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Do Israel’s Critics Have Anything Original To Say?


And again, during an interview on “Face the Nation” on October 7, 1973, the second day of the Yom Kippur War, Sen. Fulbright said, “The U.S. government alone is not capable of [putting an embargo on arms to the Middle East], because the Israelis control the policy in the Congress and the Senate and unless we use the UN and do it collectively, we know the U.S. is not going to do that. . . . Somewhere around 80 percent of the Senate of the United States is completely in support of Israel and of anything Israel wants.”

In their original working paper on the Israel Lobby, Walt and Mearsheimer argued similarly: “The bottom line is that AIPAC, a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on Congress, with the result that U.S. policy towards Israel is not debated there, even though that policy has important consequences for the entire world.”

Anti-Semitism Used to Silence Critics: As George Ball put it in his article “How to Save Israel in Spite of Herself,” (Foreign Affairs, April 1977), “Because many articulate Americans are passionately committed to Israel, the slightest challenge to any aspect of current Israeli policy is likely to provoke a shrill ad hominem response. To suggest that America should take a stronger and more assertive line in the search for Middle East peace is to risk being attacked as a servant either of Arab interests or of the oil companies, or being denounced as anti-Israel, or, by a careless confusion of language, even condemned as anti-Semitic.”

Again, Walt and Mearsheimer are recycling an old charge: “No discussion of how the Lobby operates would be complete without examining one of its most powerful weapons: the charge of anti-Semitism. Anyone who criticizes Israel’s actions or argues that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over U.S. Middle Eastern policy stands a good chance of being labeled an anti-Semite.”

American Aid to Israel: Here is Ball again in that same article in Foreign Affairs, now discussing American aid: “Last year, [U.S.] public sector aid [to Israel] amounted to $2.34 billion, which means more than $600 for every man, woman and child in Israel. . . . Our contribution will again be a very high percentage of our total foreign aid programs. Rarely before have so many done so much for so few.”

Here are Walt and Mearsheimer following suit: “Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing the amounts provided to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct economic and military assistance since 1976. Israel receives about $3 billion in direct assistance each year, roughly one-fifth of the foreign aid budget, and worth about $500 a year for every Israeli….It is hard to think of another instance where one country has provided another with a similar level of material and diplomatic support for such an extended period.”

American Interests, Israeli Interests: As Ball would have it, “How far should we go in continuing to subsidize a policy shaped to accommodate understandable Israeli compulsions which do not accord with the best interests – as we see it – either of Israel or the United States, but are a threat to world peace? The hard fact is that the national interests of the United States and Israel cannot, in the nature of things, be precisely congruent…. The time is ripe for the United States to take a strong hand to save Israel from herself.”

Walt and Mearsheimer come to the same conclusion: “Israel itself would probably be better off if the Lobby were less powerful and U.S. policy more even-handed…. What is needed is a candid discussion of the Lobby’s influence and a more open debate about U.S. interests in this vital region…. Open debate will expose the limits of the strategic and moral case for one-sided U.S. support and could move the U.S. to a position more consistent with its own national interest, with the interests of the other states in the region, and with Israel’s long-term interests as well.”

So what does it mean that Fulbright’s and Ball’s arguments against America’s strong support for Israel are parroted 30 years later by two prominent professors?

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