel. ...

what about Taiwan?
posted by amberglow at 8:54 PM on March 20, 2006


Good question. Kennan discusses Taiwan briefly in the 1972 article. "The position of the United States with respect to Taiwan is a weak one, and has been so ever since FDR and Harry Hopkins, acting with staggering frivolity and scant regard for the principle of self-determination, tossed the island to China at the Cairo Conference in 1943. Being viewed as part of China, the island will, so far as the United States is concerned, ultimately have to make its peace with the powers that be on the Chinese mainland. If, of course, the terms of this accommodation were to be a complete absorption into the life of the mainland, without any distinguishing status, it could be a drastic and unhappy outcome for the inhabitants. But the Chinese have more than once recognized the advantage to themselves of conceding special status (always in practice, never in theory) to areas which they claim as part of China, if this seemed useful to their own external commercial and financial exchanges; and the Chinese genius for unadmitted compromise may yet discover a similar solution for the Taiwanese people. The United States can perhaps use its dwindling influence in this direction, though it will have to have a very light touch to make it effective. More than that it cannot do. The bed it must lie on, here, is of its own making."

There's some interesting similarities between the Israel Lobby, as described by Mearsheimer and Walt, and the China Lobby (vocal supporters of Chiang Kai-Shek). In both cases, domestic politics has had a malign effect on US foreign policy. (McCarthy's accusing the Truman administration of "losing China" was a major factor in Kennedy and Johnson's determination not to "lose Vietnam"; it also resulted in a purge of China experts like John Paton Davies Jr. from the State Department, so that the US government lacked expertise on the region as the Vietnam war escalated.
posted by russilwvong at 10:43 AM on March 21, 2006


ahh...thanks, russil. So, we've effectively stopped promising to defend Taiwan in case of an invasion/occupation then? Or it was always really just empty talk? (also, with Macao and Hong Kong now back in China and capitalism of a sort being encouraged, maybe it wouldn't be the horror it would have been decades ago to be absorbed?--altho the human rights stuff sucks enormously still)
posted by amberglow at 9:02 AM on March 22, 2006


So, we've effectively stopped promising to defend Taiwan in case of an invasion/occupation then?

I think the official story is that the US will not object to the peaceful reunification of Taiwan with China (like Hong Kong), but will not stand by if China attempts to retake Taiwan by force. But there's a lot of confusion in Washington on this point (what happens if Taiwan declares independence?). Chas Freeman:
There are three decision making capitals involved here, Beijing, Taipei and Washington. Of these three, two know exactly what the United States will do in the event of a war in the Taiwan Strait. Beijing knows the United States will intervene. Any doubt it had was dispelled in 1996 when carriers turned up in the Philippine Sea. Beijing’s military planning pre-supposes American intervention and takes into account the need to sink aircraft carriers and other things…

Mr. Gelb: Chas., is it so self evident that we never had to tell them we would intervene?

Mr. Freeman: I’m telling you that their operating assumption is that we will intervene. Taipei’s operating assumption is we will intervene. That’s why they take the risks that they have taken. The only one of the three capitals that doesn’t know what the United States will do is Washington!
I have the impression that the more militaristic neoconservatives think the US ought to take a harder line against China and recognize Taiwan as an independent state.

It's similar to the Israel situation: the US shouldn't let Taiwan (the "weak ally" described by Morgenthau) drag the US into a major war with China, overriding its own national interest.
posted by russilwvong at 12:10 PM on March 22, 2006


Arabs are semites. Can't be anti-themselves. lol
posted by adnanbwp at 8:05 AM on March 24, 2006


"Anti-semitism" is just a euphemism for hatred of Jews. Philip Greenspun: "The word was coined in 1879 by Wilhelm Marrih to replace the then-current term Judenhass, which translates literally as 'Jew-hatred'. Marrih hated Jews and conjectured that middle-class Germans were turning away from the practice of Jew-hatred because the term for the activity sounded ugly. The neologism antisemitism was intended to sound more scientific and therefore make hatred of Jews more appealing to educated people in an industrial age."
posted by russilwvong at 10:15 AM on March 24, 2006


Harvard distances itself from criticism of Israel lobby

does this merit a followup on MeTa?
posted by ori at 3:55 PM on March 24, 2006


Good for Harvard. Maybe they should start reading screeds before they put their logo on them in the future.

Of course, the response could be seen as only more pro-Israel lobby influence, couldn't it? What a clever trick!
posted by loquax at 4:53 PM on March 24, 2006


(from the Ha'Aretz article linked above):

One of the study's claims is that American opponents of Israel are consistently silenced by charges of anti-Semitism from the pro-Israel lobby. Congressman Eliot Engel of New York, in an interview with Haaretz this week, termed the study itself a form of anti-Semitism and said that it deserved the American public's contempt.
posted by cell divide at 5:16 PM on March 24, 2006


(from the Ha-aretz art.) essentially a political polemic rather than genuine academic research

Duh...it's published in the LRB, not in an academic journal.
posted by Zurishaddai at 5:41 PM on March 24, 2006


Thanks for the update, ori.

loquax: Maybe they should start reading screeds before they put their logo on them in the future.

