On our way to a nation where thugs and idiots rule »« The Hobby Lobby case

The Israel lobby swings into action

The influence of the Israel lobby in the US is most clearly visible when that country engages in massive onslaughts on Palestinians that threaten to arouse widespread anger and disgust. Then it whips into action to blunt criticism in the US media and prevent any action against it. As Palestinian casualties in Gaza mount to over 300, one fifth of whom are children, and the destruction of a hospital, the Israel lobby has its work cut out for it.

On the domestic front, the main tactic to neutralize Congress is to get it to pass resolutions giving unconditional backing to whatever action Israel undertakes. It then leverages this support on the international front to get the US to oppose any UN Security Council action condemning its actions. The third leg is to ensure that US mainstream media coverage always sticks to the narrative that Israel is a plucky little country defending itself against a ruthless enemy that seeks to eliminate it.

As Philip Weiss writes, Israel lobby money and the threat to actively campaign and financially support opponents to anyone who opposes such measures buys a lot of influence in Congress and has proven successful in keeping Congress in line. So like clockwork, on Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution that was backed by the major Israel lobby group AIPAC. All the so-called liberals in the US Senate (including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, and Al Franken) and most in the House are PEPs (Progressive Except for Palestine). Warren, usually willing to speak to the media to advance her message, has been ducking questions about Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

The point of such congressional resolutions is to send the signal to the media and the US public in general that to criticize Israel is to risk alienating members of Congress. And sure enough, now a CNN reporter Diana Magnay has been yanked out of Israel for reporting on Israelis who were cheering the bombing of Gaza for tweeting something that might offend them. But after protests after the first yanking, NBC reporter Ayman Mohyeldin has been returned to Gaza.

But that is how the media filter works. Even if Mohyeldin has been returned, the message sent to all journalists is clear that they criticize Israel at their peril because it could be a career-ender. They then start to self-censor, which is how one achieves conformity without having to give them orders. It was such self-censorship that made even talking about the Israel lobby taboo in the US until John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt forced the issue into the open with their book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.

It is by such means that Israel gets cover for its actions in the US while the US and Israel are increasingly isolated in the world.

Comments

  1. A. Noyd says

    Just one thing: “Casualties” includes wounded, so Palestinian casualties are currently over 2,700 and rising. But, yes, it’s good to point out how many of those are deaths, especially of civilians and children.

  2. says

    I was at a talk given by Bob Woodward, in which he told a funny story. Apparently he was talking to his publisher about “what am I going to write next?” just before he started the ‘Bush at War” series (which he is now going to crank-turn forever) and he suggested doing a book about the AIPAC and his publisher said, “Great idea. You can call it ‘My Last Book'”

  3. stagamancer says

    As Palestinian casualties in Gaza mount to over 300, one fifth of whom are children, and the destruction of a hospital

    I wonder, where is the criticism of Hamas for launching and storing rockets from within and nearby schools, houses, and hospitals?

  4. John Morales says

    stagamancer @3, that the other side may be at fault doesn’t excuse any given side its own fault.

    (Or: you appeal to the tu quoque fallacy)

  5. stagamancer says

    @John Well, the IDF didn’t purposely target either civilians or the hospital. But war is messy, and Hamas is launching rockets from those exact places, and misses occur. When the IDF discovered there were rockets near Al Wafa, they gave the staff a week’s notice that they’d be targeting the nearby rockets. Seems pretty legit to me.

  6. says

    I wonder, where is the criticism of Hamas

    There’s plenty. I think it sucks that they are doing that. They should be launching missiles at military targets (direct fire at guard posts, convoys, the wall, etc) instead of civilian targets.

    As far as the launches – it appears there are a lot of Vietcong-style tunnels in use, and that the launches are from mobile locations; they aren’t using human shields except for the kids playing soccer on the beach. There was a command/control base in one of those kids’ back pockets, don’t’cha know?

  7. says

    Addendum: it’s mind-bendingly stupid of Hamas to keep launching at civilian targets, knowing the iron dome system has a good chance of blocking them, and their accuracy is basically nil. 150mm Grad rockets will go through the side armor of a tank or APC like it’s cheese and will one-shot a guard-post or devastate a barracks. It’s a political blunder, as well as tactical stupidity, to do what they are doing.

  8. John Morales says

    Marcus @7, I dunno… to me, the message is clear.

