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A Reply to Stephen Zune's on the Jews and Cynthia McKinney's Defeat
Published on Tuesday, August 27, 2002 by CommonDreams.org
A Reply to Stephen Zune's on the Jews and Cynthia McKinney's Defeat
by Edward S. Herman
 

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).

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