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Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

Academic freedom and sloppy research about the Israel Lobby

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Posted By Maurice Ostroff On September 25, 2007

The much discussed articles and latest book by Professors Mearsheimer and Walt, attacking the Israel Lobby, are glaring examples of misleading by omission of vital relevant data.

Of course there is no objection to academics expressing unpopular opinions, but it’s scary to realize that some university students are being taught by mentors who, in their public pronouncements and publications, exhibit shockingly low standards of scholarship and even ignorance. Even when they don’t write in the names of their universities, serious readers are entitled to expect a minimum standard of objectivity and intellectual honesty from tenured professors.
 
The website of Students for Academic Freedom pinpoints one of the most egregious sins of a growing number of academics in its slogan: You can’t get a good education if they’re telling you only half the story.

Too many opinion-makers mislead by telling half the story; deliberately omitting all relevant information that may contradict their preconceived opinions.  The much discussed articles and latest book by Professors Mearsheimer and Walt, attacking the Israel Lobby, are glaring examples of misleading by omission of vital relevant data.

In response to a letter I sent criticizing their articles published last year, I received an 81-page paper from Professor Mearsheimer, titled "Setting the record straight: a response to critics of The Israel Lobby” (which I will refer to in this article as their response paper). In it, the authors admit that being fallible human beings, their work contained a few minor errors. Let’s take the example of one of their central claims – that pressure from Israel was critical in the US decision to attack Iraq in March 2003 — and let the reader judge whether this is merely a minor error.

If they had done a modest amount of research they would have learned and disclosed that contrary to their allegation, Israeli officials had warned the Bush administration against destabilizing the region by invading Iraq.

This information was available to the professors. In an interview with the Mother Jones blog, Professor Walt emphasized that he and Mearsheimer relied heavily on both Israeli sources and Jewish newspapers like the Forward. And in the Forward of January 12, 2007, Yossi Alpher, an adviser to former PM Ehud Barak, confirmed that prior to March 2003, Israel PM Sharon advised Bush not to occupy Iraq and that AIPAC officials in Washington told visiting Arab intellectuals they would rather the United States deal militarily with Iran than with Iraq.
 
This refutation of the professors’ allegation has since been confirmed by Lawrence Wilkerson, a former member of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff as reported by ISP.

Was this a minor error?
 
In the interview with Mother Jones, Professor Walt explained that as he and Mearsheimer aren't investigative reporters and have a day job, they weren't in a position to spend a lot of time interviewing people in Washington. This statement possibly encapsulates the underlying weakness of their publications. Far from being in-depth products of original research by academics from prestigious institutions, they are a rehash of carefully selected extracts from the writings of others, mainly new historians like Noam Chomsky and Benny Morris, whose methodologies have been severely criticized by authoritative historians.

It is almost amusing to note how in their response paper, the authors praise Benny Morris as a respected historian when he expresses views they accept, and then reject his views when they don’t serve their purpose.  Having served in the Israel army during the 1948 war, I have challenged from personal knowledge some of the conclusions Morris derived from his interpretation of archived documents, and I absolutely challenge M & W’s third and possibly fourth-hand views on this subject.

In their March 2006 article, the professors wrote: "Contrary to popular belief, the Zionists had larger, better-equipped and better-led forces during the 1947-49 War of Independence." It is difficult to understand the reason for inserting this bit of totally irrelevant disinformation into a paper about the Israel Lobby.

Those of us who were there in 1948 know that Israel was invaded by five armies in a Holy War to drive us into the sea. The Arab armies included the British-trained Jordanian Legion, the well-equipped Egyptian army, navy and air force and the armies of Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. And we know how desperate and badly equipped we were.  We remember how rickety old trucks were converted to homemade armored vehicles nicknamed sandwiches, because the armor comprised timber between two steel plates. (See photo.)
 
We know that our total population of only 600,000 included women, children and the elderly and that, tragically, 6,000 were killed in the War, not to mention the seriously wounded. We know that many of our troops were untrained newcomers, who had survived the death camps, only to be thrown directly into battle.
 
In their response paper, the professors go to great lengths elaborating on remarks by Ben Gurion and others indicating that they had hoped for a greater area than allocated under the 1947 partition plan. But they ignore the fact that Israel nevertheless reluctantly, but unconditionally, accepted the partition resolution while all Arab states rejected it outright. There would be no Palestinian refugees today if they had accepted instead of immediately declaring Holy War, with the publicly proclaimed intention of driving the Jews into the sea.

Arab League Secretary, General Azzam Pasha declared, "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades," and the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini echoed,  "I declare a holy war, my Moslem brothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all!"
 
The professors ignore how Israel reacted to Arabs who stayed neutral in 1948 – such as the village of Abu Ghosh. In an article in the Jerusalem Post in 1997, Sam Orbaum quoted Mohammed Abu Ghosh as saying, "What we did, we did for Abu Ghosh, for nobody else. Others who lost their land, hated us then, but now all over the Arab world, many people see we were right. If everyone did what we did, there'd be no refugee problem . . . And if we were traitors? Look where we are, look where they are."

Incredibly, their strong prejudices prevent the professors from acknowledging not only Israel’s attempts to negotiate peace, but also the infamous three no's response of Arab leaders in Khartoum in August 1967: "no peace, no recognition of Israel and no negotiation.”

