In an interview with Muslim Press, Ira Glunts, a Jewish-American retired college librarian, says that "If you are someone who denies the influence of the pro-Israel lobby, you are either part of the lobby, afraid of the lobby or have some other motive for denying what is obvious."
In what follows, the full text of the interview has been provided.
Muslim Press: How influential is the pro-Israel lobby in the United States?
Ira Glunts: The pro-Israel lobby, or the Jewish lobby as it is called in the Israeli Hebrew press, is very influential here in the US. I believe that it is very much more influential than most people think. If you are someone who denies the influence of the lobby, you are either part of the lobby, afraid of the lobby or have some other motive for denying what is obvious. People say some pro-Palestinian Jews deny the power of the lobby because understanding its true influence and scope make Jews look so bad it makes the pro-Palestinian Jews feel uncomfortable. Some Palestinian activists will deny the lobby to please their Jewish allies. Then there are the activists who credit their movement for weakening the lobby by exposing its presence. I imagine they feel that claiming this victory will encourage their supporters to greater action. I figure this to be a case of the fallacy of “If you will it, it will be so.”
To begin to understand the enormous and far-reaching power of the lobby one should read former US Senator Paul Findlay’s 1985 book, They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s seminal work, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (2007) forced journalists to stop ignoring the lobby in their columns, but as far as curtailing the lobby’s influence, the authors probably would be the first to admit that the book had little effect.
One of the favorite aphorisms about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was that it is like a night flower that blooms in the dark and dies in the light of day. You don’t hear that anymore.
Just last month, 88 Senators signed a letter urging President Obama to veto any upcoming resolution at the United Nations Security Council which would attempt to bring about a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The letter was written by AIPAC and an army of its soldiers made sure most Senators signed it.
MP: Do you think Israel is a strategic asset to the US administration?
Ira Glunts: Well, during the Cold War the pro-Israel camp promoted Israel as an ally against Soviet influence in the region. The Jewish State had a plethora of citizens who were native speakers of Arabic and Russian, which helped Israel supply intelligence to the US. Israel was also able to turn over and provide information on Soviet arms it had captured during its wars with its neighbors.
The Israeli propagandists claimed that US support for Israel deterred Soviet intervention in the region. However, the strong US backing of the Israeli government which occupied Arab lands and Muslim holy sites was one of the reasons Arab regimes turned to the Soviets for arms.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the new mantra of Israel and its proponents was that Israel is a strategic ally in the US war against terror. This formulation is refuted by the fact that entities such as Hamas and Hezbollah, which are at war with Israel, are not the organizations that present a threat to the United States. It is also important to note that US support for Israel is a major cause of hatred against America in the Muslim world. This hatred is a fuel that drives violence and terrorism against the US.
Look, the bottom line is not whether Israel is a positive or negative factor in the US drive for hegemony in the region. For me, the main focus is the fact that the government of Israel rules over a Palestinian population which suffers from varying degrees of discrimination, disenfranchisement, and gross violations of human rights. In order to impose Jewish supremacy, it requires a large amount of government violence: government-sponsored terror. This Israeli regime should be replaced by a representative democracy which equally serves all members of its population.
MP: Is US policy of unequivocal support for Israel contrary to the American people’s national interests?
Ira Glunts: US government support of Israel and the lobby’s power to influence and effect public policy and culture are surely not in the interests of the American people.
Here are a few recent examples:
The executive order issued by New York State governor, Andrew Cuomo, which punishes entities doing business with New York if they support the pro-Palestinian non-violent movement, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), was a direct result of pressure from pro-Israel activists. The order is completely contrary to the American tradition of free speech and the well-established right to use consumer boycotts to further political aims.
The training many local police departments receive from security companies in Israel has led to the militarization of the law enforcement back here in the US. This militarization, with its use of tanks and armored personnel carriers, has had disastrous effects in the inner cities such as in Baltimore and Ferguson. As Black Lives Matter activists have stated, this type of policing brings the methods of the Israeli occupation to the streets of America.
The New York Times recently ran a piece titled, “Trump Accuses Clinton of Guiding Global Elite Against U.S. Working Class.” Its writer, Niraj Chokshi, claims that the Trump charges against Clinton, of cozying up to the international banking elite, are antisemitic, since in the past such charges against bankers have been aimed at Jews. This claim is so highly speculative and irresponsible many would be surprised that the newspaper would print such a statement. Of course, if you are a close follower of the NY Times and its mission to be the newspaper of the New York Jewish community, among other things, you are not surprised in the slightest by this article, which implies that criticism of the actions of world banking elites is ill-conceived and off-limits.
And finally, I would like to call your readers’ attention to a superb article by Jeffrey Blankfort, that was published by BlackAgendaReport.com. In “Congressional Black Caucus: Deep in Israel’s Back Pocket,” the author details the corrupting influence the lobby has upon African-American political life. Unfortunately, the article did not get the distribution it deserved, partly at least, because it still makes many from across the political spectrum very nervous to talk bluntly about the destructive, undemocratic pressure the lobby can exert.
MP: The US has approved a record $38bn Israeli military aid deal. What does that tell us?
Ira Glunts: And this does not take into account the monies given to Egypt and Jordan for maintaining a policy of non-belligerence toward Israel. Neither does it include the tax-exempt contributions by Americans to Israel.
You know that vast amounts of money contributed to politicians in the US can move a lot of mountains. It is said that 60% of all monies contributed to the Democratic Party comes from American Jews who are pro-Israel. What more need one say? It’s like a religion for them, buy off politicians.
The $38,000,000,000 deal and the US commitment to maintain the current Zionist regime is the result of the efforts of the members of the lobby. And the lobby is basically a Jewish-American enterprise. Sure there is a Christian pro-Zionist contribution but it is not all that significant, in my opinion.
When I talk about the lobby, I mean more than AIPAC and the major Jewish organizations. I include the synagogues where the Israeli flag is displayed in close proximity to the altar. I include the rabbis who give all the sermons which conflate the well-being of their Jewish congregants and the Jewish religion with the fate of the State of Israel. I include Jewish journalists like Jeffrey Goldberg, Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, Ethan Bronner and David Brooks, who shape public opinion with their pro-Israeli points of view. I include government officials like Dennis Ross, whose entire diplomatic career has been devoted to supporting and protecting Israel. I include so-called peace groups like JStreet who help set the limits for what is acceptable discourse about Israel/Palestine. I include Jewish doctors, dentists, lawyers, businessmen and all those others who contribute significant parts of their incomes to help maintain the State of Israel.
Supporting Israel has become the defining part of Jewish-American culture. There is a certain general responsibility we must assign to that culture for what is happening to the Palestinians. However, pointing that out is invariably met with charges of stupidity and antisemitism. But sometimes you can make that accusation, if you couch it in a theological and religious context, as Marc Ellis cleverly does in, “The Jewish Confession on a Future Yom Kippur,” that appeared on Mondoweiss.net recently.
MP: How has the “special relationship” between America and Israel changed during Obama’s presidency?
Ira Glunts: It has gotten more special if anything. Obama came to office thinking that he would continue the two-state negotiating game à la Bill Clinton. He found that train had already left the station and that Israel and its supporters will no longer accept a partition of the land they control despite statements Israeli officials make to the contrary. Of course, no one can be sure if Israel would ever have assented to a fair and equitable two-state agreement.
It is apparent that Obama, from the beginning, bristled at the humiliations he received at the hands of Netanyahu. However, despite the ill-treatment, the President’s diplomatic failure to stop the settlement expansion and to restart the so-called “peace process,” he still felt compelled to sign the $38,000,000,000 aid package. My prediction is that he will fight any attempt at the United Nations to force the Israelis to the negotiating table.
Now we have both Presidential candidates backing the Israeli refusal to negotiate. Hillary Clinton’s largest donor is Haim Saban. Donald Trump’s is Sheldon Adelson. Both have declared that their main goal is to influence politicians to support Israeli government policy. It is likely that Senator Charles Schumer, who has declared himself to be “a guardian of Israel,” will be Senate Majority Leader. So I doubt that the political situation in the US, in regard to Palestine, will improve in the near future.
One bright spot is that Obama got Congress to accept the Iran nuclear agreement despite vociferous opposition from Netanyahu and the pro-Israel lobby. So the lobby does not always get what it wants. It never has.
In conclusion I would like to mention a poster for an upcoming lecture titled, “What Determines US Policy Toward Israel?” On the poster the pro-Israel or Jewish lobby is referred to euphemistically as “American domestic politics.” The phrase “American domestic politics” is a long-standing mainstream journalistic formulation used as a more acceptable alternative to mentioning the lobby directly. Loosely paraphrasing Oscar Wilde, “It is the lobby, whose name one dare not speak.”
The surprising aspect of this is that the lecture is sponsored by the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a group which supports BDS. There also are Palestinian BDS activists who will not speak the lobby’s name. Go figure.
Ira Glunts is a Jewish-American retired college librarian, who writes about Israel/Palestine. His articles have appeared in PalestineChronicle.com, Truthout.com, Mondoweiss.net, ElectronicIntifada.net, Counterpunch.org and Antiwar.com. Mr.Glunts lived in Israel for a couple of years in the 70s and 80s. In the summer of 1992, he was a volunteer in the Israeli Defense Forces. Mr. Glunts lives in Madison, NY with his wife, the writer Linda G. Ford. He can be reached at email@example.com and on twitter at @abushalom.