It didn't strike me as a screed. From a realist point of view, US support for Israel since 1947 has imposed a lot of costs, without much benefit; and I think it's reasonable to ascribe this to domestic politics.

Mearsheimer and Walt may have deflected some criticism by making a more general point: US foreign policy is vulnerable to lobbying by ethnic groups. There's a tendency to resort to symbolic actions to win the support of such lobbies, disregarding what the actual national interest requires. See Cuba for an example. A similar situation in Canada: the Parliamentary vote to condemn the Armenian genocide, a purely symbolic action, disregarding the importance of Turkey in relations between the West and the Muslim world.

So what's the national interest again? When was that settled? I must have missed the press release.

To maximize one's power, relative to one's rivals. By power I mean your ability to get other people to do what you want. Ultimately power depends on consent; military capacity matters, but there's a limit to how much you can accomplish by holding a gun to somebody's head. Policies which undermine the legitimacy of your power--the perception in the Muslim world of unconditional US support for Israel, for example--work against your national interest, by destroying the basis for consent. More on this in the alt.politics.international FAQ.

Duh...it's published in the LRB, not in an academic journal.

It's based on an academic working paper. But like I said, it didn't strike me as a polemic.
posted by russilwvong at 5:55 PM on March 24, 2006


russilwvong: Perhaps screed was too strong a word, but I certainly think it was lazy and dishonest, and agree with the criticisms brought up in the article, especially the accusations of leaving out arguments to the contrary and leaping to conclusions. I certainly don't disagree with the premise that lobby groups, for minorities or foreign countries or anything else can wield a disproportionate amount of influence at various times, and sometimes cause a government to act in a way that may be contrary to the apparent and presumed ways of advancing the national interest, according to some. Not to rehash the whole thread, but I just don't think the authors of this paper came close to proving their assertions of what amounts to long-term, systemic hijacking of US strategy and policy for the worse by the pro-Israel lobby. Harvard seems to agree.

To maximize one's power, relative to one's rivals.

I agree. I forget exactly why I had such a problem with the use of the term in the paper a few days ago. I think I felt that they were moving beyond that definition and assuming that everyone else was there with them.
posted by loquax at 6:25 PM on March 24, 2006


I certainly don't disagree with the premise that lobby groups, for minorities or foreign countries or anything else can wield a disproportionate amount of influence at various times, and sometimes cause a government to act in a way that may be contrary to the apparent and presumed ways of advancing the national interest, according to some.

Right.

I certainly think it was lazy and dishonest, and agree with the criticisms brought up in the article, especially the accusations of leaving out arguments to the contrary and leaping to conclusions.

Care to cite any specifics? (I've noted my own criticisms of the article above.)

In particular, would anyone like to make the argument that US support for Israel has been in the US national interest, rather than against it?

Commentary: Christian Science Monitor, Forward.
posted by russilwvong at 11:12 PM on March 24, 2006


Care to cite any specifics? (I've noted my own criticisms of the article above.)

I don't think they make their case that support for Israel is not in the national interest. They dedicate a small portion of their paper on analysis of history and the facts, and seem content to dismiss that which does not support their argument, and state as fact that which does:

This extraordinary generosity might be understandable if Israel were a vital strategic asset or if there were a compelling moral case for US backing. But neither explanation is convincing.

For all that, Israel’s armed forces were not in a position to protect US interests in the region.

So Israel stayed on the sidelines once again.

In fact, Israel is a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states.

Unconditional support for Israel makes it easier for extremists to rally popular support and to attract recruits.


Viewed objectively, its past and present conduct offers no moral basis for privileging it over the Palestinians.

These "conclusions" and others are utterly unproven in this paper. They're barely discussed, yet used as the basis of proving the deep reaches of the Jewish lobby. There's a problem there. I would argue that their entire discussion of Israel's strategic importance consists of straw men. Why do they claim that US support for Israel is unconditional? Why is it necessary for a strategic asset to "defend US interests" in the region? Why is Israel's strategic importance fundamentally tied to their inability to protect oil resources during the Iranian revolution? Did the deployment of PATRIOT batteries in 1991 overshadow the other admitted benefits of support for Israel? Were Israel airfields necessary in the wars when the US had other strategic partners in the region? Their criteria are flawed and selective, and their analysis is simplistic and juvenile. I would enjoy a deeper and richer discussion of the positives and negatives of strategic US support for Israel in the region from 1950 to today, but these authors are interested only in vague assertions that Israel is a strategic liability based on criteria that they appear to have pulled out of a hat. I won't even mention their evidence of Israel's moral failings and their conclusion that Israel does not deserve US support on that basis, as I simply philosophically disagree with them, as I think many around the world would, and feel that again, they are arriving at "facts" used to justify their attack of the Lobby that are really just their opinions.

