Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Mitchell Bard, an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written or edited more than twenty books, including 48 Hours of Kristallnacht: Night of Destruction/Dawn of the Holocaust; Will Israel Survive?; and The Water’s Edge and Beyond: Defining the Limits to Domestic Influence on U.S. Middle East Policy. He has a doctorate from UCLA, with a specialty in American politics and international relations. His new book is The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East.
FP: Mitchell Bard, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Bard: It’s always a pleasure to speak to Frontpage.
FP: What inspired you to write this book?
Bard: I’ve spent more than 20 years researching and writing about the influences on U.S. Middle East policy but it became especially disturbing in recent years to read the work of people with no knowledge of the region asserting that there is all-powerful Israel lobby that controls U.S. policy. The obsessive scrutinization, demonization and mischaracterization of the Israeli lobby has led to a growing acceptance of this canard and helped those seeking to delegitimize Israel. At the same time, few people acknowledge that an Arab lobby exists and seeks to exert its own influence on U.S. policy and that it often works against American values and interests.
FP: How is your book original and what is the main argument?
Bard: This is the first comprehensive examination of the Arab lobby. I argue that the lobby has a legitimate role in the debate, but that most people have no idea a) the lobby exists, b) how it operates or c) the implications for American interests of its efforts. The main argument is that the most powerful part of the Arab lobby, driven by our interest in oil and led by the Saudi government with the assistance of Arabists in the bureaucracy and companies with commercial interests in the region, often persuades decision makers to adopt policies that undermine our values, threaten our interests in the region and directly endanger our citizens and way of life through the support of terrorism and the spread of radical Islamic views through some mosques and schools.
FP: What is the Arab lobby’s main goals?
Bard: The Arab lobby has two main components. The first, mentioned above, focuses on oil. The goal is to do whatever is necessary to guarantee that Saudi oil continues to flow and this sometimes means ignoring or subverting other U.S. interests.
The other part of the lobby is the domestic Arab lobby comprised of Arab and Muslim Americans, academics, non-evangelical Christians and Arabists. Their goal is to promote the Palestinian agenda, though, more often than not, they lobby primarily against Israel rather than for any positive pro-Palestinian or pro-Arab agenda.
The Americans in this component of the lobby are interested in ensuring the supply of oil and believe this can best be done by keeping the Saudis happy by trying to weaken U.S. support for Israel, selling the Saudis weapons.
FP: How do Arab states influence American policy?
Bard: Other than the Saudis, the Arab states have very limited influence. Syria doesn’t even bother with a lobby and the strongest advocates for Egypt and Jordan tend to be the pro-Israel lobby.