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The 'Israel Lobby' Myth

The 'Israel Lobby' Myth

Questioning Israel for its actions is legitimate, but lies are something else.

by George Shultz

Israel is a free, democratic, open, and relentlessly self-analytical place. To hear harsh criticism of Israel's policies and leaders, listen to the Israelis. So questioning Israel for its actions is legitimate, but lies are something else. Throughout human history, they have been used not only to vilify but to establish a basis for cruel and inhuman acts. The catalog of lies about Jews is long and astonishingly crude, matched only by the suffering that has followed their promulgation.

Defaming the Jews by disputing their rightful place among the peoples of the world has been a long-running, well-documented, and disgraceful series of episodes across history. Again and again a time has come when legitimate criticism slips across an invisible line into what might be called the "badlands," a place where those who should be regarded as worthy adversaries in debate are turned into scapegoats, targets, all-purpose objects of blame.

In America, we protect all speech, even the most hurtful lies. We allow a virtual free-for-all by which laws are adopted, enforced, and interpreted. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent yearly to influence this process; thousands of groups vie for influence. Among these are Jewish groups that have come under renewed criticism for being part of an all-powerful "Israel lobby," most notably in a book published this week by Profs. Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer.

Jewish groups are influential. They also largely agree that the United States should support Israel. But the notion that they have anything like a uniform agenda and that U.S. policy in Israel and the Middle East is the result of this influence is simply wrong.

This is a conspiracy theory, pure and simple.

Some critics seem overly impressed with the way of thinking that says to itself, "Since there is a huge Arab Islamic world out there with all the oil, and it is opposed to this tiny little Israel with no natural resources, then realistically the United States has to be on the Arab side and against Israel on every issue, and since this isn't the case, there must be some underhanded Jewish plot at work." This is a conspiracy theory, pure and simple.

Another tried and true method for damaging the well-being and security of the Jewish people and the State of Israel is a dangerously false analogy. Witness former President Jimmy Carter's book Palestine—Peace Not Apartheid. Here the association on the one hand is between Israel's existentially threatened position and the measures it has taken to protect its population from terrorist attacks, driven by an ideology bent on the complete eradication of the State of Israel, and, on the other, the racist oppression of South Africa's black population by the white Boer regime.

The tendency of mind that lies behind such repulsive analogies remains and is reinforced by the former president's views, spread across his book, which come down on the anti-Israel side of every case. These false analogies stir up and lend legitimacy to more widely based movements that take the same dangerous direction.

Anyone who thinks that Jewish groups constitute a homogeneous "lobby" ought to spend some time dealing with them. For example, my decision to open a dialogue with Yasser Arafat after he met certain conditions evoked a wide spectrum of responses from the government of Israel, its political parties, and American Jewish groups who weighed in on one side or the other. Other examples in which the United States rejected Israel's view of an issue, or the view of the American Jewish community, include the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and President Reagan's decision to go to the cemetery at Bitburg, Germany.

The United States supports Israel not because of favoritism based on political pressure or influence but because the American people, and their leaders, say that supporting Israel is politically sound and morally just.

We are a great nation. Mostly, we make good decisions. We are not babes in the woods. We act in our own interests. And when we mistakenly conclude from time to time -- as we will -- that an action or policy is in America's interest, we must take responsibility for the mistake.

So, on every level, those who blame Israel and its Jewish supporters for U.S. policies they do not support are wrong. They are wrong because, to begin with, support for Israel is in our best interests. They are also wrong because Israel and its supporters have the right to try to influence U.S. policy. And they are wrong because the U.S. government is responsible for the policies it adopts, not any other state or any of the myriad lobbies and groups that battle daily -- sometimes with lies -- to win America's support.

September 15, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 11

(11) Sheri, December 22, 2009 3:50 PM

To anynomous Feb 2008

The "utter destruction & humilation of Palestinians" is part of the lies. There are mansions there, an exploding population growth, more universities than in Saudi Arabia, & so on... Have you ever looked at the source of issues they have or how they cause themselves? Every security measure Israel's implemented came AFTER violence from them. The security fence was because of multiple daily bombing attempts in Israel for 5 years, no end in sight. Masions are from corrupt leaders stealing foreign aid money (ask many PAs if they think Fatah is corrupt - answer YES). Universities & hospitals & much longer life expectancy is thanks to Israeli built for them. Life for them can be crummy, but when we ask them to be self-responsible & stop spreading the anti-Israel often false info, then finally we can move towards peace. Of course, if you look at PA websites & TV (actual their's), peace isn't majorities goals. You can't start & keep up a war, then claim victim to it. And how did they get riled up? Their own brethern, Arab countries, started a war with Israel & asked them to leave their homes. Kept them at gunpoint in refugee camps in Jordanian & Egyptian occupied WB & Gaza, & claimed it was Israel's fault. Iran gov't with Syria brought in religious ideology to support Hamas & Hizbollah on "reclaiming" the Middle East as part of Islamic ideology of owning the whole of it. It's time to stop supporting the radical & moderates among them with this blame game at Israel & start supporting the liberals among them who really do want peace & a better life more than to destroy Israel. They deserve it from us.

(10) Anonymous, February 18, 2008 12:50 PM

BIgger the lie, heftier the defenses you need to deploy... protect it, so George Schultz is a logical choice to prevent the lies from being exposed.

To "Cheang Aik Khoo": yes he should spend some time in Israel and experience the threat Israelis live under. I admit its a real one.

But how about he(or her) spending some time in Palestine, to witness the utter destruction and dehumanization of generations of people?

It's always easier, more convenient, expedient and even fashionable to side with the more powerful ones. Both intellectually and physically.

(9) Hilda, September 30, 2007 6:14 AM

Shultz is right

If George Bush believed what Mr. Shultz does and were really a friend of Israel then he would not be so eager to push Israel into giving away her land and her security to a terrorist group like Abbas and his Fatah. The difference between Abbas and Arafat is merely his mannor dress . Under that Western style grb beats the heart of someone of the same ilk as Hamas. He wants the same thing, the end of Israel, only his methods differ. He is a good salesman.

(8) Natalie, September 22, 2007 6:49 PM

It is good to read the words of people like George Shultz who points to the lies that Jimmy Carter spews. An honest man!

(7) Cheang Aik Khoo, September 22, 2007 12:45 PM

Jimmy, you're invited!

I suggest we invite ex president Carter to stay with the jewish community in Siderot to experience the incoming rockets launched daily from gaza, or just stand by across the fence and then ask his opinion about this later.

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