The Israel Lobby on campus in Illinois: A challenge for BDS

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 73 Comments

I only recently learned of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s trip to Israel this past summer (2011) for a “week-long educational mission where he sealed two important agreements and received briefings from high-ranking Israeli officials, academic experts and business leaders on topics ranging from high-tech development (read Motorola), energy, water conservation and environmentalism (sic) to disaster preparedness, Iran, and U.S.-Israel relations.” This is reported on the website of Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. The reader is expected, of course, to find the high-minded and triumphant tone of this article to be unproblematic.

The article states: “The Governor’s educational visit was part of a JUF initiative that, for the past two decades, has brought influential leaders to Israel.” Quinn signed a “formal agreement on academic cooperation between Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) to establish a wide-ranging partnership. The agreement will promote faculty and student exchanges, joint research, and other academic activities of mutual interest. The agreement greatly expands the existing relationship between the universities in the field of public health.”

Beyond principled opposition to such academic agreements between our public universities and those of the apartheid Jewish state, it’s important to note that the academic merit and social outcomes of such agreements are obviously limited by the political context that provokes fundamental opposition from advocates of social justice. In relation to Motorola, for example, it’s impossible to believe that there will be public discussion promoting the public interest regarding military applications in general or surveillance technology in particular.

Similarly, such an agreement cannot conceivably promote consideration of fundamental and historical water resource and environmental degradation issues pertaining to political conflict between Israel and Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. It’s also highly unlikely that the essentially political nature of such an academic agreement would allow or encourage researchers to address the public health concerns of Palestinians, either as citizens of Israel or in the occupied territories; nor would they likely address, for example, the conditions of African immigrants in Israel who find themselves increasingly despised and unwanted.

A biased and discriminatory political agenda, dictated and limited by Israeli state interests and U.S. hegemonic interests in the region, is thus inevitably part and parcel of such academic agreements. The public university and its scholarly and scientific reputation is commandeered and exploited by the Israel Lobby in order to serve and legitimize that agenda.

Beyond this particular “academic exchange,” my perspective is informed by the principles of the BDS movement and the challenges inevitably presented to the movement by the Israel Lobby’s incessant pressure on public officials and institutions at all levels. As a long-term resident of Illinois and employee of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), I have been a journalist and activist regarding the manner in which Jewish and Zionist institutions have come to occupy the putatively public space of our public university—clearly to the detriment of dignity and justice for the Palestinians, as well as informed discussion in a democratic and scholarly context of the Israel/Palestine issue.

Continuing from an article that I wrote for Electronic Intifada in 2009, I argue here that the developments noted above constitute egregious extensions of the Zionist infrastructure that has been promoted by the Israel Lobby in state government in general and in public higher education in Illinois. I would hope that this opportunistic, outrageous, and cynical agreement between Governor Quinn and Israeli officials creates a critical mass of awareness and potential activism within and beyond the BDS movement in Illinois. I would hope to see a clear response to the manner in which the Lobby feels entitled to self-righteously promote—without objection—what are repugnant and sectarian political interests in state politics and higher education—disingenuously and transparently framed in terms of technological, scientific, and economic development.

From my perspective as a Jewish pro-Palestinian activist in Urbana-Champaign, I have observed two primary developments: first, the establishment of a privately-funded Program for Jewish Culture and Society two decades ago and its attendant moral emphasis on the Holocaust and Jewish victimization in general; second, the use of PJCS as an institutional and moral umbrella for an Israel Lobby-funded and baldly propagandistic“Israel Studies Project,” which has moreover been clearly racist in its exclusion of Palestinian Israelis from its purview.

Blatant conflicts of interest regarding PJCS in relation to the Israel Lobby were obvious from the start, and dovetail with Governor Quinn’s junket. The promoters of PJCS were two professors with prominent positions in local Jewish institutions—religious, secular, and Zionist. One professor, Michael Shapiro, is the father of Daniel Shapiro, current U.S. ambassador to Israel.

In 2004, Michael Shapiro worked closely with Michael Kotzin, JUF Executive Vice President, to fund the Israel Studies Project, part of a state-wide effort by the Israel Lobby at both public and private universities. Kotzin wrote in the Forward in 2004 that the “manner in which Israel and the Middle East are taught about in the nation’s university classrooms has increasingly come to the fore as one of the most difficult and far-reaching challenges facing the Jewish community.” In translation, this is to say that the Lobby needs to take serious measures to intervene in academia to promote Israel’s interests, in response to students who are increasingly enlightened regarding the plight of the Palestinians.

Kotzin, a long-time Lobby apparatchik in Chicago, accompanied Governor Quinn to Israel, commenting “It is particularly gratifying to be here with Gov. Quinn today when that partnership moves to a new level.” Quinn’s group was addressed in Israel by Ambassador Shapiro, who tellingly “called his address to the group ‘his first official duty’ after arriving the day before to assume his responsibilities as U.S. Ambassador to Israel.”

I would add that the Urbana campus has also procured, for the past two academic years, a visiting Jewish-Israeli professor of Israel Studies whose position is by no means disinterestedly funded by the Schusterman Family Foundation and the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE). According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “The aim of the program is to present American students with a broad understanding of Israel’s history, society, politics, culture and relations with its neighbors and the broader international community.” In plainer language, the aim of this program—as of the Israel Studies Project at UIUC and the broader Israel Studies movement in general—is to promote a sanitized version of Zionism, Israel, and Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. The current visiting professor at the Urbana Campus, Rhona Seidelman, has well-served this purpose.

It is unacceptable that a visiting professor essentially hired by the Israel Lobby is charged with teaching the one class offered at UIUC on the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict. Perhaps needless to say, UIUC has never hired a professor of Palestinian or Arab background specifically in relation to teaching and research regarding the topic of Israel/Palestine. Regarding any other oppressed minority, it would be unheard of for faculty members to be bought and paid for by interests promoting and justifying such oppression. But in the case of the Israel Lobby on campus, it is business as usual. At UIUC and other campuses in Illinois, the Lobby has de facto attempted to limit the institutional space within which Palestinian perspectives can be understood and legitimized.

The political proficiency and resources of the Israel Lobby in Illinois and elsewhere present formidable challenges to pro-Palestinian and BDS activists. Nevertheless, popular support for Israel, including among Jews and on campuses, is at an all-time low. The recent and welcome radicalization of the notion of “occupy,” combined with the principles and goals of the BDS movement, suggests assertive and persistent responses to Lobby business as usual on campus and in state government.

About David Green

David Green, 65, lives in Champaign, Illinois, and is of Jewish background. Since 1998 he has been involved in the Palestinian justice movement on campus and in the community. He has published articles relevant to this movement on Mondoweiss, Counterpunch, ZNet, Electronic Intifada, and Palestine Chronicle websites.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

73 Responses

  1. seafoid
    February 10, 2012, 5:38 pm

    “It is unacceptable that a visiting professor essentially hired by the Israel Lobby is charged with teaching the one class offered at UIUC on the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict”

    It takes a lot of work to keep America in the dark. It is unacceptable to the Lobby to have it any other way. But they won’t have the younger generation.

  2. bintbiba
    February 10, 2012, 7:29 pm

    Well said seafoid.

  3. dbroncos
    February 10, 2012, 7:42 pm

    Thanks for the post, David. You’ve descibed in microcosm what Israel’s supporters have accomplished in so many of our institutions, big and small. There is nary a grade school teacher who would put historic Palestine on the map either because they don’t know any better or because they’re too afraid.

    • Thomson Rutherford
      February 11, 2012, 3:42 am

      I would like to join in expressing my appreciation for this article, David. It certainly made me aware of, and worried about, some things I was largely ignorant of before. If you can help shed more light, for readers at Mondoweiss, on the Jewish/Israel Studies programs in Illinois and elsewhere (particularly as regards their efforts in promoting Zionism among the innocents), I’m sure many of us would be grateful.

      In the comment thread under a recent post by Phil Weiss about ‘Israel Firsters,’ I think I was a little harsh in my criticism of some of your comments. In light of this very excellent and illuminating post from you, I would like to retract anything derogatory I may have said there.

      • Taxi
        February 11, 2012, 6:33 am

        Thomson, dude you’ve got admirable integrity and righteousness. I do like a man who’s not afraid to reconsider.