They spend 2 pages detailing the support Israel receives from the US, 3 pages arguing Israel's strategic liability, 6 pages describing Israel's moral bankruptcy, and 28 pages discussing the "Lobby". It seems clear to me that they had an interest in tackling the Lobby (which is fair game, I suppose) and made only the most cursory attempt to justify their attack on the grounds of national or strategic interest (which is lazy and dishonest). This wasn't so much an academic paper, based on hypothesis and analysis, as it was an op/ed propped up on the flimsiest of justifications. I found the 28 pages on the lobby interesting and I agree with some of the criticism. It was the pages before those that I took issue with.

Even more startling, given who they are, is the flimsiness of their work. Countless facts are simply wrong. Long stretches of argument are implausible, at times almost comically so. Much of their research is oddly amateurish, drawn not from credible documents or primary source interviews but from newspaper clippings, including dozens from this newspaper, seemingly dug up in quick Internet word searches aimed at proving a point, not exploring the truth. Some are wildly misquoted. An undergraduate submitting work like this would be laughed out of class. A dean apparently gets to see it posted on Harvard's Web site.

Wholeheartedly agree. Wish I had read it before writing the first part of my post.
posted by loquax at 8:28 AM on March 25, 2006


from the Forward's In Dark Times, Blame the Jews --...The Mearsheimer-Walt paper shows how far the notion that Israel is to blame for the Iraq War has moved from the crackpot fringe to the center. Three years ago it was heard mainly from campus radicals. Two years ago it started getting picked up by a handful of Washington insiders, memorably including Senator Ernest Hollings and General Anthony Zinni. Now it's reached the heart of the academic establishment.

And the notion has grown with the telling. Compared with the professors, Hollings and Zinni now seem modest in their claims. They argued merely that the Iraq War had been fought for Israel's benefit. In this they were echoing the widespread theory that the war was foisted on the Bush administration by a cabal of mostly Jewish neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. That was a shaky enough argument back in 2004. It was already clear by then, from the disclosures of former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill and others, that President Bush had Saddam Hussein in his sights from the moment he entered office. ...

posted by amberglow at 11:28 PM on March 26, 2006


Thanks for the clarifications, loquax. I thought Mearsheimer and Walt's discussion of Israel's not being a vital strategic asset to the United States was more convincing than you did. The points they make--

Why is it necessary for a strategic asset to "defend US interests" in the region? Why is Israel's strategic importance fundamentally tied to their inability to protect oil resources during the Iranian revolution? Did the deployment of PATRIOT batteries in 1991 overshadow the other admitted benefits of support for Israel? Were Israel airfields necessary in the wars when the US had other strategic partners in the region?

--aren't conclusions, they're evidence. They're all ways in which Israel was not a strategic asset to the US.

Mearsheimer and Walt do cite some benefits to the US: Israel defeated Soviet clients Egypt and Syria, diminishing Soviet prestige and consuming Soviet resources. But taking a cold-blooded view, that has to be weighed against the costs of supporting Israel, which have been considerable: not just the direct financial costs, or the risk of escalation during the Cold War, or the effects of the OPEC boycotts, but the cost of incurring Arab and Muslim hostility. There's 15 million Jews in the world, compared to 300 million Arabs and 1 billion Muslims. Indonesia alone has over 200 million people.

As I said earlier, I think Mearsheimer and Walt underestimate the moral argument for US support of Israel. Moreover, the US has committed itself to Israel; like it or not, such commitments are not easily set aside. But as Kennan pointed out in 1972, US support for Israel should not be taken as a blank check. The US may be committed to preventing Israel from being destroyed, but that does not imply supporting Israel's annexation of the West Bank settlements. (It's similar to the Taiwan situation--the US is committed to defending Taiwan against an invasion from China, but not in the event of a major provocation by Taiwan, e.g. a unilateral declaration of independence. The US is not obligated to stand by an irresponsible ally.)

By the way, some of the material in the article also appears in Stephen Walt's book Taming American Power (published last year), along with discussion of the Indian and Armenian lobbies. (I believe he cites some examples from the Saudi oil lobby as well.)

Kennan's comments on lobby groups in Around the Cragged Hill (1993):
The Domestic Lobbies

The limitations of our governmental institutions for policy-making are not restricted, however, to the habits and organizational confusion of the executive branch. There is also the effect on policy-making of domestic political considerations and pressures. It is to the power of these pressures that we owe the fact that what American policy has too often reflected has not been the national interest but something quite different: the parochial interests of minorities--lobbies, factions, or special interest groups of one kind of another--to the influence of which both branches of the government, legislative and executive, have shown themselves to be extensively responsive. Anyone who has ever served in a policy-making position in the State Department knows how frequently this source of pressure has been the determinant of governmental action, and how unfortunate have often been the consequences of this abuse of the policy-making function.

