Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ethnic Lobbies

James Fallows talks about the harmful effect of the Israel Lobby.

To the (ongoing) extent that AIPAC — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which calls itself “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby” — is trying to legitimize a military showdown between the United States and Iran, it is advancing its own concerns at the expense of larger American interests. The people who are doing this are not from one ethnic group in the conventional sense but are mainly of one religion (Jewish).

Well said. Some interesting comments on this post can be found:

The Atlantic




Unwritten Understanding with the Press

CAMERA says it has a "unwritten understanding" with the American media.

Levin said, "The fact is, you know, we may be unhappy with the New York Times from time to time, and we at CAMERA have been, but I have to say we are fortunate. The American media is much, much more geared to understanding that there is an unwritten contract between them and us, and that is, that things should be factually accurate, and we get corrections all the time. Those corrections are very meaningful sometimes. We can prevent the repetition of serious errors... So there is that give and take here in the States."

These "errors" involve, for example, whether Israel should be label an apartheid state or not. Clearly this is more a matter of opinion and spin, rather than error.


Monday, October 22, 2007

A Shining Light to The World

More information is coming out about Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

A study by an Israeli psychologist into the violent behaviour of the country's soldiers is provoking bitter controversy and has awakened urgent questions about the way the army conducts itself in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.


The soldiers described dozens of incidents of extreme violence. One recalled an incident when a Palestinian was shot for no reason and left on the street. 'We were in a weapons carrier when this guy, around 25, passed by in the street and, just like that, for no reason - he didn't throw a stone, did nothing - bang, a bullet in the stomach, he shot him in the stomach and the guy is dying on the pavement and we keep going, apathetic. No one gave him a second look,' he said.


Yishai-Karin found that the soldiers were exposed to violence against Palestinians from as early as their first weeks of basic training. On one occasion, the soldiers were escorting some arrested Palestinians. The arrested men were made to sit on the floor of the bus. They had been taken from their beds and were barely clothed, even though the temperature was below zero. The new recruits trampled on the Palestinians and then proceeded to beat them for the whole of the journey. They opened the bus windows and poured water on the arrested men.


Only a little boy of four playing in the sand. He is building a castle in his yard. He [the officer] suddenly starts running and we all run with him. He was from the combat engineers. 'He grabbed the boy. I am a degenerate if I am not telling you the truth. He broke his hand here at the wrist, broke his leg here. And started to stomp on his stomach, three times, and left. We are all there, jaws dropping, looking at him in shock.

A path to peace? Not likely.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Blair Visiting Israel

Tony Blair finds some uncomfortable truths in Israel.

[Blair] was shocked by what he was told about conditions in Hebron and diplomats say he was genuinely taken aback by his trip to the West Bank sector of the Jordan Valley – where Palestinians are allowed to dig wells only a third as deep as Israelis – at the exploitation of resources by the rich Jewish agricultural settlements at the expense of closed in Palestinian farmers. And he has been privately dismissive – rather more so perhaps than he was as Prime Minister – of the argument by some Israelis that security comes first, with economics and a political deal well behind it. "All three have to happen together" he has told diplomats – which is what he sees Annapolis as being about. This week he has been concentrating on the economics and is pressing Israel to permit job growth in the West Bank's Area C, where it has direct as well as total control – including a Japanese government plan for an "agro-industrial" park in the Jordan Valley.

Who are the good guys here?


I was lobbied by the 'Israel lobby'

I knew AIPAC sent US politicians on "educational" junkets to Israel, the main purpose of which is to ingratiate and propagandize, but I did not realize they sent reporters on the same junkets.

I've never written about foreign policy, and despite Mearsheimer and Walt's book, I don't have any reason to think of AIPAC as different than any other lobbying group. Still, after a friend gave them my name and the invitation [for all expenses paid trip to Israel] came, I struggled over whether to accept such a lavish gift from an organization with something to sell. I consulted with other journalists, most of whom asked only one question: How could they get on the next AIPAC trip?

So, is there any conflict of interest created from such trips? Well, what do they involve?

Flying business class meant free cocktails in the elite-passenger lounges at Logan and in Newark, hot towels and cold drinks fetched by the flight attendant, and a seat that folded into a bed. I slept the nine-hour flight to Tel Aviv. AIPAC handlers met us at the airport to smooth our passage through customs. A luxury bus drove us through the stunning countryside to Jerusalem, where we checked into the five-star Inbal Hotel in the heart of the city.

Sounds pretty posh, I would have to say. Could this affect her judgement going forward?

I called John A. Bargh, a Yale psychology professor who studies nonconscious influences on behavior, and walked him through the details of my junket. Did he think I was swayed by the experience? "Of course you are," he said. "You'd almost have to be. And you can't know it."

A key tool in the subtle art of persuasion, he said, is reciprocity: offer someone a pleasant experience or gift and they feel an almost irresistible obligation to return the favor. The norm of reciprocity cuts across every culture, and the value of the gift is irrelevant: a cup of coffee is as effective as an extravagant trip. Another tool is to provide friendship and human connection - it's inevitable that a bond will develop when you spend substantial time with someone, especially in a foreign place, where you depend on them.

So, did it work?

At the end of a week, what had AIPAC gotten for its investment in me? Did I come back rabidly pro-Israel? No. Did I come back significantly better informed and far more interested in the Middle East? Absolutely. I am reading a daily newspaper, Haaretz, online and hope to return to the region.

Was I swayed by AIPAC? It is hard for me to say. I don't think so. Of course I don't.

Yes, and no.

We are dealing with an incredibly effective and aggressive organization, but you probably knew that.


This quote is also informative:

This summer, it hosted 40 US congressmen from both parties. And although mainstream news organizations still bar their staff reporters from taking paid junkets, others aren't shy at all. Recent tours have included staff from "The Daily Show" and reporters from Spanish and African-American media. "There's hardly a journalist left in D.C. who hasn't taken this trip," one AIPAC representative told us, with only some sense of overstatement.

Clearly, the mainstream news organizations understand the conflict. Too bad our politicians don't.


Monday, October 01, 2007

Three Blog to Read Everyday

These three blogs regularly tackle the issue of the Israel Lobby.

Philip Weiss

Glenn Greenwald

Matthew Yglesias

Right now, all three are on fire.