The Israel Lobby and the "National Interest"
I dislike the Israel Lobby as much as anybody, and I think the U.S. pro-Israel foreign policy should be abolished before the sun sets. This is why it pains me to read articles critical of the Israel Lobby that are embarrassingly illogical and flat out wrong. Instead of arguing that what the Israel Lobby stands for is morally wrong and serves only the interests of wealthy elites, they abandon all logic and ignore the facts to argue that America's pro-Israel policy doesn't serve the "national interest." In doing so, they muddle everything so badly that anybody unsure of whether our government should support Israel or not would, after reading such an article, remain unsure. And that's a shame.
One recent such article is "Henry Kissinger: Realist or Neocon" by Philip Giraldi, a former CIA Officer and now a partner in Cannistraro Associates, an international security consultancy. The article is posted at antiwar.com, a libertarian site that opposes American warmongering and blames Israel and its lobby for it.
Typical of the genre, the article's thesis (spelled out in the first sentence) is this: "One of the most disturbing attributes of the neoconservatives is their willingness to subordinate the United States' national interests to those of Israel." Here's where the illogic kicks in. What in the hell is the "United States' national interest?" These articles throw the phrase around as if everybody knew what it meant. The authors shoot from the hip in asserting that such-and-such, which the neocons or Israel Lobby advocates, is not in the "national interest" without ever feeling the slightest need to show with logic and facts why that is true. Why exactly isn't such-and-such in the "national interest?"
The reason they never bother to discuss this key question is because the phrase "national interest" is, as George Orwell would no doubt have called it, newspeak: mumbo jumbo in other words. It has no meaning. It's a phrase used by ruling elites precisely to obscure meaning, to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. There's a famous cartoon of a fat rich guy lounging in a hammock with a drink in his hand. One end of the hammock is tied to a tree. The other end is held up by a poor peasant. The rich guy tells the peasant, "The Communists want to take away our hammock!" In this cartoon, the phrase "our hammock" is newspeak mumbo jumbo that has the same function for the guy in the hammock that "our national interest" has for ruling elites. When the CEO addresses the workers of the company and tells them that he's sure they will all agree that it is in "our company's interest" to be more competitive and so half the workers will be laid off and replaced with cheap foreign labor and the rest will have to pay more for their health insurance, the words "our company's interest" are the same as "our national interest" -- mumbo jumbo to hide the fact that THEIR interest is not the same as OUR interest; THEIR values of inequality and pitting people against each other and top-down control are not the same as OUR values of equality and solidarity and democracy.
People like Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, James Petras, and Philip Giraldi base everything they say against the Israel Lobby on this nonsense phrase--"national interest." As a result, what they write is nonsense. Let's use our hammock cartoon metaphor to illustrate the nonsense in all its glory.
Add to the cartoon with the hammock a smartly dressed man with a foreign accent and with the blood of foreign peasants on his suit (picture him as Henry Kissinger.) He's standing next to the guy in the hammock and advising him on his "foreign policy." Now add another man in blue jeans standing next to the peasant (picture him as, say, Philip Giraldi.) He's giving the peasant advice. Giraldi says to the peasant, "That foreign guy, he's the problem; he doesn't care at all about our hammock and his advice is detrimental to it."
This is the kind of nonsense these authors write. Giraldi, for example, starts out by saying that
"a careful analysis of the impact of Israel's domestic and foreign policies can only conclude that the relationship has been detrimental to the United States."
"Detrimental to the United States"? What does this mean? It means the same thing as "Detrimental to our hammock." It is pure gobbledegook! The problem with the foreigner next to the hammock is the blood of peasants on his suit, not his advice being detrimental to "our hammock." The very last thing the peasant needs is to be trying to figure out who cares more about "our hammock"--"Kissinger" or "Giraldi."
Obviously Israel's policies have not helped ordinary Americans or ordinary Palestinians or even ordinary Israelis. But unfortunately this is not Giraldi's point. If it were, then Giraldi would explicitly define "national interest" to mean the opposite of the elite's interest; he would define it to mean making our country more equal and democratic, the very opposite of what the elite want. He never does this, because his point is that, to use the metaphor, the only problem in the United States is that we have neocon/Kissinger characters running the country instead of the right people running the country--people who really care about "our hammock"--namely our loyal American upper class gentlemen who are presently lounging in "our hammocks."