So numerous and conspicuous have been the instances of this sort of thing that illustrations would seem superfluous. The China lobby, the Israel lobby, the sugar lobby, and dozens of others that could be mentioned: they have all been there to twist the arms of American politicians whenever the interests of their particular clientele appear to be at stake. And who can blame them? If blame is to be assigned for such eforts and for the effects they have had on American policy, it is not the lobbyists themselves who deserve it; their motivations are understandable enough. It is rather the statesmen who have yielded to them even when they knew that the national interests would have warranted a firmer resistance.
posted by russilwvong at 11:14 PM on March 27, 2006


Just to summarize: although I don't agree with some of the arguments in Mearsheimer and Walt's article, I think they should be taken seriously, rather than dismissed as crackpots or conspiracy theorists.
posted by russilwvong at 9:53 AM on March 28, 2006


re: Taiwan: Taiwan's presidential hopeful Ma Ying-jeou, after visiting U.S. officials, said Washington is unlikely to defend the island if it sparks a war with Beijing. ...
posted by amberglow at 9:03 PM on March 28, 2006


--aren't conclusions, they're evidence. They're all ways in which Israel was not a strategic asset to the US.

Sure, but my point is that they present their evidence out of context, and without devoting appropriate amounts of analysis in order to justify their eventual conclusion that Israel has not been a strategic asset. Because, on occasion at least, Israel has been a strategic liability does not mean that on the whole, they have not been an asset. And I think it's disingenuous to attempt to make the case they're making without really nailing the facts and arguments upon which it's based. At least for an academic paper. If anything, the paper should have had far more detail on the case against Israel's strategic importance and moral imperative than the influence of the lobbyists. Making a solid case for the first part requires less of a reach for the second.

Mearsheimer and Walt do cite some benefits to the US: Israel defeated Soviet clients Egypt and Syria, diminishing Soviet prestige and consuming Soviet resources

Which is given a throwaway mention of one paragraph in their paper. Which is unfair. The Middle East was a key political battleground of the cold war, and one of the very few military battlegrounds of that era. The end of the Soviet Union appears to have trivialized the conflict between the superpowers and their ideologies to the point where Israel's role in a cakewalk like the first Iraq war warrants more of a mention than their role as an ally of the US in one of the most inhospitable areas of the planet, especially in the 60's and 70's. If the Soviet Union had ended up dominating the entire region the consequences from an economic standpoint alone (given, of course, the absolute control they would have had over the bulk of the world's oil supplies) would have been unimaginable. Israel's victories over the Soviet client states, and their refusal to buckle to Arab pressure, and their eventual peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt had (in my opinion) an incalculable benefit to the US, politically, economically and militarily. Which I would argue outweighs the drawbacks during and since that time, given the possibilities of alternate universes where the Cold War stretches for another 100 years, or ends up with communism winning under the collapse of oil-starved Western economies.

The US is not obligated to stand by an irresponsible ally.)


I agree with your points in that paragraph, but in terms of their argument, who's saying that they will? Has any administration claimed that Israel has a blank cheque? As far as I know, the level of aid provided is fixed and comes with many restrictions (even if not all are followed). Military aid during the wars also came with a number of restrictions on use, and explicit acknowledgements that Israel must defer to the US on tactical and strategic decisions. Clearly there is a great deal of support for Israel (among many other nations, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia), but there have also been times of stress, rebukements at the UN, disagreement with tactics and strategies during the wars (such as unequivocally telling Israel to stay away from Cairo and Damascus, and not to retaliate against Iraq for that matter) and moral condemnations of their actions wrt the Palestinians too. The relationship is not nearly as one sided as the authors claim, and the US retains a good deal of control over the actions of their ally, particularly when US interests are affected. Witness Carter, Clinton and even Bush inextricably linking themselves to first the Israeli-Arab peace accords, and later Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Ask Israelis if they felt as though the US has constrained their actions wrt to their neighbours, and whether or not by accepting aid, they have become an extension of US foreign policy rather than the opposite.

Anyone who has ever served in a policy-making position in the State Department knows how frequently this source of pressure has been the determinant of governmental action, and how unfortunate have often been the consequences of this abuse of the policy-making function.

I agree, however with a few caveats. An underdeveloped lobby sector can result in problems because of imbalances between the relative strengths of those lobbying. In the US, I would argue that lobbying has become so complex that outside of officials receiving bribes, there is no course of action that pleases one group to the exclusion of another. For all the attention given to the Israel lobby, a growing amount has been given to the Palestinian lobby, and the Saudi lobby, and so on, which reflects changing demographics, voting groups, and even changes in the strategies employed to advance the national interest.

