Stephen Zunes's "Don't
Blame the Jews for Cynthia McKinney's Defeat" (Aug. 26) is seriously misleading
on the facts and perverse in its policy conclusions. Zunes says it was not just
Jewish money that did McKinney in, there were "cross-over votes" and even larger
sums from business and other establishment parties hostile to her. But Zunes fails
to mention that just a few weeks earlier Ike Hilliard, another black representative
who had been critical of Israeli policy, was similarly crushed, and there were
no "crossover votes" or business hostility in that case, just massive sums of
Jewish money. The unique factor in both elections was the anger at these blacks
for daring to oppose Israeli policy, which suddenly made their elections of national
interest and led to strong support for their opponents.
But Zunes's analysis is equally deficient in its failure to provide context.
He has long challenged the notion that the pro- Israel lobby is a major force
in influencing U.S. policy, and in his frequent (and often insightful) articles
as Middle East Editor of Foreign Policy in Focus, he regularly discusses U.S.
policy toward Israel without mentioning the lobby's existence. This is truly head-in-sand
analysis. Numerous U.S. legislators of high quality have been driven out of office
for opposing a carte blanche to Israel, and some who have survived have openly
acknowledged that they follow a pro-Israel line for political safety and survival.
William Quandt stated recently that "Seventy to 80 percent of all members of congress
will go along with whatever they think AIPAC wants," and the recent Senate vote
of 94-2 supporting Sharon suggests that this may be an understatement. James Petras
asked recently, "Can the petroleum lobby get a 94-2 vote in favor of the Saudi
plan?" A related question: are the almost unanimous votes for Sharon and his policies
based on a rational consideration of the needs of U.S. foreign policy?
Zunes also ignores the extremely aggressive bullying tactics that the Jewish
lobby has been employing throughout the United States during the past several
years, boycotting the New York Times, Washington Post and other papers and carrying
out pressure campaigns against CNN, NPR and other TV stations and programs in
an attempt to enforce a totally one-sided reporting of the Israel- Palestine conflict.
They have also steadily attacked faculty and academic and public panels with the
same objective, and have been very effective in reinforcing the already biased
treatment of these issues. Their intrusions into the Alabama and Georgia elections
and successful removal of Hilliard and McKinney is arguably a form of disenfranchisement
of black voters, by money power rather than legal tricks or coercion, and should
be strenuously opposed by progressives.
Zunes shows not the slightest concern about the consequences of these bullying
practices on freedom of speech or for policy-making on the Middle East. He mentions
that the Jews, like the blacks, are a "historically oppressed" minority, and he
alleges that power is held by wealthy white Gentiles. This is a specious argument.
Jews are not oppressed in the United States today, and in fact their power to
influence U.S. policy in the Middle East is vastly out of proportion to their
numbers in the population. Furthermore, they are exercising that power by means
that coerce and violate the spirit of the First Amendment and that also threaten
the ability of the leadership to form a rational foreign policy.
Zunes is worried that criticism of the Jewish lobby and its operations will
reenforce ugly stereotypes. Perhaps he ought to be directing this point to the
Defamation League (self-designated an "Anti-Defamation League") and other lobby
members, rather than to progressives who seek a decent policy on the Middle East,
and who are very often victims of lobby attacks. Writing in Canadian Dimension
(July-August 2002), Mordecai Briemberg says that "Concerns about fuelling anti-semitism
should be addressed to the Israeli government, not directed against progressives
who wish to analyse the structures and practices of Israeli state lobby forces
within our own political system."
In short, Zunes's call for constraint in criticising aggressors who are using
nasty methods for nasty ends, because people might become hostile to them, is
misdirected. Beyond that, it is even immoral, because it deflects attention from
the urgent need to protect the lobby's victims at home and abroad, which calls
for actively contesting the lobby's power and tactics.
Edward Herman is a Professor Emeritus of Finance at the Wharton School,
University of Pennsylvania, an economist and media analyst, with a specialty in
corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy and the media. He
is the author of numerous books, including Corporate Control, Corporate Power
(1981), Demonstration Elections (1984, with Frank Brodhead), The Real Terror Network
(1982), Manufacturing Consent (1988, with Noam Chomsky), Triumph of the Market
(1995), The Global Media (1997, with Robert McChesney), and The Myth of The Liberal
Media: an Edward Herman Reader (1999).