Thus Giraldi goes on in his next sentences to imply that our hammock-lounging elite, unlike those nasty neocon/Kissinger guys, want world peace and fairness for all, even in Palestine. He writes:
"To cite only one example, Washington's counter-terrorism policy has been shaped by Israel, which insists that national liberation movements like Hamas and Hezbollah must be treated as terrorists and can only be dealt with by force. This has meant that the United States, which should have dialogue with adversaries worldwide, is hamstrung by its political commitment to Tel Aviv. It also means that any progress toward the establishment of a Palestinian state is stillborn, which may be what Likud wants, but it is not in America's interests. That the neocon agenda might not serve Israel's true interests either means that the tragedy is a double one."
What the Giraldis don't seem to grasp (or don't want their readers to grasp) is that Israel's ethnic cleansing (which they don't talk about much at all) does, in fact, serve the elite's interest. It is a classic example of divide-and-rule applied to the population of the Middle East: foment an ethnic war of Arab versus Jew. Israel plays the same role in the Middle East that the Klu Klux Klan played in the American South for the benefit of the South's upper class: keep the working class population fighting each other along racial lines.
The American gentlemen lounging in "our hammocks" understand this perfectly well. When they tell people like Walt and Mearsheimer that they are wrong, that Israel really does serve America's "national interest," they are speaking the truth. Of course it is the truth only if one knows that "national interest" is code for the upper class's interest, and our hammock-lounging gentlemen are the last people who will ever let THAT cat out of the bag. But why do the Giraldis seem just as concerned to keep the cat in the bag? Could it be that the kind of people who rise in academia and in the CIA are trained to keep such things in the bag? Has their training been so successful that they have lost sight of the cat altogether?
Apparently so. The title of Giraldi's article refers to his assertion that President Nixon really cared about "our hammock" but his advisor, Henry Kissinger, didn't care about "our hammock" because he was actually a traitor loyal to Israel's hammock. Giraldi writes:
"In late October 1973 Kissinger was sent to Moscow to negotiate with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to pursue a comprehensive peace process for the Middle East, but he ignored Nixon's instructions and pressed instead for a cease-fire that left Israel dominant and destroyed any chance for a multilateral peace effort. According to Mearsheimer and Walt, 'The American-compiled minutes of the three meetings that Kissinger attended with Brezhnev unequivocally show that he accurately and repeatedly represented Israeli interests to Moscow, almost totally contrary to Nixon's preferences.' "
So, according to Giraldi, Kissinger was a traitor; he brazenly sabotaged the direct orders of "our" president and his boss to promote the interests of a foreign nation and to undermine the American "national interest." Wow! And what did Nixon do to this traitor? Recall that the one thing we know for sure about Richard Milhouse Nixon is that he demanded of everybody in his administration personal loyalty to himself. He drew up an "enemies list" of people in government he thought were out to get him. He was not exactly a forgiving guy on this score. And boy did Nixon come down hard on the traitor Kissinger! He kept Kissinger on as his Secretary of State. And when Gerald Ford became President, what did he do to the traitor, Kissinger? He kept him on as Secretary of State until 1977. Imagine that. Kissinger, an outright traitor, caught red-handed in October of 1973 doing the traitorous deed, allowed to remain Secretary of State for more than three years. Compare that to Truman's firing of General Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur was a war hero, as popular with the American public as perhaps any man alive. Yet Truman fired him when he was insubordinate. Kissinger, in contrast, was a pudgy man from academia with a foreign accent and no personal financial fortune. Yet when he was "insubordinate" nothing happened. Is it just possible that Nixon and the hammock-lounging gentlemen who made him President were not upset that Kissinger was pro-Israel; that maybe they never really wanted peace in the Middle East but rather preferred that Israel foment an ethnic war?
Read the rest of Giraldi's article and it will be clear that it is nonsense. Its premise is that, except for the neocons, America's ruling elite don't want to engage in warmongering against Muslims; that the neocons make them do it. Nevermind that there is not one--repeat, not one--major American corporate leader who has publicly opposed Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the demonizing of Arabs for their natural anger at Israel. Not one American corporate leader even mentions the fact that Israel carries out ethnic cleansing. None of the corporate-owned media even tell the American public about the fact of Israel's ethnic cleansing. No corporation runs ads in the newspapers (remember all those Mobil "advertorials"?) exposing the dirty little secret that Israel is based on ethnic cleansing. And why is this?