For example, according to Lobby Watch, Israel ranks 16th on the list of countries by the number of organizations lobby the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, behind Switzerland, Russia, Turkey, Mexico, South Africa, Kuwait and Nigeria, and just ahead of Egypt. AIPAC is 40th on the list of organizations with the most filings to Foreign Relations between 1998-2004.

Incidentally, Hitchens wrote about this today, and while I don't agree with some of what he says, I think he does a decent job illustrating the variety of occasions where US policy and Israeli interests have been divergent, and indeed at odds with one another.

Mearsheimer and Walt belong to that vapid school that essentially wishes that the war with jihadism had never started. Their wish is father to the thought that there must be some way, short of a fight, to get around this confrontation. Wishfulness has led them to seriously mischaracterize the origins of the problem and to produce an article that is redeemed from complete dullness and mediocrity only by being slightly but unmistakably smelly.

I think they should be taken seriously, rather than dismissed as crackpots or conspiracy theorists.

I agree. I was too harsh earlier.
posted by loquax at 12:29 PM on March 29, 2006


If the Soviet Union had ended up dominating the entire region the consequences from an economic standpoint alone (given, of course, the absolute control they would have had over the bulk of the world's oil supplies) would have been unimaginable.

I agree that containment of Soviet influence in the Middle East during the Cold War was extremely important. But I would argue that US backing for Israel made this task more difficult, not less. Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf states stayed on the US side despite US support for Israel, not because of it. (I have the impression that the Arab-Israeli conflict was less of an issue in pre-1979 Iran.) For a good review of US strategy in the Middle East during the Cold War, see this summary by historian Bruce Kuniholm (author of The Origins of the Cold War in the Near East, which I thought was awesome).

In particular, I would argue that the Arab countries were more vulnerable to Soviet influence, not less, because of their defeat by Israel. The Arab defeat in 1948 weakened the legitimacy of the Egyptian monarchy, for example, contributing to its fall in the 1952 coup and its replacement with a revolutionary regime (which then proceeded to destabilize the monarchy in Iraq, leading to the 1958 coup). This isn't to say that US support for Israel was responsible for Egypt and Iraq ending up with revolutionary, anti-Western, pro-Soviet regimes (instead of the conservative, UK-aligned monarchies that they had in 1945), only that it was a contributing factor.

In terms of consuming Soviet resources and contributing to the fall of the Soviet Union, compare the effect of US backing for Israel (against Soviet clients Egypt and Syria) with the effect of US backing for the jihad in Afghanistan. The latter was decisive; in comparison, I'd suggest that the former was marginal.

Again, I'm not arguing that US support for Israel is wrong, only that it's extremely difficult to justify on strategic grounds (as opposed to moral grounds).

I wrote: The US is not obligated to stand by an irresponsible ally.

I agree with your points in that paragraph, but in terms of their argument, who's saying that they will?

I agree that in many cases the US has been able to convince Israel to change its policies. But there's one big example where this hasn't been the case. Supporting Israel's right to exist does not mean that the US should support Israeli expansion into the West Bank. I would suggest that Israel's attempt to hold onto the occupied territories (through the settlement policy) was a very bad miscalculation, one that has proven very hard to reverse (because of the strength of the settler lobby).

As I understand it, the US under both Clinton and Bush has been unable to halt Israel's expansion of its settlements in the West Bank. An example.

I don't know what the answer is. Olmert is planning a unilateral withdrawal from some of the West Bank settlements (about a quarter of them by population). Obviously he's going to meet a lot of resistance. And without an actual agreement (along the lines of the Geneva Accord, which could have brought recognition from the Arab states), how much benefit will there be in terms of establishing a stable status quo?
posted by russilwvong at 5:58 PM on March 29, 2006


Thanks, russiwvong, for the CSM link. I sure couldn't put it any better than the Ha-Aretz piece by Daniel Levy, "So Pro-Israel that It Hurts." He says the Walt/Mearsheimer article is

at its most current when it details how America's interests (and ultimately Israel's, too) are ill-served by following the Lobby's agenda.

The bottom line might read as follows: that defending the occupation [of land originally captured by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967] has done to the American pro-Israel community what living as an occupier has done to Israel – muddied both its moral compass and its rational self-interest compass.


By endorsing the label "polemic," I just mean it's meant as a persuasive "wake-up call" (to quote Levy again) to reassess questions of U.S. (and incidentally Israeli) interest, not a scholarly history. It's certainly better informed than its knee-jerk critics though...
posted by Zurishaddai at 7:11 PM on March 29, 2006


No problem, Zurishaddai. More commentary: Boston Globe. Washington Post. Nicholas Goldberg in the Los Angeles Times.

