March 23, 2006
London Review of Books

The Israel Lobby

by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt

For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread 'democracy' throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.

Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the 'Israel Lobby'. Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country - in this case, Israel - are essentially identical. . . .


[John Mearsheimer is the Wendell Harrison Professor of Political Science at Chicago. Stephen Walt is the Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.]

Richard H. Curtiss, Stealth Pacs: Lobbying Congress for Control of U.S. Middle East Policy," American Educational Trust, 4th ed, June 1996

Dovid Weiss, "Judaism: An Alternative to Zionism," The Wisdom Fund, April 1, 2002

Julian Borger, "The Spies Who Pushed for War," Guardian, July 17, 2003

Robert Fisk, "A Warning to Those Who Dare to Criticize Israel in the Land of Free Speech," Independent, April 24, 2004

Rupert Cornwell, "Warmongers Prepare to Admit They Were Wrong," Independent, March 9, 2006

Shmuel Rosner, "Harvard to remove official seal from anti-AIPAC 'working paper'," Haaretz, March 24, 2006

[The furore ignited by two eminent professors from Harvard and Chicago who have challenged the value of the US-Israeli relationship deepened on Monday as the head of the Brookings Institute forcefully rejected their claims that his prestigious Washington think-tank was part of the "pro-Israel chorus".--Guy Dinmore, "Storm intensifies over Israel Lobby paper," Financial Times, March 27, 2006]

Justin Raimondo, "The Lobby Strikes Back',", March 31, 2006

[President George W. Bush said a few days ago that, in connection with the supposed threat of Iran, his concern is to protect Israel. Critics ask why Israel should not protect itself.--William Pfaff, "Israeli lobby and U.S. foreign policy," Korea Herald, April 6, 2006]

[From the left, Prof. Chomsky was not long in providing a subtle dismissal of the paper on ZNet and on Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now! After a perfunctory sentence praising the two professors for having raised the issue, he writes, "we still have to ask how convincing their thesis is. Not very, in my opinion."--Jeff Blankfort, "Yes, Blame the Lobby,", April 11, 2006]

Nathan Guttman, "Top White House posts go to Jews," Jerusalem Post, April 25, 2006

Molly Ivins, "Let's call the Israel lobby the Israel lobby," Creators Syndicate, April 25, 2006

[Dore Gold, a former ambassador to the UN, who now heads an Israeli lobby group, kicked off by unwittingly proving that the Mearsheimer-Walt theory of "anti-Semitism" abuse is correct. "I believe," he said, "that anti-Semitism may be partly defined as asserting a Jewish conspiracy for doing the same thing non-Jews engage in." Congressman Eliot Engel of New York said that the study itself was "anti-Semitic" and deserved the American public's contempt.--Robert Fisk, "United States of Israel?," Independent, April 27, 2006]

[ . . . the U.S. doesn't want an Israel truly at peace with the Arabs, for such an Israel could loosen its bonds of dependence on the U.S. , making it a less reliable proxy.--Norman G. Finkelstein, "It's Not Either / Or,", May 1, 2006]

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, "Letter: The Israel Lobby," London Review of Books, May 11, 2006

Eve Fairbanks, "A hot paper muzzles Harvard," Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2006

[The problem is simple: the Ugly American lives, and he's not a loud, obnoxious tourist wearing Bermuda shorts. He's one of an endless stream of well-coiffed U.S. officials traveling the world hectoring, lecturing, and threatening his counterparts. He's an average Clinton or Bush appointee or member of the "loyal opposition."

There seems to be nothing on earth upon which U.S. officials do not have a policy, let alone an opinion. Uncle Sam joins God in counting the hairs on everyone's head, in between watching the sparrows fall to the ground. In contrast to God, however, Uncle Sam busies himself telling everyone else what to do about it.

