Two Knights and a Dragon
By: Uri Avnery
10/04/07 "ICH" -- -- -THERE ARE books that change people's
consciousness and change history. Some tell a story, like
Harriet Beech Stowe's 1851 "Uncle Tom's Cabin", which gave a
huge impetus to the campaign for the abolition of slavery.
Others take the form of a political treatise, like Theodor
Herzl's "Der Judenstaat", which gave birth to the Zionist
movement. Or they can be scientific in nature, like Charles
Darwin's "The Origin of Species", which changed the way humanity
sees itself. And perhaps political satire, too, can shake the
world, like "1984" by George Orwell.
The impact of these books was amplified by their timing. They
appeared exactly at the right time, when a large public was
ready to absorb their message.
It may well turn out that the book by the two professors, John
Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign
Policy", is just such a book.
It is a dry scientific research report, 355 pages long, backed
by 106 further pages containing some thousand references to
It is not a bellicose book. On the contrary, its style is
restrained and factual. The authors take great care not to utter
a single negative comment on the legitimacy of the Lobby, and
indeed bend over backwards to stress their support for the
existence and security of Israel. They let the facts speak for
themselves. With the skill of experienced masons, they
systematically lay brick upon brick, row upon row, leaving no
gap in their argumentation.
This wall cannot be torn down by reasoned argument. Nobody has
tried, and nobody is going to. Instead, the authors are being
smeared and accused of sinister motives. If the book could be
ignored altogether, this would have been done - as has happened
to other books which have been buried alive.
(Some years ago, there appeared in Russia a large tome by
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the world-renowned laureate of the Nobel
Prize for Literature, about Russia and its Jews. This book,
called "200 Years Together", has been completely ignored. As far
as I know, it has not been translated into any language,
certainly not into Hebrew. I asked several of Israel's leading
intellectuals, and none of them had even heard of the book.
Neither does it appear on the list of Amazon.com, which includes
all the author's other works.)
THE TWO professors take the bull by the horns. They deal with a
subject which is absolutely taboo in the United States, a
subject nobody in his right mind would even mention: the
enormous influence of the pro-Israel lobby on American foreign
In a remorselessly systematical way, the book analyzes the
Lobby, takes it apart, describes its modus operandi, discloses
its financial sources and lays bare its relations with the White
House, the two houses of Congress, the leaders of the two major
parties and leading media people.
The authors do not call into question the Lobby's legitimacy. On
the contrary, they show that hundreds of lobbies of this kind
play an essential role in the American democratic system. The
gun and the medical lobbies, for example, are also very powerful
political forces. But the pro-Israel lobby has grown out of all
proportion. It has unparalleled political power. It can silence
all criticism of Israel in Congress and the media, bring about
the political demise of anyone who dares to break the taboo,
prevent any action that does not conform to the will of the
In its second part, the book shows how the Lobby uses its
tremendous power in practice: how it has prevented the exertion
of any pressure on Israel to for peace with the Palestinians,
how it pushed the US into the invasion of Iraq, how it is now
pushing for wars with Iran and Syria, how it supported the
Israeli leadership in the recent war in Lebanon and blocked
calls for a ceasefire when it didn't want it.
Each of these assertions is backed up by so much undeniable
evidence and quotations from written material (mainly from
Israeli sources) that they cannot be ignored.
MOST OF these disclosures are nothing new for those in Israel
who deal with these matters.
I myself could add to the book a whole chapter from personal
In the late 50s, I visited the US for the first time. A major
New York radio station invited me for an interview. Later they
cautioned me: "You can criticize the President (Dwight D.
Eisenhower) and the Secretary of State (John Foster Dulles) to
your heart's content, but please don't criticize Israeli
leaders!" At the last moment the interview was cancelled
altogether, and the Iraqi ambassador was invited instead.
Criticism was apparently tolerable when it came from an Arab,
but absolutely not coming from an Israeli.
In 1970, the respected American "Fellowship of Reconciliation"
invited me for a lecture tour of 30 universities, under the
auspices of the Hillel rabbis. When I arrived in New York, I was
informed that 29 of the lectures had been cancelled. The sole
rabbi who did not cancel, Balfour Brickner, showed me a secret
communication of the "Anti-Defamation League" that proscribed my
lectures. It said: "While Knesset Member Avnery can in no way be
considered a traitor, his appearance at this time would be
deeply divisive…" In the end, all the lectures took place under
the auspices of Christian chaplains.
I especially remember a depressing experience in Baltimore. A
good Jew, who had volunteered to host me, was angered by the
cancellation of my lecture in this city and obstinately insisted
on putting it on. We combed the streets of the Jewish quarters -
mile upon mile of signs with Jewish names - and did not find a
single hall whose manager would agree to let the lecture by a
member of the Israeli Knesset take place. In the end, we did
hold the lecture in the basement of the building of my host's
apartment - and functionaries of the Jewish community came to
That year, during Black September, I held a press conference in
Washington DC, under the auspices of the Quakers. It seemed to
be a huge success. The journalists came straight from a press
conference with Prime Minister Golda Meir, and showered me with
questions. Almost all the important media were represented - TV
networks, radio, the major newspapers. After the planned hour
was up, they would not let me go and kept me talking for another
hour and a half. But the next day, not a single word appeared in
any of the media. Thirty-one years later, in October 2001 I held
a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, and exactly
the same thing happened: many of the media were there, they held
me for another hour - and not a word, not a single word, was
In 1968, a very respected American publishing house (Macmillan)
brought out a book of mine' "Israel Without Zionists", which was
later translated into eight other languages. The book described
the Israeli-Arab conflict in a very different way and proposed
the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel - a
revolutionary idea at the time. Not a single review appeared in
the American media. I checked in one of the most important book
stores in New York and did not find the book. When I asked a
salesman, he found it buried under a heap of volumes and put it
on top. Half an hour later it was hidden again.
