Rupa Shah forwarded me a link to the first TV documentary I’ve ever seen which focussed on Walt-Mearsheimer’s The Israel Lobby and a general exposition of the role the lobby plays in American politics. Unfortunately, you can’t see it on American TV because it was made for Dutch TV. But thanks to the wonder that is Youtube, you can see the entire documentary yourself.
There is hardly a weak link in the entire production (there is some Dutch language narration, but there are English subtitles). But the money quote, the one that made my jaw drop slightly was this interview with Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff:
Richard Perle would say…if you got the truth out of him…”Israel’s interests and America’s interests are the same.” So if I’m an advocate for Israel’s interests I’m an advocate for America’s interests. And I would say back to them, again as a strategist: “BULLSHIT.” No two countries in history and no two countries in future history will ever have coincidental national interests all the time. No way.
Yeah, that was worth the price of admission and should make you find 50 minutes in your day to watch this thing.
Tony Judt makes an interesting historical analogy between the Roman relationship with Judea and the U.S. relationship with Israel. He says that Rome tolerated Judea’s troublesome behavior for a time because it did not threaten them. But once those in Judea indeed did threaten Roman interests in a serious way, the latter simply invaded and destroyed Judea to end the threat. Judt uses this analogy to posit a scenario whereby the U.S. at some future time might find that Israel has become too great a burden on national interests. At that time, the U.S. might abandon Israel to its fate. Even the Israel lobby with all their political muscle would be powerless to prevent it. Because Israel has no other major allies, this outcome, no matter how unlikely now, is something greatly to be feared.
Among those interviewed are Wilkerson, John Mearsheimer, Kenneth Roth, Tony Judt, Daniel Levy, Michael Massing, Earl Hilliard and Richard Perle. I thought they were each perfect choices for the role they played in the production. There probably should’ve been a few more voices critical of the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis like Dershowitz just for the sake of balance. But no matter, Perle played the role and did his feeble best and they gave him plenty of time to try to undermine the Israel Lobby critique. Interestingly, no member of Congress was willing to be interviewed for the program.
All this raises a larger question: why is it that the Dutch can see such a program and Americans can’t? Why hasn’t American public TV or cable seen fit to produce a documentary on this subject? Can it be because the subject isn’t newsworthy or is of marginal interest? I think not. Can it be that if they tried the Lobby would tie them up in such knots that they’d regret ever having made the effort to do such a program? You bet.