Moral Outrage
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Israel support by the American people less than one might expect

Jonathan Chait of The New Republic argued that “the most important basis of American support for Israel is … the public’s overwhelming sympathy for Israel.”

There are at least three big problems with this assertion.
1. Even if it were true that the public had “overwhelming sympathy” for Israel, it does not immediately follow that United States policy would necessarily follow suit.
2. To the extent that the American public does have a favorable image of Israel, that is at least partly due to [AIPAC’s] own efforts to shape public discourse and stifle negative commentary. The lobby doesn’t “control the media,” but “pro-Israel” groups like the ADL and CAMERA work actively to influence how Israel is portrayed in the United States.
3. Most important, the evidence suggests that the American people are not in favor of a one-sided “special relationship” where Israel gets unconditional American backing no matter what it does.

A Pew survey in November 2005 found that 39 percent of Americans saw the special relationship as a “major source of global discontent,” and 78 percent of the news media, 72 percent of military leaders and 69 percent of foreign affairs specialists believed that backing Israel seriously damages America’s image around the world. A 2003 survey by the University of Maryland reported that over 60 percent of Americans would be willing to withhold aid to Israel if it resisted pressure to settle the conflict with the Palestinians.

Needless to say, such figures are hard to square with the robotic enthusiasm displayed by Congress, or with the Obama administration’s timid approach to entire problem.

[Excerpt of article by Stephen M. Walt, Harvard professor of international relations]

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