The Lobby Is International

It is hard to believe that even though 64% of the American public favors a negotiated settlement with Iran over its nuclear program fully 37% of those polled also believe that the United States actually needs Israel’s permission before coming to any kind of agreement. To paraphrase the late great Mitt Romney, is that a percentage that we will never be able to reach no matter how good the arguments are for "taking responsibility" and restoring American sovereignty in the area of foreign affairs? One has to suspect that the percentage consists mostly of the Christian-Zionists, who lately have been conducting a large scale "action alert" email campaign directed at Congress and the White House to force the cancellation of talks. They are perhaps heeding the demand of Harvard Professor and professional Israel apologist Alan Dershowitz that the "entire pro-Israel community must unite" to stop any agreement.

Tea Party Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas provided his own explanation for why "a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do" to the House of Representatives last Wednesday saying "There are many who have been aware of Scripture, and it has often been a guide in our relations with Israel. Some of us believe that the Bible is accurate. Certainly, so many prophesies have been fulfilled, and if that is true, this administration, unless they can find a verse that accurately says that those who betray Israel will be blessed, then this country is being dug in a deeper hole by this administration, and its betrayals of Israel’s trust and Israel’s friendship." Gohmert, for all his sublime ignorance, is unfortunately not alone. By virtue of the evangelism and fine example set by the likes of Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin the scripture thumpers have escaped from the Bible Belt and are now to be found everywhere.

Congress is also doing its bit among the national security crowd, taking its lead from American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) which supports "…congressional action to adopt legislation to further strengthen sanctions and there will absolutely be no pause, delay or moratorium in our efforts." Leading Senators named Kirk, Schumer, McCain, Ayotte, Corker, Graham, and Menendez who have long been close to Israel are undercutting White House efforts to develop a formula that would break through the wall of mutual hostility between Tehran and Washington, insisting on new and harsher sanctions that would devastate the already struggling Iranian economy. Lindsey Graham even explained what we should all know about Iranians: "How do you define an Iranian moderate? An Iranian who is out of bullets and out of money." Mark Kirk, who denounced a Kerry Senate briefing on the talks with Iran as "anti-Israeli," apparently was briefed in advance by Israeli intelligence before the committee meeting began.

Even the normally somnolent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seems to be wavering under pressure from AIPAC, saying "I hope we can work something out with Iran, but I am a person who really believes in the State of Israel." And Senator Rand Paul also appears to know where his bread is buttered, tweeting last Tuesday that "Amidst the chaos of the Middle East we have always had one friend that never leaves our side – Israel. As an ally, Israel has never wavered."

AIPAC has sent memos and talking points to every congressional office and intends to buttonhole each congressman prior to the resumption of talks. It is also unleashing its media assets, which should surprise no one, but there is also the presence of senior Israeli officials on Capitol Hill, pressuring legislators and providing false information to discredit the White House. Israeli Ambassador Ron Dremer has been leading the charge, supported by Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennet, an extreme right-winger even by Israeli standards. They have been using fabricated numbers to demonstrate to congressmen that Obama is seeking to make significant cuts in Iranian sanctions. One might question why a congressmen like Kirk should be favoring information offered by the Israelis over what is being provided by the US intelligence community and even ask why Israelis should be on Capitol Hill at all lobbying to influence US policy. Also, why is the US mainstream media not reporting the story of direct Israeli interference in our political process?

The White House is trying to push back, urging restraint, but it almost certainly will find itself outnumbered when the Senate votes on two bills that will broaden sanctions and will require the US to support Israel militarily if it chooses to attack Iran. Even Secretary of State John Kerry seems mystified by what is occurring, noting that the United States is fully aware of all the issues involved and is not being "stupid" in its willingness to deal with Iran for the first time in 35 years. Clearly stressed after his repeated hours-long sessions trying to explain things to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he is even asking Israel how it can continue to justify stealing Arab land, a hitherto unthinkable rebuke that might possibly cost him his job. The Israeli government is already anonymously indicating that it has lost confidence in Kerry.

Well, Kerry should know better than anyone that he is confronted by a massive disinformation and influence buying campaign that is coordinated by the Israeli government to preserve its ability to deal with the Palestinians as it wishes while simultaneously creating the conditions that will eventually bring about an American attack on Iran. Here in the US we refer to the Quislings as the Israel Lobby, but something similar exists in many countries including France, Britain, Australia and Canada. It consistently and deliberately puts the perceived interests of the Israeli hard right government first before the interests of the countries that it operates in, though of course it always seeks to convince the audience that Israeli and local interests are identical. This is basically the argument being made and repeated ad nauseam about Iran, that the Mullahs are developing a nuclear weapon that will threaten the entire world. It matters not that the argument is a fabrication from start to finish.

