We have all heard about Jewish influence in American politics but, for most of us, it is not exactly clear how it works. And rightly so. It is hard to understand how an ethnic minority (comprising roughly 3% of the American population) can wield so much power. For that, some context is required.
The fact is that, even though they represent such a small part of the population, Jews account for half of the USA’s billionaires and they are well placed within the media industry. Political Science professor (and Jew) Benjanmin Ginsberg wrote in his 1993 book The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State that “chief executive officers of the three major television networks and the four largest film studios are Jews, as are the owners of the nation’s largest newspaper chain and the most influential single newspaper, the New York Times” (Ginsberg, 1993).
This overpowering presence in the media is a reality in other countries as well. John Pilger’s documentary The War You Don’t See, reveals that there has been cases reporters ask their editors what they could and could not say, such is pressure the lobby exerts on media organisations (see this video, part of John Pilger’s documentary The War You Don’t See, broadcast by ITV)
Getting back to the United States, political pressure is not only exerted through the media. Most political campaigns are funded by Jewish entrepreneurs/businessmen and, since the creation of Israel, no presidential candidate has won without mentioning Israel as an ally.
Besides directly funding political campaigns, there are also several organizations that make sure Israel’s interests are promoted in American policy: the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), the WINEP (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), JINSA (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs), the RJC (Republican Jewish Coalition) and the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), among others. It is also worth noting that these type of institutions exist in several other countries.
What these organisations, and Israel itself, seek is to make sure that the Jewish State is portrayed in a positive way. Also, when it comes to the United States, to make sure it continues to receive the 3 to 4 billion dollars of aid it is given, annually. As Stephen Walt put it, Israel continues to receive this aid “even though it is now a wealthy country” and despite continuing “to take actions the United States opposes” (building settlements in the Occupied Territories). Israel is also allowed to pursue several policies that make the two state solution (favoured by the US and most of the world) impossible, while at the same time taking advantage of the US’s diplomatic coverage in international institutions.
The lobby plays a huge role in US foreign policy, having been one of the major drivers behind the invasion of Iraq, for example. Its latest target is the possible diplomatic deal that the US could reach with Iran. Even if such a deal might be better for the United States or, in fact, the World.
One should not, however, make the mistake of thinking about the Jewish lobby as “all powerful”. It is not always able to get what it wants, even if it is able to keep the above mentioned aid and support from the US, and most of the western world. Still, it is important to grasp that it has been successful in clouding our judgement of the Israeli-Palestine conflict. We tend to see the news as Israel wants us to see them. Most of the times this means that we hear about all of the suicide attacks but only about major Israeli military operations. It also means that sometimes the language is distorted to make us feel closer to the Israelis (more Western like, “similar to us”) than to the Palestinians (the Arabs, “the others”). It also means that several of the Jewish State’s problems stay hidden from us. The new racist trend against African migrants being one of them (see this video about the Persecution of African Migrants in the Holy Land, a report by The Nation)