The professors’ claim that US policy towards Israel is a main contributor to America's terrorist problem deserves critical examination. In November 2002, Alex Alexiev, in an article published by the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon (USCFL), pointed out that Riyadh, flush with oil money, became the paymaster of most of the militant Islamic movements, which advocated terror. In its aggressive support for radical Islam, even the most violent of Islamic groups, like Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, receives Saudi largesse. He claims that official Saudi sources indicate that between 1975 and 1987, Riyadh's "overseas development aid" averaged $4 billion per year, of which at least $50 billion over two-and-a-half decades financed Islamic activities exclusively. The SAAR Foundation alone, which has been closed down since 9/11, received $1.7 billion in donations in 1998.

Compared to these numbers, the miniscule Israeli PR budget is laughable.

It is incredible that academics discussing external influences on USA policy ignore the dramatic stranglehold of OPEC, the blatantly monopolistic cartel which threatens not only the US, but the world economy. This stranglehold began with the Arab decision to use oil as a political weapon in 1973 when the price was $2.60 per barrel. After October 1973, when the Arab members of OPEC imposed their oil embargo against the West, the price quadrupled to about $12 by January 1974 and is now soaring to $80. All this, while, believe it or not, production costs average about $6 per barrel for non-OPEC producers and $1.50 per barrel for OPEC producers (Bulletin of Atomic Scientists May/June 2005).
 
By focusing on one lobby only without placing it in the context of the prevailing phenomenon of the numerous lobbies that are an essential part of the Washington scene, this work cannot be regarded as a scholarly study, but rather as a subjective, no-holds-barred political attack.
 
Dozens of interest groups spend billions to convince politicians to pass or oppose particular laws. Any study of the Jewish Lobby cannot avoid comparison with Arab influence on Washington, which is indeed harmful to American interests.

But the professors claim: “There is no well organized and politically potent Arab Lobby and little evidence that US politicians ever feel much pressure from pro-Arab groups.” This categorical statement in their response paper is mind-boggling. It indicates either inexcusable ignorance or deliberate suppression of information about the many Arab lobbyists who have had, and continue to have, intimate access to US presidents.
 
In an article in Harpers magazine of April 17, 2007, John R. MacArthur wrote about Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan:

When he wasn't entertaining congressmen and spreading good cheer through his highly paid lobbyist, Fred Dutton, Bandar was busy making friends with, at first vice president, and then president, George H.W. Bush, and by extension with Bush's son, the future president. This personal relationship with the Bush family has served Bandar and his family very well, as documented in Craig Unger's book, House of Bush, House of Saud.
 
Before he died in the World Trade Center on 9/11, the former FBI counterterrorism chief John O'Neill complained to French investigator Jean-Charles Brisard that Saudi pressure on the State Department had prevented him from fully investigating possible al-Qaida involvement in the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen, and of the destroyer
Cole in 2000.

Now, according to Seymour Hersh, Bandar has virtually joined the Bush administration as a shadow cabinet member. In a March 5, 2007 New Yorker article, “The Redirection,” Hersh writes that Bandar, the Saudi national-security adviser, served as Ambassador to the United States for twenty-two years, until 2005, and has maintained a friendship with President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. In his new post, he continues to meet privately with them.
 
The organization Axis Information and Analysis (AIA), which specializes in information about Asia and Eastern Europe, has rated Prince Bandar as the most influential foreigner in the USA. As head of the Saudi embassy in Washington in 1983, he was an important participant in backstage intrigues, clandestine negotiations, and billion-dollar deals relating to US interests in the Middle East, with broad links among high-ranking officials in the State Department, the Pentagon and the CIA. Bandar's father, Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, was a leading figure in the ruling dynasty, which decides the extent of military cooperation with the United States. AIA has publicly stated that it was Bandar Bin Sultan who initiated the first Gulf War in 1990-91, by pushing President Bush the elder to start the military campaign against Iraq.
 
In an obituary to Clark Clifford (October 11, 1998), the New York Times spoke of him not only as a key adviser to four presidents, but also as a powerful lobbyist for Arab sources. In his memoir, Counsel to the President, Clifford wrote that he advised clients:

"What we can offer you is an extensive knowledge of how to deal with the government on your problems. We will be able to give you advice on how best to present your position to the appropriate departments and agencies of the government".

Clifford, a paid lobbyist, made about $6 million in profits from bank stock that he bought with an unsecured loan from the failed Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). 
 
In an interview on Democracy Now, Craig Unger, author of House of Bush, House of Saud, spoke of Bandar’s influence. Referring to the fact that the 9/11 Commission said it knew of six chartered flights with 142 people aboard, mostly Saudis, that left the United States between Sept. 14 and 24, 2001, Unger said that if you look at Prince Bandar’s body language in photos of him and President Bush, this is not a guy standing in awe of the President of the United States. This is a guy who is visiting his friend's son, and he’s sort of lounging on the arm of a big armchair by 9/13, two days after 9-11. And suddenly, flights began going out.
 
Unger tells of Saudis investing as much as $800 billion into American Equities, not only in massive blue chip companies but also into companies that weren't doing so well, but were linked to powerful politicians.
 
He also speaks of at least $1 million donated to each presidential library, emphasizing that the Saudis give to Democrats and Republicans alike:

Prince Bandar has been quite frank. If we give to our friends after they get out of office, the people in office will get the message.
 
The Saudis are fabulous at public relations. If you look at their whole campaign over the last 30 years, they spent $70 billion on propaganda. It's the biggest propaganda campaign in the history of the world, more than Soviet communism at the height of the Cold war. Immediately after 9-11, Bandar hired Burson Marsteller, the huge American public relations firm.

In the knowledge that the above information is readily available, would a first-year student, let alone a tenured professor, earn a passing mark for submitting a paper claiming that there is no well-organized and politically potent Arab Lobby and little evidence that US politicians ever feel much pressure from pro-Arab groups?




 

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