Andrew Phillips’ letter in Guardian complains that UK and US are “over-influenced by Israel lobbies”

A guest post by Anne, who blogs at Anne’s Opinions.

Yesterday’s Guardian yielded yet another nasty letter about Israel and the Middle East “peace” process, with a bigoted, distortion-ridden letter from Lord Andrew Phillips, titled hopes and dangers in the Middle East

Phillips starts:

“First, so long as the (guilt-ridden?) west goes on affording Israel impunity whatever it does in Palestine, , real negotiations are a chimera, for Israel’s determination to go on colonising the West Bank and East Jerusalem will ensure they fail.”

In this amazing feat of verbal acrobatics, Phillips manages to combine in one little sentence a conspiracy theory, bigotry and lies.

Implying that the west affords Israel impunity is simply laughable when one takes into account all the shrill condemnations emanating from capitals worldwide – not to mention the United Nations.  Just a couple of examples from recent days:

UK FM William Hague criticises Israel. (Also, see here)

Bill Clinton blamed Netanyahu (for the collapse of the peace process).

Phillips’ bigotry is on display when he writes that the west is acting out of guilt when it favours Israel, as if Israel could never deserve positive treatment on its own merits; and any such favourable attitude must emanate from western, I assume Holocaust, guilt.

And the distortions occur when he writes of Israel’s “determination to go on colonising the West Bank and East Jerusalem will ensure they fail.”. Phillips is deliberately ignoring not only the 10-month settlement-building freeze of last year, but the ongoing virtual freeze in all the settlements, even Jerusalem, which has been continuing for years.

Phillips’ next point, that the Middle East has changed to Israel’s disadvantage following the Arab “spring” is basically correct. However although he may have reached the right conclusion, he arrives there via a worldview that has been filtered through his own anti-Israel pro-Palestinian glasses.

These revolutions were not motivated by sympathy for the Palestinians, or even anti-Israel feelings, certainly not at the beginning.  

But his third point is probably the most characteristic trope within the Guardian left’s arsenal of defamations against the organized pro-Israel community.

Writes Phillips:

Third, the claims of the US and UK to be champions of international law and a moral world order are viewed as hypocritical, and undermine our authority and influence worldwide. Both countries are seen to be over-influenced by Israel lobbies, particularly in the US. The fact that a big minority of Jewish Israelis, and many British Jews are also desperate about Mr Netanyahu’s coalition seems to count for little. [emphasis mine]

Who are these mysterious people who “see” such influence? We are not told.

Regarding the US Israel lobby, AIPAC  is the largest and most well-known of all the Israel lobbies in the US but it is certainly not the only one. The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations  is another, as are the various local and state-level Jewish communities and Zionist organizations – Jewish and non-Jewish.

The Israel lobby in the US consists of both informal  and formal lobbies, and as to their influence, malign or otherwise, the Israeli lobby does not have the field to itself.

Per Mitchell Bard:

On any given issue, it may be opposed by a variety of interest groups unrelated to the Middle East (e.g., conservative groups that have nothing against Israel, but oppose foreign aid on principle), but its main rival is the Arab lobby, which similarly consists of those formal and informal actors that attempt to influence U.S. foreign policy to support the interests of the Arab states in the Middle East.

As to the recurring accusations that AIPAC is a foreign agent, even The New York Times, in a special report on AIPAC, confirmed that:

Aipac is not a foreign lobby — its members and officials are largely American Jews — and because it does not get money from Israel or have a contractual relationship, it is not required to register as a lobby for Israel.

But what is this that I just saw above? The Arab lobby? Has anyone ever heard of that? Well, it turns out that there is a powerful Arab lobby working away in Washington and elsewhere, casting out its influence in the same way as the Israel lobby.


Per Bard:

The Arab lobby in the United States is at least as old, perhaps older than the Israeli lobby. It is composed of what I.L. Kenen called “the petro-diplomatic complex consisting of the oil industry, missionaries, and diplomats”. According to Kenen, there was no need for a formal Arab lobby because the petro-diplomatic complex did the Arabs’ work for them.

One of the earliest activities of the petro-diplomatic complex began in 1951 when King Saud of Saudi Arabia asked U.S. diplomats to finance a pro-Arab lobby to counter the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs (later the American Israel Public Affairs Committee -AIPAC). The Arab lobby became an official, active, and visible spokesman for the Arab cause in the wake of the oil embargo. “The day of the Arab-American is here,” boasted National Association of Arab-Americans (NAAA) founder Richard Shadyac, “the reason is oil.”

There is one further, extremely important item to note, hidden in the contrast between the two lobbies:

The other major difference between the two lobbies is the use of paid foreign agents by the Arab lobby.  Again, Per Bard:

Pro-Arab U.S. government officials can look forward to lucrative positions as lobbyists, spokesmen, and consultants for the Arab cause. For example, the outspoken critic of the Israeli lobby, former Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman J. William Fulbright, was hired by the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates. It was the Saudis’ agent, Fred Dutton, a former Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs and special assistant to President Kennedy, who spearheaded the AWACS campaign and reputedly conceived the “Reagan vs. Begin” angle. Other top officials who have provided their services to the Arab lobby include: Clark Clifford, President Johnson’s Defense Secretary; Richard Kleindienst, President Nixon’s Attorney General; and William Rogers, Nixon’s Secretary of State.

