The ability of Israel and its powerful Lobby to control many aspects of American government while also sustaining an essentially false narrative about the alleged virtues of the Jewish State is remarkable. Politicians and journalists learned long ago that it was better to cultivate Israel’s friends than it was to support actual American interests. They also discovered to speak the truth about the Jewish State often would prove to be a death sentence career-wise, witness the experiences of Cynthia McKinney, Paul Findlay, William Fulbright, Chuck Percy, James Traficant, Pete McCloskey and Rick Sanchez.
More recently, we have seen the ascent to real political power on the part of a number of politicians whose pandering to Israel has been notorious, indicating that the path to the White House goes through Tel Aviv and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) offices on H Street in the District of Columbia. Nikki Haley, who recently resigned as United Nations Ambassador, gained national attention when she became the first state governor to sign off on laws that would punish supporters of the non-violent BDS movement. Subsequently, as ambassador, she became noted for her impassioned defense of Israel, to include complaining that “nowhere has the U.N.’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel.” She vowed that the “days of Israel bashing are over” and is now being groomed by the neocons as a possible presidential candidate for 2020. Whichever way it goes, she will be showered with money by Israel supporters as she finds her perch in the private sector, like others before her doing “work” that she does not understand while also making speeches about the importance of the Israeli relationship.
All of that said, one of the truly odd aspects of the Israeli/Jewish dominance is its ability to change the United States. Normally, a tiny client state attached to a great power would conform to its patron, but in the U.S.-Israel relationship the reverse has happened. When 9/11 occurred Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was pleased, commenting that the attack would tie the United States more closely to Israel in its war against “terrorism,” which to him meant his Islamic neighbors in the Middle East. Since that time, the bilateral “special” relationship has conformed to what Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer observed in their groundbreaking book “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” namely that the United States does things in the Middle East that cannot be attributed to national interest. Rather, Washington behaves in a certain way due to the power of Israel and its lobby. There is no other way to explain it.
The emergence of Israeli practices as models to be adopted by U.S. agencies has occurred, to be sure, to include Israeli training American policemen and soldiers in their “methods,” but the odd thing is that as Israel has lurched to the right and embraced political extremism under Netanyahu, the United States has done the same thing, curtailing civil liberties with the Patriot Acts, the Military Commissions Act, and various updates of the Authorization to Use Military Force. Indefinite detention without trial and assassination of citizens overseas is now acceptable in America and criticizing Israel could soon become a criminal offense in spite of the First Amendment. In short, the United States of America has become more like Israel rather than vice versa.
With one or two exceptions, there is no one in the United States government, elected or civil service, who has anything that is not wonderful to say about Israel in spite of the numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by Netanyahu nearly daily, the unfunded costs of the wars fought in part on behalf of Israel, and the thousands of dead American soldiers plus the hundreds of thousands of dead foreigners, nearly all Muslims. Indeed, Netanyahu is treated like a conquering hero, having received 23 standing ovations from Congress in 2015 when he was in the United States complaining about an agreement with Iran made by President Barack Obama. This inside the beltway approval of Israel contrasts sharply with the general view of the rest of the world, which sees both the U.S. and Israel negatively as the two nations most likely to start a new war.
There are several recent articles that demonstrate pretty clearly the danger in allowing Israel and its friends to have the power and access that they currently enjoy purely because government and the media make no effort to tell them “no” and rein them in. One comes from New Zealand where two women wrote a letter to the pop singer Lorde, urging her to cancel an appearance in Israel due to the treatment of the Palestinians. Lorde posted the letter on twitter, agreed and the trip was canceled.
The tale would have ended there but for the fact that Israel’s parliament the Knesset has passed a law now making it illegal to support a boycott of Israel ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD [my emphasis]. Enter the group called Shurat HaDin, which is an Israeli government supported lawfare instrument, that seeks to find and sue the perceived enemies of the Jewish state, punishing them through court costs and potentially bankruptcy.
