Does Israel Conduct Covert Action in America?

Covert action is much talked about and little understood. At its most basic level, covert action is a set of intelligence operations undertaken by a specific state’s intelligence agencies to advance its national interests. They are executed in a manner that limits the visibility of that state’s hand in whatever is done. Ideally, covert actions cannot be traced back to their sponsor. Most people take the term covert action to mean violent actions of one kind or another: kidnapping, assassination, support for insurgents, etc. While violence can certainly be part of a covert-action campaign, the more insidious – and often more effective – arm of covert action is called "political action," whereby one state seeks to influence the public opinion of another by speaking through the mouths of that country’s citizens. And let me stress, there is nothing wrong or immoral about covert political action. America used political action worldwide in the Cold War; Britain used it in the United States to accelerate neutral America’s entry into both world wars; the Saudis pay untold amounts to retired senior U.S. officials to speak admiringly of the anti-American desert tyranny; and Israel uses it today against America to ensure unlimited and unquestioning U.S. support. It is a legitimate foreign affairs tool, and the leaders of any nation who choose not to engage in such activity are certifiably negligent fools.

For years – even decades – U.S. citizens have been the subject of a political action campaign designed and executed by Israel. Currently, Israel’s campaign is part steady-as-she-goes and part improvisation to neutralize an unexpected and – for Israel – worrying development. So far, Israel’s covert political action is succeeding hands down. Americans are gradually being indoctrinated to believe Islamists are today’s Nazis and that there is no "Israeli lobby" in America. Simply put, Israel is conducting a brilliant covert political action campaign in the United States, a campaign any intelligence service in the world would rightly be proud of.

Part one of Israeli’s political action consists simply of using that old standby debate-suppressor, the four-letter word "Nazi." Newspapers in Israel, of course, have long used the word to describe Israel’s Muslim enemies. Recently, for example, the Jerusalem Post ran an article in which al-Qaeda is described as "yet another Nazi knockoff." This sort of language is the stuff of Israeli journalism, and not of much concern to Americans. If the Israeli press wants to teach their readers to underestimate the Islamist threat, so be it.

But now the word "Nazi" is being gradually fed to Americans as a scientific definition of our Islamist enemies. Headlines such as "Hamas Uber Alles," "Hitler’s Heirs in Damascus," and "The Nazi Correction to Islamic Terror" are increasingly common in U.S. media publications found in the news files Googled daily by Americans. U.S. politicians, too, are eager to jump on the call-them-Nazis bandwagon, with Secretary Rumsfeld recently saying that leaving Iraq early would be like returning postwar Germany to the Nazis, and Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) comparing the attack on the Shia shrine in Samarra to the burning of the Reichstag by the Nazis.

The goal of using the Nazi analogy is to suppress any realistic debate about the pluses and minuses of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and to make sure any American raising questions about U.S. support for Israel is seen as siding with the "Islamofascists," the heirs of Nazism. Any person who knows the least bit about Islam – and the Israelis know a great deal – knows it is not Nazism, yet the Internet is rife with such titles as "A Manifesto Against Islamofascism" and "Islamofascism’s Creeping Coup in Turkey." The best capsule description of the threat posed by Islamofascists is provided by Frank Gaffney in a recent issue of The Intelligencer, the journal of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers. Listen to Mr. Gaffney, and you will almost hear Muslim jackboots striking the pavement.

"We are engaged in nothing less than a War for the Free World. This is a fight to the death with Islamofascists, Muslim extremists driven by a totalitarian political ideology that, like Nazism and Communism before it, is determined to destroy freedom and the people who love it."

The drive to make Islamofascist the term of choice in describing America’s Muslim enemies is meant to still U.S. debate about Israel and, indeed, to limit questions about any aspect of U.S. foreign policy toward the Islamic world. After all, why would anyone in their right mind care what people think, unless they are blindly and unthinkingly opposed to Islamofascism?

The second part of any nation’s covert political action plan is to be ready to exploit or redress unexpected developments within the target society. Last month, Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt provided such an environment when they published a lengthy study showing the strong influence the Israeli lobby has on the crafting and application of U.S. foreign policy toward the Islamic world. If American society had its head screwed on right, the collective response of the citizenry would have been, "DUH!" – signifying that the near-determinative nature of Israeli influence is so clear that no academic analysis of that fact is necessary.

Instead, the reaction from American elites has been that of Captain Renault in Casablanca – they are shocked, shocked, that anyone could even think that there is such a thing as an Israeli lobby. The elites demand that Americans believe there are no such things as Israel-suborned American-citizen spies stealing U.S. national security secrets, pro-Israel U.S. media publications routinely savaging any American questioning the perfect and eternal mesh of U.S. and Israeli interests, and U.S. politicians from Pelosi to McCain to DeLay to Rice groveling at AIPAC’s annual conference, each willing to compromise U.S. security if they can garner pro-Israel votes and pockets stuffed with cash from pro-Israel contributions.

In the specific case of the Mearsheimer-Walt paper, prominent pro-Israel Americans have been quick off the mark to limit the damage caused to Israel’s interests caused by the paper’s candor and truthfulness. From Marvin Kalb to David Gergen to Max Boot to Alan Dershowitz, these folks have brazenly defied reality by insisting there is no "Israeli Lobby" and that Mearsheimer and Walt are dead wrong, poor scholars, paranoid conspiracy peddlers, or reborn Elders of Zion. Eliot Cohen’s essay in the Washington Post epitomizes the Israel-Firsters’ goal of defaming Mearsheimer and Walt to convince the citizenry that they are crazy and ranting anti-Semites.

The attacks on Walt and Mearsheimer are the stuff that the dreams of political action planners are made of: The apparently spontaneous response by target-country citizens voicing all-out support for the covert-action-sponsoring country. Such a response deep-sixes any chance for a substantive debate on the issue at hand, and submerges it in a blizzard of hate speech directed at the authors from prominent Israel-Firsters, those paragons of virtue who are the chief proponents of First-Amendment-destroying laws against hate speech.

So at day’s end, one can only say: Astoundingly well done, Israel, good for you! The impact of your covert political action activities in America are all that you could have hoped for: Truth is negated, dissent is suppressed, and opponents are intimidated and defamed, and all this is done by prominent U.S. citizens. The only competitor you have is the Saudi lobby, an organization just as damaging as yours to genuine U.S. national interests, a reality you and we would see if the bloodied but hopefully unbowed Mearsheimer-Walt team decides to analyze the corrupt and corrupting Saudi lobby.

Finally, I forgot to mention at the start that covert political action campaigns are almost always directed by one nation against another nation that it considers an enemy or whose leaders it judges to be gullible, venal, none too bright, unreliable, or all four. That surely gives one pause for thought, but it truly is the way the world works.

Author: Michael Scheuer

Michael Scheuer is a 22-year veteran of the CIA and the author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror.