Now that the dust is starting to settle over the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense,it is useful to reflect on the bitter dispute that accompanied it,and to consider what it did – and did not – mean. Not much has been heard from Hagel's opponents,while his supporters have been trumpeting their victory. But silence does not imply submission,and there are more than a few indicators that claims of victory are at best premature,and at worst misleading,especially as they pertain to the alleged "special relationship" between Israel and the United States.
The "Special Relationship" That Wasn't
Whenever Israel's supporters today speak of a "special relationship" with the US that is supposedly graven in stone, it is useful to remember that something very different existed when Israel came into existence in 1948 on the gutted carcass of Palestine. The US recognized Israel, but that was about it. Hollywood was (and remains) largely a Jewish preserve, but their level of influence elsewhere – in the government, the media and academia – was limited. Prominent American Jews felt no obligation to endorse Israel or Israeli leaders, no matter what happened. Dozens (including Albert Einstein) signed a letter published in the New York Times in 1948 protesting the arrival of Menachem Begin and condemning his actions. And the general American public was largely indifferent to what happened in the Middle East.
The US government echoed these sentiments. Most Israeli military assistance in the 1950s and well into the 1960s came from a scattering of other countries (e.g., the Israeli aircraft that attacked the USS Liberty in June 1967 were procured from France), but not from the US – and American economic aid to Israel during those years was extremely limited. It is noteworthy that in the Suez Crisis of 1956, President Eisenhower – who as General Eisenhower had led the Allied forces in the West that broke Nazi Germany, and was more intimately familiar with the actual situation of European Jews in WWII than any other US president before or since – had no qualms at all about ordering Israel (along with Britain and France) to cease operations against Egypt and to withdraw. Nor did President Kennedy (another WWII veteran, albeit a junior one) hesitate to make it absolutely clear to Israeli leaders that he would not support or condone Israel's acquisition of a national nuclear force – a position that may well have cost him his life – but also a position consistent with his predecessors that the Israeli tail did not wag the American dog. And the Congress was essentially devoid of Israeli influence – indeed, an Israeli diplomat told me personally that at the time of the 1956 Suez Crisis, Israel had access to "only two minor Congressional offices" (his words).
Contriving A "Special Relationship"
None of this is true today. Both the Constitutional order and the political process in the US have been subverted. The effect is that the US Government is, for all practical purposes, virtually a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of Israel – a de facto colonial administration of a country that graciously allows the two main tribal groups (they are called “Republicans” and “Democrats”) to hold elections to determine which one will send properly screened loyalists to Washington. Like all sensible colonial powers, Israel largely lets Washington deal with domestic public policy as it wishes (usually badly). But on the world scene, what Israel wants from the US, it generally gets: the most advanced military technology, billions in economic assistance annually, and especially diplomatic protection – the US has vetoed scores of UN Security Council resolutions that Israel considered unfavorable, more than the other four permanent members of the Security Council combined, frequently in 14 to 1 votes. Rare efforts to change things, as when President Obama called the situation of the Palestinians “intolerable” and then called for a halt to Jewish settlements in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories, are ignored by Israel with utter impunity.
This situation began to emerge in the 1960s, as AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) morphed into existence and began a concerted effort with other major and minor Jewish organizations to shift public opinion and governmental support in Israel's favor – with the American Jewish community being a key target audience. It took several directions, first building on Jewish dominance in the film industry (which told a tale of WWII and the Middle East as only Israel would and could want it told), but extending well beyond that area, into television, the mainstream media and the publishing industry. So much of what Americans believe about world events is shaped by fiction and drama, not facts and documentaries, and for nearly four generations now, the message – growing in scope and strength as Jewish leverage in the above areas increased – has been consistent: Nazis and the Holocaust (as they define both) are controlling; Israel is an island of Western democracy defending itself against barbaric Muslims who are the new Nazis; and the land of Israel (what it has and what it wants) is both a divine mandate from the God Jews and Christians share (at least in part), and the sole refuge of and for Jews in an otherwise hostile and “existentially threatening” world.
