A Bipartisan Look at the Israel Lobby

by , September 16, 2010

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Security Preparedness Group’s September 10th report "Assessing the Terrorist Threat" concludes that there is a growing threat to the United States derived from the radicalization of some American Muslims, a number of whom have joined extremist groups abroad.  The report and its conclusions have received wide distribution in the United States mainstream media, to include a Washington Post article on September 11th headlined "US Must Deal With Homegrown Terror Problem." National Public Radio reported it as "Homegrown terrorists pose biggest threat" while the Associated Press headlined "US must deal with domestic radical problem." 

As the Bipartisan Policy Center was founded by five former United States senators, its findings have an aura or respectability.  This is unfortunate as the report deliberately seeks to heighten fear of a minority community based on what it might do, not necessarily what it has done.  The timing of the release of the report is also intriguing, coming as it did just before 9/11, heightening the already considerable anti-Muslim sentiment being expressed nationwide over the proposal for an Islamic community center in southern Manhattan near the former site of the World Trade Center. 

Warning about a Muslim domestic terrorist threat is bad policy intended to dramatize complex issues in Manichean terms, somewhat akin to advocating security initiatives that can fit on a bumper sticker.  While the report concedes that United States government "overreactions" have contributed to the growth of extremism, it does not address the core issue, which is that the national counter-terrorism policy is itself deeply flawed and arouses legitimate concerns in many Muslim countries that Washington is intent on a never-ending apocalyptic war against Islam.

In reality, Muslim Americans are law abiding and the number of radicalized young men is tiny, many being naturalized citizens with deep family roots in countries where the United States is undertaking military action and killing large numbers of civilians.  Describing the terrorism threat confronting the United States as a "Muslim problem" is a simplistic and ultimately incorrect assessment of a much more complex group of interactions.  The Bipartisan Policy Center’s identification of 43 Muslim men who were convicted last year over support for or alignment with militant groups is unconvincing evidence of a major threat against the United States.  Many of those convicted were on the receiving end of FBI sting operations in which an informant was inserted into the group, suggesting the possibility that the informant might have served as a catalyst or enabler for the proposed terrorist act.  In legal terms, this is referred to as "entrapment."  Of the 43 cited convictions in 2009, only two were of men who actually carried out a terrorist action and there was one more who was capable of doing so, suggesting that the contention that there is a significant terrorist threat is greatly exaggerated. 

The Bipartisan Policy Center might claim to be bipartisan because it includes both Democrats and Republicans but that does not mean that it is objective.  Two years ago it produced a "task force" report on the Iranian threat called "Meeting the Challenge:  US Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development."  It concluded that Iran has no right to enrich nuclear fuel for any purpose and predicted that Tehran would have sufficient highly enriched uranium in one year’s time to build a bomb.  It advocated talking to Tehran to give it a chance to surrender on all key issues before attacking it, urging newly elected but not yet inaugurated President Barack Obama to build up forces for the assault.  The task force recommended that the US military should, after bombing Iran into submission, remain in the area vigilant and ready to react to any possible attempt at retaliation by Tehran. 

Currently, two years after the alarming report, Iran still has neither a nuclear device nor any weapons grade fuel and there is no solid evidence that it has a program to produce a bomb, meaning that a war would have been another case of "preemption" of non-existent weapons of mass destruction, reminiscent of the lies that led to the invasion of Iraq.  And the Iran report conclusion calling for a US attack could hardly have been otherwise based on the make-up of the Bipartisan Policy Center task force that produced it.  It included Dennis Ross, who has been described as the State Department’s "lawyer for Israel" as well as Steve Rademaker husband of Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Michael Rubin also of AEI, Kenneth Weinstein of the Hudson Institute, and Kenneth Katzmann of the Congressional Research Service.  Rubin drafted the report assisted by the project director Michael Makovsky, who is the brother of David Makovsky, the senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a pro-Israeli think tank that was founded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  No one on the task force was an independent expert on Iran who might have been willing or able to express Iran’s concerns or point of view.  Indeed, apart from Rubin, no one on the task force knew anything about Iran at all, except possibly that it was supposed to be part of the axis of evil.