Daniel Drezner (followup, second followup). Some of the commenters on Daniel Drezner's blog appear to know Mearsheimer and Walt personally (example), and defend them against the charge of anti-Semitism. Another commenter argues that in its precarious situation, Israel can't afford criticism.

Critical responses: Martin Peretz in The New Republic. Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe. Max Boot in the Los Angeles Times. Alan Dershowitz to publish a detailed rebuttal.
posted by russilwvong at 10:38 AM on March 30, 2006


--Israel can't afford criticism.

Oops, messed up that link.
posted by russilwvong at 12:59 PM on March 30, 2006


First, let me be clear, I wasn't accusing the authors of anti-semitism or tinfoil hat thinking, just lazy writing and coming off as opposed to the lobby, irrespective of the facts.

I agree that containment of Soviet influence in the Middle East during the Cold War was extremely important. But I would argue that US backing for Israel made this task more difficult, not less...


Maybe. I think it's very difficult to argue these matters in general (which is why I think that Mearsheimer and Walt were so negligent in stating their assessments of Israel's strategic importance and impact as "fact"). All things considered, I find it hard to believe that given the state of the world in 1948, and without the benefit of hindsight, there was a series of actions on the part of the US that could have resulted in a substantially better situation wrt to the Middle East, the USSR and Islamic fundamentalism today. That is, without outlandish steps such as developing alternatives to oil, going communist, and so on. Getting through the last 50 years in that region with Israel intact, The majority of Arab states pacified (relative to the 60's and 70's, and 80's for that matter), and no third world war over oil is a job pretty well done, considering the obstacles. My first thought when I imagine a world without Israel, or a destroyed Israel in '48 or the '60's is the success and growth of the United Arab Republic, the spread of Baathism, the incompatibility of Arab totalitarianism with US/Western alliances, the inevitable drift to the Soviet/Chinese sphere of influence and a major change in the outcome of the cold war. I just can't see how the US could have dealt with victorious, unchallenged, Soviet-romanced Arab states without totally compromising their values, and their role as "leaders of the free world". Even that would have led to propaganda victories for the Soviets, and serious issues justifying their position to their European allies, especially the West Germans.

Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf states stayed on the US side despite US support for Israel, not because of it...

But that's part of the calculus. It may have been a different story if the US had made enemies of all Arab states, in perpetuity, as a result of supporting Israel, but they didn't. Some became enemies, some remained friends (even grudgingly). Those that had oil had no choice but to remain friends if they wanted a market for their only product. Some enemies eventually became friends with both the US and Israel. I suppose the calculation was that having Israel, a totally committed ally, and virtual proxy state as well as several other Arab allies is better than having relatively tenuous alliances with all Arab states. I cannot envision a scenario in which the US and the Baathists in Syria would have had friendly relations, Israel or no. Ditto al-Qaddafi, the Ayatollah, and the rest.

In terms of consuming Soviet resources and contributing to the fall of the Soviet Union, compare the effect of US backing for Israel (against Soviet clients Egypt and Syria) with the effect of US backing for the jihad in Afghanistan. The latter was decisive; in comparison, I'd suggest that the former was marginal.

I was going to mention US actions in Afghanistan as an example of the danger of relying on hindsight, actually. Just as it's easy to overlook the benefits of supporting Israel today, after the death of the Soviet threat, it's easy to look at CIA support for the Mujaheddin as a mistake for the same reason and the post-cold war terrorism that it has contributed to.

I would argue that both were important, but by the time the USSR invaded Afghanistan, Israeli/US successes and the collapse of the UAR and the end (for all intents and purposes) of Arab-Israeli hostility (followed quickly by the Soviet-supported beginnings of the PLO proxy war) had shifted the conflict back from the Middle East to Central Asia, and Russia's own doorstep. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism with the Iranian revolution in the same year, and the start of the Iran-Iraq war the following year changed the whole paradigm in any case, as the region stopped thinking of Israel as they primary threat to their dictatorships and monarchies, and started worrying about imams and Hussein instead. US support (however it can be judged morally) in terms of propping up regimes in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi, Qatar, and Kuwait did a lot more to solidify stability than the Soviet Union could

Again, I'm not arguing that US support for Israel is wrong, only that it's extremely difficult to justify on strategic grounds (as opposed to moral grounds).

I understand, just disagree slightly :) . Actually, more to the point, I think it's more difficult to prove the opposite, that supporting Israel was a strategic mistake. Possibly so, but only rarely has there been a direct, measurable negative impact on US policy and the national interest (including terrorism, IMO) that has been exclusively as a result of supporting Israel, as opposed to positive impacts that are relatively obvious (IMO, at least).

Supporting Israel's right to exist does not mean that the US should support Israeli expansion into the West Bank.

