Blogs > Liberty and Power > Olmert the Barbarian

Jul 18, 2006 6:05 pm

Olmert the Barbarian

If you make an effort to read beyond the mainstream media, in which category I include the BBC, you will find analysis that provides a welcome rejoinder to the knee-jerk defense of Israel which passes for informed comment among most Americans.

Here are three different articles that I commend for your consideration.

M. Shahid Alam writes about Israel, the US and the New Orientalism. Don't miss the quotations from the American journalist Herbert Adams Gibbons (1880-1934) and Anstruther MacKay, military governor of part of Palestine during World War I.

Ahmad Khalidi asserts that if Israel has the right to use force in self defence, so do its neighbours."The west appears to insist that only one side in the conflict is able to intervene militarily across borders. That will never be accepted."

Jonathan Cook, a British journalist who is based in Nazareth, Israel, writes a telling critique of BBC coverage of events entitled"Israelis Are Dying: It Must Be an Escalation." I also recommend you visit his website for other recent articles on the Middle East.

Btw, is there anyone who even now denies the existence of a successful Israel lobby in the U.S.?

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Mark Brady - 7/20/2006

Perhaps I'm missing something but I don't understand your point.

Steven Horwitz - 7/20/2006

Funny, when I issued the same challenge, you could only come up with two (both of which, esp. the first, I still find highly questionable), and then suggested we do your research for you.

Mark Brady - 7/20/2006

That's a cheap, and entirely misplaced, shot. Jonathan Cook's article is also posted at and his own website <>;. There you will find Cook's other articles that first appeared in a variety of international news media, including the International Herald Tribune and The Times (London).

What I would welcome from you or anyone else would be links to articles that directly address the articles I post. I'm open to persuasion by serious commentary.

Craig J. Bolton - 7/20/2006

I see. So your analysis of the media and its orientation is based on articles at Why not use as a supplemental source?

Mark Brady - 7/19/2006

I don't know what you're reading but it sure ain't recent news and analysis on the BBC website. I recommend you read Jonathan Cook's analysis of BBC reporting, including his most recent article, The Human Shields of Nazareth, at <>;. There he discusses the words of the BBC correspondent Matthew Price. "If anybody still doubts that Israel is shaping the news agenda of broadcasters like the BBC, here was as good as the proof."

Mark Brady - 7/19/2006

Readers will recall that I asked whether there is anyone who even now denies the existence of a *successful* Israel lobby in the U.S. Certainly, given that his article is entitled "There is no Israel 'lobby'", it's not unreasonable to conclude that David Gergen denies the existence of such a lobby. At the very least, it’s clear from his article that he denies the existence of a *successful* Israel lobby. He obfuscates the issue by representing the other side as suggesting that "[the lobby's] members are engaging in something sinister." What is really at issue is whether the lobby has much, if any, influence on U.S. policy towards Israel and its neighbors. Mearsheimer and Walt are two among many respectable writers who assert that the Israel lobby is successful in pushing U.S. policy in a different direction than it would otherwise go. That seems reasonable to me.

Regarding Wisse, it is clear that she too sets up a straw man. She claims that "[Mearsheimer and Walt] imply that the bipartisan support of Israel in Congress is a result of Jewish influence." They don't. And I don't either. You read far too much into what I wrote, and I'm glad to take this opportunity to correct the misapprehension you seem to have. May we agree that the great majority of self-identified ethnic Jews in the U.S., along with most fundamentalist Christians, together with various other assorted interest groups, do look to Congress to support Israel? And that they are much more successful than other pressure groups (Arab-Americans, et al.) in determining the course of U.S. foreign policy? I certainly recognize that a very courageous minority of Jews within and beyond Israel are very critical of Israeli government policies. Indeed a few brave souls remain opposed to the existence of the state of Israel. Readers may wish to read my recent post <>; that touches on this very subject.

You assert that Wisse's point is not inconsistent with the existence of a powerful and successful Israel Lobby that is part of the democratic process. Maybe not. But she doesn't make that point and I don’t read her as recognizing it.

Craig J. Bolton - 7/19/2006

Excuse me??! "Kneejerk Defense of Israel"? What ARE you talking about?

The standard line among the mass media, particularly the BBC, is that the IDF is trained to murder defenseless kids who are merely throwing rocks while the Palestinian and Syrian "fighters" are "defending their communities" or "only seeking liberation," particularly when they blow up a crowd of unarmed men, women and children at a Passover dinner.

I do find it curious that some believe that EVERY people and nation have a "right of self-defense" except for Jews and Israel. What would one call such an attitude? Oh, wait, I know "anti-Zionist."

