Demonizing Islamic Revivalism:
The Jewish Lobby's Impact on U.S. Foreign Policy
This invaluable study is authored by Dr. Ahmad Yousef, the Director of The United Association for Studies and Research (UASR); and Mr. Terry Rauch, the President of The Multicultural Alliance, Washington. From: The Palestine Times
The topic covered in this paper is finding an audience, not only among academicians and politicians, but also among everyday Americans who have maintained an interest in the processes of democracy.
Increasingly the American public is becoming sensitive to the power that money is exacting over American ideals, as well as to special interest dominance over the collective American interest.
The authors of this paper break new and thought provoking ground. We are all hesitant, (and rightly so) to identify phenomena by racial, class, or gender definitions but these authors have done exactly that, identifying AIPAC and the Near East Policy Institute as the guardians and protectors of Israeli interest in both the United States and Israel. The authors speak to the enormous impact that these institutions have on American domestic and foreign policy. They were not intimidated by the fear of being labeled 'anti-Semitic' and did a good job of handling delicate issues tastefully and honestly. Perhaps their courage will embolden others to do the same.
It should not be considered anti-Semitic or racist to subject AIPAC and the Near East Policy Institute to scrutiny, or to have and share an opinion as to how their activities are affecting America. The very existence of the term anti-Semitic suggest the serious nature of the political phenomenon that these authors seek to explore. Racism, which refers to the act of hating, discriminating against, or targeting an individual or group based on racial background or ethnicity, seems a sufficient word to identify the experience of any individual or group that may find itself subjected to such treatment. No form of racism need be accepted as more serious than any other, and neither should any type of racism be ignored.
It is important to point out that these institutions are not the focus of these authors analysis because they are Jewish, nor because their activities seem to be directed exclusively toward the good of Israel, even sometimes at American expense. These institutions are the subjects of analysis because they are effective. They are good at what they do.
The Effect on American Policy
Domestic politics in the United States can be seen as a continuous process of varying constituencies competing to persuade the formal institutions to reflect their interests and objectives in the policies of the nation. Lobbying organizations are often described as informal political institutions, because although they are not mentioned in the Constitution as official bodies, therefore their activities have profound affects on the lives of American citizens and others. An understanding of their role in the system is essential for the proper appreciation of policy making. Political lobbies are organized attempts to influence government policy. Their role, and particularly that of the leaders of the most important ones, continues to be an issue of intense debate among political scientists who seek to examine where power lies in the American system.
This subject is of special interest to those who wish to study U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Lobbying efforts in this area are overwhelmingly Jewish-based and pro-Israeli in orientation. Is this a problem? To some, it undoubtedly is not, but to others who see a grave danger in forming American Middle East policy so exclusively towards a particular objective, namely Israel right or wrong, this is most certainly a time of serious problems. This paper details a few of the obstacles faced by our government concerning its policy toward the Middle East and in particular toward the world's Islamic revival.
Before setting forth on this topic, it is important to note that anti-Semitic attitudes, statements, or literature can only be seen as wrong, pure and simple. Hatred of peoples, or discrimination against them on the basis of nationality, ethnicity, gender, race, or religion must be scorned, yet at the same time we must not shy away from the realities of the world in which we live. As Americans or individuals living legally in America, we have rights. One of those rights is the right of representation. When a country reaches a point where a small minority population with an iron solid stance has secured a hold on government policy, that country restricts itself to one of two outcomes. The first is the oppression, misrepresentation, or silencing of different peoples within that country who might disagree with them. The other outcome can, once recognized, evolve from the first. This outcome is the revolt or lashing out of the various other peoples in the country. America is currently deep within the first outcome.
The most powerful officially listed lobby on Capitol Hill is the A.I.P.A.C. (America-Israel Public Affairs Committee). Its parallel effort, directed at the executive branch of government and the Washington policy elite, is at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The Washington Institute, as it is often called, is a pro-Israeli institution that is something between a think tank and a sophisticated propaganda apparatus. Its most important function by far is its role as an elite influence apparatus for Israel.