  4. DICKERSON3870
    February 10, 2012, 7:53 pm

    RE: “A biased and discriminatory political agenda, dictated and limited by Israeli state interests and U.S. hegemonic interests in the region, is thus inevitably part and parcel of such academic agreements.The public university and its scholarly and scientific reputation is commandeered and exploited by the Israel Lobby in order to serve and legitimize that agenda.” ~ David Green

    ALSO SEE: The Trial of Israel’s Campus Critics, by David Theo Goldberg and Saree Makdisi, Tikkun Magazine, September/October 2009

    (excerpt)…It is an extraordinary fact that no fewer than thirty-three distinct organizations – including AIPAC, the Zionist Organization of America, the American Jewish Congress, and the Jewish National Fund – are gathered together today as members or affiliates of the Israel on Campus Coalition. The coalition is an overwhelmingly powerful presence on American college campuses for which there is simply no equivalent on the Palestinian or Arab side. Its self-proclaimed mission is not merely to monitor our colleges and universities. That, after all, is the commitment of Campus Watch, which was started by pro-Israel activists in 2002. It is, rather (and in its own words), to generate “a pro-active, pro-Israel agenda on campus.”
    There is, accordingly, disproportionate and unbalanced intervention on campuses across the country by a coalition of well-funded organizations, who have no time for — and even less interest in — the niceties of intellectual exchange and academic process. Insinuation, accusation, and defamation have become the weapons of first resort to respond to argument and criticism directed at Israeli policies. As far as these outside pressure groups (and their campus representatives) are concerned, the intellectual and academic price that the scholarly community pays as a result of this kind of intervention amounts to little more than collateral damage…

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/sept_oct_09_goldberg_makdisi

    • Thomson Rutherford
      February 11, 2012, 1:09 am

      The coalition is an overwhelmingly powerful presence on American college campuses for which there is simply no equivalent on the Palestinian or Arab side.

      I think there is also no equivalent on the American side. It’s a takeover of the American higher education system by Israel and its minions. Add that huge trophy to those other two in the bag: the U.S. government and the mainstream media.

      What that means for Americans is constant warfare on behalf of an extremely dangerous, racist and proto-fascist foreign country. Bow down, everyone, to your masters – and be careful you don’t talk back.

      • American
        February 11, 2012, 2:15 pm

        “What that means for Americans is constant warfare on behalf of an extremely dangerous, racist and proto-fascist foreign country” …………… ..T Rutherford

        I am afraid you are right. No conspiracy theory necessary. The whole invasion web is traceable. Was just looking again at AIPAC and JINSA’s campaign to convert ethnic niches and minorities to Israel loyalty–no sense pretending this is benign. It is a deliberate invasion and takeover of the US for Israel.

      • Thomson Rutherford
        February 11, 2012, 6:42 pm

        @American:

        It is a deliberate invasion and takeover of the US for Israel.

        Quoting Zbigniew Brzezinski (roughly): “Among industrialized countries, the American electorate is the most poorly informed.” He meant that in the broadest sense – in both domestic and world affairs. That widespread ignorance is what has allowed Israel and its Zionist agents to take over the U.S.

      • seafoid
        February 11, 2012, 7:03 pm

        No other OECD country has a constituency to match the evangelicals of the US.
        Nowhere else is evolution questioned in the school curriculum.

      • DICKERSON3870
        February 15, 2012, 6:19 pm

        RE: “What that means for Americans is constant warfare on behalf of an extremely dangerous, racist and proto-fascist foreign country” ~ Rutherford

        ROGER COHEN, 2/13/12: “…Netanyahu — raised in the Jabotinsky strain of Zionism by a father who viewed Arabs as “semi-barbaric” and rejected an “emasculating moralism” in favor of a new warrior breed of Jew…”
        SOURCE – http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/14/opinion/cohen-the-dilemmas-of-jewish-power.html

        TED RALL, 07/22/10: …Umberto Eco’s 1995 essay “Eternal Fascism” describes the cult of action for its own sake under fascist regimes and movements: “Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation.
        SOURCE – http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/07/22-1

        DAHLIA SCHEINDLIN, +972 Magazine, 2/14/12:

        (excerpts)…After two weeks in America visiting family and friends, two observations struck me powerfully. First, the understanding that Israel is committing terrible deeds that are destroying itself and its neighbors, has penetrated among you… …On this trip, I was stunned to learn that now you don’t even really want to visit Israel because you can’t face what you’re increasingly coming to see as a brutal occupying entity flirting with fascist notions
        …Here’s how that made me feel: abandoned, by the liberal Jews of America. You were swept away by Ruth Wisse’s thesis that liberals betrayed the Jewish cause by believing too much in rational universalism and failing to acknowledge the unique, everlasting threat of anti-Semitism…

        SOURCE – http://972mag.com/dear-liberal-american-jews-please-dont-betray-israel/35396/

      • DICKERSON3870
        February 15, 2012, 6:24 pm

        P.S. ALSO SEE: Did rightist NGO leader admit to being inspired by fascist thinkers? ~ by Yossi Gurvitz, +972 Magazine, 2/13/12

        (excerpts) Yesterday, the defense in the trial of Im Tirzu vs. the Facebook group “Im Tirzu – a fascist movement” presented its depositions. The plaintiff is the infamous right-wing group, the defendants are a group of leftist activists, the issue is libel. It began in 2010 when Ronen Shoval, chairman of Im Tirzu, sent the following email…
        …Among the depositions by the defense is one by Tomer Persico, who is a researcher of religions and the writer of one of the most important blogs on the issue in Israel..
        …In his deposition, Persico described a conversation with Shoval that took place a few months ago, as they were being interviewed by the paper Makor Rishon. In the recorded conversation, Persico told Shoval that he was surprised to see clear romantic German influences in a book by Shoval, and was surprised when the latter freely admitted it. Shoval said that “in my thesis, I dealt a lot with Ficthe, Schelling, Herder and George Sorel.” The latter is considered to be one of the inspirations of Italian fascism, and was fascinated by political violence: he praised Action Francaise, the nationalist movement which was a precursor of French fascism, he praised Mussolini – and Lenin, too. He was also an anti-Semite who spread the blood libel (though he was on the side of the angels in the Dreyfus Affair). This is, to say the least, a rather strange inspiration for the leader of a so-called neo-Zionist revival movement. Persico said he was “stunned.”
        Shoval, says Persico, claimed Persico was unkind in his review of his book, since when he used the ideas of Herder and Fichte about the organic nature of the volk, he was speaking metaphorically. Shoval said he didn’t put it quite that way in his book, since the purpose of the book “is to express ideas simplistically – I say, simplistically – ideas which are very deep… to make it clear to the multitude… the meaning of the word ‘Zionism’ today.” Persico claimed that such simplicity is dangerous and that it is typical of Im Tirzu’s activity; Shoval replied that “this is an issue of marketing strategies.”
        So, in the name of marketing strategies, Shoval is injecting volkist concepts into the Israeli mindset, concepts which originally – and he claims to know the original very well – have caused untold suffering both to the people they were injected into, to the minorities living among them, and to nearby nations…

        ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://972mag.com/im-tirzu-leader-admits-inspired-by-fascist-thinkers/35322/

  5. DICKERSON3870
    February 10, 2012, 7:58 pm

    RE: “The Governor’s educational visit was part of a JUF initiative that, for the past two decades, has brought influential leaders to Israel.” ~ Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago

    MY COMMENT: I demand my “free” trip to Israel. Everyone else seems to be getting one, or two, or…….

    FOR INSTANCE, SEE: Israel trip an eye-opening experience for Jefferson chief, By Adina Solomon, onlineathens.com, 07/18/11

    This summer, Jefferson Police Chief Joe Wirthman went on a two-week trip 6,000 miles away, traveling across Israel with a delegation of state law enforcement officers as part of the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange.
    “It was an awesome trip,” he said. “A trip of a lifetime.”
    GILEE, which partners with Georgia State University, sends a different group of Georgia officers every summer to work with Israeli law enforcement and border control.
    Commerce Police Chief John Gaissert and University of Georgia Police Chief Jimmy Williamson also have gone in past years.

    The object of the program is to learn how Israeli police deal with terrorism every day…
    …After his trip, Wirthman is trying to think one step ahead with the Jefferson Police Department, preparing for the type of threatening situations Israel faces 24 hours a day, he said.
    “Hopefully it’ll never happen, but in this world, ‘never’ isn’t a word,” Wirthman said. “We’re not invincible here.”
    He’s also witnessed how people live their daily lives with the constant menace of terrorism, he said.
    Wirthman met one man who sends each of his children on a different bus to school. In case one of the buses is bombed, only one of his three children will be harmed.
    “I don’t know if I could raise my family under those conditions,” said Wirthman, who has three kids of his own.
    And nobody in Israel grumbles about it, he said. Instead, they have a strong national pride many Americans had only after 9/11, he said…”

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://onlineathens.com/stories/071811/jac_858627408.shtml

    • DICKERSON3870
      February 10, 2012, 7:59 pm

      P.S. ALSO SEE: Sheriff Ortiz goes to Israel, by Eva Ruth Moravec, mysanantonio.com, 07/07/11

      (excerpts)…For one week last month, Bexar County Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz swapped his cowboy hat for a yarmulke as he visited Israel on an organized trip with other law enforcement leaders.
      “I’ve always had an interest in Israel,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “It was a great conference.”
      Ortiz joined 16 other sheriffs, police chiefs and organization heads, including Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland, on a week-long trip, courtesy of the Jewish Institute for National Security’s Law Enforcement Exchange Program…
      …Ortiz said he was impressed by Israel Defense Force soldiers, who he said are trained as soldiers and as police officers.
      “If we ever deploy troops along the Texas border, they should have training in being a soldier and in law enforcement,” he said…
      …The junket was Ortiz’s second organized trip to Israel: last year, Bexar County footed the bill to send him to an international conference on homeland security, he said…

      SOURCE – http://blog.mysanantonio.com/police/2011/07/sheriff-ortiz-goes-to-israel/

    • DICKERSON3870
      February 10, 2012, 10:05 pm

      P.P.S. FROM THE AIPAC WEBSITE (undated):

      African American Political Leaders and Activists Visit Israel

      A group of African American politicians, consultants and activists arrived in Israel this week to participate in an American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF) Seminar. The group of 18 includes eight state and local elected officials and three appointed government officials, including the presidents of the city councils of Atlanta and Detroit. The other participants are all deeply involved in political and civic life in their communities, including five who are co-chairs for the DNC’s Generation44 fundraising initiative in their cities. A number of the seminar participants have already attended pro-Israel events in their communities and have shown interest in strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship. Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May passed Iranian divestment resolutions in their jurisdictions in 2009.

