By Ramzy Baroud
One cannot emphasize enough the stranglehold Israel’s lobbying infrastructure has on US foreign policy. The events of recent weeks undoubtedly attest to this. "The special relationship" that has been historically fostered between the US and Israel in fact, is often a relationship of leverage, manipulation and intimidation, and often leads to the US supporting actions or resolutions that stand at complete odds with the interests of the American people.
The promise of change echoed the world over as people from all corners anticipated the magic moment Obama could actually change the devastating reality in which we live today. But just weeks before his inauguration, Israel unleashed the most barbaric attacks on defenseless Palestinian civilians since 1948. Civil societies expressed outrage and called for Israeli leaders to be tried for war crimes and genocide. Other nations cut diplomatic ties completely with the Jewish state. But the man of change did absolutely nothing. For weeks he was completely silent. Even in his first days in office, Obama made no mention of the Israeli genocide in Gaza. So, what of this change that he promised? What kind of hold does Israel have to silence the President of the United States?
Authors and professors, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, of University of Chicago and Harvard University respectively defined the Israel Lobby in their volume: The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy as a “loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to steer U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction.” What has been revealed in their work is that “The Lobby” is not a unitary organization, of a few, or many paid lobbyists who are pushing for a specific foreign policy agenda. Sure, you have that too, manifested in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – an organization that boasts of 60,000 active members, and who showers US congressmen with many millions of dollars in campaign contributions, all with one aim in mind, a pro-Israel, right or wrong agenda. But it’s much more complex than that.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, less known than AIPAC is a powerful lobby conduit, for it supposedly represents 52 major Jewish organizations. Based in New York, the organization simply represents an uncompromisingly pro-Israel stance, which tends to advocate Israel’s suppression of Palestinians (as Israel’s right to defend itself), and advocates a pro-war agenda (as was the case before the Iraq war, and later against Syria and Iran.)
These are but mere examples. What Mearsheimer and Walt describe as a “loose coalition of individuals and organizations” is in fact a vast infrastructure that has penetrated every major organization and institution, governmental and otherwise, that could in some way influence, push for or advocate Israel’s interests.
When AIPAC holds its annual conferences, countless members of the House and the Senate, the executive branch, top representatives of both parties, as well as hundreds of US ambassadors flock from all over the world in an unprecedented manner to vow their allegiance to Israel.
With the passing of time, the strength of the lobby, and the level of influence of Israel’s “friends” in the Congress has grown immensely to the point that US allegiances actually jeopardize the interests of their own citizens. Even from an imperialistic viewpoint, the US has no particular interest in supporting Israel’s genocidal policies in Gaza, for example, considering the fact that the US is struggling to find any semblance of ‘stability’ in the region that is saturated with anti-American sentiment.
Consider what outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a speech in the Israeli southern town of Ashkelon on Jan 12, regarding how he influenced the US vote in the UN on a resolution pertaining to the Gaza war:
"In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the Secretary of State wanted to lead the vote on a ceasefire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favor," Olmert said.
"I said ‘get me President Bush on the phone’. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn’t care. ‘I need to talk to him now’. He got off the podium and spoke to me.
"I told him the United States could not vote in favor. It cannot vote in favor of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favor."
"She was left shamed. A resolution that she prepared and arranged, and in the end she did not vote in favor."
Imagine, Olmert is boasting how he, with one telephone call managed to completely turn around the entire US foreign policy agenda, no questions asked. This tells us that it’s not a give-and-take relationship.
One can learn a valuable lesson in all of this. Within the United States there is a great apparatus that has been in motion for generations. It is beyond civil society, beyond individual citizens and citizen groups, it is perhaps even more powerful than ‘the man of change’ himself. And if we are truly to see some transformation in the way the US now rules the world, then this war-mongering machine must be dismantled.
– Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers, journals and anthologies around the world. His latest book is, "The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle" (Pluto Press, London).