Coward Old Universe…

by Jeremy G.

Archive for the ‘Lobbies’ Category

Israel Lobby: You Wanna Talk?

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on November 3, 2006

… so let’s talk…  but you’re not going to like it.

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The Council for National Interest , in an attempt to influence the outcome of next week’s American elections, published an ad in the New York Times claiming that the Israeli lobby is trying  to sell “another” war to the US government, that is the one that Israel would be currently leading in Gaza and in Lebanon.  This claim should be closely related to the idea, shared among many political analysts today, that the war in Iraq will play a decisive role in the outcome of the election.  The claim should also be linked to an idea that the CNI is trying to impose: The war in Iraq was heavily influenced by Israel’s stakes in the region.  An idea that is largely disputed and that does not hold when confronted with the facts.  French paper Marianne for instance published in March 2004 an investigation on the subject emphasizing on Sharon’s apprehensions regarding the intervention in Iraq as well as Israeli fears with regards to Teheran, not Baghdad. 

The Council is known for its anti-Israeli stance on every single issue the Middle East could possibly raise – and that’s perfectly fine in a democracy – and for its praise and numerous references to Mershaiemer and Walt’s recent article on the role Israel has played in the shaping of the US Foreign policy since 1948.  The article argued that while Israeli interests have bent American Foreign policy, the influence has been highly negative and in opposition with American interests.  The criticism and analysis was coming from two credible and very respected academic personalities, and CNI was not about to miss the opportunity to refer to it whenever it could…  But that certainly does not mean that the article was not full of flaws, inaccuracies and absurd thinking.

In my opinion, the best response to that article was brought  French historian Justin Vaïsse, in LibérationWhy this obsession with Israel and why should this country always be considered through a different lens than any other?  Vaisse expresses his surprise because there is very little about the Cold War which was crucial in US Foreign Policy, and because Saudi Arabia is only mentioned once in the article.  He emphasizes the role the Cuban lobby plays on US Foreign Policy without causing so much debate. He also mentions other personalities such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, Anatol Lieven, Juan Cole, Robert Malley, Stanley Hoffmann or Henry Siegman and other researchers (Flynt Leverett, Shibley Telhami ou Muqtedar Khan) to argue that the debate in the US over the alliance with Israel is much more complex than the picture that the two authors give.  I would personnally add that Sorosexpressed intention to create a new Jewish lobby, but on the left wing, in order to compete with AIPAC, is just another instance of how lively the debate over American support to Israel is.

All of those questions were raised by numerous other analysts, in the US as well as in Europe.  Nobody cared to comment.

Debate in democracies are healthy.  Obsessions are not.  That is true in the US as well as in Europe, especially on the matter of the Israeli question.  So if CNI wants to launch this debate, it will have to accept the fact that it may just not appreciate the conclusions that will come out of it.  Unlike what Mershaiemer and Walt claim, the convergence of interests between the US and Israel might just be quite real.  One may certainly criticize the way the Israelis handled the crisis with Lebanon, but I do not know of many countries that would have preferred giving Hizbullah the impression that its actions were not totally inappropriate or acceptable.  In general, in spite of the founded or very wild criticism that we can hear on both sides of the Atlantic and directed towards Israel, I don’t know of many countries that would be ready to totally sacrifice that convergence to a short run collaboration with radical regimes and other groups. 

To CNI:  You have most probably selected an interesting issue, but you do not have any clue with regards to how to tackle it.  Deal with it the right way, just for the sake of the cause you are defending.  

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