There is a nefarious lobby that controls American policy and subordinates American interests to its own narrow interests. While representing but a tiny portion of Americans, its power is nevertheless so large that it effectively dictates decisions and prevents adoption of any policies to which it objects.
Moreover, it is difficult to find any politician willing to adopt positions contrary to those it advocates. It controls huge amounts of funds. It pressures Congress to allot endless grants and subsidies for the cause it represents. It undermines the interests of American taxpayers and consumers. Indeed, its power is not restricted to Capitol Hill. Its appendages control policy in Europe and in other parts of the globe.
I refer, of course, to the Farm Lobby.
For decades, the American consumer has been fleeced by the Farm Lobby. Agricultural policy is one of the last bastions of socialist control in America. Congress has long feared applying free market economics to agriculture lest it enrage the Farm Lobby.
Farmers are only two percent of the U.S. population, a number almost exactly the same as the proportion of Americans who are Jews.
Now if the Farm Lobby is so powerful, why is the press so devoid of any discussion of it? There are no books by ex-presidents denouncing the excessive powers of the Farm Lobby. Ostensibly respectable professors at Harvard and the University of Chicago do not churn out books and articles demonizing farmers for their lobbying efforts.
In fact, the Farm Lobby is far more powerful than the so-called Israel Lobby. When was the last time you saw a congressman espousing a position deemed by the farm lobby to be hostile to farm interests? But congressmen and State Department officials take positions hostile to Israel all the time.
The State Department routinely pressures Israel to agree to adopt policies Israeli citizens oppose. The media overflows with articles demonizing the Israel Lobby and Israel itself. If the Israel Lobby is, as its critics claim, attempting to suppress anti-Israel criticism, it is doing an awful job of it.
While it would be an exaggeration to say there is no Israel Lobby at all, it would only be a small exaggeration. The main component of the Israel Lobby is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAC. It is indeed a registered lobby group. Its activities are all out in the open and its rather ordinary budget is publicly scrutinized.
There are, of course, other pro-Israel groups that attempt to persuade Congress to support Israel, ranging from numerous Christian and Jewish organizations to the AFL-CIO. But that, in essence, is the whole Israel Lobby.
* * *
The Israel Lobby, to the extent that it exists, is but one of thousands of lobbing groups that promote thousands of different causes in competition with one another. Lobbying is a legitimate – indeed a necessary and beneficial – public activity in democracies.
Not only do those who whine about the power of the Israel Lobby have nothing to say about the sugar lobby and the cotton lobby, they also have nothing to say about the countless groups that lobby on behalf of Arab aggression against Israel, and sometimes on behalf of Islamofascism.
Why should the efforts of the Israel Lobby be any less legitimate than the efforts of the Armenia Lobby or the affirmative action lobby or the medical marijuana lobby or the gay marriage lobby?
The reason the Israel Lobby is demonized is that it is associated with Jews. In a country where even polite criticism of blacks, Hispanics or homosexuals is considered barbarian and uncivilized, bashing Jews has won a newfound acceptance in polite society and academic circles. Open anti-Semitism became unfashionable for a generation after World War II, but the Holocaust effect has long worn off.
The hysteria over the Israel Lobby and the efforts to paint a picture of a Zionist bogeyman in hidden control of America amount to a resurgence of the old vile anti-Semitic canards and stereotypes, some originating in the Middle Ages. The propaganda of the Anti-Lobby Lobby strongly resembles the writings, popular until the 1940′s, about a Jewish cabal – a hidden Jewish conspiracy, secretly in control of the world, pulling the levers of power from behind the curtain.
It is only a very short distance from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the websites of the fruitloops screaming about ZOG (Zionist Occupied Government) to the “scholarly” denunciations of the Israel Lobby. While the language of the pseudo-scholars is civil and academic, the message is the same: the Jews are imposing their power on the rest of us and undermining governments.
* * *
To the extent that American foreign policy is pro-Israel, the Israel Lobby has little to do with it. The vast majority of Americans support Israel and see the Arabs as the real cause of the Middle East conflict and as the main source for terrorism in the world.
There is no question that American interests and Israeli interests very often overlap. In spite of decades of propagandizing by the anti-Israel Lobby and its captive media outlets, most Americans understand that Israel is the victim of Arab aggression and not the other way around, and that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where human rights, including the human rights of Arabs, are protected in a democratic regime.
Moreover, few Americans doubt that Arab terrorism and Islamofascism are the main threats today to American and world security. Americans on 9/11 experienced what Israeli Jews have been experiencing since the 1920′s. This has made it far easier for most Americans to understand, identify with, and appreciate Israel’s own defense needs regarding that same terror.
The simple fact of the matter is that the demonization of the Israel Lobby is little more than an attempt to demonize and smear Jews. That is why the Anti-Lobby Lobby is a bizarre coalition that includes the lunatic far right, neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, hard leftists, and anarchists of every imaginable stripe.
