Muhammad Osama Asghar is currently pursuing a Masters's degree in Geographical Information Systems and Remote Sensing from NUST, Islamabad. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Geophysics from Bahria University, Islamabad.
Every time tensions break out between the Israelis and Palestinians, the world looks at the United States for taking appropriate measures to de-escalate the situation. Yet, every single time the world is disappointed when it receives a vague response. Whenever that happens, people tend to ponder upon why the US foreign policy towards Israel is based upon unconditional support.
In the face of Israel’s actions against a minority of people – who do not have weapons to arm themselves, homes to live in, food to eat, or water to drink, and are living like prisoners in their homeland – the US has displayed its relentless support.
Why is it that Israel continues to expand its territory and the Palestinians are pushed into refugee camps? Why does Israel bomb Gaza every time tensions rise in the West Bank? Why does the world, specifically the US, stay silent on this Israeli aggression? These questions will be answered by the end of this article.
To help support the statements in this piece of writing, American researchers, Stephen Walt and John J. Mearsheimer will be referred to. Their book “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” published in 2007, shed some light on particular interest groups operating in the shadows of the US government, lobbying on behalf of Israel, and silencing the US government as Israel uses lethal force against defenseless Palestinians.
The Israel Lobby
The Israel lobby is a bunch of influential individuals and interest groups that lobby on the behalf of Israel and the Israeli government to push forward the state’s national interests, which is not an illegal thing to do. These interest groups or individuals hold power in the form of money and they are not hesitant to use it to dominate in any way possible.
Since the US has been the sole superpower after the downfall of the Soviet Union, the lobbyists make sure that the US foreign policy is based on what benefits the state of Israel. The Israel lobby is not to be confused with the Jewish lobby which is a separate bevy. The Israeli lobby is primarily composed of Zionist Jews.
Who are Zionist Jews?
Zionists are the adherents of Zionism—a political nationalist movement and an ideology. The Zionists push forward their theology of a Greater Israel, which was based on the old region of Canaan, the Holy Land, and the entire region of Palestine that was once inhabited by the ancient Philistines.
Modern Zionism was a response to a new rise in anti-Semitism in the late 19th century. The Jewish enlightenment amplified the Zionist ideology, and a new demand for the desired homeland in the land of Palestine began. At that time, the land was under the control of the Ottomans but after the fall of the Ottoman empire, the Balfour Declaration was passed by the newly formed League of Nations.
How Does the Lobby Operate?
Israel’s lobby operates in three different strategies and moves step-by-step. These three strategies are highly effective when it comes to US politics where tags like anti-Semitic can cause a loss of popular support among people.
The lobby usually operates by providing funds and large sums of money to the American politicians when they run for the office, be it an election campaign for a mayor, senator, governor, or even a president. When their desired and funded politician wins, they start to pull strings and call in favors.
Again, this is not an illegal task because the election campaigns of politicians are usually sponsored or financed by the adherents of that political entity but the difference arises when they try to enter the policymaking circles within Washington and opt for biased foreign policies.
The second strategy the lobbies move for is rather disturbing. They use public media discourse to change the perception of the Americans in the favour of Israel. Think tanks, publications, and media outlets use words, publish books and papers, write articles, and hold interviews with certain people that portray a particularly biased and one-sided version of a specific event.
An example of this can be seen in the Israel-Palestine issue where words like “self-defense” are used to justify the deliberate and relentless bombing of Gaza. It begs the question, if Israel and Palestine are at war with each other, what is the color of the Palestinian army’s uniform? How many aircraft does Palestine have? What is the size of the Palestinian navy?
The third strategy is the last resort for the lobby. It is a smearing campaign and a straight-on political assassination of the potential candidate. Usually, the lobbyists play the anti-Semitic card even though the work of the Israeli lobbies and the Zionist movement is not based on religion or ethnicity.
This label of anti-Semitism is so strong that it can destroy the political career of a politician and cause a loss of credibility, honor, and popular support. For instance, when President Jimmy Carter wrote the book Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid, he received severe backlash from various media outlets like the Washington Post, etc.
Israel’s lobby uses these tactics to distract people from the main issues like the US foreign policy, the apartheid nature of the Israeli government, or the human rights violations in Gaza. According to Walt and Mearsheimer, the lobbying groups and individuals working on behalf of Israel have a strong grasp within the US government, that is, within the Republicans as well as the Democrats.
The neo-conservatives show a higher tendency of support for the Israeli lobby as their interests and the interests of the Zionists align to a great extent.
Who is Included in the Lobby?
