The US is considered by many as the backbone of Israel and the mother of many evils in Middle East. With the presence of various pro-Israeli lobbies and pressure groups rallying around the corridors of power in Washington to press their case, they have been highly successful not only in setting the agenda in favour of Israel, but also make sure that the Palestine voice is not heard. Many believe that this is a typical phenomenon in Washington and hence an internal issue of the United States. But the pro-Israeli lobbies are a decisive factor in most European countries and its influence is felt manifold in Britain.
These pro-Israeli lobbies are a coalition of wealthy individuals and organizations who actively work to shape British foreign policy in a pro-Israeli direction. Though the percentage of British Jews who wholeheartedly support the pro-Israeli lobby is very minimal, they have been highly successful in portraying their cause to be of great concern to the majority of the Jewish community. The lobby has got great influence and access to all major parties including the Labour and Conservative to the extent that they shape the foreign policy the United Kingdom, much as their counterparts in the United States.
Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) is one of the most active lobbying groups in UK with major stakes in the Conservative Party. In 2009, a few months after Israel’s brutal Operation Cast Lead that saw more than 1200 Palestinians killed and many thousands injured, Conservative Friends of Israel held its Annual Lunch for its Conservative politicians and businessmen. David Cameron who was star speaker for the day made no reference to the widespread killing of innocent civilians and massive destruction in Gaza that happened six months earlier. Instead he praised Israel and commented that Israel strives to protect innocent life. Thanks to the estimated £10 million bankrolled in the last eight years to the Conservative Party, Mr. Cameron continued to say that ‘if I became Prime Minister, Israel has a friend who will never turn his back on Israel.’
This is not something particular to the Conservatives, but is in line with the Labour Friends of Israel stance that UK shall continue to foster a strong relationship with Israel as it is being a close ally of the UK with regular warm and productive exchanges at all levels. Back in the nineties pop music millionaire Michael Levy was made the special envoy to the Middle East under Tony Blair in return for the estimated £15 million he had raised for the Labour Party in the prior election campaign. As he was not part of any ministry he had a free hand at doing whatever he intended to do on behalf of the pro-Israeli lobby. An unelected friend of the Prime Minister having so much influence over British policies in the Middle East did damage to the reputation of Britain in the Middle East and hence the negotiations he had with Israel and its Arab neighbors on behalf of Britain are still kept secret.
Money plays a big part in the lobbying game and millions of pounds in donations from businessmen and others fly into the bank accounts of these politicians and political parties. Besides raising cash, some of the pro-Israeli lobbies in parliament also pay for and arrange trips to Israel. They have sent almost as many MPs and candidates on trips to Israel as have been made by all MPS to the United States and Europe combined over the last eight years. These MPs get enormous donations to their party funds and it would be stupid to believe that these contributions come with no strings attached. These MPs then become passionately concerned about Israel and that is reflected in the foreign policies of the United Kingdom. Moreover, financial pressures are also exerted by these lobbies to coerce any dissent within these parties to fall in line with Israeli policy.
The influence of these lobbies is not restricted to bankrolling political parties and favours extracted in return. They also try to define the debate in order to limit the options that British politicians can choose when it comes to issues pertaining to Middle East. The hand of CFI in shaping up the British opposition against the UN resolution following judge Goldstone’s Report criticizing Israeli human rights abuses in Gaza is a classic example of their clout.
There are various other pro-Israeli lobbies including Britain Israel Communication & Research Centre (BICOM), Jewish Leadership Council, Zionist Federation of Great Britain, and Board of Deputies of British Jews. Their activities include, but are not restricted to, getting the Israeli message across the British Universities, silencing any criticism of the Israeli policies inside Israel and elsewhere and engaging in successful Public Relations campaigns to shape the media coverage of the Middle East conflict. High profile members of these pro-Israeli lobbies even own business units in the Occupied Palestinian territory that is considered to be illegal under international law. This would tend to indicate in which direction the message of these lobbies will go.
Israel is really fighting the war on two fronts, the first is the military campaign being waged in the occupied territories against the Palestinian people and the second is the Public Relations (PR) Campaign being waged throughout the world media to ensure continuous support for Israel’s military occupation. In addition to the military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel is also involved in an attempt to ideologically occupy the world media and these lobbies are the key functionaries in that respect. Sophisticated media outlets in the UK including The Guardian and the BBC have been at the receiving end of this censorship. This has gone to the extent that journalists get the feeling that it’s not worth the trouble and it’s better to stay away from reporting the truth about Middle East. BBC, which had previously run emergency appeals for disasters around the world including Palestine past, declined to air a humanitarian plea for Gaza victims in the 2009 January Israeli invasion under the pressure of pro-Israeli lobby.
