December 16, 2002

Consultants tell Israel's amen corner: "Pipe down!" But will their advice be taken?

A group of pro-Israel political consultants, the Israel Project, is telling partisans of the Jewish state to kindly shut up about their fulsome support for Gulf War II – lest they give the show away. A memo entitled "Talking About Iraq," directed at American Jewish leaders, as well as Israelis, advises:

"Let American politicians fight it out on the floor of Congress and in the media. Let the nations of the world argue in front of the UN. Your silence allows everyone to focus on Iraq rather than Israel."

"If your goal is regime change, you must be much more careful with your language because of the potential backlash. You do not want Americans to believe that the war on Iraq is being waged to protect Israel rather than to protect America."

If you guys just keep quiet, those stupid Americans may not notice that they’re fighting, dying, and paying for your wars. After all, how many of them can locate Iraq on a map? Geographically challenged, and naïve to a fault, most Americans don’t realize that Saddam’s "weapons of mass destruction," if they exist, haven’t got a range much beyond four-hundred miles. Iraq’s rickety Scuds could barely reach Israel, and are no threat to the U.S. Saddam’s target is Tel Aviv, not Toledo, Ohio, but we are supposed to forget that there is any distinction.

Israel’s fans in the U.S. would do well to watch their language, but I’m afraid this good advice is wasted on them. Ever since 9/11, what Pat Buchanan calls Israel’s "amen corner" has been in the ascendant: an unholy alliance of neoconservative policy wonks who dream of "benevolent world hegemony" and dispensationalist Protestant nutballs who see war in the Middle East (with Israel at the center) as a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy – and a necessary prelude to the Second Coming. This union of maniacs, megalo- and mono, gained an important foothold in the GOP during the Reagan years, and was perfectly positioned to reap the full political benefits of 9/11 vis-à-vis U.S. policy in the Middle East. Neoconservative calls for an invasion of Iraq have been part of the background noise of American politics for a decade, but 9/11 emboldened them to demand more. They have been pushing hard for the goal of eliminating all of Israel’s enemies, one by one, using America as their cat’s-paw, and Ariel Sharon has hardly been subtle about demanding and getting increased financial support, even as he increases the weight of repression on the Palestinian people.

This game is getting so obvious that the Israel lobby’s own political consultants – "led by Democratic consultant Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi," the Washington Post reports, "with help from Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and Republican pollsters Neil Newhouse and Frank Luntz" – are telling them to knock it off, for the moment at least, and lay low. The Post goes on to report why this is unlikely to happen:

"An Israeli diplomat in Washington said the Israeli government did not request or fund the efforts of the Israel Project and that Israeli leaders were unlikely to follow all the advice. ‘These are professional public relations people,' the diplomat said. ‘There’s also a political-diplomatic side.’"

The politics of the War Party impose a certain form and style on their activities, one that is driven by a need to keep the troops happy – in Israel, as well as the U.S.

Within Israel, a growing radical rightist movement is energized, in part, by a resentment of their country’s complete dependence on American largess, and bitter opposition to U.S. efforts to rein Israel in. To these elements, Sharon is a sell-out, and even Netanyahu is soft: the expulsion of the Palestinians from the occupied territories, the annexation of conquered lands, and the consolidation of a Greater Israel – in the wake of the intifada, and the breakdown of the peace process, these key planks of the far-rightist platform have gained in popularity. The upcoming Israeli elections show a massive shift toward extremism, with the far-rightists exerting ever more influence on Sharon’s Likud party. Sharon may have beaten back Netanyahu’s challenge from the right in the party primaries, but the militants gained the upper hand when it came to nominees for the Israeli Knesset. Leslie Susser, writing in the Cleveland Jewish News, points out Sharon’s dilemma:

"The Likud Party’s list of Knesset candidates, chosen in a party primary this week, left Ariel Sharon’s campaign strategists scratching their heads. With national elections approaching on Jan. 28, they had meticulously laid out a centrist … It is in the battle for the centrists that Israeli elections are won and lost, experts say.

"The problem for Sharon’s spin doctors is that the list of Knesset candidates elected by the Likud’s 3,000- strong Central Committee on Sunday leans heavily toward the hawks."

Tzachi Hanegbi, Minister of the Environment and third-place finisher in the Likud Central Committee poll, behind Sharon and Netanyahu, hailed the primary results as "a vote against a Palestinian state." Of all the prospective members of an incoming Likud government, only Sharon supports the American plan for a Palestinian state – or any plan other than continued repression.

Israel – such a tiny country, with so few natural resources, beleaguered on all sides by implacable enemies, nearly bankrupt, and in need of constant transfusions of U.S. "foreign aid" to keep it alive. Its publicists and professional apologists certainly have their hands full, trying to keep up with Sharon’s latest atrocities and smearing anyone who questions Israeli policy as a closet Nazi. They must also juggle the different factions of the pro-Israel lobby against the interests and policies of Israeli hardliners, no mean feat. While the Israel Project memo proffers advice to the American branch of the Likud party, according to the Post, they also address the home office:

"Much of the guidance, however, appeared to have Israelis in mind. ‘Demonstrate your historic willingness to compromise, sacrifice on behalf of America,’ it said. ‘This may not play well among some Israeli politicians but it will certainly play well in the states.’ It advised leaders to say: ‘Like America, Israel has a right to defend itself and our people.’"