      SOURCE – http://www.aipac.org/en/in-the-news?newsid=%7BF4379DFB-D32D-49C8-965B-37E03013BEE3%7D

  6. Boycott Israel on Campus
    February 11, 2012, 12:42 am

    There is no visible demand to boycott Israel on any U.S. campus.

    The Champaign-Urbana campus really did have a divestment rally around November 2001. Since then– nothing.

    Unless you march into your student government and demand a boycott-Israel resolution– there will be none.

  7. Shmuel
    February 11, 2012, 4:06 am

    High-minded opponents of academic BDS often argue that the free exchange of ideas is the lifeblood of academia, and allowing “political considerations” to interfere with this exchange is unconscionable.

    As David Green illustrates, what research is conducted and with whom is, in fact, highly politicised and hardly a “free exchange”.

  8. Thomson Rutherford
    February 11, 2012, 10:46 pm

    David, I paid your post a much-deserved compliment above. Now I would like to focus on your concept of what you yourself call the “Israel Lobby.” Here are some snippets from your post, in which you use language similar to what I would use (even if a bit milder):

    A biased and discriminatory political agenda, dictated and limited by Israeli state interests ….

    The public university and its scholarly and scientific reputation is commandeered and exploited by the Israel Lobby in order to serve and legitimize that agenda.

    … the Israel Lobby’s incessant pressure on public officials and institutions at all levels.

    Jewish and Zionist institutions have come to occupy the putatively public space of our public university ….

    … the developments noted above constitute egregious extensions of the Zionist infrastructure that has been promoted by the Israel Lobby ….

    … the Lobby feels entitled to self-righteously promote—without objection—what are repugnant and sectarian political interests ….

    … an institutional and moral umbrella for an Israel Lobby-funded and baldly propagandistic “Israel Studies Project” ….

    … to fund the Israel Studies Project, part of a state-wide effort by the Israel Lobby at both public and private universities….

    In translation, this is to say that the Lobby needs to take serious measures to intervene in academia to promote Israel’s interests ….

    It is unacceptable that a visiting professor essentially hired by the Israel Lobby is charged with teaching the one class ….

    the Lobby has de facto attempted to limit the institutional space within which Palestinian perspectives can be understood and legitimized.

    The political proficiency and resources of the Israel Lobby in Illinois and elsewhere present formidable challenges ….

    My point is that your terminology and tone regarding the “Israel Lobby” seem very close to what I, a non-Jewish anti-Zionist, would have used. If I may say so, it appears to be similar also to what Annie Robbins or danaa or Citizen or American or numerous other commentators (including Phil Weiss every other day) might have written. How is Jeff Blankfort’s “Zionist/Jewish power structure” different from your powerful, well-funded, and well-organized “Zionist infrastructure”?

    Is it your belief that the Israel Lobby has substantial political power and influence in America only at state and local levels, and not at the national level? (You did state above that it exerts incessant political pressure at all levels.)

    There are some of us who suspect that the Palestinians cannot be helped – and unnecessary wars for America cannot be prevented – without taking on the Israel Lobby (aka Zionist infrastructure [per you] or Zionist power structure [per Blankfort]) head-on. Do you disagree with this thesis?

    I would like to see you elaborate here on your general thoughts concerning the Israel Lobby. That might help me also to better understand the attitudes of some others who appear to think like you, such as Max Ajl, Evildoer, Keith, Mathew Taylor, etc. (Skip the lectures about American imperialistic exploitation and militarism; I was well acquainted with that before you were born.)

    ;

    • Thomson Rutherford
      February 11, 2012, 11:53 pm

      David,

      I have another question about a statement in your post; viz., this one:

      I would hope that this opportunistic, outrageous, and cynical agreement between Governor Quinn and Israeli officials creates a critical mass of awareness and potential activism within and beyond the BDS movement in Illinois. I would hope to see a clear response to the manner in which the Lobby feels entitled ….

      ( my emphasis)

      Critical mass of whose awareness and activism? Jews only? Liberal Zionist Jews only? Jews and Palestinians/Arabs only? Everybody, Jews and non-Jews, inclusive? Do you have any ethnocentric boundaries that you aren’t showing? How far beyond the BDS movement can the awareness and activism go and still retain your stamp of approval?

      • David Green
        February 12, 2012, 12:28 pm

        “Critical mass of whose awareness and activism? Jews only? Liberal Zionist Jews only? Jews and Palestinians/Arabs only? Everybody, Jews and non-Jews, inclusive? Do you have any ethnocentric boundaries that you aren’t showing?”

        It has never occurred to me in my 15 years of being involved in the Palestinian rights movement that there were ethnocentric boundaries involved. I would disapprove of the approach of those who support Palestinian rights as a means of supporting U.S. imperial interests in the region. I also disapprove of the approach of those who–whatever their claimed ideals–always blame the Palestinians when there is a more explicit upsurge in violence.

        I went to an interesting and provocative meeting with Mark Braverman (“Fatal Embrace”) yesterday. His theological approach is not my cup of tea. But the Kairos agenda can clearly be an essential part of the movement. I believe in a large tent, within which I will always emphasize what I understand to be a leftist approach to the issue. I’m concerned that on the basis of some litmus tests, especially regarding the Lobby, that tent is made unnecessarily smaller.

    • David Green
      February 12, 2012, 12:11 pm

      “Is it your belief that the Israel Lobby has substantial political power and influence in America only at state and local levels, and not at the national level? (You did state above that it exerts incessant political pressure at all levels.)”

      Thanks for asking.

      It has substantial power and influence at all levels, related to propaganda, votes, fundraising, and policy.

      The disagreement you’ve referred to is whether the result of that power and influence is to undermine what elites in this country understand as “state interests” (that is, corporate interests). My view, as I’ve stated before, is that there is general consistency on an economic level between elite “state interests” in the U.S. and Israel, based on both economic and military relationships. I also think that Max Ajl and others you’ve mentioned, based on the work Nitzan-Bichler, etc., make a compelling case that both military and oil interests (petrodollar-weapondollar) benefit from a certain level of “instability” in the region. My agreement with Chomsky that Israel is accurately viewed as a strategic asset by elites still stands. Changes in context could change that, but the context hasn’t changed that much–yet.

      That does not mean that elites view the occupation in this context, although the political economy of the occupation probably ought to be understood better in this context (Shir Hever). But whether some elites benefit from this is apart from its relatonship to U.S. state interests.

      Challenging the power and propaganda of the Lobby at various levels is essential as part of a pro-Palestinian rights movement in this country. That may eventually become an aspect of a successful anti-occupation, pro-Palestinian self-determination movement. But, again, that’s not the same thing–or is only one small part–of challenging USFP in the region. This remains driven by the “grand area strategy” from East Africa to Pakistan that Chomsky refers to, and will have to be challenged at a more fundamental political level. As Finkelstein says, the question of the Lobby is not “either-or.”

      By emphasizing the depravity and lies of the Zionist agenda, I’m not claiming that that is fundamental to the depravity and lies of USFP, which precede and supercede the Zionist movement. But a successful BDS movement might begin to poke a hole in USFP, in a manner that the South African movement clearly did not. Instead of claiming that the Zionists determine USFP, it would be more useful to point out that USFP exploits a history of Jewish suffering, as well as the Jewish ethical tradition, in order to oppress (primarily) Muslims.

      I don’t for a minute belive that someone like Sheldon Adelson or Michael Kotzin believes for one second that anything that they support would possibly undermine U.S. interests as they understand them–or that USFP would be conducted in a a manner that undermines U.S. interests. They’ve completely absorbed the idea that what is good for Israel is good for the U.S.; or that what is good for Jews is good for western civilization. This is the mentality of highly indoctrinated individuals, but not that of “Israel firsters.”

      • patm
        February 12, 2012, 1:02 pm

        They’ve completely absorbed the idea that what is good for Israel is good for the U.S.; or that what is good for Jews is good for western civilization. This is the mentality of highly indoctrinated individuals, but not that of “Israel firsters.”

        These two statements seem peculiar to me. What in your opinion is the mentality of Israel Firsters?

