I lived most of my life in Abu Dhabi, the small but bustling capital of the United Arab Emirates. In the Arabian Gulf, like in other Muslim areas of the world, support for the Palestinians runs very high. The media there are very strong in their criticism of Israeli policies and American actions vis-a-vis the Middle East, unlike the Washington Post, the New York Times and other American newspapers and news-channels which praise Israel to no end. Having been brought up in such a pro-Palestinian environment, I couldn’t help but pick up a book titled “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy” authored by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.
Before I started reading the book, I ran a quick background check of the authors. Both of them are respected foreign policy analysts and have written numerous books from a realist perspective of international relations (Realism follows the footsteps of Chanakya, Machiavelli, Bismarck and other astute statesmen in the realm of international relations). Having satisfied myself with the credibility of the authors, I started reading the book.
The authors first present the facts relating to the USA’s vast support for Israel. No other country has ever been given as much preferential treatment by US politicians, both Republicans and Democrats. In fact, no politician ever criticizes Israel or its policies. With such (almost) unanimous support from the US Congress, one tends to conclude that Israel is America’s greatest ally in the Middle East. However, Israeli actions have led to a tarnishing of USA’s image all over the world, especially among the USA’s Arab allies. Due to America’s infinite support for Israel, the rest of the world quite logically assume that Israel’s actions have been sanctioned by the USA. Definitely, no country would stay in an alliance that would pull them down, especially if that alliance caused a disaster like 9/11. So if Israel is USA’s greatest ally despite being a strategic liability, is there some other reason for the continuation of the alliance?
The authors explore the high amount of support for Israel among the American public based on the opinion that Israel is a fledgling democracy with Western values surrounded by autocratic and genocidal Arab regimes. These Arabs have been portrayed for years in the American media as being bloodthirsty suicide bombers who want to inflict another Holocaust on the Jewish people. So this is clearly a moral support for Israel. But does Israel really have a moral case? The book outlines how over the years, Israel’s moral case has been dwindling due to its actions in its neighborhood. The violent eviction of the Palestinians from the homeland, the building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, the brutal treatment of Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and the Golan Heights, and the high number of civilian casualties during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon all prove that the Israelis are at least morally no better than Arab terrorists (if not worse). If the standards which were applied to Serbia were applied here, most of the Israeli political class would be facing charges for war crimes and other crimes against humanity.
If that’s the case, the USA has absolutely no reason to support the Israel even minimally. Then why does it do so to such an extant? The authors suggest that a large number of individuals and organizations with pro-Israeli tendencies heavily lobby the Congress to support Israel in every way possible. The authors dismiss the notion of a Jewish conspiracy and mention that there are many Jews who do not support the efforts of the Lobby, while there are numerous Christian Zionists who zealously support Israel. The organizations which form the core of the Israel Lobby include the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), the very powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the notorious Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Christians United for Israel (CUFI). The Lobby also includes individuals who may either be professors or journalists who consistently support hard-line policies that support Israel and have the power to influence the opinions and decisions of numerous people, especially those in charge of formulating policies. Because of the Lobby’s connections to top think-tanks and media outlets, it plays a heavy hand in guiding the policy process and dominating public discussions related to the Middle-East, more specifically Israel.
It is no secret now that it was due to the Lobby’s pressure that America ignores the rights of the Palestinians, it invaded Iraq, has a belligerent attitude towards Syria and Iran, and fails to censure Israel for numerous crimes against humanity. As we have seen for the past few years, the rhetoric against Iran has mounted steadily among American politicians, even though Iran doesn’t pose even a minuscule threat to the USA. If the USA could deter the Soviet Union, which had thousands of nuclear weapons in its arsenal at the height of the Cold War, Iran can easily be deterred. However, because of the mutual hatred between Israel and Iran, America is now trying to pick a fight.
The influence of the Lobby has global repercussions. The invasion of Iraq has caused a debt of a trillion dollars to the US Federal Government. It has also caused havoc in the heart of a volatile Middle East which most of the crude oil to the rest of the world. With oil prices hovering at around $100 per barrel, a war with Iran due to pressure from the Lobby can see the price of oil sky-rocket to even $250 a barrel – pushing the entire world into an economic collapse.
Clearly, the Lobby poses a threat to the USA, the world and ironically Israel itself. As the Lobby pushes through more hardline policies, anti-Semitism gets a powerful foothold in the Middle East. Surely, the Lobby must go. Till now, any mention of the Lobby has brought out charges of anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, a proper understanding of the Lobby’s role in defining US foreign policy is imperative, and if possible, the power of the Lobby must be curtailed.