Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The "Israel Lobby"

Australian Broadcasting Company publishes the transcript of American professors who believe that U.S. foreign policy is being driven by the "Israel Lobby". Before I get into this further, what country doesn't have a lobby? The U.S. is the Super Power that everyone, if they are smart, wants to befriend (or at least not tick off). The fact that Israel has a lobby in Washington D.C. is hardly noteworthy. Not to mention, we are allies. These professors would argue that this is a chicken-egg question. Would we have such a close relationship if it weren't for the insidious Lobby? No, not according to them.

MARGOT O'NEILL: Since the Six Day War in 1967, the key to American foreign policy in the Middle East has been Washington's relationship with Israel. The problem is that there's no longer any compelling moral or strategic reasons for such a policy, or so argues John Mearsheimer - a West Point graduate, former air force officer and now a senior professor of politics at the University of Chicago. But his argument is considered so controversial that when he and Professor Stephen Walt - the academic dean of the Kennedy School of Politics at Harvard University - tried to publish a critique of the Israel lobby in the United States, they were forced to go to England instead.

PROFESSOR JOHN MEARSHEIMER, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: We couldn't get the piece published, it, therefore, had to be published outside of the United States.

MARGOT O'NEILL: The article, entitled The Israel Lobby, first appeared in March this year, in the London Review of Books. Professor Mearsheimer says he wasn't surprised that he and Stephen Walt were almost immediately attacked by leading American lawyer Alan Dershowitz as being anti-Semitic.

PROFESSOR JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, we referred to charge of anti-Semitism in the piece as the 'great silencer'. What happens is that when individuals criticise Israel or organisations criticise Israeli policy, what almost axiomatically happens is those individuals are called anti-Semitic or if they're Jewish, they're labelled 'self-hating Jews'.

MARGOT O'NEILL: The article argues that because of the Israel lobby, US-Middle East policy is unbalanced and has undermined American and Western security.

PROFESSOR JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, the fact is, in the American political system, it's very easy for well-organised interest groups to penetrate the American political process and to influence particular policies. This is true if you look at an organisation like the National Rifle Association. Most Americans are in favour of gun control but the NRA, which is a rather small organisation in terms of the size of its membership, is very effective at lobbying Congress and lobbying the Executive Branch to get its way. And the same basic story applies to the Israel lobby.

MARGOT O'NEILL: Former US ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, is named as being part of the loose coalition making up the Israel lobby, but he vehemently rejects what he says is Mearsheimer and Walt's implication of a Jewish conspiracy to subvert American foreign policy.

MARTIN INDYK, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: People say, well, if they're positing this kind of conspiracy, then they're really verging on anti-Semitism because of the way in which conspiracy theories have been generated to - like, in particular to the protocols of the elders of Zion - to generate anti-Semitism.

MARGOT O'NEILL: But Martin Indyk acknowledges the power of the lobby in Congress.

MARTIN INDYK: Yes, they do have influence in Congress, and yes, congressmen, in particular, because they're up for re-election every two years, do think twice about whether they're going to cast an anti-Israel vote because they don't want to have the wrath of this powerful lobby come down on them.

My question: if Isrel shouldn't be our biggest ally? Then who should be?

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