      • Annie Robbins
        February 12, 2012, 1:03 pm

        They’ve completely absorbed the idea that what is good for Israel is good for the U.S.; or that what is good for Jews is good for western civilization. This is the mentality of highly indoctrinated individuals, but not that of “Israel firsters.”

        huh, that can very much be an israel firster:

        ‘Israel-firsters’ are not those who put Israel first, but rather those who put an Israeli right-wing agenda first, even at the expense of American interests.

        http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/the-downside-of-unbridled-support-for-israel-1.409414

        more here: http://972mag.com/israel-firster-in-context-a-response-to-rightist-pro-israel-rhetoric/34160/

        those who have completely absorbed the idea what is good for Israel is good for the U.S, iow, those who see ‘no space’ between our policies can very much be israel firsters, if they are rightwing likud supporters. even i think what is best for the US is also best for israel, but i am not an israel firster.

        Despite this being U.S. foreign policy for quite a while, GOP candidates and mainstream American Jewish groups – bolstered by what is arguably the most rigid right-wing government Israel has ever had – have attacked Obama regularly for what they deem to be his deficient “pro-Israel” record, simply because he has condemned settlement construction. Obama has capitulated under the pressure and reasserted his strong “pro-Israel” (read: Israel right or wrong ) stance, for fear of losing the political and economic support he needs to win another term. Indeed, it is no secret that “pro-Israel” money (albeit, not all of it from Jews ) comprises a substantial percentage of all donations to political parties in the United States. Talking about “Jewish” – or more accurately, “pro-Israel” – money in American politics is therefore not inherently anti-Semitic: It is a given, and the effort to silence such debate is the problem.

        When progressive entities like the Center for American Progress and figures like M.J. Rosenberg use the term “Israel-firster,” they are attempting to deconstruct and challenge the notion that being “pro-Israel” means demanding unchecked support for Israeli policies, even when they directly conflict with the U.S. administration’s stated positions and its declared role as an arbiter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

        Such people are trying to dismantle the equation between opposition to Israel’s current reckless agenda, and concern for Israel’s long-term interests and impact on American geopolitics. They are identifying those, whether Jewish or Christian, Democrat or Republican, who, as Rosenberg put it, “consistently – and without exception – thwart the efforts of U.S. presidents to achieve Middle East peace.” “Israel-firsters” are not those who put Israel first, but rather those who put an Israeli right-wing agenda first, even at the expense of American interests.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 12, 2012, 1:14 pm

        My agreement with Chomsky that Israel is accurately viewed as a strategic asset by elites still stands. Changes in context could change that, but the context hasn’t changed that much–yet.

        That does not mean that elites view the occupation in this context, ….. But whether some elites benefit from this is apart from its relatonship to U.S. state interests.

        why? why is it apart from this relationship to the US? perhaps i am not understanding you. do you mean that there is general consistency on an economic level between elite “state interests” in the U.S. and Israel, based on both economic and military relationships with the exception in some circumstances wrt the occupation?

        do you mean the US has it’s relationship with the goi and shared interests but does not share an interest in the occupation? because if that’s what you mean it seems like an awfully big caveat. as if the occupation and israel are somehow not one or completely merged.

      • David Green
        February 12, 2012, 1:38 pm

        There may be specific material interests in supporting the occupation for some elites. From a general strategic perspective, supporting the occupation for material reasons may not be relevant to geopolitical strategy in the Middle East. The occupation isn’t about oil. It’s not about weapons sales to a major degree, I don’t think.

        Israel’s aggressiveness in occupying Palestine is co-terminous with its role as out “attack dog” in the ME. That doesn’t mean it can’t still be an attack dog even without an occupation. Therefore, more fundamental issues of USFP still have to be addressed, along with the occupation.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 13, 2012, 10:03 pm

        There may be specific material interests in supporting the occupation for some elites.

        and there may be specific interests in supporting the occupation for some elites that are completely driven by fanatical drive to colonize for the sake of owning all of eretz israel too. but i suppose that’s not something worth discussing..

      • Annie Robbins
        February 13, 2012, 10:07 pm

        Israel’s aggressiveness in occupying Palestine is co-terminous with its role as out “attack dog” in the ME.

        that’s funny, because when they attack, like in gaza and lebanon..somehow it doesn’t strike me as protecting US interests. aside from attacking as ‘our attack dog’ are their any instances where the dog is doing his own bidding in a way you think harms US interests, or is the occupation more of a non entity to US ‘elites’. and if he is our dog why does the lobby exist? if israel was doing our bidding wouldn’t the lobby be working in israel taking orders from the US. or do you think they do that too?

      • Chaos4700
        February 14, 2012, 12:53 am

        Psst psst, Lavon Affair and it’s role to undermine a relationship between Egypt and the US, as described by a “proud zionist.” Our relationship with Israel has, as a matter of historical record, always been one of detriment and danger to our interest as US citizens.

      • American
        February 12, 2012, 2:11 pm

        ” My view, as I’ve stated before, is that there is general consistency on an economic level between elite “state interests” in the U.S. and Israel, based on both economic and military relationships. I also think that Max Ajl and others you’ve mentioned, based on the work Nitzan-Bichler, etc., make a compelling case that both military and oil interests (petrodollar-weapondollar) benefit from a certain level of “instability” in the region. My agreement with Chomsky that Israel is accurately viewed as a strategic asset by elites still stands.”…David Green

        I would challenge the idea that there is some “intersection” of US elite interest and Israel elite interest that is responsible for support of Israel. There is a US elite interest and an Israel elite interest –but there is nothing Israel ‘offers” that US elites can’t find elsewhere if you are talking about arrangements where US elites profit.
        You’ll need to give me some concrete examples of where US Elites have profited by supporting Israel and gained anything from it they couldn’t have gotten in some other country.
        If you talking about elite ‘businesses”–both the US arms industry and US pharmaceutical industry opposed the US-Israel free trade agreement as detrimental to their interest.
        Provide a specific example of how US elites in general profit from supporting Israel. It can’t be one where the “already existing” US support provided Elites a ‘opportunity’ after the fact—it has to be where a elite urged support of Israel for a specific profit not obtainable elsewhere.

      • iamuglow
        February 12, 2012, 2:32 pm

        When you give advice like

        “Instead of claiming that the Zionists determine USFP, it would be more useful to point out that USFP exploits a history of Jewish suffering, as well as the Jewish ethical tradition, in order to oppress (primarily) Muslims.”

        You are just shifting focus/blame to some vague elites/USFP and making victims out of who? The Jewish community?

        Who would it be more “useful” for to focus on the “exploitation of Jewish suffering, as well as the Jewish ethical tradition”? To ask the question is to answer it.

        As Phil, Ynet, Pew and others have pointed out….You can assume that a near majority of elites are Zionists.
        http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4099803,00.html

        While I am sure they are positioned to benifit from the MIC/Oil the main motivation of people like Adelson/Saban influencing US FP is idealogical. Why would you think someone like Sheldon Adelson cares about US interests when he will go on in public about wanting his children to serve in the IDF? When he laments…that unfortunately he only served in the US military. He epitomizes an American who cares about the interest of Israel first and foremost.

        There is enough documented history to understand how/why US FP in the ME developed the way it did. Read the diary of James V. Forrestal, the first U.S. Secretary of Defense.

        http://mondoweiss.net/2010/07/60-years-ago-first-defense-secy-said-zionist-pressure-endangered-us-security-all-the-way-to-afghanistan.html

        Its clear and it had nothing to do with oil or economic interests of the elites…

        “4 September 1947 Cabinet Lunch

        At the end of the lunch [Robert] Hannegan [Postmaster General] brought up the question of the President’s making a statement of policy on Palestine, particularly with reference to the entrance of a hundred and fifty thousand Jews into Palestine. He said he didn’t want to press for a decision one way or the other but simply wanted to point out that such a statement would have a very great influence and great effect on the raising of funds for the Democratic National Committee. He said very large sums were obtained a year ago from Jewish contributors and that they would be influenced in either giving or withholding by what the President did on Palestine. “

      • David Green
        February 12, 2012, 3:04 pm

        Sheldon Adelson is an ignorant man who wants to feel like he’s doing God’s work in the manner in which he employs his ill-gotten wealth. He chooses Israel in order to feel like a big shot, and to feel that his ill-gotten gains have some larger moral meaning. If his activities clearly come into conflict with how elites view U.S. interests in the region, he’ll probably be persuaded by one means or another to change his mind as to the larger moral meaning of his wealth. He’ll remain ignorant in doing so.

      • iamuglow
        February 12, 2012, 6:01 pm

        Who are these elites that are going to corral Adelson, one of the richest people in the US? What makes you so certain that they don’t agree idealogical with Sheldon, and that supporting Israel is God’s work, no matter how high the cost to America?

        You want to say that “elites” are out there “exploiting a history of Jewish suffering, as well as the Jewish ethical tradition”…but you can’t name this group except to say they are elite and that they are somehow profitting from oil/MIC….you don’t think people should call them “Zionists”…you say that wouldn’t be “useful”.

        I don’t think you’re prepared to testify about this issue. You aren’t being objective. You’re talking about explotation of “the Jewish ethical tradition”, at a time where a full on Protocals of Zion type of conspiracy has been resurrected to demonize muslims.

        http://mondoweiss.net/2012/01/the-agenda-behind-the-anti-muslim-film-screened-to-nypd-protecting-greater-israel.html

        This has been funded and pushed into the mainstream of American culture by people who first and foremost are concerned with Israel. All this theories about petrodollars and corporate interest are a poor argument to how the world actually works.

