Does the Pro-Israel Lobby work against U.S. interests?

In liberal democracies lobbyists are part of the system.

Special interest groups try to lobby governments to change policies, pass laws, or allocate funds to benefit their groups.

The more rich and powerful a given group is, the more effective its lobbying becomes. No lobby group should cross the legal line and bribe politicians or government officials, but an even more serious situation occurs when a group lobbying for a foreign country does so against its own country’s national interests.

Recently two renowned American academics, John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, and Stephen M. Walt of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, wrote a major research paper titled "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," which reported on how powerful the American pro-Israel lobby is and how it is working against American national interests.

Both are leading American political scientists with a respected track record. Prof. Mearsheimer authored "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics" and Professor Walt wrote "Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy."

So you’d think that in free America, if two accomplished academics write an 83-page research paper on any topic, their findings would be evaluated objectively on their own merits. Yes, but with one glaring exception –” not if the paper deals with the American pro-Israel lobby and has negative content to share!

The tactics traditionally employed by any influential lobbyists against its critics are basically twofold: first, try to suppress publication of the offending research (much harder now, thanks to the Internet), and secondly, to smear the researchers’ reputations, harass them, have them fired from their jobs, etc.

In fact, Mearsheimer and Walt say the American pro-Israel lobby is so strong that they doubted their paper would be printed in any American-based publication. One clear reason why is found in their warning that the pro-Israel lobby has pushed to exaggerate to the media and public the importance of protecting Israel as a key part of American foreign policy.

The Mearsheimer and Walt report also calls AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, the "de facto agent for a foreign government," and notes that AIPAC has now forged an ominous alliance with conservative evangelical Christian groups, many of whom believe that Jesus Christ will literally build a physical "New Jerusalem" at the biblical Second Coming.

"The thrust of U.S. 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 U.S. interests and those of the other country — in this case, Israel — are essentially identical," Walt and Mearsheimer write.

"Saying that Israel and the U.S. are united by a shared terrorist threat," they continue, "has [placed] the causal relationship backwards: the U.S. has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around. Support for Israel is not the only source of anti-American terrorism, but it is an important one, and it makes winning the war on terror more difficult."

The authors also question the argument that Israel deserves American support as the only democracy in the Middle East, arguing that "some aspects of Israeli democracy are at odds with core American values."

For example; "Israel was explicitly founded as a Jewish state and citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship. Given this, it is not surprising that its 1.3 million Arabs are treated as second-class citizens."

Today the American pro-Israel lobby has become the most powerful pro-Israel lobby in the world, supplanting the British pro-Israel lobby that dominated there from the early 1900s through the mid-1970s.

In their excellent 1975 book, "Publish It Not," British MP Michael Adams and journalist Christopher Mayhew outline their suffering at the hands of the British pro-Israel lobby for speaking the truth. Their book is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of the international pro-Israel lobby, as much as Mearsheimer and Walt’s paper is today.

The essence of the Mearsheimer-Walt paper is that the American pro-Israel lobby has so successfully influenced American foreign policy in the Middle East that Washington now places the security and interests of Israel ahead of the security and interests of the United States and its own people –” a situation that the authors state "has no equal in American history."

St. Jerome said, "If an offence come out of the truth, better it is that the offence come than that the truth be concealed."

True and sobering words indeed, and not a moment too soon to act on them.