Friday, May 19, 2006

Judas and the "Israel Lobby", by Gidon D. Remba

Judas and the "Israel Lobby", Jerusalem Report
(Also published as "The 'Israel Lobby' and the Persian Gulf Wars")

JUF NEWS, May 2006
This essay also appeared in the Jerusalem Report as a Viewpoint column in the June 12, 2006 issue.

By Gidon D. Remba

An Egyptian papyrus containing a lost gospel written some 1,700 years ago, The Gospel of Judas, was recently discovered offering an alternate version of the crucifixion of Jesus which, as told by the New Testament, helped fuel centuries of Christian persecution of Jews. Now we learn that when Judas Iscariot turned Jesus over to the Romans, he was acting on orders from Jesus, making Judas not the great traitor, but Jesus’ most favored disciple and his willing collaborator.

Judas had become emblematic of Judaism throughout history, of the Jew who would do anything for money, including betray Christians. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion refined the classical antisemitic image of the treacherous, evil, self-aggrandizing Jew into the modern agent of a conspiracy to subvert the great powers of the world to serve Jewish ends.

Now come two of the most distinguished political scientists in America, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt of Harvard, to enlighten us in “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," a “working paper" posted on the website of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, excerpted in the London Review of Books. This new gospel bears the revelation that the US embarked on what is now widely viewed as a disastrous war in Iraq largely thanks to the perverse influence of a vast coalition they dub the “Israel Lobby. "The Lobby," we learn, succeeded in skewing the foreign policy of the United States to wage a war motivated mainly by the desire to make Israel more secure while willfully sacrificing America’s own national interests. It is this "Lobby," consisting of all the major Jewish organizations, pro-Israel media, Christian Zionists and others, the authors warn, which is now pushing America into an unnecessary and catastrophic clash with the fundamentalist Islamic, terrorist supporting and nuclear arming Iran.

But "the Lobby" could not have succeeded in its grand act of perfidy, we further learn, were it not for the presence in high places in the Bush Administration of a coterie of "fervent advocates of the Israeli cause" a small band of neoconservatives, many with ties to Likud," until recently Israel’s dominant right-wing political bloc. The Jewish neocons steered the US military into a Middle East morass out of loyalty to Israel and in betrayal of their sworn duty to serve the U.S. national interest, say these eminent scholars. Indeed, there are Jewish senators and congressmen who work to ensure that US foreign policy supports Israel’s interests," rather than America’s, they charge. The Jewish pro-Likud neocons, and Jewish organizations, left, right and center, have betrayed the United States and its interests. They are, for Mearsheimer and Walt, the Judases of America, who would drag their government into wars to serve their pro-Israel Jewish agenda.

But like the new Judas, the Jewish neocons are no traitors: their affinity to Israel is not the source of their scheme to transform the Middle East by force of arms. Nor is it their Jewishness which caused them, or their many non-Jewish superiors in the administration, from Bush to Cheney, Rumsfeld to Rice, to pursue their Mideast regime change agenda. Like the new Jesus of the Judas Gospel, who is the real prime mover of the action, the Jewish neocons’ Christian leaders have followed a long-standing American tradition of forcibly overthrowing regimes which are hostile to America. Theirs was a gambit to roll back the forces of radicalism and Islamic terrorism in the Arab world by forcibly implanting democracy or America-friendly rule. Their project may be delusional, dangerous and inimical to a clear-headed picture of our best interests, as many now have come to believe. But that same clarity requires us to see that their flawed perspective on America’s security stems from a time-honored worldview shared by Jewish and non-Jewish hawks alike, spawning a hundred years of American military interventions and coups d’etat in over a dozen countries, including oil-rich Iran in 1953.

Despite their reputation as “realists" in foreign policy, Mearsheimer and Walt give short shrift to an array of material interests which many observers see as heavily influencing US global conduct: the need to secure the flow of affordable oil from the Middle East, given the growing US dependence on imported petroleum as an energy source, and to curry favor with Arab states like Saudi Arabia whose oil production affects energy prices and the overall health of the US economy. Dismissing the leverage of the Saudi, US oil and defense industry lobbies on an administration led by a former Texas oilman and the ex-CEO of Halliburton–one of the world's largest providers of products and services to the oil and gas industries, which has reaped billions of dollars in no-bid government contracts for rebuilding Iraq’s oil refineries and other post-war reconstruction–is hardly realistic.

Consider: fully two-thirds of the world’s proven oil reserves lie in just seven Muslim-ruled Persian Gulf countries (Iran and 6 Arab states, with Saudi Arabia and Iraq the top two). Of the seven major Persian Gulf oil producing states, only two were not US allies, and instead were leaders of the radical anti-American front in the Arab and Muslim worlds: Iraq and Iran. Both have sought to dominate their Muslim Arab neighbors in the Persian Gulf, and Israel, as Mearsheimer’s own theory of regional hegemony predicts.

All this is swept under the rug by the new gospel of Mearsheimer and Walt, who prefer to exaggerate Jewish influence by largely blaming Israel and American Jewish leaders for snookering the US into war in Iraq–and next Iran–for Israel’s sake. Their polemic echoes antisemitic stereotypes and diverts our attention from the real motives driving our leaders down the perilous path on which America now finds itself.


