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The Lobby as Juggernaut

The Israel Lobby Juggernaut scares the hell out of people. It tries to crush those who stand up against them; some suffer but persist, and the pragmatics survive by changing their tune. Nobody is immune; reporters, editors, columnists, professors, academics, politicians…. Everyone is labeled “anti-Semite” when s/he criticizes the power of the Israel Lobby or talks about the misery of the Palestinian people. Even a greeting kiss upsets them! And enquiries are never allowed to be held into Israel’s crimes.

It’s not a new phenomenon; back in the 1950s, the frustrated Secretary of State John Foster Dulles unambiguously stated: “We cannot have all our policies made in Jerusalem.” To the owner of Time Inc. Henry Luce he said: “I am aware how almost impossible it is in this country to carry out a foreign policy not approved by the Jews. [But] I am going to try to have one. This does not mean I am anti-Jewish, but I believe in what George Washington said in his farewell address, that an emotional attachment to another country should not interfere.”

However, the [emotional] attachment has turned into a Gordian Knot which the Isratics wouldn’t let any US leader break it. Only somebody like Alexander the Great can untie or cut it. None of the two presidential candidates have it in them to cut it. On June 16, in Detroit, Michigan, at Obama’s political rally, two Muslim women with headscarves were denied seats behind the podium because they would have shown up with Obama in photographs and on TVs all over the US sending a wrong message. The fear continues …

One of the women, a lawyer, Hebba Aref realized Obama’s “change”: “I was coming to support him, and I felt like I was discriminated against by the very person who was supposed to be bringing this change, who I could really relate to. The message that I thought was delivered to us was that they do not want him associated with Muslims or Muslim supporters.”

Obama, of course, called those women and apologized.

United States’ first Muslim congressperson Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota had offered to speak on behalf of Obama to Muslims in a mosque in Grand Rapids. An aid to Obama told Ellison, “We have a very tightly wrapped message.” That is, No, thank you. His offer to campaign for Obama in North Carolina was rejected because the state is “too conservative.” (Ellison is black.)

When it came to AIPAC, Obama hadn’t felt any hesitation to attend their annual meeting just less than two weeks prior.

James Abourezk, former South Dakota senator and a victim of the Lobby describes this annual pilgrimage of the candidates in these words:

“Like a Moslem undertaking the Hajj, the once in a lifetime trip to Mecca, or a Catholic chancing to see the Pope speak from his Vatican window, presidential candidates seemingly long to trudge to the annual AIPAC conference to pay fealty to Israel and its Lobby.”

Uri Avnery, former Israeli Knesset member and a peace activist, summed it up Obama’s visit appropriately:

“And what was the first thing he did after his astounding victory? He ran to the conference of the Israel lobby, AIPAC, and made a speech that broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning.

“That is shocking enough. Even more shocking is the fact that nobody was shocked.”

Yes, nobody was shocked when Obama lied: “Israel’s quest for peace with its neighbors has stalled, despite the heavy burdens borne by the Israeli people.”

And promised: “As president, I will implement a memorandum of understanding that provides $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade, investments to Israel’s security that will not be tied to any other nation.” <34>

Of course Hillary Clinton and John McCain also attended to show their political security that can only be guaranteed by the AIPAC Political Security Agency.

Some of the victims of the Israeli Lobby Juggernaut:

Cynthia McKinney (House Rep., now Green Party presidential candidate)
Earl Hilliard (House Rep.)
Charles H. Percy (Senator)
Adlai E. Stevenson III (Senator)
Paul N. “Pete” McCloskey (House Rep.)
J. William Fulbright (Senator)
Paul Findley (House Rep.)
Walter Huddleston (Senator)
Juan Cole (political analyst)
James Abourezk (Senator)
Noam Chomsky (academic)
George W. Ball (Undersecretary of State)
Eqbal Ahmad (late)
Edward Said (late)
John Connally (Texas Governor)
Jimmy Carter (former President)
Arun Gandhi (founder, M. K. Gandhi Institute)
M. Shahid Alam (Professor)
Robert Fisk (Journalist)
John J. Mearsheimer (academic)
Stephen M. Walt (professor)
James M. Ennes Jr. (author)
Tony Judt (historian)
Vanessa Redgrave (actress)

