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April 01, 2006


i guess my first thought on reading this post is that you may have missed the forest for the trees.

for me the value of the article is simply that a very timely issue - american interests vs israeli intersts; the cost/benefit to the u.s. of aligning its interests with israel's (or however else you care to phrase it).
- has been raised in public in a coherent, readable, even-toned manner.

and the raising of this issue has gotten some attention,

even if it is initially because the very powerful and vindictive AIPAC is the central player in "aligning" american and israeli interests

or if it is of the "human interest" variety (see steve clemmons last two posts).

i understand that your experience, talents, and interests allow you to take the sort of close look i never could.

if this is just the first clear statement of a foreign policy problem, as i think it is,

it does not bother me that m&w might have placed their concerns within the wider context of the influence lobbying from any source has on american foreign policy - or on all american government policy.

that's a good point, and someone else no doubt will.

i am impressed by M&w's writing style which seems to me very clear, very readable, and almost quaintly simple,

like one of those long-ago lectures in the basics foreign policy.

i think this simple approach serves to state the issue clearly and constructs an excellent platform for an ensuing public discussion.

which is, of course, just what you have contributed to in this post.

as for the article's not having elicited discussion to date

it has not been around that long.

give it some time.

several writings of criticism like yours, several in strong opposition (maybe like dershowitz's forthcoming), several more in support, and

the discussion is on its way.

so for me,

just the fact that this article has been written and published is encouraging

as is the apparent fact that, in israel itself, israelis are beginning to comment on the flip side of the argument - that operating as an american ally or american dance partner in the middle east may not be in israel's long-term interest.

Good post. Tying the influence of the Israel Lobby to the whole issue of the influence of foreign interests on our policies is a good way to proceed. Between the war profiteers and foreign interests, the rest of us are losing badly on influencing policy.

Did the paper give specific instances of punishing lawmakers? Charles Percy and Cynthia McKinney come to mind as two ends of the spectrum.


i should know this,

like a million other things i don't,

but i dont.

how was mckinney punished?

was it her non-term in congress nearly four ago?

percy i have learned, from what this issue and this paper have forced me to learn in the last two weeks, was defeated in re-election.

for which aipac apparently got lots of credit.

aipac seems to operate on the nra model.

or is it the other way around?

i dont know the facts "percynally", but percy was on my roster of "good guys" in terms of caring and fairness as a senator.

what did he do to offend?

emptywheel, this is a great post. I had concerns stemming from my own ignorance, until this: "Israeli leaders, neoconservatives, and the Bush Administration all saw war with Iraq as the first step in an ambitious campaign to remake the Middle East." I dug into the PDF a little and found the footnote. Sharon and the Likud were "high" if they thought occupying Iraq would work. They certainly should have figured it out after three or six months. Hamas never won a majority from the Palistinians until AFTER we occupied Iraq. Our occupation of Iraq made Israel's security exponentially more precarious. IMO we're going to defend Dubai and the Strait of Hormuz a lot more vigorously than Israel, if we have to choose. Israel became important window dressing for going in, but even if Sharon and the Likud had screamed, "don't attack," "if you do, don't occupy;" I don' think it would have made any difference to the WH. Window dressing, however, just like sound bytes, are very important. Practically speaking, it's going to be a lot harder to "redeploy" the hell out of Iraq, if a lot of U.S. citizens feel as though we are abandoning Israel.
I hope it's possible for you in subsequent posts on this to focus the responsibility on one political party as opposed to the whole nation. I know too little about the details to say whether or not the evidence will let you do that. (Off the wall suggestion, would it be easier when you write about Israel, to always refer to it as Israel/Palistinians or something that reminds the reader of the two-state solution? IMO two-state language makes it easier to hold for Israel's right to exist, while at the same time honoring the decades of mistreatment the Palistinians have received at the hands of the U.S./Israel.

Damn. I wouldn't have even read the M&W paper if you hadn't posted this, emptywheel. Now, after reading your typically nuanced analysis, I have to. I hope someday to pay you back for all the extra reading you've made me do because of your efforts here.

Mrs McBee and me went to see "Thank You For Smoking" tonight, and it was great. I thought it a very thoughtful way to describe the lobbyist's mindset without resorting to cheap ..I mean an obvious and contentious current political storyline.
Thanks for this as the issue needs an enormous amount of work.
Good writing, always the best, and good luck...incoming!


They do mention Percy, around page 17 (and Hollings and Moran). I don't remember if they mention McKinney or not.

John Casper

I hope it's possible for you in subsequent posts on this to focus the responsibility on one political party as opposed to the whole nation.

Well in this case I think one has to be even more specific, to refer to the Neocons--that's one of my complaints, that because they're looking at "the Lobby" they don't really assess (even while they admit) the centrality of one faction within the Administration winning influence at the expense of another.

As to the larger issue of being swayed by lobby groups at the expense of constituents, I'm not sure that's a partisan thing. There are a number of reasons (the money, the made-to-order policy shop) that make lobbyists too easy for legislators to pass up.

McKinney's primary opponent (Denise Majette) got major donations from pro-Israel groups in 2002, which she mistook for support for her personally, leading to her overly ambitious and unsuccessful run for the Senate in 2004, allowing McKinney (who has her own delusions) to get the seat back.

Percy was chair of Senate Foreigh Relations (or maybe ranking member, this was awhile ago) and was perceived as too favorable to Arab interests after he supported the sale of AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia. I remember in particular his remarks after being beaten by Paul Simon in 1984 about some donor in So Calif who he said gave $2 million (this was pre-campaign finance limits) to Simon. AIPAC was widely credited for defeating Percy, and this was taken as a cautionary tale in both parties.

