Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Anti-Israel Propaganda

I wanted to post about this report days ago but I’ve been very busy. That’s even more true now, and if I had the time or the interest, I’d send more effort criticizing this report. However, since I have neither, I’ll only make a few basic points.

The basic thrust of the report is that our alliance with Israel is solely (or mostly) the result of pressure from the Israeli lobby. The report recognizes two arguments for the alliance, a strategic and moral argument, and then claims that neither is persuasive. Therefore the strong alliance only exists because politicians are under pressure to tow the line forced upon them by the lobby.

A few things struck me as I first read it:

1) The report ignores arguments that go against its thesis. For example, it argues that our relationship with Israel is not in our strategic benefit. While that argument is partly true, the report only mentions the factors that show the relationship is adverse to our interests. It correctly notes, for example, that our close relationship with Israel is used as a recruiting tool for terrorists. But it ignores the strategic benefits of the alliance (intelligence, training, improvements in military technology, etc.). While one could argue that these benefits do not outweigh the costs, a fair analysis would balance the two, rather than glossing over or ignoring the benefits.

2) The authors accept pretty much every pro-Palestinian argument without hesitation. For example, a cursory look at the footnotes on the moral argument, shows a list of pro-Palestinian authors. Footnote 32 contains cites from Simcha Flapan, Avi Shaim, Nur Masalah, and Benny Morris. Other footnotes include Tanya Reinhardt, Ian Lustick, Erskine Childers, and Rahid Khalidi. Every one of these authors, with the exception of Morris (whose positions are unclear), could be fairly classified as pro-Palestinian. And while it is not inherently unfair to quote pro-Palestinian authors, a report about Israel should at least cite some pro-Israel authors.

The best parts of the report are its analysis of the strategic benefits and the part that deals with the power of the lobby. The worst parts are its rejection of the moral argument (because it assumes all the Palestinian arguments) and its argument that the Iraq war was supported by some in the administration because of Israel. The argument basically boils down to that some neo-conservatives are pro-Israel and the Iraq war benefited Israel.

The first footnote gets the report of to an inauspicious start. It argues “the mere existence of the Lobby suggests that unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest. If it was, one would not need a special interest group to bring it about.” Clearly this argument is absurd. The same argument could, of course, be made for every position that is pushed by interest groups. Every single group has an interest group pushing its positions. Politicians are self-interested and need to be motivated to back a position. Nothing is self-evident in politics and a strong interest group is needed to motivate politicians to support what is in the best interests of the US.

I don’t really have the time to pick the report apart, but you can look at CAMERA’s rebuttal.

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