The Washington Institute grew directly out of AIPAC, having been established initially as the organization's research branch. Since its early origins, the influence of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy has burgeoned uncontrollably, forming in essence what has become a training ground and revolving door for pro-Israeli figures to obtain some of the most powerful policy making positions in the national security apparatus of the United States government. Just as the AIPAC has managed to place its most extreme advocates in leading positions on congressional and senatorial committees responsible for foreign affairs and appropriations, so has its executive branch parallel, the Washington Institute, managed to propel, essentially overnight, its own officers - and other staunch advocates for whom Israel is top-priority into key positions in the Clinton Administration's foreign, defense, and intelligence sectors, especially offices with Middle East responsibilities. This influence at the executive level was virtually unknown before the advent of President Clinton's first administration. Now that it has been well-established, however, it will probably have to be taken for granted as a permanent fixture on the Washington political landscape.
It was Clinton, whom Israelis laud as their best friend ever to occupy the White House, who upon taking office appointed the head of the Washington Institute, Dr. Martin Indyk, to be the Director of Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council. Since Dr. Indyk, who is Jewish, was not a citizen of the United States, but rather was of Australian nationality, the citizenship process was speeded through so he could assume this post in time for the inauguration. As it turned out, Martin Indyk became a citizen of the United States of America a mere twelve days before taking office. And it is he who is responsible for formulating the doctrine of dual containment toward Iraq and Iran, with the more recent indirect additions of Libya and Sudan, and by extension, Islamist movements such as Hamas and the Islamist trend in general. Dual containment, although now coming under increasing criticism from the Europeans and from some of the non-Israeli sectors of the American foreign policy elite, remains official Clinton Administration Mideast policy.
Next to Martin Indyk, who has since been removed from his post and sent to Tel Aviv as Israel's U.S. Ambassador, is Dennis Ross, who is equal in power to what Indyk was before. Bypassing the normal State Department structure and its career officials, who were deemed not sufficiently committed to Israel's interests, the Administration appointed Ross, who is also Jewish, as the responsible official for America's entire involvement in the Middle East peace process. And despite repeated accusations by his Palestinian interlocutors that he is not an impartial mediator, he has remained in this important position. The impartiality of his deputy, Aaron Miller, who is also Jewish, is equally compromised when it comes to matters involving Israel.
Although it is true that Ross was held over from the Bush Administration, he was not the primary actor dealing with the Arab-Israeli negotiations; that honor fell to James Baker, the Secretary of State, who was normally responsible for all areas of American foreign policy. Baker was an impartial mediator, which is precisely why he was detested by the Israelis. Between administrations, before the appointment of Ross to head up Clinton's Middle East peace process team, Ross had been slated to take over as the head of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Other friends of Israel in the Clinton Administration, some of whom are more extreme in their pro-Israeli views than others, have included Sandy Berger, a left-of-Labor type who is now the National Security Adviser, as well as the two previous CIA directors, James Woolsey and especially John Deutch, whose views are thought to be more extreme and who is thought to have close relatives in Israel. Now we have Madeleine Albright, the new Secretary of State, who has turned out to be also of Jewish origin and whose views are probably the most extreme of the three. It remains to be seen whether she will be taking over any major portion of the Middle East policy-setting responsibilities previously exercised almost exclusively by Dennis Ross. Also it is likely that Martin Indyk might be brought back from Tel Aviv to take up a new post as Assistant Secretary of State, probably with Middle East responsibilities.
For those who might be inclined to hope for more balance in future U.S. administrations, especially if a Republican candidate takes office, their hopes will be gravely disappointed. Muslims would be much better off to face the reality now and begin their contingency planning, to work toward change in their region despite the U.S. alliance with Israel. For it is only by effecting regional change that the U.S. will find an incentive to change its general approach to the area, that is, it will do so only when it finds there is no other choice, because realities on the ground compel it to stop taking Arab-Muslim support for granted. Currently there is no incentive to do anything except increase support for Israel, because the region is basically perceived as being under control. That has allowed support for Israel to become a kind of blind support unrelated to what Israel does locally or regionally.
The leading presidential contenders the next time around the Republican centrist Jack Kemp and his Democratic equivalent, the current U.S. Vice President Al Gore are as devoted to Israel as Clinton, if not even more so. They can be expected to compete with each other in the next presidential election to demonstrate which one of them is more pro-Israel. The Republican neo-conservatives, Kemp among them in contrast to the paleo-conservatives such as Pat Buchanan are fanatically devoted to Israel and even tend toward the Israeli hard-right. They are close friends with the current Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel's legislative achievements in the United States, now deeply entrenched, continue to take attention away from the more dynamic process now underway: the consolidation of a high level of Israeli influence at the top of the executive branch and now, in the leadership of both political parties.