On November 8th a desperate Netanyahyu reportedly made last minute appeals to Britain, France, Germany, and Russia to derail the Geneva talks with Iran, presumably under the not unreasonable assumption that he had leverage with their political leadership. The eventual willingness of the French government to carry water for him is only one indication of the power of France’s own formidable Israel Lobby. France is home to the largest diaspora Jewish community after the United States. It is wealthy and well educated and has long been prominent in French politics. The French Jewish organization the Conseil representatif des institutions juives de France (CRIF) is comparable to several American Israel Lobby components, to include AIPAC, in that it works actively on behalf of Israeli interests. It has endorsed every military action taken by Israel to include the bombing of Gaza in Operation Cast Lead in 2009 and the attack on the Mavi Marmara in 2010. One of its prominent members is presidential speech writer Paul Bernard and it even has as a Vice President a delegate in the French Chamber of deputies, Meyer Habib elected to represent French citizens living abroad in the Mediterranean region, most of whom are Israelis. Habib, a dual national and former Likud Party spokesman who divides his time between France and Israel, may have played a role in the French torpedoing of the Geneva talks with Iran when he passed on to Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius information he claimed to have received from his contacts in Israel suggesting that Netanyahu would immediately attack Iran if there were any agreement over its nuclear program.

To be sure, the French might also have been thinking of a possible large arms sale to Saudi Arabia, but as is usually the case it appears that the Israel Lobby influence was decisive. There was no genuine French interest that would have been sacrificed in coming to terms with Iran along the lines of a deal that was pretty much worked out and endorsed by the United States and others, but Fabius and President Francois Hollande thought otherwise. Hollande visited Israel on the weekend and addressed the Knesset early this week, promising that France would continue to take a very hard line with Iran, including possible demands that will likely make an agreement impossible.

If you don’t want to believe that there is something that equates to a coordinated Israeli effort to influence opinion by exploiting Diaspora Jewish communities I would refer you to last week’s speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Jewish Federations General Assembly, which is a quinquennial gathering of representatives of major Jewish organizations from all over the world. The Jerusalem meeting had in attendance many foreign Jews, including Michael Nutter Mayor of Philadelphia. In his keynote speech Netanyahu repeated over and over again that Israel is the "one and only Jewish State of Israel," telling his audience that Jewish identity and Israel are one and the same thing, a viewpoint that many Jews would contest. He then went on to trot out his usual arguments about Iran’s wanting to destroy Israel and how Israel, always the victim of hateful neighbors, wants nothing but peace but has been rebuffed repeatedly by the Palestinians. He said the Jewish community cannot remain "silent on matter relating to our survival…We are charged with defending ourselves and we are charged with speaking up. And it is time now to speak up – all of us. All of us have to stand up now and be counted."

Netanyahu’s vision is that world Jewry should and must stand up and support his policies, an interesting prescription that plays into the agenda of genuine anti-Semites who frequently question the loyalties of Diaspora Jews. Israel’s broader efforts to promote its own version of recent events in the Middle East are also coordinated and sustained by the Netanyahu government, frequently being referred to by the Hebrew word for media management, hasbara. Israel has a section of its foreign ministry that is dedicated to spreading its select narrative about Israel’s actions and it also encourages Diaspora Jews to support the effort by challenging critics and even disrupting their websites. Those who are most active and have an actual relationship with the Israeli government are referred to as sayanim. The Israeli government has also supported international efforts to tie up critics in court through the employment of Lawfare while also pressuring national and local governments to delegitimize or even declare illegal all criticism of Israeli government actions.

Canada has possibly the world’s most pro-Israeli government, its Prime Minister Stephen Harper having described Israel as a light that "…burns bright, upheld by the universal principles of all civilized nations – freedom, democracy justice." He has also said "I will defend Israel whatever the cost," an interesting proposition though he will likely have to go it alone as Canada has virtually no army and no ability to transport what they do have to the Middle East. The currently active Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism is seeking to define the "new anti-Semitism," which will include any criticism of the State of Israel, and hopes to introduce legislation that will make it a hate crime and prosecutable. One critic has noted that it will soon be possible for Canadians to criticize their own government but not that of Israel.

Most Jews in the United States and elsewhere quite rightly reject being seen as little more than a political pressure group orchestrated by the extremist government of Benjamin Netanyahu, but one sees again and again how Jewish organizations, for whatever reasons, tend to go along with the program. Perhaps the successful effort to stall and possibly eventually derail negotiations with Iran will be a step too far as the role of the various groups working hand-in-hand with Netanyahu has become highly visible, forcing the lobbying to move out of the shadows where it normally operates. That AIPAC and CRIF and their counterparts in other countries are little more than proxies for the Israeli government is apparent and the people of the United States and France and elsewhere should begin to ask why such powerful organizations are able to operate without any restraint in promoting policies that actually harm local and national interests.

Author: Philip Giraldi

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is a contributing editor to The American Conservative and executive director of the Council for the National Interest.