by Alison Meyer | A loyal friend in the War on Terror, Israel deserves our support.
Professor Stephen Walt, co-author of the influential essay “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy” and a recent book by the same name, presented unreasonable and unfair notions in his November 27 talk.
At the beginning of his speech, Walt was careful to separate himself from conspiracy theories that would ruin his credibility. Nevertheless, he later presented his audience with an absurdity that he espoused as truth—that the Israel lobby helped to instigate the Iraq War because the lobby is led by neocons. He claimed it was “quietly lobbying congress to approve the use of force in Iraq,” and that it believed that “Baghdad was just the first step in regional transformation.” But these assertions of neoconservative dominance within the Israel lobby are tempered by the power held by the left-wing Israel lobby groups: Americans for Peace Now, the Tikkun Community, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom and the Israel Policy Forum, among many others. Though left-wing groups are exceedingly prevalent and play a large role in the lobby, Walt simply disregarded their power. Walt also proposed that the lobby forced the US’s foreign policy to acquiesce completely to the desires of Israel’s foreign policy. This is simply not true. In the 1991 Gulf War, when the United States asked Israel not to participate in the war, it didn’t, despite the Iraqi scud missiles launched onto Israeli soil.
Walt also suggested that the US detach itself from its alliance with Israel in order to negotiate a peace and use its enormous leverage against Israel to force it to agree to a two-state solution. But, it would be hypocritical for the United States, which has made a moral commitment to fighting global terrorism and steadfastly refuses to negotiate with terrorists, to pressure Israel to do so.
Yielding would also be a reprehensible action from the perspective of Israeli security. A two-state solution for peace necessitates that both sides abide by the terms of the agreement—as it currently stands Hamas does not have the power to enforce such a deal on its people even if it wanted to. Suicide bombers and sporadic rockets fired into Israel do nothing to encourage the generosity Israel needs to extend for a two-state solution to work. Palestine has historically not been a satisfactory partner for peace, and the ascension of Hamas as the ruling party does not suggest in the least that they will be in the near future.
In response to a question about Israel’s security, Walt responded, “Who’s going to attack [Israel]?” He apparently has no problem disregarding the threats presented by Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and Al Qaeda. Iran’s Ahmadinejad has often declared that he hopes the state of Israel will be eliminated, a sentiment not particularly rare among Iranian hard-liners.
Hezbollah indeed presents a threat, as demonstrated in the 2006 war. The Hamas Charter claims that jihad is a “personal obligation” and calls for the destruction of Israel and all Zionists. Israel’s unfriendly neighbors are a threat that should not be so quickly dismissed.
Israel, however, is a parliamentary democracy that embraces the Western ideals of political and religious freedom as well as universal suffrage. It respects other religions and their sites. This is in direct contrast with other Middle Eastern countries like Jordan. When Jordan had control of East Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967, the Jewish Quarter was bulldozed, the cemetery at the Mount of Olives was destroyed, and the revered Hurva Synagogue was demolished. In contrast, Israel allowed religious pilgrims access to their sacred sights and even gave the Muslim Waqf control of the Temple Mount and other holy sites.
Walt’s suggestion that America distance itself from its “special relationship” with Israel is absurd for a few reasons. First, the idea that we should treat Israel the same way we treat other Western democracies like Italy or Britain is illogical; neither Italy nor Britain are surrounded by hostile and violent countries that resent their very presence. The reason Walt gave for detaching ourselves from Israel is the fact that our support spurs terrorism. This reasoning is logically fallacious as well; extremist Islam is a reaction to modernization and progress. Naturally, Islamists vilify Israel because Israel epitomizes those values. Instead of catering to the wishes of extremist Muslims, the United States should virulently support the bastion of Western values. Giving in to people who believe the United States is the “Great Satan” is not a logical foreign policy goal because they will never be satiated. Therefore, supporting Israel is an ideological necessity.
Walt made another absolutely ridiculous claim during his speech: that the UN isn’t biased against Israel. The facts, though, suggest otherwise: Israel is the only country in the world not eligible to sit on the Security Council. Twenty-six percent of the resolutions of the Commission on Human Rights condemn Israel, while Syria and Libya are never criticized. The UN tolerates abhorrent and false claims, such as the charge made by the Palestinian representative to the UN Human Rights Commission, which suggested Israel injected 300 Palestinian children with the HIV virus. Last year, the UN General Assembly adopted nineteen anti-Israel resolutions; however, not one resolution has been passed condemning any terrorist organization operating against Israel. In addition, Israel is the subject of more investigative committees than any other state in the UN. Clearly the UN is not as even-handed towards Israel as Walt suggested.
Walt’s suggestions about our future relationship with Israel are absurd and unreasonable. His policies would effectively cater to the extremists.
Miss Meyer is a freshman who has not yet declared a major.