So I guess, by similar reasoning, one might also call those who denied a right of self-defense to Blacks "anti-Panther," rather than the more accurate KluKluxer or racist.

In other words, get real.

Craig J. Bolton

"The beginning of wisdom is learning to call things by their proper names." Lao Tse

"Those who think in slogans, speak in bullets." George Orwell

Steven Horwitz - 7/19/2006

Thank you for proving my point Mark. Evidently, you only read the headline on Gergen's article, because in it he writes:

"To be sure, pro-Israeli groups in this country, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, push hard to gain the support of U.S. political leaders. AIPAC is officially registered as a lobbying group, but that does not mean that its members are engaging in something sinister."

So you can scratch Gergen from your list.

As for Wisse, she writes:

" Yet it would be a mistake to treat this article on the "Israel Lobby" as an attack on Israel alone, or on its Jewish defenders, or on the organizations and individuals it singles out for condemnation. Its true target is the American public, which now supports Israel with higher levels of confidence than ever before. When the authors imply that the bipartisan support of Israel in Congress is a result of Jewish influence, they function as classic conspiracy theorists who attribute decisions to nefarious alliances rather than to the choices of a democratic electorate. Their contempt for fellow citizens dictates their claims of a gullible and stupid America. Their insistence that American support for Israel is bought and paid for by the Lobby heaps scorn on American judgment and values."

I just note how you have now changed the subject. Your original challenge was whether anyone denied that there was a successful Israel Lobby out there. You are now saying of Wisse that her error is denying that US support of Israel is the result of "Jewish influence." By implication, you must believe that it is the result of "Jewish influence.

Now you've gone one step farther than W & M who were quick to point out that the "Israel Lobby" was comprised of both Jews and non-Jews, and that not all Jews were part of the Israel Lobby. You seem to want to treat "Israel Lobby" as equivalent to "Jewish influence." I find that to be interesting, to say the least.

What Wisse is arguing in that passage is that the US support for Israel reflects the outcome of the democratic process, which includes the lobbying done by AIPAC and others, rather than the conspiratorial machinations of powerful 'Jewish interests'. Her point is not inconsistent with the existence of a powerful and successful Israel Lobby that is part of the democratic process. It is only to deny that there is some hidden, conspiratorial "Jewish influence" that magically makes people do and think things that they really don't believe or that aren't true.

I think her position is reasonable and does not all provide evidence for your original claim.

So I count you 0 for 2 and I'm not about to do your research for you. If this is the best you can do, I think you need to retract your question.

And, even though I shouldn't have to say this, nothing I've said in the above should imply that I am a blind defender of Israel or its policies. It's a sad situation when I feel the need to say that. But it's worse when people are finding mysterious Jewish influence all over the place.

Gary McGath - 7/19/2006

The deliberate and specific targeting of peaceful civilians for mass murder, which is one of the favorite Palestinian tactics, is not "self defense" by any stretch. Israel's hands aren't clean, but its offenses are mild compared to what the Palestinian terrorists routinely do.

Max Schwing - 7/19/2006

You only need to look at Europe to find the fist anti-semitic terrorist-apologetic commentaries. I even find the US commentaries obviously anti-Israelian. So, I don't know what you read, but I think that there is a big bias against Israel...

Mark Brady - 7/18/2006

Steven asks for textual evidence of anyone saying that the Israel lobby does not exist or that it somehow has not been successful in influencing U.S. policy. I'm happy to provide such evidence. Consider, for example, Professor David Gergen of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. His essay in the New York Daily News for March 26, 2006, entitled "There is no Israel 'lobby'" may be accessed here:

Others recognize that the Israel lobby exists but deny its success in influencing U.S. policy. Consider, for example, Professor Ruth R. Wisse, the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and professor of comparative literature at Harvard, who in the Wall Street Journal for March 22, 2006, denied that that the bipartisan support of Israel in Congress is a result of Jewish influence. (The article is behind subscription but you can read it here:

I think I've answered Steven's question. An online search will find other examples.

Steven Horwitz - 7/18/2006

Whoever DENIED a successful Israel lobby in the US? I would like *textual evidence* of anyone denying the existence of an Israel lobby. Even those of us critical of the Walt and Mearsheimer piece did not deny the existence of an Israel lobby - we were concerned about the way in which that particular piece chose to analyze it. For pete's sake, AIPAC's website proudly proclaims itself such a lobby and there's no doubt that it and others have successfully influenced US policy.

Again, find me *textual evidence* of anyone saying that such a lobby does not exist or that it somehow has not been successful in influencing US policy.

The claim that people have denied the existence of such a lobby, or its success, is simply preposterous.