        I encourage you to read the Forrestal diaries. That is how US policy comes into being.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 13, 2012, 9:56 pm

        If his activities clearly come into conflict with how elites view U.S. interests in the region, he’ll probably be persuaded by one means or another to change his mind

        i thought he was the third richest person in the US or something. what ‘elites’ are going to persuade him? and how? he is the elite. he said he was a one issue man, you think he wasn’t telling the truth. you can’t just dismiss a billionaire by calling him ignorant.

        He chooses Israel in order to feel like a big shot

        excuse me?

      • American
        February 12, 2012, 2:54 pm

        “I don’t for a minute belive that someone like Sheldon Adelson or Michael Kotzin believes for one second that anything that they support would possibly undermine U.S. interests as they understand them–or that USFP would be conducted in a a manner that undermines U.S. interests. They’ve completely absorbed the idea that what is good for Israel is good for the U.S.; or that what is good for Jews is good for western civilization.”…David

        Wrong. What those like Adelson believe is that Jews and Israel come before the US . What they also believe along with this, and what they think gives them protection and safety in promoting the Jews and Israel first, is that the vast power and resources of the US can withstand any drain on it or damage to it caused by Israel.
        That is not the same as believing our interest are identical.
        It is the same attitude and belief as Eric Alterman expressed when he said….that in a toss up between Israel and the US interest, America would have to take the hit because it could withstand it better than Israel.
        They also believe that the US government will ignore and could control or contain any citizens or public outburst or protest against Israel or their influence or activities so they feel protected in their very public activities and agenda.
        Whether the Adelsons are justified in believing these things over the long term we have yet to find out.

      • David Green
        February 12, 2012, 3:07 pm

        I wouldn’t take too seriously what Eric Alterman says about anything. He’s a self-promoting liberal of the worst order. If his views about Israel were to threaten his position at the Nation, he’d change them. In a second. His forte, along with Todd Gitlin, is political posturing. They want to assert the moral superiority of the non-left left. That’s why the Nation has largely gone into the dumpster.

  9. patm
    February 12, 2012, 1:07 pm

    annie, I’ve confused. Is this the David Green who in his 19 comments used your name more that 19 times? Or is this another David Green?

    • Annie Robbins
      February 12, 2012, 1:15 pm

      same. one of the things that seem to be missing from this particular discussion is that green tends to attack those who disagree with his argument as anti semites. that’s not really explored here, yet. or perhaps i am just confused.

      i also am a fan of both chomsky and finklestien and have actually argued here before the settlements are american colonies (that went over like a lead brick), so i’m not clear how he’s merged my opinion with blankforts (whom i respect btw). my views are not quite as polarized as many in this debate. for example i interpret green as making more of a conceptual division between ‘USFP’ and the zionist agenda. i’m not sure that is really possible at this stage when the state department is chock full of neocons. zionists are completely embedded into our government to the point it’s hard to find out of the closet non zionists, so under these circumstances it’s a little hard to argue the interests of both countries is not the same (since the agenda of neocons is merging the interests of both, which they’ve done to great success thus far..although this push for war with iran is going to be hard to conceal under the cloak of shared values), from a government standpoint. but he’s done a good job of it w/his caveat about “whether some elites benefit ” from the occupation. rather glaring omission tho if you ask me. that’s rather the difference between israel supporters and israel supporters who are israel firsters, the israel firsters support the settlements. the settlements are definitely NOT in the interests of the US, but one would hardly guess that the way we recently protected them with our veto…which is a perfect example of zionist control over conflicting agendas. so occasionally it rears it’s ugly little head, like the 100-0 sanctions when obama advised against them.

      • David Green
        February 12, 2012, 1:45 pm

        “the settlements are definitely NOT in the interests of the US, but one would hardly guess that the way we recently protected them with our veto…which is a perfect example of zionist control over conflicting agendas.”

        In terms of U.S. interests, as perceived by elites, the settlements have for the most part been neither here nor there. That’s why they’re still there. They’ve been supported by all administrations in Israel, not just Likud. They’ve been supported by all administrations in the U.S., not just by neocons. Israel has its own interests, as do all mercenaries. But it’s chosen, above all, to be a mercenary for U.S. imperial interests.

        Just because that’s ultimately a self-destructive course for both Israel and the U.S. doesn’t mean that the 1% in both countries doesn’t benefit from it. They benefit from all kinds of destruction.

        The settlements are fundamental to the Zionist project. They’re not fundamental to the U.S. imperial project. But they’re tolerated or supported in light of Israel’s role in the Middle East, which is to project imperial power, control access to oil, and keep the MIC well-oiled.

      • Keith
        February 12, 2012, 5:19 pm

        DAVID GREEN- “The settlements are fundamental to the Zionist project. They’re not fundamental to the U.S. imperial project. But they’re tolerated or supported in light of Israel’s role in the Middle East, which is to project imperial power, control access to oil, and keep the MIC well-oiled.”

        Exactly. I agree with what you say, however, would like to add a few points of my own which you may or may not agree with. First of all, I think there is a lot of imprecision when people discuss “the lobby.” To some, this refers to an Israel lobby, to others a Zionist lobby, and to yet others a Zionist lobby writ large as in James Petras Zionist Power Configuration. This is not a trivial matter. An Israel lobby is correctly inferred to be a somewhat limited group of lobbyists who take their orders from Israel, that is, Israel is calling the shots on lobby activity. A Zionist lobby would refer to those Zionists who specifically advocate for Israel based upon their notion of what is best for Israel, which may or may not coincide with official Israeli policy, but is usually closely aligned. The final group consists of all relevant areas of domestic power which think they benefit from Israeli militarism and its relationship to empire. The military-industrial complex an obvious example. Problems arise when people refer to the Zionist Power Configuration as the Israel lobby. The implication being that the situation in Israel/Palestine is somehow external to empire rather than inexorably linked to the imperial project as shaped by Zionist influenced strategic considerations.

        In regards to the imperial project, my sense is that neo-liberal globalization is a move away from a nation based American empire towards a transnational financial/corporate empire. America functioning as a kind of Prussia to enforce a global financial, energy, food matrix of control. Nations, particularly Third World nations, dependent for survival upon the global financial system for food, fuel, etc. The US is the lone superpower on a downward trajectory which, if uncorrected, could lead to rivals capable of resisting global financial control. We have entered a small window of opportunity for the emerging global empire to use US military power to preempt anticipated challenges to corporate/financial control. An extremely dangerous period. How this will effect Israel/Palestine is unclear, at least to me. I doubt there is much chance of a change in US/Israel Middle East policy until the larger situation resolves itself, which may occur soon. When the smoke clears, if we are still here, a reassessment will be in order.

      • David Green
        February 12, 2012, 6:29 pm

        I agree, of course, that more analytical nuance would be helpful, and that this is helpful; that would include in regard to Christian Zionism.

      • American
        February 13, 2012, 3:00 am

        “Israel has its own interests, as do all mercenaries. But it’s chosen, above all, to be a mercenary for U.S. imperial interests.”…Green

        I have been thru this numerous times and never get an answer from you ‘it’s not the Lobby” people…..so give me an EXAMPLE of any mercenary interest Israel has fulfilled for the US Imperial interest.
        Unless your opinons come from a Chomsky and Hasbara comic book you’re bound to have some evidence and factual documentation, proof of what Israel has produced for the US imperial project.

        Is it a fact that Israel caused the Arab embargo of oil to the US in 1973? Yes.
        How do we know this? Because the Arabs said they were embargoing us because of Israel’s war. If you aren’t old enough to remember it look it up.

        Has Israel ever secured any oil interest for the US. No. In fact the US under the MOU of 73 has to guarantee Israel US oil becuase the ME countries won’t. In fact in the last 3 years we have had to ship US refined fuel to Israel 5 times.

        Did Israel’s attack on Lebanon secure any US interest. No. It produced no material benefit to the US and cost us in UN donations to repair oil slick environmental damages caused by Israel bombing of Lebanon fuel depots.

        Did the US get any control of Iraq’s oil after a trillion dollar war? No. In fact US companies got one contract out of 7 contracts let for Iraq oil production, the rest went to the EU, Russia and China oil production companies.

        Did the US get any resources or material benefit from Egypt during Mubarak? No. Israel got gas at reduced prices, the US got and gets nothing for it’s aid to Egypt except the peace agreement for Israel by Carter that initiated the aid.

        Did the US get any benefit from changing Egypt’s free trade zones and imposing the condition that their cotton products must contain 12% Israeli made products if they were to be imported as free trade material into the US. No, the US got nothing from that, no change in price, no change in amount,no up in US exports to Egypt, nothing ,nada, zip, zero. The only thing that changed and the one who benefited from that US requirement was Israel.

        Surely you who claim that the Israel Lobby has nothing to do with our support of Israel and that Israel serves the US can come up with ONE real example of Israel ACTUALLY producing or securing some mercernary interest for the US. Especially a better one than a shared interest in preventing Arab nationalism when resentment of Israel is one of the inspirations and rallying cries for Arab nationalism.
        If US imperialism was goal and actually “controlling” the ME for oil or any other reason was the goal the US would be an ally of Iran, who ‘is’ a major influencer in the region and ‘could secure some real US oil interest, just as it does with Saudi and UAE…instead of Israel.

