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'Open talks needed on Israel's apartheid'

The US public gets an incomplete picture of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because powerful pro-Israeli lobby, backed by Evangelicals, has effectively gagged the US media, said two leading US academics.

  • John Mearsheimer, Political Science Professor at the University of Chicago. Image Credit:XPRESS/Karen Dias
  • Stephen Walt, Professor of International Relations at Harvard. Image Credit:XPRESS/Karen Dias
  • John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of the bestseller ‘The Israel Lobby and US Foreign PolicyImage Credit:XPRESS/Karen Dias
XPRESS

The US public gets an incomplete picture of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because powerful pro-Israeli lobby, backed by Evangelicals, has effectively gagged the US media, said two leading US academics.

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of the bestseller ‘The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy', discussed the views presented in their book with members of the media at the Dubai Press Club, on Sunday.

“This lobby has made it almost impossible to talk in the open media about Israel and their foreign policies,'' said Mearsheimer, Political Science Professor at the University of Chicago.

“But that is starting to change. Five, 10 or 15 years ago, it was unthinkable to mention ‘apartheid' in relation to Israel. Now Carter has used it in the title of his book,'' he said, referring to former US president Jimmy Carter's book “Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid.''

“Bishop Tutu has used it and Steve (Stephen Walt) and I use it quite frequently. Things are opening up more and more,'' Mearsheimer said. “Israel is, in effect, creating an apartheid state,'' he added.

“Most Americans like to be able to talk about this issue no matter what side they are on,'' said Walt, Professor of International Relations at Harvard.

“When we visited Israel, we found that people there were much more open to discussing and criticising Israel's policies, than Americans are.''

Ironically, they said, the pro-Israeli lobby is not all Jewish, they say.

“They have a strong Christian Evangelical following,'' says Mearsheimer.

“The Israel lobby is not a cabal or conspiracy and is not doing anything wrong. It is perfectly legal. It's playing the US political game. They help people who agree with them to get elected,'' said Walt.

He explained that the lobby makes it difficult for those opposed to them to raise money for elections but make it easy for their political sympathizers to raise money.
The professors said their issue with the lobby is that the policies they are pushing are good neither for US interests nor those of Israel.

“The Iraq war was very bad for Israel because, by weakening Iraq, they empowered Iran, which is a bigger threat to Israel,'' says Mearsheimer.

They added that all the candidates are doing is advertising for the lobby - they are neither friends of the lobby or of Israel.

“Obama and McCain would be better friends to Israel if they tell them they are making foolish policies,'' says Walt.

According to the professors, the lobby has given $55million to campaigns since the mid-90s. In contrast, Arab Americans have only given $800,000.

“The Israel lobby is one of the most powerful lobbies in the US and certainly the most powerful foreign policy lobby. The oil lobby doesn't concern itself with foreign policy,'' says Mearsheimer.

“Money is very important in US politics.''

“Neo-Cons are a core part of the Israel lobby. They are very influential and held prominent positions in the (two) Bush administrations,'' says Walt.

“The lobby does an excellent job of monitoring the media and putting pressure on reporters and media persons who they feel has opposed them,'' says Walt, adding that some consider it career suicide to go against the lobby.

Asked for a solution, Walt's answer was straightforward: “More open discussions.''

“We hope that there might be a change in some members of the Israel lobby and that they would realise that what they are doing is not in the best interests of Israel or the US - and form parties that pursue the formation of two states (Palestine and Israel),'' he said.

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