News Release

“The Israel Lobby” — A Debate


The paper “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” by John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard University, has come under attack from various quarters. It was published in edited form as “The Israel Lobby” in the London Review of Books.

The authors write: “The thrust of U.S. policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby.'”

The following analysts are available for interviews about the substance of the report as well as reaction to it from various quarters:

Paul Findley was an Illinois Representative in Congress from 1961 to 1983. He is the author of the book They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby.

He said today: “The fear of being charged with anti-Semitism outranks all other worries that bedevil politicians, and the lobby has marketed it so efficiently that a wall of silence shields the American people from awareness of the lobby’s activities and U.S. complicity in Israel’s longstanding abuse of international law and Arab human rights, violations that the rest of the world follows with dismay and anger.”

Findley added: “In 1982, when the American Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC], the main center of Israeli lobbying in Washington, claimed credit for keeping me from election to a 12th term in the House of Representatives, I became the lobby’s prize trophy. Two years later, Senator Charles Percy, who was also guilty of failing to toe the AIPAC line, joined me on the trophy shelf.”
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Zunes is Middle East editor for Foreign Policy In Focus and author of the book Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism. He said today: “While there are many valid criticisms regarding U.S. support for the Israeli government and its occupation policies, the so-called ‘pro-Israel Lobby’ is not primarily to blame. Rather, it is rooted in the same shortsighted world view — which prompted support for Indonesia’s quarter-century occupation of East Timor and Morocco’s ongoing occupation of Western Sahara — that places narrowly-defined short-term strategic interests above that of international law, human rights and long-term security for the United States and its allies.

“The vast majority of the Israeli government’s supporters on Capitol Hill come from safe districts and could challenge administration policy if they wanted to. Presidents were able to successfully confront the Israel lobby in key battles and win — Eisenhower with the Suez crisis, Carter with the incursion into Lebanon, Reagan with the AWACs deal, and Bush senior with the loan guarantees. Just as the much-feared ‘China Lobby’ was powerless to challenge Nixon’s rapprochement with Beijing, the ‘Israel Lobby’ could likewise be made irrelevant if Washington’s national security elites determined that a shift in American policy was what they want.” Zunes is a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco.
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Neumann is author of the recent article “The Israel Lobby and Beyond” and the book The Case Against Israel. He said today: “Professors Walt and Mearsheimer got into big trouble for talking about ‘the unmatched power of the Israel lobby.’ This was bound to send pundits running off to root out anti-Semitism at Harvard. Unfortunately it also diverted attention from a far more important claim: that the alliance with Israel runs contrary to U.S. interests. ‘Israel is in fact a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states,’ say the authors, and they argue forcefully for their view.

“Forget about the lobby: Isn’t the alliance itself what matters? If the alliance is good for America, why on earth would we care about a pro-Israel lobby? If it isn’t, then the lobby is bad news even if its influence is not as great as Walt and Mearsheimer believe.

“No conspiracy theories, sinister or benign, are needed to see that Walt and Mearsheimer have to be right about the alliance. Just imagine if the U.S. stopped backing Israel and gave even moderate support to the Palestinians. Suddenly Islam and America would be on the same side. The war on terror would become a cakewalk. Middle East oil would lie in friendly territory, not under a ferment of anti-American discontent. The credibility of American democracy would skyrocket in the Middle East. And it would all be a hell of a lot cheaper. This seems to matter a tad more than which neocon said what to whom.” Neumann is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, Canada.
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Bennis is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-wrote the article “Of Dogs and Tails: The Changing Nature of Israel’s U.S. Backers,” which noted an increasing alliance between Israel-focused groups and Christian fundamentalists.

She said: “The breadth of political support for Israel, and its bipartisan nature, was always rooted in the fact that the goals of the lobbying networks supported, rather than challenged, the national interest as defined by the Pentagon and the State Department. Israel would continue to play a key role as a strategic U.S. surrogate and junior partner in fighting the Cold War, in the region and for many years, far afield in Africa, Asia and Latin America.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167