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US Media Dead Silent On Israel Lobby Report 

By George S. Hishmeh

Jordan Times, March 31-April 1, 2006

Never before have the mainstream US media performed so atrociously, if not discouragingly, as they did this month when the editors ignored a damning report by two prominent university professors who are on the faculties of some of the country's most respectable institutions, Harvard University and the University of Chicago.

The case in point is the well-documented “working paper” titled “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy”. The authors were John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, and their blistering conclusions appeared as part of the “Faculty Research Working Papers Series” at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University where Walt is serving as the academic dean until next June. Mearsheimer is co-director of the Programme on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago.

In small print on the cover sheet of the 83-page typewritten report, which could be downloaded from the Internet, it was explained that the views in the report “are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect” those of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

The inflammatory report may not be startling to those who regularly monitor the impact of the Israeli lobby on US policy making on the Middle East. But the slightest chance that the contents of this earthshaking report could surface and grab headlines has led pro-Israelis here to do everything they can to keep the lid on that can of worms. In fact, the two authors could only find a respectable British magazine to carry a shortened version after the American publisher had recanted.

The timing also could not have come at a worse period for the Bush administration, now that the president's job approval rating is in the thirties and his policies in Iraq are rejected by a majority of Americans.

“Especially since the Six-Day War in 1967,” the two professors wrote, “the centrepiece of US Middle East policy has been its relationship with Israel.” More to the point, they continued, “the combination of unwavering US support for Israel and the related effort to spread democracy throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised US security.”

What they found puzzling is the fact that “the United States has been willing to set aside its own security in order to advance the interest of another state (Israel)?” They attributed the “overall thrust” of US policy in the region almost entirely to US domestic politics “and especially to the activities of the Israeli Lobby”.

“To divert US foreign policy as far from the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans, that US and Israeli interests are essentially identical”, a point they take issue with.

The two authors maintain that the Israel lobby is against an open debate on the Middle East because it “might cause Americans to question the level of support that they currently provide”. Accordingly, pro-Israel organisations work hard to influence the media, think tanks and academia “because these institutions are critical in shaping popular opinion”.

The two professors take good aim at the American media and think tanks, saying the former reflect the lobby's perspective on Israel because “most American commentators are pro-Israel.” Likewise, they say, “pro-Israel forces predominate in US think tanks,” noting that the Israeli lobby created its own think tank in 1985, when Ambassador Martin Indyk helped found the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), where former Middle East peace envoy Dennis Ross now serves as counsellor.

“Over the past 25 years,” they noted, “pro-Israel forces have been establishing a commanding presence at the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Centre for Security Policy, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.”

One cannot do justice to the report in a brief column but here are some of the authors' other startling observations:

— “The Israeli lobby has made it impossible to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

— “The Lobby's campaign for regime change in Iran and Syria could lead the United States to attack those countries, with potentially disastrous effect.”

— “Thanks to the Lobby, the United States has become the de facto enabler of Israeli expansion in the occupied territories, making it complicit in the crimes perpetrated against the Palestinians.”

— “The Lobby's campaign to squelch debate about Israel is unhealthy for democracy.”

— “The Lobby's influence has been bad for Israel [because] its inability to persuade Washington to support an expansionist agenda has discouraged Israel from seizing [peaceful] opportunities.”

The authors did not seem hopeful that something could be worked out anytime soon because the Israeli lobby and its Christian Zionists allies have “no serious opponents in the lobbying world”. Moreover, they continued, American politicians remain acutely sensitive to Jewish campaign contributions and other forms of political pressure and major media outlets are likely to remain sympathetic to Israel no matter what it does.”

But they nevertheless see a ray of hope. “Although the lobby remains a powerful force, the adverse effects of its influence are increasingly difficult to hide.” In other words, they advocate “a candid discussion of the lobby's influence and a more open debate about US interests in this vital [Mideast] region”.

That is why most of the American Jewish press is up in arms against the damning report which, incidentally, could use some careful editing here and there; the mainstream American media, however, have virtually remained silent except for a backhanded attempt by The Washington Post. It is time for the opposing forces to stand up and be counted.

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