Gidon D. Remba, a political analyst specializing in the Arab-Israel conflict, served as Senior Foreign Press Editor in the Israel Prime Minister's Office from 1977-1978 during the Egyptian-Israeli Camp David peace process. Co-author of a forthcoming volume, From Gaza to Jerusalem: A New Road to Middle East Peace?, his essays have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun Times, the New York Times, the Nation, the Jerusalem Report, Chicago Jewish News, the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, JUF News and the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, where he is a columnist on Israel and Jewish affairs.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

A Secret Letter from the US President to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

A Secret Letter from the US President to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

As Published in the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, May 2006


Gidon D. Remba

Mr. President,

Your country stands on the precipice of a grave international crisis provoked by the growing and well-founded concerns of the International Atomic Energy Agency and many members of the UN Security Council that Iran is concealing a clandestine nuclear weapons program behind the fig leaf of civilian nuclear energy development.

You ask why it is that “any technical and scientific achievement reached in the Middle East is portrayed as a threat” to Israel. Mr. President, for over two decades, your country has been the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism and the most malevolent opponent of Arab-Israeli peace. You yourself announce at every turn that Israel “should be wiped off the map,” and have called Israel a “rotten, dried tree” that will be annihilated by “one storm.” Your predecessor, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has explained that “the use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave nothing on the ground, whereas it will only damage the world of Islam.”

You deny the Holocaust of six million Jews and, declaring Israel’s illegitimacy, brazenly suggest that all Israeli Jews “return to Europe,” including the millions whose families hail from Arab countries, of whom you are apparently ignorant. You represent a nation whose ancient Persian forebears—themselves migrants from Europe—conquered Babylon and freed the Jewish people from captivity, permitting their return to the Land of Israel after the destruction of the first Jewish state. It was Persian kings who granted renewed Jewish political and religious autonomy in ancient Israel, leading to the eventual reconstruction of a Second Jewish Commonwealth. This was followed by centuries of Jewish presence in, attachment to, and ultimately mass return to the Holy Land to build a modern Jewish state with the consent of the League of Nations and the U.N. No, Mr. President: Israel is a thriving oak with deep millennial roots in the land, and strong branches extending in alliance to many nations throughout the world.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States spoke out recently to say that the “horrific genocide of the Holocaust is a historical fact no longer in dispute.” He pointedly reminded you that the Arab world has “made our peace” with the creation of Israel. He emphasized that in 2002 the entire Arab League adopted a Saudi plan committing Arab nations to a peace process that would bring about a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In that plan, the 22 Arab countries unanimously agreed to normalize relations and make a comprehensive peace with Israel once it leaves the territory occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War; they also called for a just and agreed solution to the refugee problem, without explicitly mentioning a “right of return.”

Mr. President, Hamas itself is undergoing a struggle between its hard line and pragmatist factions; no one knows whether or when it will moderate its positions and talk peace with Israel. Yet every day we hear pronouncements from prominent Hamas members, such as that by Khaled Suleiman, the group’s spokesperson in the Palestinian parliament, who said on May 10: “The Hamas movement is ready to recognize agreements signed with Israel, and in fact recognize Israel, but only within the ‘67 borders.” He further promised that Hamas will “not operate to thwart diplomatic negotiations” conducted by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas with Israel.

You ask why we and our European allies oppose a Hamas government that was elected by the Palestinian people and which represents their will. You question how we can “justify pressuring the Hamas elected government to recognize the Israeli regime and abandon [armed] struggle and follow the programs of the previous [Fatah] government” of peace talks and recognition of Israel. You ask: “If the current government had run on such a platform, would the people have elected it?”

Mr. President, opinion polls in recent months have consistently shown that three-fourths of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza believe that Hamas should “change its position on the elimination of the state of Israel,” while as many as 84% want a peace agreement with Israel. Democracy is about much more than elections; it requires respect for the fundamental civil, political and human rights and freedoms of the individual, and by extension, of other states and peoples. It is our moral duty as democrats to sanction those who refuse such elementary respect to their neighbors, or their own citizens, even if they come to power through free elections, as fascists, racists and anti-Semites have in other lands. At the same time, we must apply economic pressures wisely, in a way that balances the promotion of peace with humanitarianism.

It is no small irony that you now invoke democratic elections among Palestinians as reflecting the will of the people, insisting that this popular will be honored. Your allies in government have brutally crushed the reform movement in Iran, which gained the backing of over three-quarters of your people in parliamentary elections. Your government’s security forces and kangaroo courts have violently suppressed the reformers, arbitrarily removing reformist legislators from power and disqualifying their candidates.

Mr. President, you note that “history tells us that repressive and cruel governments do not survive.” I could not agree more. Every human rights organization in the world—even the UN General Assembly—has recognized that Iran under the mullahs is guilty of systematic and wanton human rights and civil liberties abuses, placing Iran among the most oppressive governments on earth.

By threatening a United Nations member state with annihilation—and let no one imagine that one can wipe a country off the map without committing genocidal mass killings of its population; by exporting terrorism, subversion and extremism across the Middle East and the globe; by trampling the human rights of your own people; by flouting the near-universal international state support for a just peace with Israel; and by failing to satisfy the deep concerns of many nations and the IAEA that Iran seeks covertly to develop the world’s most horrific and destructive genocidal weapons—you are transforming a great nation, which bears the historic legacy of Persian civilization, into a loathsome outlaw state.

Mr. President, the world will not stand idly by as Iran exploits the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to hatch doomsday weapons.