Nothing but the Facts? Not Remotely — The Info Is Sketchy at Best


Scholar Amitai Etzioni writes on on Oct. 4 that the main accusation of The Israel Lobby thesis is not backed up by the data:

"To those of us for whom the claim that the Israel lobby is all-powerful is neither a well-established truism nor an ugly piece of anti-Semitism, the evidence presented in support of this claim matters a great deal. Surely, Washington has more lobbies than a derelict dog has fleas. Lobbying is a constitutionally protected activity, like the right to free speech and the right to vote. Hence, the pivotal question is whether the Israel lobby is significantly more powerful than others, and whether it is able to checkmate the usually pro-Arab oil companies, the arms manufacturers and the other relevant lobbies that affect our foreign policy.

"There are quite a few who have taken for granted the veracity of claims that the Israel lobby is all-powerful on the grounds that a new book making this case has been written by two highly regarded scholars: John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. In fact, the quantitative data they cite amount to (at best) a very thin reed on which to hang such a mighty claim. Indeed, I will donate my house to anyone who can find a half-respectable social-science publication that would publish what these two present as evidence.

"The authors write: 'In 1997, Fortune magazine asked members of Congress and their staffs to list the most powerful lobbies in Washington. AIPAC was ranked second behind the American Association of Retired People, but ahead of the AFL-CIO and the National Rifle Association. A National Journal study in March of 2005 reached a similar conclusion, placing AIPAC in second place (tied with AARP) in the Washington 'muscle-rankings.'

"In fact, the Fortune survey was not made of Congress members and their staffs, but of 2,165 'Washington insiders' (chosen by two panels whose membership has not been disclosed), a group that includes an unknown number of congressional members and staffers, among an unknown number of others. More importantly, in both surveys roughly six out of every seven persons asked, i.e., most of those asked, did not respond. No respectable social scientist (and many unrespectable ones) would dare to suggest that they have a sense of what any given group holds on the basis of the responses from such a small minority.

"Moreover, social science has numerous procedures to correct for such a deficit of responses. One can return to the same group and elicit more answers, draw another sample, or study the differences between those who did and did not respond — and adjust the conclusions accordingly. None of these methods were employed here.

"Some will say that all of this is nothing other than typical social-science hair-splitting. But these data go to the heart of the matter. Is the Israel lobby just one among a whole slew of lobbies, each pulling Washington its own way? Is it one of the more effective ones? Or can it trump all the others? What the data show is surprisingly little. The book stands much more on accusatory anecdotes than, as the authors' claim, on evidence."

Say the Magic Word; Presto, a State!


Editor-in-chief of The New Republic ( Martin Peretz writes on Oct. 17 about the realities of a forthcoming peace conference:

"When [former Secretary of State Madeleine K.] Albright became desperate, she clutched onto the Israelis and squeezed them to rescue the Clinton administration from its embarrassments. All you have to do is read the 9/11 report to see the extent of despair and the blighted hopes that put Ehud Barak in captivity.

"Now, the Bushies are looking down the last corridor of their disastrous tenure in the White House. And, instead of Madeleine, [Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice is performing the emergency-room ablutions, this time also on the peace process that somehow, like in Clinton's time from Oslo to Camp David, seems never to proceed.

"It occurred to me, however, that, like the proceedings on the White House lawn on Sept. 13, 1993, the [upcoming Annapolis peace summit] might also end on an optimistic note. No one has an incentive to displease the secretary or her president. But if, for example, Saudi Arabia is not present, it will be very difficult to pretend that anything much has happened among the Arabs. Still, odds are that they will pretend.

"Whatever the optimistic closing words of the conference, there will be a declaration of some formula for a Palestinian state when there is one reality for which no agreement can compensate.

"Forget for the moment the fissure between the Gaza Palestinians and the West Bank Palestinians, the Jerusalem Palestinians and the tribal Palestinians.

"So back to the one reality, and it is this: The Palestinians have, in nearly a hundred years of Jewish self-government (that is, going back almost 40 years before Israeli independence), not once established and secured a single national institution on the land they want as their own. This is a fatal flaw, and it cannot be overcome by abracadabra."

The Story Behind Russia and Iran

Editor-at-large Arnaud de Borchgrave writes in the Washington Times ( on Oct. 19 about Vladimir Putin's Tehran junket:

"The last such visit by a Russian leader was by Josef Stalin in December 1943 for a secret summit with Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. A second summit, 64 years later, could also prove momentous — down the road.

"Mr. Putin's objective appeared to be to deter a future U.S. bombing of Iran's nuclear facilities. He warned the United States not to use a former Soviet Republic to mount such an attack. Azerbaijan had been rumored as a staging base.

"After his one-on-one with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mr. Putin chaired a summit of the presidents of the five Caspian Sea states — Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. They all warned the United States not to attack Iran, and agreed that the Non-Proliferation Treaty is 'one of the basic pillars of international security and stability.' This also gives them the right to pursue 'research, production and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes' under the less-than-watchful eye of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"The fiction was maintained that oil-rich Iran's secret nuclear facilities are devoted solely to developing an alternative source of energy. Russia has sold Iran about $1 billion worth of anti-aircraft missile batteries, and its military sales to the mullahs are expected to run at $1.5 billion a year for the next 10 years. China has inked a 10-year, $100 billion deal for Iranian oil. Germany remains lukewarm on a tougher sanctions regime as some 1,700 German companies still do good business in Iran. That leaves the United States, France and Britain to squeeze Iran's economy.

"For President Bush, the military option is still very much on the table. But following Mr. Putin's summit in Tehran, any U.S. military action against Iran most probably would be greeted in the Kremlin by a revival of long dormant Cold War tensions."



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