To back up its directives, since 2001 Washington has increased military spending by more than a third. As a result, the U.S. now accounts for half of the world's military outlays. America's "defense" budget now equals that of the next 18 countries combined. American forces circle the globe via land, sea, and air. Old bases dot the countrysides of Asia, Mideast, and Western Europe while new ones emerge in the Caucasus, Eastern Europe, and especially Iraq.--Doug Bandow, "A Foreign Policy of Fools,", May 19, 2006]

William Hughes, "Should Noam Chomsky reset his Compass,", May 24, 2006

Philip Weiss, "Burning Cole," Nation, June 16, 2006

[Ackerman is also a Congressional point-man for the "India lobby". A former chairman of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, he unequivocally backs India on Kashmir, lays all the blame for the conflict there on Pakistan and pushes for increased US-India arms trade and military collaboration.

In 2003, Ackerman helped organise the first-ever joint Capitol Hill forum between AIPAC and AJC, on the one side, and the newly formed US Indian Political Action Committee, on the other. Ackerman stressed the two countries' common concerns: Israel, he said, was "surrounded by 120 million Muslims" while " India has 120 million Muslims [within]". Last year, he was the leading Democratic sponsor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's address to a joint session of Congress.--Mike Marqusee, "India, Israel and the US," ZNet, June 18, 2006]

Max Hastings, "Israel can no longer rely on the support of Europe's Jews: The feeling is growing that Jewish honour and heritage have been more convincingly preserved in the diaspora," Guardian, June 20, 2006

["We became part of what is perhaps the most effective lobbying and fund-raising effort in the history of democracy." . . . when Walt and Mearsheimer published their bombshell paper on the power of the Israel lobby in March, the Harvard Law Professor was their leading attacker.--Phil, "Dershowitz Contradicts Himself on the Power of the Israel Lobby," New York Observer, July 5, 2006]

Glenn Frankel, "A Beautiful Friendship?," Washington Post, July 16, 2006

[Why is America so much more pro-Israeli than Europe? The most obvious answer lies in the power of two very visible political forces: the Israeli lobby (AIPAC) and the religious right. AIPAC, which has an annual budget of almost $50m, a staff of 200, 100,000 grassroots members and a decades-long history of wielding influence, is arguably the most powerful lobby in Washington, mightier even than the National Rifle Association. . . .

The Christian right is also solidly behind Israel. White evangelicals are significantly more pro-Israeli than Americans in general; more than half of them say they strongly sympathise with Israel. . . .

Two other factors need to be considered: the war on Islamic radicalism, and deep cultural affinities between America and Israel. . . .

But the biggest reason why Americans are so pro-Israel may be cultural. Americans see Israel as a plucky democracy in a sea of autocracies - a democracy that has every right to use force to defend itself.--"Why America gives Israel its unconditional support," Economist, July 16, 2006]

Andrew Gumbel, "America's one-eyed view of war: Stars, stripes, and the Star of David," Independent, August 15, 2006

VIDEO (ORDER): "John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt on C-Span," CAIR, August 28, 2006

Norman G. Finkelstein, "Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History,", August 30, 2006

[Blankfort's list of 'Jews in media'[iii] enables an understanding of the secret of Jewish charm, and it can be compared with a similar extensive list by Prof. Kevin MacDonald of California State University.--Israel Shamir, "Midas Ears,", xxx]

Jonathon Cook, "From the New 'Anti-Semitism' to Nuclear Holocaust. How Israel is Engineering the 'Clash of Civilizations'," CounterPunch, September 23, 2006

VIDEO: "The Israel Lobby: Does it Have Too Much Influence on US Foreign Policy?," London Review of Books, October 11, 2006

[ . . . he was told by Amos Elon, the Israeli author, that when Elon had asked an Israeli ambassador of the 1960s what had been his greatest accomplishment, the emissary replied, "I have convinced the Americans that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism."--Scott McConnell, "Breaking the Silence," American Conservative, November 6, 2006]

Stephen Lendman, "James Petras' New Book: The Power of Israel in the United States," Global Research, October 29, 2006

Jeffrey Blankfort, "Damage Control: Noam Chomsky and the Israel-Palestine Conflict,", November 30, 2006

[The many controversial issues concerning Palestine and the path to peace for Israel are intensely debated among Israelis and throughout other nations - but not in the United States.--Jimmy Carter, "How I See Palestine," Los Angeles Times, December 8, 2006]

