This article, by the brilliant Joel Kovel, the author of Overcoming Zionism, will resonate with many. I'll excerpt two sections, the first which gives the most realistic definition of the Lobby that I've seen.
The second is an important description of soft Zionists. It's a good reminder that there are some who see themselves as anti-Zionists, and/or are opposed to Israel's brutality, wanton destruction and lawlessness, but who, nevertheless, are opposed to efforts to transform the Jewish state into a state for all its people. They find ways of denying the reality of the power of the Lobby, often by smearing opponents as anti-Semites. It's as if they don't understand that Zionism, on the road to becoming perhaps the most destructive ISM in history, means a Jewish state. How can you be an anti –Zionist and support a Jewish state? How can you oppose Israeli oppression and support a Jewish state? The structure of Israel as a Jewish state requires its savagery.
I have one minor or not so minor quibble with Kovel. He writes that U.S. support for Israel would collapse if not for the power of the Lobby (as per his definition). I believe it’s more complicated. Part of the power of the Lobby is that it resonates not merely with activists, but with a large majority of the population, the grassroots who, for a variety of reasons, believe that the Jews are good and the Arabs and Muslims are bad. It’s a Lobby-grassroots dynamic that’s mutually sustaining. The Lobby is telling many people what they want to hear.
A DEFINITION of the LOBBY
from Joel Kovel's "Overcoming Immunity"
The suppression mechanism is usually ascribed to an influencing agent, or lobby, either called the “Israel Lobby” or, equivalently, the “Zionist Lobby,” with its apex in AIPAC. Needless to say, a massive and richly funded institutional system of lobbies are a vital part of the process; indeed, one might call them the factories in which the manufacture of the final product is carried out. But the suppression of criticism is not made from whole cloth; there are also components and raw materials to be taken into account. So it is with the lobbies, the raw material for which entails a common belief system that circulates among elites and stems from deeply held assumptions that go back to the origins of our society.
The lobbies as such are therefore powerful enforcers of a much more broadly based system. This develops within what is called civil society, the interconnected set of institutions that comprises the connective tissue of a nation, and includes churches and synagogues, schools, libraries, publishers, and a wide range of community organizations. Among this great mass certain Zionist organs of repression have crystallized in recent years—Campus Watch, CAMERA, the David Project, and so forth—and, in alliance with traditional Zionist groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Zionist Organization of America, have acted as focal points of repression. I am sure that they communicate with each other, with AIPAC, and with other major Jewish organizations, as well.
But while there are definitely lobbies among these networks, the overall network is no lobby. It would be better to call it, as sociologist James Petras has, a “Zionist Power Configuration,” or perhaps we could say, a “Zionist Apparatus.” What we call it is not especially important; what matters is that we understand that the loose and decentralized character of the network floats atop an attitudinal sea that supports the basic notions of Zionism, and functions to structure the Israeli cause in the collective mind.
Though a great many repressive acts are initiated by one node of the network or another, a great many others are executed without any particular organizational focus. These fade off, as is the case with most discriminatory campaigns, into gestures and slights, shunnings and glances that never register on the meter as newsworthy. Thus numberless decisions are made by publishers to automatically reject books critical of Israel, at times without even an acknowledgement of receiving the manuscript; or literary agents will decline to represent the work; or if the book finally does get published library committees will decide not to purchase it, or editors of journals will more or less automatically decide not to review it.
KOVEL on SOFT ZIONISM
from Joel Kovel's "Overcoming Immunity"
The soft Zionist cannot so easily override the moral contradictions that dog the Jewish state. He is therefore obliged to admit criticism. But he cannot allow criticism to reach the stage of calling Zionism itself into question. Therefore soft Zionism calls for “responsible” criticism and remains divided in its soul. This leads to a veritable frenzy of subterfuges, rationalizations and legal pettifogging. The soft Zionist, generally speaking, does not exult in Israel’s power nor allow himself to dream of Jewish restoration. He will console himself, rather, with “realism” and call attention to the complexities and imperfections of this world. He will advance the (quite specious) notion that everyone is entitled to a national state; or ponder the great sufferings of the Jews and their entitlement, therefore, to a country of their own; or congratulate the Jewish state for allowing the Palestinians who live in Israel proper to vote, all the while chiding its improprieties. More generally, he will consider Israel to be a “normal” state; and when its massive impunity and lawlessness is pointed out—for example, that the country has flouted scores of U.N. resolutions, or that it lacks a constitution—he will rejoin that after all, England lacks a constitution, too, or that nobody is perfect, or that the Arabs are much worse. The technique of the soft Zionist, then, is to employ lines of reasoning that enable Palestinians and Jews to be compared on equal ground—for example, how much each side has suffered, or as perpetrators of equivalent violence. Thus the soft Zionist dwells on narratives—individualized lines of reasoning that foster the equivalence of both sides in a complex and imperfect world—rather than on basic structures of justice whose asymmetry reflects the actual history of Zionist conquest.