Check here.

thank you

i was wondering if billy mckinney's public rudeness to one of his daughter's opponents had played a role. apparently not.

i had no idea of the percy details and the london review abrodge,emt only mentioned it in passing.

thanks for the cite.

The main point,Zionism, practically went untouch. Any discussion of Israel foreign policy with out mention its state religion and the alliance with American zelots, is just brave academic attempt, but also an intellectual cul de sac if the issue is money or economics. Those objective factor of history get run under the truck subjective factors such as religion. Read this article write in Israel for American Jews.


I think the AIPAC story really begins with Bill Finley who was targeted for defeat based on a meeting with PLO representatives in the interests of trying to work out a child custody dispute on behalf of a constituatant. At the time he met with the PLO that was a total symbolic no-no in the ideological eye of AIPAC -- and he violated the rule, so they did what was necessary to kill him off. Successfully.

I hope some good historian is tracking all this -- because if the country survives, the manner in which this works at the local and state level will need to be fully illustrated.

I'll give you an esample of it all. Back in 1984 I chaired the DFL Platform Committee for the State Convention -- and the "Peace Now" people, as well as Liberal Religious types -- and indeed some Jewish groups organized around Tikkem tried to fashion a better Middle East Policy Plank for a debate and vote at the State Convention. The idea was an even handed -- shall we say balanced resolution -- that foregrounded peace, negotiations, mutual recognition and much else against our ongoing DFL Platform which was straight AIPAC language. Behind this effort was the manipulation of the process in 1982 -- when the Convention did indeed adopt the "evenhanded" language -- but on Sunday Morning a rump of the Convention met and revoked the work of the previous day -- and the DFL'ers who were late up and not in the hall when the convention opened on Sunday were not in Church -- they were recovering from the parties and having their breakfast sausage. So they had targeted the 84 convention for decisions. One complecation of this was that the Dem Nominee for 84 was to be Minnesota's own Mondale, and he could not afford this kind of fight at his state party convention.

Minnesota Party Rules regarding platform are clear -- if you want a resolution, you get it introduced in as many Precinct Caucuses as possible, these are collated and voted on by Congressional District convention, and the ones that survive, end up at State Convention. In 84 the matter of even handed language in policy ended up in my lap as Co-Chair of the Platform Committee. And yea, Six of our eight Congressional Districts addopted identical resolutions to that effect, and two adoped more anti-Isral language. How to structure the Convention proposition was clear -- the Majority Report -- the 6 identical resolutions, and the minority report -- the anti-language. The whole platform committee agreed to the wording of the convention voting issue.

But then came the phone calls that were mighty threatening about what I should do with the resolutions. -- Burn then, flush them down the John, have them stolen from my car and report same to the cops -- and If I did not arrange something like that -- well bad things would happen.

What educated me about all this is that a whole lot of folk willing to use underhanded methods were more than willing to screw the system in the interests of their own version of truth -- and in the measure of things that mean anything, the exact wording of the Minnesota DFL Platform was but a drop of rain in a sea.

But multiply this by 50 states and all the Senators and Representatives, and you get a sense of the environment. From my nice Quakerly perspective, a real settlement is one that each side equally hates, but values more than continued conflict if not killing and combat. The process of making demons of the opposition has given way to chinks in the armor, and little bitty ideas about mutual cooperation are surfacing. I don't see that happening with the M&W article, because I doubt if influence and power gained will easily give up the policy dominance keystone position.


thanks for the informative,

because it was so well-detailed,


the wonder is that anything for the public good ever gets done


that political activity does not systematically degenerate into self-serving chaos

of the sort we have in washington today.

Alterman turned me on to this paper, and it's much worse than your excellent analysis begins to suggest:

It's badly written: boring, bloviating, ham-fisted.

It's badly argued: pages and pages of assertions with nodda gesture at backing them up, unexamined presups.

Does Cockburn have some stupid evil siblings?

A correction -- the Congressman attacked for speaking to the PLO was Paul Finley, not William.

I ran into an excellent short description of the origin of the "Neo-Con" movement in of all places, Taylor Branch's third volume on MLKing, which I am just near to finishing. See p. 619 and the following pages.

Branch gives credit for coining the term to Michael Harrington -- and he sets the dispute that led to the formation of the group in 1967, Spring, When King and the Non-Violence part of the Civil Rights movement was debating whether and how they should join the opposition to the Vietnam War. This debate was ongoing when the 6 day war in Israel broke out -- confronting those generally opposed to the Vietnam War to split -- in large measure because the grounds for opposition to Vietnam War were seen as imcompatable with supporting Israel's conquest of the West Bank and the Siani. King, Niebuhr, Bayard Rustin and Harrington (King was in Geneva at the time) tried to work out language that would defend Israel's right to exist and self defense -- but question holding Arab communities under military occupation -- and the more or less general agreement around this construction was what sent the (now named) "Neo-con's" flying out of the Socialist circle and its support for Civil Rights and King's efforts. Taylor fleshes out the debates with descriptions of late night meetings at the major religious seminaries where they tried to hack out something that would keep faith with King's Non-Violence and still preserve the Civil Rights coalition -- but ultimately it was unsuccessful.

Anyhow Taylor Branch's supurb narrative telling of the tale of the birth of Neo-conism is well worth a read.

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