None of the major American Jewish organizations – nor the groups’ umbrella organization, The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations – ever endorsed the Iraq War.
American Jewish support for the war, based on polls in the days in 2003 leading up to the attack, was almost exactly proportional with the rest of the U.S. population – and, as the war progressed, Jewish support declined to a degree that was greater than the overall public.
Yet, despite this evidence, the Guardian’s Brian Whitaker has frequently suggested that the Israel lobby wields undue influence on U.S. policy in the Middle East, including their decision to invade Iraq, and over the media’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – consistent with a long record of using the term in the pejorative.
Typical, and most recent, was the following passing reference to the lobby, in the context of an essay he wrote about the war in Libya (The liberal-left are at odds on Libya, CiF, May 5), that the liberal interventionist case for war in Iraq was “muddled” by factors such as the Israel lobby’s support.
“There were certainly some who made a case for “liberal interventionism” in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it was muddied by numerous other factors and for that reason never became very convincing. With Iraq, there was a long build-up as American neoconservatives and the Israel lobby beat their war drums…”
The hyper link Whitaker included in the words “Israel lobby“ linked to a piece he wrote back in 2002, where he suggested that President Bush was being pushed to war by hawks whose “roots can be traced, at least in part, to a paper (A Clean Break) published in 1996 by an Israeli think-tank”.
“The paper set out a plan by which Israel would “shape its strategic environment”, beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad.”
He then noted that individuals such as Richard Pearl, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser – several Jewish authors of the “Clean Break” – now are “holding key positions in Washington.”
Similarly, the hyper link for the word “neoconservative” linked to a Whitaker report in 2002 (“US think-tanks give lessons on foreign policy”) on the disproportionate role pro-Israel think tanks had in shaping the pubic debate in the U.S. – a story which was posted in full at the site of the explicitly anti-Semitic organization, “If Americans Knew”. As Whitaker framed it, his report on the power of such “little networks” was vital in better understanding the “increasingly bizarre set of policies on the Middle East.”
Such a charge against the Israel lobby is more than simply a false assertion. It echoes a persistent calumny (one which historically has been associated with the Right, but more and more has found fertile ground on the Left) about a powerful organized Jewish community plumping for war – whether in Iraq or, more recently, Iran – a narrative often suggesting that Jews put their loyalty towards Israel ahead of that of their own nation.
Whitaker, who, in a 2001 Guardian piece where he characterized the Israeli government’s treatment of the press as not unlike “the tactics of the Soviet bloc countries during the Cold War”, warned that ”the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon and the Israel lobby have stepped up their efforts against international media reporting the current crisis”, and further characterized lobbying by pro-Israel groups as a form of “intimidation” – even quoting Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger as characterizing such lobbying as “insidious”.
Just how dangerous is the lobby? Whitaker helpfully explains their insidious tactics:
“Pro-Israeli organisations have organised letter-writing campaigns to protest against articles and programmes they dislike. With the development of email, this activity has grown enormously. Websites, such as honestreporting.com, target individual journalists and provide ready-written letters of complaint for subscribers to send out.”
While it certainly is interesting, if not comical, that the mere use of legitimate democratic means to advocate for Israel (such as letter writing) is framed as something dark or sinister, Whitaker’s narrative, advanced frequently in one form or the other by the Guardian Left, about the injurious effects of the Israel lobby on the media or U.S. government, is, not unlike much of their ideologically driven reporting, impervious to facts or new information. In short, it’s something of an article of faith.
Finally, it’s instructive to note that Whitaker’s most recent reference to the “Israel lobby” was employed quite casually, in passing, as something so uncontroversial as not to require defense or edification – a careless invective about the power of organized Jewry which has become something approaching a banality in the journalistic circles where Whitaker and his Guardian colleagues travel.