        Come on…if you want to prove it’s not the Israel lobby –because that is the claim you are pushing , that the Lobby has nothing to do with our support of Israel —then give me a concrete factual example of what Israel has secured for, how it serves the US Imperial project.
        Otherwise you’re full of crap.

  10. Nevada Ned
    February 12, 2012, 2:05 pm

    More on US imperial interests and Israel’s interests:

    The main imperial interest that the US has in the middle east is control over the oil fields. It’s *control*, not just *access*, they’re very different. If the US has control, the US can threaten to cut off oil to Japan or China or Europe if they don’t submit to US policies.

    The main threat to US control over the oil is Arab nationalism. And the US has opposed Arab nationalism: the young Nasser, the young Qaddafi, etc. The US prefers the Saudi regime and the Mubarak dictatorship.

    Israel has its own reasons for wanting to keep the Arab world divided, backward, and weak. A strong and united Arab world could exert pressure on Israel to restore the Palestinian’s rights.

    So the upshot is that the US and Israel are natural allies in the common opposition to Arab nationalism. The vast amounts of US aid to Israel is not explainable any other way.
    Yes, there is an Israel lobby. But US aid was important to Israel even before the 1967 war – and lots of people have shown that the Israel lobby became much more important after the 1967 war. By the way, none of this has anything to do with democracy or freedom. It’s all about oil and empire.

    Of course counterarguments could be made: Israel is a strategic liability as well as a strategic asset to the US empire. Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians has fostered anti-US sentiment. But these counterargument have never prevailed, even when voiced by card-carrying members of the foreign policy establishment (Mearsheimer and Walt). Israel’s racist policies have angered the Arab “street”, but until a year ago, the Arab “street” was impotent.

    I should add hat US and Israeli interests are not always aligned: consider the 1956 Suez crisis, or the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. But in the long run, and for the most part, US and Israeli leaders have thought of their common interests in opposing Arab nationalism.

    Want a recent example of the US/Israeli alliance in action? In 2006 Israel invaded Lebanon, and attempted to crush Hezbollah. Israel dropped bunker-buster bombs in an attempt to kill the Hezbollah leadership. Those bunker-buster bombs were supplied by the US. So that’s the two countries in action.

    Of course, the 200 war ended in a military draw between Israel and Hezbollah, which is really a defeat for Israel. But the point is that the US wanted somebody to eliminate Hezbollah, and the US wanted Israel to do it, not the US. If the Israeli bombing had succeeded, US and Israel readers would be gloating. After the 1967 war, Arab national in Egypt never recovered.

    The 2011 Arab Spring may throw all these considerations out the window, but it’s now too early to tell.

    • Annie Robbins
      February 12, 2012, 2:16 pm

      so nevada, why do you think such a strong israel lobby exists? it seems rather redundant to have a lobby pushing for policies the US would adopt anyway, doesn’t it? seems like a waste of time. or don’t you think the lobby is all that’s it’s cracked up to be. do you think it’s power is mostly mythological in nature?

      • patm
        February 12, 2012, 2:44 pm

        do you think it’s power is mostly mythological in nature?

        I’ll try and get my oar in before nevada replies, annie.

        The power of the strong Israel lobby is based not only on the US perceived need to control access to oil, but on religion. The lobby draws a great deal of its power from Jewish and Christian Zionists, deluded Israel Firsters who believe in the coming of a messiah or the return of one in Israel. (annie I’m having trouble with your use of the word ‘mythological’ in this comment. :)

    • Danaa
      February 12, 2012, 3:16 pm

      Nevada, Annie – here’s a slightly different overview on The Lobby vs The Empire conundrum:

      If The Lobby, which is really The Israel Lobby. was there to support the interests of some normal country somewhere in the ME, that would be one thing. And we could indeed argue and debate things like collusions of interests and “strategic” or even just tactical alliances. But Israel is not a normal country and has not been on a “normal” course for quite some time now (and maybe from the beginning). Israel has been moving rightward, at an ever accelerating pace, and as it has, The Lobby moved with it. At this point, Israeli Likudist agenda has moved so far to the right that it can find a true home only among the neocons and the Christian zionists (the latter thanks to them being truly low information citizens – by choice). That means that The Lobby opened a gap not only with the liberal left in America – where most Jewish people are to be found, but with mainstream America, which shuns extremism for the most part.

      That last one may not yet be obvious to all, hence the Lobby’s efforts to pull the wool over as many eyes as it can. This is, however, quite obvious to many who take interest in foreign policy, who cannot but notice that The Lobby has been steadily opening a gap with the American version of imperialism. Given that the American imperialist model is one which would – under normal circumstances – prefer to exercise pragmatic “soft” control, rather than overt conquest and meddling in other countries affairs. To wit, the Iraq war – which was entirely unnecessary – if control over oil was the main agenda. And now the sword rattling against Iran, again, quite unnecessary, given the many opportunities for alignment of interests between America and Iran, which could have been carried out through any number of channels. Those alignments could also well wrap Israel’s interests into the mix, were israel a “normal” country. But it is not, so the whole world is moving towards ever crazier scenarios, because the crazy has a way of winning over the sensible.

      So IMO, while the arguments over “strategic” alliances may have once had merit, this line of rational analysis thought has fallen victim to the forces of irrationality that have – and are continuing – to take over Israel itself. That country is standing on the precipice of theocratic fascism, something that the world has not seen much of, at least not on the scale it is about to evolve into. That’s why, IMO, the arguments of Lobby vs Imperialism have been taking on such a toxic flavor. The fans of rational pragmatic analysis find it difficult to argue their case when standing at the edge of a cesspool of irrationality, so they sometimes wish it away, taking refuge in side-tracks about things fungible and otherwise. OTOH, the ones who see the cesspool all too clearly, are too busy fighting the malodorous bad vapors. Unsurprisingly, many in this camp have lost patience with a the seemingly “cool-headed” line of argumentation over policies and national interests that is about to sink – hook, line and sinker, into the pit.

      What I see, over and over again is that certain individuals, who are otherwise quite cogent, cannot bring themselves to deal with the fact that an irrational element has been working overtime to negate their finest points of argument.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 12, 2012, 3:52 pm

        i completely agree danaa, well stated.

        the Lobby’s efforts to pull the wool over as many eyes as it can. This is, however, quite obvious to many who take interest in foreign policy, who cannot but notice that The Lobby has been steadily opening a gap with the American version of imperialism.

        the agenda of destabilization as a means to control or ‘deal with’ the ME as opposed to more diplomatic or democratic alternatives is not beneficial nor particularly a choice the US would have necessarily made sans zionist influence. now that we’re in it full throttle it’s easy enough to make the claim it’s what we would have don’t anyway but i’m not sure that’s the case. since the neocons are so embedded it’s difficult to gauge how much influence there has been but whether we would have invaded iraq is dubious.

        the tactic of pulling the wool over americans eyes via silencing us is an old agenda. everything employed for propaganda purposes by the goi and the lobby is off limits for us to discuss and deemed anti semitic. the holocaust industry is employed continually as a justification for the protection of israel so of course it is off limits (which would be fine if it wasn’t constantly employed at the service of continued ethnic cleansing). the power of the lobby is off limits particularly the way they wield that power. that’s all hush hush and then when it comes out of the closet like with adelson the way in which it is discussed is heavily monitored and deemed anti semitic. so everything around that power structure is monitored. it has to be simple and structured with clear red lines, boundaries for appropriate speech and narrative with little room for deviation or exploration. and it is a cesspool and the vapors are seeping out. it stinks and because it can’t be visibly seen everything becomes a debate..but it stinks. that’s for certain and it’s getting worse, there’s no hiding the smell anymore. the MO to cover it up is huge doses of fear mongering, and anyone who doesn’t think that will come back to bite them in the rear is fooling themselves.

      • MHughes976
        February 12, 2012, 4:11 pm

        We might have sought to secure our oil either by merely having good relations with those sitting on top of it or else by controlling them and promoting those factions ready to help us. The reason for the first policy might have been what Nasser used to say – the Arabs cannot drink the oil. It’s as essential to them to sell the stuff as it is for us to buy it.
        Treating an intrusive and hostile power in the Arabs’ midst as a strategic ally clearly tends to wreck that policy. But it isn’t much more helpful when it comes to the second, since our increasing dedication to Israel has to some extent antagonised every faction that there is in the Arab and Islamic world. I can’t think of any historical precedent that’s even approximately close.
        I think that the need of the empire for oil goes hardly anywhere in explaining the empire’s ME policy.

      • David Green
        February 13, 2012, 6:17 pm

        Kind of like we had “good relations” with Iran after we overthrew their government and installed the Shah? Or was the Lobby responsible for that, too?

