Posts Tagged ‘Charles Percy’

Alexander Cockburn and the Row Over the Israel Lobby

May 4, 2016

As I said in a previous piece I put up this evening, Mike has reported the suspension of two more Labour MPs for supposed anti-Semitism. They’re the Newport Councillor Miqdad Al-Nuaimi, and Terry Kelly, a councillor for Renfrewshire. Mr Kelly is supposed to have discussed the ‘Jewish lobby’ in the US, claiming that it influenced foreign policy and rigged the Oscars. See the article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/04/anti-semitism-row-labour-suspends-two-more/

In fact, as I’ve posted several pieces about the subject, it’s perfectly reasonable to talk about the Israel lobby and its very strong influence on American foreign policy without necessarily being either an anti-Semite or even anti-Israel. One of those, who does so is the veteran radical academic and scholar of linguistics, Noam Chomsky. Chomsky has said in an interview that one of the right-wing organisations in the America tried to uncover something with which they could smear him a decade or so ago. They were disappointed. After digging around, they found that personally, Chomsky was actually very boring, living in bourgeois American domesticity with his family, and mowing his lawn on Sundays. They therefore had to content themselves with making a sneering remark about his linguistic theories, like he hadn’t properly understood the role of such and such in his transformational grammar. Or some such asinine remark.

Ten years ago there was massive controversy over in the US when Mearsheimer and Walt published their study, The Israel Lobby, in 2006. Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard professor whom the radical journo Alexander Cockburn described as America’s most manic Zionist, went off on a rant and compared it to the anti-Semitic conspiracy text, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He was joined by Eliot Cohen in the Washington Post. Cockburn discusses the furore in the chapter ‘The Row Over the Israel Lobby’, in his and Jeffrey St Clair’s End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate. He points out that the book and its conclusions are entirely unremarkable and not remotely anti-Semitic. He begins the chapter thus:

This spring of 2006 a sometimes-comic debate has simmering [sic] in the American press, focused on the question of whether there is an Israeli Lobby, and if so, just how powerful is it?

I would have thought that to ask whether there’s an Israeli Lobby here is a bit like asking whether there’s a Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour and a White House located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C. For the past sixty years, the Lobby has been as fixed a part of the American scene as either of the other two monuments, and not infrequently exercising as much if not more influence on the onward march of history.

The late Steve Smith, brother-in-law of Teddy Kennedy and a powerful figure in the Democratic Party for several decades, liked to tell the story of how a group of four Jewish businessmen got together two million dollars in cash and gave it to Harry Truman when he was in desperate need of money amidst his presidential campaign in 1948. Truman went on to become president and to express his gratitude to his Zionist backers.

Since those days the Democratic Party has long been hospitable to and supported by rich Zionists. In 2002, for example, Haim Saban, the Israel-American who funds the Saban Center at the Brooking Institute and is a big contributor to AIPAC, gave $12.3 million to the Democratic Party. In 2001, the magazine Mother Jones listed on its website the 400 leading contributors to the 2000 national elections. Seven of the first 10 were Jewish, as were 12 of the top 20 and 125 of the top 250. Given this, all prudent candidates have gone to amazing lengths to satisfy their demands. There have been famous disputes, as between President Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin, and famous vendettas, as when the Lobby destroyed the political careers of Representative Paul Findley and of Senator Charles Percy because they were deemed to be anti-Israel.

None of this history is particularly controversial, and there have been plenty of well-documented accounts of the activities of the Israel Lobby down the years, from Alfred Lilienthal’s 1978 study, The Zionist Connection, to former U.S. Rep. Paul Findley’s 1985 book They Dare To Speak Out to Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S. Israeli Covert relationship, written by my brother and sister-in-law, Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, and published in 1991. (pp.319-20)

Looking at Mearsheimer’s and Walt’s book, Cockburn stated that it’s actually unremarkable and really rather boring.

In fact, the paper by Mearsheimer and Walt is extremely dull. The long version runs to 81 pages, no less than 40 pages of which are footnotes. I settled down to read it with eager anticipation but soon found myself looking hopefully for the end. There’s nothing in the paper that any moderately well-read student of the topic wouldn’t have known long ago, but the paper has the merit of stating rather blandly some home truths which are somehow still regarded as too dangerous to state publicly in respectable circles in the United States. (P. 322.)

Of the denunciations of the book as anti-Semitic, Cockburn states that they’re actually funny, as the Lobby does exist, the authors weren’t ant-Semites, and even the Washington Post and New York Times have pointed out that the book had a point.

This method of assault at least has the advantage of being funny, because there obviously is a Lobby – as noted above and because Mearsheimer and Walt aren’t anti-Semites any more than 99.9 per cent of others identifying the Lobby and criticizing its role. Partly as a reaction to Dershowitz and Cohen, the Washington Post and New York Times have now run a few pieces politely pointing out that the Israel Lobby has indeed exercised a chilling effect on the rational discussion of U.S. foreign policy. The tide it turning slightly. (P. 323).

Except in 21st century Britain, apparently. It looks very much like another case where someone has confused the Israel Lobby with ‘Jews’. In the case of the accusations against the Oscars, unfortunately there have always been stupid conspiracies about the Jewish influence in show business. Jews have been very prominent in American cinema, as has been pointed out by historians of the American film industry. They’ve stated, however, that this isn’t due to some dodgy conspiracy, but the simple fact that there much less prejudice against them in the entertainment and film industries than there were elsewhere. At times, there have been anti-Semitic accusations levelled because of this, as during the 1930s when Father Coughlin accused the Jewish film moguls of trying to destroy American culture. At other times, the situation has been much more complicated. Private Eye a few years ago ran a story about how the career of US entertainment journalist had been torpedoed after they ran an article, which described the large number of Jews in the film industry as a ‘Jewish mafia’. However, a Jewish author in a later article also used the same words to describe the strong Jewish presence in American cinema, with no complaints.

I very much doubt that there is any kind of Jewish conspiracy to rig the Oscars. But that shouldn’t stop any reasonable discussion of the possible influence of Jewish organisations, or organisations claiming to represent Jews, in such areas. This should be for the same reason that talking about the role of Evangelical Christians in promoting the Satanism scare a few years ago, or describing how, horrifically, many Christians in the Fascist countries during the War were all too willing to collaborate with the Nazis should necessarily make you anti-Christian.

These are very emotive, very controversial topics. Let’s show a bit of common sense and calm rationality before throwing accusations like anti-Semitism around, shall we?

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