Is Meretz USA part of ‘Israel Lobby’?

Is Meretz USA part of ‘Israel Lobby’?

In their best-selling book, “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy,” Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt muddy the waters in how they define the “Lobby,” damningly including many organizations (including apparently our own) that work for what they (M & W) claim to support – a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians.

They continually try to protect themselves from the charge of anti-Semitism by saying that lobbies are part of the democratic process and that they mean no ill for Israel, and then go on in detail to attack both the “Lobby” and Israel— accusing them wrongly of being a “necessary but insufficient” cause for the war in Iraq. This tends to get Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Powell off the hook. It also resembles anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the past that accused Jews of conspiring and manipulating great events to the detriment of non-Jews— although I don’t see this as their intent.

There is a case to be made against AIPAC and a few groups that run with it. There is also a case to be made against the neocons, but they are not the same thing as the amorphous “Lobby” that they identify. AIPAC can be rightly criticized for making Israeli-Arab peacemaking more difficult but had virtually nothing to do with Iraq. The neocons strongly favored attacking Iraq, but they were not the decision makers, and they are not the same thing as a lobby for Israel. To be sure, they like Israel, but they also like Britain. And the highest-ranking neocon personage during Bush’s first term, Paul Wolfowitz, is likewise known for advocating rights for the Palestinians. In other words, M & W are often (usually in fact) off the mark.

In their book, they refer to Meretz USA twice. Once, as part of a list of dovish Jewish groups, including Americans for Peace Now (APN), that support a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. But the point here is really to assail even dovish parts of the “Lobby” for supposedly not conditioning US aid to Israel on an end to settlement expansion in the West Bank. Yet APN did, in fact, precisely support the withholding of US loan guarantees while settlements were being expanded, during the term of the senior President Bush. But of course, M & W had no idea, as they make the point that APN, Meretz USA, Ameinu, Israel Policy Forum and Brit Tzedek are really part of the Israel Lobby and therefore bad somehow.

Meretz USA did not exist during the senior Bush administration. Americans for Progressive Israel, a predecessor of Meretz USA, advocated a more complex point of view than APN: that because the loan guarantees were important to help settle the massive wave of about one million new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, this was but another reason for Israel to end expanding settlements in the occupied territories. API’s bottomline position was to oppose the settlements, arguing that their expansion endangered the loan guarantees.

M & W wrongly place the Jewish Voice for Peace in that list of dovish Jewish organizations that support a two-state solution because JVP is agnostic on two states and can be said to lean toward one state. Yet the JVP alone among those listed is praised by M & W for supporting the withholding of US aid to Israel as leverage against the settlements; they even suggest that JVP is, therefore, NOT part of the Lobby— high praise indeed in the eyes of M & W.

Their second mention of Meretz USA is in recounting how it was refused membership in the Conference of Presidents of Major American-Jewish Organizations; this had to do with Meretz USA’s dovish leanings. There is also a mention of the Union of Progressive Zionists being attacked by the Zionist Organization of America for sponsoring a tour of “Breaking the Silence,” former IDF soldiers protesting the occupation and that the UPZ was supported to remain in the coalition for on-campus Israel advocacy. This victory for the UPZ over the ZOA does not seem to have impacted their line of argument, however.

The fact that the UPZ was founded and supported by Meretz USA and Ameinu is not noted. That Jewish and even Zionist organizations consider themselves to support Israel’s well being but don’t automatically support Israeli government policies goes unexamined because it complicates M & W’s simplistic thesis.

By | 2007-10-26T04:13:00-04:00 October 26th, 2007|Blog|4 Comments


  1. Anonymous October 28, 2007 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    Hi Ralph,

    This is a nice, but humorous effort to support your point:

    “And the highest-ranking neocon personage during Bush’s first term, Paul Wolfowitz, is likewise known for advocating rights for the Palestinians. In other words, M & W are often (usually in fact) off the mark.”

    Wolfowitz also loudly claimed to be a supporter of Iraqi rights. But among the problems with that support was that he believed that a US military invasion of Iraq to install a US-supported puppet leader like Ahmed Chalabi would help Iraqi rights – US war would bring peace, democracy and human rights to Iraqis.

    This is reminiscent of, as just a few examples, Sharon’s adventures in Lebanon, and the US/Israeli effort to overthrow the democratically-elected Hamas government, etc..

    So claiming that neo-con Wolfowitz in the Bush administration advocated for Palestinian rights doesn’t really help your case.


  2. Ralph Seliger October 29, 2007 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    Ted has good reasons for his comment, but there is evidence that Wolfowitz sincerely believes in Palestinian rights: there’s the statement he made for the rights of Palestinians at a pro-Israel rally in 2002 (for which he was booed by some) and the testimony of his sister that he was never supportive of Likud.

  3. Anonymous October 31, 2007 at 12:09 am - Reply

    I think your criticisms of M&W amounts to nit-picking that focuses on small saplings that are dwarfed by the forest of mighty oaks. Sure the use of the term “Israel Lobby” is an imprecise shorthand, as are references to ours being a two party country. There are numerous minority parties, but there influence is negligible. So too the small voices of the progressive wing of the “Jewish Lobby”. It is a voice scorned and dismissed by the major Jewish organizations, and it is those ‘big-boys’ that the bulk of the Congress slavishly follows. Are you really suggesting that there is not a real (and powerful) Jewish Lobby that wields enormous power in Congress and that supports a dangerously chauvinistic approach to all things they remotely see as having an effect on Israel and that has been a resolute obstacle to an effective peace process or US pressure for peace.

  4. Ralph Seliger October 31, 2007 at 11:33 am - Reply

    The latest anonymous comment frustrates me. Either s/he isn’t reading me carefully enough or I’m failing to make it clear that Meretz USA is a critic of AIPAC and organizations that run with it.
    At the same time, we criticize M & W’s muddy and careless definition of what constitutes this so-called “Israel Lobby.” As the title indicates, M & W is totally off if they include Meretz USA in that definition, as we advocate exactly what M & W claim to support — a two-state solution.

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