Memo to blind Zionists; never-ending occupation is having a PR problem

Interesting piece in Salon that will be familiar to many of us but the key theme is that debate in the US over Israel/Palestine is shifting and the Israeli Foreign Ministry can’t dictate as much as before:

Criticism of the special relationship, once rare, is now frequent. Newsweek/Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan  has become a regularsource of attacks on the unqualified U.S. support for Israeli policy. Time magazine’s Joe Klein has been similarly outspoken. “If you don’t think that the Israel Lobby has an enormous influence on the Congress, you’re deluding yourself,” he wrote recently.

Peter Beinart, also of Newsweek/Daily Beast, inspired headlines with hiscritique of the “Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.” He has a forthcoming book sure to get a lot of attention called “The Crisis of Zionism.” Former New York Observer writer Philip Weiss has created a one-stop shop for critics of Israel and U.S. policy. And, of course, Salon’s own Glenn Greenwaldregularly questions the bipartisan consensus on Israel.

As one would expect, these developments are causing a great deal of consternation from those determined that views favorable to the Palestinians never get a hearing. In 2006, the American Jewish Committee released itsinfamous report accusing these new critics of Israel of being simply anti-Semitic. Last year, Lee Smith of Tablet magazine made the odd charge that publications like the Atlantic and Salon encourage Jew-hating writers in the hopes of increasing page views. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol has lamented that charging Israel’s critics with “anti-Semitism” doesn’t effectively silence them any longer. And this week Iran-Contra convict Elliott Abrams criticized Friedman and Klein because they exemplify the mainstreaming of Walt and Mearsheimer’s ideas.

But it isn’t only pundits and academics. Diplomats and the people who would be on the center-right of American politics (if such a thing still existed) have been vocal about their alienation from U.S. discussion of Israel. Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution, an advisor to three presidents on Middle East and South Asian issues, told me in an email that “Fear of angering extreme evangelicals and the old lobby still inhibit real debate about Israel in American politics.”

Paul Pillar, former CIA bigwig, has become a stark critic of Israel for the National Interest. He has defended the comparison of Israel’s occupation policies with apartheid South Africa, and says that he agrees with all of Walt and Mearsheimer’s analysis, including the most incendiary charge — that the Israel lobby was instrumental in pushing the U.S. to invade Iraq.

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