The New Left Review’s Norman Birnbaum has an article in the usually very good openDemocracy on the Israel lobby, entitled “Israel on the Potomac”. The article is inoffensive, but dull and unoriginal. Essentially, he is saying (a) there is an Israel lobby in American public affairs, represented by the triumvate of Aipac, AJC and ADC, along with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations; (b) it is immensely powerful; (c) it does not represent the views and of most American Jews; and (d) there are welcome signs that its power is waning.
Now, I do not deny the truth of (a). I gladly accept (c). I am agnostic about (d). Where I have a problem with Birnbaum is over (b). Birnnbaum says the lobby has been “remarkably successful in neutralising criticism of Israel”, “able to count on the support of the media”, has “the overwhelming support of Congress”, and able to make Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi, no less, dance to their tune.
Yet Birnbaum’s article itself provides plenty of evidence that these claims are wild. If the lobby was so powerful, would Jonathan Pollard have been abandoned by the American Jewish leadership? Would Lawrence Franklin get taken to task? Would Jimmy Carter’s book be on the bestseller list and getting rave reviews from mainstream newspapers? Would the academies of America’s ruling class (Harvard, Columbia, etc) not only employ but pay small fortunes to passionate anti-Zionists like Edward Said and Stephen Walt? Would no account Kissengerite foreign policy wonks like Walt and Mearsheimer be media stars? Would mainstream publishers like Farrar, Strauss & Giroux be giving them book contracts to rehash their new protocols of the elders of the lobby? Would highly respected and well paid scholars like Richard Sennett be attacking the ADL in the press? And so on.
(Footnote- Anyone who can tell me who these people are wins a BobFromBrockley prize: “those custodians of American tradition amongst the imperial managers who look back to Franklin D Roosevelt for inspiration, and to the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr for ideas on the limits of American power”?)
Bonus links: More on this broad topic from MeretzUSA and Judeosphere.
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