The Israeli lobby is composed of several independently operating and loose coalitions of interest groups, NGOs, think tanks, as well as single individuals. Stephen Walt, the co-author of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy argues that these groups are one of the strongest lobbying entities present in the United States.
These groups include political action committees like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the Zionist Organisation of America (ZOA), the Anti-defamation League (ADL), think tanks like the Jewish Institute of National Security of America (JINSA), Washington Institute of Near East Policy (WINEP), and publications like The Weekly Standard or The New Republic, and several other minor institutions.
These groups always unanimously support the “special” relationship between the US and Israel. This so-called special relationship manifests itself in the form of about $38 billion in US military aid to Israel. Israel also benefits from loan guarantees worth around $8 billion. Almost all of the US funding to Israel is currently in the form of military aid, although Israel has previously received considerable economic help as well.
Analysis and Discussion
After the end of the Cold War, the US’ unconditional support for Israel in the Middle East makes no sense, as far as the foreign policy of the US is concerned. It is this unconditional US aid to Israel that has caused the US to lose its prestige among the Muslim states. Even Osama bin Laden, after 9/11, came on record and stated that one of the reasons for Al Qaeda’s attack on the Twin Towers was the United States’ biased approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Furthermore, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt argue in their book that the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was also driven by the Israel lobby. Even though it did not put forth the idea but when the suggestion came up, it was the neo-conservatives and Israeli lobbyists that forced the Bush administration to move forward with the plan. This decision to invade Iraq caused a massive downfall in the United States’ international image, specifically, in the Muslim world.
Secondly, the US invasion of Iraq was the reason for the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—a radical organization responsible for the turmoil in Iraq, Syria, and even in Afghanistan. Walt and Mearsheimer state that it was the lobby’s agenda to overthrow Saddam Hussain first and then launch a massive two-front offensive (from Iraq and Afghanistan) in Iran, as these two countries – Iraq and Iran – threatened Israel’s “existence.”
Moreover, the United States calls Israel a “vibrant democracy” but in that so-called vibrant democracy there are no equal rights for the Palestinians. For instance, the right to citizenship is highly restricted for Palestinians living in the diaspora, there are several travel bans imposed on Palestinians, and illegal settlements are being built on Palestinian lands while they are being evicted from the homes they’ve lived in for decades.
Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other such entities based on anti-American sentiments, target American assets at home and abroad because the United States failed to contain the Israeli aggression on Palestinian lands, and failed to act as a mediator between the two nations. Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim organization, was also formed as a result of Israel’s aggressive moves in Lebanon in 1982. It is important to note that in 1983, it was Hezbollah that targeted the US marines’ barracks in Beirut, killing 241 US military personnel, 58 French military personnel, and 6 civilians.
Even the recent conflict was not initiated by the Palestinians but ignited by the Israeli police force. The conflict escalated when Palestinians began to protest peacefully against the decision to evict them from Sheikh Jarrah’s neighborhood. The Israeli forces attacked the protestors with gas grenades and skunk water cannons. After that, the protests became large scale and in retaliation, so did the Israeli violent suppression.
Hamas warned Israel to stop the aggression. Ignoring the threats, the Israeli police personnel entered Al-Aqsa Mosque during prayers and shelled violently, injuring several and killing 200 people. Hamas again warned but Israelis again attacked the Al-Aqsa mosque and set hundreds of years old trees on fire, injuring 600 people.
It was then that Hamas retaliated by firing rockets that were intercepted, mid-air, by the Israeli air defense system. After this, Israel launched a massive offensive against Gaza, killing minors and women all alike, by the hour. The hypocrisy is that the media portrayed the situation as if Hamas had used the rockets first, while in reality, it was Israel that started the aggression. This is just another example of the public discourse strategy of the lobby.
It is Israel’s impulsive decisions that created a mess in the Middle East, be it the raids on Syrian and Iraqi nuclear reactors, Mossad operations in Syria, assassinations of Iranian scientists, aggression on helpless Gazans with relentless bombing campaigns, or simple ground invasions that jeopardize the US credibility abroad when it defends the Israeli actions.
It is not wrong to assume that the Israeli lobby is like a disease in the US policymaking circles as it erodes the constitutional framework upon which the United States of America rests. The Americans need to understand that if they continue walking on the same path and allowed Israel’s lobby to dictate the US foreign policy, they will keep on losing their credibility and international support.
The US needs to contain the influence of the interest groups mentioned above to shift its Middle East foreign policy in a way that leads to an actual solution to the Palestine Israel conflict, that benefits America, and finally safeguards the rights of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
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