Do they? As far as I know, US policy has always been opposed, or at least mute on the subject, especially since the Oslo accords.

I would suggest that Israel's attempt to hold onto the occupied territories (through the settlement policy) was a very bad miscalculation, one that has proven very hard to reverse (because of the strength of the settler lobby).

Agreed, but only in hindsight, and only considering the change in Arab strategy (leaving the issue of morality aside). At the time, the West Bank was THE key to the future defense of Israel (along with the Golan Heights). Yes there was pressure to colonize for religious and demographic reasons, but considering that it was captured as a result of Arab aggression (if not a direct offensive war). I would say that in hindsight, colonizing the West Bank was a mistake until Oslo, and anything since moved beyond mistake to provocation and a loss of the moral imperative for Israel. Since that time, the US has also become increasingly critical of the strategy, and I don't think it's fair to say that the haven't impacted Israel's policy regarding settlers in one way or another. Certainly Israel could have acted far more drastically, and sooner. Like, for instance, deporting all Arabs and Palestinians, or restricting Arab rights more severely, or having settled the entire West Bank by now. Unable to halt, maybe, but tempered? I'm sure.

In terms of the future, I think the prognosis is excellent. I think that the Hamas victory will prove to be beneficial to both Palestinians and Israelis (moral judgments aside again), and the unilateral imposition of borders will move relations between Israel and Palestinian and the the rest of the region beyond this issue and into a new era where "Palestinian land" is acknowledged as unquestionably Palestinian, with no possible future settlements, and increased accountability for the current and future Palestinian governments. Pragmatically speaking, it appears as though they've really and truly moved beyond philosophical discussions ("right to exist", "two state solution", "right of return") to bartering and horse trading. I don't think that was possible until Arafat was out of the way, and until Hamas was forced into a position of scrutiny and responsibility. But what do I know. I've half forgotten what we started talking about...

PS: That Kuniholm was indeed excellent, but I have to admit that I didn't see the relevance wrt to Israel's strategic importance. If anything, it reads as though he believes that under the Eisenhower doctrine, direct support for Israel and their efforts against Soviet intervention were a winning strategy, undone partially by the Nixon doctrine in the '70's and '80's that was largely unrelated to Israel. Unless I misunderstand his point, which is entirely possible. In any case, you keep pointing me to alt.politics.international, one of these days, I may head over them, seems like a lot of very interesting stuff.

By the way, did you read the article in the globe today? "Forget 'values,' foreign policy should pursue the national interest".

Not only has Canada's international policy become disconnected from the country's national interests, the "values-based" approach to foreign policy has done the country a great disservice and has even created, in the minds of many Canadians, a false self-image. Foreign-policy resources, which ought to have been directed toward enhancing the national interest, have been too widely dispersed in support of a multitude of "values-based" policies and tasks. Too often what has been discretionary, irrelevant or even counter to the country's real interests has become central; issues most important to ordinary Canadians have been ignored or underfunded.
...
In the final analysis, our foreign policy must be about one thing and one thing only - protecting and promoting the security and prosperity of Canada and Canadians. That is the national interest.
posted by loquax at 1:38 PM on March 30, 2006


Yikes, tons of little mistakes and poorly constructed sentences and ideas in that comment. Apologies. You get the gist I hope. That's the trouble with taken hours and days to write a comment...
posted by loquax at 1:43 PM on March 30, 2006


My first thought when I imagine a world without Israel, or a destroyed Israel in '48 or the '60's is the success and growth of the United Arab Republic--

Why? The Arab world is remarkably fragmented (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq are each power centers in their own right, for example), and I would argue that the conflict with Israel has been a unifying factor--that is, without the war with Israel, the Arab states would have been even less likely to cooperate with each other. The UAR lasted less than four years (February 1958, Egypt and Syria formally merge; September 1961, Syrian military junta takes power and ejects Egyptians). The breakdown of the UAR had nothing to do with Israel.

Of course there's lots of difficulties in arguing about counterfactual history. (If the US hadn't backed partition in 1948, one possibility is that Israel would still have been able to survive, with Soviet support--the Soviet Union supported the partition of Palestine, presumably as a way of making trouble for the British, the Middle East being a British sphere of influence at the time.) But I think it's fair to say that in most imaginable timelines, the Middle East would have been fragmented between competing powers during the Cold War.

According to Kuniholm, the key battlegrounds in the Middle East during the Cold War were the "Northern Tier" states: Turkey and Iran. They were key to the containment of the Soviet Union, being on the Soviet Union's southern border. Israel was not. And of course Israel isn't a major oil producer, unlike Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the Gulf states. Thus it wasn't sufficient for the US to ally itself with Israel, but with no other countries in the Middle East; the US needed to maintain alliances with Turkey, Iran, and the major oil-producing states. Its alliance with Israel made this task more difficult. Not impossible--as you point out, things haven't turned out that badly, although this is in hindsight--but more difficult.

