The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy (2019)

[These are my notes from the 2019 conference on “The Israeli Lobby and American Foreign Policy” held at the National Press Club in Washington DC on March 22. These notes summarize my impression of highlights of the presentations and are not an attempted transcription. The entire program may be viewed here. ]

Walter Hixon (Author of American Foreign Relations: a New Diplomatic History). Israel’s Armor: The Israel Lobby and the First Generations of the Palestine Conflict

The Biltmore Conference 1942 was start of the Israel lobby. It quickly lined up both political parties in support of the new state. From the beginning the purpose was to insulate the new state from criticism. Palestinians and Arabs had no comparable lobby. Truman sided with his Zionist advisers against his State Department. Israel appeared vulnerable when Sharon executed the Qibya massacre, but the lobby successfully managed the fallout. In 1957 Eisenhower successfully pushed back on Israel’s invasion of Egypt, but Israel was rewarded with critical new navigation rights that enables it to precipitate the 1967 War. Kennedy announced the “special relationship with Israel” and in response Israel lied to Kennedy about Dimona and to this day has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In 1951 Isaiah L. Kenen, [who until that year was a registered foreign agent for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ “Israel Office of Information”] founded the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs (AZCPA), the forerunner of what has been known as AIPAC since 1959. In 1967, Israel launched the June war as a first rather than last resort, attacking a U.S. spy ship and exploiting the military victory to pursue a messianic vision of an expanded Jewish state. By 1968 Israel had achieved a stranglehold on American political life. Isaiah Kenen frankly asserted the policy was to write letters to the President to overrule the State Department. Diplomats were falsely accused of being pro-Arab or antisemitic. Palestinians and Arabs have made many mistakes, but the conflict is rooted in Zionist aggression and a host of actions in violation of international law. Israel, like the U.S., South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Canada and others, is a product of “settler colonialism.” For most of its existence Israel has been led by men who should be held accountable for war crimes. Like other settler states, Israel is not content to have its crimes overlooked, but demands praise and affection for its liberality and democracy. Israel has mastered the concept of tropes and manipulating them. While Ilhan Omar never used the trope of dual loyalty, the Lobby used it to accuse her of antisemitism. Such abuse of the trope of antisemitism undermines the force of the concept applied to actual antisemitism such in Pittsburgh and Charlottesville. Yet, it is perfectly acceptable to use the trope of Islamic terrorism to inspire atrocities like the Christchurch massacre. A tenacious propaganda campaign can cover up most crime. We live in dangerous times reminiscent of the antebellum era in this country. In 1858 Lincoln observed that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” That is as true today of Palestine/Israel as it was of the U.S. in 1858. The juxtaposition of Lincoln and Trump is reminiscent of Henry Adams’s observation “[t]he progress of Evolution from President Washington to President Grant was alone evidence enough to upset Darwin.” In 1864 Lincoln declared, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” I conclude in the same spirit: If declaring your right to exist while denying it to your neighbor is not wrong, nothing is wrong. If slaughtering children for throwing stones at their oppressors is not wrong, nothing is wrong. If supplying $125 billion dollars to finance a regime that commits such crimes against humanity is not wrong, nothing is wrong. If antisemitism is not wrong, nothing is wrong. If cynical deployment of baseless charges of antisemitism, however, to stifle criticism of such policies is not wrong, nothing is wrong.

Ali Abunimah (Electronic Intifada). What Does a Censored Undercover New Investigation Reveal About the Israeli Lobby in America?

The suppressed Al-Jazeera documentary on the Israeli Lobby is available at Electronic Intifada. It was censored after Qatar was intensely pressured by the Arab states. Qatar claims the film was stalled by “outstanding legal issues,” yet a comparable film was released about the lobby in Britain and, notwithstanding that the U.K. has no first amendment, every single complaint against that film was dismissed as without merit. Israel is running covert and semi-covert black ops from the ministry of external affairs in collusion with a number U.S. organizations not registered as agents of a foreign power, including the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). Some operations were being run out of the Israeli embassy. An operative explains how Israeli operatives such as Israel on Campus Coalition use anonymous websites to sabotage anti-Israeli activists (mentioning Canary Mission as a model). In one case accusations that a young Muslim woman was engaged in late night drinking and sexual activity were used in an attempt to shame her and bring her into disrepute. The director general of the Israeli mission boasts that the FDD and other groups are working with the Israeli government, yet neither FDD nor its principals are registered as agents of the Israeli government. The film’s undercover reporter got an internship at the Israel Project, which works closely with the Israeli government. One of the Facebook sites set up called “A Cup of Jane” that describes itself a “sugar and spice and everything nice.” It tries to present itself as a progressive and cute site that weaves in pro-Israeli propaganda portraying an Israeli fighter jet painted pink in support of breast cancer awareness month, even as dozens of cancer patients (many of the women) died because Israel would not let them out of Gaza to get needed treatment. Facebook has partnered with the Israeli government to shut down pro-Palestinian pages but replied to complaints that the Israeli propaganda network did not violate any of their rules.

