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Points of View
The Lobby
My Point of View, April 5, 2006
© Rabbi Jack Moline

Here's the story I heard: In the 1980s, a group of Arab students published an edition of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion on the campus of the University of California, Berkley. The Jewish students' group responded by taking out a full-page ad in the campus newspaper that read, "In response to the publication of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, all Jews are hereby instructed to go to Plan B."

I will leave it to scholars of greater reputation than I to critique the academic standards of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," by Prof. John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Prof. Stephen M. Walt of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The lack of primary sources and reliance on quotations out of context strike me as fatal flaws (and laziness), but I'm not on a university faculty.

And I will leave it to researchers for advocacy groups and autodidactic bloggers to critique the credentials of the Professors. If they have a history of antagonism toward Israel or Jews or religion, someone else can dig it up and make a big deal about it.

As an American Jew who has read eighty-two pages accusing me of being a member of the International Zionist Conspiracy, I have only one concern, and that is about the glaring omission in the paper. While the two academics spend a lot of ink on "The Lobby" and its composition and agenda, and assert the most vile manipulations of our federal government against its own interest, they never address the question that any good conspiracy theorist knows is essential to credibility: Why? Why is it in the interest of Israel to exploit a fifth column of Jews in the United States to undermine its only dependable patron?

The authors may be sloppy, but they are not stupid. They go to great lengths to attempt to distance themselves from fictions like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. They make a lot of noise about the difference between a critique of Israel and anti-semitism. (They are indeed not the same, but neither are they mutually exclusive.) They rehearse the many accusations of bias against Jews, sorely overused, and insist that they will not be intimidated by them.

But in the end, their silence on the question of "why" belies their protestations of innocence. Why does this minority, over-represented in government and the source of funds and votes for candidates, use its political clout to undermine the interests of their own country? Well, it should be obvious: because they are really not as committed to the interests of the United States as they are to their own desire for power, influence, control – and Israel.

We have heard this all before. In the Book of Esther, chapter three, verse seven, the King's viceroy says these words: "There is a certain people, scattered and dispersed among the other people in all the states of your country, whose laws are different from those of any other people and who are not loyal to the king's laws; and it is not in Your Majesty's interest to tolerate them." What is the crime that provokes this accusation? A Jew refuses to acknowledge the superiority of the viceroy. Never mind that the same Jew demonstrates his complete loyalty to the government by foiling a coup; the scheming viceroy simply resents that his agenda is not the Jew's agenda.

And that's all we have in this paper – resentment that the Jewish community as a whole seems to disagree with the agenda of the authors. Having "debunked" the claims that Israel and its citizen patrons reflect the interests and ideals of the United States, and eventually reaching the patronizing conclusion that "The Lobby" is as damaging to Israel itself as it is to the U.S., the authors offer...nothing.

Instead, they repeat the kinds of claims that classically have been used to blame Jews for the wars of the worlds: we want America to fight our battles and secure our interests while "the United States does most of the fighting, dying, rebuilding and paying." Jews as parasites and bloodsuckers, sacrificing Christian children to enable our desire to control the world.

So much of the paper is absurd and surreal (like the contention that Israeli aversion to intermarriage is proof of the racist nature of Zionism, while in every Arab country a Muslim woman is legally prohibited from marrying a non-Muslim man). So much of the paper is self-contradictory (like the repeated accusation that legal advocacy by the minority compromises the vaunted right of free speech). So much of the paper is stunning in its implications (the section on how Israel manufactured reasons for war is entitled "Tail Wagging the Dog," recalling a satirical movie about how devious political operatives invented a war to divert attention from a troubled domestic situation).

But in the end, the authors are stuck with an uncomfortable fact. Jews make up less than three percent of the population. Though disproportionately represented in some areas of government, Jews are still in the vast minority. And each Jew, like each non-Jew, still has one voice and one vote. When it comes to Israel or any other policy matter, the numbers fall far short of strong-arming an informed and passionate opponent majority into deciding against themselves. Walt and Mearsheimer clearly have figured out that too many Americans agree with "The Lobby," but disagree with the professors.

So they wrote Plan B.

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