The book dealt with the "Two States for Two peoples" solution
long before it became a world-wide consensus, and with my
proposal for Israel's integration in "the Semitic Region". True,
I am an Israeli patriot and was elected to the Knesset by
Israeli voters. But I criticized the Israeli government - and
that was enough.
THE BOOK by the two professors, who criticize the Israeli
government from a different angle, cannot be buried anymore.
This fact, by itself, speaks volumes.
The book is based on an essay by the two that appeared last year
in a British journal, after no American publication dared to
touch it. Now a respected American publishing house has released
it - an indication that something is moving. The situation has
not changed, but it seems that it is now possible at least to
talk about it.
Everything depends on timing - and apparently the time is now
ripe for such a book, which will shock many good people in
America. It is now causing an uproar.
The two professors are, of course, accused of anti-Semitism,
racism and hatred of Israel. What Israel? It is the Lobby itself
that hates a large part of Israel. In recent years is has
shifted even more to the Right. Some of its constituent groups -
such as the neo-cons who pushed the US into the Iraq war - are
openly connected with the right-wing Likud, and especially with
Binyamin Netanyahu. The billionaires who finance the Lobby are
the same people who finance the extreme Israeli Right, and most
of all the settlers.
The small, determined Jewish groups in the US who support the
Israeli peace movements are remorselessly persecuted. Some of
them fold after a few years. Members of Israeli peace groups who
are sent to America are boycotted and slandered as
The political views of the two professors, which are briefly
stated at the end of the book, are identical with the stand of
the Israeli peace forces: the Two-State Solution, ending the
occupation, borders based on the Green Line, and international
support for the peace settlement.
If this is anti-Semitism, then we here are all anti-Semites. And
only the Christian Zionists - those who openly demand the return
of the Jews to this country but secretly prophesy the
annihilation of the unconverted Jews at the Second Coming of
Jesus Christ - are the true Lovers of Zion.
EVEN IF not a single bad word about the pro-Israel lobby can be
uttered in the US, it is far from being a secret society,
hatching conspiracies like the "Protocols of the Elders of
Zion". On the contrary, AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, the
Zionist Federation and the other organizations vociferously
boast about their actions and publicly proclaim their incredible
Quite naturally, the diverse components of the Lobby compete
with each other - Who has the biggest influence on the White
House, Who scares the most senators, Who controls more
journalists and commentators,. This competition causes a
permanent escalation - because every success by one group spurs
the others to redouble their efforts.
This could be very dangerous. A balloon that is inflated to
monstrous dimensions can one day burst in the face of American
Jews (who, by the way, according to the polls, object to many
positions adopted by the Lobby that claims to speak in their
Most of the American public now opposes the Iraq war and
considers it a disaster. This majority still does not connect
the war with the actions of the pro-Israel lobby. No newspaper
and no politician dares to hint at such a connection - yet. But
if this taboo is broken, the result may be very dangerous for
the Jews and for Israel.
Beneath the surface, a lot of anger directed against the Lobby
is accumulating. The presidential candidates, who are compelled
to grovel at the feet of AIPAC, the senators and congressmen,
who have become slaves of the Lobby, the media people, who are
forbidden to write what they really think - all these secretly
detest the Lobby. If this anger explodes, it may hurt us, too.
This lobby has become a Golem. And like the Golem in legend, in
the end it will bring disaster on its maker.
IF I may be permitted to voice some criticism of my own:
When the original article by the two professors appeared, I
argued that "the tail is wagging the dog and the dog is wagging
the tail". The tail, of course, is Israel.
The two professors confirm the first part of the equation, but
emphatically deny the second. The central thesis of the book is
that the pressure of the Lobby causes the United States to act
against its own interests (and, in the long run, also against
the true interests of Israel.) They do not accept my contention,
quoted in the book, that Israel acted in Lebanon as "America's
Rottweiler" (to Hizbullah as "Iran's Doberman").
I agree that the US is acting against its true interest (and the
true interests of Israel) - but the American leadership does not
see it that way. Bush and his people believe - even without the
input of the Lobby - that it would be advantageous for the US to
establish a permanent American military presence in the middle
of this region of huge oil reserves. In my view, this
counter-productive act at was one of the main objectives of the
war, side by side with the desire to eliminate one of Israel's
most dangerous enemies. Unfortunately, the book deals only very
briefly with this issue.
That does not diminish in any way my profound admiration for the
intellectual qualities, integrity and courage of Mearsheimer and
Walt, two knights who, like St. George, who have sallied forth
to face the fearful dragon.
Uri, is an Israeli author and activist. He is the head of the Israeli
peace movement, “Gush Shalom”.
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