My cover story in Prospect Magazine on the need for a liberal, dovish Israel lobby in Washington is now up on the UK magazine’s site.
I’m making a careful argument here: I reject the claims of Mearsheimer, Walt & groupies that a pro-Israel cabal controls American policy toward the Mideast. However, the key lobbying group, AIPAC, does its best to push Congress toward a one-sided stress on Israel’s immediate security needs, ignoring the strategic necessity of making peace. Ironically, Mearsheimer and Walt helped promote the illusion that AIPAC speaks for all American Jews. A liberal counterweight is desperately needed – and appears to be on the horizon.
Read more here.
7 thoughts on “A liberal Israel lobby? If you will it, it is no dream”
You’re arguing for the same bankrupt mindset that enables your enemies to walk into any location in Israel adn kill people. Today the religious school and tomorrow the shopping center.
You seem unable to understand that there’s no one to make peace with. It’s like going into Berlin in 1939 and looking to reach an agreement with the Nazis. I’m sure there were some Jews that thought along those lines even when they were facing the gas chamber.
What would a dovish AIPAC do? Argue for your surrender in Washington as you argue for the same in Jerusalem. Also, some other academics would argue that this AIPAc controls US foreign policy. The point is that Jews doing anything but washing buses will be seen as controlling the US.
Gershom, you stated in your article:
As MJ Rosenberg of the dovish Israel Policy Forum comments, “They create an atmosphere on Capitol Hill that is sceptical of Palestinians in any shape or form.”
There it is…”they (AIPAC) created”. Not anything that the Palestinians said or did, it was AIPAC that created this image. Not the hundreds of terrorist attacks which led to thousands of Israeli dead and wounded from the suicide bomber war, not the endless antisemitic propaganda in their state-controlled media, not things that “moderates” like Abu Mazen say (e.g. “the creation of Israel is the greatest crime in human history”, or “currently we oppose violence but in the future all options are open”), not the BILLIONS of dollars that disappeared down the black hole of corruption, not the indiscriminate rocket attacks.
Again and again we hear the same refrain….”Israel could make peace if only she wanted to”….”if only there was an American President that had enough guts to impose a solution”.
As long as you keep believing this, you will be missing the key factors that really make up the Arab/Israeli conflict.
I think this initiative will not get off the ground for several reasons:
(1) The “Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations” was created during World War II because President Roosevelt found it impossible to meet with all the heads of the then existing Jewish organizations who were speaking with different voices. Thus, in response, the Jewish groups were forced to get together under an umbrella organization and present a unified position. Now, if this new “progressive” organization starts lobbying against AIPAC, each claiming that they represent the “true” position of American Jewry, the Congressman being lobbied is going to be confused as to whom to listen to.
(2) When this happens, each will try to persuade the person being lobbied that American Jewry is really on their side. How will they do this? Presenting polls won’t clarify the situation because if the “progressives” show polls which show that American Jewry supposedly supports a “two-state solution”, the other side can show polls that show American Jews oppose any political or territorial concessions to the Palestinians as long as their government(s) refuse to really crack down on terrorism and clean up their corruption. The “progressive” groups will say “the key is pressuring Israel for more concessions” whereas others (AIPAC?) will say, “no, the key is to press the Palestinians to actually implement the agreements they already made to end incitement, to stop terrorism, etc”
(3) In reality, most American Jews really have very little understanding of what is going in the Arab/Israeli conflict. Yes, American Jews generally take “progressive” positions, and may, IN THEORY support a “2-state solution” but this doesn’t mean they support pressure on Israel which may be perceived as compromising Israel’s security. American Jews may say they support destroying settlements in Judea/Samaria as part of an “iron-clad” peace agreement, but may OPPOSE this if no such agreement is in sight.
The bottom line is that American Jews are willing to accept Israeli government positions regarding security and relations with the Palestinians without questioning these positions too much (whether you or I may or may not agree with them). If there is strong opposition in Israel to turning over parts of Jerusalem to Arab control, most American Jews are not going to openly take the opposite position, even if they may think such a move is justifiable in return for “true” peace. If the Israel gov’t opposes relaxing security policies due to the threat of terrorism, American Jews are not going to press the US gov’t to pressure Israel to endanger the security of its citizens.
(4) It is important to remember that there would be strong American support for Israel EVEN IF NOT A SINGLE JEW LIVED IN THE U.S. Tens of millions of Christians and others are enthusiastic supporters of Israel and also accept the Israeli gov’ts positions on security so such a group as the “progressive” lobby Gershom wrote about would be in NO position to speak for these people at all.
As someone who has appreciated some of Mr. Gorenberg’s previous works, it is deeply disappointing to see him misrepresenting our own work so badly. He says he rejects our claim that a “pro-Israel cabal controls U.S. foreign policy.” This characterization of our views is false: indeed, it is the exact opposite of what we wrote. In our book THE ISRAEL LOBBY AND U.S. FOREIGN POLICY, here is what we actually said:
Page 5: The lobby “is not a single, unified movement with a central leadership, and certainly not a cabal or conspiracy that ‘controls’ U.S. foreign policy. It is simply a powerful interest group, made up of both Jews and gentiles, whose acknowledged purpose is to press Israel’s case within the United States and influence American foreign policy in ways that its members believe will benefit the Jewish state. . . Like other ethnic lobbies and interest groups, the activities of the Israel lobby’s various elements are legitimate forms of democratic political participation, and they are for the most part consistent with America’s long tradition of interest group activity.”
Page 112: “The lobby is not a single unified movement with a central leadership, however, and the individuals and groups that make up this broad coalition sometimes disagree on specific policy issues. Nor is it some kind of cabal or conspiracy.”
Page 150: “The Israel lobby is the antithesis of a cabal or conspiracy; it operates out in the open and proudly advertises its own clout.”
We also went to some lengths to show that there was considerable diversity within the pro-Israel community, although all of these groups seek to preserve the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel. We argued that the United States should treat Israel like a normal country (i.e., the same way it treats other democracies), and that this approach would in fact be better for both states. Mr. Gorenberg is obviously free to disagree with us, but readers who are interested in what we actually wrote should read our book and judge it for themselves, instead of relying on his inaccurate portrayal of our views.
To Mr. Walt
The whole topic of your argument is improper.
The implication is that there’s a hierarchy of proper and improper right to petition government in the US.
Jews are “improperly empowered” because there ‘s a “right and proper” US foreign policy re the Arab World and the PLO. It’s not the Jewish view as you see it. This view has been shared as far back as the Truman administration and repeats itself over and over by those who bear us ill will. The latest to be quoted a long these lines is Obama’s supporter Merrill McPeak, a former Air Force general.
I paraphrase his interview- the reason that the US is not friendlier to the Arabs and the PLO is New York and Miami, code words for Jews. For some reason, the opinion of of some hick from Oregon is more important than the opinion of other citizens from New York and Florida.He , of course, has no axe to grind – his hands are clean ( yeah , right).
Mcpeak and others like you can’t accept one man -one vote. If we, friends of Israel, decide to use our numbers to provide every Israeli citizen with lap dance vouchers, we will.
The fact that Negroes are pressing their numbers for the first Affirmative Action President of the US doesn’t seem to bother you but saving a nation from the Arabs does.
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