To understand the importance of an already powerful Israeli lobby, and one that has now entered a new phase of vertical expansion since the end of the Cold war, is to recognize that the most powerful influence apparatus in this country is not concerned with automobiles or unions or tobacco but rather with the well being of a foreign country, one that has for some time been at odds with its neighbors, as well as with the indigenous population, which it has displaced and whose land it has occupied. This foreign country has expelled the vast majority of the indigenous population by force and ruthlessly oppressed its small remnant, namely, which is the historic iniquity that has been committed by the Israeli state against the now six-million strong Arab Palestinian, mostly Muslim, people.
Despite Israel's lack of democracy, so far as it relates to Palestinians, and the instability that always surrounds it, Israel's supporters have enabled it to influence the United States, and through it, the entire world community, especially in the post-Cold war era. This era has seen the total and complete bypassing and negation of international law, and a total disregard for the literally volumes of United Nations resolutions that have been passed by the Security Council and General Assembly alike, deploring Israel's grand-strategic practices toward the Palestinians and other Arab and Muslim peoples.
Practices such as expelling Palestinians from their own country and preventing their return; invading and occupying the territories of other Arab states; moving large segments of its civilian population into the occupied areas; appropriating the holy city of East Jerusalem, as well as several West Bank cities on its periphery, prohibiting access to the entire area by Palestinian Muslims in the West Bank and Gaza, and, in their own words, Judaizing it, thereby liquidating its indigenous character; and systematically imprisoning, torturing, or indiscriminately bombing all those who resist these practices have all been condemned over and over again in United Nations fora.
Yet it is all swept aside in the international community's current policy toward the region, due to the unfailing efforts of an American superpower, conditioned by pro-Israeli forces active within the United States to deflect all criticism and/or sanction that the world would ordinarily have leveled against Israel. As if this were not enough, the United States has also been used as an instrument in Israel's efforts to re-write the history of the Middle East conflict, in effect deleting U.N. resolutions such as the historic Zionism is racism resolution of 1975, which it does not like, as if to toss a scrap of history down the memory hole.
The U.S. role in playing interference for Israel, in effect shielding it from any and all accountability to the international community at large, as well as to the peoples who have been its victims, has allowed it to continue with its own program undeterred. This leaves Israel unscathed by an international community that would have, in other circumstances, used its influence, its standing, and its leverage to constrain Israeli excesses and to insist on at least a modicum of decency in its behavior. The United Nations, once held out as the greatest hope for world peace, has been reduced to little more than an international enforcement arm for the various uses of force decided upon in Washington (and Tel Aviv) and deployed against small countries like Iraq, Iran, Libya and Sudan. The United Nations organization has become a useful tool for building up international coalitions against real and imagined enemies and threats, but is no longer dedicated to the impartial upholding of its own laws and principles. Such distortion of an institution founded to preserve mutual peace and goodwill among nations is bound to create exactly the opposite result.
Most observers agree that Israel and many of the countries at odds with it are strategically located. Yet, while a stable atmosphere of goodwill between these countries and America benefits the U.S. national interest, attempts to insert the Israeli national interest into the forefront of the United States foreign policy agenda undermine what are otherwise the main policy objectives of the United States. This leads to a widespread perception among the peoples in the Muslim world that the United States is behaving in a cynical and hypocritical way toward them, due to the prevalence of the double standard in all its relations with them.
A recent and very instructive example is in a little-known clause of the foreign operations appropriations bill for 1997 (H.R. 3540), currently making its way through Congress. This bill conditions American assistance for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the international agency responsible for monitoring and verifying the nuclear operations of more than 180 countries in the world, as well as exchanges of materials that can be used for the construction of nuclear weapons, on whether Israel is allowed to participate in the activities of that agency. This right includes not only the ability to participate in IAEA formal meetings but also to receive nuclear technical assistance. While Israel receives the full benefits of being a member of the IAEA, it continues to refuse to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and hence to subject itself to comprehensive IAEA safeguards. Egypt, which is seeking Israeli compliance with IAEA standards, is subjected to intolerable political and economic pressure by the United States to stop insisting that Israel comply with the same strictures as every other country in the world. The implicit penalty is that Egypt's economic aid from the United States, on which the country's leadership has unfortunately allowed itself to become dependent, would be cut off.
