Muslim Press has conducted an interview with Jeffrey Blankfort, a radio host and journalist in Northern California, to discuss the influence of pro-Israeli lobbies over US politics.
Here's the full text of the interview:
Muslim Press: How do you describe the “special relationship” between Israel and the US? How powerful is the Israeli lobby in the US?
Jeffrey Blankfort: The relationship is unprecedented in terms of relations between two sovereign countries although, at critical junctures, all of the Western countries seem to be caught up in a similar special relationship. There is only one thing that accounts for it that is common to all of those countries and that is the existence of a powerful Jewish Lobby whose members dedicate their time and when necessary, much of their fortune, to seeing that their respective governments genuflect to what they perceive as Israel’s interests.
The fact that Israel enjoys a special relationship with Britain, France, German, Australia, Canada, et al, disproves the notion, as advanced largely by Prof. Noam Chomsky, that the reason that Israel receives unconditional support from the US and protection at the United Nations is because it functions as a “strategic asset” for the United States, a position with which few non-partisan academics or former US intelligence agents are in agreement. Unfortunately, Prof. Chomsky has declined to debate the issue.
What is even more remarkable is that in each country, those Jews focused on pushing Israel’s interests represent a distinct minority of the overall Jewish population. In the United States, among themselves, they are referred to as “warm Jews.” The majority, whatever their positions on Israel and its conflict with the Palestinians, are not thought to be particularly relevant although, for the most part, they prefer to keep their opinions to themselves.
MP: California Congressman Brad Sherman has called AIPAC "the single most important organization in promoting the U.S.-Israel alliance." What’s your take on this? Does this show the influence of Israel over US politics?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Sherman is correct. The fact that it is a grass roots membership organization functioning in every state and every city in which there is a significant Jewish community, is the source of its power on every legislative level. Functioning with local Jewish Community Relations Councils in each city, there are few politicians, and certainly not the ambitious ones, who are prepared to challenge it, particularly since the outcome of the Israel-Palestine conflict is not seen as having any bearing on their constituents’ personal lives.
This accounts for the proliferation of pro-Israel resolutions, for example, opposition to BDS, at city and state levels, that draw opposition from pro-Palestinian activists with little to no political influence.
MP: What’s your analysis of AIPAC’s role on Iran’s nuclear deal? How did the pro-Israel lobby affect the negotiations and the final accord?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Since overthrowing the government of Iran and changing the nature of its regime has long been high on AIPAC’s agenda, the signing of the agreement was a temporary setback. On this issue, the support for the deal by J Street, a more liberal version of AIPAC, but no less committed to Israel than the older group, gave politicians a way to support the agreement without being black-balled by the Jewish establishment.
Despite President Obama having made a mockery of his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, I am convinced that had Hillary Clinton been president, instead of a deal, the US would either have attacked Iran or provided Israel with the high powered bunker busters and the plane to deliver them and that is still a likely outcome should she be elected in November. From her record and from what she has said and written, she is the most openly hawkish person ever to run for president on the Democratic Party ticket.
Because the base of the Democratic Party has shown itself to be increasingly critical of Israel both she and Senator Bernie Sanders made sure it would not be an issue in their debates, although it did come up on one occasion.
While Clinton briefly mentioned the importance of Israel’s security during her acceptance speech, she earlier had written in the Jewish weekly Forward that on her first day in office she would invite the Israeli prime minister to visit Washington and reset the special relationship which she inferred had been damaged under President Obama.
Moreover, in that article, she promised that in her first week in office, she would send the US general staff to Israel to meet with its counterparts to assess Israel’s unmet military needs. The US public, of course, knows nothing about those commitments since the media is also under the Lobby’s thumb.
The fact that Obama has already provided Israel with more weaponry than any past US president and this, without the completion of the current deal, mislabeled as a Memorandum of Understanding, which will add another $45 billion over the next decade, is considered not to be enough for Israel and its US supporters. They want him to “feel” support for Israel in his kishkes, a Yiddish word meaning guts or intestines.
MP: The Governor of New Jersey and Former US presidential candidate Chris Christie has signed an anti-BDS bill into law. What’s your take on this? How has the BDS movement affected the Israeli lobby in the US?
Jeffrey Blankfort: It is difficult to know at this moment. Clearly, as far as US activity on BDS is concerned, it has had no visible effect on the Israeli economy or its position of strength in Washington. One may argue that Israel fears that the debates about Israel on college campuses will lead to a loss of support for Israel among the general public but how relevant public opinion on Israel is in the eyes of members of Congress who are beholden to wealthy Jewish donors is open to question.
It is widely agreed for at least the last half century that at least 60% of the donors to the Democratic Party are Jews and about a third as much give to Republicans but that figure is growing.
From my point of view, the Israel Lobby has seized the opportunity presented by BDS to demonstrate further its control over the American legislative process at every level.
Since this is a subject that is largely taboo in the US, except in far right political circles that are absorbed in conspiracy theories based on supernatural Jewish powers, there is not likely to be any diminishing of the Lobby’s power in the foreseeable future and most definitely not under a Hillary Clinton administration.
Jeffrey Blankfort is a journalist and radio programmer. His articles have appeared in CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Mondoweiss, Pulse Media, Left Curve, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and the Encyclopedia of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. He was a founding member of the November 29th Committee on Palestine, a co-founder of the Labor Committee on the Middle East and editor of its publication, The Middle East Labor Bulletin (1988-1995).