    How much more can Hamas do and how much harm they have caused Israel hitherto stands in stark contrast with how little of what they can do Israel has done and how much harm they have caused Gaza and the Palestinians.

    (Perhaps it’s a strategic goal more so than a tactical one towards which they strive)

    stagamancer @6, I suppose that it is a mercy that Israel is so forbearing in its self-defence that the casualty ratio is only a mere couple of orders of magnitude.

  9. readysf says

    The Lobby strategy is top down, and also bottom up.

    Local organizations blast out emails and hold “community meetings” in which the storyline is repeated, in this case the terror experienced by Israelis when they hear sirens. The purpose of this is to establish the propaganda tag-lines for non-Jews, including local officials that have been bought and paid for.

    The Lobby leverages Holocaust guilt to the hilt. The problem is that non-European-Christians don’t have any, and US demographics are changing. Bullying works for a while, but charges of anti-Semitism have been overused.

    Everyone sees Israel as a colonist stealing Palestinian land and using the US as cover. Zionism makes a mockery of Jewish values.

  10. stagamancer says

    @Marcus I’m not a blind supporter of everything Israel does. The deaths of those children is horrible and should not have happened. But when a terrorist organization, like Hamas, hides among the civilian populations, stores weapons in hospitals, and rigs civilian homes with explosives, it’s they who deserve the blame for most of the casualties. And most of the time, the IDF has provided ample warning to evacuate areas where Hamas targets are present. Has Hamas done that?

  11. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    The thing with the human shield is…. if I know you’re usng human shields and I still shoot, I’m no less despicable than you are.

  12. stagamancer says

    @Beatrice I’m going to have to disagree with you there. They’re not just using human shields, they’re using human shields and they’re continuing to attack. Hamas has already infiltrated Israel and killed people. Is the IDF supposed to sit back and let that continue? Are they supposed to let Hamas exhaust their missile supply on Israeli targets?

    Israel has not been above reproach in everything. They’ve obviously used this conflict for political gain more than once. But in this case, Hamas, started the missile strikes, they’re doing it from civilian areas, and, according to one jihadi,

    The Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip will not surrender to the enemy and will not raise the white flag, […] We are open to all possibilities as long as the enemy does not respond to the demands of the resistance.

    from here

    Open to all possibilities. Sounds like they don’t really have qualms about who dies.

  13. Silentbob says

    … So far in this conflict, according to Wikipedia: Palestinians have killed 4 Israeli soldiers and 2 civilians. Israelis have killed 410 Palestinians (72% civilians) and 1 Israeli soldier (“friendly fire”).

    I seems strange that you conclude it is the Palestinians who have no qualms about who dies.

  14. readysf says

    What gets lost in talking about “Hamas” an an object is that Gaza is under siege. Israel controls land, sea, air. The Palestinians in Gaza are imprisoned. Hamas is an elected political party, like Likud (which also does not recognize Palestine in its charter).

    Israel is attacking a trapped population. I cannot think of anything more repulsive. It is deeply cynical for Israel to ask people to move before bombing their houses when they know they have no place to go.

    This borders on the evil.

  15. says

    readysf (#16)

    Israel is attacking a trapped population. I cannot think of anything more repulsive.

    It reminds you of the Lodz Ghetto, doesn’t it?

  16. doublereed says

    … So far in this conflict, according to Wikipedia: Palestinians have killed 4 Israeli soldiers and 2 civilians. Israelis have killed 410 Palestinians (72% civilians) and 1 Israeli soldier (“friendly fire”).

    I seems strange that you conclude it is the Palestinians who have no qualms about who dies.

    Hamas doesn’t care if Palestinians die. In fact they pretty much consider if good for them. They deliberately put Palestinians in harm’s way. That’s horrible and terrible.

    The fact that Israel also doesn’t seem to care if Palestinians die is also rather horrible and terrible.

  17. Anton Mates says

    stagamancer,

    I wonder, where is the criticism of Hamas for launching and storing rockets from within and nearby schools, houses, and hospitals?

    According to the article cited in the original post, nobody was storing or launching rockets at the hospital, nor did the IDF believe they were.
    Aside from that, criticism of Hamas is all over the place. You may have noticed that most western countries designate Hamas a terrorist organization, do not have normal diplomatic relations with it, do not provide it with foreign aid, demand that it recognize Israel’s existence, and object every time Hamas fires rockets at civilians or stashes rockets in residential areas.
    Israel gets far less criticism, relative to the amount of human rights violations it commits, than Hamas does. Or anybody does, really. Even China gets more international condemnation, although nobody dares to actually do much to them.

