Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Lobby's Role in America

It finally seems acceptable, even within polite circles, to discuss the role of the Israeli Lobby on US foreign policy. AIPAC’s recent success in deposing the almost National Security Chief Chas Freeman stimulated much free thought worldwide.

Freeman made it clear that he blamed certain “unscrupulous people with a passionate attachment to the views of a political faction in a foreign country whose aim is to prevent any other view other than its own from being aired.”

Freeman further stated, “The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonour and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth.”

John Mearsheimer, in a recent article published in the London Review of Books, speculates that the reason for the slander campaign against Freeman lies in a past statement from 2005:

“As long as the United States continues unconditionally to provide the subsidies and political protection that make the Israeli occupation and the high-handed and self-defeating policies it engenders possible, there is little, if any, reason to hope that anything resembling the former peace process can be resurrected.”

Most Americans would prefer to keep their lights on than to personally finance Israel’s existence. We know about American Jews’ 79 per cent support for Israel’s bombing of Gaza. Yet why do Christian Americans not simply say, “We don’t want to pay for this”?

Joachim Martillo of Ethnic Ashkenazim Against Zionist Israel observes, “No comparable transnational political network has ever existed that has so successfully created a web of control to silence, to frame, to manage, and to dominate political discussion and discourse at the local, national and international level.”

The survival of Israel depends on squeezing Americans to cover the operations loss of the State of Israel even when the US economy is suffering from a major financial catastrophe. Israel advocates not only dog national and international organisations but in fact, their true power is revealed in their total control of local political discussions.

Ernesto Cienfuegos of La Voz de Aztlan reported that “the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles published a hateful and extremely biased article against one of the few radio programmes that speak on behalf of Chicanos in Southern California. The aim of these attacks is to silence any criticism of Israel and of the American Jewish Lobby, which now dictates many of the US government’s domestic and international policies.”

The actions of local Jewish organisations from one city to another are strikingly similar. For example, in Seattle, Washington and Somerville, Massachusetts, Jews aggressively harassed citizens who were collecting signatures for ballot questions, which asked the voters whether or not they would like to use City funds to pay for Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

In 1776, Americans fought the Revolutionary War against taxation without representation but the crimes of the British Empire against the American colonies do not even come close to the crimes of Israel. So why does nobody speak up?In truth, many brave and thoughtful individuals across the country do speak up but they are frustrated in their attempts to get people to care about this important moral issue by a coordinated attempt to derail honest discussion by organisations such as the World Union of Jewish Students, which issued a Hasbarah Handbook for students.The handbook has a section called “How to score points while avoiding debate” which stresses that “point scoring is a method of communication that prioritises making certain points favourable to the speaker, and attacking opponents of the speaker by trying to undermine their positions.”

This method was successfully employed in Atlanta, Georgia at Emory University by a group called Emory Students for Israel, who verbally harassed the school’s pro-Palestine group, and defaced their announcement.

Emory University received dozens of letters denouncing the hate speech. Mosques, business owners, human rights advocates, and concerned residents of the area called upon the Emory Administration to take a firm stance against racism and discrimination. Although the police report implicated the president of Emory Students for Israel as well as two other members, the perpetrators have neither received a visit from the police nor been reprimanded by the university. This treatment contrasts sharply with the situation faced by pro-Palestine activists. At Harvard University, an activist who interrupted an Israeli Defense Force Commander during a lecture was reported to the police and threatened with imprisonment. The “free speech” double standard is more than obvious. Why won’t Emory do the right thing?

It might be useful to press the point that the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel at Emory may violate the university’s tax exempt status as it discriminates against non-Zionist students and produces propaganda instead of academic scholarship.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Jewish Affairs in US politics

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