The authors describe how the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the United States provides to Israel is due to the influence of the Israel lobby, which has a far-reaching impact on America's foreign policy decisions throughout the Middle East.
This book takes a much-needed look at the "special relationship" that exists between America and Israel.
First of all, the authors do not question that Israel has the right to exist within secure borders, or its right to lobby Washington for its interests, or that America should aid Israel if it is attacked. But, the current unconditional level of US support for Israel ($154 billion since 1948) cannot be justified on moral or strategic grounds.
Perhaps Israel was a strategic ally during the Cold War, but now it has become a growing liability. America’s one-sided support for Israel has helped fuel America’s terrorism problem, it has reinforced anti-Americanism around the world, and relations with key allies have suffered. The moral case for unconditional US support also is not compelling. Israel is a democracy, but no other democracy gets the same level of US support. Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors have helped to destroy the myth of Israel as victim and the Arabs as aggressors.
Why does Israel keep receiving such one-sided support from America, even when its actions directly contradict US interests? Why is the discussion of Israeli actions more wide-ranging in Israel than in America? The "Israel Lobby" is a loose confederation of groups like AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League and Christian Zionists, with Israel at the center. They don’t just lobby Washington and write newspaper op-eds, they also publicly smear anyone who says something of which they don’t approve.
An actual discussion of Israel’s influence in America, free of charges of anti-Semitism, is long overdue here in America. This book does a fine, and non-partisan, job of starting that discussion. It is very much recommended.
They note AIPAC President Howard Friedman telling the organization's members in August 2006, "AIPAC meets with every candidate running for Congress. These candidates receive in depth briefings to help them completely understand the complexities of Israel's predicament and that of the Middle East as a whole. We ask each candidate to author a "position paper" on their views of the U.S.-Israel relationship - so it is clear where they stand on the subject."
One congressional candidate (Harry Lonsdale) who went through this vetting process recounts that, "I found myself invited to AIPAC in Washington, D.C. fairly early in the campaign, for "discussions". It was an experience I will never forget. It wasn't enough that I was pro-Israel. I was given a list of vital topics and quizzed (read grilled) for my specific opinion on each. Actually I was told what my opinion must be, and exactly what words I was to use to express those opinions in public..... Shortly after that encounter at AIPAC, I was sent a list of American supporters of Israel..... that I was free to call for campaign contributions. I called, they gave, from Florida to Alaska."
AIPAC also keeps track of congressional voting records to direct funds to opponents of congressmen who should step out of line.
Dominance of Congress is augmented by Jewish activists in key government positions, particularly from the 1970's onwards, such as, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Elliott Abrahams, David Wurmser and Lewis "Scooter" Libby in the Clinton and Bush administrations. This political combine managed to steer George Bush, sideline Condoleeza Rice and bully Colin Powell into line to initiate the war on Iraq . The authors show the enormous frustration of the CIA as their intelligence was distorted to support the lie of Iraqi WMD and provide cover for a war that Israel wanted, but which they (Israel) required the United States to fight and pay for.
From the 1970's onwards the authors show a supine Congress voting for record aid budgets to Israel (currently four billion dollars a year), with loans being converted to grants, and acquiescence to Israeli demands that the aid be paid up front (which meant that the U.S. government had to borrow it to give to them), and to the Israeli refusal to account for how it was spent, both conditions with which other aid recipients have to comply.
The whole process is supported by Jewish Think Tank activists such as Daniel Pipes, Michael Rubin, and Joshua Muravchik at the American Enterprise Institute, and prominent journalists such as William Kristol, Michael Ladeen and Norman Podhoretz who are now agitating for America to declare war on Iran (and subsequently Syria and Saudi Arabia although they are not so open about this).
In their conclusion, Mearsheimer and Walt ask what can be done about the outlandish failure of the American government to act in the interests of America. They doubt that the Israel Lobby will relinquish its power in the press, campaign finance or government, so they suggest pressure for more open discourse, which seems to be happening. It was initially impossible to publish this book in America but it did eventually happen after an article in the London Review of Books and an unprcedented 275.000 downloads of the working paper from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government website.
They equally see the possibility of congressmen being elected on a "Anti Israel" platform but the authors rightly point out that this could easily slide into anti-semitism. It would however, reduce the pressure and sidetrack the extremist rumbling that is becoming more apparent on the American fringe (for example, Robert Griffin's, "The Fame of a Dead Man's Deeds" ).
by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2007
In March 2006 Mearsheimer and Walt published in number 6 of volume 28 of the London Review of Books a ten page article titled "The Israel Lobby". In that paper, the authors questioned the wisdom of the U.S. close relationship with Israel and the influence that the group of individuals and institutions they termed The Israel Lobby has in shapping that policy. This book, with more than three hundred and fifty pages plus notes, considerably extend the argument and provides a weealth of supporting references for their claim in more than one hundred fine printed pages of notes. The way the Israel lobby has been able to influence U.S. foreign policy is no secret to anyone interested in Middle Eastern and Israeli affairs and the same type of evidence is common knowledge in Europe, and has been repeatedly shown in the U.S. by writers such as Chomsky, Finkelstein, or Findley. But to see this argued by two pillars of the U.S. academic establishment is indeed a novelty, and one that outraged the lobby: after all, they could not dismiss the authors by calling them anti-semites, or member of the radical fringe, and they could hardly honestly contest the carefuly amassed and referenced evidence produced in the book. Is this the first crack on the most taboo issue in the U.S. foreign policy: its unswerving support for Israel? Given the role of the lobby in shapping the U.S. position vis-à-vis Iraq, Syria, Iran, Palestine, and its general regional policies, and given the counterproductive nature of its influence for the U.S. (and for Israel...) standing in the region, I would very much hope the answer to be yes!