These institutional frame works of Israeli lobbies and their political interest in combination with Israeli Public Relations department shape media coverage of the Middle East. At the same time progressive Jewish organizations opposing Israeli government policies, let alone scores of Muslim organizations, that strive to bring out the ground reality rarely make it through these institutional filters.
Finally, if any news stories critical of Israeli policy do surface there are hosts of media watch dog groups that monitor and pressure journalists and media outlets, the most important of which is Honest Reporting. There are active pro-Israeli organizations that very effectively monitor (read harass) journalists and their editors and try to make sure that the coverage is objective, by which they mean is pro-Israel. There are even pressure groups that conduct campaigns writing letters to editors and news outlets asking them to boycott certain news agencies, demanding that stories be changed or the reporter be fired. This becomes so twisted, that the dearth of reporting, the absence of images, lack of analysis, the void of voices of describing the experience of Palestinians under occupation is so vast that the people have no idea that a military occupation is going on.
Britain cannot wash her hands of the plight of Palestinians today for its involvement in the creation of the state of Israel. Now Zionism is becoming more pervasive in British politics as it is already rampant in the United States. It would take a huge amount of mettle both from the British politicians and the media to stand against this high profile pressure group. The act needs to be done soon, before it becomes an obsession and a moral liability for the British parliament to support anything and everything that Israel does according to the whims and fancies of its insane leaders.
– Ershad Abubacker is a Research Analyst based in Chennai. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dennis Ross is ‘a crucial conduit between’ the White House and Israel
It is generally recognized that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), now a 100,000-member pro-Israeli lobbying group, has had an impressive record since the fifties in advocating pro-Israel policies mostly to Congress. But of late several key officials, all American Jews in sensitive government positions, have outpaced this lobbying group established in 1950.
It may be a sign of their self-confidence that these officials are now publicly discussing the role of their colleagues in the ongoing conflict in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians, who have yet to establish their independent state in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip where they number about four million. (Israel’s population totals a little over seven million including some 1.5 million Palestinian Arabs mostly in the Galilee region).
Take the case, revealed recently, of how an unidentified person had inserted in a speech of then Secretary of State Colin L. Powell who had then called nine years ago on the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.” This phrase is now belatedly one of the many divisive issues that are plaguing the recently disrupted peace negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas. President George W. Bush and, more recently, President Barack Obama had used the phrase unaware of its damaging potential.
Aaron David Miller, a former State Department official who wrote the first draft of Powell’s speech and had participated in Palestinian-Israeli negotiations for many years, told The Washington Post the sentence did not ring many alarm bells when it mysteriously appeared in the speech.
But the then former Israeli ambassador in Washington, David Ivry, admitted that he had contacted the then deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage, and persuaded him to “slip in” the reference to the speech. But Powell told the Post he checked with Armitage and Armitage has no memory of that.
Lately, Dennis Ross, a longtime Middle East expert at the State Department, and now a senior White House aide, has emerged, according to the Post, “as a crucial, behind-the-scenes conduit between the White House and the Israeli government … to discreetly smooth out differences between the two governments.”
The incentives that Ross thought of offering the Israelis were reportedly leaked to his onetime colleague, David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an influential pro-Israel think-tank founded by Martin Indyk, a former deputy research director at AIPAC and now vice president for Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution. Until recently Indyk was the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings and had also served two stints as U.S. ambassador to Israel. Makovsky and Ross had co-authored a book titled “Myths, Illusion and Peace: A New Guide for the Middle East.”
Makovsky’s article mentioned a shocking list of assurances to the Israelis, including a lengthy “transitional period” for Jordan Valley security, which Makovsky called “an apparent allusion to keeping Israeli troops in that (Palestinian) region for an extended period of time.”
More about the influence of American Jewish influence within U.S. administration was revealed in the declassification of confidential discussions of top Israel during the Yom Kippur or October War in 1973. Israeli leaders appeared to be at wits end in the early hours of the war for fear that they would be overrun by Arab troops from Egypt, Syria and Jordan. In response, then Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir considered making a clandestine trip to Washington to request help from then President Richard Nixon.
She did not go and instead chose to appeal to then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. As a result, the American president sent an airlift of materiel that made all the difference in Israel’s favor in the 20-day war.
Commenting on the released documents, Yehezkel Dror, described as one of Israel’s most distinguished political scientists, told an Israeli radio audience that the Israeli leaders failed to realize the war’s true goal which he said was to pressure Israel to return the captured Arab territories.
