Target the lobby
Without taking apart, piece-by-piece, the elaborate, ruthless and war-mongering Israel lobby, no change in US Middle East policy will be possible, writes Ramzy Baroud. [The writer is editor of PalestineChronicle.com.]
One cannot emphasise enough the stranglehold Israel's lobbying infrastructure has on US foreign policy. The events of recent weeks undoubtedly attest to this. The "special relationship" that has been historically fostered between the US and Israel, in fact, is often a relationship of leverage, manipulation and intimidation, and leads to the US supporting actions or resolutions that stand at complete odds with the interests of the American people.
The promise of change echoed the world over as people from all corners anticipated the magic moment Obama could actually change the devastating reality in which we live today. But just weeks before his inauguration, Israel unleashed its most barbaric attacks on defenceless Palestinian civilians since 1948. Civil societies expressed outrage and called for Israeli leaders to be tried for war crimes and genocide. Some nations cut diplomatic ties completely with the Jewish state. But the man of change did absolutely nothing. For weeks he was completely silent. Even in his first days in office, Obama made no mention of the Israeli genocide in Gaza. So what of this change he promised? What kind of hold does Israel have to silence the president of the United States?
Authors and professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt of the University of Chicago and Harvard University respectively defined the Israel lobby in their volume, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, as a "loose coalition of individuals and organisations who actively work to steer US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction". What has been revealed in their work is that "The Lobby" is not a unitary organisation of a few or many paid lobbyists who are pushing for a specific foreign policy agenda. Sure, you have that too, manifested in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) -- an organisation that boasts of 60,000 active members and that showers US congressmen with many millions of dollars in campaign contributions, all with one aim in mind, a pro-Israel, "right or wrong" agenda. But it's much more complex than that.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations, less known than AIPAC, is a powerful lobby conduit for it supposedly represents 52 major Jewish organisations. Based in New York, the organisation holds an uncompromisingly pro-Israel stance, which tends to advocate Israel's suppression of Palestinians (as Israel's "right to defend itself") and advocates a pro-war agenda (as was the case before the Iraq war, and later against Syria and Iran). These are but mere examples. What Mearsheimer and Walt describe as a "loose coalition of individuals and organisations" is in fact a vast infrastructure that has penetrated every major organisation and institution, governmental and otherwise, that could in some way influence, push for or advocate Israel's interests.
When AIPAC holds its annual conferences, countless members of the House and the Senate, the US executive branch, top representatives of both parties, as well as hundreds of US ambassadors flock from all over the world in an unprecedented manner to vow their allegiance to Israel. With the passing of time, the strength of the lobby and the level of influence of Israel's "friends" in Congress have grown immensely to the point that they actually jeopardise the interests of US citizens. Even from an imperialist viewpoint, the US has no particular interest in supporting Israel's genocidal policies in Gaza, considering the fact that the US is struggling to find any semblance of "stability" in a region saturated with anti- American sentiment.
Consider what outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a speech in Ashkelon on 12 January, regarding how he influenced the US vote in the UN on a resolution pertaining to the Gaza war: "In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the Secretary of State wanted to lead the vote on a ceasefire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favour," Olmert said. "I said 'Get me President Bush on the phone'. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn't care, 'I need to talk to him now'. He got off the podium and spoke to me. I told him (Bush) the United States could not vote in favour. It cannot vote in favour of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favour. She was left shamed. A resolution that she prepared and arranged, and in the end she did not vote in favour."
Imagine, Olmert is boasting how he, with one telephone call, managed to completely turn around the entire US foreign policy agenda, no questions asked. This tells us that it's not a give- and-take relationship.
One can learn a valuable lesson in all of this. Within the United States there is a great apparatus that has been in motion for generations. It is beyond civil society, beyond individual citizens and citizen groups, it is perhaps even more powerful than "the man of change" himself. And if we are truly to see some transformation in the way the US now rules the world, then this war- mongering machine must be dismantled.