University of Chicago Professor John J. Mearsheimer and Harvard Professor Stephen M. Walt were asked to write on the Israel Lobby by The Atlantic Monthly who then backed off from publishing the article because of the Israel Lobby’s fear. It was published by the London Review of Books in March 2006. Then it came out in a book form, The Israel Lobby and the U.S. Foreign Policy. They have been vilified and labeled as anti-Semites.

“The large Jewish contributors,” George Ball and Douglas Ball reminded us in the early 1990s, “commit their money only after they have carefully interrogated candidates on their views about Israel.” A presidential candidate George McGovern was questioned by financier Meshulam Riklis: “Senator, just what is your position on Israel?” A negotiated peace through the United Nations was his answer. He failed the one question test.

Alexander Cockburn describes Cynthia McKinney and Earl Hilliard’s loss in these words:

“One less radical black voice in Congress. One less champion of labor. One less brave soul unafraid to jump the traces of political orthodoxy. Cynthia McKinney … was beaten … with the help of lots of money from American Jewish groups and by a hefty Republican cross-over in Georgia’s open primary.”

“… Like Hilliard she wasn’t cowed by the Israel right-or-wrong lobby and called for real debate on the Middle East. And she called for a real examination of the lead-up to 9/11. So the sky fell in on her. Torrents of American Jewish money showered her opponent, a black woman judge called [Denise L.] Majette. Buckets of sewage were poured over McKinney’s head in the Washington Post and the Atlanta Constitution.”
“Don’t you think that if Arab-American groups or African-American groups targeted an incumbent white liberal, maybe Jewish, congressperson, and shipped in money by the truckload to oust the incumbent, the rafters would shake with bellows of outrage.
“Yet when a torrent of money from out of state American Jewish organizations smashed Earl Hilliard, first elected black congressperson in Alabama since Reconstruction, you could have heard a mouse cough. Hilliard had made the fatal error of calling for some measure of even-handedness in the Middle East. So he was targeted by AIPAC and the others….”

In 1984, the AIPAC helped defeat Senator Charles Percy from Illinois, because he had “displayed insensitivity and even hostility to our concerns”. Thomas Dine, the then executive director of AIPAC made it clear: “All the Jews in America, from coast to coast, gathered to oust Percy. And the American politicians – those who hold public positions now, and those who aspire – got the message.”

Even Hillary Clinton’s greeting kiss to Suha Arafat or her calling for Palestinian homeland upset them.

You could be threatened for criticism of Israel. In May 2002, actor John Malkovich said he would like to “shoot” British reporter Robert Fisk of the Independent. Since late 1990s Fisk says that hate mail and death threats have risen sharply. Should you mention why?

Historian Tony Judt, a Jew, was to speak about the Israel Lobby on October 4, 2006, to the non-profit organization that rents space from the Polish Consulate in New York. The American Jewish Congress and ADL just made phone calls to the consulate and Consul General Krzysztof Kasprzyk had to yield; Judt was not allowed. Kasprzyk explained: “The phone calls were very elegant but may be interpreted as exercising a delicate pressure.” “That’s obvious—we are adults and our IQs are high enough to understand that.”

David A. Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, defended his action:

“I never asked for a particular action; I was calling as a friend of Poland.” “The message of that evening was going to be entirely contrary to the entire spirit of Polish foreign policy.”

Abraham Foxman’s excuse:

“I think they made the right decision.” “He’s taken the position that Israel shouldn’t exist. That puts him on our radar.”

One wonders who is Harris to tell the Polish Consul General what Poland’s foreign policy should be. It’s an independent country capable of taking care of its affairs.

