Israel lobby has Economist on the run

21 January 2014

The Economist has found itself at the centre of another of those “anti-semitic cartoon” rows. The cartoon has upset the Israel lobby because it shows, well, that the Israel lobby has a lot of influence in Congress. The article it illustrated refers to President Obama’s attempts to reach a deal with Iran, a diplomatic process being subverted by AIPAC’s efforts to persuade Congress to intensify sanctions.

And just to prove how little influence the lobby really has, it has made a huge fuss (again) about anti-semitism and the Economist has … quickly pulled the cartoon (from this article). So just how anti-semitic is it? Here it is for you to judge:

Economist cartoon big

In fact, I’m not sure if you’ll notice the Star of David on the cartoon, so here it is highlighted to make sure you do see it.

Economist cartoon small

To my mind, this cartoon underestimates the influence of the Israel lobby in Congress, certainly on issues relating to the Middle East – which, after all, is what the cartoon is about. Most analysts, even very conservative ones, nowadays concede that the lobby is extremely powerful in Congress, as occasionally do lobby members themselves.

The Israeli media have regularly noted that the Israel lobby is the chief driver for intensified sanctions against Iran.

There’s nothing secret about this. It is on AIPAC’s website: “Congress must pass legislation that will increase the pressure on Iran and ensure any future deal denies Tehran a nuclear weapons capability”.

There is also nothing new about this relationship. A British intelligence report shortly before the British left Palestine in 1948 referred to the “effective pressures which Zionists in America are in a position to exert on the American administration”.

Here are just a few relevant quotes on the lobby’s powers:

Former US President Jimmy Carter: “It’s almost politically suicidal … for a member of Congress who wants to seek reelection to take any stand that might be interpreted as anti-policy of the conservative Israeli government.”

A Congressional staffer supportive of Israel told journalist Michael Massing: “We can count on well over half the House – 250 to 300 members – to do reflexively whatever AIPAC wants.”

During an interview, AIPAC official Steven Rosen put a napkin in front of him and said: “In twenty-four hours, we could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin.”

Former AIPAC staffer M J Rosenberg recounts a conversation with Tom Dine, AIPAC’s executive director in the 1980s. Dine told him he did not think a US president could make Israel do anything it didn’t want to do given the power of AIPAC and “our friends in Congress.”

James Abourezk, former Senator from South Dakota, said:  “I can tell you from personal experience that, at least in the Congress, the support Israel has in that body is based completely on political fear – fear of defeat by anyone who does not do what Israel wants done.”

Uri Avnery, veteran Israeli journalist and former Israeli MP: “For five decades, at least, US Middle East policy has been decided in Jerusalem. Almost all American officials dealing with this area are, well, Jewish. The Hebrew-speaking American ambassador in Tel Aviv could easily be the Israeli ambassador in Washington.”

Note too this interesting figure: Since 2000, members of Congress and their staffs have visited tiny little Israel more than 1,000 times. That’s almost twice the number of visits to any other foreign country. Roughly three-quarters of those trips were sponsored by AIPAC. These trip are particularly popular with Congress members who serve on foreign policy–related committees.

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