The maligned Jewish lobby

By Andrew Rosemarine, September 19, 2011

Did "The Jewish Lobby" facilitate the ending of the criminal proceedings in New York against Dominique Strauss-Kahn? France is divided over the issue.

Sud Radio, as its name suggests, is a broadcaster aimed at the south of the country. It has recently extended its aim to the Paris region. And how better to attract publicity than to arouse controversy? In the wake of Strauss-Kahn's release, one of its presenters raised the issue of a "Jewish lobby supporting Strauss-Kahn" on air, and encouraged listeners to ring in and discuss it.

The resulting comments were such that a fellow presenter observed "This is giving me nausea… there is an extremely deep antisemitism in France. It's very easy, by combining some names, to claim there is a Jewish lobby supporting any particular politician."

Is there indeed a Jewish Lobby? If there is, is this necessarily a bad thing?

Jews, like every other group, argue for their collective interests. And when every generation throws up demagogues determined to wipe them, or the Jewish state, off the map, they lobby to survive.

Jews - along with John Stuart Mill - believe in free speech

In living memory, under the Vichy regime, French men and women collaborated in the expulsion and murder of Jews. Today, to the Republic's credit, it acknowledges this, and honours the victims. But antisemitism remains.

A former French Ambassador to London embarrassed his government a few years ago by claiming that many of the world's problems are due to Israel. He was replaced.

Is it legitimate to claim that Jews helped Strauss-Kahn, or cause many of the world's problems? Well, it is legal in our Western democracies to express outrageous views, however absurd. But proper evidence must be fairly presented on both sides, if society is to benefit from the debate.

John Stuart Mill argued that open debate is the best way for the truth to emerge. Jews, too, are big believers in free speech - and independent media. That is one reason why Jews have survived in the face of so much adversity, and why Hitler and Stalin hated them so much.

Sir Christopher Meyer in his DC Confidential account of how Tony Blair sent him, as British Ambassador, to get as close as possible to President George W. Bush, states how "the Jewish lobby" is the most successful in the US. But he compares it to other lobbies, such as the Irish and British ones, and makes no adverse comments on the Jewish one.

This is fair. He does not use the term, "Jewish lobby," as a means of attacking Jews, but rather as a description of an advocacy group with a shared interest, like any other.

By contrast, less analytical people knowingly or subconsciously use the term to bolster sinister conspiracy theories, which have no basis in reality. The term "Jewish lobby" is often just bigoted shorthand for "Jews control the government and the press and are to be combated."

Given such views, Jews really need a successful lobby. And when it is successful, it arouses envy and resentment. But Jews have no choice: lobbying for them can be a matter of life and death. If there had been more and better organised lobbying against Hitler before 1939, by democratic people of all backgrounds and ethnic origins, we might have been saved from the death and barbarism of the Second World War?

But what is so often perceived as a Jewish lobby does not actually exist. There is no Jewish lobby supporting Strauss-Kahn, nor any other political leader in France. The Jewish vote is divided among all the main parties, because individual Jews' politics differ in France, as do those of their fellow citizens of Christian and Muslim origin. This is typical among Western democracies.

What of Sud Radio? The Confederation of French Jews and Friends of Israel complained to the French Broadcasting Regulatory Body. It, in turn, found fault with the way which the issue had been raised, and the persistence with which the presenter had solicited replies.

"This had encouraged discriminatory views," the regulator decided. Sud Radio has suspended the presenter. Bien fait! (Well done!) So, Jewish "lobbyists" - in other words, reasonable people of humane views prepared to stand up for democracy - keep up your good work!

Andrew Rosemarine is an international lawyer

Last updated: 1:32pm, September 19 2011