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Jewish billionaire assailed for comments; says Zionist lobbies stifle Mideast peace


By Richard Walker

Jewish billionaire George Soros has invited the wrath of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee by publicly claiming the Israeli lobby silences critics of Israel and has too much influence within America’s two main parties.

In an article in The New York Review of Books, Soros argued that anyone who confronts AIPAC invites its wrath with the result that few people are prepared to question its power over America’s Middle East policy. He feels it is time American Jews “reined in” AIPAC, which has been at the center of a major spying scandal in the past year.

Two of its senior executives were accused of passing U.S. secrets to a Mossad agent within the Israeli embassy in Washington. That fact, however, did not deter many leading Republicans and Democrats, including Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and the Clintons, from continuing to support the organization.

AIPAC’s annual meeting in Washington is attended by the high and mighty from Capitol Hill. During this year’s conference, AIPAC lobbied for the United States to stand with Israel and refuse to accept the new Palestinian national unity government—a stance in opposition to almost all the other countries on Earth.

Soros knew that by standing up to AIPAC he was placing himself in the firing line. That was the fate of former President Jimmy Carter a year ago when he accused Israel of imposing a form of apartheid on Palestinians by continuing to encircle Palestinian territory with a wall that has been condemned by the International Court in The Hague.

In addition, Carter was branded an anti-Semite and has since admitted the level of vitriol directed at him was something he had never before experienced. In his opinion, it was all because he did something most Americans and the American media have been frightened to do: He questioned Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

It was clear to Carter that the Israeli lobby intimidated and silenced critics of Israel by accusing them of being anti-Semites. Carter quickly found he had few friends in Washington. Bill Clinton, whose wife Hillary needs the Jewish vote in her run for the presidency, distanced himself from Carter’s remarks and some senior figures connected to Carter’s presidential library resigned.

None of that bothered Soros. He was quickly becoming familiar with the tactics of the pro-Israel lobby. In February, Martin Peretz at The New Republic described him as “a cog in the Hitlerite wheel.” It was the type of low-brow, thuggish comment Soros had come to expect from people who could not tolerate genuine debate.

In his New York Review of Books article, Soros made it clear that anyone who challenged AIPAC or Israeli policy was sure to be subjected to a campaign of vilification. He added that Democratic and Republican politicians were well acquainted with the risks of taking on the Jewish lobby and that they were part of a wall of silence surrounding the activities of AIPAC. As a consequence, AIPAC’s hardline policies destabilized the Middle East, and it was time for American Jews to speak out against the lobby group.

It is important to see Soros’s political view in a wider context. He is Jewish, but admits he is neither a practicing Jew, nor a Zionist. He is also one of the Democratic Party’s most generous benefactors. Recently he openly supported presidential candidate Barack Obama, but Obama was careful not to alienate the Jewish lobby by insisting he did not subscribe to Soros’s views about the need for debate about Israeli-American relations.

Soros says he cares about his fellow Jews and for that reason believes Israel must rid itself of its innate militarism. In particular, he asserts that belligerent policies, which lead to the killing of 10 Palestinians for every Israeli and the destruction of the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon, cannot be justified. He warns that if Israel continues to silence debate on these issues it will find itself in the same position that America found itself during the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion. The Bush administration silenced critics by accusing them of being unpatriotic and then launched an invasion that will likely turn out to be one of the greatest blunders in U.S. history.

Likewise, Israel, through groups like AIPAC, continues to charge that its critics are its enemies. In so doing, it risks making fatal errors that will bring about its demise.

Soros is not the only one taking heat from the pro-Zionist lobby in the United States and the Israeli media. Pulitzer-Prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof was recently blasted by The New York Sun for “spreading a blood libel.” His perceived sin was that he dared to suggest in a New York Times article that American politicians “muzzled themselves” when it came to talking about Israel. He also said there was “no serious political debate among Democrats or Republicans about our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians.”

The Economist, Europe’s largest financial magazine, recently stated that it was time for America to have an open debate about its role in the Middle East and if AIPAC was to remain “such a mighty force” in American politics it had to play a positive role in that debate. Predictably, The
Economist came in for a torrent of criticism.

And, finally, the prominent liberal news web site joined the fray by recently carrying an article by Gary Kamiya who said it was time for American Jews to say to AIPAC: “Not in my name!” He argued that American Jews had to seriously challenge the myth that AIPAC’s policies reflect the views of the wider Jewish community.

The developing debate about AIPAC, which is being described in some circles as “near nuclear,” because of vehement reactions from the Jewish lobby, may well have its roots in an event last year. In March 2006, two political scientists, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard, were viciously attacked in Jewish outlets for a document they published, showing that Israeli influence pushed America into the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and America’s unquestioning support for Israel was not strategic.

Furthermore, Mearsheimer and Walt wrote that U.S. acquiescence to Israel serves to increase the threat of terrorism to the United States. The Mearsheimer-Walt thesis also exposed the brutality of Israeli military policies and questioned the myth that Israel was David fighting Goliath. The academics thought the opposite was true and Israel was the Goliath in the Middle East. Those assertions placed the two academics in the center of a firestorm of criticism and charges they were anti-Semites. Many fellow academics who agreed with them were much too frightened to come out publicly and say so.

As this latest debate involving Soros rages, AIPAC knows it has unquestioning support in the corridors of power in Washington and within the media. In 1997 when Fortune magazine polled members of Congress about the most powerful lobbying organizations in Washington, AIPAC came in second. Since then little has changed.

(Issue #15, April 9, 2007)

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Updated March 31, 2007