By Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh
AIPAC (https://www.aipac.org/ ) has mobilized its vast resources to attack the few voices in Congress that piut US interests ahead of Israeli Interests (see for example https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/nov/11/israel-ads-attack-rashida-tlaib-us-politicians). So what is AIPAC and how was it founded and why? There is another and a bit more moderate pro-Israel lobby called J Street (https://jstreet.org/ ). I will not cover the differences here (they both do not support a ceasefire while 120 countries do). There are also hundreds of pro-Israel organizations spending hundreds of millions to ensure the media and the officials walk lockstep with the Israeli government (e.g. Canary Mission, Zionist Organization of America, Anti-Defamation League etc). Here I will focus on the successful efforts of the lobby on shaping US foreign policy so that it is pro-Israel (which means pro-colonization, pro-apartheid, and now pro genocide see ongaza.org). Similar articles can be written about the Zionist lobby in other "western" countries like UK, France, and Australia but here I focus on the US where I lived and worked for almost three decades before I returned to Palestine in 2008.
First a short element of history from my book “Sharing the land of Canaan”:
The events leading up to the early support of Britain, France and the US for Zionist colonization received little historical discussion. … This came in France first with a letter sent from Jules Cambon, Secretary General of the French Foreign Ministry to Nahum Sokolow (at the time head of the political wing of the World Zionist Organization based in London) dated June 4, 1917: “You were kind enough to inform me of your project regarding the expansion of the Jewish colonization of Palestine. You expressed to me that, if the circumstances were allowing for that, and if on another hand, the independency of the holy sites was guaranteed, it would then be a work of justice and retribution for the allied forces to help the renaissance of the Jewish nationality on the land from which the Jewish people was exiled so many centuries ago. … I am happy to give you herewith such assurance.” Some five months later, on November 2, 1917, the British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour conveyed to Lord Rothschild a similar declaration of sympathy with Zionist aspirations. It stated that: “His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”… Lord Balfour wrote in a private memorandum sent to Lord Curzon, his successor at the Foreign Office (Curzon initially opposed Zionism) on 11 August 1919: “For in Palestine we do not propose to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants ... The four great powers are committed to Zionism and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land”….. As historians do, there is much argument about the factors and their relative importance that led to the decisions made by the governments in question. Much is now written about how the US entered the war and the possible role of influential corporate interests and US Zionists in bringing the US media and government to support the war efforts. “
The correspondence of Weismann with Louis Brandeis (a Zionist and a friend of US president Woodrow Wilson) showed the machinations of a global movement that lobbied for US entry into WWI, and secured the tripartite (Britain, France, US) support of the Zionist project even against the wishes of many other Jews who opposed this (see https://tinyurl.com/firstzionists; Halperin, 1986; Wier 2014).
President Eisenhauer in 1956 stood against the British/French./Israeli occupation og Gaza and the Snai., The very next year (1957), the American Israel Public Affairs Committee was formed to ensure US Continued foreign policy alignment with the Zionist project. President John F. Kennedy tried to make AIPAC comply with US law and register as a foreign lobby. He alos tried to stop Israel’s development (with French help) of nuclear weapons (see https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/kennedy-dimona-and-the-nuclear-proliferation-problem-1961-1962). He was assassinated.
Admiral Thomas Moorer of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote in this regard: "I've never seen a president --I don't care who he is-- stand up to them [the Israelis]. It just boggles your mind. They always get what they want. The Israelis know what's going on all the time. I got to the point where I wasn't writing anything down. If the American people understood what grip those people have on our government, they would rise up in arms. Our citizens don't have any idea what goes on." (Hurley 1999) In a similar vein, Senator William Fulbright wrote: "For many years I have felt that the situation in the Middle East was very nearly hopeless. The fundamental problem for us is that we have lost our freedom of action in the Middle East and are committed to policies that promote neither our own national interest nor the cause of peace. AIPAC (the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee) and its allied organizations have effective working control of the electoral process. They can elect or defeat nearly any congressman or senator that they wish, with their money and coordinated organization" (Fullbright 1989).
A document sent by American Zionists to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in 1996 was titled "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" (https://www.palestineremembered.com/Acre/Articles/Story1351.html ). The realm is the Israeli one in the Middle East. They called for regime change in Iraq led by the US followed by acts directed at Iran and Syria and they spoke of "alliances" with Turkey and India. Chaired by Richard Perle, chief architect of the most recent US war on Iraq, this group included James Colbert (from the "Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs"), Paul Wolfowitz (now Assistant Defense Secretary), David Wurmser, and William Kristol. Another project of these "neoconservatives" who are so powerful in Washington is the so-called "Project for a New American Century" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_for_the_New_American_Century ). Common denominators characterize these and similar plans: all written by neoconservative ideologues who either worked for or still work on behalf of Israeli and/or corporate interests, all predate 11 September 2001, and all call for reshaping the Middle East to enhance Israel's security by claiming aligned US and Israeli interests. Interestingly the original websites for both projects were removed perhaps because they did become US policy and there was no more need for them by their founders.