“Watch the film the Israeli lobby didn’t want you to see. “ Even with the attacks on Ilhan Omar, we are seeing something that the Israeli lobby does not want: an open discussion about them. Eric Gallagher, Israeli project official, says that the foundation is rotting. I don’t think AIPAC is going to remain as influential as it once was.

Forget the explosive content of this film, consider, if Russia pressured a major news organization to suppress a film about Russian influence, Rachel Maddow and Jake Tapper would be shouting from the rooftops and Washington Post and the New York Times would have it on the front pages but in this case silence.

Dual loyalty is a trigger term that has been used in a way that suggests bigotry. This film does not use that term and is in no way antisemitism. This film focuses on certain organizations, the lobby is larger than that and the mass base of the Israel lobby are the Christian Zionists.

Legal antisemitism is real and visible and its ally is Israel. The far right parties in Europe are not only pro Israel but have close ties to Netanyahu. Netanyahu ordered the withdrawal of a statement critical of a former Nazi Victor Orbin. Israel is providing a whitewashing and laundry service for anti-Semites and racists of all kinds.

Grant F. Smith (Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy). US Foreign Aid and the Israeli Nuclear Weapons Program

Although Lyndon Johnson and Dean Rusk told Abba Eban that they felt strongly that Israel should sign the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons), Johnson caved under pressure and sold them planes without conditions. U.S. agencies and officials want to avoid confirming or denying Israeli possession of nuclear weapons, despite “prior official disclosure” such as the CIA 1974 Special National Intelligence Assessment which confirms Israel has a  nuclear weapons site and the DoD’s “Critical Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations” confirming Israel’s work on hydrogen bombs. “Nuclear Ambiguity” since 1993 has been maintained through “presidential letters” demanded and held by Israel, but two Senators were not satisfied. Stuart Symington and John Glenn in 1976 passed a law prohibiting foreign aid to any non-NPT country without a waiver. This law has never been followed and no waivers have been issued.

The Obama administration, notwithstanding it talked about a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, not only signed the nuclear ambiguity letter, but went so far as to promise to fire any employee or contractor who even mentions any fact from the public record contradicting the policy. Thus, former nuclear policy specialist James Doyle wrote an article that had been cleared for security issues in which he pointed out, “Nuclear weapons did not deter Egypt and Israel from attacking Israel in 1973, Argentina from attacking British territory in the 1982 Falklands War or Iraq from attacking Israel during the 1991 Gulf War in the Feb.-March 2013 issue of Survival. After a Congressional staff member noticed this, the Department of Energy retroactively classified Doyle’s story, raided his home, fired him, and took away his clearance clearances.

One measure of the cost of nuclear ambiguity since the passage of the Symington-Glenn bill is $260.9 billion dollars which does not include any of the black budget aid. This is far more than the aid spent to rebuild Europe under the Marshall plan. There has been $99.9 billion in aid to Israel just since 1993.

Susan Abulhawa (Palestinian poet and author of Mornings in Jenin, The Blue Between Sky and Water, founder of Playgrounds for Palestine.) Keynote Address.

I will look at Israel from a number of angles that may seem unrelated. Every country has good and bad elements, but one can find an overall picture of societies and their impact. Spending is a useful tool. When we look at Israeli arms spending per capita it is second only to that other bastions of civil liberties, Saudi Arabia. From such absurd claims as that Israel invented falafal to that it is one year away from curing cancer, popular international media do not merely spin reality, they completely misrepresent the reality. Consider an article in Scientific American on Israeli desalinization efforts that recalls the myth that Israel “made the desert bloom.” Not only does it ignore the work of Arab societies on desalinization, but it ignores the fact that Ramallah’s annual rainfall exceeds London’s and Jerusalem’s rainfall is nearly on a par with London’s. Pollution in a Promised Land documents how rather than make the desert bloom, Israel has harmed the ecology of Palestine. Rather than “creating water from nothingness”, Israel has diverted water from the locals to try to recreate a European lifestyle in Zionist settlements that is destroying the Palestinian water systems. They transformed the al-Awja river (which they renamed the Yarkan) which was reduced from a life-giving river to a polluted trickle of sludge. Settlements have destroyed the land’s natural biological diversity. Massive forest fires have scorched the earth, and Palestinians’ olive trees have been deliberately destroyed.

