Stephen Walt: Still Blaming the Israel Lobby

At least he’s consistent, if nothing else.

Stephen Walt, half of the duo that published The Israel Lobby in 2007 to blame groups like AIPAC for pushing the US to support Israel too much, to the detriment of both the US and Israel, is at it again.

His latest anti-Israel screed in the Huffington Post makes the same point, applied to the current crisis in Gaza:

As usual, the U.S. government is siding with Israel, even though most American leaders understand Israel instigated the latest round of violence, is not acting with restraint, and that its actions make Washington look callous and hypocritical in the eyes of most of the world.

This Orwellian situation is eloquent testimony to the continued political clout of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the other hardline elements of the Israel lobby. There is no other plausible explanation for the supine behavior of the U.S. Congress–including some of its most “progressive” members–or the shallow hypocrisy of the Obama administration, especially those officials known for their purported commitment to human rights.

Actually, there is another plausible explanation – that American leaders support the right of a sovereign nation to defend itself against a terrorist group that targets Israeli civilians and callously endangers its own people.

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Apparently, in the world of Walt, there is no such thing as a moral position that supports Israel. That can only be the product of AIPAC pressure.

Walt also engages in some Orwellian contortions of language and logic. He claims that Israel “instigated” the violence but admits, two paragraphs later, that “the immediate cause of this latest one-sided bloodletting was the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli hikers in the occupied West Bank, followed shortly thereafter by the kidnapping and fatal burning of a Palestinian teenager by several Israelis.”

So Israel instigated something that followed the murder of three Israel teenagers and an Arab boy? Apparently so, because the real cause of the violence, according to Walt, was not the Palestinian act of murder. It was Benjamin Netanyahu’s political efforts to undermine the Hamas-Fatah unity government that formed a while earlier, and which “might press him to get serious about a two-state solution.”

Any argument that relies on presenting Hamas as a catalyst for Palestinian moderation reeks of desperation – or at least a very poor handle of the facts on the ground.

But that’s the clear implication of Walt’s statement: Fatah-Hamas will push for peace while Netanyahu works against it.

And since Walt believes that it’s the Palestinians who are working towards a two-state solution while Netanyahu “will never–repeat never–allow it to happen,” Walt is sure that rational Americans leaders would back Hamas in the war.

Yet as soon as fighting starts, and even if Israel instigates it, AIPAC demands that Washington march in lockstep with Tel Aviv. Congress invariably rushes to pass new resolutions endorsing whatever Israel decides to do. Even though it is mostly Palestinians who are dying, White House officials rush to proclaim that Israel has “the right to defend itself,” and Obama himself won’t go beyond expressing “concern” about what is happening. Of course Israelis have the right to defend themselves, but Palestinians not only have the same right, they have the right to resist the occupation. To put this another way, Israel does not have the right to keep its Palestinian subjects in permanent subjugation. But try finding someone on Capitol Hill who will acknowledge this simple fact.

Actually, the Palestinians do not have the right to “defend themselves” by firing rockets at Israeli civilians. And the claim that Hamas was doing it to “resist the occupation” of Gaza ended in 2005, when Israel withdrew entirely from the territory.

Near the end of his piece, Walt writes that Israel lobby groups “exhibit a severe case of tunnel vision” by defending Israel. But maybe it’s Walt himself who suffers from a narrow viewpoint, pushing the same arguments against Israel again and again for years. And by attacking Israel’s military operation, he winds up doing a version of what he accuses AIPAC of doing – defending Hamas to detriment of Israel, the US, and the Palestinian people.

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