How is such a contradiction possible? How is it that such a course of action could appear rational to United States policymakers? It is possible because the Israeli lobby has succeeded in convincing the United States that it, as a nation, must be considered an exception to every rule, that it be allowed to dwell alone in a unique and revered solitary realm above the rule of law that applies to everyone else. Indeed, through the years Israel has established itself in the minds of United States policymakers, and many other American elites as well, as a somehow unique country with special requirements hence the special relationship between the United States and Israel.
Unquestionably, there are many factors that contribute to Israel's grip on United States foreign policy priorities, especially as they affect the vast populations of the Middle East and the Muslim world at large. Of particular interest to us is how the pro-Israeli forces exerting their vast influence inside the United States have negatively affected the American stance toward the Islamic revival, how they have created an atmosphere of hostility and confrontation where none need ever have existed.
II. Current United States Policy Toward Islamist States and Political Movements
In the aftermath of the Cold War, the fall of the Soviet Union and the discrediting of Communism, a threat vacuum was created that gave rise to a search for new enemies. For a short period of time, the enemy was the economic challenge represented by the Japanese and the European Community. That fear, of course, had very little to do with the U.S.-Israeli relationship and it soon gave way to a new fear, one which was much closer to Israel's requirements. The pro-Israeli forces began their call for renewing the U.S.-Israeli strategic alliance on the grounds of an emerging Islamic threat. They view the Islamic revival as a threat to the national interests of the United States. Why? Because they see it as a threat to Israeli national interests. Now, and for some time, U.S. policy makers have been in a situation where their support is solely for the propagation of Israeli national interests, irrespective of, or with little respect for, how the situation affects their own nation.
The truly bothersome aspect of this situation is that the Israeli lobbying effort, whose main proponents are choosing to live here while demonstrating their allegiance to a foreign country sometimes from within the most influential positions in the United States government, does not attempt to influence Israel's policies so as to bring them into conformity with United States interests just as it is fond of doing with other governments. On the contrary, the objective of these lobbyists is to pressure and compel the United States to accept the policy directions and priorities of Israel, which are, in turn, defined by whatever Israeli government happens to be in power inside Israel.
Just before one Israeli election, a major spokesman for the Jewish community in America was quoted in the Jerusalem Post as saying: lIf the Alignment wins and changes Israel's policies, we will support them; if the Likud wins and pursues a strong line in the West Bank, we will get behind them." And, as Paul Findley, a Republican congressman from Illinois for 22 years, discovered, whoever the Israeli prime minister is at any given time is himself an irresistible force in American politics: "The Israeli Prime Minister has a lot more influence over the foreign policy of the United States in the Middle East than he has in his own country." Witness the standing ovation given to Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu at the joint session of Congress after his election, in which he elaborated in depth on his political-religious ideology of expansion, settlement and repression against the Palestinian people, and in which he attempted, successfully, to further enmesh the American people in a new Middle Eastern cold war, a war against "terrorism."
Coupling this with the fact that the Israeli political apparatus in the United States is so very powerful, one could have predicted that its stance on the Islamic revival would not fall on deaf ears. The policies which were initially propounded as the official positions of the Clinton Administration toward this region are built around several different concepts. We now undertake to explain and elaborate upon the framework of these policies and how they have developed in practice over the course of the Clinton Administration.
First, the U.S. government claims that it does not view Islam as the next "enemy" confronting the West or threatening world peace. The United States government articulated this policy during the Clinton term in an effort to clear itself from the accusations in that regard brought forth by Muslims. We stand by such accusations, since, in reality, nothing has changed except the manner in which this policy is elaborated. Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani, on the sixteenth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran this year, claimed that "the West and particularly the United States wants to confront Islamic fundamentalism the same way it challenged Communism. It is a mistaken comparison and a policy that will only strengthen the [Islamist] movement."
Second, the United States policy says that the Cold War is not being replaced with a new competition between Islam and the West. At the Popular Arab and Islamic Conference, an international meeting held in Khartoum, Sudan in March 1995, one theme emerged: the current revival of Islam as a political force has caused the West, the United States specifically, to treat Muslims who engage in political change as enemies in a new cold war.
Third, Americans recognize Islam as one of the world's great faiths. Islam is practiced on every continent. It counts among its adherents millions of citizens of the United States. The United States acknowledges Islam as a historic civilizing force among the many that have influenced and enriched the Western cultures, but it does not recognize or tolerate modern Islamism as a political force either within the United States or in the Middle East.