Can we now expect to hear Lord Phillips and his fellow travellers condemning the Arab lobby for its sinister influence on Washington?

Turning to Britain, the accusation that an Israel lobby exerts any kind of influence on Whitehall is greatly undermined by the increasingly hostile attitude towards Israel, Zionism, and the state’s Jewish supporters in UK.

The British Israel lobby, such as it is, consists of party political groups such as Labour Friends of Israel and Conservative Friends of Israel.

BICOM is another major Israel lobbyist, whose major aims are presenting Israel’s case to journalists, opinion formers and policy makers.  

Judging by the hostile atmosphere prevalent on UK campuses and within the British government I would venture to say that the Israel lobby, even if it existed in the UK in an official capacity, is not doing a very good job.

However Phillips’ implicit accusation of Zionist forces exerting injurious influence over the US and UK political systems represents a pernicious narrative that is very hard to uproot, regardless of the facts or logic employed. And, since Guardian readers will no doubt accept such commentary about the Israel lobby at face value, this is a fight that we shall have to continue for a long, long time. 

14 replies »

  1. About 3 years ago, Lord Phillips wrote an article in the Guardian at the outbreak of the 2008 financial crisis:

    It was titled “Ghettos of Greed” The banks that he named were Lehman Bros., Goldman Sachs etc.

    Subliminal or deliberate ?

  2. Andrew Phillips on Israel and Jews:

    ‘In February 2011, Phillips, part of at a panel discussion on the Palestine Papers held at the University of London, gave the following statement on Jews:

    “The world we are now moving into has been turned upside down. The Jews aren’t lacking in intelligence, they may be deeply prejudiced, many of them, but they are going to be saying the same sort of thing as you on the panel are saying [about the Middle East after the Arab uprisings].”[1]

    Jonathan Hoffman, co-vice chair of the Zionist Federation, who attended the meeting, sharply criticized Phillips, stating that: “Lord Phillips is an obnoxious man and his views are revolting.”[1]

    Several months earlier, in November 2010, Phillips told a Palestine Solidarity Campaign meeting that: “Europe cannot think straight about Israel because of the Holocaust and America is in the grip of the well-organised Jewish lobby”[1][2]

    Phillips has called for economic and cultural boycotts of Israel.[3]’,_Baron_Phillips_of_Sudbury

    He sounds exactly like the kind of man Alan Rusbridger would have over for Sunday lunch:

    “Have you met my daughter? We are very proud of her. I’m sure you two are going to get along extremely well.”

  3. The other side of the coin (probably a whole bunch of coins altogether) is the Muslim lobby – smearists such as Lord Phillips conveniently forget this when they are shilling for Islam:

    Quote:In a Europe where Islam is the fastest-growing religion, and where the number of Muslims has tripled over the past 30 years, Europe’s Muslim lobby is becoming increasingly assertive and skilled at pressuring European policy-makers into implementing countless pro-Islamic policies, especially ones that institutionalize Islamic Sharia law. Muslim lobby groups are, in fact, transforming European society in ways unimaginable only a few years ago; critics say their ultimate goal is nothing less than the Islamification of Europe. endquote


  4. doing the right thing by the Palestinians now will be seen in the not-so-long term, even by the doubters, to have been doing the right thing by Israel.

    Anyone understand that bit?

    • Yes – it means that for anti-Zionists like Phillips, a win-win situation, whereby Israel would benefit as well as the Palestinians, is unacceptable. A Palestinian diplomatic or legal victory is only desirable if the Israelis “lose”. i.e a zero-sum game and recipe for continued war. I blogged about this in my previous post about the same letter yesterday.

      • In fact I wrote about this Guardian world-view, in which Israel must not be allowed to benefit from any agreement or action in the Middle East, even if that means the Palestinians will lose out, both on my blog and cross-posted right here on CifWatch – just last week.

    • cba, thank you for letting people know. Adam – could you do that – put my new (hopefully temporary) blog url at the beginning. Especially as I’m wondering if it was something or someone to do with Phillips who arranged for my blog to be deactivated.

      Unless I’m being totally paranoid and it was just a technical glitch.

  5. The Saudi oil-lobby in the US is extremely powerful. The big question is what they want in the Middle East apart from clinging on to power. The Arab spring must have made them extremely nervous. After 9/11, many Americans started to question the malign power of Saudi Arabia.

    In a nutshell, I think the Saudis want the Israel-Palestine issue to remain on the boil and be a unifying source of conflict throughout the region mainly to divert attention from their own corrupt theocratic dictatorship which meddles in American domestic politics big time.

  6. The oil lobby is particularly powerful since it operates pretty much in the shadows, with links into the State Department (always packed with Arabists) and to powerful US families like the Bush family, let alone, of course, the oil companies like Exxon. The topic of oil is, of course, enormously important to America (and other countries), and when the sheikhs whisper into the ears of the influencers here, people listen.

    There is quite a lot of damage control going on in the US with the Saudis threatening to change their relationship to America due to the US stand on the Arab spring.

  7. The UK is over influenced, in thrall to OPEC and the oil lobbies.

    Hence the release of the convicted bomber of Pan Am 103 and the awarding of Libyan oil contracts to British Petroleum.