True, a small handful of anti-Israel Jewish leftists participate in the anti-Lobby Lobby, but anyone who doubts that Jewish leftists can be anti-Semitic has obviously never made the acquaintance of the species. It is a pretty sure bet that almost any leftist professor, and that includes almost any Jewish leftist professor, who spouts anti-Americanism today also despises Israel and the pro-Israel community – i.e., the Israel Lobby.
* * *
The hysteria about the Israel Lobby bogeyman is based on a non sequitur. The argument made by the anti-Lobby bunch is that if the U.S. supports Israel, then ipso facto it must be because of the Israel Lobby. But if the U.S. supports Korea, it is not because of the Korean Lobby. If the U.S. supports England, it is not because of the British lobby. If the U.S. supports India, it is not because of the India lobby. Only support for Israel is due to the machinations of a lobby.
Even more absurd are the complaints from the anti-Lobby Lobby that the Israel Lobby is silencing anti-Israel criticism on American campuses. Anyone who thinks the Israel Lobby has silenced criticism of Israel on American campuses has been living on some other planet. Bash-Israel propaganda and anti-Jewish smears are extremely common on campuses in the U.S. (and Europe). Anti-Semitic student groups operate in the open on the same campuses that would ban any group attacking blacks, Asians, homosexuals or transvestites.
Countless leftist professors turn their classrooms into political indoctrination camps in which anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism are the dominant themes. They call themselves “critical” analysts, but they oppose the right of anyone else to criticize them.
Criticizing an anti-Israel critic and questioning his real agenda is not legitimate freedom of speech in leftist academic circles. University administrations are keen to adopt “speech codes” outlawing insensitivity with regard to every other imaginable group but have nothing at all to say about the anti-Jewish extremism common on their campuses.
Speaking out against anti-Semitism is a risky business even for the most senior of administrators, as Lawrence Summers found out the hard way at Harvard.
There is nothing illegitimate about criticism of Israel and its policies. I criticize Israeli policies all the time and disagree with 75 percent of the decisions made by the Israeli government. (Of course that’s because I favor free market economics and a much more forceful defense policy by Israel.)
The problem is that the bulk of anti-Israel criticism in the media and by leftist academics is motivated not by any desire to see Israel adopt polices that produce improvements in the welfare and wellbeing of its citizens, but rather by the goal of demonizing Israel, calling into question its very existence, and justifying its annihilation.
* * *
The distinction between legitimate and illegitimate criticism of Israel in the media, on campus, and elsewhere is very simple and can be differentiated using two simple litmus tests.
The first test is whether the critic is using criticism of Israeli policies and decisions in order to justify anti-Israel military aggression, jihad, and terrorism – and whether the critic concludes that Israel has no right to exist and to defend itself.
Someone who merely disagrees with U.S. farm policy is a critic. But someone who concludes that anti-American terrorism is justified, that the 9/11 attacks were legitimate, or that the U.S. has no right to exist because, in his opinion, U.S. farm policy is harmful – well, such an individual is anti-American. And a moonbat.
A related version of the test is to see what the same critic has to say about the injustices in Middle East countries other than Israel. (Usually they have nothing at all to say.)
And that brings us to the second litmus test, which is all about the double standard. Is the critic applying a standard of criticism that singles out Israel? Respect for human rights inside Israel, including for Israeli Arabs, is a thousand times better than it is in any other Middle East regime. It is far better than in any Western democracy finding itself at war. Israel never placed its Arabs in internment camps, as the U.S. did in World War II with Japanese Americans. It neither censors the press nor jails those openly supporting the country’s enemies, as Churchill did in Britain during World War II.
If a critic only denounces Israel for its human rights abuses, real or imaginary, but is silent about human rights abuses in Arab and Muslim states, he is a bigot. He is singling out Israel because Israel is a country composed mostly of Jews.
Income and wealth disparity are part of the human condition. Socioeconomic inequality exists in all countries. If a critic singles out Israel because of socioeconomic inequality and concludes that, because of this inequality, Israel has no right to exist and to defend its citizens, that critic is an anti-Semite. Pure and simple. No other country is viewed as illegitimate because of its social inequality, real or perceived.
As it turns out of course, Arabs live far better inside Israel, with higher levels of schooling, better health, and better protection before the law, than do Arabs in any Arab country. And the only place in the Middle East where Arabs enjoy freedom of speech and the right to vote is in Israel. Actually the only place in the Middle East where Arabs can freely demonstrate against Israel is in Israel. When Arabs held an illegal demonstration against Israel in Jordan a few years back, the Jordanian army mowed down demonstrators with indiscriminate gunfire.
As for the absurd “apartheid” charge, Israel is the only Middle East state that is not an apartheid regime. Meanwhile, every Arab country is, to one extent or another, an apartheid regime. Yet everyone from Jimmy Carter to the neo-Stalinists at Counterpunch denounces Israel daily for its “apartheid.”
The anti-Lobby Lobby is not motivated by legitimate concern for human rights, for American interests, or for peace. Its real agenda is little different from that of other groups and individuals screaming about Jewish plots and conspiracies, even if its rhetoric is couched in the cadences of academia and objective examination.
Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at email@example.com.