Fourth, throughout the Middle East and North Africa, the United States is aware of groups or movements that are presently seeking to reform their societies in keeping with Islamic ideals. There is considerable diversity in how these ideals are expressed. Of the nearly 1 billion Muslims in the world, a vast majority live outside the Arab world and differ linguistically, ethnically, racially and culturally with the Arab world and with one another. There are large Muslim populations in South and South-East Asia, in China and in Africa. Approximately 90% of the world Muslim population is Sunni, but there are minority sects and branches that must be recognized. In short, there are countless differences among the various Muslim peoples that inhabit the modern world. The United States has failed to understand this, and instead it attempts to deal with the Muslim sphere as if it were a single entity. If the "Islamic threat" did not exist, the United States might have invented it. And the United States government, in a kind of self-fulfilment, may yet still create it.
Fifth, the United States does not imagine that there is some monolithic bloc or international effort (i.e., a conspiracy) behind the plethora of Islamist groups and movements in the world that constitute the political manifestation of the Islamic revival. At the same time, however, it expresses concern over Iran's sponsorship of what it terms "extremist" groups throughout the region and over the perceived role of Sudan in supporting such groups in North Africa, as if to imply that the Islamist movements in question would not have existed but for Iranian or Sudanese sponsorship, or that they are conducting their activities on behalf of these governments rather than acting on their own behalf.
Sixth, United States policy holds that those governments which seek to broaden political participation will find the United States supportive. This is not always true, not if the state in question opposes some aspect of what the United States claims as its interests in the region. For instance, the United States was surprised and annoyed by the fact that it was from within the most politically open Middle Eastern countries that the strongest voices of public opposition to the war campaign against Iraq were heard. On the other side of the coin, Washington is not proposing to withhold its support from those states that are repressive, as long as they do not contradict what the United States strategic affairs establishment terms "vital national interests" (the American oil interest in the Gulf, for example) or, implicitly, any of Israel's regional interests or policy goals (such as the peace process or the international legitimacy of its nuclear stockpile). The U.S. policy of "enlargement" as formulated by the Clinton team, that is, enlargement of the democratic realm, specifically exempts the Middle East by failing to mention it in this regard in its list of every other region of the world.
Seventh, the U.S. purports to differ with those states, political movements or individuals whosregardless of their religionspractice "terrorism", offer safe haven to "terrorists", resort to violent means to achieve political ends, reject the peaceful resolution of conflicts, oppress minorities, preach intolerance or hatred, disdain political pluralism, or violate internationally accepted standards regarding human rights.
In the Middle East, however, these positions are taken selectively against those governments toward which the United States has already adopted an adversarial posture (such as Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya and, to some extent, Syria). But those governments to which it has pledged its support no matter what (i.e., Israel), as well as those states that follow American diplomatic initiatives or adopt its general policy priorities as their own, the above standards are completely ignored. Therefore, it is not the policy stance itself that possesses substance: after all, every government and most political movements, including Israel's own pre-state organizations, have used violent means to achieve political goals. Rather, it is the criteria of selection that is important: the manner in which it is decided which countries are subjected to the standards and which countries are exempted is the subject deserving of deeper inquiry.
Eighth, U.S. policy holds that religion does not determine, positively or negatively, the course of U.S. relations with other countries. This is evidenced by the fact that the United States has the same basic differences with the secular and quasi-secular governments in Iraq and Libya respectively as it does with the Islamist governments of Iran and Sudan, for instance. In other words, Washington claims it is opposing these states because they practice terrorism, resort to violence, reject the peaceful resolution of conflicts, oppress minorities, preach intolerance, disdain political pluralism, and violate internationally accepted standards regarding human rights, not because they are Islamic states or because they have instituted Islamic legal codes.
Roughly translated, it means that the religious character of the state and/or movement in question is not one of the criteria for selecting who is to be subjected to the purported standards of conduct; therefore, religion can be eliminated from the inquiry. This is in large part accurate. Despite some lingering suspicions in the region, Islamic states and movements are not being discriminated against or subjected to the double standard because of the fact that they are Islamic. They are being treated in an adversarial manner because of what the United States calls their lextremismn, in other words, because some of their foreign policy stands are different from those of the United States. The tag "extremism" supposedly refers to the use or espousal of violent change, but as we have already pointed out, all governments use violence, not only Iran or Sudan. The term is used simply as a propaganda tag, to de-legitimize those Middle Eastern and Islamic countries that do not agree to blindly follow what is set out by the policy makers in Washington, and by extension, in Tel Aviv.