Tony Judt gave the real reason: “This is serious and frightening, and only in America—not in Israel—is this a problem.” “These are Jewish organizations that believe they should keep people who disagree with them on the Middle East away from anyone who might listen.”

In Israel there is much more freedom to criticize Israeli policies than there is in the US.

In the late 1960s, in a speech at the Cornell University, the late Eqbal Ahmad criticized Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians after the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. Excepting three Jews and one other person, the rest of the faculty stopped talking to him.

“I would often sit at the lunch table in the faculty lounge, which is generally very crowded, and I would have a table of six to myself.”

“The issue is not one of Jew versus gentile [non-Jew]. There is a silent covenant within the academic community concerning Israel. The interesting thing is that the number of prominent Jews who have broken the covenant is much larger than the number of gentiles.”

Professor Edward Said was the most prominent Palestinian in the US up until his death in 2003. He was regularly targeted by the AIPAC trained activists. In 1983 he spoke at the University of Washington. He narrated an incident prior to his speech:

“They stood at the door of the auditorium and distributed a blue leaflet which seemed like a program but it was in fact a denunciation of me as a ‘terrorist.’ There were quotations from the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], and things that I had said were mixed in with things they claimed the PLO had said about murdering Jews. The idea was to intimidate me and to intimidate the audience from attending.”

This is an ongoing process. “A stream of quality academics have been attacked and some of them damaged by Lobby campaigns—Juan Cole, Rashid Khaladi, Nadia Abu el-Haq, Joel Beinen, Joseph Massad, Norman Finkelstein, among others. People like Jimmy Carter, Stephen Walt, and John Mersheimer have been under steady attack for expressing critical views on Israeli policy and Lobby influence. Speakers not satisfying the Lobby principles have been denounced and invitations withdrawn because of the systematic pressure. Publishers of books deemed overly critical, most recently Pluto Press, have been threatened. Although the efforts of Campus Watch, CAMERA, Israel on Campus Coalition, and the David Project are such a clear throwback to the McCarthy era efforts of Red Channels and other private thought-police operations, you would hardly be aware of the civil liberties threat if you read only the mainstream media.”

USS Liberty

James M. Ennes Jr. was an Electronics Material officer on USS Liberty, a ship stationed in international waters off the coast of Gaza in June 1967. The ship was there to check the progress of Israel’s war against the Arab states. It was a clear day and the ship had a new US flag flying so there was no question of anybody not recognizing it as a US ship. The Israeli planes carried out attacks for two hours killing 34 US sailors and wounding 174. The two F-4s which left the USS America to help Liberty had to turn back. The chief of Naval Operations had ordered America: “You get those fucking airplanes back on deck, and you get them back down.”

The whole story was covered up, “So as not to embarrass Israel.” The then Defense Secretary Robert McNamara said, “These errors do occur.”

Two of the several reasons in Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair’s book of essays “The Politics of Anti-Semitism,” are:

Israel was in the process of executing 1,000 Egyptian and Palestinian POWs on the very same day. The Israeli soldier, later a reporter, Gabriel Bron who was a witness described it: “The Egyptian prisoners of war were ordered to dig pits and then army police shot them to death.”

Next morning, Jeffrey St. Clair says, Israel broke the new ceasefire agreement and took over the Syrian territory of Golan Heights.

“How tightly does the Israel Lobby control the Hill? For the first time in history, an attack on an American ship was not subjected to a public investigation by the Congress.”

In 1980, when Senators Barry Goldwater and Adlai Stevenson were in the process of making the Liberty affair a public investigation by Congress, Israel agreed to pay $6 million—the cost of Liberty was $40 million. And Israel got that $6 million back because its aid was increased. “The book is now closed on the USS Liberty,” the State Department press release announced.

Only Stevenson pursued the case and it cost him the race for Illinois’ Governor; he lost to Jim Thompson in whose coffers “big money flowed,” as St. Clair puts it.

Charley Reese points out that the decision to name a library in a small town in Wisconsin after the Liberty had to face a crusade which claimed that it was anti-Semitic. And when the town named it as such, the navy personnel were forbidden by the US government to attend the ceremony.

