The Power Of The Pro-Israel Lobby

Hitch provides an obvious example:

A few months ago, I wrote here that the recent sharp deterioration in Israeli-Turkish relations was at least partially explicable by a single fact: This year, a key House committee voted to refer to the Turkish massacre of the Armenians in 1915 as genocide. In previous years, that vote had gone the other way. The difference, I pointed out, was this: Until recently, the Israel lobby on the Hill had worked to protect Turkey from such condemnation. But after the public quarrel between Turkey's prime minister and Israel's president at Davos, the lobby was in no mood to do any more favors. In other words, a vote with major implications for U.S. foreign policypositive ones in my opinionwas determined by the supporters of a single power. I did not receive a single letter of complaint for making this observation, and I know nobody in Washington who would have quarreled with its obviousness.

So why the fuss over Rick Sanchez?

Surely the tone and generalities about media ownership, as Hitch notes, and as I posted. But this statement on its own seems completely banal to me:

Do not underestimate the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill. That is the best-organized lobby, you shouldn't underestimate the grip it has on American politicsno matter whether it's Republicans or Democrats.

Hitch is right to argue that this cannot empirically be in dispute among sane people in Washington - although the Belgian who said it, like Sanchez, draped it in self-evident anti-Semitic hooey. Sigh. Maybe that connection tells us something. But maybe it doesn't necessarily.

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Maybe it's bizarre that it remains close to taboo for anyone to say anything like this in Washington and not be branded an anti-Semite - or "something much darker" - while no one would feel similarly constrained about, say, the Cuba lobby. (Or maybe Hitch is hereby proving that thesis wrong. If so, hooray!) And yes, yes, I know all about anti-Semitic tropes, about the overtones of talking about shadowy lobbies working the halls of Congress etc etc. And one should indeed be careful not to unwittingly give aid and comfort to genuine bigots.

But please, walking the halls of Congress and quietly exercizing pressure is what all lobbies do. And if calling a very powerful lobby a very powerful lobby is inherently anti-Semitic when we're talking about the pro-Israel lobby, then how on earth can we accurately report what's going on? More to the point, how can we effectively push back against the bizarre insistence, for example, that demanding a mere freeze on West Bank settlement construction is some new "war on Israel", rather than the minimum a self-confident US government should demand of an ally in pursuit of US interests in the region and the world?