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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Is America's Support of Israel Unshakable?

By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

April 19, 2007


All links added by Robin

Without the United States, Israel could not survive. Washington supplies this minute wealthy country with economic, military and strategic aid and virtually gives it carte blanche to behave as it pleases.

One after the other, US presidents and senators pay annual obeisance to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and pledge their allegiance to the special relationship between the two countries. To do otherwise is tantamount to political suicide.

In February, presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton stood up in front of the AIPAC crowd to proudly state, “Israel’s cause is our cause.” In earlier times, her husband had actually vowed to grab a rifle, get in a trench and fight and die were Israel attacked.

Not to be outdone, in March, Senator Barack Obama made his pilgrimage to AIPAC where he gave a speech promising to work towards ensuring Israel’s military supremacy in the region.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose family has an Israeli soccer field named after it, was dubbed ‘the AIPAC Girl’ after she bowed to pressure from the lobby to drop a provision of the Iraq funding bill requiring President Bush to get permission from Congress before launching a war on Iran.

As long as the US is on its side, Israel is untouchable. It has never been censored for its nuclear weapons programme because Washington readily accepts Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity, even though the US invaded Iraq ostensibly to find non-existent weapons and is sabre-rattling against Iran, which denies it has any intention of manufacturing nukes.

As long as the status quo is maintained, Israel’s security is assured. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is free to snub Arab peace initiatives, and has no real accountability for his treatment of the Palestinians or the decimation of Lebanon.

But what happens if America one day decides to view its support for Israel as more of a liability than an asset? That isn’t as outrageous as it appears at first sight.

Until recently any mention of the Israel lobby’s power to dictate US foreign policy was practically taboo. Then in March 2006, the London Review of Books published a work by two American professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, titled The Israeli Lobby.

Lobby influence

Its main thrust was the lobby has too much influence over the executive branch; it questioned the perception of Israel as David aggressed by Goliath and cast aspersions on Israel’s loyalty towards the United States.

The article elicited a firestorm just as the authors later said they had anticipated. The lobby mobilised and did its best to get the two intellectuals written off as ‘anti-Semites.’

Then in April 2006, another professor Tony Judt was invited to write an op-ed for the New York Times concerning Walt and Mearsheimer’s essay on condition he included mention of his own Jewish ancestry.

In his piece, broadly supportive of opening up the debate, he questions why “the uncomfortable issues raised by Walt and Mearsheimer” were thoroughly aired in Israel but not in the United States.

“It was an Israeli columnist in the liberal daily Haaretz who described the American foreign policy advisers Richard Perle and Douglas Feith as ‘walking a fine line between their loyalty to American governments . . . and Israeli interests,’” wrote Judt.

“It was Israel’s impeccably conservative Jerusalem Post that described Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defence [now head of the World Bank] as ‘devoutly pro-Israel.’ Are we to accuse Israelis, too, of anti-Zionism?” Judt asks. The lobby’s wrath was a given and Judt was pilloried as a self-hating Jew.

In October, a talk that Judt was due to give at the Polish Consulate in New York was abruptly cancelled after Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League -- a Jewish advocacy group -- telephoned the consul-general.

The danger for the lobby is overreach. Since 9/11 Americans have become more politically savvy about issues related to the Middle East and, in this Internet age, there may come a day when they will no longer believe American and Israeli interests are one and the same.

When and if that day comes, the lobby may be viewed as a hostile entity within, promoting wars for Israel’s sake for which young Americans inevitably end up as cannon fodder. It doesn’t help that AIPAC officials were accused of passing on secrets to Israel gleaned from a Pentagon employee.

Some American Jews are concerned about an anti-Semitic backlash that could undermine America’s support for Israel, prompting the American Jewish Committee (AJC) to ask President Bush to quit threatening Iran for the sake of Israel’s security.

Their fears may be well founded. Memories of the Holocaust are fading and with them the collective guilt experienced by the West is diminishing. It’s conceivable that Americans will open their eyes to an Israeli Goliath and wonder why it’s being propped up with their tax dollars.

That day may be a long way off. It may never happen. But, in the meantime, Israelis would be well advised to grab the Arab peace initiative with both hands.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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Note: Please read more about the author of this article, Linda S. Heard here

"The writer’s greatest ambition is to witness an end to the terrible suffering of the Palestinian people in her lifetime and a viable Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. She would also like to see a multi-polar world instead of one where a hyper-power is able to ride roughshod, unchallenged."

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