But does Israel have the "right" to use the U.S. military as a weapon in its war against the Arab-Muslim world? This administration has been hell-bent on starting that war, over and against the advice of its own generals, and the old guard Bushies , including Bush 41. In driving the nation to war, Bush 43 is driven by the need to appease his political base – the followers of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, among others, who made the difference in Georgia and elsewhere this past election season – and if Dubya doesn’t deliver, his base may desert him for a more aggressive warmonger.

But Israel's supporters would do well, say the public relations types, to refrain from openly displaying their political pull. The Israel Project experts also called on the Israelis to "pipe down," as the Post put it, about the "root causes" of the Middle East conflict:

"The memo coached: ‘(A)s an Israeli, most certainly don’t talk about why some Arab leaders and their people dislike the United States. Americans don’t want to be told by an Israeli why we have problems in the Middle East or why people hate us.’"

Leave that to the American Likudniks, who will gladly explain why Islam is inherently evil, why Arabs are culturally prone to violence and hostile to "modernity," and how we need to conquer and "re-educate" a billion Muslims just like we did in Germany and Japan – and for the same reasons.

We are supposed to be in the midst of a worldwide upsurge in anti-Semitism, to hear Israel's apologists tell it: the Left, we are told, is scapegoating Israel and imposing on it a standard that no other Middle Eastern country has been asked to aspire to. Israel is being "singled out" unfairly, but the reality is that the Israelis and their international amen corner have singled themselves out as the vanguard of the War Party. Israel's most avid partisans in the U.S. have also been the most enthusiastic proponents for war, and the reason for this is plain enough: Israel will have the most to gain in the event of war in the Middle East.

This war, if it comes, will not be contained within the borders of Iraq. The conflict is sure to spread throughout the Saudi peninsula, unseat the monarchy, and pave the way for a pro-Al Qaeda coup in Riyadh. American-supported rulers from Egypt to Pakistan and all points in between will be in fear of their lives. Who benefits from this apocalyptic state of affairs?

Certainly not the U.S., as the last of our Muslim allies bites the dust and Al Qaeda's recruitment drive goes into high gear. Europe is rightly fearful of bearing the brunt of America's mistakes, in the form of renewed terrorist attacks, and the Russians look askance at being locked out of the Iraqi oil business. Our allies are baffled at this sudden radical turn in the "war on terrorism," not because they are anti-Semitic or anti-American, but because the policy is so contrary to American interests.

While Al Qaeda blows up the Macedonian embassy in Pakistan and lurks, half-hidden, in the Balkans, the U.S. moves against – Iraq, the most secular of all the petty Middle Eastern despots, a regime Bin Laden volunteered to fight against to defend his Saudi homeland, according to British journalist and author Peter Bergen, and recently declared ought to be overthrown.

The Founders of the American republic distrusted the influence of foreign lobbyists. George Washington warned that "a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils," and in our march to war we are witnessing them all first-hand. The Father of our country knew that

"Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification."

That this principle is operating today, in our frantic search to find some sort of justification, however thin, for going to war, shows that Washington's worst fears have been realized. Israel's war has become our war; her enemies, our enemies, even as the objective interests of the two countries diverge. The U.S.-Israeli "special relationship" violates Washington's dictum in other ways:

"It leads also to concessions to the favorite Nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the Nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained; and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld."

What other nation shares the "privilege" of having its program of ethnic cleansing and systematized repression of a subject population paid for by American taxpayers? What other nation benefits from a law passed by the U.S. Congress that makes it illegal to boycott products made in Israel? Old George sure saw it coming: Al Qaeda's "disposition to retaliate" ended in the death of 3,000-plus, and the prospect of more to come.

No wonder the Israel Project's public relations experts are telling their clients to go on the downlow, as they say.

What if Americans started examining the special privileges afforded Israel by their compliant enablers in Washington – would they begin to wonder about the true causes of the Middle Eastern crisis? What if they actually started reading subversive "isolationist" literature like the "Farewell Address," and came across the following description of the evils of privileging one nation above others?:

"And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens, (who devote themselves to the favorite nation,) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation."

Washington's portrait of an American fifth column certainly has a familiar ring to it. Ambitious, corrupted, deluded – the War Party is all three. Certainly the neoconservatives, crying "remember 9/11!", have campaigned for war exuding "a virtuous sense of obligation." It is not for nothing that Bill Bennett is the chosen instrument of their holy cause. Riding the wave of popular hysteria – as if out of "a commendable deference for public opinion" – the neocons want to start what they call "World War IV," pitting the U.S. and Israel against the entire Muslim world. Cui bono? Who benefits? It's funny you should ask….

Oh, old Georgie sure hit the nail on the head when he portrayed partisans of a foreign power as in thrall to a dangerous "infatuation." It is a politically-driven love affair, one that Karl Rove hopes will keep the President in the White House, just as Sharon hopes it will keep him and his party in power. Like all infatuations, however, it must inevitably cool, as the two parties get down to working out the bothersome details of their romance: the issue of exclusivity, of finances, the possibility of marriage, all this and more must come to the fore. One party – the Israelis – is making non-negotiable demands – war, now! – while the other, wanting to please, is nonetheless disinclined to make a total commitment. Every relationship, if it goes on long enough, reaches a crisis point, in which one succumbs to the dominance of the other, or some mutually acceptable compromise is made.

But there is no compromise when it comes to war and peace: it is one or the other. The President has chosen the long route to war, via the United Nations, a process that could drag out for many months – and still end inconclusively. Either the War Party succeeds in somehow derailing this process, perhaps by creating a Gulf of Tonkin-like incident, or the marriage of American and Israeli interests, in effect since 9/11, is sure to wind up in Divorce Court.

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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