It is not because pro-Israel people control the mass media. Sure, pro-Israel people do control much of the mass media. But so what? The American billionaire elite, whose interests are supposedly seriously harmed by the pro-Israel policy of the United States, could easily create their own anti-Israel mass media to get their message out if they wanted to. Billionaires, unlike regular people, can do these kinds of things. The reason they don't is because they don't WANT to. The reason is that their goal is to keep Americans fearful of Arab terrorists--irrational anti-Semitic hate-filled people who want to destroy Israel, the "only democracy in the Middle East." That way, as long as the elite pose as their protectors against the "terrorists" who want to "take away our hammock," Americans will put up with their elite lounging in hammocks that ordinary Americans have to hold up. For Americans to believe this warmongering propaganda, they need to be kept ignorant of the actual reason why Arabs are angry at Israel. Hence the 100% corporate agreement never to mention Israel's ethnic cleansing. But according to the Giraldis, the problem is just the neocon Israel-lovers, not the American corporate "peace-loving" elite.
Our hammock-lounging American corporate big shots must find it amusing as hell that many of those opposed to Israel's ethnic cleansing are looking upon people like Giraldi as wise analysts. If the public is going to start discussing the pros and cons of America's pro-Israel foreign policy, then what better framework to do it in, our elite must be thinking, than one which asks them not to notice that Israel is based on ethnic cleansing, and instead to debate whether Israel is "detrimental to our national interest."
George Shultz, in his The 'Israel Lobby' Myth (http://www.aish.com/jewishissues/middleeast/The_Israel_Lobby_Myth.asp)
gives a classic example of this. His article is all about his certainty, as a former Secretary of State, that the U.S. government's policy in the Middle East is not dictated by Israel or the Israel lobby. Note that Shultz insists that it is in the national interest of the United States to support Israel. He uses the words, "supporting Israel is politically sound and morally just" and "We act in our own interests." And note that he doesn't say WHY it is in "our own interests" or "politically sound." The reason is that if he gave the real reasons why the American elite supports Israel, then the public would see that they were not "morally just" reasons at all, and in fact went against both the values and the interests of ordinary Americans, because the real reasons are to maintain elite rule and inequality and anti-democracy throughout the world by using Israel's ethnic cleansing to foment a Jews versus non-Jews war in the Middle East.
Also notice that Shultz obviously wants to deflect the debate over our government's pro-Israel foreign policy AWAY from any mention of Israel's ethnic cleansing. The way to deflect it away from this revealing topic is to turn the debate into one over whether supporting Israel is or is not in the "national interest." Since "national interest" is a nonsense phrase designed to obscure the truth, this debate will be a nonsense debate designed to obscure the truth.
But to have such a nonsense truth-obscuring debate and to thereby prevent the public from understanding why our government should stop supporting Israel, it is necessary to have somebody take the "other side" of the debate. This is the role that Walt and Mearsheimer are playing. It is a valuable service to the elite.
It is just as valuable as was the role played by Gene McCarthy and RFK (who took the "other side") during the Vietnam war when the elite needed to prevent the public from understanding WHY the U.S. invaded Vietnam, i.e. that it was to suppress a popular peasant revolt against a pro-U.S. elite Vietnamese dictatorship. McCarthy and RFK told the, by then, majority of Americans who opposed the war, that the only problem with the war was that "it couldn't be won." McCarthy also admitted that his aim was to get the anti-war folks off the streets and into the voting booth (in other words, to prevent the anti-war movement from continuing to grow into a mass revolutionary movement, and to rely instead on politicians and the ballot.)
The point is that Shultz and the Walt & Mearsheimer couple are both on the elite's side; they are both concerned with preventing the public from understanding that the American elite supports ethnic cleansing to foment ethnic wars to control ordinary people and strengthen elite rule and inequality and anti-democratic regimes all over the world. That is why W&M, when they go on NPR, never even mention Israel's ethnic cleansing.