Is This Lobby Different From All Others?
Published on: March 12, 2010
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  • As usual Walter with clarity hits the nail on the head. A lot of people who seemingly know something write about various issues, often at great length; few have the good judgment needed to be considered sound thinkers. Walter is one of the few.

  • Luke Lea

    Mead writes: “Israel, surrounded by hostile states in a region that didn’t accept its existence, might need more help than other countries. On the other hand, it fulfilled its part of the bargain much better than most. That political complications and costs came with the alliance was true; but Israel was not unique in this way.”

    Until 9/11 came along. Since then we have spent well in excess of a trillion dollars trying to win over the hearts and minds of a culture that hates us, in the deepest down way, because of the political dishonor, grievance and humiliation they feel at the hands of the West, whose poster child is Israel.

    Luckily for us, however, these people do believe in blood money. If they could be made whole — there dishonor removed, their grievance recompensed, their dignity re-established IN THEIR OWN AND THEIR NEIGHBORS EYES, then this blood feud between the three peoples of the book might be brought to an end.

    My back-of-the-envelope calculation is that it would take approximately a trillion dollars of aid and investment to satisfy the Palestinian people, enough to finance a Western standard of living for there children and grandchildren in a future Palestinian state or wherever they choose to live. They have indicated as much in past negotiations for those who have listened (and I know if I were a Palestinian I would not accept any less — would you?)

    But who is to pay all this money? Israel? She has neither the resources or the moral responsibility, having behaved about as well as is humanly possible in an impossible situation. What other people would have behaved half so well in a fight for their own physical self-preservation?

    How about the United States? Well, in the first place we have just shelled out a trillion dollars trying to protect Israel and secure Western interests in that part of the world. That is real money in anybody’s book. And, besides, why should Americans feel responsible for wrongs done to the Palestinian people? We didn’t drive the Jews out of Europe, which is what started this conflict in the first place. Nor did we promulgate the Balfour Declaration or employ our forces to get it enforced.

    Well, gee, who does that leave? Where can we find several hundred million people somewhere who are about as rich as we are but who DO share moral responsibility for the plight of the Palestinians? Of course it would help if they were also strategically dependent on the Middle East for there future economic and military security, in which case they might feel a certain sense of gratitude for the trillion dollars we are spending to help keep them safe.

    Damn, this world is a complicated place!

  • Jack

    Here is a link comparing the size of Israel to the Arab world.

    Here is another link that compares Israel demographics vs the Arab world.

    Bear in mind that in 1948 Israel started at essentially zero.

    Just to put things into perspective.

  • DW

    This is more of a comment on your Wed., 10 March post: How was the American Jewish (or gentile) pre-WW2 attitude towards Zionism influenced by the particular nature of that Zionism? Weren’t the attitudes and practices of the Ottoman and Mandatory Yishuv dominated by utopian, socialist, anti-religion, anti-Yiddish, anti-shtetl, anti-merchant sentiments? Most American Jews trace their lineage to pre-1924 immigrants who simply left “The World of Our Fathers” for better prospects; Zionists consciously rejected it.

  • Roy

    Reading Gordon Wood’s “Empire of Liberty”, which Walter commended, you get an interesting perspective on the early days of the Republic, when it seemed doubtful that the multitude of special interests of which the country was composed would ever be woven into a single national fabric. We have always been a country of special interests.

    Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, game theorist and government adviser, also makes the point in his new book, “The Predictioneer’s Game”, that when you look closely at all the factions and interest groups in the country, the concept of an overarching “national interest” becomes elusive; how exactly do you define a majority, when there are so many different interests competing for influence that might be united in any number of different blocs.

    I would add that, besides ethnic lobbies, there are medical lobbies, business lobbies, agricultural lobbies, reproductive health lobbies, religious lobbies, gun lobbies, tobacco lobbies, etc.

    An interest exercise is taking a look at some of the most strident critics of the Israel Lobby, (when they identify themselves by name), and seeing whether they themselves advocate for some interest group whose activities might properly be termed lobbying, on behalf of legislation that might not necessarily be considered “in the national interest”.

  • “The problem is particularly tough for hard core realists who believe that the behavior of every state is determined by the nature of the international system. For these thinkers, domestic politics don’t matter; states do what they must. States are like billiard balls; they move when struck. It doesn’t matter what the billiard ball thinks; it rolls where it’s pushed.”

    What a strawman! Just who are these IR thinkers who say domestic politics don’t matter? I take back my earlier comment, you do need to look into what an IR realist really is.

