Omerta Violated by the Realists
Divestment fear and loathing at both ends of Mass Ave
The recent publication
of the "expose" of AIPAC and the Israeli lobby by two so-called realists -- John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt -- under the aegis of the Kennedy School of Government appears to be occasioning a burgeoning fit of vapors. CounterPunch accorded the document “website of the weekend” billing on 3/18 and since then commentary and excoriation has begun to flow in both virtual and print venues. Whether the information contained in the piece will propagate to a wider audience is yet to be seen.
The first and most glaring effect of the piece is that the American left has been embarrassingly rumbled. For years Jeff Blankfort
has been valiantly documenting the activities and reach of the Israeli lobby industriously calling out the legion of "gatekeepers" within the American left who have maintained resistance to broaching the subject. Down at the other end of Massachusetts Avenue Noam Chomsky complacently perched atop his progressive throne has been leading the effort to fend off Blankfort’s sallies. Chomsky worshippers who are legion within the American left have modeled his behavior unquestioningly unable to violate the dread omerta veiling the subject in these United States.
The nub of Chomky’s argument is that Israel is but an automaton acting entirely at the behest of American foreign policy directives; a favorite image is that of Israelis piloting American aircraft following operational plans drawn up in Washington. Presumably this representation insures Israeli innocence conjuring up as it does the old refrain "I was only following orders". Well-known progressive scholars -- Phyllis Bennis, Joel Beinin and Stephen Zunes – likewise toe the line regarding the Israel lobby. Bennis once sniffily responded to a public effort by Blankfort to raise the subject, "The issue is dead and has been dead"
which rejoinder’s curious combination of tenses suggests a double and therefore final death with no hope of resuscitation. Within the rank-and-file of leftist organizations this widespread attitude has resulted in a long and damaging marginalization of the entire issue of Palestine. Suddenly a couple of liberal establishment elites broke the ice.
The question remains: Why is this "expose" being trundled out now? The revelations contained therein are -- quite frankly -- a big yawn. The information upon which the authors base their premise has long been available for those with the eyes to see it. The only real novelty is that elites are writing about the subject and under the august Kennedy School logo to boot. A KSG grad informs us that Walt coyly hinted several years ago that he was working on a paper about "the Lobby" that would cause an uproar when published. If this is the bombshell alluded to why did it take so long? Certainly the research portion could not have been that time-consuming. Our interlocutor suggests that perhaps now that anti-Semitism vigilante Larry Summers has tendered his resignation the authors felt sufficiently free to air the subject. But the underlying reason as to why Walt and Mearscheimer felt compelled to go public at all with America’s dirty little public policy secret is contained in a single sentence in the penultimate summary paragraph:
This course [of AIPAC behavior] raises the awful
specter of Israel one day occupying the pariah status once reserved for apartheid states like South Africa. [emphasis added]
Ah, so now it is revealed why a couple of liberal elites have dared to so expose themselves. Throughout their paper the pair assert "Israel’s right to exist" and call for American "even-handedness" thereby frantically signaling to Zionist snipers in the underbrush, "See guys, we’re really, really
on your side". That single sentence reveals the authors’ true concern that AIPAC activities will ultimately damage Israel and its right to exist as a Jewish state: Like the specter that once haunted Europe, the awfulness of equating Israel and apartheid South Africa is a nightmare which has begun to keep liberal elites up at night (although apparently it has kept some progressives tossing and turning for years). The divestment and boycott movement has begun to register gains and the result of its final success will be inevitable: As in the case of South Africa, the end of the Israeli brand of apartheid – for apartheid it is – will mean an end to the underlying racist nature of the Israeli state which, alas, is regarded as sacrosanct by multitudes of Bible-besotted westerners, progressives and liberal elites included.
Even without sleep the authors are sufficiently nimble to engage in a bit of mitigation, their propensity for spin nigh instinctive. Lo, with a single 'S' the authors magically increase the number of states qualifying for apartheid status to an unknown plurality! Israel will not be the sole nation equivalent to apartheid South Africa but will join a contrived group of apartheid entities in which the Zionist state will be one of the crowd. Still, strong measures are in order to avert this awful outcome and thus AIPAC shenanigans have become fair game. The authors' desperation to rescue Israel as a Jewish state, to save Israel from itself drives them to hurl themselves on the altar of anti-Semitic smear-mongering.
The divestment/boycott movement – urgently requested of the world last summer by Palestinian civil society -- presents a considerable threat to Israel's continued existence as a racist apartheid state and thus all hands are on deck to thwart its success from the halls of academe to FrontPage ravers and burrowing moles in the Green Party. Oh-so-tentative church-based divestment resolutions have faced incoming flack and pressure. British architects have been threatened with projects withdrawn and fees snatched unless they recant and beg forgiveness. An AUT boycott in Britain was instituted last year but collapsed in one month under Zionist pressure. The Somerville (MA) Divestment Project
has launched repeated efforts to pass a town divestment resolution only to meet a well-oiled aggressive opposition which included the spectacle of an Israeli consul general – obligingly furnished with a town police escort -- testifying at a public hearing on the subject of the disposition of US taxpayer dollars. The ACLU recently took up the case of SDP’s exclusion from a town-sponsored arts festival last summer because of unspecified "complaints" while other political action groups were free to flog their issues at the same event.
November last the Green Party of the United States endorsed Proposition 190 which called "for a comprehensive strategy of boycott and divestment that would pressure the government of Israel to guarantee human rights for Palestinians". Although the GPUS had previously adopted a platform plank supporting Palestinian right of return suggesting that a single democratic state might be the optimal green solution, Prop 190 has occasioned a more virulent response. Oregon businessman Gary Acheatel was so exercised by such impertinence he joined the party for the express purpose of defeating the divestment proposition and established a blue-and-white themed website devoted to the campaign. Phyllis Chesler,
shill for the "new Anti-Semitism", was pleased to declare that the party had been hijacked by a team of Islamists and Marxists. And Lorna Salzman, a former GPUS presidential candidate who has made no secret of her racist view of Arabs, chimed in declaring that the "US Green Party has given aid and comfort to both anti-Semites and terrorist organizations". The divestment movement is regarded as such a danger that even a statement by a very minor political party is a menace to be stamped out with full force.
As my dear old granddad the unrepentant Hungarian socialist used to say, "If they’re screaming, you’re getting near the truth". The Israeli divestment and boycott movement has touched a raw nerve among rightwingers, progressives and liberals alike. The forbidden, nay awful, equation of apartheid South Africa and Israel looms as a nightmare for all of those with a political/religious stake in maintaining the exclusivist nature of the Israeli state. However, with this official outing of "the Lobby" we may hope that more progressives will regain their bottle and -- thus emboldened –- properly put their shoulders to the wheel of Israeli divestment and boycott and heave to.