[ . . . at least in the Congress, the support Israel has in that body is based completely on political fear - fear of defeat by anyone who does not do what Israel wants done. I can also tell you that very few members of Congress - at least when I served there - have any affection for Israel or for its Lobby. What they have is contempt, but it is silenced by fear of being found out exactly how they feel.--"Former Senator Jim Abourezk on Chomsky," December 11, 2006]

Jim Abourezk, "The hidden cost of free congressional trips to Israel," Christian Science Monitor, January 26, 2007

[Most of the really good campaign firms are controlled by Zionists (read Tom Hayden's article in Counterpunch). They function as money laundries, provide expensive services for practically nothing, demand loyalty to Israel, walk out in the middle of campaigns if candidates do not swear loyalty to Israel, and as private consultants have great impact on reapportionment processes in major states.--Peggy McCormack, "The Lobby and American Campaigns,", April 13, 2007]

[The American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) which heads a network of pro-Israeli lobbies, persuaded Congress to drop a provision which would have required President Bush to ask for Congressional approval prior to attacking Iran.--Badruddin Khan, "Congress Fold Again: AIPAC Intervenes on Iran,", May 26, 2007]

VIDEO: Marije Meerman and William de Bruijn, "The Israel Lobby," VPROinternational, May 31, 2007

Francis A. Boyle, "De Paul & Dershowitz v. Finkelstein,", June xx, 2007

[Libby served as the lawyer for Switzerland-based American fugitive financier Marc Rich, aka Mark David Reich, who is also known to be an Israeli intelligence asset . . .

In 1983, the then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York urged jail time for Rich and his partner Pincus Green for racketeering. The name of that U.S. Attorney is Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani, who is now running for president, praised Bush's decision to commute Libby's jail sentence. . . .

Bush was urged by leading Israeli government officials to prevent Libby from going to prison.--Wayne Madsen, "Libby a long-time Israeli intelligence agent,", July 6, 2007]

Ron Grossman, "DePaul pulls plug on controversial professor," Chicago Tribune, August 28, 2007

VIDEO of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer Interview: "The Israel Lobby & U.S. Foreign Policy," I.N.N. World Report, September 28, 2007

[Freedom's Watch will sponsor a private forum of 20 experts on radical Islam that is expected to make the case that Iran poses a direct threat to the security of the United States, according to several benefactors of the group. . . .

The idea for Freedom's Watch was hatched in March at the winter meeting of Republican Jewish Coalition in Manalapan, Fla., where Vice President Dick Cheney was the keynote speaker--Don Van Natta, Jr., "Big Coffers and a Rising Voice Lift a New Conservative Group," New York Times, September 30, 2007]

[Many of those who believe the Liberty was purposely attacked have suggested that the Israelis feared the ship might intercept communications revealing its plans to widen the war, which the U.S. opposed.--John Crewdson, "New revelations in attack on American spy ship: Veterans, documents suggest U.S., Israel didn't tell full story of deadly '67 incident," Chicago Tribune, October 2, 2007]

[It is impossible to understand AIPAC without understanding its precursor, the American Zionist Council.--Grant F. Smith, "Where Did AIPAC Come From,", October 9, 2007]

Dan Eden, "Dual Citizenship -- Loyal to Whom?,", December 4, 2007

[IT WAS a triumphalist conference. Even this powerful organization had never seen anything like it. 7000 Jewish functionaries from all over the United States came together to accept the obeisance of the entire Washington elite, which came to kowtow at their feet. All the three presidential hopefuls made speeches, trying to outdo each other in flattery. 300 Senators and Members of Congress crowded the hallways.--Uri Avnery, "No, I Can't!," Gush Shalom, June 6, 2008]

[ . . . it would be unseemly to have U.S. officials subpoenaed and actually put on the witness stand to reveal how Middle East policy is really crafted in the height of an election season dominated by narratives of hope, change, and restoring integrity.--Grant F. Smith, "Why Bush Will Pardon AIPAC for Espionage,", August 20, 2008]

[Silverstein ran into another blogger (we're underfoot these days) who was from Dailykos, the beloved left-Dem site. (I go there every day.) Silverstein asked her whether the site ever covered the foreign policy implications of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

She shook her head sagely and said: "No." I asked her why. "Because there's just no upside in it for us. Too much dissension and disagreement."--"The American Left (Dailykos) Also Is Claimed by the Israel Lobby,", September 21, 2008]

[When Likud Prime Minister Ariel Sharon fell ill in Israel, Blitzer's broadcast originated from Jerusalem.