Rachel Corrie

On March 16, 2003, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), using the US supplied Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozer, crushed a 23 years old US citizen Rachel Corrie to death. As a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), she was protesting by trying to act as a “human shield” to stop the demolition of a Palestinian’s home in Gaza.

Alexander Cockburn portrays the contrast in the official reception the deaths of Rachel Corrie and another 19 year old activist Marla Ruzicka who was a victim of a suicide car bombing in Baghdad. Senator Barbara Boxer attended Ruzicka’s funeral but none of the Washington senators were at Corrie’s funeral.

The play My Name Is Rachel Corrie is based on e-mail correspondence and journals of Rachel Corrie. In London, England, it was performed in 2005. It was to be performed in New York in February 2006, but was cancelled under pressure. It was allowed to be performed in October.

 

“A Clean Break”

Iraq’s economic and social infrastructure was destroyed by the US in 1991. Anybody following Iraq since then knew very well that it had no WMDs or “weapons of mass destruction” and had no capacity to challenge its neighbors, including, the most weaponized and the only nuclear power in the region, Israel.

But in 1996, Richard Perle, an Isratic, known as a “Prince of Darkness,” led a team which prepared a report titled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” which among many other things also recommended:

“Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.”

The report was prepared for the then Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu.

Jewish Influence

Jeffrey Blankfort quotes Benjamin Ginsberg from his book, The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State:

“Since the 1960s, Jews have come to wield considerable influence in American economic, cultural, intellectual and political life. Jews played a central role in American finance during the 1980s, and they were among the chief beneficiaries of that decade’s corporate mergers and reorganizations. Today, though barely 2  per cent  of the nation’s population is Jewish, close to half its billionaires are Jews. The chief executive officers of the three major television networks and the four largest film studios are Jews, as are the owners of the nation’s largest newspaper chain and the most influential single newspaper, the New York Times.”

Then Blankfort adds:

“That was written in 1993. Today, ten years later, ardently pro-Israel American Jews are in positions of unprecedented influence within the United States and have assumed or been given decision-making positions over virtually every segment of our culture and body politic. This is no secret conspiracy. Regular readers of the New York Times business section, which reports the comings and goings of the media tycoons, are certainly aware of it. Does this mean that each and every one is a pro-Israel zealot? Not necessarily, but when one compares the US media with its European counterparts in their respective coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the extreme bias in favor of Israel on the part of the US media is immediately apparent.”

 

Let the Play Begin

So now, in our play, the Muslims have all the super power which Jews used to have.

It is September 2002.

There are 35 Muslim congresspersons (10 Senators and 25 House of Representatives); 2 Supreme Court Justices; Deputy Secretary of Defense; few influential op/ed writers at the New York Times; The New Republic magazine’s owner and editors are Muslim; U.S. News and World Report’s editor and publisher is Muslim; Vice President’s Chief of Staff is Muslim; the Federal Reserve Chairman is Muslim; Under Secretary of Defense for Policy is Muslim; President’s Press Secretary is Muslim; and many others.

For some time now, hawkish elements are trying to convince President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that Iraq is building weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and is posing a “danger” to the United States. So some whispers began circulating about invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein. However, all three are careful of their words because of the Muslim Lobby’s power and also some of the Muslims working with them are of Iraqi origin.

Besides, both countries have had good relations in the not so distant past. Some misunderstandings existed but no animosity. So this definitely was an enemy mischief.

The Muslims in the media, in Hollywood, in corporations, in academia, in the government, and elsewhere do not want this war against Iraq at all, period. Muslims are extremely powerful and wealthy but are a tiny minority, only 2 per cent , and so they try to resist open confrontation as much as possible, to avoid scrutiny of the disproportionate power they are wielding. It doesn’t mean they won’t fight back to get what they want. Efforts are underway to convince Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld to stay away from warmongers like John Bolton, Fred Barnes, Robert James Woolsey Jr., Rick Santorum, and others. They somewhat succeed and Bush asks Congress to give him authority to take military action if diplomacy fails. He promises that the war will be the last option he’ll resort to. But then days later he said this:

“The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons, is rebuilding the facilities to make more and, according to the British government, could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order is given. . . . This regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile material could build one within a year.”

