Review Essay

Deconstructing the Lobby: John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, The Israel Lobby, Farrar, Strauss ,and Giroux, 2007

Reviewed by
Lawrence Davidson

Most people are local in their orientations. They spend their days focused on work, school, the kids and their friends.  They go to the movies and out to dinner.  Under normal circumstances the attention paid to what is happening on the other side of the proverbial hill goes little beyond an occasional tut-tut at the morning headlines.  One consequence of this inclination is that most of us do not pay much attention to foreign policy.  This is particularly true in a country like the United States which is isolated by two oceans and has not been invaded since 1812.

In the United States this localism is reinforced by a sense of distance from politics in general.  Thus, unless quite rich and well-connected, individual citizens feel that they cannot have a significant impact on policy, be it domestic or foreign.  We can see a consequence of this belief in low average turnouts for elections.  However, there is always a minority who retain an interest in politics and, for varying motives, try to influence policy formulation. They found that the best way to do this, and thereby overcome the localism of the general population, is to come together in groups – in interest groups and lobbies – through which they pool their numbers and financial resources for common goals.  Influencing policies in this manner has proven remarkably successful throughout the history of the United States. James Madison identified this trend as early as 1787.

In this way, the United States is best (if disputably) described as a democracy of competing well-heeled interest groups. It is against this background that John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s (hereafter M/W) important book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy should be understood. In America’s world of competing interest groups, the Zionists, both Christian and Jewish, who make up the Israel Lobby have, to date, won the competition for influence over policy not only relating to Israel but, seemingly, most of the Middle East.  What does this dominance mean?  It means that this interest group has long been in a position to dictate the parameters – what can and cannot be said - of American “national interest” in that region of the globe.

Investigation and Evidence

In their investigation of the Israel Lobby M/W are careful and methodical.  They know that their topic is one wrought with emotion and ideological overtones bred of a mixture of culture, religion and propaganda. Thus they take great pains to line up their evidence (there are 106 pages of notes) and, as we shall see, they bend over backwards to emphasize that the Israel lobby operates legally and that they (the authors) support of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.  The Israel Lobby does not constitute a cabal or a conspiracy and its activities are similar to other lobbies such as the National Rifle Association and the American Association of Retired Persons.  Of course the Lobby’s specific focus is on a particular aspect of foreign policy, U.S. relations with the state of Israel.  Its aim is to assure America’s continued wholehearted support for the Zionist state. That is to maintain what is popularly known as the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Israel.  As M/W point out, what sets the Israel Lobby apart from its peers is “its extraordinary effectiveness.”  As a consequence the United States supported Israel uncritically  and  unconditionally at  least since 1967.  Others have noticed this level of success and, as a result, the Israel Lobby or parts of it like the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), have been imitated by other ethnic interest groups such as that of the likewise formidable Cuban Americans.

What does unconditionally and  uncritically  mean?  M/W lay out the impact of the Lobby’s influence: 1. the billions of dollars (as of 2005 the total stood at approximately $154 billion [p. 24]) given to Israel, which is, after all, a developed and modern society -  and given mostly as grants; 2. official U.S. government financial assistance at the rate of about $3 billion a year which “amounts to a direct subsidy of more than $500 for each Israeli”(p.26); 3. granting Israel the privilege of being the only country that does not have to account for how it spends American taxpayers money (such as subsidizing illegal settlements in the West Bank that impede a peace settlement with the Palestinians); 4. government loan guarantees that allows Israel to borrow from American private banks at artificially low interest rates; 5. military assistance that gives Israel assess to most of America’s high technology weaponry; 6. almost no oversight as to what the Israelis do with these weapons (say, selling some of it to the Chinese in violation of U.S. law); 7. turning a blind eye to Israel’s nuclear weapons program and its refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; 8. the designation of Israel as a “major non-NATO ally”; 9. supplying diplomatic protection at the United Nations through U.S. vetoes in the Security Council; 10. and, last but not least, the historical refusal of the U.S. government, at least since the Kennedy administration onward, to use any of this largess as leverage to induce Israel act in ways that promote peace in the Middle East.  M/W quote Yitzhak Rabin as stating that “America’s generosity towards Israel is beyond compare in modern history” (p. 23).