The Egyptians, he explained, “used the war for a political goal. Why didn’t we understand this? Because we didn’t think politically. He who thinks militarily does not understand that the other side sees the arms as a political tool, not to conquest but to reach a better deal on the Sinai.”
The same applied to the Turkish flotilla last May when Israel troops boarded the Turkish boat. What is need in leadership is both subtlety and clarity, Dror stressed. Israel’s approach to the peace process with the Palestinians was another example, he added, reported the Post. “The main question of what Israel wants is unclear.”
Let’s hope Obama will also absorb this point, regardless what the Israeli lobby or his Jewish advisers are telling him.
– George S. Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. Contact him at: Hishmehg@aol.com.
Since Israel’s 2008 invasion of Gaza only selected officials – including EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon – have visited Gaza via Israel
GAZA — Finland’s Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb landed Thursday morning in the Gaza Strip after several days of Israel denying him entry.
Palestinian sources said Stubb was allowed to pass over the Beit Hanoun crossing on his way to the Gaza Strip, where he will convene several meetings with international bodies, businessmen, and Palestinian figures. He will also visit war-devastated areas in the Strip.
The Foreign Minister is set on visiting sites devastated by the Israeli army in the northern Gaza Strip to be briefed on the extent of devastation the war had on Gaza. More than 20,000 homes and the Strip’s main infrastructure were ruined in the attack.
Israeli authorities denied the FM’s request to visit Gaza a few days back, alleging that similar visits could constitute recognition of Hamas.
In a separate development, a professional Jordanian soccer team was denied entry into Gaza by Egyptian authorities.
Tariq Khouri, head of the Wihdat Sports Club in Jordan, said he requested more than 50 days ago entry visas from the Egyptian embassy in Amman so the team could head to Gaza through the Egyptian Rafah crossing. But so far Egyptian authorities have made no response.
Khouri said the purpose of the visit was to bust the four-year blockade on the Gaza Strip.
The soccer team was supposed to play against the Gaza sports club and a number of local teams in the Strip.
In a previous article regarding America’s strategic objectives in Pakistan, I had opined that the ongoing war on terror in Afghanistan is aimed to take the operations into the Pakistani territory. The real target is Pakistan’s nuclear potential; they have no plausible security threat from the ill-equipped Talibans or ragtag extremist. Arthur Herman, an author and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), has hinted at the real objective of the US. AEI is a think tank closely associated with the neoconservatives and is openly committed to Israel’s security. It supplies advisors to officials of the US administration and serves as “incubator for new policy ideas and is critical part of the web of power in Washington” (The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy by Mearsheimer and Walt).
What Herman suggests in his write-up is in fact a policy direction to the US administration. He implies that the policy of sending drones and attacking the militant hideouts in the Pakistan territory has not worked. His line of argument is that Pakistan encourages drone attacks on those terrorist who pose a threat to them; they do not support attack on groups who target the Afghan government. His underlying thrust is obvious, he wants to tell the US and NATO forces to prop up the Afghan government against Pakistan.
One can understand now why President Hamid Karazai vents his anger on Pakistan from time to time. Herman suggests that if Pakistan government is further destabilised “the only thing keeping the country’s nukes out of the hands of Al-Qaeda may have to be the US troops.” So, the thrust is Pakistan’s nukes. It is a tacit way to tell the policymakers in Washington to keep the pressure on our country, which will weaken the Pakistani government’s standing causing instability. That will provide the reason for the US troops to move in.
What is unknown to the public in Pakistan is that the pressure is escalating. Herman quotes interesting figures of NATO excursions into the Pakistan territory. In 2009, he lists 45 Predator drone attacks, in 2010 so far the attacks have tripled – 22 attacks in September alone. We know about the drone attacks as these are reported in the media, but what we do not know and our media does not report, is the fact that the US-led NATO forces are launching crossborder raids into Pakistan to flush out the Taliban insurgents. For this, CIA is operating Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams in Afghanistan. These teams are regularly mounting ground raids into the Pak territory. Bob Woodard in his latest book, Obama’s Wars, claims that CIA boss Leon Panetta has demanded more powers and authority to wage a secret war inside Pakistan. In this way, things are getting hot as far as the war on terror is concerned. Pakistan is moving to become centre stage in this war. Bruce Riedel, a former CIA and NSC official, has advised Mr Obama to shift the focus of war “from Afghanistan to Pakistan”; this is what we are witnessing in the shape of heightened war effort into the Pakistan territory.