--only rarely has there been a direct, measurable negative impact on US policy and the national interest (including terrorism, IMO) that has been exclusively as a result of supporting Israel--

Depends what you mean by "direct" and "measurable."

Ultimately power depends on consent. At the present time, I would suggest that public opinion in nearly the entire Arab and Muslim world regards US power is illegitimate. (This is true even for key US allies--Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt.) This is a serious problem: even if they're not able to do much about it today, this could change in the future.

There are two main reasons for Arab and Muslim opposition to US power: one is the war in Iraq (and prior to that, the sanctions against Iraq); the other is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

To quote Louis Halle, a colleague of George F. Kennan's:
... real power is always something far greater than military power alone. A balance of power is not a balance of military power alone: it is, rather, a balance in which military power is one element. Even in its crudest aspect, power represents a subtle and intimate combination of force and consent. No stable government has ever existed, and no empire has ever become established, except with an immensely preponderant measure of consent on the part of those who were its subjects. That consent may be a half-grudging consent; it may be a consent based in part on awe of superior force; it may represent love, or respect, or fear, or a combination of the three. Consent, in any case, is the essential ingredient in stable power--more so than physical force, of which the most efficient and economical use is to increase consent.

By using physical force in such a way as alienates consent one constantly increases the requirements of physical force to replace the consent that has been alienated. A vicious spiral develops that, continued, ends in the collapse of power.
As far as I know, US policy has always been opposed [to Israeli annexation of the territories], or at least mute on the subject, especially since the Oslo accords.

True (although ineffective in stopping the settlements), until Bush. I believe Bush stated within the last couple of years that Israel wouldn't withdraw from all the West Bank settlements. (I had yet another "I can't believe he just said that" moment.) I'll see if I can find a reference.

Afraid I can't recommend alt.politics.international--like most political USENET groups, it's almost entirely noise. I'm not even sure there's any actual discussion going on. I just post things there from time to time.

Thanks for the Rempel reference--definitely a realist argument.

Yikes, tons of little mistakes and poorly constructed sentences and ideas in that comment. Apologies. You get the gist I hope. That's the trouble with taken hours and days to write a comment...

No problem!

I'll see if I can dig up PPS/19, which described the political impact of US support for the partition of Palestine back in 1948.
posted by russilwvong at 10:06 PM on April 1, 2006


I just think it's great that our congress argues about EVERYTHING, but can come together on this one issue. There is hardly any debate about their mutual love for Israel! In a vibrant democracy like the United States, that really is something special that unites virtually all Republicans and Democrats.
posted by cell divide at 1:15 AM on April 2, 2006


And the Dershowitz reply for completeness...he's not happy!

(I didn't catch your last points when posted, and I don't really disagree with them - well, for the most part anyways!)
posted by loquax at 1:57 PM on April 6, 2006


Thanks, loquax. Daniel Drezner rounds up more commentary. A commenter criticizes the rebuttals.

I thought Dershowitz's response was pretty good, although I don't think his argument that Mearsheimer and Walt are biased against Israel is correct. His criticism that Mearsheimer and Walt took quotations from unreliable secondary sources (e.g. Chomsky) without looking them up themselves--see footnote on p. 20--is probably accurate. And I think he makes a good argument that US support for Israel can be explained on moral grounds (the weakest part of the Mearsheimer/Walt paper, in my opinion), if not strategic grounds.

I think Section II is particularly good. I agree more with Mearsheimer and Walt than with Dershowitz on points 1 (Israel is a Jewish state), 2 (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an important grievance for bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders), 5 (the Palestinians were a largely innocent third party), and 8 (effectiveness of nuclear deterrence), but Dershowitz makes serious arguments.

What is most astounding about Mearsheimer and Walt’s conspiratorial worldview is that they think that a population of five million Jews ... is somehow able to bully and confuse two hundred ninety-five million non-Jews into consistently acting against their own true interests.

This isn't an astounding logical error. This happens all the time with special-interest lobby groups. It's basic political science. The sugar lobby is a well-known example. Walt discusses other foreign-policy examples in Taming American Power.

A followup to my last post. Bush's comments on the West Bank settlements: "At a White House news briefing following a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Bush said 'realities on the ground' dictated that Israel should be able to keep some settlements in any future peace agreement." April 2004.
posted by russilwvong at 3:25 PM on April 6, 2006


Letters to the LRB--all critical--in response to the Mearsheimer/Walt article.
posted by russilwvong at 3:36 PM on April 6, 2006


Mearsheimer/Walt/Antisemite/Assholes.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:03 PM on April 6, 2006


I will not take the thing from your hand.
posted by russilwvong at 5:28 PM on April 6, 2006


Please don't!
posted by ParisParamus at 5:38 PM on April 6, 2006


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