For this “generosity beyond compare” the United States has gotten remarkably little back.  M/W methodically take apart Zionist arguments to the contrary.  The major argument used by supporters of Israel to assert that Israel is worth all of America’s support is that the Zionist state is a “strategic ally.”   M/W point out that this notion did not exist in the American political or diplomatic lexicon until the 1970s.  At that time Zionists and their supporters began to paint Israel as America’s only reliable ally in the region and one that served to keep the Soviet Union out by “inflicting humiliating military defeats on Soviet clients like Egypt and Syria....”(p. 51).  M/W believe there may be qualified reasons to go along with this assertion as long as the Cold War lasted.  Actually, even this argument is weak.  There is no documented evidence that the Soviet Union had serious designs on the Middle East, much less the Persian Gulf.  Indeed all the evidence points to the USSR’s consistent efforts to urge caution on their Middle Eastern clients.  And, when it came to supplying arms, the Soviets were much less generous.  The Soviet Union tended to supply their allies in the region with mainly defensive weapons and their quality never matched that given to Israel by the Americans.  In other words, the Soviet Union’s intent in the region seems to have been to protect their allies from aggressive neighbors rather than see allies themselves become aggressive. 

M/W reject the “strategic ally” argument for the post-Cold War period.  At that point they assert that Israel became an outright strategic liability. This fact became most noticeable during the first Gulf War when the United States had to ask Israel to stay out of the conflict so as to hold together the mostly Arab coalition that pushed Iraq out of Kuwait.   Subsequently, Israel and its Lobby supporters claimed that the U.S. and Israel were “partners against terror,” a position stated officially in a Congressional resolution of in 2002.  Yet M/W convincingly show that association with Israel is a principle source of America’s terrorist threat.  They detail “abundant evidence that U.S. support for Israel encourages anti-Americanism throughout the Arab and Islamic world and has fueled the rage of anti-American terrorists” (p. 65).  The 9/11 Commission report confirms this assertion by pointing out that a good number of those Arabs now in custody for conspiring to commit terrorist acts against the United States testify that they were largely motivated by the nation’s support of Israel (p. 91ff).  Finally, M/W point out that while the Lobby sing the praises of Israel as an ally, Israel often does not act like it.  For instance, in the Lavon affair of 1954 Israel conspired to bomb U.S. owned property in Egypt (that is conspired to commit terrorism against the U.S.); and during the 1967 war actually did attack a well-marked U.S. intelligence ship off the Egyptian coast.  Israel knowingly sold weapons to enemies of the U.S.; illegally transferred U.S. technology to third countries; blocked investigations of the embezzlement of U.S. funds by Israeli nationals; and suborned American citizens to spy against the U.S.   M/W’s conclusion is that an objective consideration of the evidence points to the fact that America’s unconditional support of Israel “no longer defensible on strategic grounds” (p. 77).

Nor is it defensible on moral grounds. The moral argument for America’s unconditional and uncritical support for Israel is based on the assumption that the two nations have “shared values.”  That both have a “strong commitment to freedom” and that Israel is a beleaguered democracy whose people are “morally superior” to their adversaries.  W/M show that these arguments are based on assumptions that do not hold up to inspection.  Israel is not beleaguered. It has never been in danger of being “pushed into the sea” not even in during its “war for independence” in 1948 when, throughout the struggle, the Zionists maintained a “clear advantage in manpower” (p. 82).  Thereafter, Israel maintained military superiority over enemies and used that superiority with punishing aggressiveness. In the struggle with the Palestinians, M/W show clearly that it is Israel which is the victimizer.  In the 1967 Six Day War Israeli leaders knew that Nasser had no plan to attack their country (p. 85).  Serious diplomatic efforts were underway to end the crisis when Israel choose to initiate war anyway.  In 1973, the Egyptian and Syrian attacks were well known to have limited military objectives–basically to force the Israelis into peace talks on what the Arabs hoped would be more favorable terms.  Hamas and Hezbollah, while refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist do not represent an “existential” threat to the Zionist state.  In other words, the notion that Israel is in a struggle for survival is a myth.

W/M also show that Israel may be a democracy of sorts, but it is not the same kind of democracy as the United States.  In 1992 Israel’s Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty was purged of language that created equality for all Israelis.  The absence of any legal guarantee of equality for its non-Jewish citizens makes more difficult any legal challenge to the all but ubiquitous discrimination practiced against Israeli Arabs.  In this regard the closest parallel one could find to present day Israel in terms of the United States is the American south before the Civil Rights reforms of the 1960s.  Though M/W do not mention the fact, it is the case that American democracy and Israeli democracy are diametrically opposite in terms of their long range ends.  In the long run American democracy, however imperfect, seeks ever greater  inclusiveness of a diverse population while Israeli democracy seeks ever greater exclusiveness so as to create a purely Jewish nation.  Those who assert that we have a moral obligation to support the Zionist state because “they are just like us” are simply wrong.

