The tragic headline story is all over the Internet. Here’s a sample:
Monday, July 25, 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
One of the most important distinguishing characteristics of the Arab lobby is that it has no popular support. While the Israeli lobby has hundreds of thousands of grass root members and public opinion polls consistently reveal a huge gap between support for Israel and the Arab nations/Palestinians, the Arab lobby has almost no public sympathy.
While the media and politicians engage in frenzied debate about the virtues and vices of building—or preventing the building of—a Muslim community center (cum mosque) near the "sacred ground" of 9/11, Iran continues to build a nuclear weapon, as the Israelis and Palestinians take a tentative step toward building a peaceful resolution to their age-old conflict. Inevitably, whenever Middle East issues take center stage, the question of the role of lobbies, particularly those that advocate for foreign countries, becomes a hot topic. This book by longtime Middle East authority, Mitchell Bard, is a must read for anyone who cares—and who doesn't?—about the role of lobbies in influencing American policy in the Middle East. Its thesis, which is sure to be controversial, is easily summarized:
Yes Virginia, there is a big bad lobby that distorts US foreign policy in the Middle East way out of proportion to its actual support by the American public. Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, author of the screed, The Israel Lobby, are right about that. But the offending lobby is not AIPAC, which supports Israel, but rather the Arab lobby, which opposes the Jewish state.
Both the pro-Israel and pro-Arab lobby (really lobbies because there are several for each) are indeed powerful but there is a big difference — a difference that goes to the heart of the role of lobbying in a democracy. Bard puts it this way:
With almost unlimited resources, they try to buy what they usually cannot win on the merits of their arguments.
"One of the most important distinguishing characteristics of the Arab lobby is that it has no popular support. While the Israeli lobby has hundreds of thousands of grass root members and public opinion polls consistently reveal a huge gap between support for Israel and the Arab nations/Palestinians, the Arab lobby has almost no foot soldiers or public sympathy. It's most powerful elements tend to be bureaucrats who represent only their personal views or what they believe are their institutional interests, and foreign governments that care only about their national interests, not those of the United States. What they lack in human capital in terms of American advocates, they make up for with almost unlimited resources to try to buy what they usually cannot win on the merits of their arguments."
The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East. By Mitchell Bard. 432 pages. Harper. $27.99. This is a critical distinction for a democracy. The case for Israel (though not for all of its policies) is an easy sell for pro-Israel lobbyists, especially elected representatives. Voting in favor of Israel is popular not only in areas with large concentration of Jewish voters, but throughout the country, because Israel is popular with Evangelical Christians in particular and with much, though certainly not all, of the public in general. Lobbies that reflect the will of the people are an important part of the democratic process. Thus, the American Association of Retired People (AARP), the principal lobbying group for the elderly, is extremely powerful because there are so many elderly people in this country who want to protect social security, Medicaid, and other benefits. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is a powerful lobby precisely because so many Americans, for better or worse, love their guns. And The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is a powerful lobby because Americans, in general, support the Middle East's only democracy and reliable American ally.
But why is the Arab lobby, and most particularly the Saudi lobby, also powerful? Saudi Arabia has virtually no support among Americans. Indeed, it is widely reviled for its export of terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden, its manipulation of oil prices, its anti-Christian and anti-Semitic policies, its total deprivation of any semblance of freedom of speech or dissent, and its primitive forms of punishment that include stoning and amputation. Yet, as Bard demonstrates, the Saudi lobby has beaten the pro-Israel lobby over and over again in head to head conflicts, such as the sale of sophisticated weapons to a regime that doesn't even have the technical skills to use them, and the conflict over whether to move the United States' Embassy to Jerusalem. Even now, Saudi Arabia is lobbying to obtain a multi-billion dollar arms deal , and it is likely to succeed over the objections of Israel.
How then does a lobby with no popular support manage to exert influence in a democratic country? The secret is very simple. The Arab lobby in general and the Saudis in particular make little effort to influence popularly elected public officials, particularly legislators. Again, listen to Bard:
"The Saudis have taken a different tact from the Israeli lobby, focusing a top-down rather than bottom-up approach to lobbying. As hired gun, J. Crawford Cook, wrote in laying out his proposed strategy for the kingdom, 'Saudi Arabia has a need to influence the few that influence the many, rather than the need to influence the many to whom the few must respond.'"
The Saudis spend enormous amounts of lucre to buy (or rent) former state department officials, diplomats, White House aides, and legislative leaders.
The primary means by which the Saudis exercise this influence is money. They spend enormous amounts of lucre to buy (or rent) former state department officials, diplomats, White House aides, and legislative leaders who become their elite lobbying corps. Far more insidiously, the Saudis let it be known that if current government officials want to be hired following their retirement from government service, they had better hue to the Saudi line while they are serving in our government. The former Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar, who was so close to the President George H.W. Bush that he referred to himself as "Bandar Bush," acknowledged the relationship between how a government official behaves while in office and how well he will be rewarded when he leaves office. "If the reputation then builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office, you'd be surprised how much better friends you have when they are just coming into office."
Bard concludes from this well known quid pro quo that: "given the potential of these post-retirement opportunities, it would not be surprising if officials adopted positions while in government to make themselves marketable to the Arab lobby."
