Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Posted by Daniel Greenfield 13 Comments
Let's take a moment to examine those lies now.
Within the Middle East, Israel is physically insignificant. At 8500 square miles, Israel could not just fit comfortably into Pennsylvania, it is 1/5th the size of Jordan, 1/8th the size of Syria and 1/12th the size of Egypt. Simply put, Israel is smaller in land and population than every country that borders it. If you looked at the Middle East from space, you could easily put a fingernail across all of Israel.
Israel has beaten all of these countries in wars and has the best military in the region, but that is because if it didn't, it wouldn't exist. Israel's military is not the product of a will to conquer, but of an attempt to maintain its own territorial integrity and protect its citizens from attack. Israel's neighbors have never needed to work as hard or spend as much to maintain their own armed forces, because they don't truly need them. For them a strong army is not a survival strategy, it is optional.
All those who rant endlessly about Israel's settlements in the West Bank and Gaza as proof of Israel's desire to seize land, forget that Jordan annexed the West Bank only two years after its forces captured it in the 1948 War of Independence. Israel has not annexed the West Bank even after more than 40 years, and has continued to offer it in peace negotiations year after year. That is not the policy of an aggressive land hungry regime. It is not the behavior of a country that keeps its neighbors up late at night. While Israel's leaders have spent over half a century staying up late at night worrying about a war, Israel's neighbors know that war is their choice.
But what this means in practice is that Israel has very little influence beyond its own borders. With a small size, no expansionist program beyond its own territory, and as one of only two non-Arab states and the only non-Muslim state in the region... Israel's impact on the rest of the Middle East is surprisingly limited. To get a proper picture of Israel's role in the Middle East, imagine plopping Singapore in the middle of a wartorn part of Africa. It can be attacked, it can fight back, but it cannot have any real local influence.
That is why Israel remains an outsider in the political trends and turmoil of the region. The shift between Arab Nationalism and Islamism, the coups and the bloodletting between Shiite and Sunni, are all events that Israel watches from a distance. Israel is not a political participant in the ideological conflicts of the Middle East, because it does not share a common religion or ethnicity or much of anything with its neighbors. Its diplomatic relations are primarily formal, not intimate. As a result Israel has very little political influence on the Middle East, and what little influence it has, is on its immediate neighbors, such as Lebanon and Jordan, who are fairly small on the scale of the Middle East as well.
Furthermore Israel and its neighbors are in part of the Middle East that has become largely irrelevant because of its lack of oil. While Egypt and Jordan were once considered major regional players, both have long ago been sidelined by the oil rich Saudi Arabia, Iran and the UAE. None of these countries share a common border with Israel. While diplomats and pundits obsess over the West Bank and Gaza, what happens there has virtually no impact on what happens where the oil and power lie.
Not only does the road to peace in the Middle East not run through Israel, it doesn't even run anywhere near Israel. A quick look at a map shows you just how off the beaten path Israel is when it comes to the true token of global power, oil. And it is not some Elders of Zion fantasy of the Israel lobby that defines global power to the Middle East, it is who has the oil. And while Israel has plenty of olive oil, it has none of the kind of oil that the world is interested in.
Since the 70's, the Middle East's real power struggle has shifted to the oil rich states, to Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Iran and Iraq chose to build up their armies, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states instead built up their political influence in Washington D.C. and let the United States fight for them. This strategy paid off in the Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom when Kuwait was liberated and Saudi Arabia got Saddam's boot off its throat. Israel was never at risk of anything more than bomb blasts and rocket shelling from Saddam. By contrast Saudi Arabia and Kuwait had their survival at stake.
With Saddam gone, Iran and Saudi Arabia are funding Sunni and Shiite insurgencies within Iraq in order to seize Saddam's oil. As a fallback position in case Iran manages to swallow Iraq and then moves on to them, the Sheiks and Princes continue buying huge stakes in American and European companies and property, in case they suddenly find themselves having to take a quick plane trip away from the region.
Remove Israel from the region, as so many diplomats and pundits would like to, and this picture remains exactly the same. How influential is Israel in the region then, and why does the path to Middle Eastern peace run through it? The answer is that it doesn't. Some diplomats choose to blame America's alliance with Israel for its image problems, but alliances are dictated by interests. American's alliance with Israel, much like Saudi Arabia's alliance with America, are the products of interests, not emotions. Iran's hostility to America is the product of religious hostility, historical animosity and its own desire to grab as much of the Middle East for itself as it can.
Let's turn to Washington then. The myth of the All-Powerful Israel lobby has been extensively marketed for decades. But let's actually take a look at how powerful this lobby is.
If the so-called Israel Lobby is so powerful, why after all these decades, has the United States failed to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital? Presidential candidates routinely visit AIPAC to promise that Jerusalem will be recognized as Israel's capitol. Bill Clinton did it, Bush promised that it would be one of his first acts in office, Obama implied it. And once in office, not only did they not keep the promise, but they routinely signed waivers to prevent Jerusalem from being treated as Israel's capital.