Finally there is the emotional argument that the United States is morally bound to support Israel as a sort of “compensation for past crimes” committed against the Jewish people (p. 92ff). As to this argument the authors’ ask if sympathy for the Jews ought to translate into utter disregard for Israeli dispossession and oppression of the Palestinians?  In this regard, the Zionist leaders who established the State of Israel knew what they were doing.  M/W quote David Ben Gurion telling Nahum Goldman, President of the World Jewish Congress, in 1956, “If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel.  That is natural: we took their country” (p. 96).  Ben Gurion’s ally Berl Katznelson put it this way, “The Zionist enterprise is an enterprise of conquest” (p. 96).  Over the years the Israelis have not shown any serious accommodation of Palestinian demands for a viable independent state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  Instead they imposed upon the Palestinians a regime which Desmond Tutu (a man who knows racial oppression when he sees it) has likened to South African apartheid. Under the circumstances, M/W conclude that “the past suffering of the Jewish people does not obligate the United States to help Israel no matter what it does today” (p. 98).  In particular it does not obligate the United States to assist Israel in exacerbating the suffering of the Palestinians.
M/W examine a number of other common rationales for America’s unconditional  and  uncritical support of the Zionist state.  In the end they conclude that these, as well as the points detailed above, are sufficiently flawed arguments that they can not fully account for America’s  historic generosity to Israel.

If that is the case, why does the U.S. government give away the house, so to speak, upon the drop of the Zionist hat?  M/W’s answer comes back to the political reality of lobbying.  The Israel Lobby uses money, and lots of it, to reward those who cooperate and to punish those who do not.  Reward comes in the form of funding help for political campaigns. The Lobby uses public pressure in the form of mass write-in campaigns, organized call-in campaigns, and coordinated personal visits to senators and congresspersons.  The Lobby supplies most of the written background information about the Israel, the Palestinians, and other related Middle East subjects that inform, or misinform, the Congress. The consequence of this effort, which has been going on for roughly ninety years (counting from 1917 and the Balfour Declaration) is that, as Senator Ernest Hollings put it, “You can’t have an Israel policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here” (p.162).  The situation replicates itself when it comes to both the Republican and Democratic political parties and the executive branch of government where one must be pro-Israel to attain any position that impacts Middle East policy.

As M/W demonstrate, the influence of the Lobby has succeeded for two additional reasons.  One is that it has practically no opposition.  The state of political development of Arab American and Muslim American lobbies are evolving but nowhere near mature enough to challenge the Israel Lobby.  The second reason is that the pro-Israel message, delivered in drum beat fashion by a cooperative mass media, fits into an overall American informational environment which is largely supportive of its position.  In this process the mass media outlets practice a form of self-censorship that hides the nastier aspects of Israeli behavior.  For those who somehow manage to avoid this self-censoring environment and deliver a critical view of Israel and the Lobby, like Mearsheimer and Walt themselves, the Lobby’s spokesmen regularly use slander and libel (mainly the charge of anti-Semitism) to try to silence or discredit opponents. 

The Lobby and the Invasion of Iraq

The end product of this process is a Lobby that can shape, in terms of its own parochial ends, how the U.S. government defines its national interests in the Middle East.  To demonstrate just how damaging this manipulative influence can be M/W make the controversial assertion that the Lobby was largely responsible for launching the invasion of Iraq.  “Pressure from Israel and the lobby was not the only factor behind the Bush administration’s decision to attack Iran in March 2003, but it was the critical element” (p. 230).

M/W begin by establishing that, among experts on the region, there was a relatively widespread awareness that Iraq was never a direct threat to the United States.  However, there was a strong belief that, as Philip Zelikow, a member of the president’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board in the crucial years 2001 to 2003, put it that Iraq was a “real threat” to Israel (p.231).  The urge to go to war came consistently from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who had Israeli intelligence temporarily switch their attention from Iran to concentrate on providing damning, if exaggerated or outright false, intelligence on Iraq to the American government.  This information often amounted to “alarming reports about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs”– programs that mostly did not exist (pp. 235-236).  Sharon’s manipulation of the intelligence data was part of a larger campaign of persuasion in which such notable Israelis as Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres took part.  Indeed, as M/W show, so energetic was the Israeli push for war that some of its American supporters had to urge discretion on the Israeli leaders lest it begin to appear that the war, when it came, was being waged on behalf of Israel (p. 238).

