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Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

Mearsheimer & Walt - unanswered questions - June 2008

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About Maurice Ostroff
June 12, 2008

Professors Walt and Mearsheimer, famous for their book on The Israel Lobby, are presently in Israel at the invitation of Gush Shalom, They are delivering a lecture at a Gush Shalom forum tonight, Thursday, at 8 p.m. at Beit Sokolow in Tel Aviv and will also be lecturing at Hebrew University.

Below is an open letter I wrote to them
 
 

 

An open letter to Professors Mearsheimer and Walt

From Maurice Ostroff
June 12, 2008

Dear professors Mearsheimer and Walt,

Welcome to Israel. I sincerely hope you will enjoy your stay and gain a broader perspective of our tiny troubled country.

You may recall that we have been in correspondence before. In my open letter in May 2006, I raised a few questions arising from your original article on the Israel Lobby in the London Review of Books. You replied that you were preparing a lengthy "response to critics" in which you would address many of the issues I had raised and in December you kindly sent me a copy of your unpublished 81-page paper "Setting the record straight".

While you did address some minor criticisms, you have not yet responded to almost all the points I had raised and I would be delighted if you would please address them now while in Israel. For example:

1. The iraq war
As you claimed that were it not for the Jewish lobby, the US would not have gone to war against Iraq in 2003, I asked why you continue to ignore reliable reports that then PM Sharon and Israeli officials had warned the Bush administration against invading Iraq.

I expected that you must have been aware that Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, was reported as saying the Israeli government "..were telling us Iraq is not the enemy, Iran is the enemy. If you are going to destabilize the balance of power, do it against the main enemy"

And although you stated that you relied on Jewish newspapers like the Forward, you seem to have missed a report in that paper confirming that PM Sharon advised Bush not to occupy Iraq and that AIPAC officials told visiting Arab intellectuals they would rather the US deal militarily with Iran than with Iraq.

2. Sponsors of Terror. You claim that US policy towards Israel contributes to America's terrorism problem, but you failed to respond to my reference to Alex Alexiev, vice president for research at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., who stated that Riyadh, flush with oil money, became the paymaster of most of the militant Islamic movements, which advocated terror. Even the most violent of Islamic groups, like Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, receives Saudi largesse. 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.

Nor did you respond to my statement that anti-American agendas dominate the majority of Muslim Student Associations at U.S. colleges.


3. Ehud Barak's purportedly generous offer.
You referred to then PM Ehud Barak's purportedly generous offer at Camp David, and I suggested that the loaded word "purportedly" was inappropriate. Rather,you owed it to your readers to present the facts and allow them to form their own opinions as to whether the offer was generous or "purportedly" generous?

4. Campus Watch
You wrote about Campus Watch, "Pipes does not deny that his organization, Campus Watch, was created in order to monitor what academics say, write and teach, so as to discourage them from engaging in open discourse about the Middle East".

As Campus Watch is known to encourage open discourse, I asked you to please explain your allegation that it attempts to discourage academics from doing just that. I also asked you to substantiate your claim that Pipes admitted that he discouraged open discourse.

5. Apparent bias
You have not responded to my suspicion of the bias evident from your writing about relations between "Tel Aviv" and Washington, rather than Jerusalem (Israel's seat of government), and Washington.

6. Lobbies in context and the Arab Lobby
You did not respond to my contention that your concentrated focus on the Israel Lobby creates the completely misleading impression that it is the only influence on Congress, whereas in reality, the Israel Lobby is one of many dozens of interest groups that spend billions to convince politicians to pass or oppose particular laws.

Of course any serious study of the Jewish Lobby cannot avoid comparison with Arab influence on Washington. I cannot understand how, in the face of extensive evidence to the contrary, you conclude in your unpublished paper "setting the record straight" 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.

You did not address, for example, my comments about Prince Bandar Bin Sultan who is reported to have participated in backstage intrigues, clandestine negotiations, and billion-dollar deals, all having to do with US interests in the Middle East and who was rated by Axis Information And Analysis (Aia), as almost the most influential foreigner in the USA.

I also mentioned that Aia refers to U.S.A.-Engage as one of the largest lobbying groups, uniting 640 giants of the American economy, a tenth of the leading banks, as well as associations of industrialists and farmers. The most prominent and influential members of U.S.A.-Engage work almost permanently in the Congress and have great influence over the mass media (partly because of their advertising expenditure).

On your own turfs in academia, Harvard and Georgetown each received gifts of $20 million from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. It is also common knowledge that the Carter Center has received large donations from Arab sources including the late King Fahd and his nephew, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal.

In Craig Unger's book, "House of Bush, House of Saud" Unger tells of Saudis investing as much as $800 billion into American Equities, not only in blue chip companies but also in companies not doing so well, but 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 you get out of office, the people in office will get the message".

In an interview with Sentient Times, Unger said that over the last 30 years, the Saudis spent $70 billion on propaganda, the biggest propaganda campaign in the history of the world. The Israel Lobby’s influence is less than puny by contrast.

Nor can the stranglehold of OPEC be ignored. This blatantly monopolistic cartel threatens not only the US, but also the world economy. With oil soaring around $150, it is mind-boggling to consider that production costs average only about $6 per barrel for non-OPEC producers; and $1.50 per barrel for OPEC producers according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists May/June 2005.

Surely, in light of such overwhelming evidence to the contrary, you cannot be comfortable continuing to claim that there is no well-organized, politically potent Arab Lobby.

7. Conclusion
I wholeheartedly support your call for a civilized discussion about the role of lobbies in American foreign policy, but I ask you to recognize that by focusing only on Israel, you are diverting attention from the serious threat of fundamentalist extremism as opposed to the moderate Muslim religion that needs recognition and encouragement.

May I hope that in your public appearances in Israel you will address all or at least some of the queries I have raised



Sincerely

Maurice Ostroff






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