It's fascinating to observe how these images have evolved and played out over the decades. Foreign-made films aside, I can think of only two instances in which Arabs have been portrayed in the US by popular actors in a slightly positive light in Hollywood movies: Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia and Sean Connery in The Wind and the Lion – and in both of these, they came on the scene as murderous barbarians, later fighting, respectively, Germany's Turkish allies in the first instance and (oddly enough) both German and French troops together in the second (I wonder what France did to upset them so?). But Nazis, alone or in concert with Arabs, and Arabs as mindless terrorists, pop up everywhere. It is a message repeated over and over, and it leaves an indelible impression on the viewing audience that increases and solidifies over the generations. We had at the beginning the movie Exodus with its rousing and easily remembered theme song, but we have not had – nor will we ever, as things stand – a movie in the US called Nakba. And one of the more memorable (to me) Hollywood efforts was Death Before Dishonor, pitting US Marines and Mossad operatives together against Arab "terrorists" assisted by neo-Nazis, the latter complete with black outfits and German accents, just in case anyone missed the analogy and the linkage of Nazis and Arabs. From such things are lasting public opinions shaped.
Influence in the mainstream media, both electronic and print, and the publishing industry has likewise grown over the decades, with Zionist ownership now encompassing all of the major networks, all of the major national newspapers, all three weekly news magazines, most of the major political journals, and many of the larger publishing houses. This leverage portrays and reinforces in "fact" and fiction what both the educated public and the general public see, hear and read about politics and history, and especially about the Middle East and Israel. The effect is significant and cumulative, especially when contrary opinions and images rarely appear – and even when they do, are far outweighed numerically by opinions and images favorable to Israeli positions. Just sit and watch portrayals of anything in the Middle East on Fox News or CNN, for example, and contemplate the fate of even senior journalists who criticize Israel openly or endorse anyone Israel does not like, and you'll understand the implications.
A third area which has often not been fully understood has been Israel's calculated cultivation of evangelical Protestant pastors in the US, based on the recognition that where the pastors led, their flocks would mostly follow, and with them both money for Israel and votes on Israel's behalf. Here the hydra-headed Jewish lobby (principally the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, of which the aforementioned AIPAC is only one of forty-nine members) has been exceptionally successful. Money, material gifts, honors and awards, and all-expense-paid trips to the Holy Land for pastors and their spouses have reaped extremely high benefits, culminating in the million-plus member CUFI (Christians United for Israel) and the near-unanimous support of evangelical Protestants for Israel and its causes, a major force within the US generally and a significant force in the state and national Republican Party specifically, which elected politicians defy at their mortal electoral peril. Seeing both US and Israeli flags flown together on the grounds of many evangelical Protestant churches speaks volumes.
Finally, there is the leverage in Washington of AIPAC, reinforced now by a growing number of PACs (Political Action Committees) and the so-called "Super PACs," freed by a 2010 US Supreme Court decision (Citizens United) from any constraints on the size of their donations to favored elected officials or their rivals. It is the function of lobbies everywhere to promise, reward, threaten and/or punish, depending on the positions taken by elected officials and their campaigns, and AIPAC and its allies perform this function with exceptional success. It helps greatly that they have a single purpose and keep their attention on that purpose, which is to endorse whatever Israel does or wants, no matter what its effect on the US as a country or the American public as a whole. And these people – in or out of the US Government – have had no qualms about spending American lives and treasure in Israel's interest, always with the proviso that they themselves stay well out of harm's way personally.
The Zionist Medusa
The net result of this growingly effective and concerted effort over four generations has been to have a Medusa-like effect on any serious discussion about Israel or debate on US support for Israel. Attempts to address openly Israeli transgressions in the press or the public forums are invariably stillborn or muted by an inability to reach the American people, combined with obstacles and assaults from almost-uniformly hostile elected politicians, multimedia press, and mostly Protestant pulpits. Lawsuits and character assassination are the rule. Even those attempting to criticize individual Israeli actions are effectively compelled to do so while loudly proclaiming their support for that Jewish state, or do so because they are essentially part of Israel's "loyal opposition" – faithful to the state of Israel but worried about its tactics and image. True critics of Israel simply do not get elected or appointed any more, anywhere at the national level in the US.
