A recent study by Professors John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of the Harvard University on the power of the Israel lobby has sparked much debate and controversy here in the US and around the world (Washington Post: “Global Divide on Israel Lobby Study”).
The study addresses the BIG ELEPHANT in the room: that the Israel lobby and pressure groups in Washington wield such inordinate power that the policies that are often made under their influence serve Israeli interests at the expense of American national interests. This should come as no surprise to any astute observer of Middle East. For many decades now the much flaunted “special relationship” between the US and Israel has led American foreign policy makers down a path of blindfolded policymaking when it comes to the Middle East and the Muslim world. Ignoring America’s own strategic interests in pursuing a less lopsided, more realistic, less ideological, more pragmatic approach to foreign policy with the Arab world and the Muslim countries at large, the foreign relations apparatus of Washington has been conned into serving Israeli interests and defending Israeli atrocities.
Unsurprisingly, the authors are faced with a barrage of criticism from many quarters, and have earned themselves the label of anti-semitism. (On the use of this label itself as a tool to suppress open and critical debate about Israel, read Norman Finkelstein’s “Beyond Chutzpah : On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse Of History“.) In a recent interview on Democracy Now, Noam Chomsky praised the authors’ courage of conviction and intellectual audacity in taking this step -in the face of expected reactions- to publish the study.
For anyone who has spent time in the Middle East or the wider Muslim world, the findings are a welcome admission of truth. I do not mean to say that America’s favoritism of Israel is the only thing that fuels the widespread antagonism in the Muslim world to the US, but I suspect it is a major factor. From the perspective of the “Arab Street,” the hypocrisy and double-standarding cannot get anymore obvious than when it comes to the special treatment of Israel. To call it “an outpost of civilization,” ostensibly in an abyss of barbarism, is to add insult to injury. I hope this report will help bring about a debate and a critical appraisal of the current foreign policy approach to Israel and the Middle East. I still have some faith left in the importance of public opinion on American foreign policy (I know, this study suggests otherwise) and think that once the shroud of dogma that protects the Israeli state from the mildest of critiques is lifted, a more realistic foreign policy will result.
And here is the study itself: The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy