Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A recent London Review of Books article on the Israel lobby in the U.S. is very interesting. The thesis of its authors is that the U.S. government's foreign policy reflects the wishes of a powerful lobby whose goals aren't even those of the Israeli people.

I am generally skeptical about conspiracy theories; I don't believe human beings are organized well-enough to pull-off the feats attributed to conspiracies of Freemasons, Opus Dei, the Elders of Zion, the Mafia, the Illuminati, the C.I.A. or any other favorite of conspiracy buffs. I don't believe there is a monolithic "Israel lobby" manipulating the United States government. I do, however, believe that the relations between the governments of the U.S. and Israel deserve greater scrutiny and debate.

If one takes an idealistic view of foreign policy (e.g., the U.S. should be "spreading democracy"), then the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza would make them a less-than-desirable ally. If one takes a realpolitik view of foreign policy, one could make an excellent case for the contention that the close U.S. alliance with Israel harms Americans. If Metternich were advising the U.S. government over the past few decades, one suspects that the U.S. would have had a much more balanced policy towards the Middle East.

What I am advocating is simply an open debate on U.S. foreign policy. There are many important connections between the people of the U.S. and the people of Israel, but that does not compel the U.S. to support the policies of the Israeli government. The U.S. and France, to cite one example, have fought alongside each other in more than one war and have, in fact, been allies for most of the past two hundred and thirty years, but that doesn't prevent the U.S. government from disagreeing with the policies of the French government. We should extend the same healthy respect to the Israeli government.

It should go without saying that I have no truck with people who doubt the patriotism of Jewish Americans. The generally unquestioned support members of the U.S. Congress give to the policies of the Israeli government, however, only gives the conspiracy nuts and anti-Semites ammunition. There is much more open debate about U.S. policy towards the U.K. or France or Germany or Canada or any of our country's other allies than there is about U.S. policy towards Israel. This is not right.

An open debate on U.S. policy towards Israel would benefit both Americans and Israelis.

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