Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

What the professors should have told us, but didn't

DEIR YASSIN - startling evidence
About Maurice Ostroff
The Jewish and Arab Lobbies 
By Maurice Ostroff

Arab influence on Washington

In a note in his diary, former President Carter disclosed how, in 1977, the Arab lobby pressured him while he was involved in the negotiations between President Sadat and PM Begin. He wrote about Arab Americans "They have given all the staff, Brzezinski, Warren Christopher, and others, a hard time.”


After the 1967 war, the Arabian American Oil Company ARAMCO established a fund to present the Arab side of the conflict. In May 1970, ARAMCO representatives warned Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco that American military sales to Israel would hurt U.S.-Arab relations and jeopardize U.S. oil supplies.


In 1973 Mobil published an advertorial (an advertisement written in the form of an objective opinion editorial) in the New York Times, promoting Arab interests. In July, the chairman of Standard Oil of California (SOCAL then, Chevron now) sent a letter to the company's 40,000 employees and 262,000 stockholders asking them to pressure Washington to support "the aspirations of the Arab people." The chairman of Texaco called for a reassessment of U.S. Middle East policy.


When the October 1973 War broke out, the chairmen of the ARAMCO partners sent a memorandum to the White House warning against increasing military aid to Israel. ARAMCO has maintained its public relations campaign since 1973, and has become involved in occasional legislative fights, such as the AWACS sale,


So too, the professors have ignored many prominent Arab lobbyists who have had and continue to have intimate access to US presidents.


For example On July 19, 2005 The Hill, a newspaper about the U.S. Congress, highlighted the activities of Fred Dutton, former Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs and special assistant to President Kennedy. It reported that one of Dutton’s chief chores since 1975 had been to serve as a lobbyist for Saudi Arabia. In that role, he sought to persuade Congress to approve two major arms sales to the kingdom.


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 Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).  In 1978, he helped BCCI acquire First American Bank. Clifford as chairman, reassured the Federal Reserve Board that there would be no control by BCCI, which he also represented, but ten years later, evidence disclosed that BCCI did indeed secretly control the parent company of Clifford's bank. BCCI had in the meantime been accused of fraud, drug money laundering and bribing bank regulators and central bankers. It was reported to have $20 billion in assets shortly before its shutdown, but liquidators were unable to find many of its assets.


Axis Information And Analysis, (Aia), which specializes in information about Asia and Eastern Europe, rated Prince Bandar Bin Sultan 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.


The authors’ claim that US policy towards Israel contributes to America's terrorist problem also deserves critical examination. As far back as 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 of about $4million is laughable.


In addition, there are of course several Arab American advocacy groups, of which the two most influential are the Arab American Institute and the recently merged American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and National Association of Arab-Americans, not to speak of the immense power behind the Arab oil wealth. The professors appear to mirror the message of this lobby, which argue that aid to Israel is a waste of taxpayers' money.


There is a perplexing ambiguity in the authors’ article. They write that they explicitly stated that by itself the Jewish lobby could not convince either the Clinton or the Bush administration to invade Iraq, but that there is abundant evidence that the neo-conservatives and other groups “within” the lobby played a central role in making the case for war. Does ”within” imply that the neo-conservatives and unnamed other groups are components of an all-embracing Jewish lobby?


Later in the article they claim that were it not for the Jewish lobby, the US would almost certainly not have gone to war against Iraq in March 2003. However, according to Aia, it was Bandar Bin Sultan who in 1990-91, pushed President Bush the elder, to start the military campaign against Iraq. This crucial information throws an entirely different light on the conflicting influences under which Washington operates. Or do the authors consider Bin Sultan part of the Jewish lobby?


Nor should one ignore the influence of the many other non-Arab lobbies with which the Jewish lobby must compete. Though not specifically concerned with Middle East politics they exert powerful influences on Washington, some of which may indirectly affect the Middle East. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) for example, has over 34 million members, whose $10 annual membership fees create a mighty financial tool for promoting its causes in Congress.


The ACLU and The National Rifle Association are also extremely powerful lobbies. 


The professors' focus on the Jewish Lobby

A Google search for the words “Mearsheimer and Walt + lobby” yielded 57,900 results all because of a paper, “The Israel lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” by Harvard professor Stephen Walt and University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer. In a response to critics, the authors admitted they knew their paper was likely to generate a strong reaction. Originally published in March by the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, an edited version in the London Review of Books (LRB), rocketed the authors to instant fame.


Strangely, although the paper bears the prestigious imprimatur of Harvard, it departs seriously from the standards of scholarship expected of the universities to which the authors are affiliated. In the 82 page working paper the authors evidently seek to build a case to confirm their preconceived views, that an Israel lobby unduly influences US foreign policy against its interests. No effort was made to substantiate their inaccurate accusations and they completely failed to present comparisons between the relative influences of Israeli lobbyists and the many other lobbies which influence Washington. 


