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Old 11-27-2011, 10:11 AM
ledocs ledocs is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: France, Earth
Posts: 1,165
Default Re: Values Added: The Whirligig of Time (Glenn Loury & Walter Russell Mead)

I agree that it would be interesting to hear another discussion focusing on this topic only. Perhaps a pro-Palestinian cause Jewish interlocutor would be a good pairing for Walter. Hopefully the implied accusation of antisemitism wouldn't be so easily supported or so potentially threatening.
Yes, I agree with this. So Walt does not qualify, he's not Jewish. David Remnick. He would be a coup for bhtv, and he might well be willing to talk to Mead.

There are so many issues here. But, in the end, we have to come back to the analysis in the terms of political science. What are the basic parameters of the "science" within which we can assess the existence of an Israel lobby, its composition, its working, and its influence? One problem is that there is not much legislation that one can examine in order to assess the influence of a lobby in the case of US-Israel policy. In that way, the whole question is different from looking at the NRA or at the banking lobby. Secondly, it is my belief that military strategy and intelligence considerations must be playing a large part in the special relationship between the US and Israel, but many of those considerations are largely secret and rarely talked about with any candor in public. Insofar as they exist, they are largely opaque to the public. So political science is at a disadvantage here, relative to assessing the influence of other lobbies or lobbying organizations.

Mead wants to bring up the entire history of US support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. But that history, whatever it is, cannot explain the current policy under current conditions, simply because the scarcity of oil and supply-demand conditions for oil were utterly different in the 19th century than they are today. Indeed, they were quite different until some date I cannot specify, but let's say until 1975-1980, some time shorty after Israel's victory in the 1967 war. Glenn's question, a perfectly reasonable one, is how can it be that the US appears to put its greatest interest in the Middle East, namely oil, at risk, by pursuing an Israel policy that does not seem consonant with this principle interest? And the next question is, insofar as there is a mystery to be explained here, does the existence of an Israel lobby, in which Jewish organizations play a large role, help to explain the apparent mystery?

I think we would need to get down to cases in order to assess the influence of AIPAC and related organizations in American politics. We would need to learn about cases in which American congresspeople might have been tempted to stray from AIPAC-approved policies, or might have questioned US financial and military aid to Israel, and subsequently decided not to pursue these avenues because of lobbying pressure from the alleged Israel lobby. We would need to ask the question of why, for example, Barbara Boxer has never assumed, to my knowledge, any position that might be characterized as "anti-Israel," and one could extend this line of questioning to every liberal Jewish congressperson in the US who has existed over the past 40 years. This whole discussion is assuming an atmosphere of unreality. That's because this whole issue is a third rail, it's taboo. Every time a Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama says anything that does not exhibit "unconditional support" for Israel, he gets reeled back into line by something, so what is that something? (And if you don't think that is true, just look at the debate I had with bbbeard about the speech Obama gave at the State Department in May, 2011, I think, a speech that was described breathlessly by some as worldshaking in its historical importance and anamolousness in the history of US policy towards Israel, but which was given an entirely anodyne gloss by none other than Walter Russell Mead.)

The point is, one would need to do a detailed analysis of the financial contributions of pro-Israel Jewish donors, both individual and organized, to American politics. Then one would also need to do a qualitative analysis of the fear imposed upon politicians for straying from the AIPAC-approved line. Then one would have to do a detailed analysis of the Israel lobby's effect upon the American media's portrayal of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It's a vast subject, fraught with methodological difficulties, not the least of which is that the main policy implications are shrouded in secrecy, media outlets are not going to admit to bowing to pressure, politicians are not going to admit to bowing to pressure, and so on.

But Mead's whole line is subject to the following reductio ad absurdum, which I already hinted at. There are plenty of left-leaning American Jews who think that organized Jews play a large role in influencing American policy towards Israel. Let us suppose that Mead is right about the amount of influence the more hard-line Jews have (an amount which remains to be specified) and that the left-wing Jews are wrong, that we are laboring under some misapprehension about reality. It is still laughable, in my opinion, to assert that these left-wing Jews are not, perhaps, anti-Semitic, but that they are nevertheless "wrong and immoral." No, we're just wrong in that case.

Clearly, one side of this divide in the American Jewish community has the feeling that it is not listened to but that the other side, the "neocon"/ AIPAC side, has the ear of the entire power apparatus in the US. Now, there are two possibilities here. One is that this feeling is wrong. But Mead's own one-man, one-vote analysis of the American Jewish community tells against this interpretation. So the other possibility is that there is an "innocent" explanation for the feeling, namely that there is something else going on in American politics that explains US policy towards Israel, something that has nothing to do with the American Jewish community. And that is quite probable, but it does not answer the question of what American policy towards Israel would be like in the absence of the Israel lobby, and of the Jewish portion of that lobby, on the assumption that such a lobby exists. Put positively, it does not answer the question of the extent of the power and influence exerted by the alleged lobby. Does Mead think that there is no such lobby? Apparently not, because he brought up the NRA analogy. So there is a lobby, and the question is that of the extent of its power and influence over US policy towards Israel.

I should say, by the way, that I liked this dv in its entirety, I agree that it would be good to see and hear more from Mead. I just get the feeling that he's off the deep end on this anti-Semitism thing, for whatever reason.

Last edited by ledocs; 11-27-2011 at 10:40 AM..
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