Monday, February 18, 2008

The Jewish Lobby

Megan McArdle discusses the problem of admitting there is a Jewish lobby

I was at a conference a few years back, and in the course of a spirited and entirely friendly discussion on differences between European and American foreign policy, someone asked why their Israel policy should be so different. The answer seemed obvious to me, and without thinking particularly hard about it, I said "Europe doesn't have many Jewish people any more." Several people around the table cringed, and so did I as soon as I heard myself.

But it is hardly controversial to state that ethnic groups press the interests of their groups with the government. In no other area of US foreign policy is it controversial simply to say that politicians tend to vote their ethnicity, and more importantly, the ethnicity of their constituents. No Arab-American I have ever met is either surprised or offended when you note that the Michigan delegation in Congress is the only substantial geographical opponent to America's Israel policy; indeed, they wish they had this power in other states. Irish Americans don't accuse you of conspiracy-mongering when you note the way the late Senator Moynihan happily handed out vastly disproportionate numbers of visas to the Irish. I'm not sure why, in a group of people who are presumptively not anti-semitic, it is socially frightening to point out that regions with lots of Arabs and few Jewish people will tend to be more hostile to Israel than regions with lots of Jewish people and few Arabs--particularly when Jewish people are so central to American intellectual, cultural, and economic life.

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