Thursday, March 23, 2006

Lobby-tomized

It seems the Israel lobby is all over the news right now. Just last night, I read this week's LRB's cover story which describes the ways in which the Israel lobby controls American politics in the Middle East:
In its basic operations, the Israel Lobby is no different from the farm lobby, steel or textile workers’ unions, or other ethnic lobbies. There is nothing improper about American Jews and their Christian allies attempting to sway US policy: the Lobby’s activities are not a conspiracy of the sort depicted in tracts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. For the most part, the individuals and groups that comprise it are only doing what other special interest groups do, but doing it very much better. By contrast, pro-Arab interest groups, in so far as they exist at all, are weak, which makes the Israel Lobby’s task even easier.
Read the rest of it here. The article pretty much caused me to get very angry. I watched Paradise Now before I went to bed. I don't think that helped with the anger.

Then, in today's El-Ahram, Joseph Massad, the dogged Columbia professor, says the lobby cannot be blamed for what are essentially the American government's sins:
The arguments put forth by these studies would have been more convincing if the Israel lobby was forcing the United States government to pursue policies in the Middle East that are inconsistent with its global policies elsewhere. This, however, is far from what happens. While US policies in the Middle East may often be an exaggerated form of its repressive and anti- democratic policies elsewhere in the world, they are not inconsistent with them. One could easily make the case that the strength of the pro-Israel lobby is what accounts for this exaggeration, but even this contention is not entirely persuasive.
Reading Massad's essay seriously confused me. How could a guy who's been hounded for years be letting the very lobby that hounded him off the hook? But sure enough, I got to the end of the essay and he answered the question for me:
What then would have been different in US policy in the Middle East absent Israel and its powerful lobby? The answer in short is: the details and intensity but not the direction, content, or impact of such policies. Is the pro- Israel lobby extremely powerful in the United States? As someone who has been facing the full brunt of their power for the last three years through their formidable influence on my own university and their attempts to get me fired, I answer with a resounding yes. Are they primarily responsible for US policies towards the Palestinians and the Arab world? Absolutely not. The United States is opposed in the Arab world as elsewhere because it has pursued and continues to pursue policies that are inimical to the interests of most people in these countries and are only beneficial to its own interests and to the minority regimes in the region that serve those interests, including Israel. Absent these policies, and not the pro-Israel lobby which supports them, the United States should expect a change in its standing among Arabs. Short of that, the United States will have to continue its policies in the region that have wreaked, and continue to wreak, havoc on the majority of Arabs and not expect that the Arab people will like it in return.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Shelley Ettinger said...

Hi--thanks for posting this, and the link. I'm going to print the whole article to read over the weekend. As an anti-Zionist Jew who supports the Palestinian cause with all my heart and soul, I've had a lot of debates with people over precisely the issue Massad addresses here. I completely agree with him that it's U.S. imperialism and, specifically, its oil greed, that drives Washington's pro-Israel policy, and not the other way around, that Israel and the Israel lobby control Washington.

Anyway, again, thanks for this post. I read your blog regularly and enjoy it a lot. --Shelley Ettinger

10:10 AM  
Blogger rockslinga said...

Thanks, Shelley. The LRB article is pretty long and a lot of the issues it addresses are fairly common-knowledge, but it's worth a read...

11:02 PM  

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