      • American
        February 13, 2012, 7:21 pm

        Actually David the case of Iran is the best one you can offer for your position.
        It’s also the best one for why the US hadn’t previously done a regime change in the ME and none since until the exception of Bush Jr. dragging exiled Kaziar back into Afghan to install him as ruler.
        Iran was a spectular failure. Just as Afghan is now a spectular failure.
        Israel was not the factor behind that one, Britian was–because the secular dem ruler of Iran at that time had nationalized Iran oil industry and cut the UK firms out of 40% of their profits. The US joined in a plot with the Brits to install the Shah to recoup the UK oil contracts and be repaid in kind. The only thing the Israelis had to do with it was they provided some agents in return for future considerations under the Shah. However this example that you could have presented still doesn’t explain or cover for the lobby on other US ME actions.

      • David Green
        February 13, 2012, 8:07 pm

        The U.S. hasn’t had a history of being delicate in its foreign affairs, anywhere. It’s hard to see how the Lobby has determined that in the ME.

      • teta mother me
        February 13, 2012, 9:18 pm

        the Lobby has certainly been responsible for perpetuating antagonism between the US and Iran.
        At every point where Iran made gestures- or US made gestures- toward settling differences, Lobby intervened. Most easily demonstrated sand-in-the-gears was 1995 when Iran took less favorable CONOCO bid to develop oil fields, as a confidence building measure. Keith Weissman was working for AIPAC at the time. He describes how AIPAC got an executive order sanctioning Iran signed by Clinton, then got legislation (D’Amato Amendment) passed to ensure that a different president was not able to abrogate the sanctions.

        In addition, Israel was deeply entwined with the Shah’s regime, and made a ton of money selling (defective) weapons to Iran.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 13, 2012, 9:33 pm

        It’s hard to see how the Lobby has determined that in the ME.

        so has the lobby determined anything in USFP or are they just along for the ride? matter of fact why do they bother, we would have made all the same moves without them…or something.

        the state department prolly would have acted just the same had it been stuffed w/arabists like the ol daze too. it’s so hard to see how the lobby has ever determined ..anything.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 13, 2012, 9:40 pm

        the Lobby has certainly been responsible for perpetuating antagonism between the US and Iran.

        gee ya think. i simply adore the last line in this 3 page 1992 nyt article
        C.I.A. Says Iran Makes Progress On Atom Arms:
        http://www.nytimes.com/1992/11/30/world/cia-says-iran-makes-progress-on-atom-arms.html
        “These experts add that Iran has so far to go and so little money to spend that its reinforced military force might be unable to do more than to deter aggression by its neighbors. They also blame the Israeli Government for fanning the recent alarm by portraying Iran as the most dangerous threat to both the region’s and Israel’s security.

        sorry for the repeat, i gotta hand to the israelis they are persistent. 20 years later and they’re still chomping at the bit.

      • David Green
        February 14, 2012, 11:58 am

        “the Lobby has certainly been responsible for perpetuating antagonism between the US and Iran.”

        Of course. But it’s utterly ridiculous to assert that the U.S. would be on good terms with Iran otherwise. It’s just completely, totally, utterly ridiculous. The explanation is consistent with our relationship with any country that doesn’t accede to our “interests.”

        I don’t think that this should be hard to understand. The Lobby is used to explain to much about USFP. The Lobby analysis, if you can call it that, has become a doctrine, and it’s become a cult, especially on this website.

      • patm
        February 14, 2012, 12:36 pm

        The Lobby analysis, if you can call it that, has become a doctrine, and it’s become a cult, especially on this website.

        David, this is not an argument.

        You’ve been given space on mondo for an entire article plus rebuttals to make your case. You have failed to do so. You might like to consider that it your own analysis that is flawed

      • teta mother me
        February 13, 2012, 8:25 pm

        Christian zionists do not believe what they believe out of “ignorance” but out of a deliberate, century-long effort on the part of zionists to turn Christianity into a warrior cult that would support the zionist agenda — see The Roots of Christian Zionism: How Scofield Sowed Seeds of Apostasy. Cyrus Scofield was supported by zionist leader Sam Untermyer in Scofield’s work to produce the 1908 Scofield annotated Old Testament.

        Other forms of tinkering with religious beliefs involved scrubbing from the biblical imagination all traces of Palestinian history and culture, as well as erasing from memory the Zoroastrian roots of key concepts in Judaism and Christianity. The former is explained by Dr. Keith Whitelam in this presentation about his book, The Invention of Ancient Israel, and the Silencing of Palestinian History.

        Dr. Richard Foltz demonstrates the influence of Iran’s Zoroaster on Judaism and Christianity in Spirituality in the Land of the Noble: How Iran Shaped the World’s Religions :

        “The chapter on Judaism covers ground that is perhaps more commonly known, in the West at least, since much of Old Testament history involves the exile of ancient Israelis to Persia . “It can rightly be said that the Jewish diaspora, spanning twenty-seven centuries, begins in Iran,” writes Dr. Foltz. He also writes that Judaism “underwent one of its most radical transformations” as a result of contact with the Persians.

        Dr. Foltz suggests, for example, that the Israelites derived the concept of the messiah from the Zoroastrian “Saoshyant” savior figure.

        In his chapter on Christianity, Dr. Foltz notes that the three “wise men” who, according to Matthew, came to witness the birth of Jesus, were clearly identified as Zoroastrian Magi from Iran.

        It goes without saying that Islam had a huge impact on Iran . What is perhaps less well known is the degree of impact that Iran had on the practice of Islam. Although Islam originated in Arabia, Dr. Foltz writes, it was mainly Iranian followers who, among other things, were chiefly responsible for compiling the sayings of Muhammad ( Hadith ), creating the concept of the Islamic school ( madrasa ), and writing the first systematic grammar for Arabic.

        While Foltz finds the Persian influence “transformative” to Judaism and fundamentally shaping several key concepts in Judaism, Moses Mendelsohn and subsequent “modernizers” of the Old Testament locate the origins of their study of Judaism centuries later, in the second temple period — like so many children grown up and successful, choosing to forget where they came from. Amy Jill Levine makes a clean sweep of all elements of Persian influence in her teaching that the Magi, or three Wise Men whom Foltz identifies as Persian, were really fools, clowns, not from the Orient, and not wise at all.

      • patm
        February 14, 2012, 8:28 am

        Dr. Foltz suggests, for example, that the Israelites derived the concept of the messiah from the Zoroastrian “Saoshyant” savior figure.”

        Joseph Campbell in his Historical Atlas of World Mythology, Vol. II, Part I (The Sacrifice) writes this on page 87:

        “The Persian answer to the question of the way of life proper to mankind was in the building and enlargement of a humanely governed world empire under God. The prophet of this mandate, Zarathustra (in Greek Zoroaster)…”

        “The outline of his mythological innovation, however, is distinct and impressive. It is of two contrary creators, a good and an evil, Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu. Good and evil are therefore at the ground of being. They are not merely relative, referential, but are opposed absolutes. They are final terms. Zorastrianism is thus the earliest ethically based religion in the whole history of this subject. The term “beyond good and evil” in this system makes no sense, and is thus deceptive, itself evil, and of Angra Mainyu.”

  11. Dan Crowther
    February 12, 2012, 2:15 pm

    green is a very good writer. great essay. i think it could be limited to two points:

    A biased and discriminatory political agenda, dictated and limited by Israeli state interests and U.S. hegemonic interests in the region, is thus inevitably part and parcel of such academic agreements.

    And:

    Nevertheless, popular support for Israel, including among Jews and on campuses, is at an all-time low. The recent and welcome radicalization of the notion of “occupy,” combined with the principles and goals of the BDS movement, suggests assertive and persistent responses to Lobby business as usual on campus and in state government.
    —————————————-
    Regardless of how one feels about the Israel Lobby and its power within the official american system, I think we can all agree that a lot of the “exposing the lobby” stories have a real “MSNBC” quality to them. “ALEC Exposed!” It evokes a sense of “No Shit!” in the reader/viewer.

    This is not to say that these people do not deserve our scorn, or that their efforts do not have a negative impact on the Palestinian struggle – but I do think it is important to remind ourselves of the grave injustices we americans allow in our own society, before we get indignant about state sponsored injustice in a far away land.

    It’s very to explain the existence of the Israel Lobby and ALEC when we consider the nature of the state, the vast resources of some private citizens, the malaise producing corporate media/entertainment complex and the openness of the american system – i mean, if you got the will and some cash, the sky is the limit. Whatever else is true about the lobby – they are tireless and have the resources, just like the billionaire right wingers who support groups like ALEC. Our problem isn’t with the Lobby, it’s with the institutions that enable the lobby.

    And I think this is part of the generational divide that is evident in the views of young people – they don’t view the lobby and the state as being separate, they see it as one entity, and I think that helps to explain why Israel is now getting crushed in the court of (young) public opinion, young people are looking around to see gross inequalities, discrimination and corruption as institutional imperatives and in that sense, the lobby becomes just another spoke on the wheel. The lobby’s line has become the official line – young folks ain’t buying the official line on anything.

    I think Green is still routing for institutions to come to their senses, and thus focuses on the entities corrupting institutional policies – but if we look at these institutions in their totality, I think we find them to be incapable of any such thing. Public Universities being just one very illustrative example.