The push from the Israeli government coincided, and indeed was coordinated with, a push from the neo-conservative branch of the Israel Lobby.  The neo-conservatives had the distinct of advantage that a large number of them were strategically positioned within the Bush administration as well as within think tanks used by the government for information and advice. Here the list of boosters for war runs too high to itemize.  However, among the neo-conservatives whose actions M/W document are Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, the numbers two and three civilian administrators in the Defense Department; Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, and James Woolsey who were members of the Defense Policy Board; Scooter Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff; John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control; Elliott Abrams who was in charge of Middle East policy at the National Security Council; and on the list goes.  All of these men consistently urged an invasion of Iraq on the President Bush and Vice President Cheney.  Feith even led an effort to set up a special “intelligence” gathering effort in the Pentagon, the Office of Special Plans, to try to counteract the fact that the regular intelligence agencies could not find the information on WMDs that would support a decision to go to war against Iraq.

These insider Lobby operatives were joined by outside Lobby leaders such as Mortimer Zuckerman, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, and the New York Times columnist Charles Krauthammer.  AIPAC, operatives, of course, backed the war as well.  Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s executive director listed lobbying for Congressional approval to use force against Iraq as one of his organization’s “successes” in the year 2003 (p. 242).  M/W point out that the leaders of the major American Jewish organizations, which are themselves integral parts of the Israel Lobby, pushed for war using the same language as the Israelis used.  Subsequently they also refrained from criticizing American actions in Iraq.  They consistently took such a stand despite the fact that polls showed that “American Jews are significantly more opposed to the war in Iraq (77 percent) than the general American population (52 percent)” (p. 243).  Thus, M/W conclude that it is wrong to believe that it was “Jewish influence” that helped launch the war in Iraq.  Correctly making the distinction between Jews in general and the Lobby, M/W places the emphasis on the organization, “the war was in large part due to the lobby’s influence” (p. 243).

In making their argument that blame for the Iraq debacle can be mostly laid at the feet of the Israel Lobby, M/W reject the notion that the war was launched to secure control of Iraqi oil.  They point out that Saddam Hussein had never ceased to be willing to sell Iraqi oil, that there is no substantial evidence that American oil companies were pushing for war in 2002-2003.  Indeed, M/W quote Peter Beinart writing in the New Republic as reporting that “it isn’t war that the American oil industry has been lobbying for all these years; it is the end of sanctions [against Iraq]” (p. 255).  Finally, except for Kuwait, the oil producing countries of the Middle East opposed the war.

In the end the ideas that motivated war were, according to M/W, not about oil but rather about ends very much more fanciful.  Ideas of transforming the Middle East into a region friendly to both the United States and Israel by conquering “rogue” states such as Iraq, Iran and Syria.  This effort was to be followed by installing “democratic” governments in the place of their autocratic regimes.  Such aggressive action would “trigger a cascade of democratic dominoes” that would rid the region of its bad behavior.  No more terrorism, no more Israeli-Palestinian conflict, no more anti-Americanism.  All would go away once the United States began the transforming process.  And it all began with Iraq.  Both the Bush administration, the Israel Lobby, and Israeli leaders too appear have been caught up in this dream that has now turned into a nightmare.

It is the nightmare, the “stunning failure” as M/W describe it (p. 259),  that now has the Lobby and Israelis running for cover.  According to spokesmen for both groups they never urged war. It is “simply a falsehood” according to Martin Kramer of the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy (p. 261).   Prime Minister Sharon “had serious reservations about invading Iraq and he privately warned Bush against it” claims Yossi Alapher, an Israeli strategist with the Jaffe Centre (p. 262).   M/W call these statements and others like them efforts to “rewrite the historical record to absolve Israel” and the Lobby (p. 261).  Such efforts are, of course, predictable.

M/W go on to demonstrate the Lobby’s influence in the shaping of a threatening and aggressive American foreign policy toward Syria and Iran, as well as American government behavior during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006. Even now, in the face of disaster in Iraq, the Lobby urges expansion of the war into Iran and Syria.

