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Opinion

Stephen Walt's 'Israel lobby' paranoia

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Israel,Lobbying,Middle East,Media,Charles Hoskinson,Hamas

Harvard professor and alleged foreign policy "realist" Stephen Walt loves to complain about the "Israel lobby."

He even co-wrote a book about it, with University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer, which suggests that the lobby has hurt U.S. interests by steering U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction.

So it's no surprise that the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas would bring another blast by Walt, this time in the Huffington Post, blaming the lobby, and more specifically the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, for the Obama administration's reaction.

"There is no other plausible explanation for the supine behavior of the U.S. Congress — including some of its most 'progressive' members — or the shallow hypocrisy of the Obama administration, especially those officials known for their purported commitment to human rights," Walt writes.

"The explanation for America's impotent and morally bankrupt policy is the political clout of the Israel lobby. Barack Obama knows that if he were to side with the Palestinians in Gaza or criticize Israel's actions in any way, he would face a firestorm of criticism from the lobby and his chances of getting Congressional approval for a deal with Iran would evaporate."

He's been singing that same tune for eight years now, and it's just as off-key today as it was when it first hit the charts in March 2006 as a paper in the London Review of Books.

Supporters of Israel use the same legal influence-peddling tactics as any other successful lobby in Washington, such as those focused on abortion or gun rights. Walt just doesn't like the result, and that's okay, too. But it's not okay to suggest there's something underhanded and dirty about it without any evidence.

And Walt has never offered any evidence — just a paranoid suspicion that something dark is going on to make Americans favor Israel over the Palestinians, as decades of poll results show they have consistently done.

Meanwhile, the evidence we can see strongly indicates that Americans are able to make up their own minds. A Gallup poll released Thursday shows that Americans are split on whether Israel's actions against Hamas are justified, with 42 percent saying they are, 39 percent saying no and 20 percent with no opinion. Meanwhile, 70 percent say Hamas' actions are unjustified, versus 11 percent who say they are.

A CNN poll conducted July 18-20 found that 57 percent think Israel's actions against Hamas were justified, versus only 34 percent who said they were not.

But Walt wants us to believe the Israel lobby is responsible for these attitudes. Apparently it's controlling our minds, making us unable to think for ourselves.

It has nothing to do with the fact that -- in spite of the horrifying stories and Images of dead and injured children from the Gaza fighting -- most Americans know that Hamas is a brutal gang of medieval theocrats who've done absolutely nothing to advance the lives of Palestinians in Gaza -- while spending aid money to stockpile arms and build tunnels to infiltrate fighters into Israel.

It also has nothing to do with the fact that while many American Jews sympathize with the suffering of Gaza Palestinians caught in the crossfire with nowhere else to go, they also worry because militant leaders seem always to get confused when trying to tell their followers who should be killed, and use the terms "Zionists," "Israelis" and "Jews" interchangeably. Or when Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a prominent scholar from Hamas' parent Muslim Brotherhood, prays that God allow Muslims to do to Jews today what Hitler did in the Holocaust during World War II.

Walt, the "realist" with a Ph.D., wants us to believe him, not our lying eyes.

That's not a very realistic attitude, is it?

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