Soft Zionists are more numerous than hard Zionists and are often successful in academia, the law, and politics. Being conflicted, they can go one way or the other, and thus on occasion will aid the cause of justice. An important example has arisen in context of the debacle of the neocon-driven 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. This has provoked a reaction from representatives of the so-called “realist” school of foreign policy. In the process, Israel itself has come under open criticism for the first time from within the elites, and this in turn provoked a harsh reaction from hard Zionists....
Kovel continues with a discussion of President Jimmy Carter's book, Palestine -- Peace Not Apartheid.
Overcoming Impunity, by Joel Kovel
AMEU's Latest Issue of The Link
January 1, 2009
Contents of This E-mail:
-- Overcoming Impunity
-- Lessons Learned
-- Link Author Joel Kovel
-- Rabbi Elmer Berger
-- The USS Liberty Website
This is the first of five scheduled year 2009 "alerts" to inform you of a new issue of The Link.
Writing in Haaretz on Dec. 29 about Israel's all- out war on Gaza, Israeli historian Tom Segev observed that:
Israel is striking at the Palestinians to "teach them a lesson." That is a basic assumption that has accompanied the Zionist enterprise since its inception: We are the representatives of progress and enlightenment, sophisticated rationality and morality, while the Arabs are a primitive, violent rabble, ignorant children who must be educated and taught wisdom - via, of course, the carrot-and-stick method, just as the drover does with his donkey."
Israel learned long ago that whatever gratuitous violence and collective punishments it might unleash on Palestinians using weapons and cash from American taxpayers, the U.S. Government would remain silent at best, or, as in the current case of Gaza, perform as cheerleaders. Israel, as Dr. Joel Kovel, points out in the current Link operates without restraint under an umbrella of impunity provided by the world's sole superpower.
In listing incidents which informed Israel that the U.S. would always be its Great Enabler, Kovel begins with Israel's 1967 attack on the USS Liberty in international waters off the coast of Gaza. Thirty-four seamen were killed and 137 wounded. President Lyndon B. Johnson called off a rescue mission and survivors were ordered to say nothing about the incident. To this day it is the only peacetime attack on a U.S. naval vessel that Congress refuses to investigate.
Impunity was drawn upon once again by Israel just four days ago when its Navy vessels set upon the mercy ship Dignity 90 miles off Gaza in international waters, firing live ammunition around it without warning, ramming it three times, and forcing it to abort the mission of delivering three tons of medical supplies and surgeons to besieged Gazans.
Link Author Joel Kovel
Joel Kovel, a retired medical doctor, is Professor of Social Studies at Bard College in Annandale, N.Y. He describes himself as a "citizen of the United States and a Jew descended from Russian-Ukrainian immigrants," and explains how he came to write about Zionism and Israel:
Although I spent a great portion of my adult life in movements against racism, war, U.S. imperialism, the corruptions of media and mass culture . . . , I remained relatively quiet about Israel itself until the year 2000. This was not for lack of aversion to Israeli policies, nor did I fear the accusation of anti-semitism, the identification of which with criticism of Israel I had always regarded as tedious, albeit pernicious, nonsense. My reticence stemmed, rather, from certain family conflicts. When the individuals concerned in these--chiefly my mother--passed away, my political development in this sphere resumed and, as if to make up for lost time, gathered speed.
Rabbi Elmer Berger
As each new Link is placed on our website, a companion issue is selected from our archive. To complement Dr. Kovel's discussion on Zionism--his book "Overcoming Zionism" is available from AMEU--we have chosen a Link written by Rabbi Elmer Berger, who for 50 years headed up American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism.
During that half century, Rabbi Berger refused to travel to Israel, saying he would do so only when Israel acknowledged its theft of Palestinian lands, allowed refugees who wanted to return to do so, and paid reparations to others for the land and property they had lost. Rabbi Berger died in 1996, never having set foot in Israel.
As a new feature of every Link issue we interview the webmaster of a site we believe deserves attention. Our interview for this issue is with James Ennes, Jr., who discusses the USS Liberty website. Ennes was on the bridge of the Liberty when it was attacked by Israel.
The USS Liberty Website