How the Israel lobby chills Middle East debate

The Israel lobby is like the Mafia. It’s commonly understood how it works, who its leaders are, how they wield their power through intimidation, and to what effect. But there’s a big difference between knowing the identity of a Mafia boss and being able to throw him in jail. Usually an informant needs to be wired so that incriminating words can get caught on tape.

The following story recounted by MJ Rosenberg, who was himself once an AIPAC official, goes beyond the broad brushstrokes that are usually employed to describe the impact of the lobby on American politics. It is more akin to evidence from a wire — evidence that those who get on the wrong side of the lobby risk having their lives destroyed.

This week, following that tumultuous reception for Prime Minister Netanyahu at the congressional joint meeting, I want to share a personal recollection of how the Middle East status quo is preserved on Capitol Hill.

It was in 1988 and I was a foreign policy aide to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). One February day, Levin called me into his office to say that he was disturbed at a quote he saw in that day’s New York Times. An article quoted Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir saying that he rejected the idea of withdrawing from any of the land Israel captured in the 1967 war:

Mr. Shamir said in a radio interview, ”It is clear that this expression of territory for peace is not accepted by me.”

Levin instantly understood what Shamir was saying. He was repudiating U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 (which Israel had helped draft) which provided for “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent [1967] conflict” in exchange for peace and security. Those resolutions represented official U.S. and international policy then, and they still do.

But, in 1988, Shamir tried to declare them null and void.

Levin asked me to draft a letter to Secretary of State George Shultz stating that it was the view of the Senate that the U.N. Resolutions remained the policy of the U.S. whether Shamir liked it or not. Of course, the letter wasn’t written in that kind of language. It was more than polite. Additionally, Levin wanted it addressed to Shultz, not to Shamir, to avoid ruffling too many feathers in Israel.

I wrote the draft. Levin edited and re-edited it. Then he called in the head of AIPAC, Thomas A. Dine, to run the language past him. Tom said it was “great.” Levin told Dine that he would not embarass him by revealing that he had approved the letter.

Levin then asked me to deliver it to the Secretary of State but said that first he would try to round up a few other senators to join him in signing it. In an hour he had 30. He probably could have gotten three times as many but it was Friday afternoon and most of the senators had decamped.

I delivered the letter. Because Levin wanted to avoid a brouhaha, the Levin office did no press about it. It was essentially a secret initiative.

But then one of the senators who had the letter gave it to the New York Times. And within minutes the phones started ringing off the hook. Reporters and AIPAC donors (who had no idea Dine had signed off on the letter) were going crazy. Levin was asked to appear on all three Sunday morning talk shows. He declined. In fact, he took off for Moscow, on a long-planned trip. [Continue reading…]

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7 thoughts on “How the Israel lobby chills Middle East debate

  1. Renfro

    This why ordinary citizens have to take on the Lobby and zionist.
    Because politicians won’t.
    99% of Americans are untouchable by the lobby….there is absolutely nothing the lobby can do to us because they don’t control our careers or livelihoods.

    You can turn these little monkeys pretending to be silverbacks back into monkeys.

    Start here:

    1- 877 -762- 8762….. the capitol switchboard…….just ask to be connected to the office you want.

  2. Norman

    So this is where we stand today? Israel dictates what the U.S. Congress does! What kind of people have the U.S. Congress become? This is nothing less than insulting to the American People. I have to take issue with the term “Mafia”, it should be “Nazi Zionists” instead. Call a spade a spade, for when the “O” brothers of Israeli trade with the Iranians, while the Israeli Government demand of the U.S., the destruction of the Iranians, then indeed, the Israelis are projecting their own bad Karma upon others. They will drag the U.S. into W.W.III before it’s over. Either that, or they will loose their Nuclear bombs upon the whole of the Middle East, and perhaps even the U.S. Food for thought, at least for those who don’t drink the koolaid. The Israelis are already dealing with China, so there goes the Military Secretes, that the U.S. has shared with Israel.

  3. Christopher Hoare

    Mr Rosenberg relates this in a very restrained and understated way, but if I were in a public position in the US, or a worker for a US politician I would be wanting to know when the CIA planned to haul all the members of Congress in for questioning about their financial contributions from Israel and AIPAC and require them to produce signed statements detailing the substance of every interaction and communication they have ever received from them. In most independent states the contacts between the lawmakers and a foreign government would be an object of security interest.

    It might also be worth inviting the media to offer a voluntary account of their contacts with this foreign government as well.

  4. MB

    Here’s Gilad Atzmon’s view on AIPAC.

    Netanyahu’s successful speech before the American joint houses was an extravaganza of Jewish power: there can be little doubt that as far as American elected politicians are concerned, Benjamin Netanyahu actually appears to be far more popular than even the American president himself.

