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“.
“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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Another CiF columnist accuses Jewish lobby in the U.S. of stifling debate about Israel (cifwatch.com)
- Daniel Levy’s CiF essay on Jewish voters’ concerns with US Israel policy cites influence of Jews’ media megaphone (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian’s Chris McGreal accuses former US President of “slavishly” succumbing to pro-Israel pressure (cifwatch.com)
- Update on Guardian partner, The Arabist: On “Jewish Money” (cifwatch.com)