A number of writers have recently written critical articles or reviews about the power of the pro-Israel or Jewish Lobby and its influence on US policy in the Middle East. Most of these writings emphasize the power of the lobby over Congress, the two major parties (especially the Democrats) and the Executive branch. Some even describe the pro-Israel lobbies and the allied Jewish federations, the numerous propaganda institutes described as ‘think tanks’, publications as well as their influence or control over the mass media, from Hollywood, the print media, television to corporate “public” radio. However these critics and analysts paint themselves into a corner, attributing to the Jewish lobby so much power as to virtually incapacitate any effort to counter its influence and change the direction of US policy. The image of a near-omniscient and omnipotent Jewish lobby overlooks its vulnerability and significant issues around which an opposition or counter-hegemonic movement can be organized in the United States.
A starting point for building such a movement in some cases already exists in single issue campaigns; in other instances, some of the critical reports on the actions and behavior of the Lobby can become rallying points for organizing and pressing for new legislation and improving legislative restraints on Lobby activities.
What Should be Done: 18 Points of Action
1) Pressure can be exerted to force the Pro-Israel lobby to register as an agent of a foreign power. There is an abundance of evidence based on public documents, observation, testimony, interviews which demonstrate that the leaders of the Lobby take orders from the Israeli government, serve as transmission belts of Israeli policies into the US, formulate the legislation for the US Congress based on Israeli priorities, coordinate and transmit information from the US government to the Israeli government and have even engaged in espionage in the US for the Israeli secret police (Mossad). If for example AIPAC is obligated to register as an agent of a foreign power, it can be expected that a substantial number of its members/supporters will resign or withdraw, and big contributors will hold back funding, weakening the activist and financial base of the Lobby. Secondly, other members of the pro-Israel coalition will balk at allying with an agency of a foreign power. Thirdly, elected and appointed officials will be more hesitant to follow the lead or share the platform of an organization identified with a foreign government because of the possible legal implications or at least unfavorable publicity.
2) Organize a campaign to withdraw investments in US companies that supply the Israeli regime with weapons of mass destruction, construction equipment to extend Israeli colonization of Palestine. The boycott should include targeting military industries which contribute to Lobby controlled “think tanks,” State and Union pension funds which invest in Israeli Bonds should be pressured to reallocate to productive industries and social services which create jobs and health benefits for Americans.
3) Create a data bank on all the key political officials who have long-standing, primary commitments to the state of Israel and who have collaborated with the pro-Israeli lobby. This data bank can focus on the role of the Zionist power configuration engaged in harnessing US policy to Israel’s expansionist policies. The data bank can list all the major pieces of legislation fashioned by the Lobby for Israel; the total sum of US grants, and guaranteed loans, technological transfers secured for Israel through the Lobby; the number of junkets and visits organized by the Lobby for policymakers. In addition, information should be collected on all levels of “consultation” between key lobby leaders, religious notables, and international Zionist organizations and the Israeli state. The “information bank” can provide the bases for demonstrating how the Lobby serves Israeli foreign policy, distorts US domestic and overseas priorities and contributes to silencing and undermining internal democratic debate. In other words, the anti-Lobby campaign can be an important part of the battle of ideas, and engage in the struggle to throw off foreign tutelage, and regain our freedom to openly discuss the role of Israel and the Lobby in US politics.
4) Support the worldwide boycott against scholarly and academic exchanges with Israeli counterparts and institutes that uphold and participate in the colonization and repression of the Palestinians. In particular, psychologists and psychiatrists should pressure their association to reject all Israeli counterparts who engage in interrogation (usually accompanied by torture) of political prisoners.
5) Legislation should be passed barring individuals who hold dual-citizenship (Israeli-US), especially those connected with the military-intelligence networks from holding sensitive positions in the government or controlling the political party nomination process, as is now the case of the Democratic Party. Numerous cases have emerged of Israeli-US citizens in the high tech field who have direct access to software affecting US national security, as well as high Pentagon officials with ‘dual citizenship’ promoting policies favorable to Israel at great cost in lives and money to the US.
