The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East, Mitchell Bard, Haper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, Pp 412 (HB), $27.99
THE Arab population in the US is concentrated in five states – California, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey and New York, which are all key electoral colleges. The Muslim lobbies have attempted to portray the victory of the candidates from these constituencies as owing to their votes.
In 2008, the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections claimed that 89 per cent of Muslims voted for Obama, while only 2 per cent voted for John McCain. This, despite the fact that Obama emphasised his Christian beliefs and according to reports during election rallies, women with headscarves were prevented from sitting behind him in front rows, where their images would come on the camera.
Reagan, George H W Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W Bush have all directly or indirectly received huge funds from the Arabs on various pretexts, like Presidential Library and literacy campaign run by their wives etc. George Bush senior’s high school also was a beneficiary of the Arab largesse.
The author also describes the ‘revolving-door’ phenomena in the government set up in the US. “The employment of former government officials serves the Arab lobby in a number of ways… they are effective propagandists; the media calls on them as former officials to comment on Middle East affairs and usually treats them as nonpartisan experts rather than paid spokespeople for Arab interests.” Charles Lewis, executive director of the Centre for Public Integrity, a Washington-based government watchdog group, observed that the cozy relations between former officials and the Saudi have helped to quiet criticism of the kingdom’s role in terrorism. “The chances to cash in and the amount you can cash in for are starting to become absolutely astronomical. Who wants to look like the Boy Scout complaining about it and potentially jeopardize their own post-employment prospects?”
The book gives the cases of several senior officials in the government who have passed through the revolving door and ended on the ‘other side’ of the mat. William Cohen, former defence secretary, Joseph Ralston, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Clark Clifford, the political analyst who played a crucial role in persuading President Truman to recognise Israel, Louis Freeh, former director of FBI, William Simon, former treasury secretary, the list goes on and on. Rather scary. The most ironic is the case of Raymond Close, a CIA official, posted as station chief in Riyadh. On the day of his retirement, he crossed the street and joined the Saudi intelligence chief on a business relationship!
The Arab lobby is working overtime in the academic world, entering the school and university campuses in a big way to influence the opinion of the students and scholars. At the forefront of this project is the Muslim Students Association, (MSA) formed in 1963. Like the lobbyists for the Arabs, these organisations do not do positive work or projection. Their main agenda is to demolish Israel. They do not highlight the various social issues in Islam, especially in the Arab countries that violate the basic human rights. The fact that there is zero religious freedom, marginal tolerance for other cultures and abysmal scope for personal rights of an individual are all non-issues. They hold ‘Palestine weeks’ and ‘Israel apartheid weeks’ during which the Jews are isolated. Even institutions such as Harvard received funds from the Arabs to set up centres for Middle East Studies, Islamic studies etc. Several academic posts are tied to these donations, which are filled by robust anti-Israel persons. The book gives a partial list of universities that have received huge amounts of donations from various sources in the Arab region. And these donations have naturally influenced the content and material of academics in the recipient universities. The list includes such big names as Harvard Law School, MIT, Princeton University, Columbia University, UC Berkeley, Duke University, Carnegie Melon University and Georgetown University.
At the school level too, the Arab lobby has entered into direct dealing with schools and parents, bypassing the school and public system. Books totally funded and printed by the lobby are being distributed as study material in grade classes. These, obviously contain glowing references to Islam and Muslims and are contemptuous of Jews and Christians and dismiss any connection or claim of Jews over Israel.
In conclusion the author says, “Lobbies often compete to try to influence American interests not only in the Middle East but elsewhere around the world. For too long, however, the Arab lobby has been allowed to operate behind the scenes, beyond public scrutiny, to guide American policy in directions counter to the views of the public and to the nation’s detriment…now that it has been exposed, it is time to shake off the influence of the Arab lobby and to bolster ties with countries that do share our values and interests.”
The book is a mine of information and obviously the author has done painstaking research. The author is an authority on US-Israel relations and has written more than 20 books. While lobbying is a legal activity in the US, what comes as a shock is, the persons involved in canvassing for the Arabs. They are all men who have had senior and important positions in the government, which gives them immense influence in the system. This is perhaps the first time the Arab lobby has been exposed. Will the US system attempt a clean up? Or is it too late?
(Haper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022)