Likewise, when Israel invaded Lebanon in July 2006. Blitzer again relocated to Israel to focus viewer attention on the situation there.

As Tel Aviv sought to expand the war to Iran, several anti-Zionist rabbis appeared in Teheran alongside Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who echoed their wish that Zionism be "erased from the pages of history" (widely reported as a wish to "wipe Israel off the map").

Rather than interview these dissident rabbis, Blitzer featured David Duke, a former head of the Ku Klux Klan.

Rather than associate the Iranian president with anti-Zionism, Blitzer used the Situation Room to associate him with racism and anti-Semitism.--Jeff Gates, "Israel's Fifth Column,", August 17, 2009]

[The Pew poll not only reveals that the overwhelming majority, two-thirds of the members of this elite foreign policy institution, believes that the United States has gone overboard in favoring Israel, it doesn't consider Israel to have have much importance to the US in the first place.--Jeffrey Blankfort, "What the U.S. Elite Really Thinks About Israel,", December 7, 2009]

Martin Webster, "Is there a revolt against the Israel Lobby brewing in Britain?,", December 8, 2009

[In recent years, several studies have revealed, in the words of Steven Cohen of Hebrew Union College and Ari Kelman of the University of California at Davis, that "non-Orthodox younger Jews, on the whole, feel much less attached to Israel than their elders," with many professing "a near-total absence of positive feelings." In 2008, the student senate at Brandeis, the only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored university in America, rejected a resolution commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Jewish state.--Peter Beinart, "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment," New York Review of Books, June 10, 2010]

James Petras, "The State and Local Bases of Zionist Power in America,", September 1, 2010

["You are not entitled to that information!"--L. Michael Hager, "Dual Citizens in Congress?,", November 12, 2014]

[A number of hard-line individuals and groups in the lobby remain staunch opponents of the sensible 2016 nuclear deal with Iran and may eventually help convince President Trump or the Congress to overturn it.

The clearest illustration of the lobby's enduring power, however, is the Obama administration's failure to make any progress on settling the Israel-Palestinian conflict.--Stephen M. Walt, "That 'Israel Lobby' Controversy? History Has Proved Us Right,", October 2, 2017]

[The U.S. Justice Department has ordered that RT is "obligated to register" under the Foreign Agents Registration Act--Jack Moore, "RUSSIA TODAY SAYS ITS U.S. STAFF LEAVING IN 'MASSES',", October 10, 2017]

[The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was ordered to register as an Israeli foreign agent on November 21, 1962 when it was part of the American Zionist Council. AIPAC has never complied with the order, and the Department of Justice has never enforced it.--Grant Smith, "Treasury Sanctions Foreigners for Israel,", August 30, 2018]

VIDEO: "Watch the film the Israel lobby didn't want you to see,", November 2, 2018

[Omar quoted rap lyrics - "ItŐs all about the Benjamins baby" - to suggest McCarthy's move was driven by the lobby's prolific spending. Asked specifically who she was referring to, Omar responded, "AIPAC!"--Ryan Grim, "PRO- ISRAEL LOBBY CAUGHT ON TAPE BOASTING THAT ITS MONEY INFLUENCES WASHINGTON,", February 11, 2019]

Chris Hedges, "Israel's Stranglehold on American Politics,", March 10, 2019

The Israel lobby's power over Congress, If Americans Knew, January 15, 2021

[J Street was founded to promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Palestinian-Israel conflicts peacefully and diplomatically. We support a new direction for American policy in the Middle East and a broad public and policy debate about the U.S. role in the region.--J Street is the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement]

If Americans Knew

Council for the National Interest

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