The methodology employed by the Arab lobby is thus totally inconsistent with democratic governance, because it does not reflect the will of the people but rather the corruption of the elite, while the Israeli lobby seems to operate within the parameters of democratic processes. Yet so much has been written about the allegedly corrosive nature of the Israeli lobby, while the powerful Arab lobby has widely escaped scrutiny and criticism. This important book thus contributes to the open marketplace of ideas by illuminating the dark side of the massive and largely undemocratic Arab lobbying efforts to influence American policy with regard to the Middle East.
This article originally appeared on The Daily Beast.
Posted by Michael on T
Saturday, July 09, 2011
JERUSALEM, Israel -- Next month, Israel celebrates its 62nd anniversary as a nation. With the approach of this milestone, many believe Israel faces two of the greatest threats to its survival.
The first is a potential nuclear Iran. The second could be just as dangerous: The spreading notion that the world would be a better place without Israel.
- At the University of California's Irvine campus, Muslim students shouted down Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren 11 times.
- On Turkey's national television, a prime-time special portrayed Israeli soldiers executing Palestinian women and children in cold blood.
- Former Israel Defense Forces Chief Moshe Y'allon cancelled his trip to Spain fearing he'd be arrested on charges of war crimes.
- In March, dozens of cities held "Israel Apartheid Week," comparing the Jewish nation to the former apartheid state of South Africa.
So what's happening from the U.S. West Coast to the West Bank and around the world?
When Israel was founded in 1948, its enemies outnumbered and out-gunned tiny Israel on the battlefield. But more than 60 years later, Israel boasts the strongest military in the Middle East.
No longer able to defeat Israel militarily, some say Israel's enemies have shifted to another battlefield -- the worldwide court of public opinion.
It's spreading the notion that Israel is so bad, so racist, and so evil, it no longer has a right to exist. It's an attempt to wipe Israel off the map, not with a nuclear bomb, but with slander and to promulgate the idea of a world without Israel.
Supporters of Israel see a very real and growing threat, a campaign - often coordinated - to delegitimize Israel, to undermine the very existence of the Jewish state.
"No more money for Israel's crimes," shouted one Anti-Israel demonstrator.
"You have an alliance of what many have called the Red/Green Alliance where you have on the one hand the leftists -- political movements both in the United States and in Europe and throughout the western world joining forces very openly with Islamists -- with radical Muslims and even moderate Muslims for that matter, saying that Israel has not a right to exist," Caroline Glick, managing editor of The Jerusalem Post told CBN News.
"My concern is that other people -- liberals, people of good will, people who don't know much about this area -- will fall into this trap and accept and slowly accept the notion that Israel is the new pariah," said Shmuel Ben-Shmuel, director of the World Jewish Affairs in Israel's foreign ministry.
Many of Israel's supporters point to latest attempt to delegitimize Israel -- the United Nations-commissioned Goldstone Report. The report accuses Israel of war crimes against civilians during Operation Cast Lead, Israel's campaign to stop Hamas from firing rockets into Israel's southern communities.
Ret. U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin said he found such charges to be groundless.
"The Israelis were very careful not to target civilian targets - and if they did target a civilian target - to let the occupants there know that they were going to strike," he said. "The Goldstone Report tells just the opposite."
"The Goldstone Report is the son of Muhammed al-Dura," said French citizen Philippe Karsenty.
Al-Dura is the young Palestinian boy who was allegedly killed in 2000 by Israeli soldiers at the start of the Palestinian intifada. For the past decade, he's become the symbol of Israeli brutality.
Yet Karsenty took France 2 Television to court and claimed the footage videotaped by the France 2 photographer was staged. In May 2008, a French court ruled in Karsenty's favor.
Yet, he says the impact of this hoax and the Goldstone Report has been devastating, especially in Europe.
"Even the best friends of Israel, the people who want to support Israel, "Game over." We cannot defend you after we've seen the war crimes. We're even losing Jews in Europe," Karsenty said.
"We've had people who were Jews and now they're so afraid to be associated with this kind of state, which is for them like a Nazi-like state is what they're seeing in the media," he said.
Harbinger of Things to Come?
Former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold says groups like Hamas have a goal in delegitimizing Israel.
"The purpose is to tie the hands of Israel, so that Hamas retains the right of resistance of fighting Israel -- but at the same time Israel has no right of self-defense to respond," he explained.
"The state of Israel can win all the wars in the world, but if they have all the nations against them, the way it's becoming, it's very difficult. It's going to be very, very difficult for the state of Israel to survive and to defend its borders and just to defend its right to exist," Gold added.
While Israel may be the main target of this effort, some warn it may be just the first domino in a long line.
"It should be very worrying, because we have seen that when Israel is delegitimized and assaulted both diplomatically, politically as well as militarily, it is only a precursor of the rest of the free world," said Dan Diker of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
This could mean American military officers battling Al Qaeda in Iraq, or the Taliban in Afghanistan might find themselves accused of war crimes if they're responsible for unintended civilian casualties.
As Israel Goes...
So, how can Israel fight such an effort?
"First of all, we have to point out that these delegitimization efforts against Israel are in fact a strategic threat to our existence," Glick said.
"To call all people of good will to take action," Ben-Shmuel added.
How well Israel fights on this battlefield may well determine its own survival and may also be a bellweather for democracies around the world.
Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel
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