And history repeats itself for the Bipartisan Policy Center’s current "Assessing the Terrorist Threat." It was written by Peter Bergen, a journalist, and Bruce Hoffman, an academic.  Both have made their reputations talking and writing about terrorists, so, in a sense, they are part of the burgeoning terrorism industry and have a personal stake in hyping the threat.  On page 2 they acknowledge assistance from a number of "experts."  Judging from the names, not one is a Muslim, meaning that there has been no input from the very community that is being excoriated in the report.  That is very much business as usual in Washington, but it invites some skepticism about the agenda of the authors of the report and the institution that sponsored it.

If the Bipartisan Policy Center is seriously interested in examining threats against the United States rather than starting new wars or persecuting a religious group, I would suggest that they set up a new task force and take a long hard look at the actions of the Israel Lobby.  They could start by talking to Ross, Rademaker, Rubin, and the two Makovskys since they are members in good standing of the Lobby and are readily available, probably sitting somewhere down the hall.  Explain to them how United States security has been compromised by the tie that binds with Israel and how its institutions have been corrupted.  Suggest to them that official Washington insofar as it relates to the Middle East is an AIPAC-run enterprise.  Run through the list of the State Department’s Assistant Secretaries of State for the Near East and discover that all of them have been Israel-firsters ever since Martin Indyk, an Australian citizen and AIPAC lobbyist, obtained the post in 1997. Bush appointee and hawk Jeffrey Feltman currently holds the position, virtually guaranteeing that there will be no shifting of allegiance at Foggy Bottom. Describe to them the more than $120 billion that Israel has received directly from the US taxpayer and discuss with them the many spies for Israel that have avoided prosecution because of government fear to cross AIPAC.

And then there is AIPAC itself.  You might explore with Dennis Ross why he thinks AIPAC should not be registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act even though it describes itself on its website as "America’s Pro-Israel Lobby."  And you can chat a bit in a friendly way about how it works through intimidation and a large number of pro-Israel PACs to control Congress.  And then there are the Israel-firsters in the media, the gatekeepers of truth and managers of the narrative.  Names like Will, Krauthammer, Horowitz, Zuckerman, Ignatius, Thomas, Kristol, Friedman, and Brooks come to mind but there are many, many more. And remind them of the stories that just won’t go away, like Senator Arlen Specter trying to make everyone forget how Israel illegally obtained uranium from a plant in Pennsylvania owned by one Zalman Shapiro and used it to make bombs.  Or the nagging accounts of Israeli spying, the most aggressive effort to steal American secrets by any country considered to be friendly.

And never forget that the Lobby is bipartisan. There are the billionaire Crown and Pritzker families of Chicago, exceptionally good friends of Israel and President Obama’s money men, and Aubrey and Joyce Chernick of Los Angeles who have been funding the recent anti-Muslim frenzy. And let’s not leave out Irving Moskowitz the California bingo king and Pastor John Hagee of Christians United for Israel, who both actively support the illegal expansion of Israeli settlements.  And speaking of the settlers, the "charitable" funding that enables them to arm themselves and steal Palestinian land is a tax write-off thanks to a congress, treasury, and justice department that prefer to look the other way. 

Yes, there is quite a lot to examine and if anyone is seriously interested in genuine threats against the United States AIPAC and the Israel Lobby are good places to start.  But to do so would not be welcomed in many influential circles and there would be inevitable retaliation from the chattering class and the media.  The well-funded Bipartisan Policy Center would attract the anger of some very powerful and wealthy people and would suddenly find itself less well-endowed as its supporters disappear.  Instead of taking on the Lobby let’s follow the Center’s sage advice and amble down a more inviting and less controversial path.  Let’s bomb the hell out of Iran shortly before locking up American Muslims in prison camps to keep them out of mischief.  Such measures will undoubtedly stop nuclear proliferation and end the international terrorism problem while the friends of Israel will be able to sleep soundly in their beds knowing that they will not be troubled by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Read more by Philip Giraldi