Thursday, April 03, 2008

Wild conspiracy theories laid to rest...or are they?

My friend Crystal runs a book review blog and she tagged me as follows:

Open the nearest book to page 123 and post the fifth sentence.

Well, The Israel Lobby it is:

"The prosettlement group Americans for a Safe Israel distributed a thirty-page pamphlet smearing Breira's leaders for their involvement with other left-wing causes and referring to them as "Jews for Fatah."

Yeah. Reading this book is definitely not kick-back-and-relax time, which is why I had to hang my head in shame at the library this morning and have them transfer the Express Checkout (3 weeks, no renewals, due today) to Miriam's library card.

But as long as we're talking about this book, let's talk about it.

First of all, I realize it's highly likely that many/most of you have no interest in the subject of this book, if you are at all even aware that such a thing as "the Israel lobby" exists. I don't mean that as an insult to anyone's intelligence, either. The Israel lobby itself, in fact, would have you believe that it doesn't really exist - it would rather you see the effects of its efforts at work in US foreign policy (and, indeed, in some aspects of daily life, the news media, and higher education) without you recognizing them as such.

But if you've ever spent even a few moments talking politics with someone from the Middle East, you have almost certainly discussed the subject, even if you don't know it.

I think an alternate title for this book could very fittingly be: An Ajnabi's Guide to Debunking or Confirming All Those Crazy Conspiracy Theories Arabs Are Always Telling You About. Here are some of the more interesting questions addressed by The Israel Lobby:

-Exactly how much money does America give Israel every year, and what is it used for?

-Is Israel a strategic ally or a foreign relations liability?

-So, all those bombs Israel dropped on Lebanon during the 2006 summer war - were they purchased with American money?

-Who was the first to use suicide bombings in the Middle East?

-What is the true story of the failed Camp David talks?

-Since when is being an Arabist a bad thing?

-Does Israel always do what America tells it to do, and is their continued financial aid contingent on cooperation?

And I'm not even done reading yet.

The most frightening thing about reading this book has been discovering how many of those "wacky conspiracy theories" we wrote off with a laugh in Damascus actually have a strong basis in truth, or are in fact entirely true.

The authors, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, faced an uphill, bumpy road to publication, and the story of the book's genesis is fascinating. Also, I don't know that I've ever read such a thoroughly researched book before.

Before you try to tell yourself that you couldn't possibly care about a subject like this one, think again. Our relationship with Israel and the impact this relationship has on our global foreign policy affects you very much. Think of your personal views on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Do your elected representatives carry that view to their boss(es)? Do you think the conflict has anything to do with terrorism, or the safety of Americans and American interests abroad? How interested are you in what causes or ideologies your tax dollars support, and at whose (figurative) expense?

So although I can't really say I look forward to discussing politics with Arabs in the near future, at least when it happens, I'll be more prepared.

Aaaaaanyway, I tag Eevi, Lark, and Liz. If you dare.


Liz Johnson said...

Wow. I could get on a real soapbox here. But I won't. At least I'll really try not to.

It is not un-American or un-patriotic to be sympathetic with the Palestinians and/or Arabs in the Middle East. It is also not un-American or un-patriotic (or "LIGHT TREASON," as I once had somebody call it to my face) to question our country's motives in the "aid" they send to certain countries or groups, and it is definitely not any of the things listed above to question our country's motives for going to war. In fact, I would argue quite the opposite - it is our RIGHT as Americans, our PRIVILEGE as Americans, and our DUTY as Americans to be invested in our government, and to find out as much as possible about our foreign policy, and where the real "interests" lie.

I also find it interesting that Christians also call it as sort of "anti-Christian" to question anything that Israel does or doesn't do, because they are the "chosen people" and thus have a blanketed Divine Right to basically do whatever they want to the "Gentiles." And when I hear people argue things like that, I run a gamut of emotions ranging from sheer pity for the person to a validation of "yes, this is why our country is so screwed up."

I didn't do very well on that no-soapbox thing.

Anybody here can feel free to agree with me or disagree with me as they please. I admit that I'm not the most learned person when it comes to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but I do try to stay informed. In that same vein, I will be getting this book from the library PRONTO. :)

Thanks, Bridget. I'll take your tag!

Bridget said...

Liz, I appreciate your comments and I'm glad you opened the religious Pandora's box so I don't have to. I originally had the rhetorical question, "What does your religion teach you about the modern-day political state of Israel, if anything? What does it teach you about the oppression of the weak by the mighty?" in the third-to-last paragraph, but I erased it so as not to offend anyone's sensibilities. But now it's here, so go ahead, be offended.

Andrew said...

We both want to read that book, too.

I loved your Aaaaaaaaaanyway at the end. It reminded me of Peppermint Gomez. Ah, if you only knew how many times I sing the new "Al Jazeera" theme song (pretty much anytime anyone mentions Al Jazeera).

Oh, and still, June is Bustin' out all over...still!

Aaaaaaanywho...I realize that those comments don't hold the same serious canter as the post, but oh, well. :)

Andrew said...

PS...That was me, not Andrew


(I'm too lazy to log out and back in as me)

Bridget said...

Hahahaha - Jeremy and I still sing the Al-Jazeera song all the time! And every once in a while, the question "and are immigrants stealing our blonde teenagers??" is just SO applicable.

I think Liz and I scared everyone else away from commenting. Sorry, folks, but wijvenweek had to end sometime!!

Hareega said...

liz johnson,
I'm very puzzled as an Arab Chrisitan at the position that Chrisitians in te US are taking in their blind support to ISrael. I can challenge any person (wheter Crisitian or not) to sow me any single prase in te bible or in Jesus's teacings tat supports this state of Israel.
In fact, there's nothin Chrisitians in what ISrael has done since its foundation. Forcing itself into existence, kicking people from their lands and stealing their fortunes and rocketing Palestinian villages day and night killing undreds of Palestinians in excuse of figting terrorism.
The US donates 30 billion dollars a year to Israel. 30 billion.

Jeremy Palmer said...

There are arguments in favor of the State of Israel as mentioned in the reviewed book. What is needed is considerate and intelligent debate about the issue. Unfortunately, many people are unable to do so. Some may not be able to disassociate personal ties to the area, family history, religion, and/or influential friends from the issue itself. To some extent this is not unusual, but not for critical thinking and resolution. I am not comfortable with groups or individuals that make stereotypical blanket statements in their criticism of one side or the other. There is certainly guilt on all sides. Israel has a right to exist. Palestine has a right to exist(as a sovereign country).

Hareega said...

jeremy, why does Israel have he right to exist?

Liz Johnson said...

I had a professor that once described it like this (hopefully I don't completely butcher this analogy):

Say you live in a house, and you have for 30 years. You've paid it off, and own it outright. One day, you are forced from your home and cannot return for 30 years. While you're gone, somebody else purchases the property, pays it off, and owns it outright. You return. Who has rightful ownership of the property? How do you restore something that was taken unlawfully, but that somebody else owns just as lawfully as you?

Is that accurate? Or is that over-simplifying? Or completely wrong? I'm open to comments on that one.

Adamgv said...

This is an interesting conspiracy. Many people should know about this. We all know that freemasons basically run everything from drugs, to oil, to military. Maybe one day the new world order will be exposed for what it really is.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

The sad thing Liz, is that that analogy is pretty much the history of the world. What ethnic group or people hasn't lost their land unjustly, and gone to war to get it back? Then even after great loss of life and terrible suffering, one or the other of the groups is still without what they want most.


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