6) Organize to eliminate Israel’s special privileges in tax exemption, trade, technology, and citizenship which burdens US taxpayers, increases Israeli competitiveness at the expense of US producers and facilitates Israeli emigration at the expense of other groups. Above all, demand the elimination or drastic reduction of Israel’s $3 billion plus foreign aid and $10 billion in guaranteed loans a country with a $21,000 per capita income. The funds which cover over 40% of the total US foreign aid packages, should be spent in covering health care for the 45 million US citizens who lack coverage, or at least allocated to countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia whose per capita income is below $1000 dollars a year.
7) Support efforts to end the US embargo on goods, services and financial assistance to Palestine, recognize the democratically elected Hamas government. Join with European Parliamentarians, Lebanese and most Middle Eastern governments and the great majority of the Third World in recognizing Hezbollah as a legitimate electoral party and social movement in Lebanon. Here as in many other issues, the Lobby and its supporters are a small minority in the international community of nations and world public opinion. Through their dominance of US policy on Lebanon and Palestine, the Lobby has contributed to the isolation of the US, provoked the ire of all the mainline humanitarian groups and given credence to the world communities’ belief that Washington is a handmaiden of Israeli policymakers.
8) Raise the issues of bringing Israeli officials to the International War Crimes Tribunal, or to criminal courts on charges of violating the Geneva Conventions and the protocols of the Nuremberg Tribunal. By having criminal charges in various courts of justice, Israeli military and civilian war criminals will be reluctant to travel abroad for fear of arrest. Likewise civil suits can be initiated to impound Israeli bank accounts and assets to pay war reparations to Lebanese civilians for the 15,000 homes destroyed and for damages exceeding $10 billion dollars. Families of assassinated civilian victims and UN peace keepers should be encouraged to seek compensation in the United States as well as in their own national courts.
9) Convert the issue of the US-Israeli claim of nuclear dangers resulting from Iranian uranium enrichment into a more consequential and general demand to turn the entire Middle East into a nuclear free zone. Thus highlights the fact that Israeli possession of at least 300 nuclear bombs is the outstanding threat to nuclear war in the Middle East and elsewhere. The Lobby’s campaign against Iran is directed toward maintaining Israeli’s monopoly of nuclear weapons as an instrument to intimidate any challenges to its expansionist goals.
10) Call for the International Atomic Energy Commission and other UN nuclear inspection organizations to investigate charges that Israel is manufacturing and storing nuclear bombs, and chemical and biological weapons contrary to the non-proliferation agreement. The Lobby will clearly be on the defensive, having to defend Israel’s deception and secrecy regarding weapons of mass destruction.
11) Organize boycotts and campaigns to demand that local, regional, and national mass media outlets report and interview Israeli critics as well as its spokespeople. Propose debates, round tables, and forums that include Israeli critics as well as its spokespeople; file legal suits against Jewish lobbyists making libelous accusations of “anti-Semitism” against informed critics who suffer loss of career appointments or promotions. Organize legal teams to challenge the impunity of the vicious slanderers and perpetrators of hate crimes among pro-Israel ideologues.
12) Demand that newscasters, analysts, and commentators dealing with Middle Eastern issues have their organizational and political affiliations clearly identified. This will help focus the public on the extraordinary one-sided pro-Israeli bias in the media and weaken a key propaganda arm of the Lobby.
13) Legislation should be supported which bars individuals with dual citizenship and therefore dual loyalties from holding executive or legislative positions in the government. As we have seen, numerous top policymakers with a strong commitment to Israeli interests lead our country to disastrous Middle Eastern wars.
14) Support legislation revoking the citizenship of individuals who enlist or engage in military activity for a foreign government. The Lobby sends thousands of US Jews to Israel to engage in civilian and “security” activities alongside and integrated with IDF soldiers, creating “returnees” fully indoctrinated into Israel’s militarist worldview.
15) One of the vehicles used by the Lobby to influence or buy the loyalty of legislators and US officials are paid junkets to Israel, where they are indoctrinated and propagandized by a bevy of Israeli politicians, and advocates of the Zionist state. Legislation to outlaw paid propaganda and vote buying junkets came before Congress but was stopped largely through the efforts of the Jewish Lobby. Clearly this is an area where corruption and foreign control over our foreign policy converge and is strongly susceptible to a campaign to moralize public policy.
16) Since 9/11, hundreds of suspected Israeli spies have been deported, and several Lobbyists, US military and government officials have been charged with spying for Israel. Yet no public statements or media exposure has resulted. Campaigns should demand equal treatment and publicity of Israeli spies with non-Israeli operatives. Israeli handlers operating out of their Embassy should be named and arrested, instead of allowing easy exits, as is currently practiced.
