Monday, April 30, 2007

Pro-peace lobby is needed

By Emad Omar

Jimmy Carter, the previous American president who received the Nobel Peace Prize and initiated putting human rights on the US agenda during his term, was the first to break the state of hostility between Israel and the Arabs with the first peace treaty in the history of this conflict. In 1978, the famous peace treaty between the Egyptians and the Israelis was a great opportunity for Israel to obtain recognition and end the state of war. Yet in spite of this, the pro-Israel lobby in US raised hell against Carter after publishing his latest book “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid.” In the book, he told of the successive Israeli governments that have routinely undermined the peace process through obstinate aggressive and illegal occupation of the territories seized in 1967. The lobby’s reaction confirmed what Carter mentioned in his book and in a number of his press interviews, that “the Jewish general public is more eager for peace than their political leaders.”

The former American Secretary of the State, James Baker, was the engineer of the second reduction in hostility between Israel and Arab states. Baker sponsored the direct negotiations between Israel and neighboring Arab countries in 1991, giving Israel an historic opportunity to be recognized and accepted in the region. Despite that, a considerable wing of the lobby, during that time, led a campaign against him. They accused him of vilifying the Jews in a private meeting when he claimed that they do not vote for the Republicans. Recently, Baker, with his colleague Lee Hamilton, in the Bi-partisan Iraq study group, found that “the United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict,” he was attacked by this wing that seems careless about American interests in the region and sees only the strategic bi-lateral relation between Israel and US as its only concern.

Carter and Baker are among the most respected American politicians when it comes to American foreign policy. Their careers in diplomacy are behind them now and they can afford to tell the truth and focus on the real and possible solutions.

George Soros, a rich American Jew, experienced suffering in eastern Europe during the fascist reign and the Holocaust, which gave him extreme sensitivity towards the oppressed. As such, he supported black students in South Africa against the Apartheid regime and the dissident movements in Eastern Europe against the communist tolatarian regimes. “I have a great deal of sympathy for my fellow Jews and deep concern for the survival of Israel,” Soros says. Lately, he criticized in an article published in the New York Review of Books, dated April 12, 2007, saying, “Recently, the pro-Israel lobby has gone on the offensive, accusing the so-called progressive critics of Israel’s policies of fomenting anti-Semitism and endangering the very existence of the Jewish state.” He warned that “There is the growing danger of a regional conflagration in which Israel and the US could well be on the losing side.” Supporters of the pro-Israel lobby attacked Soros by comparing his criticisms to the so-called blood libels directed against Jews in medieval Europe.

President of the esteemed Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haas recently noted, “Diplomacy also needs to be revived in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is still the issue that most shapes (and radicalizes) public opinion in the region…The United States should articulate those principles it believes ought to constitute the elements of a final settlement, including the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines.” Pro-Israel lobby has publicly disagreed with Haas's conclusions.

One year ago, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, two prominent academics from Chicago and Harvard universities respectively, prepared a joint research paper about the lobby supporting Israel in America. In a documented and scientific way, they criticized the negative role played by the Israeli lobby today in American democratic life and in America’s foreign policy. In a joint essay published in the London Review of Books, they wrote that, “The Lobby’s influence has been bad for Israel. Its ability to persuade Washington to support an expansionist agenda has discouraged Israel from seizing opportunities – including a peace treaty with Syria and a prompt and full implementation of the Oslo Accords – that would have saved Israeli lives and shrunk the ranks of Palestinian extremists.”

As a result of this, they were targeted by a fierce campaign that made it almost impossible for both to publish their research in US.

The pro-Israel lobby in America that has attacked any sort of criticism of Israeli policies is like the father who exaggerates in protecting his children and spoils them, turning them into a troublemakers in the neighborhood and bringing their parents a bad reputation. This lobby’s policy contributes to maintaining the dangerous stagnation and status quo, the very problem King Abdullah II of Jordan warned of in his historical speech to the American Congress last March, when he said, “The status quo is pulling the region and the world towards greater danger... The cycle of crisis is spinning faster.”

The Arabs today are promoting their historic peace initiative, which is an historical opportunity, and the Israeli lobby in the US should push for a positive Israeli response in order to transform it into a regional peace plan instead of indulging in blindly defending the status quo and thus taking Israel, the region, and American interests into an endless hell that it may not recover from for many decades to come.

* Emad Omar is a conflict resolution and media expert based in Amman, Jordan.

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