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 “In Our Hands” 

April 14, 2005 
[Originally published in The Wanderer, June 13, 1996.]
One isn’t supposed to say this, but many people believe that Israel now holds the White House, the Senate, and much of the American media in its hands. Today's column is "'In Our Hands' about the Israeli lobby" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.This is what is known as an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

The odd thing is that it is held by many Israelis. In an essay reprinted in the May 27, 1996, issue of the New York Times Ari Shavit, an Israeli columnist, reflected sorrowfully on the wanton Israeli killing of more than a hundred Lebanese civilians in April. “We killed them out of a certain naive hubris. Believing with absolute certitude that now, with the White House, the Senate, and much of the American media in our hands, the lives of others do not count as much as our own....”

In a single phrase — “in our hands” — Mr. Shavit has lit up the American political landscape like a flash of lightning.

Notice that Mr. Shavit assumes as an obvious fact what we Americans can say publicly only at our own risk. It’s surprising, and refreshing, to find such candor in an American newspaper (though his essay was reprinted from the Israeli paper Ha’aretz).

The prescribed cant on the subject holds that Israel is a “reliable ally” of the United States, despite Israel’s long record of double-dealing against this country, ranging from the killing of American sailors to constant espionage and technology theft. The word ally implies that the relationship exists because it’s in the interests of this country, though Israel’s lobby is clearly devoted to the interests of Israel itself, and it’s childish to suggest otherwise.

You expect that from the Israel lobby; lobbies are lobbies, after all. But it’s unnerving that the White House, the Senate, and much of the American media should be “in our hands,” as Mr. Shavit puts it. Bill Clinton, a lover of peace since his college days, raised no protest when the Israelis drove 400,000 innocent Lebanese out of their homes this year in “retaliation” for rockets launched into Israel (wounding one Israeli) by a faction over whom those 400,000 had no control.

Congress of course, was supine as usual at this latest extravagance of Israeli “defense.” Congress too is “in our hands.”

A recent article in the Washington Post likened the Israel lobby’s power to that of the gun and tobacco lobbies. But there is one enormous difference. Newspapers like the Post aren’t afraid to criticize the gun and tobacco lobbies. They will say forthrightly that those lobbies seek goals that are dangerous for this country. They don’t dare say as much of the Israel lobby.

But much of the press and electronic media are “in our hands” in a more active sense: they supply misleading pro-Israel propaganda in the guise of news and commentary, constantly praising Israeli democracy and ignoring Israel’s mistreatment of its non-Jewish minorities — mistreatment which, if any government inflicted it on a Jewish minority, would earn it the fierce opprobrium of our media.

No decent American would think of reducing American Jews to the status of Palestinians in Israel. The idea is almost absurd. Yet Americans are taxed to subsidize the oppression of Palestinians, on the flimsy pretext that they are helping an “ally” in America’s own self-interest, as if it were in our interest to be hated and despised by the whole Muslim world.

All this is interesting less for what it tells us about Israel than for what it tells us about America. Frank discussion of Israel is permitted in Israel, as Mr. Shavit’s article illustrates. It’s rarely permitted here. Charges of anti-Semitism and a quiet but very effective boycott will be the reward of any journalist who calls attention to his own government’s — and his own profession’s — servitude to Israeli interests.

Very few in America are doing anything to change that sorry state of affairs. Mr. Shavit wrote his article in the desperate hope of turning back his countrymen and his government from a morally and politically perilous course. At least he can hope. It’s harder for us, when our own government isn’t in our hands.

Joseph Sobran

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