There is only one nation whose capital is not recognized by the United States. That nation is also the one who the wisdom of the mainstream media and many of the suit and tie unofficial members of the Saudi lobby, would have you believe controls America. The narrative of the powerful Israel lobby before whom everyone in D.C. trembles cannot be reconciled with this simple fact, or with many others.
For example, in every peace agreement completely under US mediation, Israel has given up land and never gained any permanent territory. If Israel were as expansionist and as in control of the United States government, should it not have been the other way around? Yet at Camp David, Carter pressured Begin into turning over land that was several times the size of Israel. Carter did not pressure Sadat to turn over land to Israel. The last four US administrations have pressured Israel into a peace process with the PLO that required Israel to transfer a sizable portion of land to their control. At no point in time were Egypt and Jordan expected to do the same. Does this sound like the product of an all-powerful Israel lobby.
Defenders of the "Israel Runs Washington" meme will argue that the US should have pressured Israel to do much more. As if Israel could do anymore without committing suicide. But then why hasn't the United States pressured Turkey to stop its occupation of Cyprus or demanded that Spain create a state for the Basque? Either the Turkish Lobby or the Spanish Lobby is far more powerful than the Israel Lobby, or Israel is singled out because of pressure from a much stronger lobby, the Saudi Lobby.
What the "Israel Lobby" mainly deals with is the back and forth arms trade between the United States and Israel, partially packaged as foreign aid, and non-binding congressional resolutions that have as much force as a municipal resolution naming Tuesday, Global Twig Day. Most congressmen identify as Pro-Israel, mainly because it's easy, costs them nothing and lets them pick up a few votes here and there. It is easy enough to vote on or co-sponsor the occasional pro-Israel resolution that does nothing but gather dust in the record cabinets, because it has no actual application. It is so ridiculously easy that even Barack Obama has done it. And it's so meaningless that no President takes them seriously. Any measure that actually has legislative force is routinely crafted so that the President can waive it or set it aside if it interferes with administration policy. Which is exactly what happens much of the time.
As a result most congressmen can mention a pro-Israel bill that they voted on or co-sponsored around election time to gullible Jewish audiences who fail to understand that the 2012 Israel Friendship Act or the 2043 No Money Given to Terrorists, We Really Mean It This Time Act, has as much practical utility as a cell phone in the Sahara. And few of these same congressmen are actually pro-Israel when it matters. They're pro-Israel when it's an exercise in public relations. That is not what a powerful lobby's grip on a government looks like. If you want to see that, take a look at the lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry or the cable industry. Or the Saudi lobby, which doesn't waste time holding rubber chicken dinners for politicians, but instead has built a massive contact base of unofficial suit and tie lobbyists, former politicians, diplomats and journalists who are expert at peddling the Saudi agenda.
That is what a lobby that controls Washington D.C. does. It doesn't put out a nameplate. It doesn't waste time on rubber chicken dinners. It instead funds a host of organizations officially headed up by Americans with influence and power in Washington D.C. It gives them the funds to cultivate ties, to build think tanks and to build relationships behind the scenes. It doesn't care whether it's dealing with Republicans or Democrats. Come one, come all. We can put you to use too. And it makes sure that nobody pays very much attention to what is going on. Instead it dips into well worn propaganda to spread the idea that the Jews control Washington D.C., knowing that there will be plenty of eager takers to polish and pass on the meme.
If you look at what some of the most powerful people in the last few administrations had in common, the simple answer is oil. Saudi oil. The woman in control of foreign policy in the second half of the Bush Administration, Condoleeza Rice, did not have her name on an Israeli oil tanker, but a Chevron oil tanker, the former parent company of ARAMCO. The man quietly dominating US foreign policy under Obama, James L. Jones did not serve on the board of directors of Manischewitz, he served on the same Chevron board of directors that Rice had formerly served on. And Rice did everything but outright appoint him as her replacement.
But of course no one could possibly believe a wild conspiracy theory like that, not when the obvious answer is that the Israel Lobby controls Washington D.C. and keeps demanding that administration after administration force it to hand over land to its worst enemies. And for some reason forces successive administrations to not recognize its own capital city, encourages them to constantly threaten it and prevent it from defending itself.
The Pro-Israel Lobby is a charade, a showpiece for people with too much time on their hands and too little subtlety. If half the claims about the Israel Lobby were true, Israel would be four times the size it is today, with secure borders and no terrorist problem. Instead Israel has been pressured like no other country has, to appease and accommodate terrorists at the expense of the lives of its citizens, its national security and even its survival... by a foreign policy crafted to fulfill Saudi interests.
The Big Israel Lie is that Israel is powerful in Washington and mighty in the Middle East. The real truth is that Israel is a tiny country that commands emotional affinity from a limited percentage of Jews and Christians, whose diplomacy abroad is clumsy, and whose regional influence is small, whose military is handicapped by liberal handwringing and whose leaders would rather negotiate than fight... until there is no other choice.
This lie is meant to make Israel seem strong, in order to place it at the center of every problem and turn it into the nail that needs to be hammered down for everything to stand straight. But the easiest way to clear up the lie is to simply look at the reality of the Middle East and see that Israel vanishes beneath a single fingernail.