I don’t usually–actually rarely–comment on Israeli-Palestinian issues, mainly because it’s one foreign policy topic that goes beyond simple policy to most people. It evokes fury and passion from both sides. Even the distant observer is dragged into the morass of identity politics, religious ideology, human rights, and nationalism that is the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

The same can be said about the debate over American foreign policy on the issue. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s The Israel Lobby was caricatured as both “realist” (by those who liked its arguments) and “anti-Semitic” (by those who hated it). The thesis of The Israel Lobby was that a coalition of pro-Israel Jews, evangelical Christians, and neocons exercised a disproportionate influence over U.S. policy in the region. By skewing American foreign policy in the pro-Israel direction, the Lobby was harming U.S. national interests. Whether America’s strong support for Israel does damage to American national interests remains open to debate to many. It’s the question of whether the pro-Israel lobby is dramatically impacting U.S. policy that’s been of significant controversy recently. Those who believe in the Israel Lobby are described as suffering from the Israel Lobby Syndrome–that is, “the belief that the organized, insistent power of American Jews as deployed through organizations like AIPAC is primarily responsible for American support of the Jewish state.”–according to Walter Mead.

Mead argues that the folks who believe in the Lobby are missing the key point: that a majority of non-Jewish Americans support Israel. It’s not that American Jews are behind the policy, but that Americans are overwhelmingly pro-Israel. That’s perhaps because of their religious beliefs (evangelicals, for example) or their support for a fellow democracy. Poll after poll shows this. Some would counter-argue that, well, it’s the Zionist mainstream media that propagates pro-Israel views. Really? Since when does Sarah Palin, who describes herself as the antithesis of the mainstream media, get her “intellectual”–putting the words “intellectual” and “Palin” in the same sentence is so painful–views from the powers that be in the media?

[W]hatever the sources of Ms Palin’s opinions on a very wide range of subjects, the mainstream media has not played a major role in her intellectual formation. And what is true for her is true for a great many other Americans who disagree with the mainstream media virtually across the board. They are more likely to disagree with the mainstream media than to mindlessly parrot its views — so why does it seem even remotely credible to assert that Palin and so much of the rest of the country is pro-Israel because of Jewish media power?

Of course, while I think this is an ingenious point, and I completely agree that the media doesn’t control our opinions, here’s my critique: Ms. Palin’s views are shaped by Fox News, which, though part of the mainstream media, provides a socially conservative perspective. This merely means that while the mainstream media disagrees about social issues or even economic policy, it remains pro-Israel, regardless of its political leanings. Now, is this pro-Israel slant the result of a Jewish cabbal or merely a reflection of the pro-Israel values of most Americans? I side with the latter.

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