17) Legislation should be presented and veterans’ groups of all wars should be mobilized to demand Congressional hearings on the Israeli bombing of the US surveillance ship Liberty with prime witnesses among our naval survivors. The Commission should investigate the subsequent cover up by the Johnson Administration and the role of the Lobby.
18) Support political parties and candidates who oppose Israel’s occupation of Palestine, its $3 billion dollar annual aid package and the Lobby’s pro-war Mid East agenda. Support a pro-American policy of anti-colonialism, conversion of Israeli billion dollar handouts into rebuilding de-industrialized regions in the US and eschewing military intervention in the Middle East either for Israeli or imperial interests.
Can we stop the Lobby’s efforts to force Americas’ hand and pressure our government into sending more of our soldiers to the Middle East to die for Greater Israel? Yes -- but it most obviously won’t be easy because of the big money that flows into the Congressional troughs, the terrible mass media bias and the cowardice of many of our political opinion-makers. But a start has been made. Leading military officials, active and retired, have opposed the Zioncon policymakers in the Pentagon, State Department and Congress. Leading religious institutes like the Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Church of Christ, as well as high Church officials in the Greek Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Church have forcefully criticized Israel’s human rights record and have supported various types of boycotts.
Major trade unions in Canada (public sector union in Ontario -- CUPE), South Africa, and in the European Union and Middle East have expressed opposition to Israeli ethnic cleansing and militarism. University teachers, led by British and Irish educators, are supporting a boycott of Israeli scholars and institutes collaborating with the Israeli regime. Even within the United States, despite the Lobby’s propaganda campaigns, a majority of US citizens did not support Israel’s bombing of Lebanon and no longer support the Lobby engineered US war in Iraq.
Opposition and collaboration with the Israel Lobby cuts across the ideological spectrum. Opponents of the Lobby’s dominant role in shaping US-Mid East policy in favor of Israel have provoked the ire of numerous traditional conservative writers, politicians and military officials as well as a substantial number of democrats, pacifists, leftists, Greens, mainline Christian churches, and grassroots Democrats. Support for the Lobby includes the leadership of both major parties, all the mainstream Jewish organization and religious bodies, most liberal Jews, and non-Jews, as well as the neo-conservatives, media moguls, and fundamentalist Christian Zionists.
Two momentous issues out in what is a major test of forces: war or peace in the Middle East and the question of who rules America? The Lobby, in and out of the Executive branch and Congress, was instrumental in pushing us into the Iraq war. They are the leading pressure group propelling us into a war with Iran -- a war which will ignite major confrontation throughout the Middle East and military attacks in the West, putting our security in jeopardy and provoking a major oil and energy crisis, that will likely lead to a major recession.
The Lobby’s war-making powers exceed those of any elected body as they are constituted today because of the terrible fear that elected officials and opinion makers have of the Lobby’s retaliatory, political thuggery.
The second major issue we as American citizens face is the loss of control over our own political process; the power of the Lobby is at the unconditional service of the Israeli state; what Israel dictates the Lobby pursues through its network of several hundred thousand activists and hundreds of millions in cash flow. Those of us who stand up for Americans’ right to decide its own policies in the Middle East free of Israeli-Lobby intervention, are faced with the challenge of taking back our freedom to choose. The freedom to choose who and what we support in the Middle East without facing political, financial, or social retribution, slander or public ostracism. We, the strongest military and economic power, have been politically and culturally colonized. Like other national liberation movements, we must struggle to free ourselves from the tyranny of Israel over our politics in the Middle East. In the 1950’s we faced McCarthyite anti-communism as a ruse to propel us into World War Three. Today we face the slander of Zionist anti-Semitism as a ruse to propel us into a new world war against Islamic nations and states who oppose Israeli expansion.
Just as a broad coalition from the left to the Secretary of the Army defeated McCarthyism in the 1950s and led to détente in the 1970s so too a similar coalition today can defeat the Israeli Lobby’s war policies and lead to our self-determination and national dignity in pursuit of a democratic foreign policy.
Gird your loans, empty your bladder, this is going to be one hell of a fight -- no holds barred.
James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). His latest book is, The Power of Israel in the United States (Clarity Press, 2006). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Articles by James Petras
Strategy: Lebanon and Iran