The United States supports Israel in a variety of ways. We give them all sorts of military and economic support, roughly 3 billion dollars a year. Israel, despite the fact, it is a relatively rich country, receives more foreign aid than any other other country in the world. We veto resolutions in the United Nations all the time that are critical to Israel. Is one allowed to question that reality, or is the pro-Israel lobby so strong, financially and politically, that the relationship with Israel is taboo and therefore unmentionable? And what happens to those who dare expose the unmentionable?
In March 2006 the American political scientists John Mearsheimer (University of Chicago) and Steve Walt (Harvard) published the controversial article ‘The Israel Lobby and US foreign policy’. In it they state that it is not, or no longer, expedient for the US to support and protect present-day Israel. Together with the power shifts in Congress and the increasing doubts about the current Middle-East policy, this could become the fuse in the powder keg. Backlight talks to the people concerned in this ‘new realism’ debate.
The documentary sheds light on both parties involved in the discussion: those who wish to maintain the strong tie between the US and Israel (Neocon Richard Perle, televangelist John Hagee, and lobby organization AIPAC), and those who were critical of it and not infrequently became ‘victims’ of the lobby. Member of Congress Earl Hilliard from Alabama advocated a rapprochement with the Arab world and was promptly ousted by a political adversary who had the support of Aipac money. Historian Tony Judt, who tried to maintain that Israel was becoming a belligerent and intolerant ethno-state, driven by religion, found a lecture cancelled at the last minute. And Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth was personally attacked after he had criticised the violence Israel had used in the mini-war against Lebanon last summer.
Finally the question arises to what extend the pro-Israel lobby ultimately determines the military and political importance of Israel itself. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson (Colin Powell’s ex chief-of-staff) explains how the lobby’s influence affects the decision-making structure in the White House. The lobby, Congress, the White House and Israel itself seem to have ended up in a suffocating embrace: will it ever change and how could it?Tony Judt and Richard Perle conclude by raising the crucial matters: what is the alternative? And what other friends can Israel count on?