The Council for the National Interest (CNI) Foundation is a non-profit lobbying group, founded by former Republican Congressman Paul Findley and currently chaired by former Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey. It generally has a conservative, pro-Arab orientation, meant to counter AIPAC and other elements of the pro-Israel Lobby. It is formally committed to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine but tends to see the issue more simplistically than we would as part of the pro-Israel peace camp.
CNI published a full-page ad on the back cover of the “Week in Review” section of the New York Times, Sunday, April 16, that illustrates this point. It includes a quote from Daniel Levy’s recent article in Haaretz (Levy is a leading Israeli dove, closely associated with Yossi Beilin in formulating the Geneva peace initiative of 2003) uncomfortably placed directly above the disingenuous words of the new Hamas prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Ismail Haniyeh, stating that, “We in Hamas are for peace and want to put an end to the bloodshed. Though we are the victims, we offer our hands in peace….”
That CNI could spend up to $100,000 for an ad of this sort underscores the interests that CNI represents. This is the old-line, Arabist, pro-corporate, big oil anti-Israel camp organized into a lobby.
CNI’s criticisms are directed almost exclusively at Israel, rather than more fairly going in both directions. This ad blamed the current impasse in the Middle East entirely on the Israel Lobby and on US aid to Israel that is fungible for the building of settlements in the West Bank (the latter point is embarrassingly true).
Today’s news of the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, with at least nine dead and nearly 50 injured, together with the Hamas government’s reaction that the attack was an appropriate act of “self-defense” and “resistance,” expose the flaw in the CNI’s biased perspective. These are fresh outrages that can only lead to further suffering. Israel often responds with some new escalation.
No thoughtful analysis can ignore that since the Al-Aksa Intifada destroyed the peace process and relegated the Israeli peace movement to a minority fringe in 2000-2001, there has been a cycle of violence that has ensnared both sides, and to which both sides have contributed. We may disagree about who is more guilty, but it is wrong to completely condemn one side without mentioning the failings of the other. There is an ugly, bloody dialectic going on, that ultimately does not get resolved into peace and security for both peoples – which has to be our bottom-line concern.