    Well, the IDF didn’t purposely target either civilians or the hospital.

    The IDF never “purposely” targets civilians. It just doesn’t take sufficient measures to not kill them by the hundreds.

    But war is messy, and Hamas is launching rockets from those exact places, and misses occur.

    According to the article cited in the original post, the rockets were not being launched from “those exact places;” they were being launched 100m away from the hospital. That’s like the length of a city block.
    Nor were rockets being launched by or near the group of small boys playing on the beach that the IDF bombed.

    When the IDF discovered there were rockets near Al Wafa, they gave the staff a week’s notice that they’d be targeting the nearby rockets.

    According to the article cited in the original post, the staff reported that they had less than a day’s notice for an earlier round of shelling, and in this most recent attack they were given notice after the bombing had already started.
    Mind you, even if they had been given a week’s notice, that wouldn’t really be sufficient time for the staff to somehow build a second hospital. Even if the A-Team was working there.

    They’re not just using human shields, they’re using human shields and they’re continuing to attack.

    You realize that when the IDF aims at a “Hamas-associated target” in a civilian neighborhood, and the civilians know this but refuse to leave, that’s not Hamas using human shields? That’s the IDF killing civilians for being inconveniently attached to their homes.
    “Human shields” implies that the warring party is actually forcing civilians into harm’s way, which is a thing Israel does but Hamas, by and large, doesn’t. By all means criticize Hamas for glorifying martyrdom and not always informing civilians that it’s stashing weapons and launching rockets near them, but it’s neither dropping the bombs on Gaza nor forcing civilians to stand under them.

    Hamas has already infiltrated Israel and killed people. Is the IDF supposed to sit back and let that continue?

    Is that what the IDF has been doing all this time? Funny, I thought they’ve been killing Hamas personnel and their family, neighbors and housepets for around 25 years now. And yet Hamas and other paramilitary organizations are still infiltrating Israel and killing people. Maybe a different strategy is called for?

    Are they supposed to let Hamas exhaust their missile supply on Israeli targets?

    Considering that the missiles kill one or two people a year, yes, that is one viable alternative to killing hundreds of civilians and leveling Gaza’s only hospital providing long-term care. Far fewer people would die that way, at least. Another alternative would be approaching the rocket-launching sites more closely and using more precisely targeted munitions, or a ground assault. Sure, that would be more difficult and dangerous. But the thing about war crimes is that you’re not supposed to commit them even if they help you win the war more easily.

    Marcus,

    Addendum: it’s mind-bendingly stupid of Hamas to keep launching at civilian targets, knowing the iron dome system has a good chance of blocking them, and their accuracy is basically nil.

    Far be it from me to claim that Hamas doesn’t do mind-bendingly stupid things, but I suspect that in this case the rockets are doing exactly what they want—keeping the psychological and economic pressure on Israel. The goal, I think, is to make the Gaza invasion seem less worthwhile for Israel, because it doesn’t solve the problem that they invaded to solve: rockets hitting haphazardly inside their borders. If Hamas (and the other paramilitary groups) switched to nearby military targets, that point would be weakened even if their hit rate went way up.

    IOW, the rockets are tools of terror, and a competent terrorist won’t be baited into functioning as a mediocre soldier instead. I think. Not an expert here.

    doublereed,

    Hamas doesn’t care if Palestinians die. In fact they pretty much consider if good for them. They deliberately put Palestinians in harm’s way. That’s horrible and terrible.

    I think most Hamas members believe—correctly–that Palestinians are already in harm’s way. They will suffer and die as long as they’re occupied and blockaded, so if they want to risk their lives to oppose the occupation, Hamas is all for that. This isn’t really different from supporting the White Rose or the Tiananmen Square protestors or any other civil resistance movement that involves personal risk.

    Now, is Hamas leadership cynically encouraging civilians to sacrifice themselves for goals those civilians might not consider worthwhile, if they made a fully informed decision? Yup. And that’s horrible and terrible. But I see no reason to believe that Hamas just really enjoys having Palestinians die, any more than the Israeli government keeps constructing settlements in the West Bank because it just really enjoys having Israelis die.

  18. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Seconding Silentbob, that was one hell of an informative comment. Thank you, Anton.

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