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January 23, 2014 8:27 am

The UK Media is Obsessed With the ‘Israel Lobby’

avatar by Adam Levick

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Israeli and American flags fly in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Just yesterday, we posted about a cartoon published at the Economist on Jan. 18 (which they later retracted) with imagery suggesting that pro-Israeli (or Jewish) interests control US Congress.  We noted that such narratives, on the injurious influence of organized Jewry (and their money), have become something akin to an enforced orthodoxy within many circles, especially among the “enlightened“ British opinion elite.

Additionally, Donald Macintyre (Jerusalem correspondent for the Independent) published a report on Jan. 21 titled “William Hague swims around the fishy issue of Iran,” which began thus:

To contrast the attitudes of the US Congress and the British Parliament, start with Iran. Today, the palpable welcome by MPs for Tehran’s suspension of high-level  uranium enrichment was matched only by anxiety about the UN excluding Iran from the Syria talks that start today in Switzerland.

The unease emanated not only in Labour but on the government benches. John Baron, who pressed William Hague for early “normalisation” of UK-Iran diplomatic relations after an “encouraging start” to nuclear negotiations, is his own man. But he was backed by fellow Tory Phillip Lee who deplored the “overnight debacle” of the cancelled invitation and wanted “a Gorbachev-like” approach to “reform-minded Iranian politicians”.

Many MPs, in other words, want to go further, faster in rapprochement, with Iran. Contrast that with Congress, where many members have been pressing for sanctions to be tightened. All of this makes it hard not to conclude that one difference is the much greater power wielded by the Israel lobby in the US legislature than in its British counterpart.

First, the Indy journalist conflates two separate issues: talks taking place in Switzerland today aimed at resolving the Syrian Civil War (known as Geneva II) on one hand, and an interim nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers (the P5+1) on the other.  While the role played by the ‘Israel lobby’ in influencing Congressional support for increased US sanctions against Iran is itself far less than clear, there is no evidence of any such lobbying on either side of the Atlantic to scuttle Iran’s participation in Geneva II.

More importantly, it’s quite remarkable that Macintyre — a journalist known for his exclusive investigations — failed to provide even a hint of evidence to back up his claim that only the contrasting strengths of the US and British “Israel lobbies” could explain the differing government approaches to issues related to Iran. It’s as if, for Macintyre and those similarly subscribing to “the party of Mearsheimer and the clique of Walt,” no other explanation is even conceivable.

A more astute observer of the American political scene, however, would of course recognize that the “power” of the lobby is primarily merely a reflection of the organic popularity of the issues they’re campaigning for. In fact, polls of American public opinion consistently demonstrate that Israel is extremely popular among all groups, while Iran is consistently disliked.  The following poll of Americans conducted by Gallup in 2013 reveals that Iran is in fact the least popular foreign country, while Israel is the sixth most popular foreign country.

gallup

Such data indicating that Iran is extremely unpopular would of course help contextualize more recent polls indicating that a plurality of Americans disapprove of the agreement between the U.S. and Iran over its nuclear program due, it seems, to their skepticism that Tehran would actually abide by the terms of any such deal.  Gallup reported that “62% of those polled believe that Iranian leaders are not serious about addressing international concerns about their country’s nuclear enrichment program compared with just 29% who think they are serious.”

It should be clear to the Indy journalist that Congressional support for Iran sanctions accurately reflects American public opinion on the issue, and, more broadly, that the conventional wisdom about supposed “root causes” of US policy – which risibly often passes as “progressive” political thought – is facile, often tinged with bigotry and empirically inaccurate.

Adam Levick is the managing editor of CiF Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

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