  • “The lobby facilitates a foreign policy that public opinion broadly supports”

    We keep coming back to this point. When the polling question doesn’t rely on “sympathy” or “favorability” of Israel in general; but asks about the policies of the Israeli government – which AIPAC encourages America to enable – there is overwhelming disapproval. Before Operation Cast Lead, only 21% of Americans said they wanted to take the side of Israel in the I-P conflict.

    You still have not addressed Larison’s complete undercutting of your assumptions. Here and here.

  • Dave123

    “only 21% of Americans said they wanted to take the side of Israel in the I-P conflict.”

    And only 3% wanted to take the side of the Palestinians.

    Twice as many Americans felt Israel was doing its part for peace than felt the Palestinians were .

  • Kasper Hauser

    i always blame the Lithuanians.

  • TheLastBrainLeft

    I’m not sure what “wrong” the Israelis committed against the Palestinians, Luke. These people had the chance to form their own homeland (one which would be unique in history as there was never, EVER such a thing) in 1948, but they chose genocide over compromise. They then actively participated in 4 wars of aggression provoked by Israel’s Arab neighbors over the next 25 years, all four of which the Arabs lost. Since the end of the last war the Palestinian people have committed themselves wholeheartedly to terrorism against civilians of both Jewish and Muslim alike.

    So tell me, how exactly have the Palestinians been mistreated by Israel, given how the Palestinians have acted since 1948? If the Arabs hate our support of Israel, why do they continue to sell us their oil? The answers are obvious. They have not and they don’t care. Support for Israel is not the reason Middle Eastern Muslims hate us. It’s a reaction to it.

  • kcom

    Devastating reply, Dave123.

    Apparently Norwegian Shooter just shot himself in the foot.

  • Bozoer Rebbe

    Norwegian Shooter,

    Your presence here is telling. Have you researched the supposed attitudes of Americans towards other conflicts? You seem to have a particular interest in the question of American support for Israel. Why is that? I’d expect a Norwegian to be more concerned with American attitudes towards Norway.

  • Tatterdemalian

    Politics has never been guided by secret organizations. It can only be guided by popular leaders, which by definition can’t cloak their activities in secrecy. In any country that permits freedom of speech, even the people the leaders go to for advice can’t be kept secret, even by the supreme leaders of the most powerful countries on Earth; President Obama’s connections to Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers were thoroughly scrutinized far in advance of his election, for example. “Shadow” organizations simply can’t control such a nation without being forced out into the light.

    What can actually be done is something entirely different in nature: create and harness the power of mass movements, to force large numbers of people to move in a certain direction at the will of popular leaders or feared terrorists (and, in the case of the latter, getting the mass to move in the direction they actually want it to move instead of the direction of “KILL THOSE BASTARDS” is a trick in itself). This is why AGW bothers me, just as an example… it’s clearly not any kind of conspiracy, as the believers repeatedly point out. All the (pre-screened) data is clearly available, and the leaders are subject to great scrutiny (by others who share the same unscientific beliefs). No tiny cabal of whackos could possibly mess with the science, so any suspicion is completely unwarranted (unless it’s not a tiny cabal of whackos, but a widely held faith exerting mass pressure on the scientific community to create a crisis where there actually is none).

    Conspiracies are capable of terrible things, the 9-11 attacks being the biggest example yet. But it’s not the conspiracies that are the real danger, it’s the mass movements that spawn them. And I simply don’t see any coordinated efforts by Israel to do anything more than survive on the land where the British dumped all the Holocaust refugees, in a world that seems to want every single Jew exterminated.

  • Tatterdemalian

    Oh, and before people start chiming in that they don’t want every single Jew exterminated, I personally don’t see any difference between exterminating the Jews because they’re “an evil conspiracy” and exterminating the Jews as a necessary sacrifice to retain one’s own “international law” or “moral high ground.” The elimination of Israel will necessarily involve mountains of dead Jews, so if you support that, you’re no better than the Nazis.

  • pat gig

    There’s something else. Just as our civil laws have there origins in English legal philosophy and therefore have kept us in a special relationship with England, our religious philosophy has it’s roots in Jewish religious philosohpy. They were and are us.

  • jimb

    I wonder if our masters of statecraft recall Disraeli’s dictum: England has no friends or enemies, only interests. It would clarify the matter if we could define what the US interest truly is in the middle east. The existence of Israel vel non cannot be the key.