A number of scholars and those targeted by the lobby did
detailed studies exposing its influence in US Foreign Policy (Findley 1985;
Mearsheimer and Walt 2006, 2007). The Israeli lobby is rated as among the top 5
most powerful lobbies in DC overall, it would be a legitimate question to ask
what this lobby was doing in the months and years leading up to the Iraq war
and what (if any) influence does it have. I think even a cursory
review of the articles written in newspapers or “studies” done by think tanks
would be sufficient to answer that question. Israeli apologists in these
influential think tanks and in major editorial and columnist positions in
mainstream media pushed for the war (Mearsheimer and Walt 2007). But
there were few Israeli apologists who either stayed silent on the war or even
opposed it. This latter group became active in the anti-war movement
but wanted to make sure that there is no linkage between Iraq and Palestine. They
reacted vociferously and sometimes violently when writers brought up the role
of the Israeli lobby and its extensions in pushing for the war on Iraq.
There are attempts to hide the evolution and increasing strength of this lobby in the US (and before that in British imperial designs in the Middle East). So let us review a few example of how this lobby operated over the years and even challenged imperial interests on some occasions.
1) In 1930 after career British diplomats issued a governmental backed white paper suggesting tying Jewish immigration to Palestine to Palestinian economic interests not just the Yishuv capacity, all hell broke lose. Weissman and other British Zionist mobilized their forces en masse and the effort succeeded in reversing this policy quickly (well discussed in Tom Segev’s excellent book on this period).
2) When there was strong sentiment in the US to help European Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, the Zionist lobby both in Britain and the US lobbied to limit Jewish immigration to the west and keep the door open only for one destination: Palestine (Giladi 2006; Brenner 2010)
3) When the State Department, the Pentagon, and all major career diplomats in the US stood against support for establishment of Israel, President Truman explained his decision to his cabinet (privately) very clearly as relating to the lobby and voting adding that “I have no Arab constituency” (Truman papers and many history books). The US went on to twist the arms of other countries to support partition and imposing of a Jewish state on Palestine.
4) When Israeli forces attacked the USS Liberty in International waters in 1967, the white house aided by Congress pushed the Navy to hide the facts. Senior Navy officers (and all survivors of the attack) were angry but could do nothing in the face of a consorted media silencing campaign. Even in 2003 when new evidence emerged little is reported on it (see http://www.ussliberty.org/)
5) When George Bush 41 received a barrage of media questions in a Press conference in 1991 (after Baker earned the ire of the lobby by suggesting linking expending in growing settlements with foreign aid), Bush uttered his famous line“I am only this little guy in the white house …. there are these thousands on Capital Hill…” so much for the grand leader of the Military/Industrial complex. Bush and Baker backed down and building went on to increase the number of colonists/settlers on occupied Palestinian areas from <200,000 in 1991 to over 450,000 in 2000. This was the main reason for collapse of the peace process and increased resentment and anger in the world.
6) President Clinton brought to high office people who were previously employed by the various Israeli lobby groups. Dennis Ross who worked for WIMEP then appointed as US Envoy to the Middle East and then returned to work for WINEP . Martin Indyk worked for AIPAC and to my knowledge is the only lobbyist for a foreign country ever appointed ambassador to that same foreign country. These folks and many others made clear their interest in merging US policy and Israeli policy. Thus it was not surprising that Clinton issued assurances saying that if the Camp David meetings fail, no one will be faulted. But even as negotiations continued in Taba, Ross, Clinton, and Indyk blamed Arafat. The Clinton administration under influence of these lobbyists continued to support aggressive policy in Iraq and tried valiantly to thwart the International community (and US businesses) who pushed for letting go of the sanctions that were killing 6000 children every month.
7) When GWB 43 appointed people like Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Douglas Feith, and Richard Perle to high offices, there was no questioning the affiliation of those folks to the Zionist lobby. Cheney was for example in the board of the so-called “Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs” (JINSA). Perle and Wolfowitz were active in Zionist think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute. Those are the folks who pushed for war on Iraq and their paper records show their rationing includes supporting Israel.
Most of the time Israeli/Zionist interests and interests of weapons/oil companies are completely divergent See http://www.ifamericansknew.org/us_ints/ In fact many argue that without the lobby, there would not be support for Israeli colonization nor for an illegal and illegitimate war on Iraq and certainly not from companies that are suffering because of this close relationship. Israel in fact is now directly competing with US Weapons manufacturers in exporting high tech weapons (most of it made possible by US transfer of military technology and money to Israel). Congress and the White House frequently have had to interfere to protect Israel from any repercussions by its violations of US and international laws regarding proliferation, arms export, use of arms against civilians etc.
