Diagnosing A Strange Foreign Policy Disease

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I'm sorry I missed this earlier. Walter Russell Mead gives a name to a disease infecting some so-called foreign-policy realists: Israel Lobby Syndrome:

Now in case any of my readers have missed the census news since 1790, there are not now and never have been all that many Jews in the United States.  Less than two percent of the roughly 300 million people in the United States are Jewish.  This means that Jews can at most account for two of that 63 percent of the population who sympathize with Israel.  Pro-Israel gentiles in America outnumber pro-Israel Jews by a factor of 20-1, and ever since polling on this issue began, the overwhelming majority of the Americans who support Israel against its enemies haven't been Jewish.

This brings us to a problem: why do so many people, especially self-described 'realists' when it comes to Middle East policy, find it mysterious that American foreign policy supports Israel?  Surely in a democratic republic, when policy over a long period of time tracks with public sentiment, there is very little to explain.  American politicians vote for pro-Israel policies because that is what voters want them to do.  Case closed, I would think.  Late breaking news flash: water runs downhill.

Yet many otherwise intelligent people are drawn over and over again to the idea that a mysteriously powerful Jewish lobby is somehow thwarting democracy to bend American foreign policy to its nefarious will.  Polls, reason, history, none of this matters.  America supports Israel because of 'the Jews'.


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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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