  • richardb

    Israel has been a strategic asset to the US since the 1967 war. Its value as an intelligence asset, R&D, plus overwhelming military power have served the US well as it secured the stability of the Middle East. Things have obviously changed in recent years to the detriment of our relationship. I wonder if the change started with the revelations of Israel selling significant technology to China? We found that they sold technology derived from the F-16 to China. Then the Harpy unmanned vehicle was sold to China. The US military was angered by this resulting in temporary arms embargos to the Jewish state. All of this happened in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
    Obama having been a member of the Rev. Wright anti-jewish church obviously had no affection to Israel to begin with. But change had already begun before his election.

  • nora

    NS the table as a whole confirms what Mead says. The ratio of the Israel supporters to Palestinian supporters is way higher for the US than in any other contry, so there definitely is correlation between public opinion and policy.

    What I find interesting is that percentage of support for Israel in Muslim countries is higher than in most European countries.

  • The most common description for obscuring the data that of the 79 people of 100 who did not want us to take Israel’s side, 76 of them wanted us to take neither side, is deception. I would also accept blind prejudice as a second possibility for that position. Of those 76, most Americans want a fairly simple concept of justice and evenhandedness. They don’t follow the conflict closely, they don’t wish anyone any harm, they want everyone to play nice. To translate this into any suggestion that a large number of Americans “don’t support” our policy toward Israel is absurd. They support it mildly; they wonder if Israel goes to far; they think the Palestinians are insane but perhaps would be okay if we could give them something; they wish the problem weren’t there. Those are hardly strong negatives.

    In general, the best argument for America’s support of Israel is the amazing illogic of her critics.

  • Worm’s Eye View

    Luke Lea … if the Europeans were crazy enough to announce that they were giving the Palestinians a trillion dollars, then “Palestinians” would start coming out of the woodwork with their hands out. Actually, something like that may have already happened.

  • Luke Lea


    “I’m not sure what “wrong” the Israelis committed against the Palestinians, Luke.”

    Sorry, I was misunderstood. I saying that the Europeans wronged the Palestinians, indirectly, by driving the Jews our of Europe and giving them part of Palestine, which Britain, France, and Russia (primarily) decided to do during WWI.

    As for a trillion dollars, it would be cheap at twice the price. Documenting who is and is not a Palestinian is a doable thing; there are approximately 10 million.

  • Luke Lea

    I guess I should add we are not talking about a trillion dollars all in one lump sum, but a program of aid and investment lasting over many years whose continuance no doubt would depend upon the Palestinians honoring the terms of any final settlement they have negotiated with the Israelis.

    There are something like 600 million people living in Europe with a per capita GDP near that in the U.S.

  • Peter Burman

    Please add a Facebook button so I can post your articles on my Facebook page. You’re writing is brilliant and I would like to share it with my Facebook friends.

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  • AST

    I take the view expressed by Bob Dylan in his song, “Neighborhood Bully.” To wit: Israel has earned its statehood and turned the desert into a land of milk and honey, despite having to defend itself from angry, cowardly and largely feckless neighbors.

    If Palestinians had any sense, they’d be seeking to become Israeli citizens and learn the secrets that have enabled Israel to build prosperity out of next to nothing. If the Israelis were to leave tomorrow and turn everything over to them, the Palestinians would return the country to poverty overnight and continue begging from the U.N. with their “leaders” embezzling the proceeds. The ones with initiative and entrepreneurial ability seem to have emigrated to the West long ago to pursue opportunity and safety.

  • Reading this I had what you called a “eureka moment” concerning the US/Israel relationship, but not one akin to those to which you refered. The US/Israel relationship is not particularly unique as viewed from the US perspective as it is when viewed from the international perspective. That is to say, the US treats Israel much like it does any other democratic ally with which it shares some cultural and ethnic ties. However, the US does treat Israel special and much better in comparison to how many other nations do. As such, it not so much that we treat Israel better or with greater deference than we should, but that in the balance so many other nations treat them like scrubs and scoundrels.

  • Dave123 and kcom,

    I provided the link so I knew what the Palestinian percentage was. WRM’s claim is that there is overwhelming support for Israel in the US, not that Americans like Israelis more than Palestinians. How does 21% taking the side of Israel mean anything but modest minority support for Israel?

    Also, the American media, Congress and the White House all do show overwhelming support for Israel, so most of the “sympathy” and “favorable views” of Israel are manufactured. See the other two links I provided and try to refute Larison’s points.


    I’m an American, just of Norwegian heritage. The question is American support of Israel, thus that’s what I’m focusing on. You?

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  • Jessica

    This analysis is terrific, but it misses one important fact. American Christians sing every Christmas about Jesus being the King of Israel. They do not sing about anyone being the king of Poland, Pakistan, etc. As a result, many American Christians have fond feelings towards Israel … and that does produce a uniquely warm relationship.

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