    • Dan Crowther
      February 12, 2012, 2:36 pm

      And just another example – we could be at this forever:
      http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2012/02/israel-and-hollywood.html

      “Israel and Hollywood
      “The exchange between the two countries is now so substantial that people often speak of a “pipeline” going back and forth. And the mainstream media, including the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and Nikki Finke’s Deadline.com all have taken note. “Not since Golda Meir wanted everyone to make and write ‘Exodus’ has there been so much activity,” Ben Silverman, founder and CEO of Electus and the former co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, said in a recent interview. “I do think there’s a renaissance happening,” said Sherry Lansing, the former studio chief of Paramount Pictures.” (thanks Houssam)”

      • seafoid
        February 12, 2012, 3:22 pm

        “The exchange between the two countries is now so substantial that people often speak of a “pipeline” going back and forth.

        Ultimately Israel has nothing to offer the US or Europe. Rich Jewish donors provide the money to keep things ticking over but Israel is like Rupert Murdoch was in the UK until last July. When things start to go wrong political patrons look away and support evaporates. Israel is headed for the same fate. It won’t be next week or the week after but it is coming.

        Israel is not going to command the loyalty of the generation that is now under age 30.

        The other point relates to the evangelicals. At some stage they are going to figure out that they have been shafted by the republicans in favour of the plutocrats and the Zionists.

        It’s going to be a real mess.

      • patm
        February 12, 2012, 5:39 pm

        Israel is not going to command the loyalty of the generation that is now under age 30.

        Speaking of this generation, seafoid, Bill Moyers has a terrific pair of interviews on his show this week.

        Full Show: Economic Malpractice and the Millennials
        February 10, 2012 | Moyers & Company
        How economic inequality destroys opportunity for the Millennial generation.

        http://billmoyers.com/topics/money-politics/

      • gloopygal
        February 12, 2012, 7:28 pm

        A friend of mine says her 13-year-old twins have spent over a month studying the Holocaust in one of their classes. Back when I was in school they didn’t say a whole lot about it …

      • seafoid
        February 13, 2012, 6:36 am

        http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/fb14a614-53db-11e1-bacb-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz1mGEizBV1

        a profound problem with US manufacturing employment remains. In terms of sales and earnings, the industry looks likely to thrive, especially in more high-tech, capital-intensive sectors such as cars, aerospace and medical devices. However, it may not create many more jobs. The government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said this month it expected the total number of manufacturing positions to shrink between 2010 and 2020.

        Moreover, the traditional idea of manufacturing as a source of middle-class jobs for people with little formal education, which has been in decline for decades, is being chipped away further. New workers on lower pay at the car plants will have less comfortable lives than their predecessors. They are also likely to find it hard to make career progress: the well-paid jobs that remain in manufacturing, using advanced equipment and materials, are increasingly intellectually demanding. A rising proportion of manufacturing jobs now requires education beyond high school.

        The comeback of US manufacturing is real but it will never again create prosperous middle-class cities such as 1950s Detroit. There is no conceivable manufacturing revival that will bring back all the jobs that have gone.

    • David Green
      February 12, 2012, 3:14 pm

      “I think Green is still routing for institutions to come to their senses, and thus focuses on the entities corrupting institutional policies – but if we look at these institutions in their totality, I think we find them to be incapable of any such thing. Public Universities being just one very illustrative example.”

      No. I’m rooting for us to finish what we started in the 60s.

      • Dan Crowther
        February 12, 2012, 3:18 pm

        Far Out! haha – i can dig that my brother.

      • American
        February 13, 2012, 6:09 pm

        I hate to have to keep bringing the lobby facts into this.
        Particularly facts as given by those who use to work for the lobby and know it intimately and who also worked on Capitol Hill and knows how it all operates.
        Cause it looks like I am picking on Dan but it can’t be helped.

        MJ Rosenberg

        “McCollum described what happened next. In short, she was threatened by an AIPAC official from her district, called a “terrorist supporter” and warned that her behaviour “would not be tolerated”. In response, McCollum told AIPAC not to come near her office again until it apologised.

        Read more from MJ Rosenberg:

        McCollum was not, of course, the only legislator threatened that way. She is, however, the only one in memory who went public.

        As one who worked on Capitol Hill for 20 years, I know that many, if not most, legislators who vote with AIPAC complain about its strong-arm tactics – but only in private. In fact, some of the most zealous defenders of Netanyahu and faithful devotees of the lobby complain most of all. Among staff, AIPAC’s arrival in their offices during the conference is a source of dread. Hill staff, much like legislators themselves, like to think they are perhaps a little important. AIPAC eliminates that illusion. Although AIPAC calls its requests “asks”, they are, in fact, “tells” – and “no” is not a permissible response. (Staffers who like AIPAC, and there are a few, tend to work with it hand-in-glove, which is how AIPAC invariably knows what is going on even before the elected representatives do.”

    • Thomson Rutherford
      February 13, 2012, 5:23 pm

      @Dan Crowther:

      Our problem isn’t with the Lobby, it’s with the institutions that enable the lobby.

      Please don’t be offended, Dan, but your writing is often opaque. You appear to want to avoid clarity in expressing your opinions concerning sensitive (but extremely important) issues.

      Coming across as another Apologist for the Israel Lobby, you seem to be unaware of, or avoid acknowledging, the raw external power that the highly organized and well-funded Lobby exerts over “institutions” – as well as the Lobby’s remarkable infiltration and internal capture of those same “institutions.” Is this an unfair criticism?

      • Dan Crowther
        February 14, 2012, 10:47 am

        “your writing is often opaque”

        — WOW. That’s a first. I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of hiding my inner feelings(especially here on MW) – this is new territory for me…

        “Coming across as another Apologist for the Israel Lobby, you seem to be unaware of, or avoid acknowledging, the raw external power that the highly organized and well-funded Lobby exerts over “institutions” – as well as the Lobby’s remarkable infiltration and internal capture of those same “institutions.” Is this an unfair criticism?”
        ——————————————-

        Well, no, I don’t think that it would be an unfair criticism, if I really was “unaware..of the raw external power” of the Lobby. But I don’t think that I am, but it’s probably hard to know of what you are unaware.

        In regards to the Lobby, I think the main point of difference between my views and (possibly) the views of others is – I am not at all surprised, nor do I think any of us should surprised, at the power of the “Israel Lobby.”
        The system allows for, and one could say is designed for, the capture of legislative power by well financed groups with an agenda.

        American knows I know about the nefarious activities of the Lobby – I don’t deny for one second that the Lobby plays a pivotal role in our Congress’s unflinching support of Israel.

        I’ve been thinking about this the last few days, after the exchanges with McBride, American and others on a different thread here – I think I might have bridged the gap between the different strains of thinking here.

        Why not just call them fascists? Maybe we should just admit that we have a fascist element in the American body politic – and that it takes the form of the Israel Lobby, messianic christian fundies, nativists, and parts of the national security state — and gets its financing by big industrialists etc..

        I say this because when I look around at the Israel Lobby roster, I see many of the same names and groups that cheer on war no matter where it takes place. So, in wanting to be consistent, rather than just emphasizing one area of US Foreign Policy ( which in my view is too often done by “lobby” enthusiasts), I find the term “fascist” useful.

        I mean, all the main earmarks are there. And maybe most importantly, they (the fascists) have dictated the terms of the debate, and brought “the left” ( at least the represented left) waaaaay over to the right, in economic terms, in foreign policy terms, in labor relations, in immigration – the list goes on. There is little to no daylight between the two political parties on most matters, aside from “culture war” issues – in fact, some elected democrats are instrumental proponents of the fascist agenda – whether it be abridging civil liberties, expanding the security/surveillance state, pursuing a corporatist economic agenda or pressing for aggressive war(s). We talk of the Israelification of the US here all the time, I personally consider the Israeli Government to be fascist, so “israelification” to me, means adoption of fascist policies.

        And when I look up at American’s post, I think – who does that shit? Who threatens and berates people? Ruins their lives? Who looks to silence, shout down etc.? Fascists (or other authoritarians). It’s the same answer you would give to, “who kills OBGYN’s? Who burns Korans or protests Mosque’s? Or, who says, “america is a christian nation?” Again, we can go on….

      • Keith
        February 14, 2012, 1:08 pm

        DAN CROWTHER- “The system allows for, and one could say is designed for, the capture of legislative power by well financed groups with an agenda.”

        Congratulations, you have described the very essence of capitalism. The control of society by concentrated economic power. The rule of money.

      • Thomson Rutherford
        February 27, 2012, 10:31 pm

        Thanks, Dan. Sorry I didn’t see your reply earlier. Nothing opaque about that rant – I liked it. Keep it up.

        I would only add that, IMO, political Zionism and fascist-style capitalism/imperialism need to be treated as two distinct evil forces preventing good government. Each would exist without the other, and still be disastrous. Of course, Zionism itself has major elements of fascism contained within it.

  12. MHughes976
    February 13, 2012, 6:03 pm

    Lobbyists and members of institutions that are all too happy to be lobbied, thinking that they gain security of career in exchange for a few fulsome words and throwing around a bit of public money, are two sides of one coin, I think. Coin may be the right word.

Leave a Reply