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(photo credit: AP)
US support for Israel was a "major cause" of the 9-11 attacks, according to University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer and Harvard Professor Stephen Walt, who appeared at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week to promote their book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.
"A critically important issue when talking about America's terrorism problem is the matter of how US support for Israel's brutal treatment of the Palestinians relates to what happened on September 11," said Mearsheimer, who played the role of attack dog, while Walt set the stage.
Mearsheimer suggested that the notion of payback for injustices suffered by the Palestinians is perhaps the "most powerfully recurrent in [Osama] Bin Laden's speeches," who, he said, had been deeply concerned about the plight of the Palestinians since he was a young man. He said that Bin Laden's concern had been reflected in his public statements throughout the 1990's - "well before 9-11." Citing the 9-11 Commission report, Mearsheimer and Walt argued that Bin Laden wanted to make sure the attackers struck Congress because it is "the most important source of support for Israel in the United States," adding that Bin Laden twice tried to move up the dates of the attacks because of events involving Israel. Mearsheimer and Walt went on to argue that 9-11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experiences in the United States as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with US foreign policy favoring Israel. "Its hard to imagine more compelling evidence of the role US support for Israel played in the 9-11 attacks," said Mearsheimer.
"In short, the present relationship between Washington and Jerusalem is helping to fuel America's terrorism problem," he went on to say.
They said that US support for Israel motivates some individuals to attack the United States and "...serves as an important recruitment tool for terrorist organizations," according to Mearsheimer. He said that US support for Israel generates huge support for terrorists in the Arab and Islamic world.
Suggesting that Israel had outlived its usefulness to the United States, Walt added that "Israel may well have been a strategic asset during the Cold War," but that "...the Cold War is now over." He said that America's unconditional support for Israel in the Middle East is "one" of the reasons "we have a terrorism problem, and it makes it harder to address a variety of problems in the Middle East."
At the same time, Walt admitted the US's problems in the Middle East would not disappear if it had a different relationship with Israel, and that the US "does benefit from various forms of strategic cooperation." Walt also noted that Israel's human rights record was not "significantly better than that of the Palestinians," adding that any reasonably fair-minded look at the history of the conflict shows that "neither side owns the moral high ground."
Mearsheimer and Walt argued that Israel and the pro-Israel lobby in the United States were two of the main driving forces behind the decision to invade Iraq. "It is hard to imagine that war happening in their absence," said Mearsheimer, who added that Israel was the only country besides Kuwait where both "the government and the majority of the population favored the war." He said that the Israeli government pushed the Bush administration hard to make sure that it did not lose its nerve in the months before the invasion.
Mearsheimer said there was "no question" that the "neo-conservatives were the main driving force behind the war, but they where supported by the main constituents in the [Israel] lobby, such as AIPAC."
Citing a 2004 editorial, Mearsheimer said that as President Bush attempted to sell the war in Iraq "America's most important Jewish organizations rallied as one to his defense. In statement after statement, [Jewish] community leaders stressed the need to rid the world of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Concern for Israel's safety rightfully factored into the deliberations of the main Jewish groups."
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