Crowds at the AIPAC conference 390.
(photo credit: Gil Shefler)
Yet again, the well-known canard that a near-omnipotent American Jewish cabal is running US policies in the Middle East, particularly vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was trotted out. The one doing the trotting out this time was former British foreign secretary Jack Straw.
On Tuesday, October 22 during a gathering in the British House of Commons, according to former MK Einat Wilf, Straw told those present that AIPAC ’s “unlimited” funding and intimidation of American politicians is one of the main barriers to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Ironically, in May 2003 it was none other than Straw who was accused, along with Labor cabinet member Peter Mandelson and special envoy to the Middle East Lord Michael Levy of being part of a “Jewish cabal” influencing then-prime minister Tony Blair’s policies, including his decision to invade Iraq together with the US. Apparently, one of Straw’s grandfathers is Jewish. The accusation was leveled at Straw and the others by Labor MP Tam Dalyell in an interview in Vanity Fair.
Now, apparently, it is Straw’s turn to fight back using the same ammunition. Straw’s attack on AIPAC follows in the footsteps of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt who in 2007 published The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.
Indeed, Straw, responding Monday in an e-mail to The Jerusalem Post
’s Henry Rome, noted that his comments about AIPAC ’s influence on US policy are essentially based on Mearsheimer’s and Walt’s book. Straw also notes that in his 2012 memoir Last Man Standing he quotes in pages 445- 447 from these two men’s “critical study of AIPAC .”
Walt and Mearsheimer claimed that highly effective Jewish lobbyists, together with a group of influential neocons and Evangelical Christian groups, were essentially bullying consecutive US Congresses and governments into supporting Israel – including its “military aggression” and “human rights abuses” – despite the fact that doing so was against US interests.
Specifically, Mearsheimer and Walt argued that this lobby, which includes AIPAC , uses the purportedly ample campaign contributions at its disposal to coerce pro-Israel policymaking in Congress.
Straw fails to mention in his e-mail to the Post
, however, that many critics both within academia and without, have pointed to the multitudes of flaws in Mearsheimer’s and Walt’s book, raising serious questions regarding their motivations – and Straw’s. Maya Spitzer, a student at the University of Pennsylvanian helpfully collected these many criticisms in an undergraduate honors thesis available online entitled The Other Pro-Israel Lobby: The Meirsheimer and Walt Controversy and the Rise of J Street.
For instance, Columbia professor Robert Lieberman, who noted the two men’s bad methodology, their faulty research design, and the incongruity of their claims with scholarly consensus on the American political system, also criticized their tendency to exaggerate the impact of campaign contributions on pro-Israel policymaking. The two men overlook the fact, for instance, that the vast majority of pro-Israel funds go to Democratic candidates, which suggests that pro-Israel money would have paltry influence over Republican governments. Yet it was precisely the Bush administration that was accused by Walt and Mearsheimer of being so utterly under the control of the pro-Israel lobby. Also, pro-Israel donations have at times remained flat while overall campaign donations have soared, diminishing the relative weight of pro-Israel dollars in campaign coffers. Also, the two bring no evidence to back up their claim that the pro-Israel lobby, including AIPAC , has used contributions to effectively launch “revenge campaigns” against candidates deemed to be not sufficiently pro-Israel. What’s more, scholarly literature has widely disproved the claim that campaign contributions guarantee influence. They also conflate Jewish and pro-Israel campaign donations, exaggerating the true amount of pro-Israel donations.
If these insidious claims and many others made by Walt and Meirsheimer and others like them have been so thoroughly discredited, why do people like Straw continue to repeat them? Why, is AIPAC singled out as the main barrier to peace between Israel and the Palestinians and not other factors such as Palestinian intransigence, radicalism and incitement? Isn’t it possible that US congressmen support Israel because they identify with Israel and not because they are being bribed or coerced? Back in 2003 when Straw himself was accused of being a part of a Jewish cabal his spokesman to the BBC the following: “These remarks are too unworthy to be worth a comment.”
Perhaps we have already said too much.