But the most important aspect of the document is the relevant information that was omitted. The authors’ obsessive focus on the Israel lobby shifts attention from real dangers confronting the USA and the Western world by the powerful Arab Lobby and the Muslim extremism manifested in the recent Danish cartoons furor.   By this exclusion, the professors’ vicious attack on the Israel lobby serves as a dangerous smokescreen, dulling the public’s awareness of the serious dangers, which cry out for attention. If the professors are seriously concerned about undue influences on Washington, there is no excuse for overlooking these real dangers.


It is a sine qua non that scholarly integrity and intellectual honesty require a readiness to suppress one's biases and to follow the facts wherever they lead, taking care not to avoid evidence which may contradict preconceived views. Yet the professors were unable to conceal their collective bias as manifested, for example, in their refusal to acknowledge that the Israel government is located in Jerusalem. They wrote about relations between "Tel Aviv and Washington”, rather than “Jerusalem and Washington”, evidently fearing that the latter might be interpreted as recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.


It is incredible that in their academic study the professors ignored for example, the dramatic stranglehold of OPEC, the blatantly monopolistic cartel which threatens the world economy. This stranglehold began with OPEC’s 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 well above $60. 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 Scientisis May/June 2005). Not surprising that Saudi Arabia's revenue rose from $5 billion in 1973 to a record high of $93 billion in 1980. 


Of course there is a Jewish lobby, in fact there are several. Some even oppose each other. But it is plainly unscholarly to denounce any lobby in a serious 82 page document, without critically evaluating its position relative to the many competing influences, which are integral to the Washington scene.


What Others Say

Steven Emerson, the internationally recognized expert on terrorism and national security and a leading world authority on Islamic terrorist networks has provided detailed account of Arab influence in his book “The American House of Saud”.  He analyzes in depth the power of Arab petrodollars amounting to $661 billion between 1973 and 1984. Emerson is recognized as having specifically warned about the threat of Osama Bin Laden's network in Congressional testimony in 1998.



In a review of Emerson’s book, Daniel Pipes writes that Emerson chronicles anti-Israeli activities undertaken in recent years by prominent Americans who were receiving or prepared to receive Saudi money. They include J. William Fulbright, who wrote an article in Newsweek about the Camp David Summit in 1978 advocating a position very similar to that of the Saudi government. Although at that time he was a registered agent of the Saudi government and although he listed his Newsweek article with the Justice Department as an activity on the Saudis' behalf, Mr. Fulbright identified himself in the article only as a former U.S. Senator practicing law in Washington, D.C.


Other major figures tagged by Mr. Emerson as having joined the chase for Saudi money include Spiro Agnew, Bert Lance and Jimmy Carter. Mr. Emerson argues that Mr. Agnew - previously well disposed toward Israel - began fulminating against "Zionist influences in the United States" as part of his successful effort to attract Saudi business. He shows that Bert Lance received a $3.5 million loan from a Saudi financier, which he did not sign for. Subsequently, Mr. Lance spoke of "the great Jewish ownership of the press." And Mr. Emerson juxtaposes Jimmy Carter's effusive praise of the Saudi government in 1983 with the willingness of a Saudi financier to pick up the $50,000 tab for a Carter Presidential Library benefit. 


A number of former ambassadors to the Arab countries are also on the Saudi payroll. Mr. Emerson documents that one of them, Andrew I. Killgore, said in public that his company did not do public relations work for Saudi Arabia when in fact it did. Offered a chance by Pipes, to respond, Mr. Killgore did not deny the charge. Instead he accused Pipes of wishing to "silence" him.


The Israel lobby pales by comparison


In a March 29, 2006 op-ed in the LA Times Max Boot, a Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations succinctly summed up the issue. He wrote:

 “It's true that the U.S. has paid a price for supporting Israel, but it has paid an even bigger price for supporting other embattled allies. The U.S. has sent subsidies but never soldiers to protect Israel  unless you believe, with Mearsheimer-Walt, Pat Buchanan and David Duke, that the invasion of Iraq was a Zionist plot. We have sent troops to save, among others, Britain, France, South Korea, South Vietnam, Kuwait and Kosovo. Today we risk war in defense of nations from Latvia to Taiwan, even though there is no good reason why their fate should matter to us any more than that of Israel. Perhaps Mearsheimer and Walt will write another paper exposing the tentacles of the Latvian lobby. Or are they only exercised about the power of the Hebrews?


After finishing their magnum opus, I was left with just one question: Why would the omnipotent Israel lobby (which, they claim, works so successfully "to stifle criticism of Israel") allow such a scurrilous piece of pseudo-scholarship to be published? Then I noticed that Walt occupies a professorship endowed by Robert and Renee Belfer, Jewish philanthropists who are also supporters of Israel. The only explanation, I surmise, is that Walt must himself be an agent of those crafty Israelites, employed to make the anti-Israel case so unconvincingly that he discredits it. "The Lobby" works in mysterious ways.”


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