- Words spoken years ago by George W. Ball,
a distinguished diplomat, author and champion of human rights, have vivid,
new currency: "When Israel's interests are being considered, Members
of Congress act like trained poodles. They jump dutifully through hoops
held by Israel's lobby." In the same interview, Ball said, "The
lobby's most powerful instrument of intimidation is the reckless charge
of anti-Semitism." Sadly, his words ring true today, verified by my
own experiences and those of many of my colleagues in the U.S. legislature.
- Ball could have added that, except for
exuberant praise of Israel, the poodles remain mute as they jump through
the hoops, lest they lapse into free speech and say something that will
spoil their chances for re-election.
- The fear of being charged with anti-Semitism
outranks all other worries that bedevil politicians, and the lobby has
marketed it so efficiently that a wall of silence shields the American
people from awareness of the lobby's activities and U.S. complicity in
Israel's longstanding abuse of international law and Arab human rights,
violations that the rest of the world follows with dismay and anger. Fear
of the anti-Semitism stain is intensified these days, because the lobby
has succeeded in redefining anti-Semitism to include any criticism of Israeli
behavior, an inferred threat that prompts all major media to ignore or
sanitize reports of Israeli violations.
- My authority for making these statements
comes from having been a close student of the lobby for over 30 years,
the first 22 as a member of Congress. The lobby leaders chose me as their
number one target because I met unashamedly with PLO leader Yasser Arafat
and later demanded the suspension of U.S. aid to Israel for its unlawful
use of U.S.-donated military supplies. In 1982, when the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the main center of Israeli lobbying in
Washington, claimed credit for keeping me from election to a 12th term
in the House of Representatives, I became the lobby's prize trophy.
- Two years later, Sen. Charles Percy (R-IL),
who was also guilty of failing to toe the AIPAC line, joined me on the
trophy shelf. Our fate has tended to focus the minds of other members of
Congress, discouraging them from the temptation to speak out about Israel's
- Israel's U.S. lobby is peerless among
the hundreds of lobbies in our nation's capital for one main reason: it
alone is armed with the ultimate persuader, an ample supply of indictments
- The supply promotes automatic cooperation
when legislation on behalf of Israel moves forward. It is the modern-day
Sword of Damocles, a fearsome instrument that hangs over almost every head
in our government. Until recently, it seemed to cow all of the nation's
prestigious scholars, except for a few hardy ones like Prof. Noam Chomsky
of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Juan Cole of the University
- "When Israel's interests are being
considered, Members of Congress act like trained poodles."
- In February, in a rare burst of academic
candor, two other distinguished professors, John J. Mearsheimer of the
University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard's Kennedy School,
broke the silence with the publication of their 81-page, heavily footnoted
study titled, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.
- In the study, they conclude that the
flagrant, longstanding pro-Israel bias in U.S. Middle East policy has enabled
Israel to tilt U.S. policy in ways that benefit Israel to the disadvantage
of U.S. national interests, luring America even into costly wars and a
rising tide of ill fame worldwide. They pin much of the blame on the influence
of Israel's U.S. lobby. One of their most significant conclusions: "The
U.S. has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied
- Mearsheimer and Walt quickly discovered
why most of their academic colleagues behave much like the political poodles
on Capitol Hill. Their study instantly became controversial, the subject
of a vigorous U.S. discussion over Israel's role in U.S. foreign policy
for the first time since the Jewish state came into being in 1948. A shorter
version edited by the authors was published in the respected London Review
of Books because no U.S. periodical was brave enough to give it a public
- The study provoked such strong trans-Atlantic
shock waves, thanks mainly to the Internet, that the wielders of the modern
Sword of Damocles have gone public with a barrage of full-throated epithets,
charging Mearsheimer and Walt with "ignorant propaganda, academic
garbage, anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist drivel."
- The Harvard Crimson quoted Harvard Prof.
Alan Dershowitz as labeling the authors "liars" and "bigots."
Two other academics, in a letter to the London Review of Books, wrote ominously:
"Accusations of powerful Jews behind the scenes are part of the most
dangerous traditions of modern anti-Semitism." They overlooked the
fact that the lobby also includes powerful Christians.
- In the New York Daily News, a less strident
critic, Harvard Prof. David Gergen, rebuked the authors by declaring that
"over the course of four tours in the White House I never once saw
a decision in the Oval Office to tilt U.S. foreign policy in favor of Israel
at the expense of America's interest." An experienced politician himself,
Gergen must know that such tilts would never be recorded for anyone to
see, even in the privacy of the Oval Office. In the column, Gergen mistakenly
credited President Ronald Reagan with stopping Israel's 1982 bloody assault
- To the contrary, as George W. Ball recorded
in his book Error and Betrayal in Lebanon (p. 45), Israeli Prime Minister
Begin was defiant, conveying his refusal in these words: "Nobody,
nobody is going to bring Israel to her knees. You must have forgotten that
the Jews kneel but to God."
- No matter what lies ahead, Mearsheimer
and Walt have already well served the American public. Their initiative
has broken through a dangerous wall of silence. Thanks to publicity arising
from their study, many thousands of U.S. citizens are aware for the first
time that a domestic lobby on behalf of Israel ex erts a significant role
in forming U.S. Middle East policy, even on decisions of war. They are
also now aware that religious communities-minority elements of both Christianity
and Judaism-are the main pillars of the lobby.
- This knowledge maybe stir enough public
curiosity for a civilized and edifying public debate to ensue. It is difficult
to conceive of a topic more urgently worthy of public examination.
- Paul Findley (R-IL), who served in the
U.S. Congress from 1961 to 1983, is the author of the bestseller, They
Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel's Lobby, available
from the AET Book Club. He and Mrs. Findley reside in Jacksonville, IL,
where he can be reached via e-mail at < Findley1@Verizon.net>.