There is an Israel lobby, but it's not who you think it is

By Chas Newkey-Burden, March 13, 2012

Perceptions of Israel's supporters are often negative. We are thought to hold tremulous politicians in a vice-like grip, to be brainlessly unquestioning in our support of any Israeli policy, and to be guilty of other horrors, including Islamophobia.

In my opinion it is some of my fellow gentile supporters of Israel that have earned us these bad names. Throughout history, the flow of recriminatory traffic has generally seen gentiles unfairly blaming Jews for various ills. In this case, Jews could justifiably blame the goyim for tainting the name of a fine cause.

Take America, where a "Jewish lobby" is said to "run foreign policy" - an accusation that has been aired afresh in the wake of Obama's friendly Aipac conference speech. The perception of this imperious "lobby" dominating election years provokes resentment across the world.

Unfortunately, there is no such lobby: Jewish people constitute just 2.1 per cent of the American population and research shows Israel is seldom a key factor in their voting habits. The American Jewish Committee found that just three percent of respondents in a major survey named Israel as the most important factor in deciding how they vote.

Research conducted by a range of organisations keeps delivering approximately the same results. A 2010 survey that found that just seven percent of America's Jews listed Israel as one of the top two factors deciding their vote for congress. So much for the "Jewish lobby".

They give the Zionist movement a bad name

However, there is no question that Israel is considered an important issue by many American politicians. Why so? Because of a genuinely powerful electoral force - America's 70 million-odd Christian Zionists. It is they who wield noteworthy influence in key states, and they who mobilise mass fury at any politician or broadcaster who fails to live-up to their crazy, entirely self-centred wishes on the disputed territories.

So it is not that a Jewish lobby has a grip on congress - it's more that a Christian lobby has a grip on America's Israel movement. A state of affairs in which Jewish people are taking the rap for something that gentiles are guilty of - where have we heard that before? No, where have we not heard that before?

Here in Europe a vocal minority of non-Jewish Israel "supporters" give the Zionist movement a bad name, from the thugs of the English Defence League who wave the Israeli flag purely to infuriate Muslims, to the hideous Geert Wilders, who so inaccurately but successfully co-brands Israel advocacy with Islamophobia. In England we have our own Wilders equivalents among the commentariat who muddy our name by linking their obsessive hate-mongering against Muslims with support for Israel.

The issue becomes clearer than ever on the Iranian nuclear question. Almost all the Jewish people I know, believe, as I do, that Israel has not just a right but a duty to do what she must to defend herself against the threat of nuclear aggression from the hideous Iranian regime. But, a few robotic activists aside, they are mindful of the sensitive complexities of the issue.

Quite a contrast to the many Western gentiles who are noisily chomping at the bit for Israel to unleash the dogs of war, safe in the knowledge that no relative of theirs would be in the crossfire of any immediate Iranian or Iranian-proxy response.

I suppose it's easy to cry for a war to be launched by a country that in truth you consider not a friend but the enemy of your enemy. Indeed, some of these folk slam Israel's enemies in one breath only to then damn Israel for not being hardline enough to satisfy their bloodlust.

Well, they might just have to continue their armchair damnations a bit longer, as a recent poll showed that Israeli public opinion is more nuanced than theirs. The poll showed that 19 per cent of Israelis support an attack on Iran without American backing, 42 per cent endorse an attack only with American support, while 32 per cent oppose an attack under any circumstances. Not what some Western armchair generals wanted to hear.

Of course, many non-Jewish supporters of Israel are sincere. I suppose we just need to keep reminding ourselves that, as Israel and the Jewish people do not lack for tireless enemies, those of us who support from outside the community must be extra vigilant not to damage the name of this beautiful cause.

Chas Newkey-Burden is an author and radio commentator. He blogs at

Last updated: 11:16am, March 13 2012