Posts Tagged ‘Noam Chomsky’

During the summertime war in Gaza, the two most progressive members of the US Senate stirred up controversy among their backers with 7258702972_d11e56b4ea_z (1)expressions of uncritical support for Israel. At a town hall meeting, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the lone Senate independent, responded to a questioner that Israel had “overreacted” with its 52-day bombardment and ground incursion, but then proceeded to justify Israel’s actions with the usual pro-Israel talking points about “missiles fired from populated areas” and “sophisticated tunnels.” An audience member began to shout objections, to which Sanders said, “Shut up.”

Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat from Massachusetts, went further in her defense of Israel at a meeting with constituents on Cape Cod. She said it was right for the United States to send $225 million in aid to Israel, a “democracy controlled by the rule of law,” as the bombing continued. She ventured no criticism at all of the extensive damage to civilian lives and livelihoods in Gaza. When another constituent suggested that future US aid be conditioned on Israel halting settlement construction in the West Bank, Warren replied, “I think there’s a question of whether we should go that far.” Read more at the Middle East Research and Information Project

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I’m proud to announce that in today’s Souciant we have Emmanuel Stokes interviewing Glenn Greenwald. Please check it out, it will be worth your while.

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Many of you who follow me here know that I have been working for several years as writer, Associate Editor and, most recently, Publisher of souciant_icon_normalSouciant, an innovative and groundbreaking online magazine. Today, we launched a new feature, a blog which will feature shorter articles on a  variety of topics, much like the diverse content of Souciant.

My first blog post is up there, Israel’s New Frenemies. In it, I take a look at some of the implications of the shifts taking place in the region and what they mean for Israel. Check it out, and keep following us. Oh, and make sure you tell your friends about Souciant.

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Back in 2007, when John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt released their book, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, I disagreed with many parts of their thesis. Most of the criticisms at the time attacked the authors as anti-Semites or made straw man arguments about points the authors were not making. Thus, Christopher Toensing of MERIP and I put together an article responding to Walt and Mearsheimer in what I think was a more rational manner. I later issued an update to that article.

While not agreeing with the Walt/Mearsheimer thesis, I disagree at least as much with the two major alternatives: what I’d call the Foxman thesis, and what I’d call the

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of the controversial book, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy

Chomsky thesis.

Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League wrote a book in response to Walt and Mearsheimer which offered very little beyond the same straw man arguments and insinuations of nefarious motives about the Israel Lobby authors. But Foxman’s case, separate from his critique of Walt and Mearsheimer, is that the Israel Lobby, as symbolized by the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) simply educates the public and Congress but is only one of many lobbying groups and, in the end, American Middle East policy was based on a careful analysis of American interests, which, to Foxman, are usually identical to Israeli ones.

Professor Noam Chomsky, well-known critic of American and Israeli policy, contends that the Lobby is very powerful as long as it goes along with extant US policies. That is, it does not play a significant role in determining those policies, but does close off debate and discussion about it.

When I wrote my own response to Walt/Mearsheimer, I was living and working on this issue in California. Having now spent three years in Washington, and having been at hundreds of meetings with Congress members and their aides, and State Department and White House staff, it’s very clear that AIPAC is always the 800-pound gorilla in the room. (more…)

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I was reminiscing recently about a very pleasant conversation I had with Stephen Walt, who, along with John Mearsheimer, wrote the explosive book “The Israel Lobby.” Both authors are aware that I disagree with their thesis, and yet Stephen and I were always able to have respectful conversations about it. Would that more conversations about Israel could be conducted in that manner.

But I also disagree with what I call the Chomsky Thesis. Chomsky, and some other analysts, believe that “The Lobby’s” power derives from its essential rapport with American policy aims, and that if it diverges from those aims, it would not prove much of an obstacle.

Saying “The Lobby” is not a considerable force is as false as saying it is the determinative element in US policy. It

Hillary Clinton and AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg at this year's AIPAC policy conference

clearly plays a serious role in American politics, and the more prominently domestic concerns play into an American President’s foreign policy decisions, the more powerful it is. (In fairness, I should note that Walt’s and Mearsheimer’s book is rarely understood to encompass this view, though it can certainly be read that way)

“The Lobby’s” field of play is Congress. To the extent Congress can and will push back against a president on foreign policy, “The Lobby” will get it to do so when they disagree with that president’s policies.

It has often been the case that “The Lobby” tries to push the US into a harder line than Israel takes. It has done so again this week.

Letters to Obama

The Senate, almost as a body, has written to the President in full support of Israel’s version of the events aboard the Gaza-bound flotilla over Memorial Day Weekend. It re-states the position that the siege on Gaza is legal and was imposed to stop the import of weapons to Hamas, while ignoring the question of how children’s toys, coriander, mayonnaise and ketchup could be classified as weapons. It also asks the President to consider putting the IHH, the Turkish organization which is most certainly supportive of Hamas, on the list of terrorist organizations.

The letter, at this writing, was signed by 86 senators, and a similar letter is up to 322 signatures in the House. (more…)

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