The Deadliest Israel Lobby Conspiracy Theories
by Grant F Smith
Establishment news media outlets are awash in new Israel lobby conspiracy theories. This is puzzling since major media organizations seem capable of presenting informed yet contrasting views on many controversial issues. Is widespread firearms availability a major factor in mass shootings or is it people with hidden criminal intent?
Is deficit reduction or fiscal stimulus key to reviving the American economy? Should Obamacare or other approaches drive healthcare reform? Media routinely air a range of expert voices of all political persuasions. But American media has proven uniquely susceptible to propagating harmful Israel lobby conspiracy theories without opposing views. Absent informed challenges or balanced debunking, conspiracy theories have now taken dangerous prominence—displacing verifiable facts—in the minds of many Americans. Unless remedied, such narratives could result in another costly and unnecessary war and billions in misallocated taxpayer dollars at a time Americans can least afford it.
Two decades ago, AIPAC parlayed “Soviet Threat” theories into massive aid packages the US is still paying off. Today the Israel lobby has been relentless in spreading the conspiracy theory that Iran’s mullahs—driven purely by their hatred of Israel—have a secret nuclear weapons program. Currently 71% of Americans—according to one poll—believe that Iran has already deployed nuclear weapons, despite the consensus institutional analysis of American intelligence agencies and the IAEA. Endless bombast of this formerly fringe belief mandates a “time is running out” chronology for diplomatic efforts towards Iran. It has been the foundation of Israel-lobby mandated economic sanctions that have mainly harmed Iranian’s civilian population while realigning trade patterns in ways unfavorable to the U.S. Encouraging American false popular knowledge of “nuclear-armed Iran” makes the likelihood of another regional war much greater. This is especially frightening since equally unfounded fears about Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” were not nearly as rampant. In 2006 only 50% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded.
The corollary conspiracy theory is “Israel in danger.” A long-term mainstay in the call for aid, Israel lobbyists have more recently propagated Iranian president Ahmadinejad’s stated intention to “wipe Israel from the map” as fact. So useful is this meme that it has long since ceased to matter that it is a well-documented mistranslation. In the current slippery slope of events foreseen by proponents of “Israel in danger” theory, a nuclear-tipped Iran will first incinerate Tel Aviv before parlaying demonstrated atomic clout into dominating the entire energy-producing Gulf, forcing the U.S. out of the region. In this feverish scenario, only a U.S. taxpayer-funded “qualitative military edge” along with an ironclad U.S. commitment to attack Iran will guarantee Israel’s survival, or so this fusion paranoia recommends.
Of course in reality it is Israel—not Iran—that casts a chafing nuclear shadow across the entire region. Israel’s U.S. lobby has been unceasing in its efforts to provide illicit support (both material and financial) to build up Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Prime Minister Netanyahu played his own role in one prohibited technology smuggling ring targeting America. Cast aside the carefully crafted “Israel in danger” conspiracy theories, and it is obvious that Tehran (and all Arab capitals) are under a far greater threat of nuclear annihilation than Tel Aviv.
The Israel lobby operates on the assumption that “American politicians will always bankroll Israel.” The assumption is fueled by the lobby’s observation that most American voters are too ignorant, disenfranchised, and too busy to perceive that while Israel obviously greatly benefits from U.S. financial and diplomatic support, the U.S. pays increasingly untenable costs. The lobby relies on establishment news outlets’ self-censorship about Israel’s nuclear arsenal while advancing an unending flood of ridiculous propaganda packages, many actually crafted by paid foreign lobbyists to advance Israeli government interests. Israel’s lobby asks Americans to guarantee the qualitative military edge of a country already secretly bristling with hundreds of nuclear weapons—an impossibility—while denying, obfuscating and quashing overdue discussions about Israel’s de facto qualitative advantage.
The Israel lobby has also long believed one lever on America is supreme, as noted by legendary Israel lobbyist Abraham Feinberg—“My path to power was cooperation in terms of what they needed—campaign money.” The cash cow carried by Harry S Truman’s Israel lobby- funded and Feinberg-organized “whistle-stop” fund-raising tour trotted into LBJ’s White House safe, also stuffed with hundreds of thousands in Feinberg-raised cash. Dividends for continuing by propagating “Israel in danger” theories at the highest levels of the Reagan administration were particularly lucrative for AIPAC. 372 pages of files released by the Ronald Reagan Presidential library in January reveal AIPAC’s executive-level lobbying for massive unilateral trade preferences, integration into the U.S. military-industrial complex, grant money rather than loans, restrictions on US weapons sales to Arab states, and help in the Iran-Contra scheme (PDF). Yet the shelf life of “Soviet threat” and other core AIPAC rationales for massive US support was less than ten years as the USSR slowly collapsed.
Today, even as the lobby carefully coordinates funding, grooming and promotion of American politicians to in turn deliver outsized US taxpayer handouts to Israel, average Americans have finally noticed and are beginning to voice opposition. Continuing to buy politicians who will dutifully pass unpopular policies while U.S. public support collapses looks unsustainable. According to Congressional Research Service data, since 1949 US aid to Israel has increased at an average rate of 28% per year, leaping 11.4% from 2010 to 2013. Israel’s lobby is moving to exempt that aid from automatic spending cuts that are being applied to virtually all other U.S. government programs. Yet, according to a 2012 Chicago Council on Global Affairs survey of American public opinion and US foreign policy, the number of Americans who want aid to Israel increased has fallen from 18% in 2002 to only 11% in 2012. Americans wanting aid to stay the same (45%) barely outnumber the 41% who in 2012 said such aid should be decreased or stopped altogether.
Can careful framing and feeding of conspiracy theories into mass media and congress by debasing party platforms and highly coordinated campaign funding negate a growing wave of popular opposition? AIPAC tries mightily, but often fails to frame the message.
Dan Fischer recently ambushed American Israel Public Affairs Committee president Michael Kassen and demanded to know why Israel boycotted a major regional WMD-free zone conference. Kassen stammered and stalled as AIPAC staffers rushed in to seize Fischer’s smartphone video. AIPAC, the wellspring of Israel lobby conspiracy theories and agitation since 1963, lost the small skirmish as gleeful tweets ridiculing Kassen and AIPAC swiftly winged the video across the internet.
For decades propagating Israel lobby conspiracy theories has relied heavily on establishment media acquiescence, but been costly to credibility. According to a recent Gallup poll, the number of Americans who have “not very much/none at all” confidence in mass media skyrocketed from 50% in 2006 to 60% in 2012. The Israel lobby’s attempts to frame and shape the establishment media thereby forming a “consensus” for unconditional American support and war is ever more challenging in the age of irate citizen-journalists, blogs, ubiquitous Internet video and disgruntled taxpayers far more eager for facts than the latest self-serving Israel lobby conspiracy theories.
About the author
Grant F. Smith is the author of Spy Trade: How Israel’s Lobby Undermines America’s Economy, America’s Defense Line: The Justice Department’s Battle to Register the Israel Lobby as Agents of a Foreign Government and Foreign Agents: The American Israel Public Affairs Committee from the 1963 Fulbright Hearings to the 2005 Espionage Scandal.
He is currently director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington, D.C.
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