Israel leads the word in death, surveillance, and suppression tactics. They test their weapons on Palestinians and Gaza is their primary laboratory for maximum control and minimum service to a population. Israel is 4th-8th largest exporter of arms (depending on year and currency), but this is an underestimation since off-record arms deals are not included. My own analysis based on the database of top arms exporters from 2010-2018 from CIPRI and the world population database from the World Bank shows that Israel leads the entire world in per capita arms exports with the peculiar except of a tie with Sweden in 2011.

Over 60% of global drone exports come from Israel. They boast of being “combat tested.” Only three weeks after Israel used still-in-test-phase Hermes 900 drones in the slaughter of 2200 people and maiming tens of thousands in Gaza, it was the hit product at a trade show. In South Sudan’s civil war Israel continued to provide the regime with weapons despite a U.S. and U.N. arms embargo. In the Bosnian massacres Israel sold weapons to the Serbians long after the U.N. embargo was imposed. Israelis at the highest levels were involved in the arms trade. Israel’s high court rejected a lawsuit on the grounds that exposing its role in the war crimes would harm Israeli interests. Israel sold arms to Myanmar long after the U.S., Europe and the U.N. instituted an embargo. Israel provided the rifles, ammunition and grenades that made the Rwandan massacres possible. An Israeli arms dealer boasted the he saw himself as a doctor who helped the victims to die quickly. Israel later backed a move at the U.N. to rewrite the history of the genocide. Israel was South Africa’s closest ally, its biggest arms supplier, and eventually its only friend in a world that had become intolerant of apartheid. The relationship went beyond trade and coordination. It was a spiritual affinity articulated by former Israeli chief of staff Rafael Eitan who said of blacks in South Africa that “they want to gain control over the white minority just like the Arabs here want to gain control over us. And we, like the white minority in South Africa must act to prevent them from taking over.” When school children went into the streets of Soweto to protest apartheid, they were mowed down with Israeli-supplied weapons. Israel had offered to provide the apartheid government with nuclear arms as far back as 1975. South Africa abandoned its nuclear weapons after the fall of apartheid. In 1987 Ehud Olmert warmed that Israel might one day face a South African style demand for equal voting rights and, that once that happened, the State of Israel was finished. There were many other examples of sub-rosa armaments and funding of unsavory and terrorist regimes and movements. Israel armed all sides of the Angolan civil war and Guatemalan death squads. It also provides surveillance equipment to oppressive regimes. It also provides wares and training to governments and corporations for suppression of domestic dissent. Cooperation between the Israeli military and American police departments came to light after the Ferguson uprising “in which robocop police appeared in military gear to suppress unarmed protesters.” In Dallas Texas a kind of robot suicide bomber was deployed to kill a suspect after the police chief was on a ten-day “anti-terrorism” training junket to Israel. And now we know Israelis have spied on American citizens and the Mueller investigation has revealed Israeli interference in American elections.

“Despite claiming to be the guardians and protectors of Jews everywhere, Israel has … courted some of the wold’s most notorious anti-Semites, as long as they support the occupation and buy their arms.” In 1976 Itzhak Rabin heaped praise on South Africa’s Nazi sympathizing PM John Vorster. Israel has cozied up to Brazil’s ultranationalist, homophobic, racist Jair Bolsonaro who calls refugees “the scum of the earth,” told a female colleague she was “too ugly to rape,” threatened to destroy or imprison his political opponents, spoke favorably of torture, lamented that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the America soldiers who exterminated the Indians, and said he would rather hear his son died in a car crash than learn that he was gay. Israel is arming neo-Nazis in the Ukraine and opened its doors to the anti-Semitic prime minister of Hungary Viktor Orban who “praised his country’s WWII leadership that presided over the murder of Jews … and employed … anti-Semitic tropes to demonize George Soros.” Netanyahu signed a joint declaration with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki whitewashing Poland’s role in the Holocaust and even “went so far as to say Hitler isn’t quite the monster we thought he was but that … it was a Palestinian Hajj Husseini who convinced him to actually kill European Jews.” He crossed a red line with that last one and was given a foul card.

