Bodies from Syria chemical weapons attack 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh)
Adecade ago as the US marched on Iraq, prominent news commentators and academics
raised accusations that a “Zionist cabal” was pushing America to
Sometimes this group – which included Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz,
Bill Kristol and Douglas Feith – was referred to as “Likud-oriented members of
the president’s team,” sometimes it was referred to as “the clique of
conservative intellectuals pushing the war.”
Whatever their title,
according to two university professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, who
wrote a book called The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, these “neo-cons” had
in common the inability to “distinguish their loyalties to their original
homelands from their loyalties to America and its national interests.”
their 2007 book, they argued that pro-Israel organizations such as the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee had managed to divert the US from its true
national interests while simultaneous convincing Americans that US interests and
those of Israel were essentially identical.
It seems the traumas of these
baseless accusations – which border on anti-Semitism – continue to haunt and
intimidate US Jewish organizations and Israeli officials as President Barack
Obama attempts to muster congressional support for limited military action
As the JTA’s Ron Kampeas reported last week, “A lingering
sensitivity over misrepresentations of the role of the pro-Israel community in
the lead-up to the Iraq War in 2003 kept Jewish groups from weighing in on Syria
until it was clear that President Obama was determined to strike.”
even after Obama announced publicly that it was in America’s interest to punish
Syrian President Bashar Assad and deter other countries from developing and
deploying nonconventional weapons, organizations such as AIPAC, the
Anti-Defamation League and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish
Organizations that have come out publicly in support of military intervention in
Syria were careful not to make any “Israel-centric” statements.
Rosh Hashana was it disclosed that Obama had recruited AIPAC to send more than
250 activists to Congress on Monday to “flood the zone” with support for
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, officials have remained
intentionally silent on the issue of military intervention.
Minister Moshe Ya’alon stressed that “we are not involved and not interfering in
what is happening in Syria... We repeat and emphasize that.”
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has called on his ministers to refrain from making
any statements for or against a US attack.
Just as Israelis are split on
support for US military intervention against Assad, so undoubtedly is the
American Jewish community.
It is ludicrous to claim that US Jewish
organizations support an attack on Syria even though it is contrary to US
interests and because it is in Israel’s interest. In fact, as pointed out by
Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, “[Obama’s] not doing this for
Israel. This may have serious ramifications for Israel which are
Foxman was referring the very real possibility that Syria or
Hezbollah would launch rocket at Israel in retaliation for a US military
AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, the Conference of Presidents
of Major American Jewish Organizations and other Jewish groups have same the
right as other American organizations to come out publicly in support of
military intervention in Syria.
But that support should emerge from a
starting point of Americans backing an American action initiated by the
president of their country. It should not be predicated in any way on whether
the action against Syria is “good” or “bad” for Israel.
The sorts of
“Israel firster” allegations used a decade ago during the Iraq War against a
predominantly Jewish group of neo-con intellectuals have no place in the present
debate over military intervention in Syria.