    Yet, you may want to ask yourself — are Netanyahu and the Jewish State really popular amongst the American people? Do the American people approve of their elected politicians being AIPAC’s puppets? Are the American congressmen and senators serving American interests by aligning themselves so subserviently to AIPAC’s goals — or are they increasingly being subjected to pressure from a foreign state’s lobby?

    It is all becoming pretty much like watching the way power operates in a totalitarian regime: American politicians are submissively obeying ‘the call of Zion’ as they stand up and applaud Netanyahu at all the ‘right moments.’ And they clearly realise, all too well, that failing to do so would mean immediate political annihilation.

    The Israeli and Jewish press were very impressed with Netanyahu’s success in Washington. But, what we saw in Washington may well turn out to be bad news for Israel and American Jewry: the endless trail of Jewish collective tragedies is there to teach us that Jews always pay eventually ( and heavily ) for Jewish power exercises. Yet, surprisingly ( and tragically ) enough, Jews somehow consistently fail to internalise and learn from that very lesson.

    Sadly enough, every form of Jewish political gathering is, unfortunately, an exercise in Jewish power — whether in the American Senate, or even within the Palestinian Solidarity movement.

There is a devastating pattern that can be observed here, that some Jews seem to follow — they push relentlessly towards an aim or goal that they interpret as a ‘collective Jewish interest’ — and again and again, for some unknown reason, they repeatedly fail to notice potential ‘hazard lights’, consistently misinterpreting tolerance as the ‘Goyim’s stupidity’.

    And as we have seen in history, repeatedly, Jewish collective tragedies always follow a pattern that begins with such rich tales of golden ages of assimilation within the corridors of power . One need only look at Spain, Eastern Europe and Germany, and these are just a few examples of such repeated patterns.

    The grave failure of America’s leading political institutions to confront AIPAC could very easily turn into a gigantic tidal wave of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish feelings. If the Jewish Lobby in America were at all responsible, it would be aware of the possibility of such an adverse reaction — but it is obsessed with its own success. The United States seems to lack the political will and know-how to restrain AIPAC, and the meaning , implications and results of it all may very well turn out to be devastating.

    I guess that the answer to AIPAC is not yet another J-Street lobby, attempting to buy the very few remaining unaffiliated American politicians.

I’d like to urgently suggest here, that ‘hands off international politics’ should be the immediate Jewish call to their relentless lobbies.

    But I know very well that is not going to happen.

  5. dickerson3870

    RE: “…or they [Israel] will loose their Nuclear bombs upon the whole of the Middle East, and perhaps even the U.S.” – Norman

    EXCERPTS FROM “THE WAR GAME”, BY DAVID HIRST, THE GUARDIAN, 09/21/2003:

    …Without a ‘just, comprehensive and lasting’ peace which only America can bring to pass, Israel will remain at least as likely a candidate as Iran, and a far more enduring one, for the role of ‘nuclear-crazy’ state.
    Iran can never be threatened in its very existence. Israel can. Indeed, such a threat could even grow out of the current intifada. That, at least, is the pessimistic opinion of Martin van Creveld, professor of military history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem…
    …In this situation, he went on, more and more Israelis were coming to regard the ‘transfer’ of the Palestinians as the only salvation; resort to it was growing ‘more probable’ with each passing day. Sharon ‘wants to escalate the conflict and knows that nothing else will succeed’.
    But would the world permit such ethnic cleansing? ‘That depends on who does it and how quickly it happens. We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force. Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: “Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.” I consider it all hopeless at this point. We shall have to try to prevent things from coming to that, if at all possible. Our armed forces, however, are not the thirtieth strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.’

    SOURCE – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/sep/21/israelandthepalestinians.bookextracts

  6. DE Teodoru

    I repeat: “Zionist Power” is a bluff. In a real fight these guys push the button only if it’s all one sided. The big danger is that many NOW have the illusion of one sidedness. When proverbial s–t hits the fan, the paid screamers will discover that most Jews will say: it’s you or us and we, naturally, chose us…US, that is!

    Netanyahu’s campaign speech (campaigning in Israel) before the US Congress will cost Israel money; and if there’s anything Israelis don’t forgive a PM for it is costing them American money!

    In the meantime, these are economic hard times and must beare through every Zionist big bucks dependent from CRF to HuffPost censoring any critics of Israel.
    Courage my dears, courage!

  7. Sand

    Christopher Hoare, “… I would be wanting to know when the CIA planned to haul all the members of Congress in for questioning about their financial contributions from Israel and AIPAC and require them to produce signed statements detailing the substance of every interaction and communication they have ever received from them…”

    I think it would be the FBI. However, Leon Panetta’s Chief of Staff – “Jeremy Bash” (ex-staffer to Jane Harman!) is AIPAC — Interesting eh!

    http://www.jta.org/news/article/2008/11/26/1001228/pro-israel-figures-on-obama-team

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