This was the public posture. The way things were developing: Bush, Rumsfeld, or Cheney were not at ease. All of them had Muslims working with them in important positions and would get in touch with them everyday. Their families would intermingle too. Bush’s press secretary Abu Faisal had parents and many relatives living in the holy (for the Shia Islam) city of Karbala, Iraq. Cheney’s Chief of Staff, Lu’ay Labib, hailed from Baghdad and was Sunni (one of the two major branches of Islam.) Pir Walif-Rizk was Deputy Secretary of Defense under Rumsfeld. Then there is Rifat Pir, also called “Prince of Lightness” for his bright ideas. We shouldn’t forget Basil Kishwar, a soft spoken gentle fellow who never misses a chance to promote peace—he’s known as “Peace Preacher.”

On Capitol Hill, the lobbyists from AIPAC (American Islamic Public Affairs Committee) and other Muslim groups are meeting  Congresspersons about the upcoming vote on the war. They don’t see much problem because the issue is “Peace Not War,” and so the Congresspersons won’t have much difficulty in convincing their constituencies to reject President Bush’s demand to wage a war against Iraq. As usual, the Lobby expects about 70 per cent of the Congress to be with them. Meanwhile, the Muslim interns implanted into the offices of the Congresspersons are also busy influencing their views.

Thamer Furud, Dawud Bushr, Zuhaa Midlaj, Mahdi Parvez, Tarf Kaukab, and others, contrary to their nature, were busy 24/7 promoting peace. Jaafer Ghawth-Badr wanted nothing but peace. He blasted the Bush government for “planning” “a short-sighted and inexcusable act of aggression.”

Former President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton, along with their daughter Chelsea, were on a private visit to Iraq as guests of Saddam Hussein. When they were coming out of the National Museum of Iraq the reporters encircled and asked them about the rumors. Senator Clinton replied, “The Congress is not even going to entertain this heinous thought. We are a peace loving nation. War is not in our vocabulary.” Saddam Hussein said: “It’s all talk. Rumsfeld is a friend and so we don’t have to worry about. And anyway, what is the AIPAC for? It will take care.”

Next day, the Clintons were Washington bound.

On October 10, the House voted against the war 296-133 and next day the Senate voted against it 77-23. Under pressure from hawks Bush asked the Congress to reconsider its decision. AIPAC was in an equally fighting mood. It was able to bring more Congresspersons on its side. (Of course, they were given the promise of campaign money for the next election and some arm twisting with weapon of “anti-Semitism.”)

Now the conflict was in open.

Ibrahim Faqih-Ma’n of the Anti-Defamation League summoned the Secretary of State Collin Powell and told him that he’ll have to be real aggressive against the forces of war. Powell assured him that peace will prevail.

The government officials were aware of the power of the Lobby. Powell thought of what one of his predecessors George Shultz once wrote about the Lobby:

“We fought the supplement and fought it hard. President Reagan and I weighed in personally making numerous calls to Senators and Congressman. The supplement sailed right by us and was approved by Congress as though President Reagan and I had not even been there. I was astonished and disheartened.”

(He learned his lesson and has now written a foreword for Ibrahim Faqih-Ma’n’s book.)

However, Powell was with the Lobby because he himself didn’t want the war.

In the White House, Bush was on the phone with Laura and the war thing came up.

Bush: Honey, I don’t know why, but I’m very hesitant about this war. It’s the first time such a situation has developed. So many Muslims, many of them Iraqis, are working in my administration and I see several of them everyday. It’s so easy to bomb a country whose people you don’t know that closely.

(Second of four parts. To be continued tomorrow.)

B. R. GOWANI can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com. Notes and references available from the author on request.

 

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B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

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