Chris McGreal inadvertently undermines his own claim regarding the power of the ‘Israel lobby’

Chris McGreal isn’t very fond of Israel, nor its supporters, and his anti-Zionist politics are evident in his work as the Guardian’s Washington correspondent. 

Here’s a very short rundown:

McGreal suggested a moral equivalence between Hamas suicide bombings and the accidental killing of Rachel Corrie, believes Israel may be in the grip of psychosis, accused many (unnamed) U.S. politicians of showing greater loyalty to Israel than to their own country and characterized George W. Bush’s presumed deference to the Jewish state as slave-like.

And, of course, he believes that the Israel lobby exerts a dangerous degree of control over the U.S. Congress – a theme he picked up on again in his latest report, ‘The Democrats misstep on Jerusalem and Israel’s place in the U.S. election‘, Sept. 6.  

McGreal reported on the row over language reinserted into the Democratic Party platform recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, writing:

“…the [Democratic] party leadership hurriedly revived a clause in the platform from previous years proclaiming the city as the Jewish state’s capital when much of the rest of the world withholds recognition.”

What, per McGreal, caused the DNC to change course?

Do we even need to ask?

“It’s a reflection of the split US stance toward Israel that Congress and political parties are given to highly partisan declarations of support for the Jewish state, driven by domestic politics and a powerful lobby…” [emphasis added]

Fortunately, McGreal specifies what he means by domestic political considerations:

“It’s not clear how the routine commitment to an undivided Jerusalem as the Israeli capital got dropped from this year’s Democratic party platform, but Obama was worried enough, not least about votes in knife-edge Florida which has a significant Jewish electorate, to intervene and get it reinstated.”

So, according to McGreal, the Israel lobby and Florida’s Jews represent two of the main reasons the Democrats changed their platform regarding Jerusalem.

However, McGreal also writes about another ‘demand’ of the Israel lobby – moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – which, amazingly, hasn’t yet been obeyed.  

Here are the relevant passages in his report:

“US Congress has demanded [a new American embassy in Jerusalem] be built immediately. But once American presidents begin navigating the minefield of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they quickly realise they don’t need to add to their problems by shifting the US embassy from Tel Aviv…”

“The Republican party election platform made an explicit commitment to move the embassy. But once Bush was in the White House, he, too, failed to make the move.”

“President Bill Clinton declined to [move the embassy to Jerusalem] as he attempted to shepherd Yasser Arafat and various Israeli leaders toward a deal.”

“…the US…keep[s] their embassies in Tel Aviv and generally speak about Jerusalem as the seat of the Israeli government.”

So, it would seem as if McGreal’s belief regarding the dangerous influence of Israel’s supporters in the U.S. is undermined by his own story, which implicitly acknowledges that the lobby has been unable to get the U.S. to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

As one keen ‘Comment is Free’ reader observed below the line of McGreal’s piece:

“You and other Guardian experts consistently tell us that American Mid East foreign policy is dictated by The Lobby. Now you tell us that these presidents, including even George Bush, refuse to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem despite this being such an important issue for Israel.

Does this mean that you and many of your colleagues have been over-spinning The Lobby for all these years? 

Indeed. “Over-spinning”, fear-mongering, and engaging in ideologically-driven hyperbole and lazy stereotypes are what typically pass for progressive journalism at the Guardian. 

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