Finally there is Israel’s tireless effort to wipe out the memory of the many other religions and people who resided in the land before during and after the Jewish presence. Centuries old mosques and churches have been torn down. Non-Jewish places of worship have been turned into night clubs, animal pens and brothels. Non-Jewish cemeteries have been dug up and built over. Israel has weaponized archaeology. Whole neighborhoods have been destroyed on the pretext of archaeological research. In Silwan archaeology was the pretext for destroying a neighborhood to build what is being called a Jewish Disneyland. A 1200 year old village of mixed Muslims and Christians is now marked for destruction. No matter how good the Israeli National Orchestra makes you feel on tour, the way Israel exists in the world is “antithetical to life and liberty not only for Palestinians but to all people who struggle against tyranny, oppression, white supremacy, and ecological destruction.” Israel now wants to ban the adhan (Muslim call to prayer) for the first time since the dawn of Islam. “But I believe that Israel’s current escalation of their ethnic cleansing is in many ways a desperate though counter-productive response to the growing international repudiation of them, including by young Jews whose moral compass is not guided by Zionism. The conversation is changing here and around the world.”

Martin M. McMahon (Attorney at Law). The Legal Battle for Justice Against Israeli Settlers and Their American Financiers

[He filed a lawsuit seeking damages from illegal Israeli settlers and their American backers and those who enabled them to commitment war crimes including genocide against the Palestinians.] This is the first time ever that the political doctrine question has not blocked a lawsuit by Palestinians. It is a landmark case. We lost in district court and then won on appeal. Eventually we will start discovery and I will ask for defendant Sheldon Adelson’s last five years of tax returns. He writes off the weapons and body armor he gives to illegal settlers. 501(c)3s give two billion dollars a year to Israel for arms. This lawsuit will allow us to identify the founders of hate. Netanyahu’s people characterizing Palestinians as carcinogenic agents, savages, beasts, and snakes, not human beings, is evidence of genocidal intent. What happened in Charlottesville was a re-enactment of Kristellnacht. It was not an accident. Bobby Kennedy warned many years ago that more Americans turned to or became tolerant of violence as society teaches people to hate one another. Hatred is being taught to young settlers. Shin Bet has confirmed that settlers now have a how-to-do-it manual for burning down Palestinian homes. (Arson for Dummies?) An Israeli rabbi said that “One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.” When an Israeli pilot refused to drop cluster bombs on Gaza on the grounds that it is a war crime, he was rebuked by a general who explained, “Don’t you know that Jewish actions must be evaluated from the perspective of Jewish superiority to the Arab, moral and otherwise.”

Saqib Ali (Founder of Freedom to Boycott in Maryland). Why I Am Suing Maryland to Protect My Constitutional Right to Boycott Israel.

When we defeated a legislative attempt to punish boycott of Israel, Governor Hogan issued an executive order towards that end. Governor Hogan’s overreach in requiring one to pledge not to boycott Israel even to just apply for a government contract gave me standing to sue him as having violated my civil rights by requiring me to give up my first amendment rights as condition of seeking to do business with the state of Maryland. We filed on Jan. 9 and the governor has attempted to block the suit, but we think we shall prevail. Claybourne v ACLU says political boycotts enjoy the highest level of free speech protection. We would live to see similar cases in the other affected states.

Brad Parker. Defense for Children International–Palestine. What Lessons Activists Take Away from Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act?

Every year the Israeli military arrests and prosecutes around 700 Palestinian children. has had success with narrow issues through “dear colleague” letters.  No matter with what a child has been charged, he has a right not to be tortured. We know not everyone in Congress will agree, but their opposition will come at a cost. We urge you to invite representatives from congressional offices to events.

Kathy Drinkard. How the VCHR (Virginia Coalition for Human Rights) Is Preventing Israel Affinity Organizations from Politicizing K-12 Textbooks

Edits proposed to Virginia textbooks would give an inaccurate picture of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Edits were submitted during the 30-day comment period of an annual textbook reviews.  The edits qualify Islamic claims as “expressing Muslim religious belief” while referencing those of Judaism as “God’s covenant.” They impose sanitizing language so that “settlements” become “communities” and the “wall” becomes the “security fence.” Arab culpability for crisis initiation is always emphasized and Israeli culpability never emphasized. Students are discouraged from conducting open Internet research. Labels on maps are changed, and any reference to “Palestinian Territories” is deleted. In describing the Rabin-Arafat declaration of principles, the “occupied territories” is changed to “West Bank and Gaza” on the pretext that “occupied territories” is a political term, even though it is actually their status under international law.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute

One Response to “The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy (2019)”

  1. Bruce says:

    Funny how a billion Muslims are afraid of a small country like Israel. I think it’s because so many Muslims are anti-Christ. The Bible speaks of the last battle being fought against Israel where God Himself will fight against the enemy and slaughter them so the blood flows up to the horses’ bridle. Turn from your hatred of God and His chosen people while you still have a chance. Don’t fight God any longer.

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