The lawsuit argued that Lorde’s response on twitter after receiving the letter showed her decision was directly influenced by the New Zealand women’s plea. Three Israeli ticket holders filed the suit, claiming the cancellation had caused emotional distress. The Israeli court awarded damages of $12,000 dollars and their lawyer, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Shurat HaDin, boasted that the verdict was “precedent-setting,” sending a message that “no one can boycott Israel without paying for it.” Israeli government agents in New Zealand are taking steps to obtain the money, even though it remains unclear whether the plaintiffs will be able to collect the cash. Darshan-Leitner explained that she will seek to enforce the judgment through “international treaties” and go after the women’s bank accounts, either in New Zealand or if they try to travel abroad. Even if she is unsuccessful, the lawsuits will have a chilling effect on any individual or group seeking to criticize Israel’s brutal behavior by endorsing what once were perfectly legal boycotts.
A second story is possibly even more bizarre. On October 10th, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “Israel is everything we want the entire Middle East to look like going forward” while asserting that the bilateral relationship between Washington and Tel Aviv is “stronger than ever.” Pompeo was keynote speaker at an award ceremony hosted by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America in Washington D.C. He also hailed Israel as “democratic and prosperous,” adding “it desires peace, it is a home to a free press and a thriving economy.”
Pompeo also mentioned Iran, condemning the latter’s “corrupt leaders [who] assault the human rights of their own people and finance terrorism in every corner of the Middle East”. He also announced to a cheering audience that he had that same day denied a $165 million transfer of aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) because of the PA’s “funding of terror.” Pompeo was referring to the PA’s refusal to comply with Washington’s demands that it end the so-called “martyr payments” to the families of those killed or imprisoned by Israeli occupation forces.
Pompeo, together with National Security Advisor John Bolton, has been the driving force behind punishing the Iranians and Palestinians. Like others in Washington, he understands that success inside the beltway is best guaranteed by binding oneself as closely to Israel as possible. Pompeo certainly knows that Israel is not democratic, does not desire peace and is itself a major source of terrorism. Its government is corrupt, witness the current trial of Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife as well as the charges pending against the prime minister himself. A number of Israeli leaders have wound up in jail in the past few years. To describe Israel as a model for the entire Middle East is absurd, but, then again, Pompeo was speaking in front of the Jewish Institute for National Security and presumably intended to suck up to his wealthy and politically powerful audience.
How does Israel maintain its control over American politicians? First of all, no politician who wants to get reelected can risk even the mildest criticism of the Jewish state. Anyone who does so will be pilloried in the media before finding him or herself confronted by an extremely well-funded opponent who will oust them from office. And anyone who even suggests that the Palestinians are human beings that are being severely punished by a powerful Israel had best watch his or her back. On October 8th Congressman Eliot Engel of New York spoke regarding liberal Democrat rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and three other liberals seeking congressional seats next month, all of whom have expressed sympathy for the Palestinians while also criticizing Israel’s heavy handed repression.
Engel told a New York synagogue gathering that had been organized and promoted by AIPAC that all Democrats “need to be educated” in support of Israel. “We are going to continue to work in Congress to make sure that we have overwhelming support for Israel on both sides of the aisle… I am certainly cognizant of the fact that people who are coming in as far as I’m concerned on the Democratic side, will be educated and need to be educated. But we have overwhelming support for Israel in the Congress. And… it will continue that way. We will maintain it that way.”
So, maintaining “overwhelming support” for Israel requires doing whatever is necessary, be it fair or foul, and many Jews and Jewish organizations worldwide, like Engel, are prepared to place alleged Israeli interests ahead of those of the countries where they actually reside. In America, Jewish groups and individuals have succeeded in buying politicians and using their money and control over much of the media to corrupt the entire political system to benefit Israel.
Israel should be judged by how it behaves, not by how well it buys favor among morally challenged politicians and media shills. Nor should it be seen favorably as it engages, threatens and destroys critics. When private citizens cannot write a letter to an entertainer without risk of being sued, deference to perpetual Israeli victimhood has gone way too far. When an intelligent man like Mike Pompeo finds it in his interest to say something transparently stupid in praise of Israel, something which he knows to be the reverse of the truth, the corruption of our elites becomes clear even to those who choose to remain blind to it. When a candidate for national office has to be “educated” by Jewish politicians to say the right things about Israel it smacks of Stalinism.
We Americans don’t need any more of this nonsense, which is inter alia destroying our liberties. It is largely driven by the guilt laden “holocaust hucksterism,” as Norman Finkelstein has termed it, that has been giving Israel a free pass for seventy years. It is time for a change in thinking about how we view our “good friend and ally” Israel, a country that is neither. It is time for government to do what is best for Americans, not for Israelis.
Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is [email protected].