Report: Pro-Israel lobby threatens U.S. interests

A new academic report claims that the pro-Israel lobby in America, led by AIPAC, causes the United States to skew its Middle East policy in favor of Israel, and harm American interests in the process.

The 81-page report, written by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt for the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, argues that the pro-Israel lobby in the United States managed to convince American lawmakers, officials and U.S. public opinion to support Israel, even though this support runs counter to America’s own national interests.

“The overall thrust of U.S. policy in the region is due almost entirely to U.S. domestic politics, and especially to the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby,'” the authors write, adding that while other lobbies have tried to affect U.S. foreign policy, “no lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical.”

The academic paper, whose authors are well-known scholars in the fields of political science and government, sets out to dispute almost every argument of the pro-Israel activists in the United States.

It argues that supporting Israel is not in America’s best interest and that it complicates the United States’ international stand and its ability to fight terror.

“Israel is in fact a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states,” the authors write, claiming that “The United States has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around.” The paper also argues that the United States would not be worried about Iran, Iraq and Syria, if not for its close ties with Israel.

The Harvard paper also argues that Israel is not a worthy ally, that it is not a true democracy and that it uses torture methods that are against American values.

The main claim of the authors is that the powerful pro-Israel lobby is the reason for a biased U.S. foreign policy in the region that favors Israel. They point to AIPAC’s activity in Congress and in the executive branch and talk about how it allegedly “manipulates the media” and “polices academia” to make sure the United States maintains a pro-Israel approach.

The authors add that AIPAC also uses the claim of anti-Semitism, or “the great silencer” as they refer to it, to shut off any criticism of Israel.

The paper voices the claim that pro-Israeli officials in the Bush administration, namely Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser, were behind the push for war in Iraq and that the pro-Israel lobby was a driving force in encouraging the administration to go to war against Saddam Hussein.

The research has sparked instant controversy. It was distributed last week through several Web sites and listservs known for their anti-Israel approach and drew harsh criticism from pro-Israel activists.

An official with a pro-Israel organization in Washington said that the authors’ disagreement “is not with America’s pro-Israel lobby, but with the American people, who overwhelmingly support our relationship with Israel, and with Democrats and Republicans in successive administrations and Congress, who so strongly and consistently support the special relationship between the United States and Israel.”