Finally, in a chapter evocatively entitled “What is to be Done,” M/W offer suggestions about how to deal with the distorting influence of the Israel Lobby.  M/W’s objectives in this regard demonstrate their essentially conservative stance. What they want is that the United States treat Israel “as a normal state” (p. 341) and that it use its “considerable leverage to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end” (p. 342). In other words, in order that a pro-American stability be established  in the Middle East, the “special relationship” with Israel has to go. The neo-conservatives may  see Israeli behavior as a model to be imitated, but for M/W it represents a disaster bigger than the one in Iraq.   They understand that for U.S. interests in the Middle East to thrive in the long run, the Israelis must be pressured into allowing the creation of a fully independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  Israel must go back behind the Green Line.  The Palestinians, for their part, must give up the Right of Return.  They come to this position as noted foreign policy “realists” and not as idealists.

But how is one to weaken the Lobby so that U.S. government policy can move in these realistic directions?  Alas, the only suggestion that M/W put forth is the “fostering” of “more open dialogue” (p. 350ff).   Journalists should be more independent in their reporting, open debate should be encouraged, aspirants for high office should be aggressively confronted about their dependence on the Lobby’s PAC money, etc.  M/W’s book is itself a contribution to this desired debate.  However, coming after such a tour de force demonstrating the malevolent consequences of the Lobby’s influence over foreign policy, this suggestion seems weak, even naive.  The authors dismiss the ideas of campaign finance reform and the developments of counter lobbies as efforts that are unlikely to prevail.  Yet, if special interest money plays an important part in influencing the behavior of politicians and policy makers, and the Israel Lobby has a lock on influence over the mainstream media outlets, how does one create open debate and have it lead to a change in political behavior?  Even if an environment of open debate does slowly evolve would the American people, most of whom are ignorant of foreign affairs, pay much attention?  And if they do pay attention, will listening to the debate be sufficient to overcome cultural, religious, and allegedly political similarities that have, for the last 90 years shaped the perceptual universe of most Westerners when it comes to Zionism, Israel and Palestine?  If such a debate does not catch public attention and does not persuade the public to side with M/W, then influence will continue to default to the most powerful lobby, the Zionists.  The feebleness of M/W solution to the problem is demonstrated in the fact that their own work, and the similar efforts of other academics, have let loose a veritable new MaCarthyism against those who would criticize Israel and its Lobby.  And the public, outside the universities, apparently does not care very much.

The Reaction

Zionists in general, and American Zionists in particular, have an historical record of using the tactic of “verbal beating” against anyone who might question their positions or the behavior of Israel.  Jimmy Carter found this out when he published Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.  But the Zionists’ verbal aggression goes back much further.  For instance, in 1926 a Carnegie Institute of Peace  report critical of Zionist discrimination against Palestinians was met with hysterical finger pointing and shouting and accusations of anti-Semitism.   The same reaction was aroused by journalist Vincent Sheen’s critical reporting from Palestine in the late 1920s early 1930s.  The State Department’s Near East Division got the same treatment in the 1940s.  Historically, the American Zionist establishment has run with the motto, “sois mon frere, ou je te tue–be my brother, or I kill you.”  Thus the Lobby has known only one way to react to its critics and that is to demean and silence them.[1]  It is now the turn of M/W.

Let us look at some of this reaction.[2]  Abraham Foxman in his book The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control accuses M/W of promoting a “pernicious theory about a mythically powerful Jewish lobby.”  Congressmen Eliot L. Engel calls M/W “dishonest so-called intellectuals” who are “anti-Semites” but nonetheless “entitled to their stupidity.”  An Ant-Defamation League “analysis” of M/W’s thesis describes it as “amateurish and biased critique of Israel, American Jews, and American policy” as well as a “sloppy diatribe.”  Professor Eliot A. Cohen of Johns Hopkins, sees M/W as expressing an “obsessive and irrationally hostile belief about Jews.” Alan Dershowitz, the infamous Harvard Law professor, in an uncharacteristically mild assertion, accuses M/W of “embarrassingly weak logic.” Ruth Wisse, a Harvard professor of comparative literature, says that M/W are “classic conspiracy theorists.”  Benny Morris, the Israeli historian, writes that M/W are “pro-Arab propagandists.”  And, on it goes.  Much of this mimics the criticism of Carter’s book and, in both cases, are so wide of the mark that one must suspect that some of the critics have not read the work of the authors they are slandering.  No doubt reading the work in a serious manner is irrelevant to what these verbal beatings are meant to accomplish–to warn other authors not to follow the lead of those who critically investigate Israel and its American lobby.