There were rare times when the lobby was not as powerful in pushing the myth of
equivalency of US and Israeli interests. In 1956, President
Eisenhower listened to career diplomats and US elites, and pressed for Israeli
withdrawal from the Gaza and Sinai despite rumblings from Congress (itself
influenced by the lobby). But any such minor resistance vanished after 1967
when the lobby pushed the idea that US weapons in Israeli hands are keeping the
Soviets/Communism out of the Middle East (a lie because communism could never
get a hold in Arab society). Now do not misunderstand anything I
said. It is misleading to say that Israel rules US foreign
policy. But it would be even more misleading to ignore the central
role of this lobby in shaping US foreign policy in the Middle East and in
building support by various means. Nor would it be fair to ignore
the PR aimed at exaggerating the “strategic use” argument to outright
misinformation about threats and responses to promoting a particular and false
view of Christianity (“Christian Zionism”). For those of us
interested in freedom and equality (i.e. human rights), it is simply not correct
to try to ignore history and facts and accept the language of our
oppressor. It is playing into both Zionist and Imperial hands by
accepting their claim that the reason for support of Israel (and for the war on
Iraq) is a “strategic relationship” directed to serving only US elite interests
(oil, military, and other corporate interests).
The hypocrisy in US foreign policy is now visible to most people around the world and even here in the US with a self-censoring media it is hard to avoid it. Take this simple Israel has WMD, has violated 65 UN Security Council Resolutions and was shielded from 35 others by a US Veto (because of the strong lobby), discriminates against people based on religion and the US supports it. Iraq violated very few UN SC resolutions by invading Kuwait and the US bombed Iraq to a pre-industrial age (destroying water purification, sewage, electrical, transportation and other critical facilities), subjected it to sanctions (even after the withdrawal from Kuwait) that killed over 1 million civilians, and then bombed and occupied Iraq intending to build 14 permanent military basis in Iraq and installing a new Israel-friendly regime!! Is it any wonder that people ask why we have such hypocrisy and question the given answers formulated in Tel Aviv. After all, Iraq will continue to be a magnet of resistance fighters pouring in from other Arab and Islamic countries as long as Israel is supported in its continued ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (i.e. As long as this hypocrisy is evident).
Some democrats believe the attack on Iraq was for corporate profits. Some republicans believe it was WMD, defeating terrorism, and most lately bringing “democracy” and freedom. Many US TV and newspapers consider a discussion outside this permissible duality as taboo. But people are getting facts about the Israeli lobby from international media, books, and most importantly the Internet. This explains why an increasing number of democrats, republicans, greens, and independents in the US asking some serious questions that go beyond this duality that misses so much. More people are realizing that without explaining the role of the Israeli lobby in pushing for this war, the story would be very incomplete at best and misleading at worse.
Many are also finally seeing the light and leaving that destructive work. Thousands of Jews are now openly speaking about the destructive power of the lobby and they led the demonstration and civil disobedience associated with demanding an end to the ongoing genocide in Gaza. The ground is shifting as Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others who believe in human rights and do not support Zionism join hands not only to point out the elephant in the room but also to take the old elephant out of the room and to an overdue retirement.
The importance of dealing with these issues is apparent as the US tried to claim it is trying to bring peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, a claim belied by the US’s constant role as a defender and a lawyer protecting Israel from International law (see Aruri 2003; Chomsky 2003). The lobby ensures endless financial and diplomatic support to Israel contrary to US interests. According to the Congressional Research Service's annual report on conventional arms sales, the U.S. delivered $26.4 billion in arms to the Middle East in the 1997-2000 period, or just over 62 percent of all U.S. deliveries to developing countries. The events of 11 September 2001 was capitalized on by the Zionist movement (Netanyahu acutely stated then that this is good for Israel). The lobby started to link all their enemies under the umbrella of terrorism (see also Qumsiyeh 2004 chapter available here http://qumsiyeh.org/chapter8/ ). Thus US aid to Israel increased rapidly and it reached 3.8 billion annually in direct aid plus billions more in transfer of weapons and for contracts to develop anti-missile defenses that then are repackaged sold to foreign countries. The Israeli military industries thus competes with US weapons exporters by selling repackaged US technology (contrary to US law). Israel’s security and weapons related exports now stand at minimum $12.6 billion annually. The recent genocidal war on Gaza supported by the US is a pinnacle of this distorted foreign policy. The Biden administration asked for $14.3 billion more for Israel and congress duly approved it. Israel thus gets more federal aid per capita than US citizens and more foreign aid than South America and Africa Combined!
As the US State Department is run by a committed Zionist (Blinken who emphasized his support as driven by his Jewish identity) became so obsessed with Israel, many career officials were disillusioned by the bias. A leaked internal memo signed by >100 staff members was scathing (see https://www.axios.com/2023/11/13/biden-gaza-hamas-policy-state-department-memo ). It worth reading why Josh Paul resigned as director in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. He emphasized the unusual support for use of US supplied weapons to target civilians and breech of usual procedures (see https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/10/23/state-department-quit-israel-arms/ see also his candid and very revealing interview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1w9fAgaUBrw). The lobby has mobilized its millions, its media arms, and its mouthpieces to remove the few dissenting member in Congress like Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Cori Bush (see also https://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/2023/11/01/wire-rashida-tlaib-jvp-under-attack/ ). There is an awakening and the US government guided by the lobby is being challenged as noted above. Hundreds of thousands demonstrated in Washington DC and public opinion polls showed the US public is not in favor of US military aid to Israel. US Citizens should speak out against this very damaging foreign policy. Globally, the public is with human rights while Israel and its lobbies have little public support (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHYLyYaB6e0 )
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Chomsky, Noam 2003 Middle East Illusions, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
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