U.S. too often follows Israel's lead in diplomatic situations
By Paul Findley
" -- -- There is an open secret in Washington. I
learned it well during my 22-year tenure as a member of the U.S.
House of Representatives. All members swear to serve the
interests of the United States, but there is an unwritten and
overwhelming exception: The interests of one small foreign
country almost always trump U.S. interests. That nation of
course is Israel.
Both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue give priority to Israel over
America. Those on Capitol Hill are pre-primed to roar approval
for Israeli actions whether right or wrong, instead of at least
fussing first and then caving. The White House sometimes puts up
a modest and ineffective show of resistance before it follows
In 2002, President Bush publicly ordered Israeli prime minister
Ariel Sharon to end a bloody, destructive rampage through the
Palestinian West Bank. He wilted just as publicly when he
received curt word from Sharon that Israeli troops would not
withdraw and would continue their military operations. A few
days later President Bush invited Sharon to the White House
where he saluted him as a "man of peace."
I had similar experiences in the House of Representatives. On
several occasions, colleagues told me privately that they
admired what I was trying to do in Middle East policy reform but
could not risk pro-Israel protest back home by supporting my
The pro-Israel lobby is not one organization orchestrating U.S.
Middle East policy from a backroom in Washington. Nor is it
entirely Jewish. It consists of scores of groups -- large and
small -- that work at various levels. The largest, most
professional, and most effective is the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee. Many pro-Israel lobby groups belong to the
The recently released book, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign
Policy," co-authored by distinguished professors John
Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of
Harvard, offers hope for constructive change. It details the
damage to U.S. national interests caused by the lobby for
Israel. These brave professors render a great service to
America, but their theme, expressed in a published study paper a
year ago, is already under heavy, vitriolic attack.
They are unjustly accused of anti-Semitism, the ultimate
instrument of intimidation employed by the lobby. A common
problem: Under pressure, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs
withdrew an invitation for the authors to speak about their
book. Council president Marshall Bouton explained ruefully that
the invitation posed "a political problem" and a need "to
protect the institution" from those who would be angry if the
I know what it is like to be targeted in this way. In the last
years of my long service in Congress, I spoke out, making many
of the points now presented in the Mearsheimer-Walt book. In
1980, my opponent charged me with anti-Semitism, and money
poured into his campaign fund from every state in the Union. I
prevailed that year but two years later lost by a narrow margin.
In 1984, Sen. Charles Percy, then chairman of the Foreign
Relations Committee and an occasional critic of Israel, was
defeated. Leaders of the Israel lobby claimed credit for
defeating both Percy and me, claims that strengthened lobby
influence in the years that followed.
The result is that Members of Congress today loudly reward
Israel as it violates international law and peace agreements,
lures America into costly wars, and subjects millions of
Palestinians under its rule to apartheid-like conditions because
they are not Jewish.
It is time to call politicians to account for their undying
allegiance to a foreign state. Let the Mearsheimer-Walt book be
a clarion that bestirs the American people to political action
and finally brings fundamental change to both Capitol Hill and
the White House.
Citizen participation in public policy development is a hallmark
of our proud democracy. But the pro-Israel groups subvert
democracy when they engage in smear campaigns that intimidate
and silence critics. America badly needs a civilized discussion
of the damaging role of Israel in U.S. policy formulation.
Paul Findley represented Illinois in the U.S. House of
Representatives for 22 years.
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