This has given AIPAC and its friends de facto control of the Congress (witness the twenty-nine standing ovations accorded to Israeli prime minister Netanyahu last year), and especially of the appointments process, the outcome of the Hagel confirmation battle notwithstanding. I cannot recall the last time a prominent member of the Congress – either house, either party or an independent – flatly condemned any Israeli action. It must be so difficult for Israelis, being so pure of heart and perfect in deed, that open criticism of them is politically unthinkable, and any that does occur can only be grounded in anti-Semitism and a lurking wish for genocide – or so they and their lobbies here would have the rest of us believe.
The executive branch is no better off. So many key appointments in the West Wing, the National Security Council, and the Departments of State & Defense (just for openers) are filled by AIPAC protégés or their "fellow travelers.” Even the Obama administration, supposedly so hostile to Israel, counted in its ranks in January 2009 Jews as chief of staff to the President, the First Lady and the Vice President – surely something other than random selection. And candidates for the presidency make what have become obligatory appearances before AIPAC conferences, pledging their support for Israel, and then compete with one another for Jewish monetary and media support. Romney in 2012 was only slightly more obsequious to Israel than his counterparts, while Obama used “no light between us” and “walking in lock-step” so often to characterize the US-Israel relationship that one would have thought his speechwriters were Israelis – and not just their anointed handlers here. Eisenhower and Kennedy must be turning over in their graves.
The "Special Relationship" After Hagel
Perhaps the best way to think of the US-Israel relationship today is not that it is "special," but rather that it is “unique” – the end product of a concerted effort over decades by a domestic Fifth Column which has effectively captured the US Government from within, and placed it in the service of a smaller foreign country in a modified host-parasite relationship. It actually brings to mind a novel I once read in which an alien creature consisted of two beings linked together: a hulking brute, powerful but with little capacity for independent thought or action, and a tiny but very intelligent bird that inserted its beak into the base of the brute's skull, drawing its nourishment there and providing guidance for the combined entity. Not a bad situation at all for the parasitic bird, but not one of dignity or honor for the hulking host – if, of course, the host could ever become aware of the situation.
It is somewhat comforting now for some people to assert that Hagel's confirmation as Secretary of Defense is a defeat for AIPAC and the neo-conservatives, and a refutation of the alleged “special relationship.” I suppose in some sense it is a setback for them, in that they did not get everything they wanted, and actually had to expose themselves publicly and politically when opposing Hagel. A Saturday Night Live parody of the Hagel hearings captured the ridiculousness of the effort extremely well, and would have doubtless influenced a number of people – had it not been cancelled after its dress rehearsal, shortly before going on the air.
But consider: Not a single criticism of Israel was uttered in those hearings. Any in the public paying attention heard the importance of Israel to the US, and our support of it, reaffirmed by Democrats and Republicans alike – my wife got a letter to that effect from a Republican senator to whom she had complained about the hearings – including Hagel himself. AIPAC and CUFI are still out there and active, and the Democrats – remember that about 80% of Jewish voters are Democrats – are no less sensitive to their continuing activities than their Republican counterparts. Nothing has changed in the media, or in the Executive Branch departments, nor is it likely to change. Embedded influences do not go away of their own accord; they need to be exorcised. Otherwise isolated instances like Hagel's confirmation are all too likely to prove to be Pyrrhic victories – and the so-called “Iran War Resolution” now being introduced by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham with bi-partisan co-sponsors can easily be the proof of that, especially if it is followed by yet another war Israel wants and the American people do not need.
*Alan Sabrosky (Ph.D, University of Michigan) is a ten-year US Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the US Army War College. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org