Monday, April 16, 2007

Soros adds voice to debate over Israel lobby

A Long Article Contributed by Fatima

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The billionaire investor George Soros has added his voice to a heated but little-noticed debate over the role of Israel's powerful lobby in shaping Washington policy in a way critics say hurts U.S. national interests and stifles debate.

In the current issue of the New York Review of Books, Soros takes issue with "the pervasive influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)" in Washington and says the Bush administration's close ties with Israel are obstacles to a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Soros, who is Jewish but not often engaged in Israel affairs, echoed arguments that have fueled a passionate debate conducted largely in the rarefied world of academia, foreign policy think tanks and parts of the U.S. Jewish community.

"The pro-Israel lobby has been remarkably successful in suppressing criticism," wrote Soros. Politicians challenge it at their peril and dissenters risk personal vilification, he said......

The long-simmering debate bubbled to the surface a year ago, when two prominent academics, Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, published a 12,500-word essay entitled "The Israel Lobby" and featuring the fiercest criticism of AIPAC since it was founded in 1953......

In his contribution to the debate, Soros said: "A much-needed self-examination of American policy in the Middle East has started in this country; but it can't make much headway as long as AIPAC retains powerful influence in both the Democratic and Republican parties."

That influence is reflected by the fact that Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. aid in the world.......

Mearsheimer and Walt are now working on expanding their article into a book -- to be published in September by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The company has not commented on online reports that it paid the two authors a $750,000 advance and plans to print one million copies.

Another mainstream publisher, Simon and Schuster, already discovered that it not only is it possible to publish criticism of Israel but it can also be good for the bottom line.

Former President Jimmy Carter's book "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid" shot up the bestseller lists after its publication last November, stayed there for more than three months and is still selling well....."

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