Other critics have taken a somewhat kinder, if no less questionable approach to the M/W’s work.  For instance, Daniel Lazare has asserted that while M/W are not “anti-Semites” but that their work is nonetheless “a mess.”[3]    Lazare writes that M/W “seem to know little about how the American government works, how lobbyists function or how the United States interacts with the world at large.”  This alleged ignorance leaves M/W open to assigning responsibility for the debacle in Iraq to “a knot of wily Zionist agents” whose removal from the scene would turn the “U.S. role in the region...benign.” These are strange accusations against two scholars who are widely recognized experts in international relations, and again they suggest that the reviewer has not really read the text.  M/W’s investigation of the influence of Israel and its Lobby shows them to be anything but a “knot” of “agents.”  The picture they paint is of a large, decentralized yet coordinated array of players at many official and unofficial layers of government and society.  Nor do they assert that all of America’s or the Middle East’s or Israel’s problems would disappear if the influence of the Lobby was overcome.  They specifically assert that this would not be the case and call for a policy of “offshore balancing” to help manage issues of import to the United States even after the Israel-Palestinian and Arab problems are settled (p. 338ff).  M/W do give a picture of policy formulation that emphasizes politics and lobby pressure at the expense of the professional foreign policy establishment such as the State Department and National Security Council.  My own work on this subject shows them to be close to the mark.[4]  In the case of Israel and the Zionists, the foreign policy bureaucracy began to be purged of those critical of Israel under the presidency of Harry Truman and, with a possible hiatus under Eisenhower, the process has been going on ever since.  Thus, even if one faults M/W for de-emphasizing these structures, it makes little difference.  You are not going to find one strong critic of Israel in contemporary decision making positions anywhere in the American government’s foreign policy establishment.

There are other, more interesting objections raised about M/W’s work.  Some have seen it in the author’s alleged exaggeration of the facts.  For instance, Noam Chomsky of MIT, Joseph Massad of Columbia University and Stephen Zunes of the University of San Francisco, all serious academics whose opinions are worth considering, think that the Israel Lobby is not the dominant player M/W make it out to be.  They credit the oil lobby, arms manufactures, corporations such as Halliburton and the like with much more influence than is given to them by M/W.[5]   M/W do consider the influence of most of these groups.  However, one might take the position that M/W assertions are exaggerated,  but to demonstrate that assertion necessitates more than opinion. There needs to be much more research and therefore the open debate that M/W call for, if their thesis is to be successfully and honestly challenged.


M/W have given us a well documented, well organized, well written and thought provoking work that should alert us all to serious flaws in our foreign policy formulation process.  The process of policy formulation as it is now pursued (both in terms of domestic and foreign policy) allows successful interest groups to make their parochial interests the country’s “national interest.”  The Zionists are not the only ones who do this.  Cuban Americans, and at times other ethnic groups as well, have done so too. This ability on the part of powerful interest groups is tied in with how Washington politicians go about their policy formulation business which in turn is connected to how they go about the business of keeping their jobs.  In effect, the lobby system has gotten out of hand and become so powerful in certain cases as to result in the periodic privatization of foreign policy.  When an interest group is able to capture foreign policy formulation, the result is such skewed behavior as to call into doubt the very concept of national interest for America. 

M/W’s work calls other, related problems to our attention.  There is a problem with the way the public receive its information, particularly about foreign events. The components of our free press are businesses.  They produce the “news” for profit.  If producing certain kinds of news hurts the bottom line they shy away from that news.  In other words they self-censor.  An assumption has grown that delivering news that is critical of the Zionists gets one into trouble with a powerful category of consumers who can hurt your business.  And the news business reacts accordingly.

M/W present us with a picture of all these problems.  In doing so they are not bigots (they assert that the Israel Lobby is as bad for Israel as it is for the U.S.), they are not incompetents, they are not stupid, and they are not ignorant.  They are brave and honest academics who no doubt love their country and are alarmed at the way its foreign policy is being run.  They hope that their work will spark further debate on the seminal issues they raise.  It is yet to be seen if they shout louder than the McCarthy style Zionists arrayed against them?


[1] See, Lawrence Davidson, America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood  (University Press of Florida, 2001).

[2] Sources for these and other reactions can be found on the Engage website

[3]See his “Lobbying Degree Zero” in The Nation, October 22, 2007.

[4] See Endnote # 1 above

[5] See Noam Chomsky, “The Israel Lobby?” On Znet, March 28, 2006. Also see Kurt Jacobsen’s comments in Logos on these objections, “The Great Israel Lobby Fuss.” Logos: A Journal of Modern Society & Culture. Spring 2006.